Wow.  The Babylon 5 Scripts team keeps finding more ways to get my money.  The latest: The Chronologies of Babylon 5.  And it includes every single piece of B5 canon, down to the six short stories JMS wrote after the series ended and even the unproduced Crusade scripts.

The script books have mostly been interesting for the commentary and supplemental material. Though I was disappointed that they couldn’t get Neil Gaiman to write an intro for his Day of the Dead script in the latest volume. It just reprinted the contents of the solo script book you can get from the CBLDF, which has a brief intro by JMS and a handful of footnotes by Neil Gaiman.

So, here’s what we’ve got so far (including what’s been announced):

  • 15 volumes of Babylon 5 scripts by J. Michael Straczynski.
  • 3 volumes of “Other Voices,” the B5 scripts by other writers.
  • 1 volume of the B5 TV movie scripts (announced).
  • 1 volume of chronology (with a Q&A and presumably commentary).

In theory, that covers everything except Crusade, which is what I’m really looking forward to. Probably two or three volumes, and I’d hope they’d include the unproduced scripts. IIRC there are two by JMS and one by Fiona Avery, and the Chronology list mentions one that was assigned but not written. The two JMS scripts used to be available online through some PITA Java-based reader that theoretically prevented people from copying the text (though that can’t stop screenshots or manual transcription), but also made it really difficult to do things like scroll. The site folded years ago, probably in the dot-com crunch, and they haven’t seen the light of day since. I remember one of them contained the first indication of a link between Techno-Mages and the Shadows.

Back to the chronology: on one hand, it feels like they’re starting to milk the audience for all it’s worth now that they’ve seen the success of the script book series.  On the other hand, it’s only one additional volume.  And it looks really cool…

American GodsFor the month of March, Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods will be available to read online, free of charge. This is part of a promotion by Harper Collins where they’re putting a bunch of books online, figuring that reading them will get people interested in buying more of the authors’ works.

Yeah, it’s sort of a “first hit is free” take on reading. But considering how finishing the first books of two different Julie Czerneda series had me running around the county to find the rest of each trilogy, there may be something to it.

(via Neil Gaiman, with a follow-up on the nature of free)

Species Imperative: SurvivalJulie E. Czerneda — read the Species Imperative trilogy in October and was very impressed. To read: 2 trilogies, 1 stand-alone, start of a new series. I think I’ll pick up the first book in the Trade Pact Universe next.

MindscanRobert J. Sawyer — read the Neanderthal Parallax trilogy a year or two ago, and more recently Calculating God. Currently reading Mindscan. His work tends to be social science-fiction: if X technological advance occurs, or Y scientific principle is discovered, what impact will that have on society? To read: 9 more stand-alone novels and a trilogy. Could take a while.

ChronolithsRobert Charles Wilson — read Chronoliths, Darwinia and Bios within the space of a few months of each other, maybe around 5 years ago. To read: 10 novels.

Strangely enough, looking them up I’ve discovered that all 3 of them are Canadian.

Also: Two authors I’d really like to see more from:

Briar KingGreg Keyes — I was introduced to his work through his Babylon 5 novels (back when he was writing as J. Gregory Keyes), then went on to track down his own work. The Age of Unreason cycle is also quite good, and I’ve previously reviewed The Waterborn and Blackgod. At this point, I’ve read every novel he’s published. The Born Queen comes out in March, finishing the 4-book Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone cycle, which means I need to start re-reading the first three books next month.

American GodsNeil Gaiman — dark fantasy, mythic fantasy, whatever you want to call it. Discovered through Sandman (yeah, big surprise). My favorite of his novels is probably either American Gods or Neverwhere. Need to track down more of his short stories, though.

I’ve previously mentioned that Gaiman and Keyes are the only authors whose work I’ll immediately pick up in hardcover, no questions asked.

Update: A year later, how’d I do?

Stardust PosterWent out to see Stardust with a group of friends, and we all enjoyed it. People have been comparing it to The Princess Bride, and it’s an apt comparison: both are light-hearted fantasy adventures with a love story at the heart. Stardust takes itself a bit more seriously, though there’s plenty of humor.

The concept: Three groups of people pursue a fallen star (in this world, a woman). Tristran wants to bring the star back to impress a girl. The cruel princes of Stormhold are seeking the necklace she wears; the one who claims the gem claims the throne. The witch Lamia wants to cut out her heart to restore her own youth for another 400 years. Tristran gets there first, but has to bring her back without the more malicious seekers reaching her.

There’s swordplay, magic, betrayal, comedy, and romance. Michelle Pfeiffer throws herself gleefully into her role as the witch Lamia. Prince Septimus oozes slime as a cross between Prince Humperdink and Professor Snape. And Robert De Niro’s Captain Shakespeare is… indescribable. Charlie Cox as Tristran and Claire Danes as Yvaine (the star) manage to hold their own with the impressive cast of villains and supporting characters.

I was the only one of the four who had read the original novel by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess, but for the most part I didn’t mind the changes. I did think the climactic battle got a bit overblown after a while, and I really missed one aspect of Una’s character which is revealed near the end of the book.

On a related note, it seems that in the last 3 weeks, the movie “adaptation” (and I use the term loosely) of The Dark Is Rising has been retitled as The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising, probably reflecting how far it seems to have strayed from the source material.

Stardust does it right: change the details, or even the structure if you have to, to make it work in a different medium. But stay true to the heart and spirit of the book.