Aug 262014

Lock InHappy news today for fans of John Scalzi: his latest novel, Lock In, is available now! For those who are most familiar with Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series and Redshirts, this is a very different flavor. It’s science fiction, it’s a murder mystery, and it’s got some elements of both cyber-punk and dystopia; it’s a unique blend that works well.

The novel is set in a near-future world where a global pandemic of a disease called Haden’s Syndrome has killed more than 400 million people on Earth, and left many of its survivors permanently altered, either mentally, physically, or both. Some survivors were left in a state of “lock in,” where their bodies are incapacitated, but their minds work (more or less) normally. The locked-in people use implanted neural nets to interact with each other in a virtual online world called The Agora, and also to interface with robotic bodies, which allow them to move around in the physical world. A very small number of other survivors (about 100,000, worldwide) are left with able bodies, but their brain structure is changed, creating what are called “integrators.” Integrators can allow a locked-in person to take over and “ride” in their body, instead of using a robotic body.  The integrators are tightly screened and regulated for providing this service, in order to prevent abuse.

Lock In begins with Chris Shane, a locked-in Haden, on his first day at the FBI. The ink is barely dry on his new-hire paperwork when he is called to the scene of a murder at the Watergate Hotel, where he meets his new partner, agent Leslie Vann. Vann and Shane work for a special division of the FBI, dedicated to investigating crimes involving Hadens and integrators. The suspect found on-scene is an integrator, which leaves everyone wondering whether the integrator committed the crime, whether it was a Haden client who was using his body at the time, or whether it was someone else entirely? And this is just the opening scene! The story’s complexity grows exponentially, and in ways you’ll never see coming.

It’s amazing to me how much action and intrigue is crammed into this 334-page novel. Then again, this is Scalzi we’re talking about, here. In his very succinct, screenplay-like style, he’s created an experience for the reader which is exhilarating and addictive, without being overwhelming. The imagery has a cinematic quality, too, which only helps to further submerge the reader into this (deliciously) bizarre world. It would have been so easy to screw this one up: uncountable ways in which the reader could have been left scratching his head, disconnected from the story. Yet, as always, Scalzi lights up a path that a reader simply cannot help but follow with growing anticipation and curiosity.

When you get your copy, be prepared to stay up late reading; you won’t want to put it down. Even when your eyes are bleary and you are fighting to stay awake, when you put the book down, it will keep calling to you until you pick it up again. The Tor Books website has Lock In listed on its “Series” page, and I certainly hope this means we have more novels to look forward to in this world, with these characters.

Starting at 11:59 p.m. Pacific tonight, August 26, 2014, you’ll have a chance to win an Advance Reading Copy of Lock In, along with a really cool Lock In key fob! Use the contest widget below to enter. Contest runs through 11:59 p.m. Pacific on September 1, 2014. Winner will be announced on September 2, 2014.


Aug 222014
Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, 1920 - 2012

Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, 1920 – 2012

by Gene Turnbow, station manager

Ray Bradbury, one of the world’s most notable secular humanists and one of the greatest writers of all time, came to speak in Simi Valley, California one Sunday in October of 2009, and I took the family to see him. It was a fundraiser for the city library – Mr. Bradbury was a huge supporter of civic libraries. It was a small gathering, but I figured I probably wouldn’t get very many more chances to meet him. He was already quite elderly, eighty-nine years old and had had a stroke that confined him to a wheelchair and made communicating very difficult for him. He was still writing, though, having just published We’ll Always Have Paris, a collection of his short stories – and working on a new book as well, despite the stroke.

I can think of few people who have influenced me in my life as much as Ray Bradbury. I’ve been reading his work since I was about fourteen years old, when The Martian Chronicles was assigned reading in school. I’d met him on three occasions, each time about fifteen years apart. And each time, I came away with something new, something remarkable, that kept me going for the next fifteen years. This most recent time was no exception.

We gave him a standing ovation as the attendant wheeled his chair up onto the stage, another attendant pouring him a glass of red wine, which I have come to know is something of a tradition when he comes to speak anywhere now – or if not, then I’m sure he would not have minded my implying that it was.

He gave the same speech he gave the last time I had seen him speak, fifteen years prior. A lungful of air was only good for three or four words, and he was weary with the effort of speaking at all. But he pressed on, sometimes quiet, sometimes passionate, and the audience broke out into laughter or applause at various points. He closed his eyes, and tilted his head back and concentrated on his own words. He was clearly reciting his speech by heart – or was it his heart that was reciting his speech for him?

aPlusFromRayBradburyAs this icon of two centuries spoke, telling us of his early days as a writer and how each of his major works came about, he kept coming back to one unifying thread: love.

It was the power of love itself that kept him going through the entire lecture, and you could see that as he spoke, the reason he was able to do it was that the love of his craft propelled every word from his lips. As he spoke, he became stronger, not weaker, and the importance of every word rang true, both for him, and for us. He loved what he did, and he did what he loved, and this was itself the important message he wanted to bring to us.

“Do what you love, and love what you do.  Nothing else matters. Love, you see, is everything,” he said. “If you want to paint, or direct, or act, or write, do it. Don’t just think about it, do it! If you do what you love and you love what you do, you won’t fail. Gather your courage and jump off the cliff! You can build your wings on the way down.”

We gave him another standing ovation as he left the stage.

It was a watershed moment for me. I’d just been given permission to believe in myself without reservation. I’d always wanted to believe in myself that way, but you know how it is – you think to yourself, “I’m just me!  Who am I to believe that everything will come out all right just because I think so?”

But right before he went up to speak, I’d drawn a sketch of Ray in pencil on the back of a program. I modestly showed it to him and told him I hoped it was okay that I’d done it. He took the paper from me, and marked it “A+”, autographed it and handed it back.

“A-Plus!”  he said.  “A-Plus!”, he said again, as he shook my hand.

I guess now I have the permission I needed.

Thank you,Ray. For all of it.

And happy birthday, wherever you are.

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Aug 212014

Penumbraby Zoe de Lellis and Aly Runke, contributing writers


Way back in 2012, a little book burst onto the New York Times’ Bestseller List, a debut novel by Robin Sloan. His novel Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore has since garnered an even wider audience than in its debut year. I first encountered this novel in 2013 when I saw it on a summer reads wish list and was drawn in by the cover. I sought it out for almost three months with no luck before finally finding it in a local bookstore.

The story is about Clay Jannon. On his San Francisco job hunt, he comes across Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and the eccentric clientele it serves. The book has mystery, technology, romance, humor, and so much more!! I fell in love with it from the first few pages and have recommended it to many of my peers. I also had the privilege of having written to and received a response from Robin Sloan about his novel and our respective writing experiences.

My favorite part of the reading experience is that Sloan incorporates modern technology with his own imagination to create a novel that is unpredictable throughout.



Zoe is, in fact, the reason I picked Penumbra up in the first place. I had heard of it and after her gushing and accolades, I knew I’d have to read it. This summer I found a copy of this elusive book and devoured it. The characters enchanted me and it was so in the present with the book and tech worlds and how they mesh or don’t mesh in our world today. Another fun tidbit: the paperback cover glows on the dark! Definitely a cool addition to your bookshelves.

Robin Sloan is supposed to be writing another novel, not many details have been revealed, but regardless, I’m positive I’ll be picking it up!

Robin Sloan:

In 2013, Robin Sloan spoke in a Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (LATFOB) panel called “Fiction from the 21st Century.” When asked how Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore came to be, Sloan said, “The seed of the story was actually a Tweet that a friend sent back in 2008. I can remember so vividly, walking down the street, scrolling though Twitter, and I found this Tweet, which said, ‘Just misread a sign that said 24-hour book drop as 24-hour book shop. My disappointment was beyond words.’  Immediately, I thought, ‘What goes on in a 24-hour bookstore?’ and we were off to the races.

“I think of myself as more of a sci-fi reader than a literary fiction reader. This is not science fiction, but it’s larded with homage and references. This is kind of the trick of setting a book in a bookstore: you get to stock the bookstore, you get to choose what titles are on the shelves and kind of talk about them and talk about the editions, so there are dozens and dozens of sciece fiction books that I love, that are in this book, and I think of them as sort of that secret signal that sign of the secret society of people who love these books.”


Aug 072014

We love starships.  They’re the magical conveyances that can take ordinary people like us within reach of extraordinary adventure. They’re our protectors, our friends and our constant companions as our imaginary alter egos explore the galaxy. That must be why this video by Bironic resonates.

Originally produced by video editor Bironic for VividCon 2012, this jaw-dropping music video uses Nicki Minaj’s ‘Starship!’ as a sound track.  It’s a celebration of pilots, captains, engineers, crew members, and the spacecraft they love to fly.

Here are all the movies and TV shows Bironic used: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien/Aliens, Apollo 13, Archer, Battlestar Galactica (2004-8), Cocoon, Community, Doctor Who (2005-), Dune, Farscape, The Fifth Element, Firefly/Serenity, Forbidden Planet, Futurama, Galaxy Quest, Independence Day, The Muppet Show, Odyssey 5, Planet of the Apes (1968), Spaceballs, Star Trek (TOS, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager; movies II, IV, VII, VIII and XI/Reboot), Star Wars IV & V, Stargate: Atlantis, Stargate SG-1, Sunshine, Superman (1978), Toy Story 2, Virtuality, WALL-E.

Warning:  this video uses the original version of the song, so it’s got some not-safe-for-work language in it. Probably not safe for kids either – but the version we play on Krypton Radio is the family-safe version.


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Jul 312014
Legendary makeup effects designer Dick Smith, dead at 93.

Legendary makeup effects designer Dick Smith, dead at 93.

by Gene Turnbow, station manager

Dick Smith, the patriarch of makeup effects in motion pictures, died on July 30, 2014, at age 92.

Smith’s work was legendary. His work spans the decades, and includes such creations as Linda Blair’s possessed form in The Exorcist, aging Marlon Brando into Don Corleone in The Godfather, and F. Murray Abraham into a wizened Antonio Salieri in Amadeus. Smith began his career in 1945 as head of the NBC-TV makeup department in New York between 1945 and 1959, and personally applied all the major makeups. It’s been Smith writing the definitive how-to books on makeup and makeup effects from the ’60s through the late ’80s. It was Smith who pioneered many of  the makeup effects techniques used today, including the use of foam latex in makeup appliances, making possible the effects in hundreds of science fiction and fantasy films.

Smith was given an honorary Governor’s Academy Award in 2012 for his contribution to the field, which was presented by his protege, Rick Baker. Just this year, Smith received the Makeup Artists Lifetime Achievement Award at the Makeup Artists and Hair Stylist Guild Awards in January.

“Rarely have there been make-up artists with the legendary inventiveness, creativity and artistic excellence of Dick Smith,” Makeup Artists’ Guild President Sue Cabral-Ebert said of Smith. “Dick’s transparency and willingness to share the secrets of the craft have been the catalyst for young make-up artists all over the world to follow their imaginations and dreams.”

Smith is survived by wife Jocelyn De Rosa and two children.

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Jul 222014

by Karina “Cinerina” Montgomery, contributing writer

If you’re just now joining this series, we have already discussed tips for out-of-towners, tips and tricks to make things easier, and attitude and manners. As you know, Preview night is TOMORROW and then it’s four wonderful days of action, adventure, spending, crowds, lines, and fun. Find a meet-up for your favorite group of folks, be it Marvel or DC cosplayers, Trekkers, Browncoats, Twihards, Steampunks, Homestuck, Furries, Night Vale, Sleepyheads – there’s something for everyone. Or rove the con like a leaf on the wind – sometimes that leads to the best accidental discoveries.

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I’ve said a lot before about pacing yourself but this is Comic-Con! You can sleep Monday when you call in with nerd flu. Live it up – you have no idea how many people could not get tickets to this event.


Uh oh! Someone’s got a case of the Mondays!

Wireless access at SDCC

A con-goer’s best friend

Communications Officer

Wireless access: It’s there! A booster antenna is planted every few feet in the convention center, but your fellow nerds have a LOT of tech, so it’s pretty glutted. Your batteries will drain faster than normal no matter how good they are. Post responsibly. That said, if you get a picture of yourself with Nathan Fillion giving you a high five, POST THAT IMMEDIATELY! The 4GB video of the cast of Falling Skies talking about script revisions: that can wait until you get back to wherever you’re staying. Public transportation in San Diego does not have wireless access. This means using Twitter to let people know where you are will be time delay nightmare. Text, or better yet plan ahead.

Don't let this happen to you.

Don’t let this happen to you.


Quiet offsite places and/or good places to set pre-determined rendezvous points: Nerd HQ, Petco Park, the Sails Pavilion, the Mezzanine, the patio, the big steps on the front of the convention center, or one of the bars and restaurants nearby.

Your badge is a treasure coveted by many: keep an eye on it, and when entering restricted areas, have it out and ready to scan, even if you tuck it inside your costume to keep your cosplay pure. Badge access gets you into a lot of things, but there is a lot that goes on around the convention center that does not require a badge. Explore downtown and see all the fun stuff going on outside the convention center. Catch a concert or a show!


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Julie, Your Cruise Director says plan, but don’t over-plan

By now you should already have looked at the programming schedule online. So now you are probably going “OK, at 2 there is this and at 3 there is this…” slow down, partner. Definitely add everything you want to do into MySched or on your iPhone/Android – it’s a phenomenal tool to use when the schedule is as varied and packed as SDCC’s is – but be sure to allow for travel time, bathroom or food breaks, and just be realistic. When will you even get to the vendor floor, where all the good people watching is? There is a ton of stuff to actually do down there, too, it’s not just shopping.


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Fill up your schedule with stuff you want to see, and then pick out the ones that you really don’t want to miss. Or things that you are cool with seeing that are right before the thing you MUST see. And then line up some alternates in case the room is full or you get waylaid. Flexibility is key. You don’t want to Hulk out and ruin your own day.


Rest. Sit. Eat. Hydrate. Mints.

Walking around talking and snacking all day, cheering your fan favorites, or just gaping at all the wonders will give you sewer breath. Bring some mints and don’t be shy about sharing with those in need. It’s all about getting along.

Don’t make me call security.

Bring sunscreen! Sharing is caring.

Most true nerds come with a “Keep out of direct sunlight” label affixed to them somewhere, but at San Diego Comic Con, especially if you wait to get into Ballroom 20 or Hall H (or any offsite location), you will be in the sun, and it can burn you pretty quickly. I go into some additional detail about things to pack in part 2 of this series, but really, sunscreen cannot be dismissed.

When in line: keep a small footprint, keep the line tight so they can fit as many as possible without interrupting foot traffic flow around you. A gap means someone might not get in. Would you want that to be you? Be cool and help your compatriots out if they are alone and need to zip away for a bathroom break. Buy a loyal line buddy a snow cone if they hold your place.

This is the best place in the world to interact with fellow fans and chat with folks. Don’t just hide in your phone! You can tweet later about how you wish you had a hat or sunscreen right now.

DO NOT PUT YOUR BAGS IN THE CHAIR next to you unless you are for real saving a seat for a real person who is really coming. If you must sit on an aisle, put your stuff in your seat and stand up so everyone can squeeze in.




Cheap and awesome!

Cheap and awesome!

Darsek, Spice, GIL, Kalganids, Galleons, Crindars, Septim, and Credits

I’m here to tell you, if you aren’t tightly disciplined, it’s very hard to not spend more than you planned at Comic-Con. Whether it’s a chance to buy an autograph unexpectedly to the perfect t-shirt that sums up your personal philosophy, you’re going to buy stuff you didn’t intend to. Thanks to the future, many (but not all) vendor floor merchants can accept Square or a few similar phone-based payment services. Bring a bunch of one dollar bills for buying things like pins or stickers; using your debit card for that is just mean. Get registered with Square ahead of time (choosing email receipt by default) and you can make your transaction faster for everyone. You can also get into their system by using Square with your intended card at a restaurant or some such before you come to SDCC.

Exploration Achievements

Despite the masses of humanity surging around you, enjoy it! It’s always an adventure but it doesn’t have to be miserable if you prepare. Being in a place with a trillion like-minded people who love what you love can be a unique and wonderful experience. Even if you are a person who is not into crowds, once you pick up your badge and actually enter the event, there is a place for you to enjoy yourself.

Do enjoy all the crannies, even if they might not appear to be your thing. The comics aisles are quiet and relaxing after all the crowds, and you might find the most unexpected things. Small Press is my favorite section of the vendor floor – it’s artists selling their wares directly to you, often self-published, or crafts/toys/art they have made themselves. It’s a great way to find exciting new titles or just awesome buttons. And meet Eisner-winners who are just sweet guys!

Final tip

Don’t forget your towel, and be awesome!