Ever watched a science fiction movie and groaned when the science is spun, folded, and mutilated? Sure, outrageous science is fun, but so is making fun of it.
In that spirit, we’re happy to announce DISCOVER’s panel at Comic-Con 2010, in sunny San Diego. If you’re at the convention tomorrow (Thursday) night, come by for a little discussion we’re calling “Abusing the Sci of Sci-Fi.” It will run from 6-7 pm, in room 5AB.
The panel will be moderated by DISCOVER’s Bad Astronomy blogger Phil Plait, who will talk with five sci-fi movers and shakers about their favorite moments in good and bad sci-fi science. The panelists include two other DISCOVER bloggers: physicist Sean Carroll of Cosmic Variance and NASA scientist and Eureka advisor Kevin Grazier, who blogs here at Science Not Fiction.
These scientists will be joined on stage by three people who actually make the sci-fi happen: Jaime Paglia (producer and writer for Eureka), Zack Stentz (producer for Fringe and writer for the upcoming movie Thor), and Bill Prady (executive producer of The Big Bang Theory).
DISCOVER: The Science and the Fiction, a gallery of sublime and ridiculous science in sci-fi
Discoblog: World Science Festival: The Science of Star Trek
Discoblog: Scientists to Hollywood: Please Break Only 1 Law of Physics Per Movie
Where do budding, even experienced, science-fiction writers learn about the science behind the science fiction? Going back to school and getting a university degree in a scientific discipline is an option, but that’s going to take quite a while. You could short-circuit the process by spending a week at Launch Pad at the University of Wyoming!
Launch Pad 2010 Attendees
Launch Pad is a free, NASA-funded workshop for established writers held in beautiful high-altitude Laramie, Wyoming. Launch Pad aims to provide a “crash course” for the attendees in modern astronomy science through guest lectures, and observation through the University of Wyoming’s professional telescopes.
The workshop’s mission is to:
…teach writers of all types about modern science, primarily astronomy, and in turn reach their audiences. We hope to both educate the public and reach the next generation of scientists.
It isn’t a sci-fi convention, but it isn’t quite a scientific conference either. Sponsored by the SETI Institute, it’s SETICon, a convention where the overarching theme is exploration of the question, “Are we alone in the Universe?” While many science fiction conventions (Dragon*Con comes to mind here) have space, science, and/or skeptics programming, SETICon is less a sci-fi convention, and more a science convention.
The con’s website bills it as:
A “con” unlike any you’ve ever attended. Scientists, celebrities and sci-fi writers in a mind-meld of entertainment and scientific exploration. Panels, presentations, and face-time with some of your favorite researchers. If you only attend one ‘con’ this year, SETIcon should be it!
For those of you who couldn’t make it to San Diego last week, Discovermagazine.com and the National Academy of Sciences’ Science & Entertainment Exchange present our panel discussion on “Mad Science,” featuring Jaime Paglia (co-Executive Producer of Eureka), Kevin Grazier (Battlestar Galactica and Eureka science adviser), Jane Espenson (Dollhouse, Battlestar, Caprica, and lots more), Ricardo Gil da Costa (science adviser for Fringe), and Rob Chiappetta and Glenn Whitman (writers for Fringe).
Big thanks to Jennifer at SEE, to all of our panelists, and to the Bad Astronomer, who found time to moderate our panel while he wasn’t partying with Hollywood starlets (Phil – we kid because we love).
We could probably go on forever with various interesting snippets from Comic-Con 2009—until next year’s con, at least—but we have to wrap this up soon so we can get on with covering the rest of the universe. So here are the last little important sci-fi news bitties from this year’s Comic-Con:
▪ Jeff Smith, whose epic graphic novel Bone is on track to be released as a Warner Brothers movie, spent a year boning up on quantum physics fundamentals for his current comic serial RASL. “I love the new wave of theoretical physics,” he told SciNoFi. “I’m a devotee of Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, Brian Greene, and Michio Kaku. It wasn’t a hardship to do the studying.”
The story mixes string theory, M theory and parallel universes with science conspiracy theories. “The glue between them is RASL, an inter-dimensional art thief,” he adds. “You have a guy with thermo-magnetic pads on his shoulders so he can step through parallel dimensions—add a shot of rye whiskey in his gut and he’s ready to go.”
Watchmen director Zack Snyder has a favorite added scene in the new Watchmen Director’s Cut. The blue-hued superhuman Dr. Manhattan has just taken his sporadic girlfriend Laurie Juspeczyk to Mars for a good heart-to-hyperconscious-heart. “We’re all puppets, Laurie,” he says. “I’m just a puppet who can see the strings.”
Is technology a panacea that can deliver man from his own idiocy or a neutral entity used for good or evil and locked the same physical laws as mere mortals? Such are the themes that Snyder tries to mine further in the re-edited version, which hit stores July 21 and includes 25 minutes of additional footage.
The initial buzz at the Terry Gilliam panel at Comic-Con last week centered on Heath Ledger and his final movie role as Tony in Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. “People want to see Heath’s last performance,” said Gilliam, “That is why we finished [the film].”
Gilliam also seemed eager though to move on to a broader discussion of the movie, saying, “The picture is really Parnassus’s picture.” In the movie, Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is a Methusulan entertainer who has made a deal with the devil (Tom Waits!) that requires him to hand over his daughter on her sixteenth birthday.
It isn’t a stretch to see Parnassus as a stand-in for the director himself, a visionary who has had a famously difficult time working with Hollywood to get his films produced. Gilliam seemed to encourage that line of thinking. “[Parnassus] is a man with a traveling show trying to get people to explore their imagination and no one is paying attention.”
This is the second part of the interviews arranged by the BBC to talk to luminaries from the Doctor Who and Torchwood universe. In this one, Russell T. Davies (executive producer), Euros Lyn (director of Torchwood: Children of Earth) talk about the unexpected success of “Children of Earth,” what it was like working on their childhood dream shows, and what they may be doing next. Unlike the last audio clip (with David Tennant), I did ask a question to Davies about the science of Doctor Who, but he didn’t seem all that keen on that line of inquiry.
Going to Comic-Con is awesome on many levels, but going as press is, if you’ll forgive my butchery of the English language, even awesomer. Not that we keyboard-stained wretches get into crowded events more easily than everyone else—Comic-Con is remarkably egalitarian that way—but we do get the opportunity to interview some of our favorite actors, directors, and creators. Some of those interviews I’ll be publishing as blog posts in coming weeks, but I thought I’d share the interviews with the of Doctor Who folks right way.
Radical Publishing’s Shrapnel is one step closer to becoming a real, honest-to-God movie now that director Len Wiseman (Underworld, etc) has signed on. The graphic novel—written by Nick Sagan, Mark Long, and M. Zachary Sherman, with art by Bagus Hutomo—is billed as a “Joan of Arc in space” story. During the last day at Comic-Con, Sagan, son of the famous cosmologist Carl Sagan and a respected science-fiction writer himself, spoke to SciNoFi about the project.
“I think of Shrapnel as the anti-Star Trek,” says Sagan, who wrote several episodes for the franchise. “Instead of putting aside our differences to boldly go and do great things, I’m not sure that’s the way it’s going to actually happen. Shrapnel is based on the idea that we do colonize the solar system, but it’s not clean and optimistic. The haves are putting the screws to the have-nots. The story is about the last stand of the last free colony in the solar system.”
But moreover it reflects about man’s battle with himself—pitting the thin veneer of civilization against millions of years of evolutionary programming. “Higher levels of technology allow fewer people to do more damage,” says Sagan. “That’s going to be a real challenge for us. There’s a belief that if we branch out into the solar system, if something goes terribly wrong on Earth, we have an escape route. That’s a hopeful idea, but we tend to take our problems with us wherever we go. As a science-fiction writer, I feel my responsibility is to look ahead and see the dangers of what might happen, and try to warn people of the potential pitfalls.