Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Fan Expo Canada Part 2

Fan Expo brings in some amazing celebrities every year and this one was no different: Stan Lee and William Shatner being the biggest names on their list. Unfortunately I didn't get to see either of them. But, I did get some good pictures of several other actors: Summer Glau (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Firefly, Dollhouse), Tahmoh Penikett (Battlestar Galactica), Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Near Dark, Millennium), Felicia Day & Amy Okuda (The Guild) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca).

Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming in October 2010

We interrupt our Fan Expo posts to bring you the regularly scheduled 'upcoming SFF' list. It's derived from the Chapters/Indigo website, so things not listed SFF and releases outside Canada aren't on the list (with one exception).


Warhammer 40K: Sabbat Worlds – Dan Abnett & Christian Dunn, Ed.

Knot Gneiss – Piers Anthony

Surface Detail – Iain Banks

Passion Play – Beth Bernobich

Cryoburn – Lois McMaster Bujold

Side Jobs – Jim Butcher

The Haunting of Charles Dickens – Lewis Buzbee

Bones of Empire – William Dietz

Against All Things Ending – Stephen Donaldson

1635: The Eastern Front – Eric Flint

The Half-Made World – Felix Gilman

Weight of Stone – Laura Anne Gilman

The Coffin: 10th Anniversary Edition – Phil Hester

Trio of Sorcery – Mercedes Lackey

Betrayer of Worlds – Edward Lerner

Forgotten Realms: Gauntigrym – R. A. Salvatore

There and Back Again – Brian Sibley

The Ultimate Egoist: Volume 1, the Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon – Theodore Sturgeon

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II – Sean Williams

All Clear – Connie Willis

Trade Paperbacks:

The Horns of Ruins – Tim Akers

The Power of Illusion – Christopher Anvil, Ed.

MYTH-Interpretations: the Worlds of Robert Asprin – Robert Asprin

Neil Gwynne's Scarlet Spy – Kage Baker

Elfsorrow – James Barclay (US release)

Elves Once Walked With Gods – James Barclay

Suddenly Something Happened – Jimmy Beaulieu

Forgotten Realms: The Year of Rogue Dragons – Richard lee Byers

Stories of Your Life – Ted Chiang

Star's End – Glen Cook

The Thief-Taker's Apprentice – Stephen Deas

Pock's World – Dave Duncan

The Stranger – Max Frei

Pax Britannia: Blood Royal – Jonathan Green

The Best Paranormal Crime Stories Ever Told – Martin Greenberg, Ed.

Vampire Empire – Clay Griffith

The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2010 – Paula Guran, Ed.

Zombies: The Recent Dead – Paula Guran, Ed.

Never After – Laurell Hamilton

Memories of Envy – Barb Hendee

The Rebel Prince – Celine Kiernan

Legends of the Dragonrealm II – Richard Knaak

The Ragged Man – Tom Lloyd

Gardens of the Sun – Paul McAuley

Autumn – David Moody

Mysteries of the Diogenes Club – Kim Newman

Version 43 – Philip Palmer

Chasing the Dragon – Justina Robson

Twilight of Kerberos: Legacy's Price – Matthew Sprange

Tome of the Undergates – Samuel Sykes

In the Mean Time – Paul Tremblay

Shadowrise – Tad Williams

Mass Market Paperbacks:

The Spirit Thief – Rachel Aaron

Written in Time – Jerry Ahern

Eberron: The Fading Dream – Keith Baker

Geist – Philippa Ballantine

Elegy Beach – Stephen Boyett

Runescape: Betrayal at Falador – T. Church

Servant of the Underworld – Aliette de Bodard

Light of Burning Shadows – Chris Evans

Damage Time – Colin Harvey

Hunting Memories – Barb Hendee

Warhammer: Warrior Priest – Darius Hinks

Darkship Thieves – Sarah Hoyt

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms – N. K. Jemisin

Corvus – Paul Kearney

The Clone Empire – Steven Kent

Desperation – Stephen King

The Silent Army – James Knapp

Warhammer 40K: Firedrake – Nick Kyme

Echo City – Tim Lebbon

Blood Heat – Maria Lima

Star Trek: Zero Sum Game – David Mack

Heart's Blood – Juliet Marillier

Dungeons & Dragons – City Under the Sand - Jeff Mariotte

Time Travelers Never Die – Jack McDevitt

Highborn – Yvonne Navarro

Grave Witch – Kalayna Price

Bitten to Death – Jennifer Rardin

Soul Stealers – Andy Remic

Live Free or Die – John Ringo

Star Wars: Death Troopers – Joe Schreiber

Kris Longknife: Redoubtable – Mike Shepherd

Starfist: Double Jeopardy – David Sherman

Shotgun Sorceress – Lucy Snyder

Planeswalker: A Test of Metal – Matthew Stover

Secret of the Dragon – Margaret Weis

City of Dreams & Nightmares – Ian Whates

Crown of Crystal Flame – C. L. Wilson

* I noticed my auto correct has done some interesting things to certain authors names. If you spot an error that I missed, please mention it in the comment field.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Fan Expo Canada Costumes

Posting 50+ photos on blogger would be too time consuming to be worth it, so I've set up an album on my Picasa account for Fan Expo here. You should be able to see the photos, download them and - if you choose - print from Picasa. I uploaded the best quality they allow so if you like a photo, feel free to download it. If you post one of my photos to your site, please mention my site and give credit. Thanks!

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Where's Waldo - Fan Expo Edition

In case my photos of the crowd didn't convince you things were tight, here's a closer look at the crowd waiting TO GET IN. They were in the building but needed to go up the escalator to reach the trade floor of the con (which included the gaming area, artist alley and the autograph booths).

It's basically a Where's Waldo, complete with Waldo. Can you find him?
(Click on the photo for a larger version.)

There will be more Fan Expo photos and stories posted the coming week, so check back often!

Fan Expo Canada Part 1

I only got a one day pass for Fan Expo Canada and with the crowds, one day was enough for me. We got there to find the show wasn't in the Metro Convention Centre's south building as usual, but the north building this year. We learned that when we saw the 'building closed' signs on the south building's doors. Like the others around us, we started walking the outside to the north building.

Which is where we encountered the lines. Yes, lines. One for people with wrist bands (who'd been at the expo the day before and who got in relatively quickly as a result) and one for those without. Communication wasn't that clear so there was confusion about the lines, and the non-band line split later into pre-paid and need tickets.

I'd expected to be in line 2+ hours, so the 1 1/2 was fairly good. Once we got inside we couldn't believe how crowded the floor was. The pictures I too don't do it justice because there were times raising a camera to take a photo wasn't practical.

There were a few things off the trade floor I was interested in, the Tron Legacy presentation being foremost among them, but when we saw the crowd on the first floor waiting to come up the elevator (they couldn't because the trade floor was at capacity), I decided it wasn't worth leaving.

We had a great time looking around the various booths, bought several items and took tons of pictures. I'll be doing dedicated posts over the next week or so, for the gaming demonstrations, artists in the alley and more.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Star Wars - A Light in the Darkness

As I'll be attending Fan Expo Canada tomorrow, which hosts the 501st Legion Stormtroopers, it seems appropriate to mention this excellent Star Wars fan film, A Light in the Darkness. Only part 1 is up so far, but it's an interesting story and you can tell a lot of time, effort and money went into it.

The story follows the betrayal of the Jedi on an outpost mining colony and as it's only 20 minutes, head on over and give it a watch.

Not convinced? Here's the trailer.

Changeless - Book Review

By: Gail Carriger

Pros: interesting world examined in more detail (we learn more about the supernatural council and get out of London), engaging writing

Cons: heavy handed characterization made some people feel like caricatures rather than characters (this lessened as the story progressed), Alexia seemed a little dense at times, cliffhanger ending that can be considered distasteful

I try not to be overly influenced by other reviews when choosing my books. Unfortunately, sometimes a negative review can overshadow your own thoughts and feelings on a particular work, whether it be a book, movie or art.

That was the case with reading Changeless for me. I'd read the 2 star review given it by RT (Romantic Times) and a friend who loved Soulless (the first book in the series) as much as I did had difficulty with the ending.

Every time someone was introduced or something happened I wondered, 'is X going to happen at the end?' It meant that the ending didn't bother me as much as it did others because the "what if's" I'd considered were much worse than what Carriger ultimately did.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. In Changeless, soulless Alexia Maccon has been married for 3 months and at odds with her werewolf husband on a number of issues. The plot starts quickly with a report that supernaturals within a specific area of London have suddenly become human - temporarily.

News from his former pack in Scotland prompts Lord Maccon to head home. Alexia's investigations into the supernatural affair cause her to soon follow after.

This book wasn't as much fun as Soulless. The opening had heavy handed characterization to the point that everyone came across as caricatures. I was surprised that, though she had council meetings twice a week, Alexia lived at Woolsey Castle, 2 hours from London - each way - rather than at their home in town. The number of surprise visitors they hosted was also high considering the commute.

Had I not spent the first 3rd of the book trying to figure out what the 'bad ending' was going to be, I'd have enjoyed the story a lot more. The plot was quick moving and interesting - though I figured some things out well before Alexia did, which is surprising as she's usually quite intelligent.

Still, it was fun and the ending, rather than turn me off, has me hoping for a good resolution in the forthcoming Blameless.

*** SPOILERS ***

For those of you whose curiosity is peaked and who don't intend to read this book, here's the 'twist ending' and why I was ok with it.

Alexia's husband is technically dead. Werewolves are killed by the bite that turns them. They die and if they have excess 'soul' they become werewolves. If they don't, the bite is the end for them.

Now, as a soulless, Alexia's touch 'humanizes' the supernatural. But apparently, though they look human and lose their supernatural powers under her touch, they're still dead. In other words, Lord Maccon can have all the sex he wants, but he can't father a child.

Which causes Alexia problems as she discovers, at the end of Changeless, that she's pregnant. She's also never slept with anyone but her husband. Unfortunately, he no longer believes that and so casts her out.

After wondering if she'd have an affair with Major Channing, have an affair with Madam Lefoux, get raped, see Ivy murdered, etc. this sounded like the lesser of many evils. In fact, it rather explains the title Blameless for the next book. But it's entirely possible that had I not spent the first part of the book so occupied with guessing the ending I would have found Lord Maccon kicking out his pregnant wife more objectionable.

The other reason it perhaps didn't bother me was that despite being a cliffhanger I'm expecting everything to be sorted out in the next book. Most romance novels have something like this in them (a feature I usually dislike) but I can see the use here. It certainly had me devouring the excerpt from the next book that's at the back. And seeing quick witted and even quicker tongued Alexia deal with the accusations of scandal should be fun. It took me a while to read this book because I was afraid I would hate the ending and not want to read the next book (which has happened before). As it is, Blameless will trump my reading pile when it comes out because I REALLY want to see how things will resolve themselves.

Giving Up a Dream

This post by Ian Hocking is a stark look at what the dream of being a writer can cost. Especially if, after years of effort and completed manuscripts, you've yet to achieve 'success' and realize it's time to put the dream behind you. Writing is a lonely profession. It's years of work with little to sustain you except your belief in yourself. A belief that is quickly chipped away at by rejection letter after rejection letter. And as his case shows, getting one book published doesn't mean your career is made. Think about it, to spend the years necessary to write 4 other books, all of which going unpublished... And he is not alone. For every success story we hear in the news, there are lots of Ian Hockings out there.

(I was directed to this post via Speculative Horizon's Friday links.)

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Pages Being Added

I noticed a while back that Blogger now allows up to 10 set pages for information. So I've decided to start using those. The first one, now up and linked, is for all the author interviews I've done in the past (you can see it below the header for the site). I'm currently working on a page for the reading lists, one for book reviews and a fourth for movie reviews. It's surprising how many of each I've done (so this may take a while to get up, especially if I want to organize the information so it's easily accessible).

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Creature Copyright

I read the first 7 books of R. A. Salvatore's Drizzt books (Homeland to Legacy) when I was a teenager. I loved the idea of dark elves, and especially loved the exotic look - black skin and white hair (which is part of why Storm's my favourite X-Men character). At the time, when I started planning my own fantasy novel, it never occurred to me that they might be considered 1) racist or 2) copyright of TSR (now Wizard's of the Coast). I just thought they were cool.

Skip ahead through university and I realized I not only had to explain how my protagonist became the only black elf in my fantasy world (as I decided not to do a race), but also modify the look so it wouldn't be considered plagiarism. I'd never considered using the name 'Drow', but the look for a dark elf is pretty obviously their own. The first was easy - I split my humans into light and dark skinned, depending on where they lived. As for my dark elf, I made his colouration due to a potion gone wrong, and modified the look enough that it's now my own idea. Problem solved.

Recently while shelving I came across this book: Demons Not Included by Cheyenne McCray. Apparently she also liked the idea of the Drow as she made her character a half-drow. I checked the wikipedia listing for drow to find out if Dungeons & Dragons (the basis for Forgotten Realms) had cribbed it from history and therefore it is fare game to anyone wanting to use it (like dragons, elves, etc.). Turns out the word 'drow' is of Scots origin and more commonly written 'trow' or 'troll'. It referred to 'dark spirits' or a race of elves that lived underground and were good at working metal.

Everything about them, from their look to their society, was created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, who co-created Dungeons & Dragons, and later writers for the game and books.

So my question is, is it right for another author to crib off of someone else's work in a situation like this, where the creature has become part of the public consciousness for the genre? Could an author use Thestrals in their novel, which unlike many of the creatures Rowling used in Harry Potter, were original creations of hers? Or should Drow be considered intellectual property of WotC and unusable by other authors until the death +70 years rule has passed? I'd lean towards the latter myself. I think it would be annoying to spend a lot of time and effort creating something and then find others using my work as background so they don't have to do the same.

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on this matter.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The Dark Crystal - Movie Review

Directors: Jim Henson & Frank Oz, 1982
IMDB listing

Pros: amazing visuals (not special effects mind you, but the puppets and sets are amazing), attention to detail, strong female characters

Cons: simplistic plot, Jen's not that bright

The Dark Crystal is one of those movies I vaguely remember loving from my childhood. So I watched it with trepidation, wondering how it would hold up as an adult and afraid I'd hate it.

I didn't hate it, which was good. But I didn't love it either. It had great visuals - a well realized world with attention to detail (insects, critters, unique and interesting fantasy creatures) - but was a bit shy on the plot department.

The plot is simple. The evil Skeksis (creepy looking) and the good Mystics (also creepy looking) both appeared 1000 years ago when the dark crystal fractured and a shard fell out. Now, the last remaining Gelfling, Jen, must find and return the shard when the 3 suns align or the Skeksis will rule forever.

The movie's a traditional quest, with a rather naive and unworldly Jen trying to figure out what to do with the shard once he finds it.

The voiceover that narrates at certain points in the story could probably have been toned down as the characters themselves mention similar points. The quest itself quickly goes off course as Jen isn't given the information he needs to properly complete it. It's bizarre that the Mystics, who raised him, wouldn't train him in what would be required considering their future depends on his completing this mission.

On the whole, it's a worthwhile film to rewatch, though seeing it with kids might make you feel less guilty about the time spent.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The Dervish House - Book Review

The Dervish House, by Ian McDonald

Pros: lyrical writing, intricate and complex plot, exotic setting, Can's bitbots are cool

Cons: have to pay close attention (sudden flashbacks/memories, lots of minute details), minor character & place names are unusual and similar enough that they're easily confused when jumping between so many storylines (Ogun Saltuk, Selma Ozgun, Oguz, Ozer)

The novel is set in the Istanbul of 2027. Turkey is part of the EU. Nanotech is used to give people a mental edge, especially in businesses like trading and finance. And the lives of the people from the Dervish House at Adem Dede Square are about to change.

It all starts with a tram bomb. Necdet's on his way to work and is horrified when a woman blows her own head off. Traumatized by the event, he doesn't realize how badly he was affected by it until he starts seeing djinn everywhere.

Can Durukan, a 9 year boy, sends his computerized bitbot robots to the site of the bombing to see what he can see. Another robot attacks his and he's thrust into a mystery he's determined to solve.

Meanwhile, Ayse, an art dealer is offered a million Euro to find a legend, a Mellified Man.

Her husband has a deal of his own, a deal that could make him millions, or land him in jail.

Their stories and more intertwine to form a dazzling mosaic through 5 days in Istanbul. It's a sensory explosion, of names, places and actions. The plot becomes intricate fast, so pay attention when reading.

My only complaint was that so many names were similar enough between places and people, that when they were mentioned again I often couldn't remember who they were.

If you liked the lyricism of Guy Gavriel Kay's Under Heaven, you'll love The Dervish House.

Kobo vs iPad in Sunlight Conditions

Here's where the Kobo definitely does better than the iPad. Sunlight conditions. E-ink readers are designed to be non-reflective, to give a better 'book' experience. In contrast, the iPad has a highly reflective screen, so reading in direct sunlight can be a problem. This video shows the difference and ways to improve reading on the iPad, beyond using a sun screen or sitting in the shade.

Kobo vs iPad in sunlight conditions from Jessica Strider on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

A Wild Light - Book Review

Guest Book Review by Mel, a co-worker of mine from the World's Biggest Bookstore. In her own words: There’s not much to say about myself except that I love lurking around bookstores looking for that next great read. I’m still looking for one for 2010, so if you have a suggestion, I’d gladly take it.

A Wild Light, by Marjorie M. Liu


The morning after her birthday celebration, Maxine Kiss wakes up lying on the floor and covered in blood. A few feet away from her is her grandfather, Jack Meddle—dead—with one of her knives lying beside his body. Maxine does not remember attacking her grandfather or the events leading up to the act. She does not even remember the man who discovers her leaning over the body, a man who looks at her with intimate knowledge, a man whom she loved—just not anymore.

Maxine embarks on a journey to reclaim her lost memories, a journey that will reveal more about the powerful ancestor she takes after and the demons that are bound to her body and to her bloodline. A journey that will include going beyond the walls of the dimensional prison she is charged to guard and into the realm where demons dwell…


This newest installment in the Hunter Kiss series takes a major departure from the other two books, in that Maxine Kiss has no memories of the man she loves. Some may like this new development; others may not and that is why I cannot firmly put this in the pro category or the con. However, not to worry: Liu does not leave this situation unresolved.

This leads me to my first con. Although Liu restores all of Maxine’s memories of Grant, I felt that not much focus was put on how she did so in the story. It was slightly disappointing for me because I would have liked more than what I got.

In the pro column for this book is the background information Liu reveals about major characters. We find out more about Grant—about his people and his powers, about Jack Meddle, about Maxine’s ancestor that she takes after, and about the demons that have been bound to her bloodline. Let’s face it: I love those five demons and having them appear more in the book makes me happy.

Overall assessment:

A Wild Light is as smart and engaging as the other books in Marjorie Liu’s Hunter Kiss series. Her writing is such that I am actually able to read every word in the book without having to skip to the end so I can finish it for the sake of finishing it. However, at the end of the novel, I was not left with that particular excitement I sometimes get after reading a really good story and I was not left with a desire of wanting more. I blame this on the fact that I love Maxine’s little demons more than I actually like Maxine herself. So, take what you will of this review. A Wild Light and the Hunter Kiss series is a good read, but for me, it is not a book that will live on my bookshelf.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

I Am Number Four Contest

From a press release I was emailed today:

Now on Moviefone, enter for a chance to win a trip to the I AM NUMBER FOUR Movie Premiere!

One Grand Prize winner will receive a three-day / two-night trip to the 'I Am Number Four' movie premiere next year. The prize package will include two tickets to the premiere event, roundtrip airfare for two and hotel accommodations.

Check it out at: http://insidemovies.moviefone.com/2010/08/16/i-am-number-four-movie-premiere-sweepstakes/

The book is the thrilling launch of a series about an exceptional group of teens as they struggle to outrun their past, discover their future—and live a normal life on Earth. It is currently #7 on the New York Times Best Sellers List.

A co-worker of mine has finished the book and thought it was a great read - light on the SF elements but a lot of fun. If you know a teenage boy who isn't a great fan of picking up books, maybe this will change his mind.

The Reapers Are the Angels

MacMillan has a new book they're plugging as doing for zombies what The Passage did for vampires. If you're interested in reading a literary zombie novel, here's the premise from the site:

Zombies have infested a fallen America. A young girl named Temple is on the run. Haunted by her past and pursued by a killer, Temple is surrounded by death and danger, hoping to be set free.

For twenty-five years, civilization has survived in meager enclaves, guarded against a plague of the dead. Temple wanders this blighted landscape, keeping to herself and keeping her demons inside her heart. She can't remember a time before the zombies, but she does remember an old man who took her in and the younger brother she cared for until the tragedy that set her on a personal journey toward redemption. Moving back and forth between the insulated remnants of society and the brutal frontier beyond, Temple must decide where ultimately to make a home and find the salvation she seeks.

The site also has an excerpt, audio clip and kudos from various sources.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Werewolf Reading List

As with my other reading lists, this isn't comprehensive. I've picked books from several genres, as categorized by my store (so Bitten is in horror despite being urban fantasy). If you'd like to add books I've missed in comments, please do so.


Bitten – Kelley Armstrong

Wolf's Gambit – W. D. Gagliani

Shapeshifter – J. F. Gonzalez

Mammoth Book of Wofl Men – Stephen Jones, Ed.

Cycle of the Werewolf – Stephen King

Wolfman – Jonathan Maberry

Wolfman – Nicholas Pekearo

Full Moon City – Karrell Schweitzer & Martin Greenberg, Ed.

Frostbite – David Wellington


Silver Wolf – Alice Borchardt

Mooncalled – Patricia Briggs

Loupsgarous – Natsuhiko Kyogoku

Wolfsangel – M. D. Lachlan

Running With the Pack – Ekaterina Sedia, Ed.

Wolfbreed – S. A. Swann

Moonshine – Rob Thurman

Kitty & the Midnight Hour – Carrie Vaughn

Benighted – Kit Whitfield

Graphic Novel:

Werewolves of Montpellier - Jason


Hunter's Moon – C. T. Adams

Full oon Risint – Keri Arthur

Hidden Moon – Lori Handeland

Master of Wolves – Angela Knight

Marked by Moonlight – Sharie Kohler

Come the Night – Susan Krinard

Howling at the Moon – Karen MacInerney

Claimed by the Wolf – Charlene Teglia

Confessions of a Werewolf Supermodel – Ronda Thompson


Werewolf's Guide To Life – Ritch Duncan

When Werewolves Attack – Del Howison

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Dude, Where's My Car? - Movie Review

Director: Danny Leiner, 2000

(Please note that the pros and cons are from my point of view. I recognize that for a certain demographic the cons will be pros.)

Pros: surprisingly intelligent ending, enough honestly funny parts to be worth watching, makes fun of some movie/sf stereotypes

Cons: lots of bad jokes, toilet and body humour, irritatingly stupid main characters

This isn't a movie I'd generally watch (let alone like) but sometimes you need a change of pace, and expanding your horizons (up and down) can produce surprising results. Despite the cons (I can't stand toilet humour and the main characters REALLY got on my nerves) there were enough good scenes in the film that I found myself liking it overall.

Jesse (Ashton Kutcher) and Chester (Seann William Scott) wake up one morning, hungover and with no memory of the previous night, to find Jesse's car missing. The quest to find the car has them meeting a transvestite stripper looking for the suitcase of money he gave them, two buff alien men, five sexy alien women and a cadre of alien seeking fanatics all looking for the 'continuum transfunctioner', which was left in their car.

The ending is surprisingly good, tying up all the various plot elements in an intelligent way. If you wan't something different (with the emphasis on different) look this up.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Kobo vs iPad for Reading PDF Files

This is a quick video showing the difference between reading a PDF on the Kobo vs the iPad. Ultimately, while it's great the Kobo can read PDFs and increase the font size, it's inability to scroll through documents using anything but the forward and back keys, make doing anything than a straight read impossible (with books you can at least jump between chapter but that isn't an option with PDFs).

Contrast this with the iPad, which allows for easy scrolling, bookmarking, etc. it's a much more pleasant reading experience when it comes to PDFs.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Harry Potter Science Center Exhibit

This past Saturday my husband and I checked out the Harry Potter Exhibit at the Ontario Science Center. It's been a while since I've read the books so I was actually going to skip the exhibit as it's fairly expensive. Then one of my co-workers came to work raving about it so off I went to get tickets.

I'm glad I did. The exhibit was definitely worth the money. In the lobby are signs and the flying car from book 2, suspended in the air. They even turned on the headlights in the evening.

When you get to the exhibit (6th floor here), they let you in in 7 minute intervals. You have the option of renting the guided tour headset, which my co-worker said mentioned some great information. I decided to do the tour solo and found that fine.

The tour begins with a costumed guide sorting part of the group into Hogwarts houses. I made Ravenclaw. :) Then there's the Hogwart's express. It's a foggy exhibit, with the train and piles of luggage. There's even a wanted sign for Sirius Black (but not one that moves).

For the moving pictures you need to head to the next room. Here are some of the paintings from the school of witchcraft and wizardry. A few of them move, while others are stationary. The Fat Lady sits in the doorway trying to, unsuccessfully, break a glass with her voice.

This is where the displays start. There are props and costumes from the films, character wands (it's amazing how each one is different, and so intricate) and more. The bottles of spell ingredients from the potions class are there, as are Ron and Harry's beds (did you know the bed curtains are solid red on the outside and patterned with gold stars, etc. on the inside? Madam Hooch's flight robes were my favourite of the costumes, though Lockhart's dueling robes were a close second.

There were a few interactive exhibits, pulling mandrakes, throwing quaffles through hoops and trying out Hagrid's chair. A gentleman at Hagrid's hut explained how they made Robbie Coltrane look half-giant sized. Also by the hut was buckbeak the hippogriff, which was amazing. There was a baby thestral too.

But the best exhibit, was the one dedicated to the dark arts. There we got to see the angel of death statue that hung over Voldemort's family tomb. There we saw dementors and death eaters. And ministry of magic decrees. Read the last line of the decrees and know someone working on the film had a sense of humour.

Finally, there was the great hall. Here candles hung from the ceiling and formal robes lined the walls. It's amazing the amount of detail put into the costumes and props. The triwizard cup was spectacular. It makes you wish they'd focused in on more of these details in the films so you could really see what things looked like.

The gift shop was designed with Diagon Alley in mind. Several of those shops are represented here, names printed in gold over the goods most likely to be sold there. It wasn't perfect, of course, but it was fun. I only wish the prices were more reasonable ($4 for a chocolate frog, $9 for Berty Botts Every Flavour Beans, upwards of $50 for a decent replica wand).

Anyway, it was a great experience and if the exhibit comes your way I highly recommend it.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Ed Greenwood - Author Interview

From the Wizards of the Coast page for Elminster Must Die.

When the goddess of magic was murdered, Elminster’s world shattered. Once the most powerful wizard in the world, immortal, beloved of the goddess of magic, and the bane of villainy, he is now a tired old man. He is powerful but mortal, and with all the enemies a man who makes a habit of saving the world tends to accumulate.

To make matters worse, Elminster has needs—feeding powerful magic items to the Simbul, his lover, is the only thing that keeps her sane—but their increasingly risky collection leads his enemies right to him.

Questions and Answers with Ed Greenwood.

What is the easiest/hardest thing about writing in a shared world?

The hardest thing about writing in a shared world is getting everything just right. Not forgetting someone’s aunt’s name, or that a particular baron was actually killed off in someone else’s book two years ago, or that Prince Roragryn’s underwear is always red. Not just the facts, but the tone. Your angry old Au

nt Wrothindra should look, act, and sound like angry old Aunt Wrothindra as handled by all the other writers who’ve written scenes with her, in a dozen other books. She shouldn’t change to make your plot work more easily, and in fact any changes are wrenching if sudden (and usually disliked by the fans) or must be slow and very carefully accounted for; a shared world is like a huge ocean liner: turning her is a slow process involving a lot of pushing, and hopefully some very careful piloting, for very good reasons.

Aunt Wrothindra and all the other established facts about the world can be straitjackets, hemming in storytelling and forcing it in particular directions.

Conversely, that’s also the easiest thing about writing in a shared world: there’s so much established detail that a writer/designer doesn’t have to invent on the spot, and fans/readers “know” and understand characters and places and the implications of events or threats or possibilities without the author having to always stop and announce them. A story can gain a lot of importance, weight, and excitement because readers already understand what hangs in the balance, and are looking ahead. “The King is FINALLY going to fall in love with Aunt Wrothindra? I KNEW it! Oooh, this’ll be good!”

With regards to the previous question, how is writing on your own different? Which do you prefer?

Writing outside the Realms, Middle-Earth, Amber, and the other shared settings I’ve written in (yes, I’ve published writings set in all three of those) gives me more freedom to tell tales; I can tailor characters and settings to more clearly set forth a short story, for example. At the same time, I have to do what the vast majority of writers have to do: explain EVERYTHING I put into the story, because I can’t depend on the reader knowing anything about this new place that I’m setting before them for the first time.

If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?

When I was young, fit, and hungry for adventure, maybe. Now, not so much. My characters tend to dwell in dangerous medieval-era fantasy settings where the monsters and villains are many, medicine is poor, and . . . hey, wait, magic WORKS.

And I’ve always wanted to be the best swordsman in several kingdoms, have beautiful princesses swoon before my manly handsomeness, and reduce sneering barons to cringing, groveling apologists. However, I suspect “making that so” in writing is a lot easier than actually DOING it.

Well, maybe if I was the head cook in the royal castle of a rich and powerful kingdom, threatened by no rival and with no shortage of food coming in. A warm safe bed, lots of minions to do all the real work, all the food and drink I wanted . . .

No. It’s tempting, but I like being me. Even without the minions.

How do you discipline yourself to write?

I hurry to get bills paid and other “things that MUST be done soon” done, and firmly squash myself from procrastinating (I can’t write Book X until I find that baseball short story I read once, and I know it’s somewhere in THAT stack of books, and I really should put them all in order and tidy them up while I’m looking for the baseball story, and hey look, another week went past somehow, and I still haven’t started Book X).

I don’t force myself to write a certain number of words a day, or even to write every day, because real life happens. To us all. Weddings, funerals, dirty laundry, and grocery shopping. But I do TRY to sit down and write something every day, and follow two tricks: it’s always easier to edit or rewrite something you’ve already written than it is to start putting something on a blank page, and it’s always easier to sit down again to write and get back into the writing if you left something unfinished last time, instead of neatly ending a chapter or a book or a short story.

When you finish something, save it, back it up, print it out, dance with joy, AND THEN START RIGHT IN on the next project, even if it’s just opening a computer file, typing in a working title, and then hammering out a few sentences of vague nonsense. It’s a beginning, and it gives you something to go back to, fix, and move on from.

In another sense, I don’t have to discipline myself to write, because I’m ALWAYS writing. At least in my head (and yes, I keep a notepad and pencil in my pocket to jot down ideas that my mind spews up into my face when it’s ready to). Why not a PDA? Or magicthingummyphone? Or laptop? Because pencils and paper never run out of battery power or start to roam, never die when they get dropped or wet, and never distract me from just getting the idea down.

Any advice for hopeful writers?

Sure. Read, read, read, and write, write, write.

No, I’m not being flippant. I mean just that: read voraciously, in fields you want to write in and genres you don’t think you’ll ever want to go near. See how writers handle death scenes, revelations, starting a story, weaving plots and subplots together, and pacing. (Just to name a few things . . .) Don’t copy what they do, but see what works and what doesn’t. What authorial “voices” do you like reading the most? Can you pull off that voice, or that one? And so on.

Which leads me to the writing. A fortunate few get to be bestselling “authors” because they slept with the right president, happened to be standing beside someone famous when something important (and usually dreadful) happened, and so on. The rest of us actually have to write the books, and writing is like everything else: some of it is inspiration and luck of timing or location, but most of it is craft and work, hard work. Those last two things improve with practice, practice, practice, so put your behind on some sort of seat, your fingers on a keyboard attached to something, and write. A lot. Often. Taking breaks to breathe and exercise and see enough of the real world to have something to write about (your hero is going to leap on a horse and gallop away, vividly and excitingly described by you? Great, so have you ever gone near a horse?). Keep at it, don’t get discouraged (everyone does, but don’t let it get to you; don’t stop). Maybe you’re not cut out to be a writer, but you’ll never know if you never get around to actually writing AND FINISHING a book and getting it to publishers. I’m living proof that it can be done. I started out as one of the most shy people in the world, and 130-some books later, I’m . . . not (very) shy anymore.

Be sure to check out the rest of Ed Greenwood's Blog Tour:

Tuesday, August 10

Wednesday, August 11

Friday, 6 August 2010

Ed Greenwood Blog Tour Reminder

Ed Greenwood starts his blog tour today, promoting his new Forgotten Realms title, Elminster Must Die.

If you want to follow along, here's his schedule:
Friday, August 6

Monday, August 9 here! www.scififanletter.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 10

Wednesday, August 11

Inception - Movie Review

Director: Christopher Nolen, 2010
IMDB listing.

Pros: action, thought provoking story (especially the ending), psychological subplot (or main plot, depending on your interpretation of events), using dreams as a stage of espionage is unique

Cons: some may find the middle of the film (when Cobb's building up his team) boring, a lot of people dislike the ending though I thought it was great

Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) faces arrest and imprisonment should he return to the US where his 2 kids live with their grandmother. In order to return to them, he accepts a job offer by an influential business man. The job? To infiltrate the mind of a competitor, not to extract information, but to leave a suggestion. Most people believe this action, inception, to be impossible. Cobb however, has done it before.

The first part of the film is set-up, introducing the dream invasion concept and technology and compiling the team for this job. The second part is the job itself. For some people the time between the job offer and the job will be boring. For me, the explanation of the technology and the introduction of the psychological effects of dream invasion was fascinating.

The job itself was amazing. You think you understand how complex dreams can be - anything is possible - but when they're in there, going from level to level, you start to understand how complex the mind is, allowing several layers of dreams to exist and interact simultaneously. There are some great action sequences and thought provoking moments.

I loved the ending. A film that has me considering and reconsidering what I believe about it is one I'll buy and watch again.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Kobo E-Reader Version 1.4 Upgrade

Here's a video I did showing the upgrade changes for the Kobo.

Here's a quick summary:
1. there's now a light indicator when charging
2. the log in screen defaults to the 'my books' page, even if you were reading a book (it used to log in to the page you were reading)
3. there's a 15 minute sleep function, after which the machine turns off (this means you can't leave the Kobo on indefinitely, so you always have to log back in and choose your book to continue reading)
4. the sleep screen shows the book cover and gets you back to your page if you click the power button before the 15 minutes are up
5. the 'off' screen no longer displays the book cover, just a 'powered off' message.
6. you can hide the preloaded books by choosing to view only your books in the display menu of the 'books' screen
7. you can now resize fonts in ePub files uploaded from sources other than the Kobo store (I show a PDF in the video, but it's the same idea)

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Waking the Witch, Book Review

by: Kelley Armstrong
Publishing date: August 3

Pros: fast paced, good dialogue, a fair bit of action

Cons: last 30 pages rely more heavily on previous books for climax and denouement and contain spoilers for the earlier books (only a problem if you haven't read those books)

Savannah Levine's running her guardian's P.I. agency while they're on vacation. When another P.I., Jesse Aanes, drops a murder case that has hints of occult activity in her lap, she's ready to prove she can solve a case solo. So off she goes to Columbus, a small town that now boasts 3 murders. With two obvious suspects and several people offering help (including the brother of one of the victims, an out of town detective), it seems like an easy case. But nothing's as it seems and when someone else dies Savannah realizes that going solo isn't as fun as she thought it would be.

Savannah's an interesting character. She's got a lot of streetsmarts and a no nonsense attitude. She's not quite the kick ass character urban fantasy is known for, but not far off either. Magic is her first line of offense, though she knows some martial arts too. She avoids being a Mary Sue by asking for help from a senior member of the P.I. agency and by occasionally making potentially stupid decisions (like meeting a possible suspect alone without telling anyone where she's going).

This is the first Otherworld book by Armstrong that I've read. I assumed Savannah was a minor character in the other books so the first book dedicated to her would be a good place to jump into the series. There were occasional references to her past throughout the book that were easy to understand until 30 pages to the end. Suddenly someone from her past who was never mentioned in this book shows up. The climax's 'ah ha' moment was more of a 'what?' moment for me. Since I didn't know who this character was I had no idea what was coming. The ending wasn't ruined by this. Armstrong explained enough about who the character was that a new reader could follow along. But I knew I'd missed the real surprise of the scene.

Still, it was a fun, quick read. And, from what Armstrong tells about Savannah's past, those who have followed the series will likely enjoy seeing Savannah grown up.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming in September 2010


What Distant Deeps – David Drake

Empire of Light – Gary Gibson

Zero History – William Gibson

Will Power – A. J. Hartley

Wish Upon a Time – Nabila Jamshed

Intrigues – Mercedes Lackey

Esperanza – Trish MacGregor

Antiphon – Ken Scholes

The High King of Montival – S. M. Stirling

Out of the Dark – David Weber

Hellfire: Plague of Demons – Robert Weinberg

The Forest Laird – Jack Whyte

Pirate Freedom – Gene Wolfe

Trade Paperback:

Siren Song – Cat Adams

The High Crusade – Poul Anderson

The Technician – Neal Asher

The Currents of Space – Isaac Asimov

The Secret History of Fantasy – Peter Beagle, Ed.

The House on Durrow Street – Galen Beckett

Hawk of May – Gillian Bradshaw

The Plucker: And Illustrated Novel – Brom

Cold Magic – Kate Elliott

The Wolf Age – James Enge

The First Collected Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach: Three Short Novels of the Malazan Empire – Steven Erikson

Pax Britannia: Gods of Manhattan – Al Ewing

The Stranger – Max Frei

Flesh and Fire – Laura Anne Gilman

Mob Rules – Cameron Haley

Warhammer 40K: The Hunt for Voldorius – Andy Hoare

Hell Can Wait – Theodore Judson

Afterblight Chronicles: Arrowland – Paul Kane

One – David Karp

ParaSpheres 2: Extending Beyond the Spheres of Literary & Genre Fictin – Ken Keegan, Ed.

Our Lady of Darkness – Fritz Leiber

Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits – Robin McKinley & Peter Dickinson, Ed.

Twilight Forever Rising – Lena Meydan

The Flying Saucer – Bernard Newman

Dragons of the Valley – Donita Paul

The Cardinal's Blade – Pierre Pevel (US release)

Dreadnought – Cherie Priest

The Bloodlight Chronicles: Reconciliation – Steve Stanton

The Scarab Path – Adrian Tchaikovsky

Ragnarok – Patrick Vanner

Limbo – Bernard Wolfe

Mass Market Paperback:

Bayou Moon – Ilona Andrews

Jumper Cable – Piers Anthony

Left for Undead – L. A. Banks

Edge – Thomas Blackthorne

Masques – Patricia Briggs

Engineman – Eric Brown

Dungeons & Dragons: Key of Stars – Bruce Cordell

Monster Hunter Vendetta – Larry Correia

The Dragon Book – Jack Dann & Gardner Dozois, Ed.

At Empire's Edge – William Dietz

Venom – Jennifer Estep

Fangs for the Mammaries – Esther Freisner

Angel Souls and Devil Hearts – Christopher Golden

Must Love Hellhounds – Charlaine Harris, Nalini Singh, Illonga Andrews & Meljean Brook

The Gathering Storm – Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson

Star Wars: Dynasty of Evil – Drew Karpyshyn

Revamped – J. F. Lewis

Warhammer: Zombieslayer – Nathan Long

The Storm Witch – Violette Malan

Uprising – Scott Marian

The Stars Blue Yonder – Sandra McDonald

An Artificial Night – Seanan McGuire

Imager's Challenge – L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

Married With Zombies – Jesse Petersen

Flight of the Renshai – Mickey Reichert

Questing Knight – Anthony Reynolds

Of Berserkers, Swords and Vampires: A Saberhagen Retrospective – Fred Saberhagen

Quatrain – Sharon Shinn

The Sword of the Lady – S. M. Stirling

The Crown of the Blood – Gav Thorpe

The Grimrose Path – Rob Thurman

The Bookman – Lavie Tidhar