Adaptations 4 You: 21 Laps Continue Their Sci-Fi Run

With the successes of Oscar nominee Arrival and the Netflix hit Stranger Things, Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps is going to continue down the sci-fi rabbit hole. They now have deals for the adaptations of four different stories: Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles, Raymond A. Villareal’s A People’s History Of The Vampire Uprising, Larry Niven’s Inconstant Moon, and Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns.

The Age of Miracles is Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel, published by Random House in 2012. It follows a Southern California teen when she and her family wake up to find the rotation of the Earth has slowed down. The days and nights grow longer, gravity is affected, and people begin to fall sick to a new mysterious illness. She is forced to deal with the disasters of everyday life, struggling with her parents’ marriage falling apart and the loss of friends.

The book received positive reviews and been translated into many major languages. It was also nominated as part of the Waterstones 11 literary award in 2012.

Sinead Daly (The Get Down) will pen the script. AMC, who acquired the TV rights, will have Rafael Ruthchild and Allie Moore join Levy’s producing team of himself, Dan Levine, and Emily Morris.

Next, in the light of Paramount’s pulling of World War Z 2, it looks like 21 Laps and 20th Century Fox are ready to step into its place. Fox has acquired the rights to A People’s History Of The Vampire Uprising. Levy will direct as well as produce with Dan Cohen.

The book was sold to Little, Brown in a four-publisher auction and will be printed at Mulholland Books and published next year. It is the first of a four volume series from Raymond A. Villareal and told in an oral history format.

Characterized as a World War Z with vampires, the novel is an “oral history” of the appearance, assimilation, and ultimately epic and violent confrontation of vampires with the human race. Chronicling the rise of The Gloaming (the name the vampires have given themselves) are multiple points of view, including a CDC investigator who discovers a mysterious virus, an FBI agent who forms the Gloaming Crimes Unit; a civil rights attorney’s analysis of the Gloaming Equal Rights Act, an obsessive Vatican librarian; and, of course, TMZ.

Fox and 21 Laps will continue their partnership with the adaptation of sci-fi legend Larry Niven’s short story, Inconstant Moon. Joining Levy will be Dan Cohen (Stranger Things) with James Ponsoldt (The Circle) directing and Daniel Casey (Kin, 10 Cloverfield Lane) penning the script.

The Hugo Award winning Best Short Story, Inconstant Moon, was released in the 1971 short story collection All the Myriad Ways. It follows a Los Angeles couple who notice the moon is unusually brighter and realize that a massive solar flare has destroyed the Eastern Hemisphere, which will eventually cause catastrophe for the Western Hemisphere. They prepare for what could be the last night on Earth.

The story was adapted in 1996 for The Outer Limits television series.

Finally, also with Fox, 21 Laps will be producing a feature film based on Kendare Blake’s young adult’s novel Three Dark Crowns, which is the first of a series of four. Levy will produce with Dan Levine and Natalie Lehmann.

Published by HarperTeen last September, the story follows triplets who are equal heirs to the crown. Each have a magical powers, one controls the elements a the snap of her fingers, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons, and one who can bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions. Ascending the throne is not a matter of birthright; they have to fight to the death for it beginning the night of their sixteenth birthday.

The second book will be released this September. The following three novels will also become movies, based on the success of the first.

 




SFWA Announces Nebula Award Nominees, Heinlein Award

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America have announced their nominees for this year’s Nebula Awards, with a corrected ballot that was announced on February 20th.

Due to an error in word count verification, Cat Rambo’s “Red in Tooth and Cog” was replaced on the Novelette ballot by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam’s “The Orangery”. Turns out Rambo’s work came in with a word count under the eligibility threshold of 7,500 words.

Rambo, who’s also the current president of the SFWA, said, “The Nebula Awards are about celebrating amazing works by talented writers in our genre. I choose to see the silver lining in that we elevate another writer to the stage, and keep the ballot otherwise intact.”

 

Novel

  • All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor; Titan)
  • Borderline, Mishell Baker (Saga)
  • The Obelisk Gate, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
  • Ninefox Gambit,Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris US; Solaris UK)
  • Everfair, Nisi Shawl (Tor)

Novella

  • Runtime, S.B. Divya (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle (Tor.com Publishing)
  • Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • “The Liar”, John P. Murphy (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)
  • A Taste of Honey, Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor.com Publishing)

Novelette      

  • “The Long Fall Up”, William Ledbetter (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)
  • “Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea”, Sarah Pinsker (Lightspeed)
  • “Blood Grains Speak Through Memories”, Jason Sanford (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
  • “The Orangery”, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)
  • The Jewel and Her Lapidary, Fran Wilde (Tor.com Publishing)
  • “You’ll Surely Drown Here If You Stay”, Alyssa Wong (Uncanny)

Short Story

  • “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies”, Brooke Bolander (Uncanny)
  • “Seasons of Glass and Iron”, Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood)
  • “Sabbath Wine”, Barbara Krasnoff (Clockwork Phoenix 5)
  • “Things With Beards”, Sam J. Miller (Clarkesworld)
  • “This Is Not a Wardrobe Door”, A. Merc Rustad (Fireside Magazine)
  • “A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers”, Alyssa Wong (Tor.com)
  • “Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station│Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0”, Caroline M. Yoachim (Lightspeed)

In addition to the Nebulas, the SFWA also presents the Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book, the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award, the Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. Service to SFWA Award, and the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.

Bradbury

  • Arrival, Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Screenplay by Eric Heisserer, 21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films/Xenolinguistics
  • Doctor Strange, Directed by Scott Derrickson, Screenplay by Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill, Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures
  • Kubo and the Two Strings, Directed by Travis Knight, Screenplay by Mark Haimes & Chris Butler; Laika Entertainment
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Directed by Gareth Edwards, Written by Chris Weitz & Tony Gilroy; Lucusfilm/ Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures
  • Westworld: ‘‘The Bicameral Mind’’, Directed by Jonathan Nolan, Written by Lisa Joy & Jonathan Nolan; HBO
  • Zootopia, Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore, & Jared Bush, Screenplay by Jared Bush & Phil Johnston; Walt Disney Pictures/Walt Disney Animation Studios

Norton

  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin Young Readers)
  • The Star-Touched Queen, Roshani Chokshi (St. Martin’s)
  • The Lie Tree, Frances Hardinge (Macmillan UK; Abrams)
  • Arabella of Mars, David D. Levine (Tor)
  • Railhead, Philip Reeve (Oxford University Press; Switch)
  • Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, Lindsay Ribar (Kathy Dawson Books)
  • The Evil Wizard Smallbone, Delia Sherman (Candlewick)

The latest Grand Master to be added to the roster is Jane Yolen, who was selected in November 2016. Yolen’s reaction: “To know I am now on the same list as Isaac Asimov, Andre Norton, and Ursula Le Guin is the kind of shock to the system that makes me want to write better each day. Revise, revision, and reinvent.”

Voting will begin among active members on March 1, 2017, with the award presentation during the 51st annual Nebula Conference, held this year May 18-21 in Pittsburgh, PA at the Marriott City Center.

 

First presented in 1966, the Nebulas are given to the best works of science fiction and fantasy published in the United States as selected by members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, made up of professional science fiction and fantasy authors.

More information here: http://nebulas.sfwa.org/nebula-conference/

_______________

The SFWA has also announced that this year’s Robert A. Heinlein Award for “outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings that inspire the human exploration of space” will be presented to Robert J. Sawyer.

The award will be presented during the 51st Maryland Regional Science Fiction Convention (Balticon 51), and Sawyer will join via Skype while he attends ConQuesT in Kansas City.

The Heinlein Award was founded by the Grand Master’s long time friend Dr. Yoji Kondo, and recipients are selected by a committee of science fiction writers.

More information here: http://www.sfwa.org/2017/02/robert-j-sawyer-wins-2017-robert-heinlein-award/

 




If David Cronenberg and TREMORS Had a Baby, They’d Name It LITTLE HEAVEN

Little Heaven
Written by Nick Cutter Illustrations by Adam Gorham
Published by Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster (January 2017)
400 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1-5011-0421-3

I wouldn’t recommend Nick Cutter’s latest novel as a light read for your lunch hour – unless you want to risk losing your lunch.

However, Little Heaven is a must-read novel if you –

A) Think Cormac McCarthy’s novel (and/or the Coen brothers movie) No Country for Old Men needed more blood, some monsters,  and a bit of  Cronenbergian body horror to really qualify as a classic.

B) Are looking for a horror writer who consistently delivers books that combine tight plotting, interesting characters, and truly excruciating moments of “did I just read that?” gruesomeness.

Here’s a sample from page four:

In the darkness, something shambled from the den. The moon touched upon its strange extrusions, its flesh shining wetly in the pale moonlight. It breathed through many mouths and gazed through a cluster of eyes lodged in a knot of fatted, blood-streaked fur.

 

Still with me?

Good.

The story in Little Heaven alternates between “present day” (1980) and events in 1965 that bring a trio of mismatched criminals together. Micah Shughrue, Minerva Atwater, and Ebenezer Elkins are joined together by circumstance and on the run from the law.

At Micah’s urging, the trio agrees to help Ellen Bellhaven in her quest to check on the wellbeing of her nephew Nate. Her sister’s ex took the boy to a remote religious community in New Mexico called Little Heaven, led by the weirdly charismatic Reverend Amos Flesher.

Once the group arrives at the ramshackle settlement, they discover Little Heaven resembles a fundamentalist Hotel California; you can check out any time you like, but something in the woods won’t let you leave. Revered Flesher thought he heard the voice of God calling him to this corner of the Land of Enchantment. By the end of Little Heaven, it seems much more likely he heard the call of Cthulhu (or one of his relatives).

If there’s any issue I had as a reader with Little Heaven, it was more of pacing than quibbles with content or story. The initial sections introduce us to the 1980 versions of Micah, Minerva, and Ebenzer, and then flash back to the events that brought them together. While these sections are interesting, I found myself wondering – when are we getting to the main story?

The excerpt at the beginning of this review clues you in to where Little Heaven lies on the horror spectrum. But while it has plenty of gut churning moments, it is not “torture porn.” Like the best splatterpunk in this books’ ancestry, the violence is not an end in itself, with forgettable characters dying in gruesome ways just to gross out the reader. Even the worst miscreant (cough Reverend Amos cough) remains a person, not a prop.

The National Post’s review of Cutter’s first horror novel The Troop mentioned a feature of that book that makes his books “must reads” for me. “It highlights the organic inevitability of the best horror fiction while never being predictable.”

Little Heaven – the little town you can’t forget, and a book worth any horror fan’s time.

 

 




ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY Wins Crawford Prize

[Featured image courtesy Charlie Jane Anders Official Facebook page]

In the year since its publication, Charlie Jane Anders’ All The Birds In The Sky  has garnered much recognition and praise. Yet while it appears on nomination lists and Top Ten Book sites across the spectrum, the book has not taken home a hefty industry trophy.

Until now.

The International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (IAFA) awards the William L. Crawford Award to exemplary authors whose first fantasy novel has appeared during the previous calendar year. For 2017, the IAFA has awarded the Crawford prize to Anders and All The Birds In The Sky.

The 38th annual awards ceremony will be held March 22nd – 26th, 2017 at the Orlando Airport Marriott Lakeside in Orlando Florida.

All the details, including the shortlist for this year’s nominees, can be found at the IAFA site.

 




Review: TURBULENCE Offers Up Original Super Heroes

Turbulence
Written by Samit Basu
Published by Titan Books on July 6, 2012
360 pages (paperback)
ISBN: 9781781161197

Turbulence is my first experience in reading an origin story for superheroes. I enjoyed it. I did not know what to expect from Samit Basu’s book; I simply found the description interesting: smart young man who is on a flight where the passengers board as a normal person and deplane with some sort of super power. He wants to help ‘heal’ the world but discovers it may mean hurting others at the same time.

After his fateful flight from London to Delhi, Aman discovers he as the power to tap into the internet, mentally. He uses this new talent to determine which other passengers also developed special abilities as well. Aman manages to connect with a few individuals who move into a safe house with him: Tia, a woman who can multiply herself; Bob, who controls the weather through his stomach (they keep him full of cold food to keep the air conditioning bill low); Narayan, the mad scientist who can work in his sleep; and Uzma, a woman who can charm people into liking her.

Aman wants to use these powers to make the world better. He wants to balance out the economy so everyone has food, money is used for experiments that can help humanity, and people who are corrupt are brought down from powerful positions in companies and governments (calling his set of comics Rural Infrastructure Development League). He also wants to know why some people on that plane have completely vanished.

Aman and the others discover from Vir, a flying super human, that there is a rogue Indian super human military officer, Jai, who is collecting other super humans that have extremely powerful abilities. Jai is set on building a super army; anyone with an inferior power is killed. Since Jai’s own power has made him indestructible, he is not resisted by many.

Aman’s group attempt to fight Jai, only to become both prisoners and then partners. Aman thinks he can save the super humans by helping Jai take over the world. What they are not prepared for is a mysterious mob controller who creates havoc in large public places. In an attempt to discover and destroy this villain, they create a showdown worthy of a superhero story, as well as a surprising twist.

Now, the challenge that Basu faces with this book is to make it different from other superhero stories, which he did. He places his characters into our current world, which is littered with comic book heroes and stories. He keeps humor in the story by adding little comments from Aman referencing this, whether an action is acceptable behavior in a comic book, referring to Vir as Superman, or comparing themselves to the X-Men or the Justice League…of India, constantly poking fun that they have B-Level superpowers. Basu also keeps the characters fresh; when you think they will turn left, they turn right. A moment that gave me a good laugh was when Aman decided to punish certain political and social groups by rerouting their website links to the YouTube video of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

The fights scenes in the book are well expressed, giving the reader a great visual to create in their mind. There are three major scenes and they do not disappoint. Basu manages to keep the pace of the fight steady, building to its climax and adding witty dialog from the characters. At the end of any action scene, the reader left standing there, shaking their head, asking themselves, “Wait, did that just happen?”

But what I like the most is the internal conflict Aman and the others have with themselves about how they should act with these new powers they possess. Unlike movies, books allow you more insight imto the characters, their motivation and fears. I enjoyed this: the main character Aman’s conflict with trying to accomplish what he wants while accepting how his actions have effects on others. Vir wants to be a super hero, but only if he can do it in the name of his country, India. Uzma does not want to be a super hero. She just wants to pretend nothing has changed and move on with her spectacular life, even though it’s her powers that are helping create it. Jai simply wants to rule the world; if people object, they die. Vir and Jai are clean cut hero and villain. However, what about the individuals in the middle who are deciding on how to best use their new powers without crossing the fine line of doing more harm than good?

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading its sequel, Resistance, at some point. This story ends at a good place so that I feel satisfied, but I am curious to see what is up next for our characters, especially after a conversation between a couple of them (I will not spoil). I think this book is good for readers who enjoy super heroes and understand how origin stories are developed. I also think this is a good read for the newer fans, so they can take their time and truly soak in the depth it takes for the development of a superhero, which cannot always be easily conveyed in a two-hour film.

 




2017 Philip K. Dick Award Nominees Announced

On January 20th, the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society and the Philip K. Dick Trust announced the 2017 nominees for the Philip K. Dick Award. The PKD Award recognizes the best original paperback science fiction published in the United States the previous year.

The 2017 nominees are:

A distinguishing feature of this year’s titles? With the exception of Graft from “mid-major” publisher Angry Robot, the other titles are all from small independent presses.

Barnes & Noble selected Super Extra Grande as one of their “Best Science Fiction” picks for 2016 and Consider was a “Top YA Science Fiction” title for 2016.

The winner will be announced on Friday, April 14, 2017 at Norwescon 40 (see our conventions calendar for details).

 

 




Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame Announces 2016 Inductees

The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), located in Seattle, Washington, has announced its Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame inductees for 2016.

The typical year sees four new members added, though there have been a couple of years that inducted five instead. The hall of fame began with stricter guidelines for inductees than what are currently used. Originally, only writers and editors were included, two of whom were living and two of whom had passed. In 2005, they began including non-literary inductees, as well. While the nominations are sent in by the public, the decision on who to induct is made by a committee of “award-winning science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, editors, publishers, and film professionals.”

The four inductees being added to the current 84 members, which include the likes of David Bowie, J.R.R. Tolkien, George Lucas, Hayao Miyazaki, and many more, are Star Trek, Blade Runner, Terry Pratchett (author, Discworld series), and Douglas Adams (author, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).

Star Trek

Star Trek is an American science fiction franchise created by Gene Roddenberry. It aired its first episode in 1966 with The Original Series. The franchise has had many iterations in the last 51 years, including seven TV series (The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and Discovery, which debuts this year), 13 feature films, books, comics, games, and more.

The franchise continues today with the addition of Discovery and the continuation of the reboot films, which take place in an alternate timeline. The series had a huge cultural impact when it was released because of its diverse cast and interracial relationships.

 

Blade Runner

Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford and directed by Ridley Scott, was released in 1982 as an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Though the film received mixed reviews from critics upon release, it has since been studied endlessly for its philosophical questions on humanity. It eventually became a cult classic and is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

The dystopic world, set in 2019, has achieved the 139th place on IMDB’s top 250 movies. It won three BAFTA awards, including Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design, a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Cinematography, and a London Critics Circle Film Award, as well as other awards and nominations throughout the years.

 

Terry Pratchett
(April 28, 1948-March 12, 2015)

Sir Terry Pratchett was an English author of fantasy best known for his 41 novel Discworld series. He had his first story published at the age of 13, with his first novel being published when he was 23. He published the first of his Discworld books in 1983 titled The Colour of Magic. His third Discworld novel, Equal Rites, included some of the emerging ideas of feminism and was broadcast on Woman’s Hour radio. In 2002, Pratchett won the Carnegie Medal for his children’s book The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, which was the award he was most proud of. He was knighted by the Queen in 2009 for services to literature just two years after being diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimer’s Disease.

He won a BAFTA and Emmy for his documentary on assisted dying, Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die. He succumbed to his disease in 2015, a few months after finishing his 41st novel in the Discworld series.

 

Douglas Adams
(March 11, 1952-May 11, 2001)

Douglas Adams was an English author best known for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which began as a BBC radio comedy in 1978 before becoming a five book series. He also wrote the Dirk Gently series and three stories for the Doctor Who TV series. He was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation for The Highhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series. He had two brief appearances in Monty Python’s Flying Circus, as well.

He was slated to give the commencement address at Harvey Mudd College, but passed away two days before from a heart attack.

 

 

 

In order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the hall of fame, 20 additional inductees have been chosen from the almost 2,000 public submissions. In addition to individuals who have had an influence on the genres, the museum is also including the genres’ most impactful creations this year. Those 20 additional inductees are:

Creators:

Margaret Atwood, Keith David, Guillermo del Toro, Terry Gilliam, Jim Henson, Jack Kirby, Madeleine L’Engle, C.S. Lewis, H.P. Lovecraft, Leonard Nimoy, George Orwell, Rumiko Takahashi, John Williams

Works:

2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, Dungeons & Dragons, The Matrix, Myst, The Princess Bride, Star Trek, Wonder Woman, X-Files

The exhibition not only honors these inductees, but also gives visitors the chance to explore the lives and legacies of the now 108 members of the hall of fame. It includes artifacts like Luke Skywalker’s severed hand (Empire Strikes Back), the Staff of Ra headpiece (Raiders of the Lost Ark), Isaac Asimov’s typewriter, and the “Right Hand of Doom” (Hellboy), as well as interactive kiosks and interpretive films.

When asked why something like this is so important, Brooks Peck, curator of the Museum of Pop Culture and co-curator of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame exhibition commented, “Science fiction and fantasy are a central part of our popular culture. With the Hall of Fame we want to both honor the pioneers of those genres as well as recognize today’s most innovative creators and works.”

Indeed, these genres are a staple for literature and movie fans alike. The surge of superhero movies, plus the resurgence of the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises, combined with the best-selling novels of today, which themselves are being turned into movies and TV shows, have all contributed to the popularity of both science fiction and fantasy.

The new exhibition will be opening on March 4, 2017, with more details still to come. For a full listing of the current inductees, as well as information on MoPOP and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, you can visit their website.

 




World Fantasy Award Judges Announced

The judges for the World Fantasy Awards have been impaneled and announced. Presented by the World Fantasy Convention, the awards recognize excellence in several fantasy categories:

  • Life Achievement
  • Best Novel
  • Best Novella (10,001 to 40,000 words)
  • Best Short Story
  • Best Anthology
  • Best Collection
  • Best Artist
  • Special Award—Professional
  • Special Award—NonProfessional

The awards will be presented at the World Fantasy Convention, held at the Wyndham Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas November 2-5, 2017. This year’s theme is “Secret Histories – The Use of History in Fantasy”. All forms of fantasy are eligible, and submissions in each category can be sent to the judges for consideration:

Elizabeth Engstrom*
298 Hambletonian Drive, Eugene, OR 97401
EngstromWF@gmail.com

Daryl Gregory** §
3124 Sylvan Avenure, Oakland, CA 94602
darylgregory+wfc@gmail.com

Nalo Hopkinson
1447 7th Street #1, Riverside, CA 92507
hopkinson.wfa@gmail.com

Juliet Marillier* §
P.O. Box 189, Guildford, WA 6935 Australia
world.fantasy.marill@gmail.com

Betsy Mitchell*
884 Lincoln Place, Brooklyn, NY 11213
betsymitchell.editorial@gmail.com
(prefers PDF submissions)

(Judges marked with an * can accept pdfs; ** can accept mobi; *** both; § can accept ePub)

Copies of each submission should also be sent to:

Peter Dennis Pautz, president
World Fantasy Awards Association
8050 Mukilteo Speedway, # 43; Mukilteo, WA 98275-0043; USA
SFExecSec@gmail.com

 

See the World Fantasy 2017 site or the World Fantasy convention home page for more.

 




WATERSHIP DOWN Author Richard Adams Dead at 96

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Watership Down author, Richard Adams passed away on Christmas Eve at the aged of 96.

The British author was known for his classic children’s book, Watership Down, a lyrical and poignant story about a band of rabbits in search of a new home after the runt of the litter has a vision of their home covered with blood, a result of the lands development by people for “high class modern residences.” The rabbits travel to Watership Down, where they battle a totalitarian bunny before establishing a new, utopian habitat. The book became popular with both children and adults, selling millions of copies since its release in 1972 and has been made into a film.

Adams was born on May 9, 1920 in Berkshire, enrolling at Worcester College, Oxford until 1938, leaving school to join the Royal Army Service Corps during World War II, serving in Palestine, Europe and the far East. After the war, he returned home to complete his studies with a degree in modern history.

It was while he was working as a civil servant, raising his two daughters that Adams began telling them stories about the rabbits. He would tell them at bed time and on car trips, embellishing when driving the girls to school.

His daughter, Juliet, believes his oral storytelling was just the beginnings of his writing career, which began in 1966 at the age of 46. “It took him two or three years. He took a lot of trouble writing that book.”

The manuscript was rejected by publishers seven times before Rex Colling LTD saw the potential and agreed to a first run of 2,500 copies. Adams remembers many of the rejection letters complaining the book was too long and his characters were not the normal cuddly bunnies’ society thought of. They found the book too adult for children and too childish for adults. When it was finally published, it was done for both children and adults and received several awards right away, including The Guardian children’s fiction prize and the Carnegie Medal.

In this Oct. 18, 1978 file photo author Richard Adams, who wrote "Watership Down" in 1972, poses for a photograph. (PA Photo via AP)
In this Oct. 18, 1978 file photo author Richard Adams, who wrote “Watership Down” in 1972, poses for a photograph. (PA Photo via AP)

Adams left his career to become a full-time writer after the publication of his second novel, Shardik, which he often thought was a better book. He used his experiences as a civil worker and retired military man in his stories, drawing attention to different aspects of society and how they are effected.

He also began to focus on the beings he used as characters in his books: animals. His 1977 book, The Plague Dogs chronicled the escape of two dogs from an experimental lab. He later served a two-year term as the president of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, resigning in 1982 because the leaders “seemed to be more concerned with each other than with the animals.”

The BBC and Netflix have joined together to produces a new animated series of Watership Down which will air in 2017 with Sir Ben Kinsley, Olivia Colman, and John Boyega providing voices. This will be the second adaptation of the book which was made into a movie in 1978. The films theme song, “Bright Eyes,” sung by Art Garfunkel, topped the UK charts for six weeks,

Adams is survived by his wife, Elizabeth and his daughters Juliet and Rosamond.

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BBC Radio 4 Gives us STARDUST for Christmas

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{Header photo Matthew Beard and Sophie Rundle, and used courtesy BBC Radio 4}

Looking for something fantastic to listen to over your winter holiday break? BBC Radio 4, in its continuing mission to do excellent audio adaptations of books and movies, is now playing an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s fantasy book Stardust.

Published in 1999, Gaiman’s story is set in the fictitious English town of Wall, which is connected in a way to the world of Faerie. We follow young Tristan, the son of a mysterious woman who had been imprisoned by a witch, as he seeks out a fallen star in order to gain the hand of the woman he loves. As with all fairy stories, no one is exactly who they seem, and true love does win – but as you may have come to expect with Gaiman, not quite in the way you may expect.

The book was adapted into a movie back in 2007, starring Claire Danes as Yvaine, the living embodiment of the star, among several others, including some great small bits (including a truly hilarious turn by Robert De Niro). For me, it’s one of those rare adaptations that works just as well as a book as a movie, as the things they do change for the movie makes sense.

Photo of the cast. Used courtesy BBC Radio 4.
Photo of the cast. Used courtesy BBC Radio 4.

Back in September, it was announced that BBC Radio 4 would be doing an audio production just in time for Christmas. Split into two parts, it was adapted by director Dirk Maggs, who also was the one that did prior Gaiman adaptations of Neverwhere and Good Omens (which, of course, was co-written by Terry Pratchett). BBC Radio 4 also had a contest for artwork to accompany the audio drama, and the gallery of chosen images is on the BBC Radio 4 website.

Starring Matthew Beard as Tristain and Sophie Rundle as Yvaine, there’s also a small cameo by Gaiman, as well as Tori Amos. The audio production premiered December 17 on BBC Radio 4, and is now available to stream on their website (without being geolocked, which means you can listen regardless of whether you are a citizen of the UK). But just a reminder: audio on BBC Radio 4 is only up for a limited time, and this will be only available for the next 22 days.

So sit back, and listen to the tale of stars, royalty, and love. For more information, and to listen to the production, visit the BBC Radio 4 website.

You can see more of Angie’s work (and her social media connections) over at her website.

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H2O #139: In Which We Discuss Syfy’s STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND

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Earlier this week, news came down that Syfy will air a new television adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. Given Syfy’s track record since abandoning “The Sci Fi Channel” as its brand, we thought we’d speculate on whether this is actually a good idea or not. How do you take what’s essentially a think piece and make watchable television fare? How do you present the more “hippie culture” and philosophical aspects of the story?

How do you get away with all the nudity and sex?

Expectations, speculations, and more as we measure what could be a fantastic outing in television compared to others they’ve produced: DuneAscensionChildhood’s EndHigh Moon

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Syfy to Develop Heinlein’s STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND

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News hit the web late yesterday: Stranger in a Strange Land is coming to television.

stranger-in-a-strange-land-coverThe classic 1961 novel by Robert A. Heinlein, known for its wanderings into the philosophies of free love and world peace, is the story of Valentine Michael Smith, the lone survivor of a doomed expedition to Mars. Raised by Martians and given extraordinary powers, Smith returns to Earth and begins influencing every fabric of the culture.

Universal Cable Productions and Paramount Television are co-producing the series (note: not miniseries), which will air on Syfy. To date, it’s the network’s most ambitious adaptation project since returning to its core programming roots. The network is also working on a new adaptation of Strange New World, but that project has been remarkably under the radar.

“Paramount TV is excited to have the opportunity to adapt Robert Heinlein’s seminal work of science fiction,” said Paramount TV president Amy Powell. “This novel has resonated with me since college and there’s a reason it has continued to find new fans for over forty years. Syfy’s understanding of imaginative and futuristic programming is unmatched, making them an ideal partner for this series.

In 2012, the book was named one of eighty-eight “Books that Shaped America” by the United States Library of Congress. It has won the 1962 Hugo Award for Best Novel, and was the first science fiction novel on The New York Times Book Review bestseller list. The original publication was 160,067 words due to mandates from the publisher, Putnam, but Heinlein’s widow Virginia released the uncut 220,000-word version in 1991, three years after Heinlein’s death.

Heinlein himself was surprised at the influence the book has had over the culture, saying he never intended it to be a diatribe on how he felt society should be organized, telling a fan, “I was not giving answers. I was trying to shake the reader loose from some preconceptions and induce him to think for himself, along new and fresh lines. In consequence, each reader gets something different out of that book because he himself supplies the answers . . . . It is an invitation to think — not to believe.” (NY Times)

The television adaptation will be executive produced by Brad Fischer, James Vanderbilt and William Sherak of Mythology Entertainment; Scott Rudin, Garrett Basch and Eli Bush of Scott Rudin Productions; and Joe Vecchio of Vecchio Entertainment.  Mythology’s Julia Gunn will be co-executive producer.

“From my point of view, Stranger in a Strange Land isn’t just a science fiction masterpiece…it also happens to be one of my favorite books ever!” said NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment chairman Bonnie Hammer said. “The story is timeless and resonates more than ever in today’s world. As a fan, I can’t wait to see it come to life as a world-class television event.”

One wonders how the show will handle some of the more provocative aspects of the book. Networks still have rules and ratings, after all, but we are eagerly waiting to grok this show.

 

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LIVE FROM THE BUNKER: Peadar O’Guilin on THE CALL

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I sat down in The Bunker and with the magic of the internet talked to Peadar O’ Guilin, author of The Call. I enjoyed the book so much I couldn’t resist an opportunity to talk to O’ Guilin again. I interviewed him at Worldcon here in Kansas City. That was just before The Call was released. He was excited about its release but none of us had read it. Without knowing anything about the book my questions had to be more general.

Now I’ve read it, reviewed the book and I had more questions. Which is why I reached out to talk to him again. Maybe you have some of the same questions.

Find out more about Peadar O’Guilin, The Call and a couple of teasers on the sequel that should be released winter 2017.

 

Visit his web site here.

 

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Review – Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes

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Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Silver Eyes
Written by Scott Cawthon & Kira Breed-Wrisley
Published by Scholastic, Inc. (September 2016)
[Original edition published December 2015]
400 pages
ISBN-13: 9781338134377

The novel is an adaptation of the popular indie video game series developed by Scott Cawthon. It is based off of the first game in the series, Five Nights at Freddy’s, released on August 8th, 2014.

The story follows Charlie as she returns to her hometown to attend the memorial of her friend Micheal, who was murdered ten years ago. Her father founded the restaurant Freddy Fazbear’s, in which Micheal and four other children were murdered. No one was found guilty. After the murders, her mother left and her father killed himself out of grief. Charlie was taken in by her aunt and left town. After the service, she and her friends decide to break into the restaurant for kicks and out of grief for the dead children. They soon discover the many horrors and truths inside the restaurant.

Without any context of the games, it’s a fairly formulaic horror novel. Protagonist returns to a scene of previous horror and uncovers hidden memories and discovers the truth as to what caused the horror. The teenagers act like teenagers and sometimes make dumb decisions (such as going into the abandoned restaurant FIVE TIMES without telling any adults) and the reveal of the mystery is fairly obvious.

However, it still manages to hold its own in terms of scares, horror, and enjoyability. Charlie and her friends are still likable characters, guided more by trauma and the need for answers rather than the more usual “Let’s check out this spooky place” trope. The tragedy and horror hold weight and carries the narrative effectively without becoming too droll or silly.

The horrors and tension you’d expect in a horror novel are delivered quite well in the form of giant animatronics able to move and attack on their own. The descriptions of them chasing and surprising the characters deliver the terror of giant machines moving and attacking on their own effectively and will make you think twice before entering a Chuck E. Cheese’s ever again. The entire scenario really calls back to the first two Halloween movies, only replace Micheal Myers with a giant mechanical bear mascot. If you enjoy similar tension and horror, then this book is definitely for you.

For those who have played the games or have watched others play, the book definitely delivers a different tone, especially compared to the first Five Nights at Freddy’s. The protagonists of the book have motivations and personalities, whereas in the game the protagonists are faceless and voiceless. The games also allow no movement and limited sight, whereas in the book the characters are allowed to move around and see (although sometimes in limitation similar to the games). The scares still mostly come from the animatronics trying to kill the protagonists, but here in the novel the child murders, mystery, and springlock suits are more outlined and defined than in the games.Five Night’s at Freddy’s is loved for the hidden mysteries you have to spot for yourself. In The Silver Eyes, the mystery is a little more defined and obvious, especially if one has played the games.

There are plenty of nods to the games in ways readers who have played the games can enjoy. For example, the first animatronic to attack is Bonnie, Foxy rushes one of the teenagers, and Golden Freddy can teleport. Also, many characters from the second and third games make appearances.

The book itself is a light and short read that, while awfully cliché at times, still provides plenty of scares to enjoy. For those who are fans of the games, The Silver Eyes is a fine adaptation of the first game. It will either entice you into playing the games, or if you already have, definitely brings some of the magic that the games have.

 

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You Have Three Minutes to Find a Copy of THE CALL

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The Call
Written by Peadar O’Guilin
Published by David Fickling Books
320 pages

ISBN: 978-1-338-045-611

 

 

I don’t want to give spoilers. I want everyone to read The Call. Then I’ll have people to discuss it with.

You know that feeling; you just finished a book or movie and you want to share it with others and talk about it? That’s how I felt when I finished the book. Well, it’s still how I feel. So, it’s purely for selfish reasons that I want you to read this book. Then we can all have a lively discussion. Till then I’ll just have to encourage you to read it.

YA is one of my favorite categories of fiction. Or it has been. It’s been hit or miss finding books that I really enjoy. I think I want what a lot of readers want: excellent character development, good world building, and a great story.

I hesitate to label The Call as a young adult book. It feels like that may limit its potential audience and I’m sure this book will appeal to a wider group of readers. Yes, the main characters are young adults. Yes, it’s pretty much their story. But it’s not a simple story. It’s not overly concerned with their love lives. It’s pretty blunt in its portrayal of teen relationships. But that’s not the only thing going on. They live, or not, in a complex world, studying how to survive it.

This is a coming of age story, maybe. Or maybe it’s a story of survival. It’s man vs. man, man vs. well…maybe not nature, exactly, but the landscape, and very much man vs. himself. These are story archetypes that I learned about back in school. The Call works in all three of these. Many of our classic stories showcase one of these. To deftly weave multiple themes into one story is a joy to read.

The Call is interesting because it has to find a balance between letting us know about the people inhabiting this world and not being too terribly attached to them. This is helped by the main character Nessa, who keeps her distance from everyone. She works really hard to not care about any of her classmates or even her parents. She thinks that feeling for others will interfere with her survival studies. Maybe she’s right. But even with her heroic effort, she can’t help feeling for others. In the end that may also have been one of her strengths.

The point at which the reader learns about a character is important. There are a lot of characters and we can’t get to know all of them at the same time. That would be like attending an in-depth cocktail party where, instead of polite small talk, you actually got to know everyone in the room. Whew, that would be emotionally exhausting. It’s hard enough just to come up with polite little things to say to everyone at a party. Can you imagine standing there long enough to really get to know them?

So O’Guilin picks and chooses when to let you in on another character and when to leave them quite unknown. Some we never get to know. That’s okay. Just like the cocktail party, you don’t have to know everyone.

RELATED: Maia’s interview with author Peadar O’Guilin at Worldcon 74 

There are parts of the book that are quite graphic. If you follow me here on SciFi4Me.com, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of horror. Scary, gory stuff is not my thing. Several times I winced at the violence and horrific descriptions. But the story is compelling and violence is part of this world. If you accept the world these characters inhabit, you must also take the violence. That being said, this is probably not a good book to hand to a younger reader.

I can’t explain how such a sad story can also be uplifting. Somehow in the end it is. The future is still bleak and yet there’s that small ray of light at the end of a terribly long tunnel.

Please read The Call and then leave your comments below so we can talk about it.

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