All posts by Brenda Cooper

Space Jockeys

I was interviewed twice last week, and both times the topic of space flight came up.  One of the questions one of the interviewers, Annie Tupek, asked me was, “You write about mankind’s future in space.  What do you think is the largest obstacle opposing space colonization today?”

Here’s the short form of my answer to that question:  “…it’s expensive and difficult to get heavy stuff from here out into space. The distances are long and the travel hard. …  We tend to think it’s taking a long time to explore space.  The Wright Brother’s first flight was in 1903.  So in a little over a hundred years we’ve gone from being stuck fact to the surface of the planet to flying all over it all the time with hardly a worry except the TSA search indignities.  We’ve flown past almost every planet and moon in the solar system, landed rovers on Mars, and men on the moon.”

So I decided I’d write this month’s column about what’s happening as private companies compete to get to space. In fact, there’s so much happening, I could write a book about it.  Instead, I’m going to survey the news from LEO, give a little futuristic spin, and discuss one book. Continue reading Space Jockeys

Telepresence: virtually as good as being there

This topic – telepresence – started knocking around in my head when I walked into a business meeting almost a year ago in Kirkland, Washington. A wall-sized (literally, exactly, one wall floor to ceiling, side to side) picture showed a room the same shape as the one we stood in. People walked into the room and sat down.

They were in Silicon Valley. Continue reading Telepresence: virtually as good as being there

3D Printing: a world of design

This topic started brewing in my head at Worldcon in Montreal, as I sat in on a panel on 3D printing by Tom Easton. 3D printing isn’t new to me, and the speed at which it’s advancing shouldn’t have been a surprise. However, it did shock me a bit. I found myself dreaming of 3D printers for a few days. After all, I could already buy one. Continue reading 3D Printing: a world of design

A shout-out from Montreal

This is sort of a halfway report… as I’m drafting this, it’s now officially Saturday, but barely. Given that, I’ll keep it short. Here are a few of the highlights from the convention so far:

First – thanks to Montreal, and to Canadians from all over for hosting a very friendly convention. This has been a pleasant place to be. Second, this is not normal life in a connected always-on world where conversations are tweeted and texted and take place on devices that look like Star Trek communicators. Instead, the roaming charges have got most of us carrying dead devices in our pockets and roaming the halls looking for people. I suppose that’s not entirely bad, but it feels strange.

Its been a very busy convention and the panels have been full. Nonetheless, I managed to capture a shot of Connie Willis, Amelia Beamer, Robert Silverberg, and Sheila Williams on the dealers-room floor near the Locus booth. Notice how they all color-coordinate well with their badge ribbons and with each other.

Connie Willis, Amelia Beamer, Robert Silverberg and Shiela Williams

One of the most interesting panels so far covered new astronomy (Keppler is beginning to report results, there are more extra-solar planets being discovered regularly, Venus has a new white spot). Yes, I’m a bit of a geek.

Just to prove my inner geek was in full force, I also went to a panel about three-dimensional printers. Yes, that’s the baby version of what may become the universal replicator from so many science fiction stories and movies. The new vocabulary word from this panel was “Voxel” which is “Volume Pixel.” The presenter, Tom Easton, likened the maturity of 3D printer technology now to where PC’s were in the 1990’s. If he’s right, we’re in for an interesting ride. As opposed to the information economy, it’s the design economy. We have been creating things in the no-space of the electronic world, but we will be able to re-create the physical world, perhaps over and over and over. And all this in a world culture where we don’t have the ethical underpinnings to get rid of computer viruses and spam. I may make this the topic of my next column here at Futurismic.

The party for the Analog and Asimov’s magazines got shut down for being too noisy. So I guess even with the graying of fandom, we can still get in a ton of trouble. But I did get a cake picture worth sharing:

James Patrick Kelly's cake

This decidedly alien piece of confectionary art was an evil plot dreamed up by Sheila Williams, the editor at Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, to reward James Patrick Kelly for having a story in every June issue of Asimov’s for twenty-five years. Now that’s a feat. The cake and the stories.

The cake is much bigger than it looks here. Yes, it tasted good. No, I didn’t have seconds.

There are a few more pictures of a day at the convention on the web.