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.”

 

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!

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.