Monthly Archives: March 2006

Currently Reading…

stars Agent to the Stars, by John Scalzi

Before I read Scalzi’s Hugo-nominated novel, Old Man’s War, I thought I’d read the first novel he’d written and which, following Cory Doctorow’s example, he made available online for free (although I read the hardcover version. The experience was a delight.

This is a very silly, irreverent story. But then, I’m attracted to silly and irreverent, so I fell into the book with a big splash then swam to the end in a few hours.

Tom Stein, a young Hollywood agent, is hired by aliens to figure out a way to introduce them to the human race without said human race freaking out. There’s reason for that: the Yherajk, although intelligent and polite, look like the Blob on a good day, and communicate by farting. They need an image.

Despite being a first book, the story feels polished and is full of delicious details on the biz. The tone, as I said, is irreverent and Hollywoodian: gossippy, a bit mean, biting and sharp. The story has no pretension. It’s just plain fun.

Well worth reading, especially as a pick-me-up end of winter blues.

Correction of entry above, made at 16:00: John mentions that he offered Agent in 1999 online, before Cory Doctorow ever offered his first novel. See John’s comment attached to the entry.

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Hugo Award and John W. Campbell Award Nominations

The nominations for this year’s Hugo awards and John W. Campbell award for Best New Writer have been announced. The awards will be presented at LA Con IV (the 64th World Science Fiction Convention) in Anaheim, Calif., from Aug. 23 to Aug. 27, 2006. Congratulations to Robert Charles Wilson, Robert J. Sawyer, and Cory Doctorow for their nomination.


  • Charles Stross – Accelerando
  • George R.R. Martin – A Feast for Crows
  • Ken MacLeod – Learning the World
  • John Scalzi – Old Man’s War
  • Robert Charles Wilson – Spin


  • James Patrick Kelly – Burn
  • Robert J. Sawyer – Identity Theft
  • Connie Willis – Inside Job
  • Ian McDonald – The Little Goddess
  • Kelly Link – Magic for Beginners


  • Paolo Bacigalupi – The Calorie Man
  • Cory Doctorow – I, Robot
  • Howard Waldrop – The King of Where-I-Go
  • Michael A. Burstein – TelePresence
  • Peter S. Beagle – Two Hearts

Short Story

  • Dominic Green – The Clockwork Atom Bomb
  • Mike Resnick – Down Memory Lane
  • Michael A. Burstein – Seventy-Five Years
  • Margo Lanagan – Singing My Sister Down
  • David D. Levine – Tk’tk’tk

Related Book

  • Gary Westfahl – Science Fiction Quotations
  • David Langford – The SEX Column and Other Misprints
  • Gary K. Wolfe – Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996
  • Kate Wilhelm – Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop
  • Mike Ashley – Transformations: The Story of the Science Fiction Magazines from 1950 to 1970

Dramatic Presentation: Long Form

  • Batman Begins
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Serenity
  • Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Dramatic Presentation: Short Form

  • Battlestar Galactica – “Pegasus”
  • Doctor Who – “The Empty Child” & The Doctor Dances”
  • Doctor Who – “Dalek”
  • Doctor Who – “Father’s Day”
  • Jack-Jack Attack
  • Lucas Back in Anger

Prix Victor Hugo Awards Ceremony

Professional Editor

  • Ellen Datlow
  • David G. Hartwell
  • Stanley Schmidt
  • Gordon Van Gelder
  • Sheila Williams

Professional Artist

  • Jim Burns
  • Bob Eggleton
  • Donato Giancola
  • Stephan Martiniere
  • John Picacio
  • Michael Whelan


  • Ansible
  • Emerald City
  • Interzone
  • Locus

The New York Review of Science Fiction


  • Banana Wings
  • Challenger
  • Chunga
  • File 770
  • Plokta

Fan Writer

  • Claire Brialey
  • John Hertz
  • Dave Langford
  • Cheryl Morgan
  • Steven H. Silver

Fan Artist

  • Brad Foster
  • Teddy Harvia
  • Sue Mason
  • Steve Stiles
  • Frank Wu

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer

  • K.J. Bishop
  • Sarah Monette
  • Chris Roberson
  • Brandon Sanderson
  • John Scalzi
  • Steph Swainston

For more details, check out Locus online.

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Evolution: it’s not over

Researchers have performed a study involving 209 individuals from all over the world, seeking to identify genetic differences that would show the changes that occurred in the past 10,000 years: “the advent of agriculture, shifts in diet, new habitats, climatic conditions”, for instance. The study was published online March 7 in the research journal Public Library of Science – Biology.

According to the theory, the most favored genes should spread so rapidly through a population that there’s little time for a gene shuffling that occurs each generation, called recombination, to change nearby genes. This produces a characteristic homogeneity among the chromosomes carrying that gene variant. Pritchard and colleagues scanned the data for genomic regions fitting this pattern.

Scientist found two “new” genes, the salt-sensitive hypertension gene, and the lactase gene, that were spread throughout the European test subjects.

The genes found to have the strongest evidence of “positive selection”—that is, of being evolutionarily favored—included genes related to smell, reproduction-related processes and carbohydrate metabolism[…]

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