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!

August 1, 2008: My Top 5 July Reads

Well, July is behind us and, as promised, I looked over all the books I read over the past month and come up with a list of My Top 5 Favorite Reads for that period. The various Book of the Month Club selections had already been given the spotlight on this blog, so they were deemed ineligible for consideration. Instead, I picked from among the almost 20 non-BOTMC books I read in July and came up with following favorites…

When You Are Engulfed in Flames

by David Sedaris

The title refers to part of the hotel safety instructions author David Sedaris encountered during a trip to Japan. It’s just one of the countless humorous observations that pepper the author’s hilarious anecdotal reflections. From his awkward encounters with a neighborhood pariah in the French countryside to his hapless attempts at learning Japanese, Sedaris offers up a collection of tales that is both uproarious and occasionally very touching. The stand-out for me was That’s Amore which details his love/hate relationship with a colorfully crotchety neighbor named Helen.


by Charles Stross

It’s the 27th century and our protagonist, Robin, has very little on his mind, the result of a mindwipe that effectively erased his traumatic memories of the recent Censorship Wars. Unfortunately, Robin’s rehabilitation is complicated by an attempt on his life. Who is trying to kill him and why? Alas, those memories he lost would have certainly helped answer those questions. Faced with the prospect of further assassination attempts, Robin volunteers for an experiment intended to recreate the dark ages of 21st century society. The next thing he knows, HE is now a SHE, a suburban housewife, and one of hundreds of subjects in an isolated three-year trial where the dangers Robin sought refuge from may well reside.


by John Wyndham

When their adopted son Matthew forms a friendship with an imaginary companion named Chocky, his parents are understandably concerned. Even more so when Chocky’s influence begins to manifest in eleven year old Matthew’s sudden fascination with binary code and interstellar travel. Is their son suffering from an overly active imagination? Is he exhibiting signs of mental illness? Or is something decidedly otherworldly at play here? Chocky is a whimsical little story that, interestingly enough given that it was written in the 60’s, turns out to be a critique of our dependence of foreign oil. The whole is made all the more enjoyable by Wyndham’s polished Brit writing style.

Make Room! Make Room!

by Harry Harrison

Years before Charlton Heston discovered the horrifying origin of that mysterious food ration known as Soylent Green, author Harry Harrison published this book which became the basis of the aforementioned movie. The film deviates greatly from the source material which focuses on the lives of the various inhabitants of a dystopian, overcrowded New York. The murder of a gangster named Big Mike sets the stage for an investigation headed by police detective Andy Rausch. Complications arise in the form of the dead man’s mistress, a Taiwanese boy on the run, a corrupt judge, and the unrelentingly grim backdrop of future New York. A terrific noir SF thriller.

The Ophiuchi Hotline

by John Varley

In the five hundred years since an alien invasion destroyed all Earth technology in 2050, humanity has made great scientific strides thanks to a mysterious data stream from the Ophiuchius constellation. The source of the transmission is a mystery but Earth’s leaders haven’t felt necessarily inclined to find out more about their alien benefactors. Until the day they send a message demanding payment for a half centuries’ worth of information. Enter Lilo, a rebel geneticist sentenced to death who, in exchange for her life, agrees to assist the enigmatic Boss Tweed in investigating the matter. Along the way, she discovers that she is a pawn in an attempt to strike back against the alien invaders that attacked the planet hundreds of years ago.

If you’re looking to supplement your Book of the Month Club selections with some additional reading material, I highly recommend any of the above. And, if you do end up checking out any of the titles, let me know how you enjoyed them.

Also, a reminder that writer-Supervising Producer Alan McCullough has agreed to come by and submit to your grilling. If you have any questions about tonight’s episode The Daedalus Variations, past McCullough episodes, or anything Stargate-related or of a highly personal nature, make sure to post them this weekend because come Monday, it’ll be too late!

Today’s blog entry is dedicated birthday boy Jason Momoa, birthday girl Andria (my sister), and a stranded Patricia.

Inpa writes: “Will you or do you get any hints from the network about what their future plans are for the series (I.e. new series, cancellation ect) or do they just ‘wait’ until they tell you officially what the decision is. Are there any ratings for episode 2 or 3 that you know of yet either?”

Answer: No hints until they make the decision. As for the ratings, the early numbers had The Seed matching last season’s premiere with a 1.1 (not bad considering we were up against the biggest box office opening in history) and Broken Ties upticked to a 1.2 (matching last season’s higher back-half average). Yes, to date, season 5 has been outperforming season four. All very heartening but, again, I caution fans from assuming a decision on the show’s sixth season will be solely ratings-based.

A. loquita writes: “1. Why is it that both Mitchell and Carter are listed as Lt. Colonel in the credits?”

Answer: That was a mistake. They are both full-bird Colonels.

A. loquita also writes: “Daniel exists in an alternate reality where another Daniel is still alive. Why doesn’t entropic cascade failure happen?!?”

Answer: A distinction is being made here between an AU (alternate reality) Daniel, and a time-traveling Daniel from the same reality. Of course this opens up a can of worms about the rules of time travel. Some past musings on the subject here: http://josephmallozzi.com/2008/04/07/april-7-2008-timescape-by-gregory-benford-whatd-you-think/

Telikeneticforceblast writes: “That should also be asked when in atlantis when “Rod” came from the alternate reality where the exotic particles got came in. Now that you mention it, I can remember quite a few instances in Stargate where entropic cascade failure doesn’t occur…”

Answer: Check out Ripple Effect for further discussion on this topic.

Linda Gagne writes: “As a writer do you put yourself into the character shoes a lot if at all? or am I just imagining it?”

Answer: When I’m writing dialogue for them? All the time.

Jenks writes: “On the subject of the back story of Col. Cam Mitchell that was written and narrated by Ben Browder, is that to be considered canon?”

Answer: I suppose you can consider it canon – until we decide otherwise.

Masterchief writes: “I thought the back half of season 5 was supposed to air next year. Am I wrong?”

Answer: All indications are that, yes, you’re wrong.

AnnaLeo writes: “Dr. Beckett has a family back home right? Wouldn’t he want to let them know that he’s not dead, even though he won’t know how long he may live?”

Answer: There a bit of dialogue I wrote for Whispers that touches on this very subject – Beckett’s improbable return from the dead and the reaction back home. Off the top of my head, I can’t recall if it survived the cut. If it didn’t, I’ll be sure to include it was part of the post-episode wrap-up.

Davidd writes: “Will you ever do an episode which features a specific Earth holiday? Like Christmas or Halloween?”

Answer: Nope.

Khalidur writes: “are you purposefully planning the season finale to also take the place for a series finale if needs be, or do you plan on making a movie/feature length episode to tie up loose ends?”

Answer: I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – the end of the series will not spell the end of Stargate Atlantis.

Michelle writes: “Joe, will you be going to Vegas along with Rob and the gang?”

Answer: Alas, I will not. We’re just going to have to trust that Rob will be able to control himself and not blow the show’s budget on all the spectacular sequences he has in mind – or on 22 black.

Tim Gaffney writes: “Does anyone know why there is no Atlantis next week(August 8th)? Is Sci-Fi trying to avoid going up against the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics, or is it something else?”

Answer: If I was to make an educated guess, that would be the reason.

DownUnder writes: “As Teyla introduced herself in season 1 as “Teyla Emmagan, daughter of Tegan” I assumed Tagan was her father’s name…. so how is Torren named after Tagan?”

Answer: Of course she could have been referring to her mother.

Ganymede writes: “ If Jason Momoa is on the Lot tomorrow [Friday] and if you read this tonight [Thurs], please, start baking! It’s his birthday! There is a select group of us that lurk around this blog who would like to see a birthday photo of him!”

Answer: Sorry. Company day off today. Jason is back home with his family.

AnneTeldy writes: “I’ve started an online petition in the form of a letter to Mr. Flanigan to see if we can get him to change his mind about a Special Features Profile…”

Answer: Good luck with that.

JimFromJersey writes: “The Atlantis teams do not have designations ie: SG-1/SG-11 etc. Why is that?”

Answer: Hate to say it, but I’ve answered this question before. The Atlantis teams are numbered. Sheppard’s team is First Atlantis Reconnaissance Team. Lorne’s team is Second Atlantis Reconnaissance Team. And so on.

SmileyFace_06 writes: “Where will Stargate’s People’s Choice Award go?”

Answer: To be fair to everyone, the award was paraded around the lot and then subsequently destroyed.

Fran writes: “When the gang films in parks, forests, and such do you have to get permission or a permit from the city and province?”

Answer: Always.

Jessica writes: “Why is McKay allowed to fall for a different woman each season.”

Answer: For a grand total of two?

TBA writes: “Any clues, or cryptic hints, to this ‘guest star that will have boards buzzing’ of #518, Identity?”

Answer: A guest star that will have boards buzzing? Beats me. Let me know though.

Trish writes: “When the vet came, though, Sebastian still could not walk or even sit up. The vet said it was time to put him down. So all four of us sat around him and told him we loved him and said good-bye.”

Answer: Hey, Trish, this is really heartbreaking. Hope you and Allie are okay and know that a lot of people are thinking of you right now.

Stan writes: “Mr. M are you telling us that 2008-2009 will be the final season of SGA?”

Answer: Nope because at this point I honestly don’t know.

Alainaross writes: “In the seed, when Carson said “I’m scheduled to leave this afternoon.” To what was he refering, returning to earth or returning to stasis, and will he be comming back in the near future?”

Answer: Beckett returned to Earth for some much-needed R&R after the events of The Seed. He’ll be making his triumphant return to the Pegasus Galaxy in Whispers.

Morjana writes: “IGN had very nice comments about The Daedalus Variations.”

Answer: I love those guys!