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Radio Drama: "Subject 428A" (1964)

Subject 428A"Subject 428A"

Original air date: October 2, 1964, from the series Theatre Five.

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Thoughts Before Listening

I’m thinking this will be about a prisoner or a patient or an experiment or a prisoner patient experiment. Also thinking that it would be really neat if this was about zombie unicorns. It probably isn’t. It might be though.

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The Hunger Games - Greatest Modern Movie Epic?

Lorde - "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" (Catching Fire)

Finally saw Mockingjay, Part 1 last weekend. All three movies seem to be a slightly different style, but they all revolve around a really interesting anti-authoritarian, anti-media theme. What's interesting isn't just how the theme is handled (intelligently and provocatively), but how it has evolved over the three films, without losing the basic action/adventure/coming-of-age premise that makes the whole thing so fun. It is also, in a way that many of its peers is not, strikingly contemporary.

It'll be interesting to see how it dates, but given the world doesn't seem to be de-paranoia-ing, de-militarising or de-media-saturating any time soon, I suspect this might be something made for the long haul.

Anyway, after a day or so of pondering, here's my challenge - is there a better modern movie epic?

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Friday Five: 5 Noteworthy Pocket Books Star Trek Novels


There have been a lot of Star Trek novels over the years, from a number of publishers, dealing with every iteration of the franchise (yes, even the animated series) as well as many that fit no existing bracket.

Among the various pieces of thinly-disguised fanfic, the (surprisingly few) direct sequels to TV episodes, the attempts to do hard sci-fi that don’t quite work, and the inevitable attempts at inter-genre crossovers, there are some that I would call ‘noteworthy’ for one reason or another. Note that this is not always synonymous with ‘good’. Picking five from all of the possible options (even had I read them all) would probably be impossible, so I’m going to restrict myself to the Original Series novel range published by Pocket Books from 1979 to around 1990, at which point I stopped reading them as religiously as I had previously. 

Listed in no particular order:

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Friday Five: 5 From The Future Fire

The Future Fire X

This week we're handing the reins over to Djibril al-Ayad, editor of The Future Fire. The magazine is celebrating its tenth anniversary. If you're interested in supporting both The Future Fire and its long tradition of critically-lauded anthologies, you can back it (and receive lovely goodies) here.


The Future Fire’s tagline, as it has evolved over ten years of publishing, promises “Feminist SF, Queer SF, Eco SF, Postcolonial SF and Cyberpunk,” all this in the service of social-political speculative fiction and showcasing underrepresented voices.

I’ll try here to recommend five awesome stories that demonstrate what we mean by these five categories (and what we’d like to see more of in the zine). I’d love more recommendations from you along these lines in the comments!

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A Fast Click to The Long Way

TLWHey, guess what's out today? Again? In a new way?

Becky Chambers' award-winning and absolutely sensational The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is now available in both ebook and glorious hardcover. 

The story of The Long Way is pretty well-known at this point, but, in case you want to relive it, here's the Guardian on how this kickstarted debut novel became one of Hodder & Stoughton's summer blockbusters.

Here are how a few people have reacted to the book:

"It is a quietly profound, humane tour de force that tackles politics and gender issues with refreshing optimism." - Guardian

"Humane and alien, adventurous and thoughtful, vast in its imagination and wonderfully personal in the characters it builds. But above all else, it is joyously written and a joy to read." - Claire North

"A joyous, optimistic space opera. Although it isn’t shy about tackling Big Questions, Planet is a heart-warming debut novel that will restore your faith in science fiction (specifically) and humanity (in general)." - (uh, me)

"Does The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet really live up to the buzz? The answer is a resounding, and unconditional, YES!" - SFF World

"A refreshing, joyous book that skips neatly around convention, and – with the flick of a page – sucks you utterly into its world, so much so that you become reluctant to leave the Wayfarer and its crew" - Stark Holborn

"This is an impressive debut from an exciting author. If the series continues in this vein, we’re sure to have a new sci-fi classic on our hands." - We Love This Book

"Imagine smashing the groundbreaking, breathtaking science fiction of Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch saga against the salty space opera of The ExpanseThe Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet lacks the wall-to-wall action of that latter, and some of the former’s finesse, yes—nevertheless, Becky Chambers’ debut is a delight." - (not me)

"What it is, rather, is a book about friendships, about chosen families and how they form, about being on someone else's side, about banding together while still being yourself. It's about people making a living in a hard universe, together. It's full of heart, and I loved it.... It was the most emotionally satisfying book I've read so far this year." - The Eyrie

"In a perfect world, all books would give me the warm fuzzies the way The Long Way To A Small, Long Planet did. It is a delightful novel, full of witty repartee, nice people being nice to each other and developing warm and important relationships be them romantic or not. I can’t wait to read more from Becky Chambers." - The Book Smugglers

And, in case you need some introduction to Becky's writing - you can find her blog hereher columns for us (yay) here, and, hell, here's a (very) short story.

Or, better yet, just buy the book. (Amazon / Waterstones / Foyles / Audible)

Zot! The Complete Black & White Collection by Scott McCloud

Cogolj3cB8gXEthAl52IhcKIKW2pmYA+Gl!w8rbMsYH!BRIAG5OUet9tcq9F2XjffXkZsjELHH1dotzfe59Az0QlsOj5uNIjDVK!VrUaAbeWsW1OYzkgsRAdZgmVYczuThe first two-thirds of Zot! (1987 - 1991) are certainly enjoyable enough. Scott McCloud creates a fun, thoughtful, and zany superhero pastiche featuring the invulnerable teenaged Zot and his Earth-pal, Jenny.

Zot fights surreal foes who are rarely menacing, except in their ability to provoke existential crises. The 'villains'  often embody abstract concepts, and rare do little more than rant and, er, make art. These portion of Zot! are oddly charming, although not spectacular - perhaps because, as a superhero epic, we're expecting more in the way of action. Or, at the very least, palpable tension.

The superhero stories pick up some assistance from the notes at the end of each arc. I'm generally not so fussed about this sort of whatnot, but McCloud is nothing if not a thoughtful creator. Especially as a reader that's not familiar with art and its history, having McCloud explain his influences and ambitions was surprisingly useful. Similarly, McCloud draws thoughtful connections between Zot! and its autobiographical inspirations as well - how his personal life changed his work (and possibly vice versa).

If Zot! stopped two-thirds of the way through, it would've been an educational read, and an enjoyable one. And that's about the end of it.

But... then there's the final third of the collection, the 'Earth Stories'. Which elevates Zot! to being one of the best comics ever created.

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One Comic + Puns = A Bad Match


Over at One Comic Mansion ("One Comic Assemble!") we try not to talk for talking's sake, as seen in this not-even-twenty-minutes show about issue one of Mercury Heat. We got in, said what we needed to, and got out again. And in passing, we talked a bit about a series called Whiteout from Oni Press, which you should definitely check out.

But back to the matter at hand. Listen here, or add the show to your feed: 

Friday Five: 5 Contemporary Comic Book Classics

CopperheadAs Jon noted in an earlier post, the One Comic crew really enjoyed taking the piss out of the ludicrous Comixology blurb for Alan Moore's Providence #1. A very good comic, definitely. "A breathtaking masterpiece of sequential art"? That's a very tall order.

(Here's our review, by the way. Our verdict? "Dunno.")

That said, what contemporary comics are masterpieces? Classics in the making? Or just 'important'? Or, to phrase it more accurately, "Today is Friday and I really need a post, so here are five comics I've liked recently."

So let's get to it...

Copperhead (Jay Faerber / Scott Godlewski)

Summary: SPACE WEIRD WESTERN PUNK NOIR. A sheriff with a mysterious past rocks up to the backwater world that's her new home. What should be a quiet rural (SPACE-rural) posting immediately heats up with theft, murder and alien-monster attacks.

Why it might be a masterpiece of sequential art: SPACE WEIRD WESTERN PUNK NOIR. A tidy little mystery, well-integrated SF elements, excellent Western inflection, and the sort of rebellious punk atmosphere that comes from casually revisionist themes and badass art. 

Why it might not be a masterpiece of sequential art: SPACE WEIRD WESTERN PUNK NOIR. It is, you know, what it is. Firmly encamped in genre traditions, and happily bouncing around inside the boundaries of (multiple) genres.

Breathtakingness: A light gasp of elation.

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