Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Alaskan Fire-Spewing Robots and Cancelled TV Shows

Here is a Wired Magazine blurb about a guy that built his own Mech.

Wired also has a short timeline on how dedicated fans of Joss Whedon's Firefly television show helped get a movie made for a show that had been cancelled.

Volkswagens in Outer Space!

Although hopefully not fiction, there is a pretty good article in the September issue of Discover about the private space rocket company SpaceX and its hopes to build a rocket that will not only go beyond SpaceShipOne's record, but result in a cheap (well relatively cheap at $6.5 million) alternative to launch 1,400-pound payloads into orbit. The article says that the current cost for getting similar payloads to orbit is roughly $30 million. The company hopes its cheaper rockets will do for spacecraft what the 1960's Volkwagen Beetle did for oversized and overpriced cars.

I hope they come with an FM radio.

Monday, August 29, 2005

I, For One, Am Our New Bloggish Overlord

It was almost dawn when the doorbell rang.

The sky was the color of a television tuned to a dead camel as I threw on my third-best robe and stumbled out into the hall. Peering down at the faceted glass of the front door, I could just barely make out a figure, or figures, waiting in the crepuscular gloom of our front porch.

Carefully avoiding the big momma cat on the top stair, I made my way down the front steps into the foyer, still trying to see who had woken me. For a moment, I thought it was a pair of young girls, but by the time I made it to the landing, I was sure that the nearest figure was male. He was wearing a dark outfit of some kind — a suit, maybe? Some government agent and his adventurous sidekick, perhaps?

By the time I made it to the door, I could tell that the "government agent" was just a regular guy in jeans, and that what I had thought was a dark and sexy Suicide Girl standing next to him was actually some kind of large gnarled staff in his right hand. He looked at me as I opened the door, and said "WheeeeOOOOOOOP! Whoooop Whoooop WHOOOOOOOP! WheeeeOOOOOOOP! Whoooop Whoooop WHOOOOOOOP!"

Realizing my mistake, I waved my arms at the stranger in a wild, vague gesture, and ran into the kitchen to turn off the burglar alarm.

Returning to the foyer, I finally got a good look at my guest. He was young, with a pleasant face and a sly intelligence in his eyes; under his wizard's cloak, he had a simple black t-shirt with the word "Believe" written on it.

"Raymond Radlein," he intoned as the end of his staff burst into flame. "I am here to Pass On the Torch. It is time to Claim Your Destiny! I am here to bestow upon you the Power of Blog!"

"The pow—" I began to ask, only to be cut off.

"The Power of Blog is the Power of The Future!" he proclaimed, shaking his staff around like a spear of burning gold. "It is the Power of Inter-net! With Blog, all ideas are possible! You make thought here, it winds up there! Your thoughts, they fly around the world! The poor goat farmer on a lonely mountaintop in far-off Kansas-land can read your words as easily as the trendy businessman waiting for his rocket-taxi! Your powers will be beyond dreams!"

"Can I share information about new developments in Science Fiction?" I asked.

"Yes! Yes!" he enthused. "This you can do, and more!"

"Can I discuss Science Fiction Fandom, conventions, and other fannish activity?" I asked.

"Yes! Yes! Discuss them like the mighty wind, you can!" he cried, sweeping the flaming staff through the air in a great arc.

"Can I pull a new word out of my ass and get it into Wikipedia?" I asked.

"No, so sorry," he said, "you cannot. But you can pull other things out of your ass!"

"I'll do it, then!" I shouted, as he thrust the torch at me. "I will seize my Destiny!"

"WheeeeOOOOOOOP! Whoooop Whoooop WHOOOOOOOP! WheeeeOOOOOOOP! Whoooop Whoooop WHOOOOOOOP!" said the alarm system, as our curtains went up in flames.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Speaking of Hugo Gernsback...

It's been a while since I've had any Interaction with you, so this is a good time to mention that the final results of the 2005 Hugo Awards are now available from this year's Worldcon.

Highlights include Susanah Clarke's widely-expected Best Novel victory for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Dave Langford's dual win for Best Dave Langford and for Best Semiprozine ("I can't help but say how semi-professional I feel," he enthused), and Battlestar Galactica's Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form victory for the episode "33," which defeated, among others, the series finale of Angel.

Looking over the detailed voting breakdown [PDF File], the closest contests were Best Fanzine, where Cheryl Morgan's Emerald City lead eventual winner Plokta all the way up until the final round of balloting, at which point the Plokta Cabal received the vast majority of the rollover votes from third place finisher Banana Wings; and Best Web Site, where Locus Online similarly lead eventual winner SciFiction until losing by one vote on the final ballot.

In other Awards news, the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer went to Elizabeth Bear, and the Sidewise Awards for Alternate History went to Philip Roth's Pulitzer Prize winning The Plot Against America (Long Form) and Warren Ellis and Chris Wesson's Ministry of Space (Short Form). The Prometheus Awards for Libertarian SF featured a Best Novel win for Neal Stephenson's The System of the World, and a Hall of Fame Award for A.E. van Vogt's The Weapon Shops of Isher.

Since last year's Worldcon ratified a move from a three-year site selection process to a two-year site selection cycle, there was no voting for the location of the 2007 Worldcon conducted this year, given that it had already been awarded to Yokohama during the final three-year balloting at Noreascon 4 in Boston.

The other significant bit of Worldcon business that took place in Glasgow was the preliminary decision, by a vote of 51–6 at the Business Meeting, to split the Best Editor category into Best Editor (Short Fiction) and Best Editor (Long Fiction). This differs slightly from the initial "Books vs. Magazines" proposal, in that editors of book-length anthologies of short fiction would compete with editors of magazines (actually, many of them are the same people), leaving editors who primarily work with novels (such as David G. Hartwell or the Nielsen Haydens) to compete against each other on the basis of the quality of the various novels which they brought to market during the previous year. The measure would still have to be ratified at LA Con IV next year before it could become official.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Gernsback Continues, or Space Flight: The Next Generation

The New York Times reports that NASA is beginning a redesign of its spacecraft and abandoning the principles that went into the space shuttle, while keeping some of the components (allowing them to keep their contractors and technologies).

They also include mockups of the vehicles. The general principle is to separate the cargo-hauler from the crew vehicle, and make both of them more like traditional rockets.

As a professed space freak, as well as a pulp SF nut, I'd like to first say that I like the new look. All we need is to plate the entire thing in chrome, throw on some fins, and we're set.

More importantly, the fact that they're coming out and saying "Look, the shuttle didn't work, we're building something that will, and we're going back to the principles that got us to the Moon" is encouraging. This is the first sign that my fears about the space program may not all come true. Next, we need the next generation of space jocks, who won't abandon launches over the failure of one of four redundant gauges...

(P.S. Dear NASA: I'm interested. Email me if you need people.)