December 01, 2009

Notes from a DVD Geek

Happy holidays, DVD fans.  I'd like to recommend some gift ideas for the movie geeks you may be buying presents for.  Let's start off with some classics that have really nice editions available.

With James Cameron's latest opus storming theaters this holiday season, I thought the original Cameron masterpiece, "The Abyss," should get some play.  There is a beautiful edition out right now, that has both the theatrical and the extended Director's Cut, along with a ton of extras.  If your secret-Santa buddy is more action-oriented, it's hard to go wrong with Cameron's "Aliens". . . which of course has a beautiful 2 disk collectors edition that has both the theatrical and extended cuts of the movie.  Or, if you just want to go whole hog, there's always the 9 disk "Alien" Quadrology.

Sticking with SF classics, I wanted to point out that Borderlands still has one of the limited edition, 5-disc "Blade Runner" suitcase editions, containing a ridiculous number of cuts of the movie, as well as a bunch of crazy-ass (Origami unicorn?  Flying police car?!?) pieces of "Blade Runner" themed plastic-gack.  This is truly the edition the hard core "Blade Runner" fan in your life has been calling out for.  This suitcase edition comes with the original "workprint" version of the movie that features a DIFFERENT voice-over from the original theatrical edition. So yeah.  Gotta have it.

Moving back to the realm of recent SF, the current "collector's edition" of "Serenity" is a nice gift for the Joss Wheadon fan in your life who is mourning the cancellation of Doll House.  If just one movie won't make up for the loss of a Wheadon tv series, I recommend picking up the "Buffy" complete series package.  All seven seasons in one box.  It takes up a lot less room then all those individual seasons, and has a bunch of bonus features not found in the single-season packs.  So if your Wheadon fan really needs something awesome this Christmas, "Buffy".  Always "Buffy".

For the Harry Potter fans who just can't get enough, there's a series of 4 disk ultimate editions of the first two movies coming out in December. . . . The usual ton of extras plus. . . a copy of the book!  This may seem a bit redundant, but true fans know you can never have enough Potter.

Another awesome gift idea out there is the "Family Guy 'Star Wars'" episodes.  There's a Blue Harvest/Something Something Something Darkside double pack, that collects both of the amazing "Family Guy" spoof episodes in one package.  This is a great fit for any "Star Wars" fan, or "Family Guy" fan, or any combination of the two.

For the hard core Euro-trash horror fan. . . you can not go wrong with The Blind Dead Collection ("Tombs of the Blind Dead"/"The Ghost Galleon"/"Return of the Evil Dead"/"Night of the Seagulls"/ from director Amando De Ossorio). . . all in one coffin-shaped package!  Nothing says "I love you" like "The Blind Dead".

Another classic for the horror movie fan in your life is the 9 movie Val Lewton box set.  Val Lewton was a legendary producer at RKO studios, and the low budget "thrillers" he produced ("Cat People" / "The Curse of the Cat People" / "I Walked with a Zombie" / "The Body Snatcher" / "Isle of the Dead" / "Bedlam" / "The Leopard Man" / "The Ghost Ship" / "The Seventh Victim"), are legendary.  This set also includes a documentary, "Shadows in the Dark," which covers Lewton's career and influence.  This will be appreciated by anyone who loves classic horror movies.

For those who like their horror with a more modern flair, you might consider the Dark Castle Collection box set.  This production company was named after William Castle, and this DVD set includes "The House on Haunted Hill," "Thirteen Ghosts," "Ghost Ship," "Gothika," and "House of Wax".  Several of these were amazingly good, and all of them were far more entertaining then one would have expected. Highlights definitely include "The House on Haunted Hill" and "Gothika".  Even "House of Wax" works if you imagine it as a kind of twisted homage to Dario Argento -- it doesn't have to make sense, it just has to look incredibly weird, and compelling!

For the anime fans on your list, I recommend looking at various complete series sets that exist.  "Ramna 1/2" is available in season sets, and the first couple seasons are hilarious.  "Gunslinger Girls" is an excellent example of the "little girls who kick ass and have existential angst" sub-sub-genre.  Another great example for this sub-genre is "Elfen Lied".  Instead of secret government orphan assassins, we have secret government psychic weapon experts.

Finally, the best Christmas gifts are ALWAYS Studio Ghibli films. From "Totoro," to "Porko Rosso," to "Howl's Moving Castle," to everything in between.  There's a Hayao Miyazaki film for everyone.  Get one, or more, for folks on your Christmas list.  They will definitely thank you.

That's all I've got for now. I'm going to go watch "Pom Poko" again.  (I just love raccoons with giant testicles.) Happy Holidays!

November Bestsellers

1. The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
2. Makers by Cory Doctorow
3. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
4. Green by Jay Lake
5. Silver Mage by Katharine Kerr
6. Canticle by Ken Scholes
7. Transition by Iain M. Banks tie with
    American Fantastic Tales 2-Volume Boxed Set edited by Peter Straub
8. Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
9. The Dragons of Ordinary Farm by Deborah Beale and Tad Williams
10. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi tie with
      Mariposa by Greg Bear

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Soulless by Gail Carriger
2. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
3. Heart of Veridon by Tim Akers
4. Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick
5. The Gabble and Other Stories by Neal Asher
6. Dog Days by John Levitt
7. Lord-Protector's Daughter by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
8. Fade Out by Rachel Caine
9. Anathem by Neal Stephenson
10. Lamentation by Ken Scholes

Trade Paperbacks
1. xkcd Volume 0 by Randall Munroe
2. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
3. Interfictions 2 edited by Christopher Barzak and Delia Sherman
4. Booklife by Jeff VanderMeer
5. Lovecraft Unbound edited by Ellen Datlow

Overheard at the Store

Okay, so normally this section is called "Overheard at the Con," and we only print it when we attend conventions & overhear things at them.  Well, you guys are just so gosh-darn quotable that we'll be expanding the section to include funny, out-of-context things we occasionally overhear at the store, too.  (And no fair oh-so-casually dropping funny quotes just so we'll include them in the newsletter!)

"I don't know, it was disturbing - there's just something about Lolita with a whip."

"My parents are FedEx-ing smoked turkey and green-beans to the bookstore for me.  Can you sign for that?"

"This poem is about "Gilligan's Island".  Then The Skipper starts tearing peoples' legs off."

"Build a man a fire and you've kept him warm for the night; light a man on fire and you've kept him warm for the rest of his life."

"Sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice."

The 2009 Holiday Gift Guide

(Thanks to Salem Evans for major assistance in compiling this year's Gift Guide while I ran around doing cafe stuff! - Ed.)

*Zombies, zombies, zombies
For the zombie enthusiast on your list, the penultimate survival guide now comes in three great flavors:
a) Original (THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE by Max Brooks, Three Rivers Press Trade Paperback $14.95)
b) Flashcards (THE ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE DECK by Max Brooks, Potter Style, $13.95 - Instructional deck of 50 cards: vital lists, tips and diagrams with even more illustrations than the original book!)
c) Novel (WORLD WAR Z: AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE ZOMBIE WAR by Max Brooks, Three Rivers Press,  Trade Paperback, $14.95 and Hardcover, $24.95)   If you or the folks on your list can't get enough zombies, there's also a lovely new hardcover gift edition of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, available.  It's called THE DELUXE HEIRLOOM EDITION (Chronicle Books, Hardcover, $24.95). Additionally, we've got something we can _guarantee_ they don't already have - the "My Zombie Pinup Calendar 2010 - Where beauty eats BRAAAIIINNNNSSS," which is exactly what it sounds like; sexy undead girls in cute risque' outfits, published by good ol' local folks. (, $19.99).  The publisher's website says "We dug up the idea of the 1950's vintage pin-up calendar and hit it over the head with a shovel"!

*As I do every year, I'm  recommending hardcover volumes of well-loved classics for your gift-giving pleasure.  We've got nice hardcover editions of DUNE by Frank Herbert (Ace, $29.95),  THE MISTS OF AVALON by Marion Zimmer Bradley (Del Rey, $30.00), THE PRINCESS BRIDE by William Goldman (Ballantine, $24.95), GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (William Morrow, $29.95), and many, many others.

*Ah, media!  We've got lots of TWILIGHT and its successors by Stephanie Meyer, a nice box set of the first three books in the Percy Jackson series (the first book has just been made into an eponymous movie called THE LIGHTNING THIEF), and, of course, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak (Harper, Hardcover, $17.95) a timeless favorite.  We also have the excellent new NightShade Books anthology IMPROBABLE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES edited by John Joseph Adams (Trade Paperback, $15.95), and, no, that's absolutely not meant to be Jude Law on the cover!  We can represent the "Weird Tales" side of Holmes, too, with GASLIGHT GROTESQUE: NIGHTMARE TALES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES edited by J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec (EDGE, Trade Paperback, $16.95).

Speaking of calendars, we have lots of personal day calendars and wall calendars, with a theme for absolutely anyone:  from fine art by Michael Parkes to Bunny Suicides, from Escher to Roald Dahl, from Giger to Breaking Bad News With Baby Animals, from Dr. Suess to Unicorns and oh-so-many more!  Over 50 to choose from.  Calendars range in price from $7.99 to $19.99.

Everything from simple geometric designs to dragons, skulls, and scorpions. Rings range in price from $4.99 - $24.00.

*Edward Gorey
We have a wide array of Gorey merchandise in the store. A few examples include:
a) GOREY'S DRACULA: A TOY THEATRE (Pomegranate, $24.95) - Paper dolls for grownups, (or especially morbid children) based on Gorey's 1970's design for the staged "Dracula".
b) EDWARD GOREY: THE NEW POSTER BOOK (Pomegranate, Oversized Softcover, $19.95) - a collection of some of his most well known illustrations
c) The ever-popular and enduring GASHLYCRUMB TINIES (Harcourt, Small Hardcover, $10.00) - "A is for Amy, who fell down the stairs / B is for Basil, assaulted by bears. . ."
Additionally, we have all of the AMPHIGOREY collections and lots and lots of the individual books, including my all-time favorite, THE CURIOUS SOFA (Harcourt, Small Hardcover, $10.00) which claims to be "a pornographic work by Ogdred Weary" -- actually just suggestive and very funny and not pornographic at all.

*FAMOUS LAST WORDS: FOND FAREWELLS, DEATHBED DIATRIBES AND EXCLAMATIONS UPON EXPIRATION edited by Ray Robinson (Workman, Small Hardcover, $9.95) - This book puts famous last words and the last words of the famous into context. It runs the gamut from weird and irreverent to honestly touching.

*THE POP-UP BOOK OF PHOBIAS by Gary Greenberg and Balvis Rubess (William Morrow and Co., Oversized Hardcover, $29.95) - Guaranteed to get you out of baby-sitting for the rest of your life.  We also carry THE POP-UP BOOK OF NIGHTMARES.

There are still some hand-made steampunk clocks (made with found wood and weird dials and, in one specially memorable case, an enormous flat hard drive and bits of church organ) from local Black Heart Industries left! For an extra special gift, or for the geek who has everything.

*Speaking of steampunk, it's everywhere now - steampunk is the new zombies!  If you want to be right on top of the trend, pick up BONESHAKER by Cherie Priest (Tor, Trade Paperback,  $15.99) LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse, Hardcover, $19.99), BOILERPLATE: HISTORY'S MECHANICAL MARVEL by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett (Abrams, Oversized Hardcover, $24.95), MAINSPRING by Jay Lake (Tor, Mass Market, $7.99), SOULLESS by Gail Carriger (Orbit, Mass Market, $7.99) or the original STEAMPUNK anthology edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (Tachyon Publications, Trade Paperback, $14.95).

*Imported wooden boxes
Sizes range from a deck of cards up to small chests with designs including Celtic knots, metalwork, and pentacles.  Recommended for almost anyone.  Prices range from $5.00 to $48.00)

*XKCD book by Randall Munroe (breadpig, Other Softcover, $18.00) -
Good not only for fans of the comic, but for newcomers as well. This book includes extra doodlings and ponderings of the author alongside the mouse-over text from the website.

Tired of glitter-encrusted snowmen and trees? Try writing your Christmas missive on one of these awesome sci-fi postcards. Taken from retro covers of magazines and pulp novels, perennial favorites include "The Gods Hate Kansas" and "Sin In Space"! $1 each.

*THE BLADE ITSELF by Joe Abercrombie (Pyr, Trade Paperback, $15.98) - Are you (or someone dear to you) frustrated with waiting for the next SONG OF ICE AND FIRE book?  Do you (or they) like fantasy hugely bloody, with a thread of dark humor?  This is our recommendation; a trilogy that's actually finished, with an additional book (BEST SERVED COLD, the start of a new series) that stands just fine on its own and is one of my favorite titles from 2009.

*AMERICAN FANTASTIC TALES edited by Peter Straub) (Library of America, 2 hardcover volumes in slipcase, $70.00) - From the Library of America website: "From its beginning, American literature teems with tales of horror, hauntings, terrifying obsessions and gruesome incursions, of the uncanny ways in which ordinary reality can be breached and subverted by the unknown and the irrational. In the tales of Poe, and Hawthorne, and their literary successors, the bright prospects of the New World face an uneasy reckoning with the forces of darkness. As this pathbreaking two-volume anthology demonstrates, it is a tradition with many unexpected detours and hidden chambers, and one that continues to evolve, finding new forms and new themes."  I strongly recommend this amazing (and gorgeously packaged) collection.  One volume covers "From Poe to the Pulps" and the other covers "The 1940's Until Now".

And, as always, we're glad to help make suggestions, and we have gift certificates if you're just not sure.  We can also arrange for gift credits -- essentially gift certificates that you can give to out-of-town folks to be used for mail orders -- if some of the genre fans in your life live remotely.

Happy holidays to you, from all of us!

November 01, 2009

October Bestsellers

1. The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
2. Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
3. Canticle by Ken Scholes
4. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi tie with
    Green by Jay Lake
5. Dust of Dreams by Steven Erickson tie with
    Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
6. The Dragons of Ordinary Farm by Deborah Beale and Tad Williams
7. Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson
8. How to Make Friends With Demons by Graham Joyce
9. And Another Thing. . . by Eoin Colfer
10. Imager's Challenge by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Soulless by Gail Carriger
2. Rosemary & Rue by Seanan McGuire
3. The Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick
4. Heart of Veridion by Tim Akers
5. Naming of the Beasts by Mike Carey
6. Dog Days by John Levitt
7. Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson
8. Lamentation by Ken Scholes
9. Anathem by Neal Stephenson
10. Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt

Trade Paperbacks
1. xkcd Volume 0 by Randall Munroe
2. The Lucky Strike by Kim Stanley Robinson
3. Morbid Curiosity Cures the Blues edited by Loren Rhoads
4. Zones of Chaos by Mick Farren
5. Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead edited by John Skipp

New Media Update

by Alan Beatts

Here's the rundown of the month's news on the eReader front.  Two items very worthy of note are the report from Forester Research which estimates that total e-reader sales for 2009 will top 3 million units.  That is up by 50% from their estimate of a few months ago.  Second is that there is an increasing pool of circumstantial evidence that people who buy Kindles (and, to a lesser degree, other e-readers) actually read _more_ than they did before switching to the e-reader.  People have cited ease of transportation and the convenience of purchasing wirelessly as the reason for their greater reading consumption.

Apple -- Ebook reading applications and ebooks are some of the most popular items downloaded for the iPhone and iPod Touch.  So much so that they're even starting to edge out games as the most downloaded category.

Amazon --  In less than two weeks Amazon released the new, international Kindle (useable in over 200 countries) and discontinued the old, US-only Kindle 2.  The new international version is priced the same as the old Kindle and so it's been more of a replacement with more features than a competing model.  However, not all is joy in the rest of the world since the costs for books are substantially higher for international users and, for that matter, for US users who use the download feature while outside the US.  The higher costs are explained by Amazon as being part taxes, part data-service costs (international downloads still originate in the US), and part wireless carrier charges.

Amazon is also trying to react to Sony's announcement last month that users of the Sony e-readers will have access to all half-million of Google's free, public domain ebooks by increasing the free offerings for the Kindle.  However, at the current level of about 18,000 titles, they've got a long way to go.

Finally, Amazon has released a Kindle client application for the Windows computer operating system and they also have a Macintosh version in the works.  Again, it looks like they're playing catchup to Sony and other companies who already offer desk- and lap-top versions of the reader software.

Barnes and Noble -- Not satisfied with their relationship with iRex as well as their ties with PlasticLogic's forthcoming high-end reader, the 800-pound gorilla of bookselling has announced their own e-reader, the Nook.  It's a dumb name for a smart device if you ask me.  The Nook comes with two screens, one over the other.  The top one is a typical black and white EInk display like most readers on the market.  Below it is a small, touch sensitive, color LCD.  The idea is that the LCD will display full color covers while browsing the user's library as well as giving a better web-browser experience.  It's a nice idea (though I prefer the book-like folding concept which supports a more reasonable sized LCD display opposite an EInk panel).

There's just one problem -- it looks like it wasn't B&N's nice idea.  Spring Design, a Bay Area company, had the same idea and has patents going back to 2006 to support it.  Moreover, Spring representatives meet with B&N in the spring of this year to pitch their reader (called the "Alex") as part of a joint venture.  A joint venture covered by the full range of non-disclosure agreements that we're so fond of in Silicon Valley.  Net result -- Spring Design is in the process of suing the pants off of B&N over violations of the NDAs and patents.  Oooops!

Entourage Systems -- On the topic of two-screen readers, this start-up company has a product that, while heavy and a bit expensive, looks pretty good.  The eDGe (don't ask me why the weird caps, I'm not a tech-guy) has two screens and opens like a book.  One screen is a 9.7" EInk display and the other is a 10" color LCD.  It runs on an ARM processor and has 4 GB storage, an SD card slot and 2 USB ports as well as WiFi and bluetooth.  Other features include a web-cam, microphone and speakers.  Running on Google's Android OS, it's going to be closer to a net-book computer than an ebook reader but that's not such a bad thing.

Three catches -- won't ship 'til February, price is $490, and it's big and heavy compared to a single purpose e-reader (8.25" by 10.75" by 1" and 2.75 lb.).  But it's still a sign of where some people want to see the e-reader go, myself included -- if they'd make one that ran on OSX or the iPhone OS, I'd stand in line to buy one at even twice the price.

Beyond that, there are more and more e-readers being announced.  Rather than do a complete round up here, I'd suggest that you take a look at <> which has a very nice list along with a release schedule.

Next month I hope that the flurry will have cleared up enough for me to make some buying suggestions for the holidays.  I'm also planning on touching upon the non-US market for e-readers, as suggested by two of my readers.

Overheard at The World Fantasy Convention

This is a feature that appears periodically, as we attend conventions and overhear things.  The tradition of keeping track of anonymous overheard bits and bobs started for us at the 2002 ConJose in San Jose, where trying (or trying not to) fill in the blanks on overheard conversations made us laugh so much that we made it a tradition.  In this issue we share the newest "overheards" from the World Fantasy Convention which took place in San Jose over Halloween weekend.

"She never got naked, she just rubbed lemons all over herself."

"Do NOT gesture with the snake, Ma'm!"

"I'm filling Johnathan's hole with zombies."

"So when we finally got the trunk open, there was Rodney, stripped down to his tighty-whities, pouring pink Slurpee all over himself while all these senior citizens gawked."

"We shared one hit off a bong with Lily Tomlin before her parents showed up."

"Every time Paolo thinks about zombie sex, a fairie explodes."

"How quaint! They have gorgonzola-walnut scones and a werewolf in a bowler hat."

"Nothing like a relationship drama that leads to helicopter crashes - it feels so true to life."

"One of the things I have on my resume under 'Additional Skills' is 'Scenic Proctologist' - pulling set designs out of my ass".

"It was good while I ate it."

"It looks like she has more hair but she just has less head."

"Maybe it's the beer, but did I just see a bunch of steampunk pizza delivery girls go by?"

October 01, 2009

Notes from a DVD Geek

by Jeremy Lassen

Welcome to October, my favorite month of the year.  Mainly because ALL of the horror movies, good, bad and terrible, make their way to home video around this time of the year.

First up is a special edition reissue of the classic horror movie from the late 80's. . . "The Gate".  This disk features commentary, and a couple of mini-documentaries, and a really nice transfer of this classic "there's a big hole in my back yard and it leads to hell" movie, which featured some incredible stop-motion effects that are still very effective today.  If you never saw this one, pick it up now.  If you remember the movie fondly. . . pick it up and watch it again, because it does stand the test of time, and is just as awesome as you remember.

Next I wanted to talk about some of the forthcoming releases from Sam Rami's home video label, Ghost House Underground.  Consider this label to be somewhere between the "Danger After Dark" label, and the "Dark Castle" label.

One of the new releases from Ghost House is a contemporary British horror film by director/writer Tom Shankland, called "Children".  Shankland's first movie was a gory yet effective serial killer/police thriller called "Waz".  This time out, he's got a bunch of kids and teenagers running around a lake.  Bad things start happening, and the parents and kids start blaming each other, as seeming accidents descend into overt violence.  "Children" is filled with a lot of subtle scares and a very effective sense of foreboding, which contrast effectively with its outbursts of sudden ferocity.

Another by-the-numbers-but-effective-in-its-own right thriller is "The Thaw".  This one stars Val Kilmer, putting on his best "Kurt Russell from 'The Thing'" performance.  A parasite is unearthed in a glacier that infects and kills its hosts, but not before releasing a swarm of flying, burrowing baby parasites that spread through the scientific camp like wildfire.

Another effective bit of mayhem is "Offspring".  Yes . . . the same "Offspring" as Jack Ketchum's splatterpunk classic novel.  Feral cannibals terrorize folks in a remote New England town.  Sure, it's a bit like "The Hills Have Eyes," except in New England, instead of the desert southwest.  But it's based on Ketchum's very smart novel, and even has (I think it was him anyway) a cameo appearance by Ketchum himself.   Good stuff.

"Blair Witch" co-director Eduardo Sanchez delivers something that looks like a modern, slightly better-scripted version of Fulci's "City of the Living Dead".  Lots of fast moving demons/sprits of the dead/guys in white body paint chasing our protagonists around.  Lots of fake blood.  Lots of screaming.  Good stuff that should not be missed this October.  Because of the miracles of modern filmmaking, I suspect that this film was probably made with a SMALLER budget then Fulci's "City of the Living Dead" . . . but in this case, the filmmakers didn't run out of money at the end and have to just kind of fake an ending.

Those are the four that are coming out in October, but an earlier Ghost House film that I failed to mention was "Dance of the Dead".  Take your standard teem dramady about geeks who can't get dates for the prom, and add zombies.  All those dumb high-school cliches who never watch zombie films?  Yeah . . . they get their asses kicked.  But the "sci-fi" club?  They know how to kick zombie ass. This is director Gregg Bishop's second feature film, and has a better budget than his first effort "The Other Side," which even despite its small budget was really well done.

Leaving Ghost House Underground, I have to point out the latest Lance Henrickson direct to video extravaganza.  "The Seamstress" sets up an urban legend come to life . . . the murderous spirit of a . . . yes . . . seamstress, who weaves (ugh, sorry) a bloody path across the small town where she died, oh so many years ago.  I know. It's nothing we haven't seen before.  But it has Lance Henrickson chewing the scenery.  If you need some Halloween cheese . . . this is the place to go.

Moving from your normal Halloween slashers to the "Hot damn!  I've been waiting for that film to hit DVD for years!" category of film, comes Richard Stanely's "Hardware". This post-apocalyptic killer android movie sports one of the best movie soundtracks since "Return of the Living Dead" (PIL, Ministry, Iggy Pop, etc.) as well as a "Greek chorus" provided by a joke-cracking radio dj, played by Iggy Pop.  Damn.  This is one of the greatest movies ever.  It is hot and sexy, and dusty and crazy, and . . . oh yeah.  It features an under-siege/final fight sequence that is legendary.  I'm getting chills, just waiting for this one to arrive.  I can finally toss out my laserdisc of this film, and enter the 21st century!

Finally . . . the live-action version of "Blood: The Last Vampire" hits DVD this month.  Bloody sword swinging half-vampire assassins, demons, and the undead. This movie is produced by Ronny Yu!  What's up, Ronny "Bride With White Hair" Yu!  Don't miss this one.

That's what my Halloween is looking like this year.  Be sure and email me some of your favorite movies (horror or otherwise) if I've missed them here in this column.

September Bestsellers

1. Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson
2. Transition by Iain M. Banks
3. Orbus by Neal Asher
4. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
5. Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson
6. Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
7. Sword of the Lady by S.M. Stirling
8. Fledgling by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
9. Alchemaster's Apprentice by Walter Moers
10. Winds of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
2. Anathem by Neal Stephenson
3. Naming of the Beasts by Mike Carey
4. Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs
5. Soulless by Gail Carriger
6. Scourge of God by S.M. Stirling
7. Trick of the Light by Rob Thurman
8. Implied Spaces by Walter John Williams
9. Very Hard Choices by Spider Robinson
10. The Dragon Never Sleeps by Glen Cook

Trade Paperbacks
1. Taste of Tenderloin by Gene O'Neill
2. Ice Song by Kirsten Imani Kasai
3. Doc Good's Traveling Show by Gene O'Neill
4. Madness of Flowers by Jay Lake
5. Quiet War by Paul McAuley tie with
    Mall of Cthulhu by Seamus Cooper

New Media Overview

by Alan Beatts

The response to my question in the last newsletter about interest in a column about ebooks and related stuff was unanimous and so, you asked for it and you've got it.  This will be the first one.  I'm going to start by doing updates divided by manufacturer and business but, when the month's news deserves general commentary (and I have something half-way clever to say), I'll put something at the beginning of the article.

Apple -- Their rumored tablet device continues to but just that, a rumor, but it's looking like they've been working on it for quite a few years.  None of the prototypes have gotten Steve Job's seal of approval so they haven't hit the street.  The current iteration is also lacking the "go ahead and make it" stamp from Jobs and so it still may never happen though, if I was going to bet, I'd bet that it's going to come out and sometime in the first half of next year.

If it does come out, there has been a fair amount of discussion between Apple and magazine publishers about possible electronic distribution of magazines.  That could be pretty important since, to do a magazine justice, you have to have a color display and Apple product is the only one that's close to distribution incorporating both an ebook form factor (i.e. smaller than a laptop and very thin) with a color display.  And just think about the advertising possibilities if this tablet has a wide-area (i.e. cell phone type) wireless connection -- interactive ads that allow direct purchase of products directly from the "magazine".

Amazon --  Not much good news for my favorite big-brother company.  They paid out a $150,000 settlement over their remote deletion of Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm which cost a student all his notes (which were deleted at the same time).  Most of the money will probably go to the lawyers but still, ouch!

Also, the response of students who have been using Amazon's large screen Kindle DX at schools around the country this year has been less than enthusiastic.  Comment like, "slow", "clunky", and "irritating" have been common as have student who've returned the (free) devices in favor of regular books.  One other, very practical, reason for the displeasure has been the comparative slowness of taking notes and highlighting on the Kindle as compared to a printed book.

Sony -- Relatively quiet on that front.  They've made some deals with electronic publishers like SmashWords and and Author Solutions who specialize in getting quasi-self-published work on the net and they're creating a "publisher portal" to make it easier for smaller publishers to get their books into Sony's store.  All this may pay off big time since the rush to build content for ebook readers and stores is just starting but, in the long run, it'll be critical for the success of reader manufacturers (the more content that works with your reader, the better chance someone will buy it) and ebook sellers (if you have the most and best content, the buyers will come to you first).

I talked to some people in the book business and found out something interesting -- you know all the smart moves that Sony has made in the past few months that I've complemented them on (i.e. getting readers into indi bookstores, making a reader with wireless, and moving to an open format (EPUB) from their old, proprietary one)?  Seems that most of those ideas came from the American Bookseller's Association not internally at Sony.  Which is kind of neat but also a little disturbing -- I know that ebook are coming but does it make sense for the ABA to speed their adoption (and the impact that they'll have on physical bookstores) in exchange for making sure that indi booksellers can get some of the profits?  Seems like a bit of a Devil's bargain to me.

iRex -- One of the pioneers in ebooks just announced their new ebook reader target at consumers.  The iRex DR800SG (no cute name here) has a bigger than usual screen at 8.1 inches (the Kindle is 6" and Sony's are 5, 6, and 7" depending on model), will sell for $399 and has both wireless (through Verizon's network) and a touch-screen (that only works with a stylus, unlike Sony's which will accept finger touch).  It's going to hit the street this month and will be sold at Best-Buy.

Best-Buy -- And speaking of them, they're training employees to sell ebook readers like crazy and have added a special area to all their more than 1000 stores to showcase the iRex and Sony Readers.  It's going to be interesting to see which wirelessly connected reader does best for the holidays -- the Sony Daily Edition or the iRex.  I'm betting on the Sony because of their reputation but I think that people are going to be happier with the iRex.  The bigger screen is nice but more importantly the Sony uses AT&T's wireless network and the iRex uses Verizon's.  If you know anyone who has an iPhone (or if you do), you'll know that they have problems with dropped calls, bad reception, and missed calls / messages.  The problem is not so much the phone but the network which seems to be overloaded by the sheer amount of data traffic that the iPhone generates.  And what network is that?  AT&T.

Barnes and Noble -- B&N are busy building their on-line ebook store, which has gotten a lot of attention after they did a big advertising push.  The catch was that, without a paired ereader, they got a lot of visits but few sales and not many return visits.  That will probably change since they are iRex's vendor of choice for the new DR800SG reader (see above).  In short, if you're buying books wirelessly with the iRex, you're going to be buying them from B&N, who's ebook sales should jump upwards once the holidays are here, people start buying the iRex reader in droves at Best Buy and need to download content.

That's about it except for one last thing - part of the bottleneck with ebook availability is the process of converting the files into the right format.  It can be slow, expensive, and generally a pain.  But perhaps not for EPUB format anymore.  DNAML has just released Pdf to ePub, a $99 piece of software that, in theory, allows simple conversion from PDF to EPUB format.  And, since PDF is the default format for much of publishing now, this may mean that it just got much simpler to be an electronic publisher.

September 01, 2009

Notes from a DVD Geek

by Jeremy Lassen

September is upon us and I've got new DVDs to recommend.  Please ignore all the new Michael Jackson DVDs hitting the shelves and go directly to the SF/Fantasy/Horror section.

First up is the complete series of the manga-turned-anime "Ah! My Goddess". Our protagonist is a college student with a hot girlfriend who is really a goddess, and doesn't know how to behave amongst humans.  Hijinx ensue, and this new 6-disk collection of the series is the best way to enjoy all the hijinx.

For all you people out there who have been holding off on buying John Carpenter movies, I have to ask:  "What is wrong with you?"  But if you HAVE been holding out,  now is your chance to buy a quadruple feature of some of his best (and one of his worst) movies.  Universal is putting out "John Carpenter: Master of Fear".  It contains "The Thing","Prince of Darkness","Village of the Damned", and "They Live".  For my money, there is only one clunker in this set, and that's "Village of the Damned". . . but it's got Christopher Reeve and creepy little kids, so I won't complain too much.  This set comes on two disks, so my guess is it's not loaded with extras like some of the JC releases are, but "Prince of Darkness" and "They Live" were pretty bare-boned as single disks, so you probably aren't missing much, and if you don't already own these movies, you probably don't care about the extras anyway.  But if you don't own these movies, this is a great chance to pick up JC on the cheap -- $5 a movie.  And let's face it: everybody reading this should own at least a couple of JC movies. I think there's a rule about that somewhere.

Getting into more quadruple feature action is Turner Classic Movies.  This month they are giving us both a horror and a science fiction set.  The horror set contains "House Of Wax" (1953), "The Haunting" (1963), "Freaks" (1932), and "Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde" (1941).  The science fiction set contains "Forbidden Planet" (1956), "The Time Machine" (1960), "Soylent Green" (1973), and "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968).  These are better-then-average selections for discount box sets, and with a per-movie price of $7, they are a great bargain.

For a classic of a completely different sort, don't miss the 1971 Angela Lansbury/Disney classic "Bedknobs and Broomsticks".  It might not be for everyone, but if you love this movie, this restored, remastered edition has a heaping of extras.  I repeat, don't miss it.

And leaving the realm of classic, and back to the realm of multi-movie sets: the first three Amityville Horror movies are collected together in the "Amityville Horror Collection".  Cheesy 70s/80s haunted house movies, all in one box.   It may not be great cinema, but if the profile of that house ever gave you nightmares, this might be the box set to have in your collection.

Speaking of cheesy movies that have been repackaged:  this month Universal Pictures is FINALLY (they originally announced it as a May title but pulled it) releasing a new edition of "Army of Darkness" (The Screwhead Edition).  Now, you might say that "Army of Darkness" has had a million different editions, and you'd be right.  But EVERY LAST ONE of the Anchor Bay releases of "Army of Darkness" used a really really really bad, grainy, high-compression version of the film.  It looked like crap.  It looked like it was shot on 16mm, and I can tell you. . . I saw this baby in the theater the week it came out, and it looked glorious.

For a long time, the MGM Japanese DVD was THE disk to get if you wanted the best picture quality.  Well, the North American rights reverted back to MGM, and they are releasing this on both DVD and Blue Ray, so the transfer is bound to be the best available.  Now,  the bad news is that it is ONLY the "theatrical cut" on the disk: the "slept until the future" ending is tacked onto the disk as an alternate ending/bonus material.  This is NOT the significantly longer running time "director's cut" that featured the original ending and a bunch of other dialogue and bits that were cut from the North American theatrical edition.  So don't throw away your Anchor Bay Director's Cut DVDs just yet.  But for my money, the theatrical cut was always the tightest/best version of the movie anyway, and I say that as someone who has owned the original dual disk Anchor Bay Theatrical and Director's Cut disks since they were first released. I've watched both versions. . . a lot.  Actually, I have to admit that I even had the laserdisc of "Army of Darkness" for a while too.  Yeah.  I'm a geek on so many levels it hurts.

I'm going to sort my "Evil Dead" disks, and move them into my zombie section, instead of my Bruce Campbell section, while I wait for this new "Army of Darkness" disk. I'll talk to you next month about a bunch of Halloween releases, and more stuff, I'm sure.

August Bestsellers

1) Fairest of All by Serena Valentino
2) Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
3) Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
4) Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
5) Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson
6) Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
7) The Sunless Countries by Karl Schroeder
8) Sword of the Lady by S.M. Stirling
9) Winds of Dune by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert
10) Grantville Gazette V edited by Eric Flint

1) Anathem by Neal Stephenson
2) Marsbound by Joe Haldeman
3) The Devil You Know by Mike Cary tie with
    Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
4) Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson
5) Lightbreaker by Mark Teppo
6) Skin Deep by Mark Del Franco
7) Cape Storm by Rachel Caine
8) Passage at Arms by Glen Cook
9) The Dragon Never Sleeps by Glen Cook
10) Eifelheim by Michael Flynn

Trade Paperbacks:
1) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
2) World War Z by Max Brooks
3) Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan
4) Hotel Under the Sand by Kage Baker
5) Desolation Road by Ian McDonald

Sony Gets Smart

by Alan Beatts

This month's piece is going to be kind of short since I'm working like mad to get the final paint and other work done on the cafe.  But I thought that, given some announcements and events in the last month, it would be interesting to follow up on my article from last month about ebooks.

It seems that someone at Sony has decided to get serious about their ebooks and readers.  And, whoever it is, they're very, very smart.  First off, they have announced three new readers.  One is much like their original reader but with the addition of a touch screen (which adds note taking abilities to the device) and at the same price point, $299.  The other two readers both break new ground, albeit in very different ways.  The Pocket edition brings the screen size down to 5" from 6" and the price to $199.  That price is a major watershed for readers, though not the under-$100 price that people expect will be needed for large scale purchasing by people who aren't either avid readers or tech-heads.  The other reader is the Daily edition which brings wireless connectivity and an even larger screen (7") for the premium price of $399.  But, this reader can finally compete with Amazon's Kindle in the area of on-demand, wireless downloads of books.

But that's not all that Sony has been up to.  Last month they also announced that they were abandoning their proprietary ebook format and switching to EPUB, which is the book industry standard open format.  Also announced was a deal with Google to make all 500,000 of Google's archived public-domain works available for free download.

But Sony's last move was the icing on the cake -- they've made a deal with the American Bookseller's Association to make their readers available to independent bookstores for resale as well as making Sony's ebooks available at wholesale prices for resale on independent bookstore ecommerce sites.  That means Sony will be able to get bookstores to act as a sales force for their hardware, which is a move that Amazon can't even consider.

All in all, Sony is setting itself up as the new power in ebooks.

Also, a number of other businesses are jumping into the market for ebook readers -- Asus, the manufacturer of low cost netbooks like the Eee PC has announced that they are going to produce a dual screen reader and Astak, a British company, is about to ship their 5" screen reader, the EZReader Pocket PRO, which is notable for its low price ($199).

That's about all I have time for right now but before I go, I've got a question for you.  Is all the stuff about ebook and readers of interest?  If so, there is enough going on in that area right now that I could write a column about it every month.  But, I'm not sure if there is enough interest on the part of our customers for it to make sense.  What do you think?  (I should point out that something like that would be in addition to my usual column, not instead of it.)

Overheard at The World Science Fiction Convention

This is a feature that appears periodically, as we attend conventions and overhear things.  The tradition of keeping track of anonymous overheard bits and bobs started for us at the 2002 ConJose in San Jose, where trying (or trying not to) fill in the blanks on overheard conversations made us laugh so much that we made it a tradition.  In this issue we share the newest "overheards" from the World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal.  This year was especially fruitful for quotes, not all of which could be printed!

1: "I just wondered if he had a function at all."
2: "Ah ha, look at me being tactful! And silent."

"Australians keep New Zelanders around to **** sheep for us!"

"I was the bouncer at a pinball arcade in Ann Arbor, Michigan called The Cross-Eyed Moose."

"People with tattoos on their eyes buy art."

"There are some things I don't mind you doing to my wife. Mutual tattooing is not one of them."

"Attending Comic-Con is like swimming through a sea of human meat."

"You must be a writer because you're dressed so well."

"And now they're swabbing the air conditioner with giant q-tips!"

"If she ends up licking his burger, I'm totally taking pictures."

"I rely upon the meekness of strangers to get me through life."

"Tor has just agreed to buy our new anthology, 'Tales of the Callused [Omitted]'!"

"How do you tip strippers in Montreal?"

"I've got two words for you: shut the **** up!"

"Bauderlaire & tentacles? I think we've got a pitch for the Jane Austen zombie guys."

"Sometimes I think the tool chest of literary criticism is overflowing with cow turds."

To a famous editor: "I really have no interest in putting your foot in my mouth."

"How would history have been changed if Winston Churchill had been Elmer Fudd?"

"When you use bread you don't have to wear a mask."

"People would like to look back on the future fondly."

August 01, 2009

Notes from a DVD Geek

by Jeremy Lassen

Hey everyone.  Summertime is upon us, and while most of the big summer blockbusters have come and gone, there are some absolutely scrumptious movies hitting home video.

Right out of the gate we have a gem of 60's sleeze, with Elio Petri's "The 10th Victim".  Imagine a future where society is so depraved and filled with blood lust that murder is sanctioned as a sport.  The Big Hunt is an international game and its two top assassin/players are played by a Felini Playboy(Marcello Mastroanni from "La Dolce Vita")  and Bond Girl (Ursula Andress of "Dr. No" fame), you've got a recipe for a cult SF classic of distopian sex and violence.  Don't miss this one.

Staying in the 60s, I wanted to mention that Criterion is releasing Roman Polanski's classic movie of psychological horror, "Repulsion," starring Catherine Deneuve.  Polanski, Deneuve, and Criterion?  What could possibly be wrong with this?  Grab it up if you don't already own it.  And even if you do, it might be time to upgrade as this Criterion disc has audio commentary featuring Polanski and Deneuve, as well as both a 2003-era documentary, and a 1964 era documentary, both on the making of this classic piece of film history.

On a slightly different note, a film that may be worth checking out is "Necessary Evil".  It MIGHT be a cookie cutter bio-hazard "'28 Days Later' meets 'Saw'" kind of thing.  But it's got two things that are going to make me put it in my DVD player the day I get it.  Lance Henrikson and Danny Trejo.  Because even if it's a bad movie, there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes then to watch Lance Henrikson and Danny Trejo chew up the scenery.  I'm up for this one.  Anyone else?

Speaking of a different note. . . "Machine Girl" hits DVD this month.  This is the tender story of a young Japanese schoolgirl who gets her arm sawed off by the Yakuza, but survives and returns for a bloody revenge spree, with cyborg-enhanced prosthetics.  Part "Full Metal Yakuza," part "Ms. 45" this movie features cyborg violence galore.  While not by Takashi Mike or anything, this Japanese cult film is by a promising young Japanese exploitation director Noboru Iguchi ("A Larva To Love," and "Cat-Eyed Boy").

Dwayne Johnson (AKA The Rock) "Races to Witch Mountain" this month, on DVD.  The less said about this the better, I guess.  Its main problem is that it is no longer two alien kids lost and alone and getting over. . . It's The Rock, helping kids get over.  Far less compelling then the original, IMO.  But, if you are a fan of "The People's Eyebrow". . . well, I guess there are worse ways to spend your time.

Another very forgettable remake hits the shelves this month.  "The Last House on The Left," AKA "The Last Money Grab Left On The Shelf".  I'm not saying that the original movie is some kind of sacred cow that can never be touched; I'm just saying that if you want to watch this story line over again, go get the Criterion Edition of "Virgin Spring" by Ingmar Bergman and be done with it.

Having just mentioned three clunkers, let me cleanse my typing pallet by mentioning that "Coraline" is out on DVD (and Blue Ray, natch) and it is just as awesome as it was on the big screen.  I myself can take or leave the 3-D effects, but with or without, this is a great movie, and a great adaptation of the Neil Gaimen novel of the same name.  If you somehow missed this one, run out and get it.

Until next time, I am forever yours,  A DVD Geek.

That's Not Your Ebook, It's Amazon's . . . Forever

by Alan Beatts

I've held out for months now when it comes to talking about ebooks.  After writing so much about them last year, I figured that you all might have had enough and so I switched to other topics.  But the recent kerfluffel about Amazon's remote deletion of books from their Kindle eReader is too interesting to ignore.

For you readers who haven't heard about what happened, I'll summarize briefly (if you've been following the story, please feel free to skip to the next paragraph).  On July 17th, Amazon remotely deleted two books from all the Kindles in the US via the wireless connection that allows Kindle users to brows the internet and purchase books.  In a truly lovely bit of irony, the books were George Orwell's 1984 and ANIMAL FARM.  The reason for the deletion was that the ebook publisher from whom Amazon got the books was based in the UK, where both books are in the public domain (i.e. they may be freely copied, distributed and published by anyone without the need for permission or payment).  However, in the US, the books are still under copyright.  What that meant was that, though the electronic editions were legal outside of the US, they were in violation of copyright _in_ the US.  Amazon was contacted by the US rights-holder (Harper Collins) and told that they couldn't sell that particular electronic edition in the US.  Amazon responded by not only removing the edition from their site, they also remotely deleted it from the Kindle of everyone who had bought it.  Amazon did refund the purchase price of the books to the people who had bought them but despite that many people felt that they had been taken advantage of and that their privacy and property had been violated.

The legality of Amazon's action is debatable but one thing that it points out with clarity is that, despite the marketing hype that presents ebooks as "just like regular books", ebooks bought for the Kindle through Amazon are not at all the same as printed books.

Strangely for a bookseller, I don't have a problem with ebooks.  Don't get me wrong, I think they're going to put most bookstores out of business eventually (how soon, I'm not sure) but overall as a reader I don't think that they are awful or a sign of the end-times for literature or reading.  But, I have a huge problem with ebooks business models like Amazon's which build an unbreakable two-way connection between the reading device and the company providing content.  A good ebook is one that is purchased and can then be read on a number of devices (i.e. a computer, a cell phone, a dedicated reader or other personal electronic devices) without requiring contact or permission from the company that sold the ebook.  For my money, Amazon's model is broken on a very basic level.

Other ebook readers like the Sony eReader <> are stand-alone devices that can be used for any sort of content that the user chooses.  You can load them with books bought from Sony, other ebook publishers like Baen <> or Harper Collins <>, or free public-domain content from places like Project Gutenberg <> or Feedbooks <> (a side note about free content from these sites -- many books that Amazon is happy to sell for the Kindle are available for free.  But Amazon not only won't tell you that but they set things up with the Kindle so that you have to jump through a few hoops and pay to get that content on their device).  If Sony goes out of business (not likely) or decides to get out of the ereader-and-book business (more likely), the only ebooks that you might lose the use of are the ones you bought directly from Sony, and the ereader will keep working for as long as it can still function.  Conversely, if Amazon folds or decides to stop supporting the Kindle (which might happen -- Amazon isn't an electronics manufacturer and their reason for creating the Kindle is more about building a market for eBooks than being a electronics manufacturer) books bought for the Kindle are liable to be unusable and completely worthless.  You could have spent a ton of money buying books that someday may be just as outdated and useless as an 8 track tape.

As someone who has seen music formats change from LPs to CDs and then to MP3s and video go from VHS to DVD, I can accept that you have to re-buy things as formats change.  But I'll be damned if I'm going to go through that with my books too.  Especially when there is _no_ reason for it other than Amazon's greed and desire to make their customers dependent on them indefinitely.

And all the forgoing was a problem _before_ Amazon demonstrated that they were willing to do the virtual equivalent of breaking into people houses and taking books off their shelves.  But the recent incident demonstrated yet another problem with Amazon's model.  What else can happen due to the connection between the Kindle and Amazon and the power that it provides?  How about --

* A tell-all account of the Bush or Clinton presidency is published.  One of the subjects of the account sues for Defamation of Character and wins (FYI - that's a civil action which means that all you need to do to win is convince seven out of twelve people that you're right).  As part of the judgement the court orders that the offending chapters be rewritten and, without the consent of the Kindle owner (and possibly even without their knowledge), remotely substituted for the original chapters.

* A controversial book, such as The Turner Diaries or The Autobiography of Malcolm X, is tied to a criminal act and as part of the investigation Amazon (while under a gag order so they can't tell anyone) is compelled to provide not only purchase information about anyone who bought it for the Kindle but also information about how many times it's been read as well as any notes or bookmarks that the individual reader may have added.

* A violation of the contract that you have to sign when purchasing a Kindle gives Amazon the right to not only terminate your use of the Kindle but also delete all your books, lock the device, and lock you out of your Amazon account.  All this without legal recourse or appeal and to correct it you, the user, have to take Amazon to court with the associated costs and headache.

So, if you want to buy ebooks and use a reader, please do so.  There are some great reasons for it and some huge advantages.  But don't get a Kindle.  The Sony reader is better designed and so very much smarter.  Or wait 'til fall and get one of the Apple Tablets.  Sure it's more expensive and uses a LCD screen instead of eInk but it's going to be super-slick and will do _much_ more than any ebook reader out there.

July Bestsellers

1. Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie
2. Green by Jay Lake
3. Wireless by Charles Stross
4. Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
5. The City & The City by China Mieville
6. By Heresies Distressed by David Weber
7. The Strain by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro
8. The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan
9. Hylozoic by Rudy Rucker
10. Julian Comstock: A Novel of 22nd Century America by Robert Charles Wilson

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Implied Spaces by Walter John Williams
2. Saturn's Children by Charles Stross
3. Lightbreaker by Mark Teppo
4. Vicious Circle by Mike Carey
5. The Devil You Know by Mike Carey
6. Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
7. Jhegaala by Steven Brust
8. Bestial by Ray Garton
9. 1634: The Bavarian Crisis by Eric Flint and Virginia DeMarce
10. Escapement by Jay Lake tie with
      Thirteen Orphans by Jane Lindskold

Trade Paperbacks
1. Footprints edited by Jay Lake and Eric T. Reynolds
2. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
3. Return of the Crimson Guard by Ian Cameron Esslemont
4. World War Z by Max Brooks
5. Mall of Cthulhu by Seamus Cooper tie with
    Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

July 01, 2009

June Bestsellers

1. The City and the City by China Mieville
2. Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
3. Hylozoic by Rudy Rucker
4. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
5. An Empire Unacquainted With Defeat by Glen Cook
6. Julian Comstock: A Novel of 22nd Century America by Robert Charles Wilson
7. Green by Jay Lake
8. Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris
9. Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
10. Empress of Mars by Kage Baker

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Lightbreaker by Mark Teppo
2. Kushiel's Mercy by Jacqueline Carey
3. Prefect by Alastair Reynolds
4. Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
5. Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
6. The Devil You Know by Mike Carey tie with The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy
7. Mirrored Heavens by David J. Williams
8. Edge of Reason by Melinda Snodgrass
9. Juggler of Worlds by Larry Niven & Edward M. Lerner
10. Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik

Trade Paperbacks
1. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
2. Burning Skies by David J. Williams
3. Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey
4. Alive in Necropolis by Doug Dorst
5. World War Z by Max Brooks

June 01, 2009

Notes from a DVD Geek

By Jeremy Lassen

The big release for science fiction fans this month is a documentary about legendary SF writer Harlan Ellison.  This documentary, "Dreams With Sharp Teeth", is directed by the producer of "Grizzly Man" (You know… the documentary about the guy who disappeared while filming bears in Alaska,) Erik Nelson.

This documentary is not a tell-all attack piece, nor is it an even-handed, balanced documentary that gives equal time to Ellison's critics. Instead, it is a riotous celebration of the man, his work, and the character that he has created, "Harlan Ellison", over the course of his career. Many funny tidbits and gems are in this documentary and in the associated "extras" on the DVD.

In celebration of this documentary, I'd like to point out some of the movies and TV episodes that have been based on Harlan Ellison's work.

Probably the most famous movie adaptation is "A Boy and His Dog", staring a very young Don Johnson.  This story of Ellison's is one of his most memorable, and the movie does it some justice . . . even though the tone of the film does tend to veer wildly from act to act.

One of the most (in)famous movies inspired by Ellison's work is James Cameron's original "Terminator" movie.  Ellison sued to get a credit for this movie, and won, claiming it was inspired by his Outer Limit episodes "Soldier," and "The Demon With a Glass Hand". Despite losing this battle in court, director (and script co-writer) James Cameron has always resented this assertion, and there seems to be a back-and-forth battle of the credit line in the various home video versions of this film, with Ellison's story credit slipping in and out of the credits as each new version of the film is released.

Moving past  "Terminator", we can get to some of Ellison's television writing, which includes the above-mentioned Outer Limits episodes and the famous Star Trek episode, "The City on the Edge of Forever".  He was also responsible for the episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents' "Memo from Purgatory."  There were numerous other lesser-known TV episodes that he banged out early in his tv writing career, from episodes of "Burke's Law", to an episodes from "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea".

Much later, several of his stories were adapted for the 1980's "The New Twilight Zone" series ("Crazy as a Soup Sandwich,"  "Gramma," "One Life," "Furnished in Early Poverty," "Paladin of the Lost Hour" and "Shatterday").

There were also a couple of "Babylon 5" episodes written by Ellison, a "New Outer Limits" episode from 1999 based on "The Human Operators", and a "Masters of Science Fiction" episode based on his story "The Discarded."

There were many other legendarily unproduced pilots and scripts, which Ellison chronicles at length in his books, THE GLASS TEAT, and THE OTHER GLASS TEAT. [Editor's note: Both of these volumes are now out of print.]

Moving away from Ellison, to another cult SF personality, Joss Whedon's "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" hits DVD in June.  This one was the "online only" production that Whedon worked on during the writers' strike last year, and it's now more widely commercially available, with a bunch of extras on the DVD that were not part of the original download.

And, moving from the cult SF side of the house to the cult horror side of the house, I bring you the most unlikely adaptation to ever be made. "Header". A movie based on Edward Lee's "classic" splatter-porn short story, soon to be available on DVD. This looks to be a mostly mediocre low budget horror film, but wow.  "Header".  Edward Lee.  I can't wait.  It's like when I found out "The Girl Next Door" was being made into a movie. But somehow sleazier and seedier.

And that's all I've got for you this month.

May Bestsellers

1. The City and the City by China Mieville
2. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
3. In the Stormy Red Sky by David Drake
4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
5. Empire Unacquainted with Defeat by Glen Cook
6. The Revolution Business by Charles Stross
7. Conspirator by C.J. Cherryh
8. Empress of Mars by Kage Baker
9. Turn Coat by Jim Butcher
10. Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy
2. Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi
3. Line War by Neal Asher
4. Relentless: The Lost Fleet by Jack Campbell
5. Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick
6. The Devil You Know by Mike Carey
7. Lightbreaker by Mark Teppo
8. The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds
9. Kushiel's Mercy by Jacqueline Carey
10. Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

Trade Paperbacks
1. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
2. World War Z by Max Brooks
3. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie tie with
     Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey tie with
     Jack Wakes Up by Seth Harwood
4. Burning Skies by David Williams
5. Palimpsest by Cathrynne Valente

War and Conciliatory Fantasy

by Alan Beatts

I'm in the process of reading a review copy of Joe Abercrombie's new novel, BEST SERVED COLD, which will be published July 29th.  For my money it's even better than his FIRST LAW series and he's managed to hit the balance between grim and funny with more accuracy than before.  For those of you who aren't familiar with his work, Abercrombie writes relatively dark fantasy a la Steven Erikson or Glenn Cook, filled with morally ambiguous characters and situations.  Reading along I found myself thinking of a comment that China Mieville made once about how he neither enjoys nor wants to write "conciliatory fantasy". His feeling is that fantasy as a genre can take on the same sort of tough questions and complex characters that are more usually the domain of science fiction (or even mainstream lit).  I agree with him and furthermore I think that we've been seeing a renaissance of sorts in that type of fantasy writing.  I think that it, perhaps, shows a maturity in the genre and among the readers that, in some ways, parallels the change in Western movies in the 1960s.

May 01, 2009

Notes from a DVD Geek

by Jeremy Lassen

Hey everyone.  Got some new release info for you this month, and some rambling about "Star Trek".

First up: "The Uninvited" hits DVD this week.  It's a US remake of the Korean horror classic "A Tale Of Two Sisters".  It’s fairly decent, (if a little bit dumbed down,) but given how convoluted and obtuse the original was, this isn’t really a terrible problem.  I enjoyed this one.

"S. Darko" proves the Joe Bob Briggs rule of sequels: just do the same damn thing over again.  This beat-for-beat sequel to "Donnie Darko" is by the production company of "Donnie Darko," but original "Darko" director Richard Kelly had nothing to do with it.  In fact he's pretty vocally disavowed it.  But. . . it occurs to me that if Kelly had turned in this movie instead of "Southland Tales," he might still have a career in Hollywood.  If you just want to experience the frission of "Donnie Darko" again, check out "S. Darko".  It does exactly what a sequel is supposed to do - give you precisely the same experience all over again.

April Bestsellers

1) WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer
2) Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
3) Imager by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
4) Turn Coat by Jim Butcher
5) Revolution Business by Charles Stross
6) Mystery of Grace by Charles de Lint
7) Storm From the Shadows by David Weber
8) Coyote Horizon by Allen Steele
9) Temporal Void by Peter F. Hamilton
10) Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Mass Market Paperbacks
1) Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt
2) Renegade's Magic by Robin Hobb
3) Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick
4) Spook Country by William Gibson
5) Spell Games by T.A. Pratt
6) Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson
7) From Dead to Worse by Charlaine Harris
8) The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy
9) Deathwish by Rob Thurman
10) Kethani by Eric Brown

Trade Paperbacks
1) Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
2) We Never Talk About My Brother by Peter S. Beagle
3) Matter by Iain M. Banks
4) The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
5) Ravens in the Library edited by Phil Brucato & Sandra Buskirk tie with
    You Might Sleep by Nick Mamatas tie with
    Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

April 01, 2009

Notes From A DVD Geek

by Jeremy Lassen

I’m going to make it short and sweet this month. Just the good stuff!

Two films of note (recently released on DVD domestically) by Japanese director Takashi Miike: The first is an adaptation of “Crows Zero” from the popular manga of the same name. This one might be seen as "Heathers" meets "The Sopranos" --Japanese style. The other is "Sukiyaki Western: Django". This one is Akira Karasawa’s "Ran" meets "A Fist Full of Dollars". It’s in the tradition of a spaghetti western Django movie, but has a mind-blowing color pallet, and over-the-top stylization of Miike. Good stuff all around. While neither of these movies is exactly horror or science fiction, they get special mention here because of Miike’s interest to genre movie watchers in general, and because they are so damn surreal as to quite possibly be fantasy.

March Bestesellers


1. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
2. Caryatids by Bruce Sterling
3. Lamentation by Ken Scholes
4. Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
5. Storm From the Shadows by David Weber
6. Contagious by Scott Sigler
7. Fool by Christopher Moore
8. Judging Eye by R. Scott Bakker
9. White Witch, Black Curse by Kim Harrison
10. The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan

Mass Market Paperbacks

1. Death's Daughter by Amber Benson
2. The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar
3. Escapement by Jay Lake
4. Mainspring by Jay Lake
5. The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton
6. Territory by Emma Bull
7. Small Favor by Jim Butcher
8. Galaxy Blues by Allen Steele
9. Night Life by Caitlin Kittredge
10. Lost Colony by John Scalzi

Trade Paperbacks

1. Breathers: A Zombie's Lament by S.G. Browne
2. Jailbait Zombie by Mario Acevedo
3. Postsingular by Rudy Rucker
4. Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente
5. Shambling Towards Hiroshima by James Morrow

Miscellany - Watchmen, Ebooks, Current Reading

by Alan Beatts

This month I've a collection of miscellany for you all. Sort of a sound-bite article, with bits about eBooks, The Watchmen (both movie and comic), and some teasers about stuff I've read that you won't be able to buy for _months_.

The Watchmen --
I made time (with some difficulty) to go check out the movie about two weeks ago and I've got to say, I was almost completely happy with it. There might have been one or two little things I would have changed but they were so minor that they're not really worth mentioning.

The thing that really stood out for me in the film was the sheer (and very deeply _not_ Hollywood and _not_ safe) faithfulness to the original material. I really didn't expect it, despite hearing all about how respectful the production was meant to be (really, I thought that was a case of "the lady doth protest too much"). Granted there were a few changes but I thought that they were mostly wise choices that reflected the differences between film and graphic novels.

March 01, 2009

Notes From A DVD Geek

by Jeremy Lassen

This month I want to talk about Kaiju . Giant monsters! Men in rubber suits! The destruction of large cities by rampaging beasties. How can one go wrong with that? And while bad Godzilla knock-offs can get old after a while, there’s enough variation to be found in the genre (giant alligators in the sewer, giant snakes in the jungle, etc. etc.) to keep things fresh.

February Bestsellers


1) Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs
2) White Witch, Black Curse by Kim Harrison
3) Caryatids by Bruce Sterling
4) Contagious by Scott Sigler
5) Drood by Dan Simmons
6) Horizon: The Sharing Knife by Lois McMaster Bujold
7) The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox by Barry Hughart
8) The Steel Remains by Richard K. Morgan
9) The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
10) Chalice by Robin McKinley

Mass Market Paperbacks

1) Mirrored Heavens by David J. Williams
2) The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy
3) Last Colony by John Scalzi
4) Duplicate Effort by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
5) Unfallen Dead by Mark Del Franco
6) Outlaw Demon Wails by Kim Harrison
7) The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez
8) Halting State by Charles Stross
9) The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton
10) The Queen of Candesce by Karl Schroeder

Trade Paperbacks

1) Last Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko
2) Barfodder by Rain Graves
3) Revenant Road by Michael Boatman
4) World War Z by Max Brooks tie with Cyberabad Days by Ian McDonald
5) Matter by Iain M. Banks

Used Book Sales (and Sellers) are an Author's Friend

by Alan Beatts

[Editor's Note: SF Signal <>  is a science fiction blog with news, reviews and commentary.  They run an occasional feature called Mind Meld, where they ask a bunch of authors, editors, and other genre professionals to all answer the same question, and then they post the question and all the answers.  The results are usually fascinating.  This month, they've asked Alan, Borderlands' owner, among lots of others, to answer the following question: "I've seen arguments for and against the used book market.  What's your take?  Does the used book market help or hurt the publishing industry?".  I thought the discussion was interesting, so we've decided to run Alan's answer here in the From the Office column.  Check with SF Signal later in the month to read all the other responses. - Jude]

Whether used book sales hurt or help the publishing industry is a complicated question.  This is mostly because the publishing industry contains several subsections, all of which have their own discrete and sometimes mutually incompatible goals and economic pressures.  To really look at the question comprehensively one has to consider readers, authors, booksellers, and publishers separately.  Before going to to that, let me point out two assumptions - one, that the only person who receives any payment for a used book is the person who sells it (i.e. no royalty goes to the author and the publisher doesn't get a penny) and two, that used books are sold based on the current model (i.e. mostly directly to the consumer in a face-to-face transaction but with a significant and increasing number of sales happening on-line).

THUNDERER and GEARS OF THE CITY by Felix Gilman Review

by Chris Hsang

[Editor's Note: Thanks to intrepid customer/reviewer Christopher Hsiang for the following. This review was previously published by the awesome folks over at - Jude]

M. John Harrison has inspired a fantasy tradition of strange, shifting cities by authors like Neil Gaiman, China MiƩville, Steph Swainston, Jeff VanderMeer, Ian R. MacLeod, and Jay Lake. The New Weird influence of Harrison's VIRICONIUM can definitely be seen in the first two Ararat novels by Felix Gilman.

January 01, 2009

December Bestsellers

1. Contagious by Scott Sigler
2. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
4. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
5. 1635: The Dreeson Incident by Eric Flint and Virgina DeMarce
6. Anathem by Neal Stephenson
7. The Gabble and Other Stories by Neal Asher (UK)
8. Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer
9. The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan (UK)
10. Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. New Tricks by John Levitt
2. The Outlaw Demon Wails by Kim Harrison
3. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
4. The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar
5. Dog Days by John Levitt
6. The City, Not Long After by Pat Murphy
7. Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan
8. Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce
9. Black Magic Woman by Justin Gustainis
10. Halting State by Charles Stross tie with
Snake Agent by Liz Wiliams

Trade Paperbacks
1. Steampunk edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
2. Ancestor by Scott Sigler
3. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
4. The Living Dead edited by John Joseph Adams
5. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie tie with
The Shadow of the Scorpion by Neal Asher

Happy New Year

by Alan Beatts

Happy New Year everyone,

The holidays are past, the relatives have gone home and there goes another year. At Borderlands, 2008 wasn't such a bad year, all things considered. Despite the economy we're doing alright in terms of sales and the staff are all doing well. I'm overworked as usual (well, perhaps a bit more than usual considering all the work that I'm doing to get the the cafe next door open) but life is really damn good.