A little while ago, the interwebz went all twitterpated over the Ohio State University marching band doing a halftime show tribute to gaming. Don’t get me wrong: it was really cool, especially the part starting at 6 minutes in. I was in a marching band for many years (shocker) and I’m amazed at what OSU did.
But somehow that particular show overshadowed the one OSU did on September 15 that was way cooler. And by cooler, I mean geekier.
I don’t want to spoil it, but if you want a cheat sheet, the You Tube page for the video has a list of the highlights and their times in the video.
My favorite part – duh – starts at 4:50. Make sure you keep watching for a minute. Make it so.
Tip o the shako to Heather Curtis.
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.
Tip o’ the Tranya to io9.
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.
[tl;dr: Go buy this book and read it.]
I don’t read as much as I used to, which makes me unhappy. I love to read, but somehow finding the time this past year has been difficult. And I prefer to read novels in big chunks, not snatching a few pages here and there when I can. I want to devote the kind of quality time a good novel deserves, but finding that time has been increasingly difficult.
So when I say that I read John Scalzi’s novel "Redshirts" over the course of two days — blowing off a great deal of work to do so — I hope that conveys just how good this book is.
OK, full disclosure: John is a friend of mine; we’ve known each other for a few years after first meeting in 2008. But one of the reasons I wanted to meet him in the first place is because his writing is so damn good. It speaks of an intelligence and understanding of how to communicate that’s pretty rare. I also tend to agree with him on most issues, so obviously he’s a man of fine taste and subtle reasoning.
John writes a blog called Whatever, and a little while back he mentioned that his new book "Redshirts" was finally done. Having read his amazing "Old Man’s War" science fiction series, I immediately pestered him for an advance copy. Probably more in an effort to keep me from endlessly annoying him than out of friendship, he sent me one.
And I sat down and did something I almost never, ever do: I read the whole thing through. I mean it; I found myself voraciously consuming the book. It’s a science fiction novel that in many ways is a parody of "Star Trek", but to think it’s just that is pretty unfair. It’s even true to say it’s a parody of the entire SF TV genre, but again, that falls well short of what this novel is. Certainly, you can read it that way, but you’d be shortchanging yourself if you did. Scalzi dabbles in a lot of philosophical ideas here, using a Star Trek-like framework to ask questions about the nature of what fiction is, and what writers do. Even, I dare say, the nature of existence.
Not that "Redshirts" is some ponderous tome future schoolchildren will dread reading in literature class. It’s a light, funny, and in some cases even breezy read. That’s Scalzi’s style. His books are fun, even while they tackle serious issues (his blog is a paradigm of that style of writing).
I’m not going to give you any details about the plot of the book, though. I loathe spoilers, preferring instead to be surprised at what I find when I read a book (or watch a movie/TV show). I will point out, though, that Scalzi tackles an issue I used to think about when I was younger (and still do sometimes): does a TV show exist in the history of the fictional TV show universe?
In other words, imagine The Doctor uses the TARDIS to travel to our present day. If he turns on a TV, will he be able to watch "Doctor Who" on the BBC? It’s a weird thought, isn’t it? In the fictional universe of any TV show, the TV show itself must not have happened, or else the characters in the TV show would know it. Wouldn’t it be odd if the future Star Trek timeline actually unfolded (I know, a lot of it can’t now because it’s already in the past and didn’t happen, but bear with me) the real Captain Kirk, in the 23rd century, found out his exact life was broadcast on TV and he was played by some guy named William Shatner (and later, Chris Pine)?
It’s fun to think about, and Scalzi tackles this problem in "Redshirts". His solution to the problem is fascinating, and had never occurred to me. And my favorite thing when reading a novel is being surprised… and my favorite thing after reading a novel is finding myself thinking about it long after I’m done reading it.
OK, I’m done blathering about it. Just go and buy "Redshirts" because it’s really really good.
And who knows? It may just save your life. You certainly don’t want to wind up like this guy:
The sky is not as it seems.
Certainly, gazing upon it on a clear night you see so much: stars, planets, the glow of hot gas here and there… but there’s also darkness. Look at the Milky Way, its stream split down the middle by a rift of black. Gape at a gaudy nebula, and you’ll see it pocked here and there by pools of black.
But what is inky pitch to our eyes glows with a cold light to those attuned to it.
Tell me, what do you see here?
The bright star is obvious enough, but you can also, dimly, see a feathered stripe of black splashed across the vista, blocking, absorbing the light from stars behind it. Details are muted, structure difficult to ascertain, and you strain to see features that your brain cannot interpret.
But that’s with your eyes. Try again, look at it, but this time, widen your view. See it now?
Well done! Where before you saw material absorbing light, now it emits! Of course, unbeknownst to you, you had some help: the ESO APEX telescope in Chile. It sees into the far, far infrared, where light is so stretched out it is entirely invisible to humans. In fact, the wavelength of light is so wide there that if it were a vibrating string, you could physically see the crests and troughs, since each would be separated by the next by nearly a millimeter. The light your eye can see has a wavelength only a thousandth that wide.
When APEX looked at this ribbon of dark, frigidly cold dust, it sees the material glowing. What we see as dark, it sees as bright. You can even compare the two directly, using a slider over the two versions of this picture, unveiling precisely what your now-expanded vision can take in.
Cold dust is the bane of the astronomer who uses merely visible light, since it blocks the view behind it. But one person’s poison is another’s meat, and if you study the material that wends its way between the stars — and sometimes comes together to form them — then the view from APEX is sustenance for you. This material is barely above the ultimate freezing point of absolute zero, and you might think it dead and useless. But from such stuff are you and I descended, and everything you see around you.
So when you do peer around you, and take in your environment, your surroundings, your home, look again. You are surrounded by the invisible, permeated by it… but always remember, it was invisible only until we chose to look for it. We created the means necessary to do so, and when we did the Universe opened up before us.
Image credit: ESO/APEX (MPIfR/ESO/OSO)/A. Hacar et al./Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked the movie. Still.
What’s funny to me is that when Spock corrects Kirk about weight, he’s actually wrong. Making the ship less massive means the same force applied would give a greater acceleration. But by then they’d already ejected the warp core, so it doesn’t matter.
Or maybe I’m thinking about this too hard.
The simplicity of this belies its awesomeness.
Ah yes, they use the Lirpaw. But that’s expected in the koon-ut-kah-li-feeline.
If you think I wouldn’t want a starship Enterprise pizza cutter from Think Geek, then I have no clue why you’re even reading this blog.
Because I covet this very much.
Still… wouldn’t the replicator just make pizza pre-sliced? Hello?! I smell a retcon. Or is that anchovies…?
Translated from German, this means "They are among us!" and it’s a slogan the German SciFi channel has been using. And just to prove that every country is cooler than we are, they ran this commercial:
Now don’t get me wrong– I love me some Sharktopus — but I wish we had more TV ads like this one. Awesome.
And, of course, highly logical.
I love being a geek.
Tip o’ the VISOR to reddit.
Just a reminder: this coming weekend (August 13 – 15) is SETICon, a convention where science and science fiction meet. You can read all about it in my posts where I announced I’d be there, and a followup. It’s still only $35 for the whole weekend, though there are options if you want to participate in more events.
I expect this to be a lot of fun. A pile of old friends will be there, and the talk lineup looks really cool. Scientists, astronauts, plus actors, writers, and more from Star Trek! Also, I’ll be playing — and singing — with Rock Band. Yes, you heard me. If you’re in the Mountain View (southern San Francisco bay) area, then you really should come.