content by

Dot Lin

SEED: Field of Dreams

Remember PBS? 3-2-1 Contact, Reading Rainbow, Ghostwriter … Okay, forget nostalgia. Public television now looks into the future with programs such as FutureStates, a series of short films by eleven award-winning indie filmmakers depicting their particular visions of the near future world.

Now, I often like my science drowned by a good wash of fiction, so that any parallels to real life can be entertaining, as opposed to scary as all hell.

Unfortunately, Hugo Perez’ SEED deals with the ominous (and already existing) scenario of genetically engineered seeds and a future where farmers pay exorbitant annual fees to “license” seeds—instead of buying and owning them—and face lawsuits from corporations should “un-licensed” plants (from one of the “copyrighted” seeds) appear on their farmland.

Hugo explains the agricultural takeover much better than I do, though! Read on for an interview.

[More bad seeds]

Shadow Prowler: The Story of the Crossbow

What does it say when one’s excitement over receiving a crossbow and bolt as a gift places off the Richter scale? Fret not, tranquil readers, as this crossbow—more movie prop than medieval weaponry—manages little armor-piercing power. Verily so, as we took a few practice shots in the office. (Human Resources, I hope you are not reading this.)

But besides pledging to defend Tor from all future orc attacks, I wanted to credit the crossbow to one excellent filmmaker and book video.

Not all book videos are created by actual filmmakers. And not all filmmakers enjoy science fiction and fantasy. Or think mayhap their client would like a crossbow left over from filming. Mayhap.

I initially met Hugo Perez of M30A Films through a colleague and and possess fond early memories of him consuming SF novels at slightly alarming speeds. He then worked on a few book videos for Tor, beginning with teen author-turned-college student Isamu Fukui’s dystopian YA novel Truancy and F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack YA novel Jack: Secret Histories.

The most recent video teaser, below, is for Alexey Pehov’s Shadow Prowler, a Russian bestselling sensation translated into English by Andrew Bromfield (Night Watch). In this case, Hugo coordinated with another filmmaker in Russia to include some gorgeous on-location footage.

[Click here for an interview with Hugo and the crossbow as the new NYC fashion accessory.]

From Comics to Film: Green Lantern, Iron Man 2, Thor … and Scott Pilgrim?

With viewers watching the Watchmen this week, below is a disorderly line-up of other comics coming to a theater near you.

Online hawks have already drawn showdowns between Warner Bros/ DC and Marvel as everybody’s favorite boy wizard Harry Potter squares off against The Avengers on the exact same release date in 2011 even though the whole year is, ah, practically wide open.  And masked crime fighters vie with little blue woodland creatures as The Green Hornet bursts out the same weekend as the Smurfs in the summer of 2010, unless the latter picks a date that’s … smurfier.

[Losers, Hornets, and Pilgrims, oh my]

Jane Austen: SF and Monster-Lit 101

From BBC to Bollywood, fangs to phantoms, rotting flesh to outer space—is there anywhere Austen can’t go? The blogosphere is currently buzzing on how Jane has given zombies the heave-ho for aliens in a recent Variety announcement:

Elton John’s Rocket Pictures hopes to make the first Jane Austen adaptation to which men will drag their girlfriends.

Will Clark is set to direct “Pride and Predator,” which veers from the traditional period costume drama when an alien crash lands and begins to butcher the mannered protags, who suddenly have more than marriage and inheritance to worry about.

Netherfield has landed. For years, Austen movie fans contended with multiple remakes, miniseries and contemporary re-imaginings. Examples of the latter included Clueless, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and, my favorite, the upcoming hip-hop musical remake of Emma set in an inner-city high school with fifteen hip-hop songs and dance numbers (Film School Rejects affectionately refers to it as “Emma II Society” or “Emminemma“).

[Read more…]

Before the Con: Set-up

For those who haven’t enjoyed the chaos and debris present at every Comic Con set-up, below are five familiar elements from it:

1. Getting there: Five of us cram into a van-sized taxi cab. One of the seats almost reclines all the way back, thus flattening two of our passengers. It takes five of us ten minutes and vague instructions from the indifferent cab driver to figure out how to un-recline the seat. We feel that we have already accomplished a lot and we haven’t even reached the convention center! Onward, ho.

2. Having a booth: Our adorable Marketing Manager frets that bits of the booth (you know, like the wall) won’t be there upon our arrival. Or better yet, that there will be a dark hole or a time-warping wormhole in place of our booth. I tell her that we will have a booth even if I have to build it myself. I am momentarily inspired by Field of Dreams and Kevin Costner and baseball, but then chalk it up to lack of breakfast.

[Next, we acquire food]

SF Indie Film: Social Politics and Luke Skywalker as an Immigrant

“This is the American dream. We give the United States what it’s always wanted: all the work without the workers.”

Those are defining words from Sleep Dealer, a politically charged SF thriller slated for March 2009. Directed by Sundance fellow and award-winning digital media artist Alex Rivera, the indie film follows a young Mexican migrant worker who “plugs in” to an online factory to operate a construction worker drone in the U.S. … without ever having to cross the border.

Welcome to the globalized world of outsourced manual labor and virtual sweatshops, remote warfare, and corporate ownership of water.  You can work in a place you’ll never see; help people and build places you’ll never touch. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer,  and the rich won’t even have to watch. The borders may be closed, but everyone stays connected through technology. Who said tech wouldn’t set you free?

[Read more…]

Icebreakers: Calling all SF and Fantasy book reviewers

From GalleyCat and SF Signal: John Ottinger from Grasping for the Wind is doing some community-building and compiling a list of SF and Fantasy blogs across the net—and he’s making it interactive! See below.

[T]ake the following list and stick it on your website, then add yourself to the list, preferably in alphabetical order. That way, I will be able to track it across the web from back links, and can add each new blog to my roll as it comes along. So take this list, add it to your blog, and add a link to your blog on it.

JasonB @ Galleycat makes a good point that “too many publicists, authors, and other reviewers are unaware” of all these great genre sites. And this “genre” is one hot potato, so what’s the hold-up??

So, meet old friends, link to new friends, and join the gathering. And maybe somewhere, somehow, some of these folks can figure out whether or not it’s worth seeing the new The Day the Earth Stood Still in IMAX…

[List behind the cut.]

Commedia dell’SF: Brandon Sanderson

Who says SF authors can’t do improv? Move over, Saturday Night Live!

VIDEO: “Brandon of Ages”

Last week, Brandon Sanderson visited his publisher’s office and agreed to film a “fun” video for us.

People in the SF community have heretofore displayed some amazing musical talent (sometimes with instruments only seen in Shakespearean movies), but who knew that some possessed theatrical talent that should not be confined to mere book readings.

For almost four weeks, Brandon had toured with friend and fellow author David Farland—until he flew to the East Coast. By himself.

In the video, Brandon talks about the dual author tour … and life without Dave. Well, Dave was there. In spirit. Well, his book was there. Hm.

Kudos to Brandon, our multimedia guru/ videographer, and our excellent good sport extras for jumping into the guerilla-style filmmaking (shot on a shoestring budget in 20 minutes- Sundance, you interested?).

Extra Credit: Guess the identity of the guy in the video (other than Brandon) for some postmodern amusement. Name all the people in it, and you really deserve a big prize.

[Go here for some behind-the-scenes, ah, scenes:]

Series: The Way of Kings Master Index

Let the Right One In: not your ordinary Swedish vampire film

This is still playing in NYC and L.A. with other cities rolling out—go see it!

Let the Right One In*, a subtitled Swedish movie directed by Tomas Alfredson and based on an acclaimed novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, is a vampire/horror movie that defies all expectations.

Snow blankets a working class suburb of Stockholm. At night, a 12-year-old boy feigns stabbing someone with a hunting knife. Oskar has no friends, school bullies torment him, and his divorced parents play distant roles in his life.

An odd unkempt girl moves in next door, and everything changes. One day, she jumps on top of the jungle gym in their apartment complex; on another day, Oskar shows her how to work a Rubiks Cube.

People have called this a horror movie, a vampire film, a supernatural thriller, but it is not really any one thing or even about vampires. One of those slow, quiet, disturbing, beautiful, and quite possibly brilliant category-elusive films, it is part coming-of-age, part horror, and part …something like a love story.

Someone once said that all vampire stories are love stories.

Let the Right One In doesn’t bother with history, exposition, or even dialogue. One scene—brief, dialogue-less, and easily overlooked—speaks more about the girl Eli’s age than any number could. Right One does use some of the tropes of vampire lore (sunlight, immortality, etc.), but in such a spare and singular way as to make each one carry the weight of an entire movie. Without giving anything away, I will say that the film’s title captures one of the final and most devastating scenes in the film.

It also brings up the question of how many of one’s ideas of vampires come from the supermodels found in Hollywood/ Twilight, True Blood and even Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or the decadent glamour and history found in Bram Stoker and Anne Rice-type novels.

The less said about plot, the better. Let the viewer be surprised (don’t even watch the trailer). This is definitely not a kids’ movie, despite its ability to be both enchanting and horrifying at the same time.

The film’s been racking up awards on the film festival circuit, so already, Hollywood has come knocking to hatchet another quality foreign film (no offense, J.J. Abrams, blame My Sassy Girl), and the Swedish director is not happy. Something about why remake something that’s … already good? Rätt på,** Tomas!

* Also the title of a song by Morrissey
** Literally, “right on”

I Love Sarah Jane (and so does Tim Burton): A Zombie Love Story

One of the most talked about short films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, I Love Sarah Jane is a wonderfully sweet (and messed-up) zombie love story.

Official synopsis: Jimbo is 13. All he can think about is one girl, Sarah Jane. And no matter what stands in his waybullies, violence, chaos, zombiesnothing is going to stop him from finding a way into her world.

Watch the film full-screen HERE
Warning: Strong Language and Zombies

It’s gorgeously shot, especially for a short film. I would watch a feature-length version, but in the meantime…

“Sarah Jane,” played by Mia Wasikowska, is now starring in Tim Burton’s live-action and CGI re-imagining of the Lewis Carroll classic Alice in Wonderland due out in 2010. Early additions to the cast include Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Matt Lucas from Shaun of the Dead in the role(s) of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and Martin Sheen as … well, “it’s unclear exactly what character he’ll be playing.”

See INF for early photos from the set and Slashfilm for more information on the film.

Who else would you like to see in this? What a fun movie to cast. And online chatter pegs Sheen as the Cheshire Cat. Personally, I think he’d also make a terrific zombie…

Watchmen, Tintin, and…Drakmar?

The comics community is abuzz over the Watchmen movie’s recent legal snafu and the accompanying fan movement to make the film over 3 hours long—not to mention they’ve finally ironed out which movies in the Tintin trilogy will be directed by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson (with Doctor Who‘s Stephen Moffat onboard as screenwriter). But let’s give something lesser known a little more play…

From USA Today‘s Pop Candy, who highlights an RPG documentary that apparently played on HBO last summer:

“Last weekend I saw an inspired and weird documentary that reminded me of the awkwardness of youth, the importance of family and my enthusiasm for geeks.

Drakmar: A Vassal’s Journey follows 14-year-old Colin Taylor as he navigates high school and the medieval land Adria, a role-playing group where he works his way through the ranks.

Colin loves dragons, weapons and video games. He grew up without a dad, but he finds a father figure in his ‘knight’ at Adria. At school, he’s failing every subject except ceramics. And, not surprisingly, he is ostracized by his classmates.”

Pop Candy also includes a funny, but somehow heartwarming clip from Drakmar, where Colin describes his perfect girl (“A girl who likes herself for who she is, likes me for who I am … and likes to go on adventures.”):

[Video and more geekery behind the cut…]

SDCC: Last Day at the Con

[Post delayed by your editorial director’s inability to approve posts while on an airplane.  Sorry, Dot!  –pnh]

Some poor kid napping facedown next to SCIFI.COM‘s “Big Frakkin Bag”:

And for all those BSG fans, a close-up of that bag:

SDCC: The Cute, the Funny, and the SPOILER

Ichigo Kurosaki, Rukia, Chad-uh, Kon bear, Inoue, Quincy, and all the Soul Reapers. How can anyone not like Bleach, one of Viz Media’s most popular manga and anime? (Note: the plush version of crabby Ichigo and the equally cranky Kon in the photo. I want.)

This was my first real “fan panel” at San Diego. The kind where every sentence bears the gravity of an Announcement, and fans scream appropriately. And everyone comes in costume.

This was Bleach creator Tite Kubo’s first visit to America and his first trip outside of Japan. “For this I obtained my passport,” he said. Wow.

I’ve had my passport since I was really little, and I haven’t really gone anywhere.

The panel opened up with exclusive footage (“never before seen on the planet”) of Tite Kubo’s private studio where he draws and colors Bleach.

No need to describe every detail, but I will say this: has anyone seen the DVD extras on Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away? Where Mr. Miyazaki and his animators work late into the night, and Miyazaki gets up to, like, chop scallions and katsu to make ramen for everyone in the studio? It had something of that homey intimate feeling.

And oh my lord, his CD collection.

Snippets from the Panel:

Moderator: “So, why is the kitchen so clean?”
[whisper of translation]
Kubo: “It’s very clean because we don’t cook.”

Moderator: “When did you realize you had such a large fan base in the U.S.?”
Kubo: “Ah!” [in Japanese]
[whisper of translation]
Kubo: “That was yesterday.”

And then, when all was going well, one of those classic spoiler moments happened. The horror.

Audience question: “Will you do a back story for _____?”
[whisper of translation]
Kubo: “I will draw.”

[The audience erupted into a deafening roar, and you got the feeling that something monumental had been announced, Puzzled, I asked the next person who ____ was. He told me. I now hate him. Shoot the messenger.]

SDCC: An Important Announcement From

Overnight, a bird crapped on our booth.  Evidently, in the evening, wild animals have their own Comic Con in San Diego.

Usually, exhibitors cover their display counter with the tablecloth at the end of the day.  I always thought this was to discourage theft, but now I know the real reason.

(We were going to post a picture, but we figured you didn’t really want to see it…)

SDCC: Ha-lo in the House

Though my most recent video game experience consisted of blowing myself up in Halo (never throw grenade when facing a wall) and watching my friend mow over pedestrians in Grand Theft Auto 4, seeing Comic Con-goers enthuse over cool new games would make anyone want to play video games all day long. No school for me today, Mom.

The Halo Wars panel with Eric Nylund (author of Halo: The Fall of Reach and Halo: First Strike Onyx), Tobias Buckell (author of the upcoming Halo: The Cole Protocol), game universe writers Graeme Devine (Halo Wars) and Frank O’Connor (the Halo Trilogy), and Jon Goff and Corrinne Robinson (McFarlane Toys’ brand management team for Halo action figures) showed some nice camaraderie and witty repartee as they talked all things Halo to a packed crowd (who asked an awful lot of detailed questions).

GameSpy did great live coverage of the panel, so I offer a few soundbytes from the front row:

Opening remarks from the panelists:

“You guys know this isn’t the Stan Lee panel, right?

“We’re actually here to sell you a timeshare.”

“Frank [O’Connor], is it true that you just woke up?”

On those eagerly anticipating the next Halo novel:

Joseph: “Frank is going to write two Halo novels. Next week.”

Frank: [bending over the table] “I’m doing it right now under the table on my PDA.”

Someone else on the panel: “It’s going to be a picture book.”

On the next Halo book:

Tobias: [leaning over and grinning at Frank] “I don’t know, Frank—am I done with the book? Am I allowed to talk about the book? [pause] Is there a book?”

On how often they play Halo:

Tobias: “Oh, I’m a player.”

[A little later in the conversation:]

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