Feb 232015

by Susan L. Fox

The 87th Annual Academy Awards are now history, and were hosted by Doctor Horrible himself, Neil Patrick Harris. For those who tuned in, it was a big acknowledgment of the power of geekdom, as science fiction and fantasy movies ruled the day.

There were so many great moments from the evening’s show, but one of our favorites was when Tegan and Sarah & The Lonely Island performed Everything is Awesome from The LEGO Movie (which was snubbed for the Academy Award for best Animated Feature). In keeping with the “That’s Okay, We Made Our Own” category, they brought a number of Oscar replicas made from LEGO and gave them to people in the audience who had not won real Oscars for their work.

Here, then, are the winners of interest to the Krypton Radio audience and lovers of imagination fiction everywhere:

Birdman, or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance (Fox Searchlight Pictures) the story of a classic superhero actor later in life.  This film was also recently nominated by the Science Fiction Writers of America for the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation.  The Hugo nominations are now open – could the same picture pick up an Oscar, Nebula and Hugo?  It could happen.

  • Best Picture
  • Best Director, to Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • Best Original Screenplay, to Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo

The Theory of Everything (Focus Features), a biographical romantic drama of the biggest name in physics today, Prof. Stephen Hawking.

  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, to Eddie Redmayne

The Imitation Game (Weinstein Company), a semi-biographical historical thriller about artificial intelligence pioneer Alan Turing and how his application of mathematics and logic turned the tide of World War II.  Yes, not only will you use maths once you have finished school, you could save the world.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay, to Graham Moore

Big Hero 6 (Disney), based on an obscure Marvel comic book series, it’s a boy and his robot and his elder brother’s surviving friends who take on evil in a supercharged cityscape, a love letter to high-tech San Francisco.

  • Best Animated Feature

Feast (Disney), that adorable short about a family pet and his eternal quest for nom noms. This made it a sweep for Disney, two for two, with this adorable overview of a dog’s life and favorite interest:  food!

  • Best Animated Short Subject

Interstellar (Paramount), a science fiction epic about astronauts, desperate to save what’s left of a dying planet, who travel through a wormhole to seek a future home for humanity.

  • Best Visual Effects

It was a great year for geekdom in the movies, and it’s a dramatic shift from years gone by when nothing but an auteur drama could even get its foot in the door. Next year looks like it’s shaping up to be even better.

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Feb 182015

As kids diving into SF for the first time, we all encountered the stories: the house was aware of who we were, and stood ready to grant any wish within its power to grant. In Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Oddesey, we got to see what this would be like. Even the Hugo Award winning adventure series Girl Genius features a self-aware castle. This is the stuff geeks dream of. Some have even built their own J.A.R.V.I.S., and shown us how.

Meet Cubic. If you’ve been waiting for somebody to just make one you can drop on your desk and use, this is it. Already fully funded via IndieGogo, this device uses advanced speech recognition and some surprisingly sophisticated language analysis to not only hear what you say but keep track of the topic of discussion over several sentences. This means it can hold a conversation, and as you can see in the accompanying video (you’ll probably want to pause the Krypton Radio stream while you watch it) it’s light years ahead of any other conversational A.I. you’ve ever seen before.

It not only can process natural language better than anything we’ve ever seen, it’s fully customizable. You can choose a male or female voice, upgrade its capabilities from the upcoming Cubic store, teach it your likes and dislikes, and connect it to other smart devices in your home. It can even learn your sense of humor, tell you jokes, and work as your personal digital assistant.

It’s not like Apple’s Siri or Google Now, in that it can span a number of devices and integrate with your home in ways these other applications can’t. Amazon Echo, the next nearest application, can’t control your house either, and is mostly good for asking questions and buying things from Amazon.

The development team at Cubic Robotics go out of their way to say that they were strongly inspired by J.A.R.V.I.S. in the Iron Man movie. This is a classic example of science fiction inspiring science fact, and shows the true value of the genre.

There is some lag. There is absolutely no way this device can do all its processing on board, so it must be using the ‘net to communicate with a cloud based language processor to do the heavy lifting. The slower your internet connection, therefore, the slower the response will be. Shorter phrases are processed almost immediately, but longer ones take more time to upload for processing. As more processing power is added to the Cubic cloud and internet speeds get faster over time, this lag will get smaller and smaller.

The device can hear you wherever you are in the room, and all of them share a collective awareness of you and your daily needs and activities. You can even continue a conversation with it as you walk into the next room, or even via a smart phone app, or via a sort of comm badge that you can carry with you wherever you go.

As near as we can tell, they’re pretty much ready to go into production. Backers who joined for a hundred dollars could get the bluetooth comm badge and phone app, which gives you pretty substantial access right there. The full device, the cube that plugs into the rest of your house, is meant to cost only a couple of hundred dollars. At that price, nearly anyone can afford their very own.

We’re amazed at how far A.I. and natural language processing has advanced in just the last five years. It may not be the flying cars we were promised for the 21st century, but Cubic does a lot to make up for the disappointment.

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Feb 102015

avichoiceKrypton Radio has just been nominated for the AVI Choice Awards! Want to help us win?

Every year since 2011, residents of Second Life nominate and vote for their favorite Second Life content creators. Second Life is the world’s most popular social MMO, and unlike virtually every other online service of its kind, its content is created almost exclusively by its own users. The AVI Choice Awards celebrate musicians, artists, DJ’s, magazine publishers, and yes, even radio stations.

A little known bit of Krypton Radio’s history is that we got our start in Second Life. We began as a bunch of friends who wanted a geeky radio station and couldn’t find one – so we made one. Since 2009 we’ve risen to be the most popular sci-fi station on the planet, being voted Editor’s Pick not once, but twice, on Windows Media Guide. One of the other recipients of this Award in the same week as us was BBC One.

Want to help us put a shine on it? Go here, scroll down a couple of screens and vote for “KRYPTON RADIO”. You don’t need to create an account, and you don’t have to fill out the entire page. Go vote!!

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Feb 072015
Jen Usellis Mackay's Klingon language pop album
Klingon language pop singer Jen Usellis Mackay

Klingon language pop singer Jen Usellis Mackay

Join us this evening at 9 p.m. PST for another fascinating episode of The Event Horizon, this time featuring our special guest Jen Usellis Mackay, the Klingon Pop Warrior. Her new album Warrior Woman is out on Amazon, iTunes, GooglePlay and CDBaby, thanks to a successful Kickstarter  campaign last fall. Gene Turnbow and Susan Fox host.

This is Jen’s second time visiting us on The Event Horizon, and we talk about her music, her travels, and what it’s like being the world’s premier Klingon chanteusse in the world of Star Trek fandom.

The episode will air again on Sunday, February 8 at 4 p.m. PST and at various other times throughout the week. Visit our What’s on When page for show times in your area.

The Event Horizon – it’s Sci-Fi for your Wi-Fi!

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Jan 022015
Isaac Asimov

By Nur Hussein, staff writer

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov with his majestic mutton chops.

Isaac Asimov was the first science fiction author I ever read. His stories were a huge part of my childhood, and enthralled little me like nobody else could; he wrote of space empires and robots, and it wasn’t just pulp adventure.  All the stories were deeply laced with big ideas. I couldn’t put the books down, and they transported me to distant worlds and far-off times.

Asimov was born in Russia in 1920, though he doesn’t quite know the exact date but he celebrates it on January 2nd. His birth name was Isaak Yudovich Ozimov, which was transliterated to Isaac Asimov, though the ‘s’ in Asimov should have been a ‘z.’ He even wrote a short story titled Spell My Name With An S based on this little fact, about a character who changes a single letter of his name from an ‘z’ to a ‘s,’ thus triggering a series of global events.

Asimov’s family immigrated to the United States when he was three, and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen at the age of eight. His fascination for science fiction began reading pulp magazines in his family’s store at an early age, and by the time he reached his teens he was already writing stories of his own. The first time he tried submitting a story was in June 1938 to the editor of sci-fi magazine Astounding Science Fiction, John W. Campbell. Campbell rejected the story, but encouraged the young Asimov to keep writing. Asimov’s first published story was called Marooned Off Vesta, which appeared in the March 1939 issue of another science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories. Thus began a prolific sci-fi writing career.

Asimov attended college at a branch of Columbia University in the field of chemistry. After failing to get into medical school, he received a graduate degree in Columbia where he eventually got a Ph.D. in biochemistry. He joined the Boston University School of Medicine as a professor, and he remained tenured there. Asimov’s papers from 1965 onwards are archived at the university’s Mugar Memorial Library. Imagine my delight at discovering this when I attended Boston University!

Book cover art depicting Hari Seldon, mathematician hero of the Foundation.

Book cover art depicting Hari Seldon, mathematician hero of the Foundation.

Not counting individual essays and short stories, Asimov wrote over 500 books and manuscripts in his lifetime. He wrote both fiction and non-fiction, with the bulk of his non-fiction being popular science. For his science fiction, he is known for his robot stories, where Asimov posits his now-famous Three Laws of Robotics. The word “robotics” itself is something he coined for his stories, and one of Asimov’s legacies is that it is an actual field of study now.

His other famous sci-fi epic is the Foundation series, where he describes a rise of a galactic government called the Foundation, which is founded on the principles of the invented science of psychohistory: a branch of mathematics that can predict future outcomes of a sufficiently large population. Foundation was inspired by Asimov’s readings of  Edward Gibbons’ The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which he playfully discloses in a poem with the line, “a little bit of cribbin’ from the works of Edward Gibbon.” Later, Asimov retconned the Foundation stories to be in the same continuity as his Galactic Empire and robot books, and many of his novels form a loose continuity in an Asimov-verse.

Asimov’s writing style is one focused on clarity and ideas. Thus, occasionally character development and descriptive settings take a back seat to the conceptual aspect of the story. While literary critics might frown on such non-ornamental writing, it made his writing accessible, and thus also the ideas contained therein.

Asimov’s stories have inspired countless authors, filmmakers and scholars. Paul Krugman was inspired by psychohistory to enter the field of economics, and eventually won the Nobel Prize in the field. Asimov’s books have been made into feature films, most notably The Bicentennial Man starring the late Robin Williams (there was also the rather atrocious “adaptation” of I, Robot with Will Smith but I’m not counting that). The idea of a Galactic Empire, with its capital being a planet covered entirely by a city, was used by George Lucas in his Star Wars films. The idea first appeared in Asimov’s books.

Asimov died in 1992, from complications arising from an HIV infection from a blood transfusion during surgery that he underwent in 1983. He is sorely missed by fans of science fiction, and remains one of the legends of the genre. However, he left behind a huge treasure trove of written works in his lifetime, and no matter how many times you’ve read or re-read his works, you can always go back to Asimov’s writings and find a familiar voice, always with something interesting to say.

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Dec 202014

Tune in tonight at 9:00 p.m. PST for this week’s episode of The Event Horizon featuring science fantasy novelist R.S. Belcher, author of The Shotgun Arcana from TOR Books. Join your hosts Gene Turnbow and Susan Fox as we discuss this sequel to his previous work, Six-Gun Tarot. It’s an ensemble cast in a wild twisting tale of a small godforsaken town called Golgotha, in which everybody has a secret. Sometimes that secret is just one of lineage or bad behavior, but often it’s metaphysical or arcane. There are men of science, practitioners of mystical arts, and at least one severed living head in a jar. Did we mention that the town sheriff is a were-coyote? You get the idea.


About R.S. Belcher

Science fantasy author R. S. Belcher

Science fantasy author R. S. Belcher

R.S. (Rod) Belcher is an award-winning newspaper and magazine editor and reporter. Rod has been a private investigator, a D.J., a comic book store owner and has degrees in criminal law, psychology and justice and risk administration, from Virginia Commonwealth University. He’s done Masters work in Forensic Science at The George Washington University, and worked with the Occult Crime Taskforce for the Virginia General Assembly. He lives in Roanoke, Virginia with his children: Jonathan and Emily.

If you miss tonight’s broadcast, you have another opportunity to hear it again tomorrow at 5:00 a.m. PST and 4:00 p.m. PST, as well as additional times throughout the coming week. Consult our What’s on When page for show times in your area.

The Event Horizon – it’s Sci-Fi for your Wi-fi!

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