Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Video: If Michael Bay Directed 'Up'

This is a hilarious video that adds all sorts of explosions to the Pixar film Up.  Be sure to watch to the very end.  Courtesy of MrStratman7.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Reminder that the Aurora Award Voting Period is Ending Soon

Just a reminder that September 6th is the last day to vote on the Prix Aurora Award.  Once again, here are the nominees from the Aurora website:

Best English Novel
A Turn of Light by Julie E. Czerneda, DAW Books
Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer, Penguin Canada
River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay, Viking Canada
The Tattooed Witch by Susan MacGregor, Five Rivers Publishing
Tombstone Blues by Chadwick Ginther, Ravenstone Books
Best English YA (Young Adult) Novel
The Ehrich Weisz Chronicles: Demon Gate by Marty Chan, Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Ink by Amanda Sun, Harlequin Teen
The Lake and the Library by S.M. Beiko, ECW Press
Out of Time by D.G. Laderoute, Five Rivers Publishing
Resolve by Neil Godbout, Bundoran Press
The Rising by Kelley Armstrong, Doubleday Canada
Best English Short Fiction
“A Bunny Hug for Karl” by Mike Rimar, Masked Mosaic, Canadian Super Stories, Tyche Books
“Angela and Her Three Wishes” by Eileen Bell, The Puzzle Box, EDGE
“The Awakening of Master March” by Randy McCharles, The Puzzle Box, EDGE
“Ghost in the Machine” by Ryan McFadden, The Puzzle Box, EDGE
“The Gift” by Susan Forest, Urban Green Man, EDGE
“Green Man She Restless” by Billie Milholland, Urban Green Man, EDGE
“Living Bargains” by Suzanne Church, When the Hero Comes Home 2, Dragon Moon Press
Best English Poem/Song
“A City of Buried Rivers” by Clink, David, The Literary Review of Canada, vol. 21, no. 9, November
“Awake” by Peter Storey, Urban Green Man, EDGE
“The Collected Postcards of Billy the Kid” by Helen Marshall, Postscripts to Darkness, Issue 4, October
“Lost” by Amal El-Mohtar, Strange Horizons, February
“Night Journey: West Coast” by Kernaghan, Eileen, Tesseracts Seventeen: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast, EDGE
“Turning the Leaves” by Amal El-Mohtar, Apex Magazine, Issue 55, December
Best English Graphic Novel
Looking for Group by Ryan Sohmer and Lar DeSouza, webcomic
Rock, Paper, Cynic by Peter Chiykowski, webcomic
Weregeek by Alina Pete, webcomic
Wild Game: Sweet Tooth Vol. 6 by Jeff Lemire, Vertigo
Best English Related Work
The Puzzle Box by The Apocalyptic Four, EDGE
Urban Green Man edited by Adria Laycraft and Janice Blaine EDGE
On Spec published by the Copper Pig Writers’ Society
Suzenyms by Susan MacGregor, blog
Imaginarium 2013: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing edited by Sandra Kasturi and Samantha Beiko, ChiZine Publications
Best Artist
Erik Mohr, cover art for ChiZine Publications
Melissa Mary Duncan, illustrations and cover art
Dan O’Driscoll, covers for Bundoran Press and the SF Aurora banner
Apis Teicher, body of work
Tanya Montini, cover design for The Ehrich Weisz Chronicles: Demon Gate
Best Fan Publications
No award will be given out in this category in 2014 due to insufficient eligible nominees
Best Fan Music
Brooke Abbey for writing and publishing 12 songs
Debs & Errol for CTRL+ALT+DUETS, EP
Chris Hadfield for his performance of Space Oddity
Kari Maaren for Beowulf Pulled My Arm Off, CD
Devin Melanson, Leslie Hudson and, Kari Maaren for Pirate Elves in Space, CD
Best Fan Organizational
Evelyn Baker and Alana Otis-Wood, co-chairs Ad Astra, Toronto
S.M. Beiko and Chadwick Ginther, co-chairs Chiaroscuro Reading Series, ChiSeries Winnipeg
Sandra Kasturi and James Bambury, co-chairs Chiaroscuro Reading Series, ChiSeries Toronto
Randy McCharles, chair When Words Collide, Calgary
Matt Moore, chair Chiaroscuro Reading Series, ChiSeries Ottawa
Rose Wilson, Art Show Director, VCON 38, Vancouver
Best Fan Related Work
R. Graeme Cameron, weekly column in Amazing Stories Magazine
Steve Fahnestalk, weekly column in Amazing Stories Magazine
Robert Runté, ”Why I Read Canadian Speculative Fiction: The Social Dimension of Reading”, Scholar Keynote Address at ACCSFF ’13, Toronto

Book Review: Fantastic Voyage by Isaac Asimov

Based on the screenplay by Harry Keliner, which was made from David Duncan’s adaptation of the story by Otto Klement and Jay Lewis Bixby.

Pros: more plot explanation and characterization than the film, ending retains scientific integrity, interesting plot

Cons: sexist treatment of female protagonist

Benes, a scientist fleeing a nameless enemy world power, arrives safely in the US but is injured in an attack.  In order to save his life and gain the secrets he brings, a submarine and crew of experts must be shrunk to microscopic size in order to operate on a brain clot.

This is a fairly close novelization of the film of the same name.  The biggest changes come in the form of a prolonged introduction where the patient is more thoroughly introduced and the necessity of saving him better explained.  The ending, too, was adjusted so that the scientific principles of the story retained their integrity.

The characters are better drawn in the book as well, as there’s more time to get to know them.  Cora Peterson is portrayed as a competent technician, even though the men around her - with the exception of Dr. Duval, whom she works for - see her beauty, not her brains.  Something she comments on with irritation,

“Her mirror told her, plainly enough, that she was not plain.  Quite otherwise.  Her dark eyes were ingenuously wide-set; her lips reflected quick humor when she let them do so - which wasn’t often; and her figure annoyed her for its apparent propensity for interfering with the proper understanding of her professional competence.  It was for her ability she wanted wolf-whistles (or their intellectual equivalent) and not for the sinuosity she couldn’t help.” 

And predictably, the leading man of the film, a secret agent, Grant, has trouble seeing her as anything but an object of flirtation, even when she - at the beginning at least - constantly rebuffs him.  I do give Asimov props though, for explaining the reason for her coldness towards Grant and his attentions, in a way that shows what an ass he is at times.  Grant is, of course, not the only one who objects to having a ‘girl’ on the mission or treating her as somehow feebleminded despite her abilities. 

The descriptions of the workings of the inner body that the characters pass are interesting, and are broken up well by the variety of problems the crew face.  There are a lot of tense scenes, and some action before the climax.

It’s a quick and interesting read.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Shout-Out: Antigoddess by Kendare Blake

Old Gods never die…

Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.

Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra-an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.

These days, Cassandra doesn't involve herself in the business of gods-in fact, she doesn't even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.

Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don't just flicker out.

Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.

The Goddess War is about to begin.

Out August 19th.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Book Review: Ancient Christian Magic: Coptic Texts of Ritual Power

Edited by Marin Meyer and Richard Smith, 1994

Pros: good introductions to each section, lots of explanatory notes, variety of texts

Cons: only has a few pictures in instances when illustrations are present in the text

Ritual has long been a part of spiritual practices, Christian or otherwise.  These texts, written in the Coptic language of Egypt (invented as a way of transliterating Egyptian hieroglyphs using Greek letters), shows how Christianity amalgamated older traditions of using words as protection against the evils of the world.  The texts presented in this book mix Egyptian gods and Christian stories to create amulets, love spells, curses and more.

There’s a fantastic mix of texts presented here, many for the first time in English.  There are extensive end notes, though a casual reader will get enough information from the introductions to the individual texts - which are, in some cases, longer than the texts themselves. 

It’s interesting seeing the variety of names of power called upon for the different purposes: Mary, Christ, archangels, Biblical figures, ancient gods and more.

My only complaint with the book is that some of the manuscripts included diagrams.  In a few cases the translator copied the picture, but in many more cases only a notation stating there was a diagram is included.  Actual photographs of some of these manuscript pages would have been welcome to get a feel for how the text and diagrams worked together and to see the original images.

I would advise reading up on the ancient Egyptian religious practices or the Book of Coming Forth by Day (now known as the Book of the Dead) before reading this though, as you’ll get a better idea of how much of the Coptic Christian tradition was borrowed from what came before it.

If you’re interested in magic and ritual practices, and how they developed, this is an interesting book.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Shout-Out: Drift by M. K. Hutchins

Tenjat lives on the shores of Hell, an ocean filled with ravenous naga monsters. His island, a massive Turtle, is slowed by the people living on its back. Tenjat is poor as poor gets: poor enough, even, to condescend to the shame of marriage, so his children can help support him one day. 

But Tenjat has a plan to avoid this fate. He will join the Handlers, those who defend and rule the island. Handlers never marry, and they can even provide for an additional family member. Against his sister’s wishes, Tenjat joins the Handlers. And just in time: the Handlers are ramping up for a dangerous battle against the naga monsters, and they need every fighter they can get. 

As the naga battle approaches, Tenjat’s training intensifies, but a long-hidden family secret—not to mention his own growing feelings for Avi—put his plans in jeopardy, and might threaten the very survival of his island.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Video: Book Nerd Problems

Epic Reads, a YA video channel by Harper Collins, has a fun series called Book Nerd Problems.  The videos are only a minute or so long, but they're really funny - if you're a book nerd.  They cover such issues as trying to avoid spoilers, choosing between buying groceries and books, and lending books to friends.

Here are two of my favourites: