We’re a few weeks into the fall season, when new shows are either picked up for a full season — or join the ranks of the cancelled. So which shows are a franchise-in-waiting and which shows have had their brief lives snuffed out? Sci Fi Wire has the complete list, but here at SNF, we’re glad to see Sanctuary has done well, and Eleventh Hour appears to be pulling its weight.
My colleague Eliza Strickland over on 80 Beats has a post about researchers who want to build a new world of out of buckypaper, a superstrong material that has applications ranging from an airplane construction material to lightweight display screens.
There’s some online buzz wondering if this material would be strong enough to make the space elevator a reality. If you haven’t heard the term, a space elevator is a cable or ribbon that extends about 100,000 km into space from an anchor point on the equator. Glorified elevators car shuffle cargo and people in and out of orbit, eliminating all that mucking about with dangerous rockets and with the ability to move payloads for a minute fraction of the cost of current boosters. A space elevator could make a lot of big space projects — like orbiting solar power plants — suddenly very doable. The idea was first thought of over a century ago, and most notably popularized by Arthur C. Clarke’s 1979 novel The Fountains of Paradise. In recent years, interest was renewed with a new (and much more practical) elevator design pioneered by Brad Edwards .
For all the giant exploding Death Stars in SciFi, its really the mundane devices that stay with us for years after. Doctor Who‘s sonic screwdriver, Picard’s replicator, and Spock’s tricorder have at least as much resonance for us as any gigantic space laser that ever turned a plot. In Knight Rider, our resident crime fighters rely pretty heavily on KITT’s ability to find people. He accesses a government database — usually the DMV — and then connects to various surveillance cameras in the area (Knight Rider crooks do tend to like Vegas casinos). The ability to access closed-circuit cameras aside, what’s really amazing here is KITT’s ability to digitally match photos to a moving image. For modern law enforcement and software search companies, that’s something of a holy grail.
Looking for some fresh science fiction? The Fast Forward series of anthologies, published by Pyr, prides itself on featuring original stories from science-fiction heavyweights. I love Gardner Dozois‘ annual The Year’s Best Science Fiction collections, but sometimes its great to get something really new, and Fast Forward doesn’t disappoint.. The latest installment, Fast Forward 2, will be officially released next week (but Amazon claims it’s in stock now.) The FF2 author list includes Cory Doctorow, Ian McDonald, Mike Resnick and Pat Cadigan.
It’s a great collection, with a good mix of stories ranging from hard science fiction to near magic realism. Stand outs for me included “True Names,” a novella by Doctorow and Benjamin Rosenbaum set in a post-post-post-human universe, and “An Eligible Boy,” written by Ian McDonald, that takes place in the mid-21st century India that McDonald has used as the backdrop for his 2004 book River of Gods.
Space Opera is one of my favorite sub-genres of science fiction, and in recent years has gained a new lease of life (I recommend reading The New Space Opera anthology for good snapshot of the current state of affairs). Like all definitions, saying what exactly is and isn’t space opera can be a highly subjective exercise, but for me, works of space opera all try for a certain grand sweep: the canvas is broad, often involving a good chunk of at least one galaxy. The themes are big–space opera is where entire space-faring civilizations can collide–and awesome technologies are frequently brought into play.
I have been laid low for the last few days by some dreadful lurgy I caught on the plane back from San Diego, but people have been hard at work behind the scenes putting together this edit of the video of our “Science Behind Science Fiction Panel” at this year’s Comic-con. From left to right you have Kevin Grazier (science advisor to Eureka and Battlestar Galactica), Jaime Paglia (co-creater and executive producer of Eureka), Phil Plait (Bad Astronomy blogger) and myself. We talked about how science makes its way into a script, how scientific accuracy is maintained (or not) and the value of retconning. Enjoy!
As mentioned over on Boing-Boing, the Science-Fiction Museum in Seattle is looking for someone to help out in its education department. Not surprisingly, a “keen interest in American popular culture” is required, but before we all start brushing up on our episode guides, so is “2-3 years experience conducting work-place training programs and/or classroom teaching” and “knowledge of educational theories and museum interpretation techniques.” Oh well.
Worth mentioning as well is the museum’s current exhibition featuring some awesome old-school robot designs (think Robbie the Robot meets Andy Warhol), which is open until October 26.
The summer movie season is upon us, and I’m looking forward to watching a bunch of science fiction movies over the next few weeks. Batman, Hellboy, X-Files, Babylon A.D. are all getting the full blockbuster promotional treatment. Chances are though that some of them will be overrated, which got me to thinking about some of the most underrated movies I’ve seen. I love underrated movies: for whatever reason you plop yourself down in front of the screen not expecting much and then: “Hey! This is pretty good!” Here’s my top ten — what are your suggestions?