Sep 092014
 
Image credit: Michal Klimczak

Image credit: Michal Klimczak

by Gene Turnbow, station manager

The Museum of Science Fiction in Washington D.C. has traveled a remarkable path so far. After gaining about $54,000 via an IndieGogo campaign last March, they’re now ready to start putting together a preview location in preparation for the opening of the full facility. They hope to open the full museum sometime in 2018, but the preview location is being put together now.

It’s not the first time a science fiction museum has made an appearance. The Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame opened in 2004 in Seattle, Washington at the base of the Space Needle. It’s now known as the EMP Museum, however, and features an emphasis on music and popular culture as an experience, with science fiction being only a part of what it does.  There is also the Hollywood Science Fiction Museum, a project still in progress that does not yet have a physical location.

The preview museum will become a center for science fiction fans and enthusiasts, in the heart of one of the world’s greatest cities. It will be host to public lectures, education programs, film screenings, book signings, and special events.

The goal is to create a 3,000 to 4,000 square-foot temporary preview museum, consisting of gallery space to house interactive exhibits related to science fiction. They plan to operate the preview museum for four years, with exhibits being rotated out periodically. Creative use of the shared space and interesting technologies are emphasized, as well as the need for flexibility in a small space and 200 square foot per exhibit budget.

You have to register before 5:00 p.m. EST on Friday, October 31, 2014, and the submission deadline for your design is 5:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, November 30, 2014.  The prize is $1,000 USD.

Email any questions to: greg.viggiano@museumofsciencefiction.org

Here’s a link to all the information you need in PDF form.

Visit the Museum of Science Fiction’s web site for more information about the museum and the contest.

Good luck, geek designer. Make us proud.

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Sep 082014
 

ST Transporterby Laura Davis, managing editor

On this date in 1966, the television world and, indeed, the science fiction world, changed dramatically with the television premiere of Star Trek. For those of us who were either small children or not-yet-born at the time of this auspicious occasion, it’s hard to grasp the full perspective. If you’re too young to remember the Star Trek premiere, you’ve grown up in a world where science fiction television programs and movies have “always” been there, and, really, there’s nothing new under the sun. Sure, sometimes, someone comes up with some really amazing special effects or a particularly compelling story, and we all appreciate those things, but nothing since Star Trek premiered has had the same impact.

Although I grew up on the original series of Star Trek, I saw it all in re-runs and in an age where it had peers like Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and the miniseries made from The Martian Chronicles. I wondered about the perspective of people who saw the premiere and lived through the time when science fiction became a staple in television and movies.

One fan-from-day-one, Jim Menotti, told me, “Back then, television was mostly westerns, and a few corny shows like Lost in Space. Star Trek was fascinating because it had well thought-out plots, and things you could really see happening on a star ship. It was pretty well set up in a military manner and it was somewhat factual [in that sense], like how things would work on an ocean ship.

'Plato's Stepchildren'

‘Plato’s Stepchildren’

“There wasn’t a lot of publicity about the premiere, just a few ads, and of course, it was in TV Guide. I wasn’t expecting much; I thought it would be dumb, but Star Trek was fresh and plausible. It wasn’t corny, and it didn’t have corny lines like, ‘Danger, Will Robinson!’ It was aimed at adults, it wasn’t a kid thing; it was realistic. The special effects seemed good at the time, the sounds and the visuals met up with what we could imagine, and the parts that weren’t excellent weren’t bad enough to be a distraction.

“A lot of other shows of the time, you couldn’t follow the plot. Of course there were also the short skirts. I liked that they were using actual technology, but in a future version.”

Bjo Trimble, best known in fandom as “The Woman Who Saved Star Trek” and author of The Star Trek Concordance, said in a 2011 interview with StarTrek.com she appreciated, “the grown-up approach to the stories, instead of the standard ‘there’s an ugly alien, let’s kill it!’ story that was so common. Star Trek presented the ugly alien as a loving mother, an amazing twist. We also liked the sense of wonder presented in an adult manner, plus the three-dimensional characters.”

Another long-time fan I spoke to, Jay Mayer, told me why he missed the premiere. “I was working at McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach at the time, and we had a bowling league. We’d been playing for a while, and were coming down to the league finals, and this one night [the night of the Star Trek premiere] about half of the people didn’t show up! We had to re-group the stragglers so we could even play.

“We worked in this huge room, kind of like a cubicle farm, only there were no walls. Just desks lined up, and I swear there were like a hundred feet of desks in a row. The next morning, the whole room was buzzing with everyone talking about Star Trek!

“Color television programs were still a pretty new thing at that time, so the color and the special effects were a big deal!”

Menotti added, “The audience at that time were people who’d been through WWII and Korea; they expected that fight scene in every episode. There would be a problem, the hero would solve it, and shoot ‘em up a little, too. It kind of was a western in space. They rescued someone and there was a shoot-out.

“The play between the characters was great, like Scotty with his ‘you guys are dispensable, my ship is not’ attitude. Spock was one of my favorite characters immediately. He was all about logic, like Sherlock. I always figured Spock was the real star of the show, because he’d just sit there and watch all the B.S. fly, then suggest a rational solution.”

Aw! A Tribble isn't it adorable? Remind me to send Mr. Jones a thank-you note!

Aw! A tribble! Isn’t it adorable? Remind me to send Mr. Jones a thank-you note!

Star Trek already has three generations of fans, and a fourth generation is coming up now. How is it that this 1960s show with special effects, props, sets, and makeup that are risible by today’s standards continues to gain new fans? The series forever changed the expectations of audiences. We’re no longer satisfied with a neat little package that pits black against white and wraps up neatly in the span of an hour. And though today’s production technology is light years beyond what was available in 1966, the effects in Star Trek were a giant step above its contemporaries. The show set the bar far above what was common and accepted in its own time, and established a standard to which future shows would aspire.

The original series was written well, and in a way that’s held up to the test of time. It was also grounded in imagined technology that was just above the surface of reality, yet it was so forward-thinking that today, 48 years later, much of that foundational technology is still just out of reach; the original series still piques our curiosity and imagination, and still turns our eyes toward the stars and the future.

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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.

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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

Zoe:

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.

 

Aly:

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.”

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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.

Enjoy.

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