Science Fiction Brewed Fresh Daily

Hubble Discovers “Unknown” Object

Hubble Image

There may be nothing new under the sun, but there’s apparently something brand-new and unexplained out beyond it. In a paper published last week in the Astrophysical Journal, researchers described a new and completely unknown object with behavior so unusual that it may be a new class of phenomena.

The object also appeared out of nowhere. It just wasn’t there before. In fact, they don’t even know where it is exactly located because it didn’t behave like anything they know. Apparently, it can’t be closer than 130 light-years but it can be as far as 11 billion light-years away. It’s not in any known galaxy either. And they have ruled out a supernova too. It’s something that they have never encountered before. In other words: they don’t have a single clue about where or what the heck this thing is.

It’s probably just a Disaster Area concert.

Link (via Posthuman Blues)

Posted in News, Space September 17th, 2008 by Chip
1 comment

What Geeks Do When They’re Rich

LandspeederThey build their own landspeeders.

We built this fiberglass replica landspeeder from the ground up on a custom aluminum chassis. The electric drive system is capable of a top speed around 25 mph. The speeder is the same size as the original, and can travel several miles on a single battery charge.

From some of the photos on the site, it looks like this guy might be a Disney Imagineer. I’m impressed with his dedication and envious of his resources. I love the idea of driving around town in this thing.

(Although not mentioned on the site, there’s a Delorean in the photo, too. Hope he’s built a Flux Capacitor.)

Original Site
Additional commentary and pictures

(via Cynical-C)

Posted in Ephemera September 16th, 2008 by Chip
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Meet the Star Wars Continuity Cop

Here’s a job that would drive most of us right up a wall: Leland Chee is responsible for keeping track of everything in the Star Wars universe.

His official title is continuity database administrator for the Lucas Licensing arm of Lucasfilm—which means Chee keeps meticulous track of not just the six live-action movies but also cartoons, TV specials, scores of videogames and reference books, and hundreds of novels and comics.

That’s 31 years’ worth of aliens, technology, plot twists, and storylines. It means that he actually has to know all about the Bea Arthur segment in the Star Wars Christmas Special, an act analogous to settling down with a paperback copy of The Necronomicon. The mind boggles.

Link (via Linkbunnies)

Posted in Movies & TV September 15th, 2008 by Chip
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The Best Neal Stephenson Characters

In the wake of awaited-with-geekly-mouth-froth Anathem‘s publication, articles about Neal Stephenson are popping up like mushrooms. Popular Mechanics (Popular Mechanics?) has gotten in on the act with a list of the six best Stephenson characters.

Hero: Randy Waterhouse /// Book: Cryptonomicon (1999) /// Profession: Programmer & Entrepreneur
Randy Waterhouse is an unlikely iconoclast: a programmer with little skills with women, firearms or the underworld. Yet his stated purpose in the novel (which has split but interconnected present day and World War II narratives) is to create an unassailable, secure data haven called the Crypt in which anyone with secrets (yes, anyone) can store private information. The plan molts into the formation of a currency-free, untraceable bank, exposing Randy to treasure hunts, FBI raids, magazine covers and a love interest named America.

Best Moment /// Randy evolves from a pudgy programmer to a slightly less pudgy outlaw and geek hero. His narrative arc has many high points, but perhaps the best written is a step-by-step primer on his method of eating Cap’n Crunch cereal, preserving the crunch without cutting the inside of one’s mouth.

This is a…peculiar…list. It is prefaced with the note that it’s “one fan’s favorite characters,” but I dunno…it’s an odd mix.

(Although maybe I’m just sore because Vitaly Chernobyl didn’t make the list.)

Link (via SF Signal)

Posted in Books & Authors September 12th, 2008 by Chip
1 comment

Makes Perfect Sense

io9 makes a compelling argument: Sarah Palin is actually a fembot.

No-One Ever Sees Palin Go Through A Metal Detector At Airport Security. Sure, you can get away with that in Alaska – It’s a different world up there, after all, and the only security they need there are polar bears guarding the check-in desks. But on a whistle-stop tour of the other States, she’s got to be seen going through security at least once, right…? Unless… there are reasons otherwise.

John McCain’s Speeches Start Including Phrases Like “We Need To Invest More Into Medical Technology, Such As Synthetic Skin” Sure, Palin may look good on camera – But how many people have seen her up close and personal? Being on the stump is going to wear out even the best fake skin substitute we have, considering all the handshakes and baby-kissin’ there is to do, after all.

They’re also pretty sure that Obama is related to Mr. Spock.

Obama Spock

Posted in News September 11th, 2008 by Chip
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Del Toro Revisits the Classics

Although Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy II, Pan’s Labyrinth) is currently working on The Hobbit, he’s got his next two projects lined up: A revisit to Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

The director will add his own twist to the well-known “Frankenstein” franchise, a story he has been waiting to tell all his professional life.

“To me, Frankenstein represents the essential human question: ‘Why did my creator throw me here, unprotected, unguided, unaided and lost?’ ” del Toro said. “With that one, they will have to pry it from my cold dead hands to prevent me from directing it.”

However, for “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” del Toro plans on sticking closely to the original Robert Louis Stevenson tale.

After that, he’ll tackle Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five.

(It makes me happy that Firefox’s spellchecker recognizes “Vonnegut.”)

Sounds like del Toro will be living the Geek Dream for several movies to come.

Link

Posted in Movies & TV September 10th, 2008 by Chip
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LHC Online Tomorrow

The “Big Bang Machine” goes online tomorrow. The Large Hadron Collider will explore the tiniest particles and re-enact parts of the Big Bang.

Sure, there’s a small chance that the universe will wink out of existence when the thing is fired up, but it’s a pretty small chance. As Cory Doctorow reported:

[A]s one physicist told me when I asked about this last month while researching my Petacentres article for Nature, “Look, it’s a 10^-19 chance, and you’ve got a 10^-11 chance of suddenly evaporating while shaving.”

(I may never shave again.)

Kate McAlpine, a Michigan State University graduate at CERN, has created the Large Hadron Rap as an homage.

Posted in News September 9th, 2008 by Chip
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Sfanglophilia?

(Or– why North American fans need to read more SF from the U.K.)

For some time Chip has been asking me for opinion pieces for the blog. Since, according to the equitable distribution laws of our state, intellectual property is shared equally within a marriage, please feel free to harangue her mercilessly over the views expressed in the following article. In grand sfeditorial tradition I will be making arrogant, unsupportable generalizations, expressing value judgments based on woefully incomplete data, and will ramble off-topic repeatedly.

Why should North American fans pay more attention to recent SF from the U.K.? Because, on average, over the last 15 years, it’s been better than its New World cousin. (See? Fearless leap into arrogant generalization, based on subjective criteria.) By the mid-nineties North American SF was becoming moribund, recursive, and complacent. There were a few pretty, shiny objects in the landslide of cloned mediocrity, but modern marketing techniques and the rise of the book superstores were pushing North American SF into a safely predictable niche. (I feel vaguely guilty including Canadian SF here, since it might be arguable that Canadian SF has steadily improved over the last fifteen years, but — whatthefuck — Canadians are North Americans, and they’re used to being unjustly whacked for the indiscretions of their southern neighbors and, besides, if you toss Mexican SF on the pile, it all averages out to support my point.) While publishing science fiction in the U.S. was marginally profitable, the market for serial high fantasy in North America was bottomless, and the Empress of Hogwarts (who is, admittedly, a U.K. writer) was about to unleash the full, explosive hegemony of YA fiction and its corollary full-cycle algernonification of genre fiction, ironically confirming one of the more controversial genre statements of the late Tom Disch. (Actually, I admire the stated role of YA fiction as a gateway drug that should lead to serious heavy book use. I just think that the purchase of YA fiction by readers over twenty-one years of age should be criminalized, and suitable, meaningful penalties applied to booksellers who don’t card their clientele.) At about this time in the U.K. the concatenation of innovative, established specific writers (notice the homage to Britain’s last genre literary movement), fledgling, hit-or-miss authors who suddenly started smacking home runs (substitute the equivalent cricket metaphor), newer, unknown but talented writers, and a publishing industry and reading public less inclined to marginalize adult SF (when I visited the U.K. in 2005, I noticed promotional posters for Iain M. Banks’ THE ALGEBRAIST at every tube station I passed through in London. Orbit [an imprint of Times Warner U.K.] had spent actual money promoting a SF title in traditional mainstream fashion to real people!) created the conditions necessary for a kind of critical mass that has produced an ongoing SF renaissance in the U.K. (Hyperbole is our friend).

North American SF writers tend to initiate genre literary movements ending in ” -punk.” (The exception being the very narrow, but high tonnage, movement we like to call “Neal Stephenson.”) Their counterparts in the U.K. seem to prefer the prefix “new-.” The New Wave that erupted from the U.K. in the 1960s had, and continues to have, some impact on the larger genre. (If you don’t know what the New Wave was — stop — back slowly away from this blog, go immediately to Amazon and purchase a copy of Judith Merrill’s fine 1968 New Wave sampler anthology ENGLAND SWINGS SF [as of this writing there are 23 copies available, starting at $1.00]. Read this book from cover to cover, scratch your head perplexedly, mumble a pithy critical analysis in stream-of-consciousness format, and then return to finish reading this post). The current SF renaissance in the U.K. includes, but is certainly not limited to, the New Space Opera movement and the self-proclaimed New Weird. If you’re not familiar with New Space Opera and the New Weird, then you probably weren’t familiar with the New Wave, and you probably didn’t do your reading assignment as outlined above, so, as an example of editorial largesse, brief synopses follow. (Everybody else can skip forward to the author recommendations.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Books & Authors September 8th, 2008 by Shadow
8 comments

From the Archives

The O*W*C message boards aren’t going to be resurrected any time soon, and when they are we’ll probably start from scratch. There’s some fun stuff in there, though, so from time to time* I’ll dig through the database and share old posts.

Look, here’s one now!

The Alien Abduction Survey

The Brunching Shuttlecocks, who take up far too much of my time as it is, occasionally take real Web surveys and write smart-aleck answers to them. I love this one. http://www.brunching.com/features/feature-ufotest.html



*Which, strangely, will coincide with times that I don’t feel like coming up with new material.

Posted in Ephemera September 5th, 2008 by Chip
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Learn to Speak Futurese

In 1000 AD the sentence was: Wé cildra biddaþ þé, éalá láréow, þæt þú taéce ús sprecan rihte, forþám ungelaérede wé sindon, and gewæmmodlíce we sprecaþ…

In 2000 AD it’s: We children beg you, teacher, that you should teach us to speak correctly, because we are ignorant and we speak corruptly…

In 3000 AD it may be: *ZA kiad w’-exùn ya tijuh, da ya-gAr’-eduketan zA da wa-tAgan lidla, kaz ‘ban iagnaran an wa-tAg kurrap…

Linguist Justin B Rye has put together Precoglang, a detailed study of how English might change in the next thousand years.

if you aren’t familiar with Comparative Reconstruction then my predicted sound changes are bound to seem wildly unlikely. If I’d shown Julius Caesar a schedule of the changes that were to turn Latin into Italian (“PS: beware the Ides of March”) he wouldn’t have believed a word of it either. And yet languages really do behave this way, with “mutations” in the system of sounds adding up to new accents, new languages, new family trees of descendant tongues

He includes notes on works of SF that feature representations of plausible “Futurese,” such as A Clockwork Orange (“next year’s slang”) and Riddley Walker (“post-holocaust vowel mutations”).

It is…exhaustive.

Also check out his Primer in SF Xenolinguistics.

(via The Presurfer)

Posted in Ephemera September 4th, 2008 by Chip
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