Category: SciFi

To Dorkly Go

By Phil Plait | October 24, 2012 12:00 pm

How much do I love Dusty Abell’s artwork?

A whole quadrant’s worth, that’s how much. And here’s why:

Oh, my. [Click to massively balokenate. This is only one small part of a much larger piece, and it’s amazing.]

And why, yes, I do recognize Every. Single. Thing. in this drawing. Because my geekery is beyond even the capacity for Norman to coordinate.

Dusty also did this piece of awesomeness, too. And? He has the coolest name ever. He should’ve been an astronomer.

Tip o’ the Tranya to io9.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Geekery, Humor, SciFi, TV/Movies
MORE ABOUT: Dusty Abell, Star Trek


By Phil Plait | September 3, 2012 11:00 am

Yeah, you know how this comic is going to end, don’t you?

Wow. I am constantly amazed by how a silly drawing can still be poignant. But then, if you didn’t cry at Jurassic Bark, you aren’t human.

Tip o’ the extra man to my pal Zack Stentz, whom you should be following on Twitter. Comic by Ehud Lavski.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Geekery, Humor, SciFi

Dragon*Con 2012

By Phil Plait | August 28, 2012 2:22 pm

Now that I’ve properly recovered from Comic Con in July, it’s time for Dragon*Con! Woohoo!

D*C is another huge fan convention, held in Atlanta, and this year it’s Friday August 31 to Monday, September 3. As usual, I’ll be running around doing a million things and wondering if a human can survive on Tootsie Rolls and 4 hours of sleep every night (answer: yes). If you’re attending, here’s my official schedule for this year:

Title: Quiz-o-Tron 2000
Time: Fri 10:00 pm Location: International South – Hyatt
Description: Rebecca Watson’s science-themed quiz show!

Title: Gonzoroo II
Time: Sat 08:30 pm Location: Atrium Ballroom – Marriott (Length: 2.5)
Description: An evening of music, comedic delights, and surprises galore!

Title: The Kevin & Phil Show
Time: Sat 10:00 pm Location: Crystal Ballroom – Hilton (Length: 1)
Description: Space Track’s comedy duo! Topical, engaging, informative & always funny! Whatever the subject, you don’t want to miss it!

Title: 2012 – Don’t Panic!
Time: Sun 10:00 am Location: Crystal Ballroom – Hilton (Length: 1)
Description: Panicking about 2012? Nope, not panicking until Phil Plait gets a role on the next Twilight film or Scott Sigler teaches classes on home economics.

Title: Gonzo Quiz Show IV: The Quest For Quiz
Time: Sun 07:00 pm Location: Atlanta Ballroom – Westin (Length: 2.5)
Description: Teams of celebrity guests are led through a series of panel show games that you entertained.

Title: Space Geeks
Time: Sun 10:00 pm Location: 203 – Hilton (Length: 1)
Description: Time was when scientists traced early interest to reading SF classics; is this still true? How common is it for scientists to remain readers/viewers?

Not only that, but I’ll be dropping in on some other events – I love disrupting other people’s panels – and Thursday night before it all starts, on August 30, is our annual Star Party to raise money for cancer research. A few tickets are still available, but today (Tuesday August 28) is the last day they are on sale! So if you wanna come, buy those tickets right away.

I’ll also be doing something right after as well on Monday, but that will be its own post. Stay Tuned!

And in the meantime, check out my pictures from Dragon*Con 2011. It’ll be great to see everyone again!

Related Posts:

Dragon*Con 2011
Tales of DragonCon: Scalzification
Tales of DragonCon: Overview
DragonCon: Made of awesome

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Geekery, SciFi, TV/Movies
MORE ABOUT: Dragon*Con


By Phil Plait | August 17, 2012 11:00 am

Oh, that uncanny valley. Cute cartoon characters are adorable, aren’t they?

… until depicted realistically. Which is what Jared Krichevsky does. And then yikes.

Like this drawing of Morbo from Futurama, one of my favorite characters on the show:

Yegads! He’s also done other Futurama characters, like Kif, Lrrr, and Nibbler. And of course, his terrifying Zoidberg. [Note: Jared’s drawings are amazing, but some are perhaps distressing, and should be considered NSFL.]

It’s amazing how creepy these guys are "in real life". I’ve written about this before; a drawing of Homer Simpson freaked me the hell out, and I mean that in the most literal sense. Click through to that drawing of him if you dare. But don’t blame me when he haunts your dreams for all eternity.

And as for the title of this post, you should really know your meme. And watch Futurama, because if you read my blog you’ll LOVE AND OBEY HYPNOTOAD.

Tip o’ the brain slug to io9.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Geekery, Humor, SciFi, TV/Movies

Get your badastro to Mars!

By Phil Plait | August 11, 2012 7:00 am

My pal Annalee Newitz over at io9 asked me to come on her show "We Come From the Future" and talk about how Mars is treated in movies. The program aired on Friday, and is up on YouTube:

That was a lot of fun! I tried to think of a movie where Mars is actually depicted correctly as it is now: low gravity, cold, almost no air. I couldn’t think of a single movie where that happens. I went on Twitter and asked the folks who follow me what they thought, and got lots of suggestions. Unfortunately, no movie suggested that I had seen was entirely accurate.

"Mission to Mars" was close, but they had a dust devil pick up astronauts and even tear one in half. Granted, it’s implied that was an outcome of alien tech, but dust devils on Mars simply aren’t that strong. Also, that movie got so much science wrong I don’t really feel like cutting it much slack.

Most other movies forgo showing Mars’s 0.38 Earth gravity due to the difficulty in portraying it well. Some, like "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" – which I loved as a kid – gives Mars enough air to breathe if you take oxygen supplements. I’ll note that I also just saw "John Carter" and actually quite liked it. I knew it was epic, sweeping fantasy going in, so I was able to not worry too much about the scientific booboos.

Doctor Who has had several episodes take place on Mars including the recent "Waters of Mars". That too was close – the Doctor was in a spacesuit – but gravity was clearly Earth-normal. Sigh.

A lot of people suggested "Watchmen", but only a few minutes were on Mars, and the gravity was unclear. Also, I suspect that Dr. Manhattan could’ve manipulated the gravity, so it doesn’t really count.

At the end of the show, Annalee challenged HBO to make a good Mars series. The obvious place to start is Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars trilogy. And unlike Game of Thrones, they wouldn’t have to wait for more books to be written!

Post Script: I’ve reviewed the science in lots of movies, including a few dealing with Mars. Here are my reviews of Red Planet and Mission to Mars.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Debunking, Geekery, SciFi, TV/Movies

2001: A Space Thriller

By Phil Plait | July 30, 2012 12:15 pm

I have no reason to post this, other than it made me laugh: a trailer for the classic movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" as if it were made today.

Being pretty familiar with the movie, it was funny to see how these scenes were used out of context. Of course, doing this you can make any kids’ movie into a scary one, and any scary movie into a romantic comedy.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Geekery, Humor, SciFi, TV/Movies

There's a Zombie in My Treehouse!

By Phil Plait | July 26, 2012 10:12 am

My friends Ken Plume, Len Peralta (from Geek-A-Week), and John Robinson have created a fun and creepy children’s book called There’s a Zombie in My Treehouse! Poor Johnny wants to have adventures in his treehouse like he does every day after school, but today there’s a zombie in it – so he claims – and no one in his family believes him.

They learn the truth, though. One by one.

Ken, John, and Len printed this book on their own, and now they’ve put together a Kickstarter to a) make an iBook version with celebrity readers for the audio version, and 2) fund the sequel (called Conquest of the Snowmen). This twisted book made me laugh when I first read it, so I was very pleased when Ken asked me to be one of the "celebrity" voices!

Yes! If the book gets to the $6000 funding level, they will unlock my own dulcet tones reading the book in the audio version. I had fun recording it, and yes, I did all the family voices, including the mom and sister. That was interesting, since of course my overwhelmingly manly speaking timbre was difficult to scale back.

And look at the other readers: Bill Corbett! Trace Beaulieu! Kevin Murphy! (all three from Mystery Science Theater 3000)! Jonathan Coulton! John Hodgman!

And if they get to the $42,000 funding level, the sequel will be read by none other than the genius that is Neil Gaiman.


So go throw fistfulls of cash at them and then warp your kids’ minds with zombie lit. It’s win-win.

Related Posts:

Hero of the Universe
Geek A Week #18: me!
New weeks, new geeks. So say we all!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Geekery, Humor, SciFi

Atlanta Skeptics pre-Dragon*Con star party!

By Phil Plait | July 18, 2012 10:24 am

For the past few years, the night before Dragon*Con in Atlanta officially starts, Maria Walters and the Atlanta Skeptics have held a wonderful star party to help raise money in honor of Jeff Medkeff, an astronomer and friend who died of liver cancer. Jeff hunted for asteroids, naming several after friends, including me. He was a good, good man.

That’s why the star party is in his honor, and every year it gets better.

The details are on the Atlanta Skeptics site. It’ll be on Thursday, August 30, 2012, 7:00 p.m. at the STATS Restaurant and Bar. Admission is $60, and tickets are on sale now.

I’ll be there, as will my very dear friends Nicole Gugliucci and musicians George Hrab and Marian Call. There will be astronomy, nerdery, singing, and of course (weather permitting) star gazing.

If there’s a better way to get into the swing of things for Dragon*Con, I don’t know what it is. And the con itself will be awesome, too, of course.

Come! Star gaze! And help fight a disease that took a friend and scientist who saw a much bigger Universe than most of us ever have.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Geekery, SciFi

Comic Con 2012

By Phil Plait | July 17, 2012 6:43 am

Oh, Comic Con.

The San Diego Comic Con is the largest pop–culture (scif, fantasy, and so on) convention in America, and one of the largest in the world; over 130,000 people attend. It’s actually a madhouse (A MAAADHOUSE!), with a packed exhibit hall and hundreds of amazing panels and talks.

[At the bottom of this post is a gallery of pictures I took while I was there.]

This year, I moderated a panel called "The Science of Science Fiction: Canon Fodder" – we talked about keeping the science straight in a pre-existing universe when you’re writing a prequel or sequel. I asked top-notch A-listers to be on the panel, and man, they came through. I had Jane Espenson ("Buffy", "Firefly", "Battlestar Galactica", "Torchwood: Miracle Day"), Dr. Kevin Grazier (science advisor for "Battlestar", "Eureka", and the upcoming show "Defiance"), Ashley Miller (who cowrote "X Men: First Class" and "Thor" with panelist Zack Stentz), Jaime Paglia (co-creator and producer of "Eureka"), Jon Spaihts (who wrote the original screenplay for "Prometheus", and Zack Stentz (cowriter with Ash Miller).

The room was packed, and the panel itself was a lot of fun (if you don’t believe me, read this io9 review and another on Physics Central). I cannot praise the panelists highly enough, and I really hope someone got video. It was amazing. And I must thank The Science and Entertainment Exchange for sponsoring the panel. Without them it literally wouldn’t have happened, and Marty Perrault did the vast majority of work making sure this event happened without a hitch. She’s amazing too.

I also sat on a panel myself for io9’s Science Fiction That Will Change Your Life, where I plugged my friends John Scalzi’s and Rob Reid’s books. That was fun, and I clearly need to do a lot more reading given the other panelist’s recommendations.

So much else happened it’s hard to list it all. I did a video interview with Neil Tyson for his Star Talk radio show, I went to fabulous parties, I went to w00tstock and The Nerdist shows. And Holy Gallifrey, I got into the Doctor Who panel (thanks Lee!) and sat in the eighth row, close enough to feel the wind when Karen Gillan flipped her long, silky, red hair. Sigh. See the gallery below for some great pictures from that panel!

But the best part, really, was meeting up with old friends and catching up. If I thanked them all individually this post would be twice as long, but they know who they are.

Comic Con is insanity, it’s a mob, it’s a non-stop sprint of nerdnitude for four days, and I loved every second of it. And you bet your lump of glowing green kryptonite I’ll be there next year – I have even bigger ideas for panels and guests. If I can pull off even half of this, it’ll shake the pillars of heaven. Stay Tuned.

Here are some of the pictures I took from my time at Comic Con. Click the thumbnail to go to a slide, or use the arrows to navigate.


BA book review: Year Zero by Rob Reid

By Phil Plait | July 10, 2012 10:55 am

When I was at SXSW last month, I ran into my friend Drew. He dragged me and my friends to a party, saying this guy named Rob Reid would be there. Rob, he told me, wrote a really good scifi novel.

"Oh?" I said. "What’s it about?"

Drew got a funny look on his face. He said, "I can’t explain it. If I tried it would sound ridiculous, and you’d think I’m nuts. Just talk to Rob about it."

So at the party I met this Rob Reid fellow, and we hit it off immediately. He’s really funny, articulate, and smart; three things I admire above almost everything else, especially in a writer.

Turns out the novel is called Year Zero, and Rob gave me the elevator pitch about it: the Universe is filled to the brim with advanced civilizations, well ahead of us in every way except one: music. Theirs is terrible, but our rock music is revered throughout the cosmos, and all these aliens have been uploading it for decades. But they also have one law above all others: to respect native laws. And we have copyright laws. Since they’ve been pirating our music for so long, they owe us money for all those uploaded songs. Lots of money.

All the money, it turns out.

This is a ridiculously cool premise for a satirical scifi novel! [And Drew was right; had he tried to explain it to me I would’ve thought he was nuts.] Rob sent me an advanced copy and I swallowed it down in about two days. I loved it. Funny, smart, silly… three things I also happen to admire in a novel.

Bottom line: recommended. Buy it and read it. Rob had a trailer made for it as well:

This book is hot off the presses: it was released today! It’s available on Amazon (duh) as well as for the Kindle. I imagine you can find other flavors of booksellers, both analog and cyber, to fit your needs.

And I hope the movie rights have been secured. I’d wait in line to watch that. Rather than pirate it, of course.

[BTW, Rob gave a fantastic and very funny TED talk about copyright law. Seriously! And you know I must like his book because his talk has more views than my TED talk, that jerk.]

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Geekery, Humor, SciFi

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