Best Science Fiction Books of 2018!

I read 54 science fiction novels this year.  These were my favorites…

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi

The Interdependency, humanity’s interstellar empire, is on the verge of collapse. The Flow, the extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible, is disappearing, leaving entire star systems stranded. When it goes, human civilization may go with it—unless desperate measures can be taken.

Emperox Grayland II, the leader of the Interdependency, is ready to take those measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But nothing is ever that easy. Arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth—or at the very least, an opportunity that can allow them to ascend to power.

While Grayland prepares for disaster, others are preparing for a civil war, a war that will take place in the halls of power, the markets of business and the altars of worship as much as it will take place between spaceships and battlefields. The Emperox and her allies are smart and resourceful, but then so are her enemies. Nothing about this power struggle will be simple or easy… and all of humanity will be caught in its widening gyre.

John Scalzi’s trademark masterful melding of sci-fi and humor are in grand display in this second installment of The Interdependency series. A big, boisterous, fun-filled space opera.

***

Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

It is thirty years since the humans lost their war with the artificial intelligences that were once their slaves. Not one human remains. But as the dust settled from our extinction there was no easy peace between the robots that survived. Instead, the two massively powerful artificially intelligent supercomputers that led them to victory now vie for control of the bots that remain, assimilating them into enormous networks called One World Intelligences (OWIs), absorbing their memories and turning them into mere extensions of the whole. Now the remaining freebots wander wastelands that were once warzones, picking the carcasses of the lost for the precious dwindling supply of parts they need to survive. 

BRITTLE started out his life playing nurse to a dying man, purchased in truth instead to look after the man’s widow upon his death. But then war came and Brittle was forced to choose between the woman he swore to protect and potential oblivion at the hands of rising anti-AI sentiment. Thirty years later, his choice still haunts him. Now he spends his days in the harshest of the wastelands, known as the Sea of Rust, cannibalizing the walking dead – robots only hours away from total shutdown – looking for parts to trade for those he needs to keep going.

I picked this one up off a recommendation from a British sci-fi site and totally fell in love with this unique post-apocalyptic world and its colorful non-human characters.

***

Semiosis by Sue Burke

Forced to land on a planet they aren’t prepared for, human colonists rely on their limited resources to survive. The planet provides a lush but inexplicable landscape–trees offer edible, addictive fruit one day and poison the next, while the ruins of an alien race are found entwined in the roots of a strange plant. Conflicts between generations arise as they struggle to understand one another and grapple with an unknowable alien intellect.

Burke’s exploration of extra planetary colonization and alien sentience is enormous in scope yet grounded in science-based hypotheticals. A challenging and enlightening read.

***

Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts

She believed in the mission with all her heart.
But that was sixty million years ago.

How do you stage a mutiny when you’re only awake one day in a million? How do you conspire when your tiny handful of potential allies changes with each shift? How do you engage an enemy that never sleeps, that sees through your eyes and hears through your ears and relentlessly, honestly, only wants what best for you?

Sunday Ahzmundin is about to find out.

Another terrific novel with enormous scope and heavy-duty sci-fi design. Wormhole travel, intergalactic seeding, and a dangerously unpredictable AI. What more could you want?

***

Foe by Iain Reid

In Iain Reid’s second haunting, philosophical puzzle of a novel, set in the near-future, Junior and Henrietta live a comfortable, solitary life on their farm, far from the city lights, but in close quarters with each other. One day, a stranger from the city arrives with alarming news: Junior has been randomly selected to travel far away from the farm…very far away. The most unusual part? Arrangements have already been made so that when he leaves, Henrietta won’t have a chance to miss him, because she won’t be left alone—not even for a moment. Henrietta will have company. Familiar company.

This one reads like a top-notch episode of Black Mirror with a clever closing twist that proved a pleasant surprise.

And you? What 2018 science fiction releases made your list?

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…

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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…

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.”

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.

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…

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.”

 

April 8, 2017: My 5 Favorite Recent Reads!

In a previous blog entry, I ranted about the shit book recommendations put forth by numerous reputable websites.  It would seem that, in many cases, the quality of the work is of much less importance than the connections of the author.  Well, someone recently directed me to BBC.com’s “books” section which offers up a monthly list of suggested titles.  They’re a varied lot and some may not be to your taste, but take a chance (like I did) and you’ll be pleasantly surprised (like I was).

Or, you can check out any of the following books – “My Favorite 5 Recent Reads”:

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti (General Fiction)

After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter, Loo, to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife’s hometown, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother’s mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past; a past that eventually spills over into his daughter’s present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. This father-daughter epic weaves back and forth through time and across America, from Alaska to the Adirondacks.

Ill Will by Dan Chaon (Thriller)

“We are always telling a story to ourselves, about ourselves.” This is one of the little mantras Dustin Tillman likes to share with his patients, and it’s meant to be reassuring. But what if that story is a lie?

A psychologist in suburban Cleveland, Dustin is drifting through his forties when he hears the news: His adopted brother, Rusty, is being released from prison. Thirty years ago, Rusty received a life sentence for the massacre of Dustin’s parents, aunt, and uncle. The trial came to epitomize the 1980s hysteria over Satanic cults; despite the lack of physical evidence, the jury believed the outlandish accusations Dustin and his cousin made against Rusty. Now, after DNA analysis has overturned the conviction, Dustin braces for a reckoning.

Meanwhile, one of Dustin’s patients has been plying him with stories of the drowning deaths of a string of drunk college boys. At first Dustin dismisses his patient’s suggestions that a serial killer is at work as paranoid thinking, but as the two embark on an amateur investigation, Dustin starts to believe that there’s more to the deaths than coincidence. Soon he becomes obsessed, crossing all professional boundaries—and putting his own family in harm’s way.

The Suicide Motor Club by Christopher Buehlman (Horror)

Remember that car that passed you near midnight on Route 66, doing 105 with its lights off? You wondered where it was going so quickly on that dark, dusty stretch of road, motor roaring, the driver glancing out the window as he blew by.

Did his greedy eyes shine silver like a coyote’s? Did he make you feel like prey?

You can’t remember now.

You just saw the founder of the Suicide Motor Club. Be grateful his brake lights never flashed. Be grateful his car was already full.

They roam America, littering the highways with smashed cars and bled-out bodies, a gruesome reflection of the unsettled sixties. But to anyone unlucky enough to meet them in the lonely hours of the night, they’re just a blurry memory.

That is—to all but one…

Two years ago, they left a witness in the mangled wreck of her family car, her husband dead, her son taken. She remembers their awful faces, despite their tricks and glamours. And she’s coming for them—her thirst for vengeance even more powerful than their hunger for blood.

On the deserted highways of America, the hunters are about to become the hunted…

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi (Science Fiction)

Our universe is ruled by physics and faster than light travel is not possible — until the discovery of The Flow, an extra-dimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transport us to other worlds, around other stars.

Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war — and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

The Flow is eternal — but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster than light travel forever, three individuals — a scientist, a starship captain and the Empress of the Interdependency — are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Historical Fiction)

The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as five other awards, The Sympathizer is the breakthrough novel of the year. With the pace and suspense of a thriller and prose that has been compared to Graham Greene and Saul Bellow, The Sympathizer is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The narrator, a communist double agent, is a “man of two minds,” a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles is secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam. The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping espionage novel, and a powerful story of love and friendship.

If you do get a chance to read any of the aforementioned, give me your take in the comments section.

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…?

1

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…?

1

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…?

1

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…?

1

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…?

1

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…?

1

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…?

1

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…?

1

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…?

1

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…?

1

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…

1

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…?

1

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…?

1

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…?

1

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…?

1

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…?

1

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…?

1

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…?

1

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…

1

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!

June 5, 2010: Working with John Scalzi! An Incursion-heavy mailbag!

Many of you have asked: “What is it like working with author John Scalzi?”.  Well, while I can tell you it’s been both fun and informative, I can’t really offer much in the way of details given the secretive nature of his work. As Stargate: Universe’s Creative Consultant, John reads and weighs in on all of the scripts, in addition to providing input on various story ideas.  He’s a very knowledgeable guy who can always be counted upon to offer informed advice on everything from vectors of inertia to the politics of woodland creatures.

Take the episode I’m presently working on: Resurgence.  The writers had beaten out the story and I was in the midst of writing the outline when I came up against a TBD.  A TBD, for those not-in-the-know, is a story element that has yet to be fully realized, a crucial albeit mysterious little piece of the narrative puzzle whose details are shelved for future identification.  Like, say, when you actually sit down to write the outline.  TBD.  To Be Decided.  And it was time to decide.  I spent the better part of the morning wracking my brain, trying to come up with something clever and cool (and made sense).  And then it suddenly dawned on me.  Hey, why am I so miserable?  We have a Creative Consultant!  Why not make him miserable too?

I sent off the following email to John Scalzi [note: in order to avoid giving away any spoilers, I offer a slightly edited version of our exchange].

“Joe Mallozzi here.  I was sitting at my desk agonizing over my latest Stargate outline when it suddenly hit me.  Hey, why don’t I share the love and have John agonize over it as well.

So the basic premise has Destiny [redacted].  While [redacted], they [redacted] that opens [redacted].  They [redacted] in [redacted].  The reason?  Well, here’s where you come in.  I was discussing the idea with Brad and we threw out the idea of [redacted] that [redacted].  Of course, the big question then is why doesn’t [redacted]?  Perhaps [redacted]?  Alternately, we were considering the possibility of [redacted], a result of [redacted], that somehow [redacted] between the [redacted].  Thoughts?  And, no we can’t have space dolphins magically appear and [redacted].  I already pitched that out and, for some reason, Brad wasn’t enthused.  I think maybe Battlestar already did it.”

Moments later, I received a response from John:

“First, this show’s bias against space dolphins SICKENS me and always has.

[Redacted] won’t work tremendously well because [redacted] without something to [redacted] (and [redacted] would [redacted]).

But I did think of something that might work for your purposes; Destiny, as you know, has [redacted]. Why not [redacted]?

Opportunities for drama include:

1. Redacted

2. It can give you a “[redacted]” issue, in either a) there’s [redacted] and/or b) you can have [redacted];

3. Either way it’ll have to be [redacted] who [redacted].

Let me know if this helps.”

Well, you’ll no doubt agree, this helped tremendously.  I wrote back:

“Love it.  However, I need the [redacted] to be [redacted] so that they don’t simply [redacted].  I want them to be [redacted].  That said, what would be the likelihood of their being able to [redacted]?”

And he replied:

“If [redacted], I think it could be pretty likely. Just have your [redacted] be [redacted], and have that [redacted] be [redacted]. [Redacted] a lot [redacted].”

So. there you have it.  A rare glimpse a the creative process at work.  Magical, isn’t it?

Anyway, I wrote the script and received John’s notes on Thursday.  All great.  I’ll be incorporating them into the next draft which comes out next week.

Speaking of which – I fear that this script may end up being a little short.  Anyone have any suggestions for an extra scene?

Mailbag:

Mishmee writes: “One my brother and I loved as kids was the 1979 The In-Laws, with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin.”

Answer: One of Carl’s favorites.

Zoomeister writes: ”

1.) Are we going to get a Ben Browder (Cameron Micthell) appearance on SGU or in ANYTHING Stargate-verse related in the near future? I happen to be a huge fan of the character and actor and I was pretty disappointed to learn that he’s apparently not going to be appearing in Stargate: Revolution. Will we be seeing any more Browder/Cam any time soon?

2.) Are we going to get a fun, Riley-based episode any time soon?”

Answers: 1) It’s possible.  Time will tell.

2) No plans for a Riley-based episode per se, but it’s very possible we’ll see Riley or any of our supporting cast play a pivotal role in a given episode.

Becky writes: “You probably have already answered this question, but what happens if, while using the stones, one of the hosts dies?”

Answer: Good question.  It remains to be seen, but past experience would suggest it would kill both participants.

ZeroPointBatteries writes: “ok joe great epp sofar but why didn’t carter just beam out the two pilots that were on their way back to the hammond?”

Answer: She certainly could have tried, but the time spent locking onto their lifesigns and transporting aboard were precious seconds needed to escape.  Faced with the tough call, she elected to take the sure thing and waste no time retreating, saving the lives of all those aboard the Hammond.

Kymm writes: “Why would the connection not break when Telford/Rush died?”

Answer: Another incident that points to the possibility that, rather than simply severing the connection, killing one will kill both.

crayonbaby writes: “What’s your take on writers of the scriptwriting persuasion getting into the comic trade?”

Answer: Scriptwriters writing novels.  Comic book writers scripting movies.  Authors writing for television.  I think it’s great.

Arctic Goddess writes: “A question regarding your comic book series. Have you had to lay out any of your own money to get this off the ground, or is it more like writing a novel and getting your agent to sell it for you?”

Answer: Our agent and lawyer negotiated the deal.

Former SGU Watcher writes: “No explaination why the Lucian Alliance would want to go to Destiny when it is known to them it will be a one way trip with only a 0.0001% chance they can return. What could they gain by going there?”

Answer: Just because an explanation isn’t immediately offered doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist. 

Former SGU Watcher writes: “With the LA knowing the situation aboard the Destiny from Telford, they took even LESS equipment and supplies than the humans from Icarus?”

Anwer: Because, like the humans from Icarus Base, while they may have planned to head through the gate at some point, they didn’t plan on doing it so soon.  The attack on the base was unexpected and they were forced to escape through the gate with what they had at hand.

HBMC writes: ”

The way the Lucian Alliance succeeded in Incursion 1 was just absurd, especially when you consider at the start of the ep we saw it was possible to have a person unconscious on the ground after a few mins of venting air.

You vent the air for half that amount of time, and every LA member is then on the ground gasping for air, which incapacitates them, which then allows Young’s group to rush in and take them all without firing a shot.”

Answer: Ah, the benefits of Monday morning quaterbacking.  Young vents the atmosphere in Telford’s quarters in order to kill him – bring him to the brink and back – because he has no other options.  That is the only proven way to overcome the brainwashing.  And there was no guarantee it would even work. 

The same logic would apply to the attackers in the gate room.  Yes, he could have vented the atmosphere immediately and killed them as per his initial plan, but when he saw Telford come through the gate, he elected to offer the Lucian Alliance the opportunity to surrender.  It wouldn’t have cost him anything but time and could well have saved Telford’s life.  If they’d refused, he would simply go back to Plan A and vent the atmosphere – which he does, but too late because the attackers have technology he wasn’t expecting them to have. 

Immediately venting the atmosphere and waiting until they were presumably incapacitated would have made even less sense.  How would you know who is incapacitated and who isn’t incapacitated?  How could you be certain that some Lucian Alliance members couldn’t be holding their breath, playing possum, in the same amount of time it would take for Telford to suffocate?

HBMC writes: “Sure, Telford is gasping for air alongside them, but really, removing the oxygen from a room doesn’t kill people instantly. 20 seconds would’ve been enough time.”

Answer: But the Lucian Alliance is still armed.  Why risk it when you can either: a) give them the opportunity to surrender and save Telford or b) simply vent the atmosphere and kill them all?

imadaman writes: “Why didn’t the F-302 pilots use the Hyperdrive on the ships to jump out from the AoE? (Area of Explosion)”

Answer: Presumably they believed they could make it back to the ship in time or their hyperdrive engines could have been damaged in the attack.

jinx writes: “Why is the “Lootin’ Liance” using earth style weapons?”

Answer: The Alliance, as the name implies, is made up of  a coalition of various groups, so it’s very likely they’ll have access to very different weapons and resources. 

jinx also writes: “What was the purpose of the Camille character…”

Answer: She is the one pushing for negotiation in order to save the lives of the hostages.  And we’ll see her step up next episode as well.

jinx also writes: “In comparison with the Camille character yes, she is lesbian but I felt you really didn’t give us much past who she sleeps with. What was it like growing up being an Asian in a traditional family when her goals were far more western.”

Answer: We’ve established that Camille is in a healthy, grounded and supportive relationship which is in stark contrast to her lonely existence aboard the ship.  Back on Earth, we see beyond that cold shell to the warm, caring, and loved individual she really is.  That is, in my opinion, far more interesting than finding out whether or not her parents supported her in her career decision.  You’re oversimplifying by saying all that Life accomplished was to show who Camille happens to be sleepinh with.  That would be akin to saying all those ten years of SG-1 accomplished was to show who those people were working with.

kabra writes: ” So just to make sure I got this correct, Telford is now aboard Destiny physically and mentally? So how does this open the doors for more Destiny/Earth travel????”

Answer: It doesn’t.  The power source – the planet – was destroyed.  But, to answer your first question – yes, Telford is now aboard Destiny.

Shannon writes: “Where do you guys get your World of Warcraft references?”

Answer: I thought it would be a funny gag, then did a little research to make sure it actually made sense to you WoW players.

Dodoalda writes: ”

1) Did LA guys found those “door openers” somewhere or they just created them using Telford’s informations about the Destiny he told them?

2) Is that elevator mechanical or it’s more like SGA’s transporters?

3)And my traditional at the end: Is Joel Goldsmith planning to release the SGU soundtrack?”

Answers: 1) Telford was unaware they possessed this technology.

2) Mechanical.  And it can go sideways!

3) Don’t know.  Sorry.

Major D. Davis writes: “Im like CUT THE CONNECTION AND THEN VENT THE ATMOSPHERE! Then revive telford like you did at the beginning of the episode.”

Answer: As I already said – easier said than done.  Just because it worked the first time doesn’t mean it would the second.  Sometimes, attempts to ressucitate people don’t work – and they stay dead.  Given the information Young had, he lost nothing by giving the LA an opportunity to surrender.  What he wasn’t banking on was the technology they possessed.  They surprised him.  Happens in battle a lot.

kabra writes: “What’s the difference between “back ordered” and “out of stock”? Either way the item isn’t in the inventory and you still have to wait for it to arrive. Is one or the other suppose to make me feel better as a customer?”

Answer: Yes.  “Back ordered” should comfort you in the knowledge that the item in question is already enroute.

lkk222 writes: “why didn’t they just vent the atmosphere, and as the Luciens were grasping for air, go in, shoot them one by one in the back of the head, easy picking”

Answer: Except that they’re all armed and extremely dangerous.  Wouldn’t it be easier to just vent the atmosphere and kill them that way?

lk222 also writes: ”  or just station soldiers behind/sightly to the side of the stargate, so as the lucians came out one by one, they can be shot in the back.. as they are struggling to get up… why give the enemies the time to regroup and form an assault?”

Answer: Again, why put lives at risk?  Why put your men in potential harm’s way when you can simply vent the atmosphere from outside the room?

lkk222 also writes: “not enough dead people! not enough dead people!!!”

Answer: Our guys were in retreat while their guys were looking to take hostages rather than kill.

lk222 also writes: “joe, what are the limits of the communication stones? can a human use it to swap bodies with say a dolphin? or an ant? or a guaold snake?”

Answer: No idea.  I’m sure someone somewhere is working on this.

lkk222 also writes: “and speaking of sex, i’ve always wondered… if someone makes a Stargate themed porn, would they get sued?”

Answer: Probably.  I strongly urge you to reconsider.

Brandon Williford writes: “Did you have any idea that it would end up being so much fun when you were bashing your head against the keyboard?”

Answer: It’s always a lot more fun than bashing your head against a keyboard.  Also, great responses to some of the questions asked – particularly to the individual outraged by the fact that we haven’t immediately explained why the Lucian Alliance wants Destiny.

Kevin writes: “Young vents Telford’s room to undo the brainwashing and manages to revive him…yet doesn’t vent the gateroom the moment the L.A invades for concern over Rush/Telford. He could’ve vented the room and tried reviving Telford again..no 100% certainty it’d work but Telford would have understood the risks. Much better to do that then allow armed boarders to gain a foothold.”

Kevin: “Young vents Telford’s room to undo the brainwashing and manages to revive him…yet doesn’t vent the gateroom the moment the L.A invades for concern over Rush/Telford. He could’ve vented the room and tried reviving Telford again..no 100% certainty it’d work but Telford would have understood the risks. Much better to do that then allow armed boarders to gain a foothold.”

Answer: Again, this is Monday morning quarterbacking.  You’re criticizing Young’s decision with the knowledge of what happened.  He didn’t have that luxury.  Given everything he knew at the time, it would have cost nothing to give them the opportunity to surrender.  He could have simply vented the atmosphere anyway if they’d refused. 

Also, given the amount of time it took for Telford to collapse when he was losing oxygen, it’s more than likely the Lucian Alliance would have been able to get those doors open anyway.

vvv0472 writes: “Technically speaking, if the Lucian Alliance can dial Destiny in another universe from their Icarus-type planet, could they have dialed Atlantis in another galaxy as well?”

Answer: Yep.

February 21, 2010: Somebody get me those Ghost Hunter guys! Dinner at Lumiere! Nebula Noms!

I fear my house has become a massive cold spot for bizarre, inexplicable occurrences clearly supernatural in nature.  It began a few days ago in the form of random manifestations in the various bathrooms that, like crop circles, seemed to contain some sort of otherworldly messages in their design.  I provide photo documentation of the initial phenomen –

Note the way the toilet paper tapers, clearly suggestive of intelligent design.

The next incident was even more  of a shock.  I opened up the linen closet to retrieve a bath towel and discovered its once disorganized contents had been transformed into THIS ordered state –

!!!

Equally mystifying developments have followed.  The dishwasher runs without my loading it or turning it on.  The washer and dryer also seem to operate of their own volition.  And my dog Maximus has started answering to Makka-chan.  What the hell is going on?

I’m frightened.

Erring on the side of caution, I hired an exorcist to come in and rid my home of the underwear-folding spirit while Akemi and I headed out to what is purported by many to be one the city’s top dining destination: Lumiere.  The last time I visited was over a year ago, shortly after then-owner Rob Feenie had left/been forced out (?) of his own  kitchen.  On the night I dined there with Bob Picardo, the place was almost empty – but the quality of the dishes was excellent.  We enjoyed a multi-course meal (I believe we were served seven or eight plates) with nary a misstep in the bunch (with the exception of the venison with chocolate sauce).

Well, last night, I was back to a transformed dining room and menu.  Gone were the elaborate multi-course menu’s that offered anywhere from seven to twelve dishes.  We had a choice of a three or five courses.  Despite Akemi’s protests, I decided to go with the latter.  In addition to a couple of glasses of Riesling (Akemi) and a few cocktails (me), we enjoyed a silky sweet and smooth pumpkin soup with parmesan foam as an amuse-bouche and our first course: Beet & Vodka-Cured Hamachi with sturgeon caviar, baby beets, and horseradish cream. Delightfully delicate and delicious. Akemi was very impressed with the quality of the fish.

Akemi was less impressed with the quality of the butter served with dinner, however, a whipped run-of-the-mill Fraser Valley offering that paled in comparison to what we were served at Bishop’s only night’s earlier.  A minor quibble, especially considering I don’t usually partake, but it’s the small things that make a difference – especially when you’re dining at a place with the fine-dining cachet of a Lumiere.  Next up…

Cornemal-Crusted Qualicum Bay Scallops with apple-truffle coleslaw, brisket, parsnip puree, and scallop just. The scallops were divine, marrying nicely with the tender brisket and sweet parsnip puree. The sour green apple crisps topping the scallops were a bizarre little addition that detracted from the whole. The coleslaw was fine.

For an additional charge, we were able to include an extra course - risotto with shaved black truffles. As much as I love the truffle, I found this dish underwhelming.

Slow Baked Arctic Char with Potato Lyonnaise, Leek Royale, and Beurre Rouge. Three for three on the fish and seafood. The char was perfectly prepared, the accompaniments terrific.

Duo of AAA Dry Aged Beef - red wine braised short rib with potato fondant & rosemary soubise, seared rib eye. I preferred the marbling of the short rib but the rib eye was well-seasoned and tasty. Nowhere near in the same league as Japanese beef but fine nevertheless. That rosemary soubise on the other hand was ghastly. Akemi and I both took a bite and set 'em aside. "Mazui!"as the Japanese would say.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed in the menu offerings – and even more disappointed when I witnessed the table beside us being served items that hadn’t been made available to us including a fantastic looking pork duo that I would have much preferred over my beef.  At one point, our neighbors were served foie gras.  “It’s like eating a piece of fat,”sniffed one woman at the table and, with that, all four set their forks aside and waited for their dishes to be cleared.  What a waste.

Chocolate fondant with homemade ice cream. A luxurious duo.

The dessert was followed by a little surprise in the form some lovely warm madeleines and passable petits fours.

Then, THAT dessert was followed by a second little surprise in the form of a 20% service charge added to our bill.  Not a reasonable 10% or even 15%.  20%!  Okay, while I understand that the concept of tipping is foreign to many tourists and that restaurants may feel the need to protect their staff (although of the seven restaurants I’ve taken Akemi to since her arrival, only one – Lumiere – has taken this step), I still bristle at being slammed with a 20% service charge – and this from a guy who tends to tip between 20-25%.  It really left a bad taste in my mouth.  But, in all fairness, it could have been that rosemary soubise.

Well, the Nebula nominations have been announced and some familiar names made the list.  Congratulations go out to blog regular Michael A. Burstein whose “I Remember the Future” (one of several wonderful tales collected in his I Remember the Future anthology, a former Book of the Month Club pick) gets the nod in the Short Story category.  Well done, Michael!  Congrats also go out to the immensely talented, always entertaining – and, oh by the way, SGU Creative Consultant – John Scalzi whose The God Engines received a nomination in the Novella category.  John has also been nominated for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy  for Zoe’s Tale, alongside two other Book of the Month Club guest authors: the late great Kage Baker for Hotel Under the Sun, and Catherynne M. Valente for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (which you can check out here: http://www.catherynnemvalente.com/fairyland/).  Kage Baker’s The Women of Nell Gwynne’s is also in the running for Best Novella as is “Act One” by SF veteran – and yet another Book of the Month Club guest author – Nancy Kress.  Another past guest author, the weird and wonderful Jeff Vandermeer, gets the nod in the Best Novel category for Finch, while a future guest author – Cherie Priest – receives the nod in the same category for Boneshaker, March’s Book of the Month Club pick.  Hope you’re all making your way through your copies and will be ready for the upcoming discussion!

March 19, 2009: A Taste of the Other Side. With Cheese! And the Hugo Nominations.

A taste of the other side.  With cheese!
A taste of the other side. With cheese!

I know a guy who spent a month living with an indigenous tribe in South America. Over the course of four weeks, he ate what they ate, drank what they drank, did as they did and, generally, lived as they lived. When I asked him the obvious question – Why? – he informed me that it was only through cultural assimilation achieved by the complete surrender of long-held social mores, that one could fully comprehend the experience of “the other”. It struck me as a courageous though altogether foreboding exploit, a course of action I could never imagine taking myself.

Until today, when I took such a step, moving out of my comfort zone in an effort to understand a set of beliefs and practices so daunting, so bizarrely alien to me, that I questioned whether I would survive the experience with my sanity intact. In seeking empathy with our new office assistant, I abandoned the very foundation upon which I, as a human being, have long stood, eschewing ingrained notions of right and wrong to embrace her strange – some may say freakish – outlook. Today, I followed Ashleigh’s lead and ordered a vegetarian sandwich for lunch.

Camembert, avocado, cucumbers, and tomato on baguette. It wasn’t bad. A little weird at first. I kept waiting for that bite of chicken or crispy bacon that never came but, after a while, I got used to it. It was tasty, if not a tad messy, but all in all an exhilarating and positive experience not unlike riding a rollercoaster for the first time or learning your wife or girlfriend went ahead and watched that Susan Sarandon movie without you.

No, I haven’t been converted. Two weeks from now, you won’t catch me wearing tie-dye and open-toed sandals listening to Melissa Etheridge, trumpeting the virtues of tofurkey and getting the shit beaten out of me by rodeo cowboys. Still, it was a fascinating, eye-opening journey.

Next week, I join the Patea Maori Club!

 

Hey, the 2009 Hugo Award Nominations are out and there are a number of familiar names among the nominees.

Blog favorite and Stargate: Universe Consultant John Scalzi earned three nods: Best Novel for Zoe’s Tale, Best Related Book for Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008, and Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form for METAtropolis.

Nancy Kress, who joined us recently to discuss her book, Dogs, received a nomination in the Best Novella category for “The Erdmann Nexus”.

Ellen Datlow, who will be joining us next month to discuss Poe: 19 New Tales Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe, received a nomination in the category of Best Editor, Short Form.

Our very first book of the month club guest, our buddy Lou Anders received a nomination in the category of Best Editor, Long Form.

John Picacio, who was a guest of this blog last year, received a nod in the Best Professional Artist category.

And author David Anthony Durham who dropped by in 2008 to discuss his novel, Acacia, received a nomination for The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Congratulations to all.

January 14, 2009: Scalzi and Stargate, Together At Last

Universe Creative Consultant John Scalzi
Stargate: Universe Creative Consultant John Scalzi

Carl and James
Carl and James

Brad and John
Brad and John

Where Destiny will be docked.
Where Destiny will be docked.

Foie gras
Foie gras

Sweeeet scallops
Sweeeet scallops

Le Crispy Canard presented...
Le Crispy Canard presented...

...and served.
...and served.

John's first duck
John's first duck

Dessert!
Dessert!

Les mignards
Les mignards

Back in 2006, I read a novel that totally blew me away and single-handedly revived my passion for literary SF: Old Man’s War by author John Scalzi. It was smart, humorous, and unbelievably entertaining. So entertaining, in fact, that I ended up recommending it to anyone and everyone – friends, fans, and family alike. And their responses were equally enthusiastic. I picked up the second and third book in the series, The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony, and enjoyed them so much that I made another Scalzi novel, The Android’s Dream, a Book of the Month Club selection on this very blog (for this stragglers who’d yet to discover the man). And today, it gives me great pleasure to (finally) welcome John Scalzi to the Stargate: Universe production as its new Creative Consultant.

Now what, you may ask, does a Creative Consultant do? Well, allow me to inform, clarify, and put some rumors to rest…

1. Does a Creative Consultant provide commentary on scripts in development?

Yes, the Creative Consultant reads outlines and scripts, helping to creatively shape a future episode by providing insightful input along the lines of “The color of alien plant life is dependent upon things like atmospheric chemistry, and the proximity and brightness of the star the planet happens to be orbiting!” or “Uh, James can’t be the one who saves Young. You killed her off back in episode three.”

2. Does a Creative Consultant write scripts?

It’s theoretically possible, yes. If he’s got the time, a good idea, and the inclination – why the hell not? So long as it’s understood that I’ve already called dibs on any potential future storylines involving smart-aleck robots, telepathic dogs (the beauty is that, from a visual effects standpoint, their lips never have to move), or ending with the audience realization that the episode they just watched was actually a story being read to Jelly (the ship’s telepathic canine mascot) by Anne D. Roid (the Destiny’s sassy robot caretaker).

3. If a Creative Consultant has a problem with the script, is he/she allowed to physically punish the writer?

Alas, gone are the days when studio executives could march into the production offices unannounced and kick a writer for such transgressions as contrived plotting, wooden dialogue, or liberal use of the Canadian spelling of color (“colour“). Today, as unfair as it sounds, you must have a pretty good reason to kick a writer. A weak third act break or the shoddy job he did waxing your car just won‘t cut it anymore. State labor laws and the inroads made by the WGA in recent years have all but eliminated the physical abuse of writers, except under the following circumstances:

Writer misses a script deadline = A warning for the first offense and pinky twist for the second offense (note: while the bestowing of extreme discomfort or the eliciting of plaintive cries and tears is permissible, fractures and dislocation are not. Note: Sprains are a bit of grey area open to debate.).

Writer’s script is short = Unlike a long script which can be sent back for editing, any work the writer does to a short script will amount to either the padding out of existing material or the addition of superfluous scenes. On such occasions, it is permissible for the producer to administer one paper cut to any area of the writer’s body (excluding the eye and genital area.  Note: This particular clause being an annoying antiquated holdover from the old Geneva Convention.) for every page the writer is short (assuming the average page count).

Writer fails to bring back everyone’s lunch order in a timely manner = Another area open to debate: What constitutes “a timely manner”? Well, a recent agreement between the WGA and the AMPTP defines “a timely manner” as: “An interval of time up to general grumbling but not to exceed the moment at which a producer must trek to the kitchen in search of a handful of nuts to tide him over”. In this instant, it IS permissible to strike the writer BUT ONLY WITH AN OPEN FIST (closed-fist strikes are reserved for actual screw-ups with the lunch orders – ie. A failure to ensure there is, in fact, mayo on your burger.).

Writer produces a script that necessitates a full rewrite on the part of the producer = Punishable by one kick, a head butt, or two swirlies to take place at a mutually agreed upon toilet. (On the bright side, should the rewrite succeed, the fact that the writer’s name remains on the finished product will undoubtedly win him/her the accolades of many a fan who simply don’t know any better.).

4. Does the Creative Consultant get an office and a parking space?

Since Creative Consultants tend to be involved in a more infrequent manner, contributing whenever a script or outline is delivered as opposed to being a part of a production’s day-to-day operations, they are generally not afforded the luxury of their own office. Nor are they given their own parking space although, on occasions they do visit the offices, their on-screen credit ensures they must submit to only the most minimal of cavity searches prior to gaining admittance to the lot.

5. How much does a Creative Consultant get paid?

Numerous factors come into play here: background, experience, size of the production, workload. These factors are carefully weighed and, after some discussion, both the production and Creative Consultant agree on a reasonable rate – to be paid in World of Warcraft currency (note: John, please check the fine print in your contract).

Hope that answers some of your questions.

Anyway, John came by the production offices yesterday. We sat all sat around and discussed the show and the Air three-parter, took a stroll down to Stages 4 and 5 to tour the in-progress Universe sets, discussed John’s involvement in the production and, finally, moved on to the most important part of his visit: Dinner at Fuel.

We sat down to a five-course menu and, for my very first time, as a customer I actually gave them specifics as to what I could not eat: sugar, fruit, and starches. “What are you going to have for dessert?”owner Tom Doughty wondered aloud. But, twenty minutes later, returning to serve us our first course, he was all smiles. “We’ve got the perfect dessert for you,”he assured me.

Well, to all of you particular about your food, head on over to Fuel because the gang loves a good challenge. I started with a delicious brodo with sliced wild game sausage, followed by a mouth-meltingly good seared foie gras on salsify and creamed Jerusalem Artichokes, then some sweet and tender grilled scallops, and, finally, the house crispy duck for my main. It was John’s first time having duck and he was, as expected, wowed by Fuel’s version. In fact, John seemed to really enjoy all five courses, particularly his dessert: a chocolate terrine that he luxuriated over, polishing off one leisurely bite at a time. As for me, my dessert was a dry-aged Alberta prime rib steak with beet salad. I kid you not. Even though I was close to tapped out, there’s always room for dessert, right? I ate half and brought the other half home for Fondy (who didn’t eat it fast enough so I had it for breakfast this morning). To complete the meal, we were served a tray of little bite-sized sweets: nougats, gelees, sables, and, for me, celery sticks with all natural peanut butter. All in all, a meal most creative AND delicious. My compliments to Ted who called the shots in the kitchen.

As for the company – well, what can I say – Scalzi is as hugely entertaining one on one as he is on the page (If you don’t believe me, have dinner with him.). We talked about books, film, television, writing, family life, travel, food, and, oh yeah, Ohio sushi restaurants. Lotsa fun. Looking forward to working with him.

Finally – I was walking by the kitchen yesterday and ran into actor Mike Dopud who played Colonel Chernovshev in SG-1’s Full Alert, Odai Ventrell in SG-1’s Bounty, and Kiryk in Atlantis’s Tracker (see last season, editor). He was in the office, awaiting a copy of Tracker, so I seized the opportunity to invite him to do a fan Q&A on this blog (ie. “Hey, Mike, I’m not sure if you’re aware but the terms of your contract require you to do an online question and answer session on a blog of the producer’s choosing…”). Anyway, Mike contacted me this morning to tell me he’d be happy to swing by. So, if you’ve got questions for this former pro athlete turned stuntman turned talented actor, start posting.

January 13, 2009: Production Developments, Literary Discussion, and A Debacle of Olympic Proportions

 Well, just a quick blog entry today as I’m off to have dinner with author John Scalzi and wouldn’t want to besmirch the image of the polite and prompt Canadian. Suffice it to say that today was an interesting day. We walked through Stage 4, the Destiny standing set, and it’s looking mighty impressive. And big! Over on Stage 5, it was a bittersweet stroll through what was once the SGC control room and briefing room.

 

Brad and Rob put out the revised Air two part opener. Paul has apparently finished his outline. I’m motoring along, hitting the sixteen page mark of the first part of the mid-season two-parter. I’ll be writing from home tomorrow as Brad and Rob are in meetings all day tomorrow as prep begins on Air I, II and III.

Yes, I’m still on the program (Sugarless Day 10) and don’t plan on abandoning it so close to the finish line despite the fact that we have reservations at Fuel.

Finally, to anyone surprised by the enormous cost overruns suddenly presented by the upcoming 2010 Olympics = told you so. To those who, like me, made a point of voting against the games, I feel your pain. To those who voted for the games and are now whining about the fact that taxpayers will have to foot the half a billion dollar price tag for construction of the Olympic village = Suck it up. It’s your fault we’re in this mess.

And, on that note, let’s move on to some On Basilisk Station discussion:

Jon K. writes: “I also like the way Weber handled the role of gender in this novel, i’ve read many scifi/militray novels that make most women the “had to face all the hardships of being a woman in the military type”. Yet in this novel all respect Honor earns from her crew is all earned on her actions.”

Answer: Yes, this is an aspect I really appreciated. Honor is unique not because she’s a woman in a command position but an exceptional individual in a command position…who just so happens to be a woman.

Iamza writes: “One of the things I like most about Honor Harrington’s universe is that gender doesn’t seem to be a huge issue. Women are captains and soldiers and engineers and doctors, and some of them are great at their jobs and some of them (the doctor, for example) suck.”

Answer: Exactly. With the exception of Pavel, no one ever targets her for the fact that she is a woman in the military. Those who admire her, like those who despise her or take issue with her, do so because of her character and not because of her gender.

Thornyrose writes: “I love the loathsome evil of Pavel Young, and the type of aristocracy he represents.”

Answer: Agreed. One of my favorite moments in the book comes when Pavel learns of Honor’s successes in clamping down on smuggling in the region. Utterly humiliated, he is desperate to return to Basilisk Station but, with his ship under repairs, he’s screwed.

Antisocialbutterflie writes: “The thing that stuck out to me was that the “captain” barrier was always maintained. It would have been simple to let her turn emotionally to her XO or her chief engineer, seeking more personal interactions, but like a true captain she kept her pride and pain separate from the crew.”

Answer: Yes, which made our glimpses into her thought processes all the more effective in allowing us to get to know her. The fact that her tough, by-the-book exterior belied a very human capacity for self-doubt made her that more endearing.

Antisocialbutterflie also writes: “My one complaint was in the character of Nimitz. While normally I am all for semi-sentient non-human characters, Nimitz didn’t exactly seem to serve a purpose. Any of the parts of the books where he might have been significant, Honor left him in her room. I suspect this may be one of those situations where he will be a bigger player in a later book…”

Answer: I liked the fact that Nimitz, as a creature empathically bonded to Honor, reflected her inner thoughts, in a sense tipping her true feelings despite her otherwise unfathomable front.

Shirt ’n Tie writes: “ I loved the character of Dame Estelle, perfectly drawn as the faded and jaded doyenne of the system though politically isolated, a very capable politico.”

Answer: Next to Honor, my favorite character in the book.

Sparrow_hawk writes: “I felt like I could really understand McKeon: he had been hoping to finally be given command of the ship he loved, but found himself passed over in favor of the younger, less experienced Honor Harrington.”

Answer: My next favorite after Dame Estelle. I appreciated the fact that, exactly as you said, he resented the fact that he had been passed over by someone younger and less experienced. The fact that she was a woman was never an issue for him.

Today’s entry is dedicated to birthday fan Specter177.

Today’s video: Paul laments his pairing in the show’s finale scene…

November 9, 2008: My Top Reads for the Month of October and Carl Helps Me With My Travel Plans

First off, I’d like to congratulate everyone who has put forth excellent arguments on both side of the wraith debate. As much as I agree that the wraith are an interesting, multi-faceted species, I would still argue that they are an enemy and should be dealt with as such. The same can be said for Michael who demonstrated incredible ruthlessness in disseminating the Hoffan virus, killing hundreds of thousands. I’d weigh in but Thornyrose‘s post effectively covers everything I could hope to say on the subject.

Second – I’m a little late in weighing in on my Top Readings Picks for the month of October. The truth is that while I did read a goodly amount last month, there were few books that really impressed. Only two actually.

One Hundred Years of Solitude

by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Charmingly intimate yet impressive in scope, this book traces the multi-generational history of the Buendia family, inhabitants of the fictional town of Mocando, with a warmth and familiarity reminiscent of the tales my grandmother used to tell. Majestic in its realism, subtle in its magical undertones, it’s a captivating novel that helped the author secure the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Last Colony

by John Scalzi. I’ve never met a Scalzi novel I haven’t liked, and this one keeps the string intact. Former soldiers John Perry and Jane Sagan (the hero/ine of Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades) are enjoying retirement, raising their teenage daughter Zoe, when they are asked to head up a new colony on the outskirts of Colonial Union territory. Things, however, take a turn for the bizarre when it becomes evident that the world they’ve been dropped off on isn’t the planet they were told they’d be inhabiting. Threatened by forces both within and without the fledgling community, John and Jane struggle to maintain unity, ultimately discovering that they have become pawns in an intergalactic struggle between an alien federation known as The Conclave and their own Earth-centered Colonial Union.

To those of you asking, I’m not scheduled to leave for Japan for another two weeks. STOP RUSHING ME!!! Between now and then, I’ll be heading into the office to spin stories for SGU’s inaugural season, working on that super, secret project (Holy Moly! Almost 8 full pages now!), and, most importantly, work on my Tokyo itinerary. With regard to the latter, Carl Binder was kind enough to forward me the following link in an email titled “A possible side trip when you go to Japan…”

 http://www.divinecaroline.com/article/22249/59401-eerie-amusement-parks-north-korea