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Showing posts by: joshua starr click to see joshua starr's profile
Wed
May 5 2010 5:56pm

Stephen King

Last November, Stephen King released Under the Dome, a massive work hailed by many as a return to form. Since then, things have seemed pretty quiet from Mr. King—that is, if you’ve been listening for something making a Dome-sized splash. But there are at least a few smaller works from the King of Horror released so far this year that may have slipped under your radar, and rumors are beginning to fly about more to come.

The first King release of 2010 was the audiobook edition of UR, a novella about a technophobic professor whose newly purchased e-reader arrives with a few rather crucial differences from the standard specs. The story was actually published in 2009, but I mention it here because you may have missed it (I know I did) due to its delivery mechanism: the text was a Kindle exclusive, and it is still unavailable in a printed edition.

Then, announced out of the blue less than a month before its April 20 release date, was a novella about baseball, Blockade Billy. King is a well-known fan (he co-wrote Faithful, about the 2004 Red Sox World Series season, with novelist Stewart O’Nan), and Billy is the story of the titular star catcher, who harbored a secret so dark that once it was revealed, every mention of him was stripped from the records of the game. Billy was published in an illustrated limited first edition by small press Cemetery Dance (they boasted the smallest print run for a Stephen King first edition in decades), but the book has not yet been released to retailers—Simon and Schuster will publish a trade edition in late May. The text is also available electronically from various sites for around $7.99, which is a bargain compared to the $25.00 Cemetery Dance charged for the first edition, but still enough to get plenty of complaints from readers who felt they deserved more words for their money.

[Of course, King always has more words...]

Thu
Oct 8 2009 6:24pm

Michael Chabon, the first and only person ever to win both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Hugo Award for Best Novel, read on Wednesday evening to a packed house at the Union Square Barnes & Noble from his new collection of interlinked personal essays, Manhood for Amateurs. The first piece he read, “Art of Cake,” was a recollection of cooking as a boy that touched on success and failure, gender roles, mother-son relationships, and the economics of food. Interesting, but also secondary, because the second piece was pretty much entirely about living and raising a family as a geek! He spent several minutes talking about Daleks!

[Oh, okay, it wasn’t quite that simple…]

Wed
Apr 29 2009 3:19pm

 

The Knife of Never Letting Go, a young adult novel by Patrick Ness, and Filter House, a short story collection by Nisi Shawl, were announced this past weekend as the winners of the 2008 Tiptree Award, an award for science fiction and fantasy which “expands or explores our understanding of gender.”

The James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award Council discusses both winners and why they won in its official announcement.

[Read more...]

Thu
Apr 9 2009 10:20am

Details have finally started emerging about Stephen King’s next novel, Under the Dome, which is complete at 1120 pages and set to publish November 10. The official plot synopsis runs like so:

On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester’s Mills, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and fall from the sky in flaming wreckage, a gardener’s hand is severed as “the dome” comes down on it, people running errands in the neighboring town are divided from their families, and cars explode on impact. No one can fathom what this barrier is, where it came from, and when—or if—it will go away.

Dale Barbara, Iraq vet and now a short-order cook, finds himself teamed with a few intrepid citizens—town newspaper owner Julia Shumway, a physician’s assistant at the hospital, a select-woman, and three brave kids. Against them stands Big Jim Rennie, a politician who will stop at nothing—even murder—to hold the reins of power, and his son, who is keeping a horrible secret in a dark pantry. But their main adversary is the Dome itself. Because time isn’t just short. It’s running out.

[Read on for info and discussion...]

Sat
Mar 14 2009 3:36pm

Wombat fans rejoice! And, well, so should the rest of us. Ursula Vernon’s Eisner-award nominated, fantastic-in-all-senses-of-the-word online comic, Digger, is now free to read at www.diggercomic.com. Previously, large parts of the archive were only accessible to monthly subscribers at Graphic Smash, but as of this past week, Vernon and Graphic Smash have made available the entirety of the story so far. Here, from Vernon’s website, is the broad outline:

Digger is a story about a wombat. More specifically, it is a story about a particularly no-nonsense wombat who finds herself stuck on the wrong end of a one-way tunnel in a strange land where nonsense seems to be the specialty. Now, with the help of a talking statue of a god, an outcast hyena, a shadow-being of indeterminate origin, and an oracular slug, she seeks to find out where she is and how to go about getting back to her Warren.

[Read more]

Mon
Feb 9 2009 9:45am

What a simple, brilliant story, in any medium1: Coraline Jones, bored and feeling unloved, goes exploring in her new home and finds a small, secret door—and, through the door, a skewed reflection of the house and environs, inhabited by versions of her parents and neighbors who are more fun, more exotic, and much more focused on Coraline than anyone in her life seemed to be before. The only problem is that they all have black buttons in the place of their eyes, and if Coraline wants to stay, they say, she’ll have to sew the buttons in, too. When she decides she doesn’t want to stay… well, that’s when Coraline discovers that her Other Mother doesn’t care quite as much about what Coraline wants as she claims she does.

Under Henry Selick’s meticulous direction and with the aid of an excellent cast of voice actors2, Neil Gaiman’s spare, precise novella is transformed into a beautifully intricate stop-motion spectacle that avoids slavish replication of the plot’s details while remaining largely faithful in tone and spirit to the book. Which is a good thing, of course, since Coraline the book felt like a classic from the moment it was released, and it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that the film could become one, too.

[This review goes very light on spoilers, but I can’t promise none at all.]

Tue
Dec 16 2008 5:41pm

Reliable sources have called this “the most incredible season of electronic entertainment on record.” Post-apocalyptic, zombie-bashing, god-playing amusement abounds. But new games take new tech, and those of us without the requisite gear are left out in the cold. Fortunately, like Superman withdrawing to the Fortress of Solitude, I can retreat into the blessed warmth of memory, and relive my top five favorite SF gaming moments. Some social, some solitary, some tragic, some thrilling, these are the sorts of experiences that should keep people gaming for the next 20 years.

[Spoilers follow for the seriously old games Loom and Planescape: Torment.]

Sun
Dec 7 2008 10:05am

Herewith, a brief anecdote about the unifying power and mystery of classic science fiction.

On the day his new book More Information Than You Require was released, John Hodgman spoke and read to an appreciative crowd, accompanied by the songwriter laureate of the geek world, Jonathan Coulton. I was privileged enough to attend, and I can assure you, Coulton deserves every bit of the praise and adulation he gets… but this right here is Hodgman’s post*.

[John Hodgman, you say? Tell me more...]

Thu
Dec 4 2008 11:04am

Brian Slattery just posted about Joanna Newsom’s rather transcendent album Ys, calling it The Best Fantasy Novel You’ve Ever Heard. But let’s say fantasy (or possibly harp-strumming and intricate lyricism) doesn’t fit your mood today. There are plenty of other SF subgenres being explored, musically speaking, and one of the best speculative concept albums I’ve encountered is essentially the inverse of Newsom’s layered, beautiful, delicate creation. On The Body, the Blood, the Machine, The Thermals construct an ugly dystopian United States ruled by a rapacious, hypocritical theocracy —and then make sharp, angry, immediate indie-punk music about it.

[How sharp? How angry?]