Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Melanie Rawn promises to finish her EXILES TRILOGY

Fantasy author Melanie Rawn has confirmed that she is planning to finally write the third and concluding volume of her Exiles Trilogy, The Captal's Tower, some seventeen years after the previous volume was released.

Rawn began work on the Exiles Trilogy in the early 1990s, releasing The Ruins of Ambrai in 1994 and The Mageborn Traitor in 1997. Rawn's mother, who also served as her first test reader and sounding board for ideas, passed away after this point and Rawn gave up writing for nine years, returning with a new trilogy, Spellbinder, in 2006. The author said she needed a new project to recharge her creative batteries before completing the Exiles Trilogy. However, after Spellbinder and its sequel Fire Raiser were published, the new trilogy was cancelled due to poor sales. Rather than return to the incomplete trilogy, she wrote The Diviner (the long-planned sequel to her 1996 collaborative novel, The Golden Key) and then embarked on a new series, Glass Thorns, a move which irritated many of her fans (not to mention generating substantial commentary on this blog).

Three books have been published in the Glass Thorns sequence: Touchstone, Elsewhens and Thornlost. A fourth volume is completed and due for publication next year, and Rawn is working on a fifth volume. However, she has promised that once that is complete, her next project will indeed be The Captal's Tower. Her statement:
"Yes, I will write Captal’s Tower. I’m very sorry it’s taken so long. My sincere thanks to all of you who have been so patient. I’m currently writing the fifth book in the “Glass Thorns” series, and after that my plan is to get to work on Captal’s Tower. If anything about that plan changes, I’ll post on my website."

Good news, following a long period with no news at all (and some ill-advised jabs at fans wondering where the book was in her Spellbinder novels). When The Captal's Tower is released I will finally be able to read the whole trilogy and see what all the fuss is about.

Monday, 21 July 2014

J.J. Abrams unveils the new X-wing fighter

For many young Star Wars fans, the most iconic moments from the original movie trilogy were the dogfights between the Rebel Alliance's X-Wings and the Galactic Empire's TIE Fighters. As the massive sales of the later X-Wing computer games show, the fighters have remained hugely popular.

In a video today, director J.J. Abrams revealed the design of a new generation of X-Wing fighter. Coming from a generation (or two) further on from the originals, these X-Wings are sleeker and appear to split their wings on a vertical axis rather than horizontal (with the wings appearing to pop up from behind one another, a bit like some of the prequel trilogy proto-X-Wings). There's also no sign of a housing for an astromech droid, suggesting they are no longer needed or are stored internally, which, as R2-D2 can attest from the end of Episode IV, makes a hell of a lot more sense.

These new X-Wings appear to also be a homage to Ralph McQuarrie's amazing concept art for the original films. One of McQuarrie's ideas was that the X-Wings would have two large engines which would split, rather than four smaller ones that would not.

There's also something of a design similarity to the Z-95 Headhunter, a predecessor design to the X-Wing developed for the Expanded Universe which enjoyed great fan popularity before appearing in The Clone Wars (and thus becoming canon even for the new Star Wars continuity).


HarperCollins Voyager have unveiled their cover art for The World of Ice and Fire, the forthcoming companion volume to A Song of Ice and Fire:

The book will be released on 28 October this year in the UK.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Daniel Abraham on the EXPANSE TV series

Following recent casting and production news on The Expanse TV series, co-writer of the novels (as one half of James S.A. Corey) Daniel Abraham has spoken about the general status of the project and how it is unfolding, including how they've got some top ex-Breaking Bad talent on board.

The role of Detective Miller is going to be played by Thomas Jane. Who, if you don’t know him, was designed in a government lab for the role. Seriously. He’d done The Punisher and Scott Pilgrim Vs The World and Stephen King’s The Mist and Dreamcatcher. The man knows his genre chops. And he’s also been in Boogie Nights and Magnolia and The Thin Red Line. And Hung, where he got the three Golden Globe nominations. He can play tough, he can play vulnerable, and most of all he can play someone who’s well-bruised by the world. There was a while there I was afraid we weren’t going to get him, but ever since we have, I’ve been tracking down clips of his performances and feeling like I just found a Banksy print in my alley. It’s that level of cool.

And then there’s the director. I was unaware coming in of how important the first director is in a new show like this. Turns out, sort of critical, because whatever they do, however they approach the show, it pretty much sets the tone for everyone who comes after. We already had a fair amount of Breaking Bad in our project’s DNA because we were working with Sharon Hall who developed it back when she was at Sony.

So now we have more.

Terry McDonough did several episodes of Breaking Bad, including the one called Better Call Saul which was for my money one of the best hours of one of the best shows in my lifetime. I didn’t know it, but I’d actually seen his work the first time years ago in a show called Wire in the Blood that I still remember. He’s won the BAFTA and Royal Television Society (UK) Awards. When they were talking to him about our show, he was actually in my hometown working with the folks on Better Call Saul. If you’re looking for someone who can take the project and see complex characters in serious conflicts, this is kind of your guy. He’s not one of the people who looks down on SF. He directed Brian Cox in Doctor Who: An Adventure in Time and Space and just got a Hugo nomination for it. He directed Patrick Stewart in The Eleventh Hour. Between his instincts for nuance and humanity and his track record for making character-centered, award-winning television, he’s a brilliant fit.

In addition to Mark and Hawk – who, I would like to say for the record, have some of the best instincts for story I’ve seen anywhere – Naren Shankar has come on board to help out. That might not be a name you know, but he worked as one flavor or another of producer on CSI from 2002 to 2010 while that show was not only one of the best rated but possibly the most visually stylish things on network TV. He’s worked on Star Trek and Farscape and The Outer Limits. And we have other writers who’ve come from shows like Mad Men (seriously, one of our writers has Emmy nominations from Mad Men), and The Killing and Burn Notice.
It's worth reading the full report here, including on how Weta Digital will be providing the effects for the series,

The Expanse's first, ten-episode season will be mostly based on Leviathan Wakes, the first novel in the series. More news will be revealed soon.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Thomas Jane joins EXPANSE TV series

The Expanse TV series has gotten its first castmember. Thomas Jane will be playing the role of Joe Miller, a corporate security officer in the asteroid belt who is caught up in a growing interplanetary crisis. It is not known if he will be wearing the novel character's trademark hat.

Thomas Jane will known to genre fans from his appearances films such as Deep Blue Sea, The Punisher and The Crow: City of Angels, and to more general audiences from films such as Boogie Nights and his starring role in the HBO TV series Hung.

The Expanse is being produced by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, alongside the more recently-appointed Naren Shankar, a writer on the three 1990s Star Trek shows as well as The Outer Limits, Farscape and CSI. The show will air on SyFy in the USA.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Orphan Black: Season 2

Sarah Manning and her 'sisters', Cosima and Alison, find their loyalties divided when Sarah's daughter Kira disappears. Sarah believes that the Dyad Institute, which Cosima works for, is responsible, whilst it appears that a group of fanatics known as the Proletheans may also be trying to hurt Sarah and her newfound family. Secrets from thirty years ago re-emerge as all the factions involved in this struggle try to find the secret to flawless genetic engineering, no matter the cost.

Orphan Black's first season was the undoubted SF TV highlight of 2013, with Tatiana Maslany turning in a powerhouse performance as multiple versions of the same character. Some clever writing and strong supporting turns, not to mention pitch-perfect pacing, made the show even better. This second season has a lot to live up to.

For the most part, it works. The pacing remains strong and the writers do an excellent job of answering past mysteries whilst making new revelations and setting up fresh puzzles. They also resist the urge to play "Clone of the Week", instead restricting themselves to exploring the character of Rachel (introduced at the end of Season 1) and briefly touching on the lives of two other clones (one solely, but still heartbreakingly, through video diaries). Other characters like Dr. Leekie, Alison's troubled husband Donnie and the ever-more-formidable Mrs. S are fleshed out further and there's some strong newcomers in the form of Michael Huisman as Cal (impressing more than his recent, underwritten appearance on Game of Thrones, it has to be said), Michelle Forbes as Marion and Ari Millen as Mark Rollins. There's still a rich vein of humour, particularly in Alison and Felix's stories, as well as tenderness. The romance between Cosima and Delphine is particularly well-handled.

Elsewhere, the show can't quite match the first season's near-effortless-seeming grace. Some characters get lost in the mix for long periods, with Art and Paul not getting very much to do. One character's return from the dead is highly unconvincing, although it does eventually lead to some of the best scenes in the series to date. The series also flirts with M. Night Shyamalanisms with the Village-esque scenes at the Prolethean farm going on for a bit too long. Also, the threat of Kira constantly being kidnapped gets old quickly and starts to get a bit too reminiscent of Hera in Battlestar Galactica. There's also a feeling that Vic gets parachuted into the show again when he doesn't really have much of a reason for being there beyond fan service, but given that his story is pretty funny we can forgive that.

If its second season is a little bit more inconsistent than the first, Orphan Black (****½) still remains the best SFF show on television thanks to its clever writing, dark humour (including the most wince-inducing death scene I've ever seen in anything) and its outrageously good performances, particularly from its leading lady. Roll on Season 3. Season 2 of Orphan Black will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray in the USA next week, and in the UK later in the year.

SHANNARA TV series greenlit

MTV has greenlit a ten-episode TV series based on Terry Brooks's Shannara novels. The first season will be an adaptation of the second novel in the series, The Elfstones of Shannara, presumably on the basis that trying to adapt The Sword of Shannara would result in near-instantaneous lawsuits from the Tolkien Estate and Peter Jackson.

Al Gough and Miles Millar, who produced Smallville, will work as showrunners on the new project, whilst Jon Favreau (the director of the first two Iron Man movies) will act as a producer. Jonathan Liebesman, the director of Battle Los Angeles, Wrath of the Titans and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, will direct the first two episodes.

My Worldcon schedule

I'm attending LonCon 3, this year's Worldcon in London, and, insanely, have been drafted to appear on three panels. These are as follows (details tentative until confirmed):

Comparative Criticism

Friday 20:00 - 21:00
What are the challenges and constraints of reviewing different kinds of media? Reviewers of books, TV, film and games discuss. Is it possible or desirable to be "an SF critic" when SF is found in so many different forms?
Paul Kincaid, Nick Lowe, Mahvesh Murad, Adam Whitehead, Roz J Kaveney

The Road Goes Ever On and On: The Wheel of Time

Saturday 12:00 - 13:30
With the final volume, A Memory of Light, published last year, and a Hugo nomination for the entire series this year, this seems the perfect time to look back on twenty-four years of the Wheel of Time. Our panel will reflect on Robert Jordan's achievement in creating the series, its runaway success, Brandon Sanderson's completion of the work, and the lasting influence of WoT on the fantasy genre.
Adam Whitehead, Harriet McDougal, Maria Simons

My Opinions, Let Me Show You Them

Sunday 16:30 - 18:00
There are many different approaches to book blogging: some focus on news and announcements, running author interviews and ARC giveaways supported by publishers; others concentrate on reviewing and opinion pieces; still others are devoted to raising awareness of certain types of writing, like SF Mistressworks or the World SF Blog. Our panel discusses how they chose their blogs' format and focus, how the blogs evolved over time, and how they found their 'voice' and their audience.
Foz Meadows, Thea James, Aidan Moher, Adam Whitehead

The rest of the time, I suspect I will be in the bar or gawping at unaffordably rare SFF collectibles.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Remastered version of GRIM FANDANGO on the way

Tim Schafer and his video game production company, Double Fine Studios, have acquired the rights to his 1998 classic adventure game Grim Fandango and are working on a remastered version for release later this year.

Schafer developed Grim Fandango for LucasArts and the game received near-unanimous critical acclaim upon release. However, its sales were disappointing and contributed to LucasArts's decision to terminate development of adventure games a year or so later. The recently-released, remastered versions of the first two Monkey Island games (which Schafer also worked on) were a success, likely prompting this move. The remastered version of Grim Fandango will be released later this year on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Macintosh and PC (both Windows 7/8 and Linux).

This is excellent news. I didn't get around to playing Grim Fandango on release, but I'm looking forwards to giving this new version a try.

Check out the French DISCWORLD covers

French publishers have been producing some superior cover art for SFF works recently, and their Marc Simonetti covers for Terry Pratchett's Discworld books are something else.

 Small Gods

Simonetti is best-known in the US and UK for his work on George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books, producing the definitive image of the Iron Throne (as depicted in the books) for the forthcoming World of Ice and Fire. However, his Discworld art is also overwhelmingly impressive.

Soul Music

You can see all of the pictures he's produced so far on Simonetti's website here. There really should be a campaign to get Simonetti's artwork on the UK and US editions of the books as well.