Here Is The News

Orbital reports and/or discussions can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, linked from here, and no doubt in many other places on this vast internet. You can see a bajillion photos here.

There’s a Spooks spin-off in the works:

The new spy drama, titled Spooks: Code 9, is currently being shot in Bradford and will hit screens later this year.

The drama is set in 2013, when London has been evacuated following a nuclear attack, and MI5 must establish field offices across the UK.

Four immediate thoughts:

  1. Hey, more near-future sf on the BBC!
  2. Are they just trying to out-24 24?
  3. This rather puts an expiry date on the original version.
  4. Can anyone think of another example of a non-sf show spawning an sf spinoff?

The debate about genre cover art is doing the rounds again. See here, here, here, here and here.

Chinese sf writers bid farewell to Arthur C. Clarke.

A bit more detail about Anathem:

Neal Stephenson’s ANATHEM, based in a universe similar to but not our own, where mathematicians and philosophers are sheltered from an illiterate and unpredictable “saecular” world, until the day they must leave their safe haven to save the entire world from destruction, to Ravi Mirchandani at Atlantic Books, for publication in September 2008, by Rachel Calder at the Sayle Literary Agency.

Adam Roberts hasn’t found a new home for his Clarke shortlist review (what with Infinity Plus closing down), so has been snapped up by that eagle-eyed Paul Raven chap to write a Clarke shortlist review for Futurismic. In the meantime, he’s posted some general thoughts on his website and is reviewing the individual books over here. The Red Men gets a kicking:

One of the 08 Clarke nominees, this, and now that I’ve read the entire shortlist I feel in a position to say: by far the worst book nominated, and one of the worst novels I’ve read in a long time. […] The blurb promises a thriller salted with ‘the imminent technologies of tomorrow’, but the novel delivers a very yesterday set of sf tropes: a pinch of Dick, a scattering of Gibson. Most notably. the central topic of the novel, the establishment of an entire virtual town of Red Men upon which marketing and other ideas can be tested, is a tired and belated retread of Fred Pohl’s 1955 story ‘The Tunnel Under the World’ (from the collection Alternating Currents). The rest of the book reads like a sub-par episode of Nathan Barley, which is very far from being a recommendation

The H-Bomb Girl gets praise, but not without caveat:

The worst that can be said of it is that it’s, perhaps, slight. The difficulty, as far as critical judgment is concerned, is to determine how far such an assessment reflects the novel itself, and how much it simply voices a prejudice against children’s literature as such. The latter position, of course, would not be defensible. Yet I finished reading The H-Bomb Girl with a sense of it as a minor addition to the Baxter canon. It treats the same topics as most of his recent fiction has done: alternate history and timelines parsing the same ethical dilemmas of how individual choice creates our mature selves, how much agency we possess as individuals in the face of larger historical forces, what possibilities for escape and for atonement are at our disposal. These are the themes of the Times Tapestry books; the Manifold novels and to an extent the Destiny’ Children books as well. I don’t think it’s just the larger canvas, and greater scope, that these novels provide that is responsible for their greater sense of heft and sway. I think that Baxter’s current Big Theme just needs more space in which to be developed than a novella-length YA title allows. [… But …] all in all The H-Bomb Girl is a find: splendidly evocative of a place and a time, it manages to be morally serious without ever losing its playfulness, its charm or its scouse nous.

The rest is still to come, but are the books just more of the same?

Overall it’s not a shortlist about which I can say me gusto: not, although this has been the complaint of some others, on account of the proportion of ‘mainstream lit’ titles it features, for I don’t see anything wrong in that, but because it’s all rather samey. All of these books are historically-proximate alt-historical or near-future thrillers/adventure stories. […] The best books on the list are probably the Baxter and the Morgan, but none of the titles here embody the mind-stretching, the sense-of-wonder, the conceptual metaphoricity and poetic, imagistic penetration of the SF that first made me fall in love with the genre. […] apart (to some extent) from the Baxter, they’re all rather straightforward texts. Irony is not their idiom. They are books that if they are serious (about dystopia, the situation of the world today etc) are strenuously serious, and that if they are intertextual are ponderously rather than playfully intertextual.

Of course, elsewhere James thought The Execution Channel had “an ending of hope and wonder and fun and brilliance and audacity.” The most satisfying thing about watching discussion of the shortlist this year, actually, as I was almost saying earlier, is that every book on the shortlist (bar The Red Men, admittedly) seems to have its advocates this year; Cheryl Morgan fancies The Raw Shark Texts, Nick Hubble (in that thread I just linked) is for The Carhullan Army, etc etc. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting the Clarke judges have got it right, or anything; just that it’s fun to watch.

15 thoughts on “Here Is The News

  1. I love Spooks and I love apocalypses. Two for the price of one!

    Let’s hope they do a better job at avoiding (a) soap operas; and (b) cancellation than Jericho did.

  2. Further to your comment about the Spooks spin-off: Spooks has always given the impression that it’s taking place in the present, as a very here-and-now enterprise. But in fact there were some subtle visual clues dropped into a couple of the episodes in last year’s series — for example, a screenshot of pages from a diary which all bore a 2008 date — which suggested that it’s actually taking place at least a year from now….and so perhaps has qualified as science fiction all along.

  3. I always saw Happy Days as slipstream myself.

    Um, Sabrina The Teenage Witch? And I suppose there’s the stunt casualty episodes set 100 years in the past, so the BBC has got used to going in that direction already.

    Maybe the spin off will be interesting, certainly I’ve been waiting for another big apocalypse based show since The Last Train, but I fear this won’t be doom laden enough if their main concern is establishing a new security service rather than survival itself.

  4. To be fair, I don’t think it’s intended as an apocalypse show, I think it’s an Aftermath of Major Terrorism show, constructed in such a way as to give them an excuse to do a Spooks that pays more attention to the bits of the UK that aren’t London [1]. Although that means I’ll just be hoping they nick the ending of The Execution Channel.

    [1] One of the really nice bits in Baxter’s Weaver, I thought, was the speculation on how a German invasion of Britain could have broken up London’s stranglehold as a centre of political, religious and economic power, distributing them to different places.

  5. Can anyone think of another example of a non-sf show spawning an sf spinoff?

    There’s always the classic Partridge Family 2200 A.D. Honest.

  6. Niall: Casualty 1907 is what they’re talking about.

    More non-sf shows that went sf: The Avengers was a continuation of a much more traditional cop show, while The Prisoner was supposedly linked to a proper spy show as well.

  7. I was surprised to see The Red Men on the shortlist but I was also surprised by how strong the negative reaction to it has been and I’m amazed that Roberts found it straightforward, strenuously serious and lacking in irony.

  8. Martin: The Avengers was a continuation of a show called Police Surgeon (which starred, I believe, Ian Hendry with Patrick McNee in a relatively small role).

    The Prisoner was often thought to be a continuation from Danger Man, mostly because both starred Patrick McGoohan as a spy, but there was never any overt reference to support this.

  9. Paul, Martin: It is an Avengers myth that it was an actual sequel to Police Surgeon. It was an attempt to revamp the format, featuring Ian Hendry in a very similar role, but the characters Hendry plays are emphatically not the same in the two series.

    There are a couple of spin-off novels that state that Number Six was indeed John Drake, but they aren’t canonincal.

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