For the third year in a row, Discover hosted a panel on science in science fiction at this year’s Comic-Con. This year’s edition was moderated by Phil Plait and featured a great lab-meets-film panel: Jamie Paglia (creator of Eureka); Kevin Grazier (JPL planetary physicist, Science Not Fiction blogger); Zack Stentz (writer for Fringe, Thor); and Sean Carroll (Caltech theoretical physicist, Cosmic Variance blogger).
The conversation was good and lively, with a nice mix of funny and interesting bits. But don’t take my word for it:
Yesterday evening we held our third annual Comic-Con panel on the science of science fiction. And in our unbiased opinion, it rocked. (Attendees said the same, but then they probably wouldn’t have told us it was lame, would they?)
One theme that emerged from the panel was that skillful use of science could make stories better. But being Discover, we needed some evidence. And how better to present this evidence than as a scientific publication:
The Enhancement of Dramatic and Aesthetic Qualities of Fictional Works Through Application of Authentic or Apocryphal Scientific Theories
It’s going to take a little while for us to fit the video from yesterday’s splendid Mad Science panel through the tubes back to the Hive Overmind Nerve Center (i.e., onto the DISCOVER site), but in the meantime, suffice to say that it was pretty great. The panel featured Jaime Paglia (co-Executive Producer of Eureka), Kevin Grazier (Battlestar Galactica and Eureka science adviser), Jane Espenson (Dollhouse, Battlestar, Caprica, and anything else in sci-fi TV that’s been good lately), Ricardo Gil da Costa (science adviser for Fringe), and Rob Chiappetta and Glenn Whitman (writers for Fringe).
I took notes along the way, so here are a couple of one-liners and insights to whet your appetite (I was writing fast, so apologies if the video later shows I have the wording slightly off):
“We’ll have hot robot action.” —Jane Espensen, on Caprica
“We don’t want people saying, ‘Gee, if only we’d tortured him harder.’” —Jane Espensen
“The plant episode. Yeah, that was so bad—and it was so good we didn’t do it.” —Jamie Paglia in response to Kevin Grazier’s idea for a Killer Tomatoes episode of Eureka
“We don’t want to cross over into magic.” —Jaime Paglia, explaining Eureka‘s rule for limiting the technology on the show
“You usually want to start with something very grounded, so that the viewers think they recognize it, and then you want to push past it,” Rob Chiappetta, on the role of science in Fringe
“It’s easier to get creepy and gross with biology then with astronomy.” —Rob Chiappetta
“You’ve never been to any astronomer parties.” —Phil Plait in response
“Kara just lay down in the grass.” —Jane Espensen, on the ending of Battlestar
Are you at Comic-Con or intending to get there within the next day? Then come tomorrow to Science Not Fiction’s panel, Mad Science, produced in conjunction with Jennifer Ouellette and our partners over at the Science & Entertainment Exchange. Why “mad”? We’ll be looking at science as a double-edged sword, ethically and morally neutral itself, but capable of being used for much good and evil. The panel will be moderated by DISCOVERmagazine.com’s own Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, and includes this star-studded cast:
Jaime Paglia — co-Executive Producer of Eureka
Kevin Grazier — Battlestar Galactica and Vituality science advisor
Jane Espenson — major sci-fi writer/producer: Firefly, Dollhouse, Battlestar, and on and on
Rob Chiappetta and Glenn Whitman — writers for Fringe
Ricardo Gil da Costa — neuroscientist and adviser for Fringe
If you’re convinced, then go to Room 6DE tomorrow (Thursday) July 23rd, 6:00-7:00.
If you’re not yet convinced, consider this: Our panel at last year’s ‘Con was SRO in a 1,000-person room—some folks couldn’t even get in the door—and this year’s panel is studded with even more stars.
For those unfortunate ones who got left behind (like yours truly), don’t mourn too hard: We’ll have the video from the panel posted here soon-ish.
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!
We had a great panel yesterday chewing over how great science can make science fiction. Thanks to Jaime Paglia, co-creater and executive producer of Eureka (Eureka‘s third season premieres on the SCIFI channel on Tuesday), Kevin Grazier (science advisor to Eureka and Battlestar Galactica), and our very own Bad Astronomy blogger, Phil Plait.
Hopefully, we’ll be able to have some video from the panel before long: what’s clear is that on Battlestar and Eureka, while making a good show that people will want to watch is obviously their first priority, the producers and writers really do care about getting the science right — which means lots of grist for Science Not Fiction to blog about in the months to come. Yay!