Thursday, June 30, 2005

Dog of the Bride of the Reanimator?

It seems a Pittsburgh medical research facility has successfully reanimated a dog by draining its blood, replacing it with a cold salt water fuild, and then putting its blood back after the dog was clinically dead for three hours. Apparently, the dogs were fine and did not suffer any brain damage.

This Australian website felt compelled to refer to the dogs as "zombies" and picked a nice picture to go along with the article.

It's always good to hear that America leads the world in "zombie" technology.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Greetings Hairy Ape People of the Past

In the July issue of Wired there is a item about an MIT gathering welcoming time travelers from the future. Despite the invitation, it seemed no one from the future showed up (or did they?). Apparently, the lack of future travelers proved that time travel is impossible. However, the article goes on to list possible reasons for a lack of time travelers, including everything from future disasters to general uninterest in the people of our time.

Here is a picture of one of the attendees.

Interestingly, the idea came from an online comic strip.

Monday, June 27, 2005

CONSUUUUUUME!

Surprisingly, a study by the Sci Fi Channel suggests that advertising on the Sci Fi Channel is a good idea.

However, this study might have a few implications for others serving the same advertising demo.

4th of July Fireworks

Don't forget about the Deep Impact mission this fourth of July. Hopefully it will go better than Cosmos 1. Our national experience with blowing things up bodes well for this mission.

Who Needs that Fiction Part Anyway: NextFest in Chicago

So, I decided to geek it up over the weekend and go to Wired's Nextfest here in Chicago, a sort of new technology exposition. I thought it deserved coverage here because many of the things on display fell into that zone between the technology we are used to seeing and the stuff dreamed about in science fiction.

While there was a fair share of hoe-hum items, here are just a few I thought were note-worthy included:

Robots Everywhere: There were a awful lot of these, including the Robonaut (a space-walking robot, Robolobster (a DARPA-sponsored robotic lobster for detonating mines), The Packbot Scout (a backpack size robot for military scouting), R-Gator (a military robot for patroling a perimeter), The Philip K. Dick Robot (a robotic version of guess who? how aprapo!), Hubo and Chroino (fluid walking Japanese robots), Stinky (the high school student built robot that beat out robots from MIT last year), and two industrial arm robots (programmed to DJ in unison).

Mars Airplane: A prototype of a surveilance airplane probe designed for Mars.

Solar Sail: It was strange to see this on display, given the recent failure of Cosmos 1.

Input Devices Galore: A large number of the items designed to interact with a computers in more interesting ways, including a child's rocking horse, a trendmill for playing first-person shooters, devices that control a game by you blowing into them, and a tiled floor display for playing a pong-like game by walking on it.

... and for some reason there was also a display of the Senseo (a coffee machine) and the Dyson vacuum cleaner (non-suction).

Look Out, SF Market!

Here comes Finland!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Tim T's Stellar Miscellany

Evidence that the space-gods just don't like solar sails.

Evidence that someone really, really should have looked for a hotter volcano.

And evidence that our hearts will always have a place for those grand ol' metal milking-stools. Seriously, Ian Edgington and D'Israeli's online comic looks very promising indeed. Their printed sequel to Wells' story could be worth a look too.

Is Stargate Hiring Every Out-of-Work Sci-Fi Actor?

You may have already noticed that the new season of both Stargate shows have meant quite a few new additions. The changes, however, have left me wondering if Stargate is trying to hire every out-of-work actor with a science fiction show on their resume. You may have already noticed the addition of Ben Browder and Claudia Black the title actors from Farscape. Now, comes news that Lexa Doig, the computer avatar from the show Andromeda will play SG-1's new medical officier.

Andromeda and Farscape were two shows that I never watched regularly. While Farscape seemed like a show I would enjoy, every time a caught an episode it seemed that the cast had changed. What seemed to be frequent changes to what should be relatively stable parts of the show meant that I felt there was simply too much investment in keeping up with the show. Andromeda on the other hand just seemed too flakey.

Julianne Moore Gets Her Sci-Fi On

A recent blurb in The Guardian mentions that Julianne Moore is in talks to play the last pregnant women on earth in the film version of the P.D. James novel Children of Men. Speaking of book adaptations, I always try to read the original book before a movie burns its own imagery into my brain. I have always felt that part of the enjoyment of reading is the trigger it provides to the imagination (What does this character look like?, etc.). Science fiction seems to have even more fertile material for the imagination than your average book. When I read a book after I have seen a film version, some of the enjoyment is gone because I can't get the film's visuals out of my head. So, if you are considering reading Children of Men before the film is released here is the New York Times book review.

Getting back to Julianne Moore, she is also cast in Next a film based on the Philip K. Dick story The Golden Man. The story involves a man who can see into the future and change it any way that he wants. This movie presents me with a dilemma because it also stars Nicholas Cage, an actor who has starred in so many bad movies (Con Air, 8MM, Snake Eyes, Face/Off, Gone in Sixty Seconds, etc. ) that I have made a promise to myself to avoid any movie in which he was cast. After enjoying many of his early films, I have had to break that rule only once recently for the Charlie Kauffman film Adaptation. Until I see a trailer, I am not sure that the powers of Philip K. Dick and Julianne Moore are enough to get me to break the my promise once again. If only I could see my own movie-going future?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

If You Read One Onion...

...make it this one. (Warning: features sound.)

My favorite is the horoscope.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Crossing Out Borders, or America The Obsolete

Charles Stross recently released his new novel, Accelerando, under a Creative Commons license. Details and copies may be found at the book's website, also called "Accelerando!"

The book, from what I have gleaned from a brief skim of the beginning, the website, and the person, is near-future nanopunk (is that a word? It should be--and if it isn't, I may have to pull a Bethke) that describes itself as "a fictional depiction of a possible Technological Singularity lying in our near future."

However, like many near-future SF books written in, oh, the past fifteen years, one of the first bits of worldbuilding Accelerando establishes is a general collapse of the United States as a world power. Here, the action takes place in a Europe filled with "American exiles." For other examples of the form, see Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash or just about anything by Cory Doctorow--most notably the short story I, Robot.

This brings up, to me, an interesting question--how has America changed to science fiction writers, and what does this mean?

Let's start in the 1930s. E. E. "Doc" Smith writes the "Lensman" series, which centers on a world that is, somehow, both very American and very not. The stars of the series are the ultimate Our Heroes, strong, smart, and idealistic, and therefore In Charge--by virtue of their being strong, smart, and idealistic. The election Smith features in First Lensman is, for the first time in American history, completely pure--because of Our Heroes, who naturally go on to win. The bad guys represent the corruption, the graft, the special interests--well, not the last one, but still. It's a whitewashed, sparkling-clean, super-idealistic America, of the type epitomized in the surface culture of the 1950s. Communism gets described in a throwaway line in that same book--it's "yet another government that failed."

Moving on to the Golden Age, America gets a pretty good rep--sort of. Most of the reputation of America in this book follows from Smith; Robert Heinlein continually envisioned America as the optimal government of the future, but the USA itself was usually irredeemable, so he moved it. Red Planet and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress both depict the New America. Asimov centered on New York City in the "Robot" series, and if you've ever heard anything about Asimov you know that his vision of New York was actually a paradise--if, like Asimov, you're claustrophilic. Again, there is the vision of America as is, and the vision of America as could be--the Medievalists indicate this best. The country itself may be lost, but the spirit lives on.

Jumping ahead a little to the 1960s, the American frontier spirit is reborn. Buck Rogers took American ideals to the 25th century, where he fought for freedom against a crushing totalitarian regime. Superman was everpresent in the popular culture, fighting a never-ending battle...you know the rest. Star Trek was the world where the world got better, healed its ills, and humanity didn't fight with humanity anymore; later versions of Trek show that America was at the center of it all. There's a president, there's a Council; the Federation is a working, Utopian America of the future. Phillip K. Dick's The Man In The High Castle showed us what would have happened if America lost World War II and told us all: "Here, but for the grace of God, go we."

In the 1970s, the totalitarian regimes worsened. Star Wars told the story of the defenders of the Republic, who were destroyed by the Empire, and the survivors forming the Rebel Alliance--more properly the Alliance To Restore The Republic. I'll let you draw your own additional conclusions--but remember, the Alliance was made up of alien races and all manner of humans, while the Empire was all white, male, British-accented admirals, generals, and Moffs. Harken back to an older generation, all ye viewers, and know that America is the land of the Republic.

The 1980s were mixed. Cyberpunk showed us a world without borders, and the rise of computers gave birth to a new era of Japanese interest. William Gibson's America was home to the East Coast, the Sprawl, the center of the universe even in cyberspace; but the back-dealing was moved to Japan. At the same time, Orson Scott Card created a world where nobody gave a damn about country--the planet was under attack. However, the moment the war ended, all the countries were at each other's throats...

Now we're coming up on the 1990s and the modern day. America is a dead land, destroying itself through economy, or war, or isolation (Orson Scott Card's "Shadow" series comes to mind, showing us an America that just won't play ball with the rest of humanity and gets left in the dust because of it). But unlike the previous eras, there is no rising Phoenix. Star Wars talks about how greed, manipulation, and politicians bring down the greatest and most civilized society ever. Neal Stephenson just starts post-America, and doesn't even bother to explain what happened--except for references to "hyperinflation."

America is a lost cause, say the writers. The Wave of the Future has passed it by. Naturally, the question comes: Science fiction is the mythology of the scientific-technological culture. Can America escape what is written?

I don't have an answer. If I did, I might write a novel about it.

(Of course, not all the stories of the future are doom-and-gloom. Read some military SF for a vision of an American-influenced, more positive, future. David Weber's "Honor Harrington" series is rather more British than American, with a sleeping giant of future-America with the usual corrupt politicians, but even there we see an American spirit of unity and tolerance. John Ringo's books, to give another example, border on jingoism.)

Saturday, June 18, 2005

"Science Fight" Just Doesn't Have the Same Ring to it as "Food Fight"

It seems science fiction writer, Ron Miller, has jumped into a gay marriage debate in a local Virginia newspaper after a previous letter to the editor attempted to quote various science facts about planet earth (apparently proving that god made the tides to tell us that John and Bob should not be married). Here is the original letter.

Miller is pretty rough on the guy in his response but he probably deserves it for using some very poor science "facts." One of my favorites is when the guy says that the "ocean floor is at a depth that gives us oxygen" and Miller mocks him for thinking oxygen comes from the bottom of the ocean floor. Along with "Never go up against a Silician when death is on the line" and "Never get involved in a land war in Asia" should be "Never quote science to a science fiction writer."

Atwood Needs Science Fiction

Margaret Atwood has a short article over at The Guardian on some of the reasons we need science fiction. She gives a list of things that science fiction can do that realistic fiction cannot do, but I probably would have added a couple things to her list.

One example, she fails to mention that science fiction not only explores the impact of new and proposed technologies, it can guide technology's direction by suggesting whole new technologies. Although it is a rarer type of science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke and the communications satellite comes to mind. How many other technologies were originally inspired by an engineer's favorite bit of science fiction. Atwood's article makes science fiction sound more like an uninvolved social critic (akin to someone who might be a movie reviewer). Yet, I always thought of science fiction (at least a part of it) as part of the process of technological advancement. Isn't that why we are pissed that there are no flying cars?

I am new by the way--So, hello.

Friday, June 17, 2005

So Be It...Geek, or Adventure. Excitement. A Geek Craves Not These Things--What Am I Saying?

Neal Stephenson has written an editorial for the New York Times.

While most of the article is devoted to the dichotomy of geeking out versus vegging out (which Neal uses to explain why the prequels are so different--read, worse) he veers off at the end to draw some...interesting parallels to modern America.

While I'm not sure about his conclusions (though I love some of the imagery), the article is rather thought-provoking and worth a read.

(Credit where credit is due: I got this from BoingBoing.)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Invisible Whistling Octopus Online Library

The works of H P Lovecraft are now free on the Net, courtesy of Dagonbytes. I'm not sure what the copyright situation is with HPL now, so maybe you'd better take advantage of this while it's there.

In other news, the reborn Dr Who is getting its third series.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Appeal Of Gaiman, or Time To Crash Yahoo's Servers!

As reported on Neil Gaiman's blog, Yahoo! Movies has an exclusive teaser trailer for Mirrormask that went live...about twenty minutes ago.

I'm almost surprised the servers weren't too clogged for me to get it, but I did. My reaction?

September 30 is going to be a big day for geek movies.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Batman Begins...Not To Suck Again (credit: John Kovalic), or I...Am...Batman!

Peter David, Writer of Stuff ("Stuff" here includes a brilliant and canceled-before-its-time kids' sci-fi TV show Space Cases, several episodes of Babylon 5 and Crusade, some of the better Star Trek and Babylon 5 novels, an entire Star Trek line, New Frontier which I highly recommend, a small fortune of comics credits including the upcoming Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, and--most importantly for the moment--a blog), has posted a review of Batman Begins. To quote his opening:

"Sturgeon's Law is that 90 percent of everything is crap. So the obvious corollary to that is that 10 percent of everything is gold.

Since no less an authority than Isaac Asimov stated (to me, in fact) that Sturgeon's Law is immutable, then we can assume that 90 percent of everything done with Batman in the past seven decades is crap, and 10 percent is gold.

So what would happen if someone went through and cherry picked all the stuff from that ten percent?

Well, you'd have Batman Begins..."

There are some spoilers, which probably only qualify as real spoilers for the true and complete spoiler virgins, the type who don't watch trailers; and PAD does see its flaws (indeed, the rest of the sentence I stopped at quoting discusses two problems with the film), but...

Dude. It's about time.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Saving Science Fiction, or To Change The Literature Of Change

From the AP through the Kansas City Star:
University program blasting off to save science fiction


I think the creators of this are, well, a little biased, but they're making a few good points. For one, there really isn't enough science fiction in classrooms. (If I had my way every kid in the country would read Ender's Game before the age of fifteen, but that's just me.) And science fiction does have a problem of losing ground to the "general" market.

However, I don't think I like the idea of centralizing the science fiction landscape. One of the most beautiful parts of science fiction are the people, and the ways that they find each other and form groups.

I suppose we'll see what this brings...

You Do Indeed Count For Something.

The look is softer, and the main character's name is no longer that of a popular brand of vibrator.

Loonatics II: Do You Hate Us Slightly Less Now?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Daleknapped, or Exterminate! Exterminate! Ex--*snap* Ow.

Dalek 'kidnappers' demand Doctor

Given that this was apparently an original prop, I'm glad the thieves took care not to damage it, but the real gem of the article is this: "The police think it was probably taken by kids or students, but there is also the idea that it could be heading to Edinburgh for the G8 protests."

A Dalek at a G8 protest. I don't know: are they going to try to unleash its destructive fury (good luck, you removed the weaponry), or are they trying to send a message about the G8's power or authority--"they are conquering the world"?

I don't know, but I think I'm going to be keeping an eye on the protest...

(Credit to the find goes to The Weasel King.)

My Name's T Campbell...

...and I approve this comic-book adaptation.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Blink and you'll miss Crispin Freeman

Tonight, I was privileged to attend a preview screening of Howl's Moving Castle. Americans, you have no excuse not to go see this if it's opening in your city this weekend. None. None.

The usual caveats regarding a Hayao Miyazaki film stand firm, of course. There is a certain amount of black, oozing, moderately anthropomorphic evil. (Several of the lessons from Princess Mononoke are in play here, particularly around the hench.) You will believe that Nausicaa is making a walk-on.

We'll cope.

The dub is near as dammit exquisite. There are one or two run-together dub lines you know the kinds where they don't quite get the period in the right place there was a lip flap problem you see, but I do mean "one or two" and not "one or two dozen." I was a bit frustrated that Sophie and her sister managed to have the only two British accents in a sea of Americans -- this struck me as a wasted opportunity to engage a variety of disparate British regional accents; at the very least, the Rimmer/Lister dichotomy would have worked here -- but, well, American dub. And Sophie is very well portrayed, particularly in her oldest form. I'm not 100% certain that Billy Crystal was the way to go for the fire demon, but he certainly wasn't dissonant in the way Phil Hartman's (admittedly well-executed) Jiji was in Kiki's Delivery Service. These are nits.

Go. It's beautiful. It's beautiful.

No, I did not catch a screening in the UK; first chance I know of that you'll have to see it there is at Worldcon this August. I'm in America this month.

You Just Can't Stop That Signal, or Post-Pre-Screening Screening

Another round of Serenity screenings has been announced. 35 different cities have been lined up for this round, and--amazingly--apparently only one of them has been marked as "Sold Out."

Head over to Can't Stop The Signal to see if you can get lucky with the tickets, or if the list of tickets available is merely very out of date.

(Oh, and...Hi. I'm new.)

Last Chance to See

A small programming note: Tonight marks the premiere of The Inside, Fox's new FBI Profiler drama.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "Ooooh! Another FBI Profiler / Serial Killer Drama! What a unique and precious thing this is, utterly unprecedented in the long history of June 8, 2005!"

Well, sure, the whole genre has been done to death, repeatedly, in a ritualistic fashion; but take a gander at the names associated with this one: Tim Minear, Ben Edlund, Jane Espenson, David Fury, and Howard Gordon.

That's more than half of Team Whedon right there; if they could figure out a way to include Marti Noxon and David Greenwalt, they'd have pretty much the full set.

Throw in Adam Baldwin and Wonderfalls' Katie Finneran, and you have all the ingredients for a compelling, entertaining, intelligent drama which Fox will cancel after four episodes. So hurry up and get on board now, so that you can be crushed by the inevitable disappointment later!

"My College Is Cooler Than Your College."

"Oh yeah? My college has the world's first website dedicated to science fiction research AND a master's degree in the subject."

"Uhhhhhhhhhh... well... our football team kicks... uh..." (falls silent in humilated defeat)

Thanks to A.G. Hopkins for the tip.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

I Have A Guess. It Involves Effigies.

"It's going to be fascinating to see what fandom does when faced with this stuff."

The above sentence is NEVER GOOD NEWS.

It's nice to see that the end of Star Trek and Star Wars hasn't kept us from finding new ways to torture fans.

"Let's jab red-hot knitting needles into their eyes. It'll be fascinating to see what they do."

I know, I know, wait till we see it, everything can be fixed in post, Brett Ratner's really a nice guy, I know.

I wonder if these horrible-sounding rumors are a marketing ploy to make the actual film look like ten kinds of brilliance by comparison...

First kite in the wind from the sun

Cosmos 1, first ever solar-sail spacecraft, is going up on June 21st.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Ancient Greek SF

Rock on, Dr Ni-Mheallaigh.

Return of the Ram

After having to stop work on the comic, Brian Daniel is continuing his Saga of the Ram as a text story:

Tales of the Ram