Heads up, Chicago people: a panel about the science in science fiction cinema

Paul Raven @ 05-10-2010

Just a quickie from the Futurismic postbag, courtesy Chris Davila at WBEZ, Chicago:

Where: Northwestern University

When: Wednesday, October 20, 2010 @ 7:00 p.m., doors at 6:00 p.m.

What: Mutants, Androids, and Cyborgs: The Science of Pop Culture Films

Ever wonder about the line between science and science fiction? Could we ever selectively erase experiences from our memories?  Control robotic limbs with our minds? Join WBEZ’s Gabriel Spitzer on stage with four of Northwestern’s leading scientists to discuss their fields as seen on the big screen.

Should be an interesting evening if you’re in the area. 🙂


Space: awesome and inspiring, or an impossible dream?

Paul Raven @ 20-10-2009

Are science fiction authors are wasting their time writing about interplanetary travel, space colonisation and the spread of mankind across the universe, given everything science has taught us about the realities, possibilities and costs of doing so?

That question is the topic for a discussion panel at the Sci Fi London Oktoberfest this coming Friday, part of the London Planetarium’s celebration of International Year of Astronomy, and yours truly is appearing on said panel alongside Brit sf authors Paul McAuley, Jaine Fenn and Philip Palmer – if you’re in London on Friday, why not pop along? (There’s other stuff on besides the panel, including a screening of the new Star Trek movie, no less.)

Futurismic veterans will no doubt notice the echoes of the Mundane SF manifesto in the question… which probably explains my inclusion alongside three authors who very surely don’t believe they’re wasting their time writing science fiction set beyond the gravity well! It promises to be a lively discussion, even though I’ll be playing Devil’s advocate to some extent.

You see, Futurismic may be devoted specifically to near-future sf but – much as I have some sympathies with the Mundane Manifesto – I’d never go so far as to say that space-based sf is a waste of time. Space opera and hard sf (plus the Space Shuttle missions of my youth, and countless books on the early space programmes) were a huge influence on my thinking, and an inspiration for my opinions on the general awesomeness of the universe, not to mention the potential of humanity as a species. Hell, they still are – look at this:

The Keeler gaap in Saturn's A Ring

That’s a recently-received image from the Cassini probe showing the Keeler gap in Saturn’s A-ring; the ripples there are the result of the little embedded moon Daphnis churning up those layers of dust and rock as it passes through. Scenes like that can only be caught once every fifteen years or so, thanks to the right combinations of orbital position, light source angles and so on… and even then, you need to have a probe in place to take them. If you can look at that and not feel your heart thump from sheer sensawunda… well, you’re a tougher cookie than me, that’s for sure. [via MetaFilter; image courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute]

That said, we do have a lot of more immediate and pressing existential concerns facing us here on Mother Terra, and science fiction surely has a role to play in inspiring us to tackle them head on – which is one of the many reasons I consider myself a supporter of the Positive SF movement, too.

What do you people think – should science fiction keep its feet firmly on the ground, or should it have its head in the stars? If you’ve got some points you feel I should raise on Friday, drop ’em in the comments below!


Humour

Sarah Ennals @ 02-08-2009

Humour - Does Not Equal

Does Not Equal is a webcomic by Sarah Ennalscheck out the pre-Futurismic archives, and the strips that have been published here previously.

[ Be sure to check out the Does Not Equal Cafepress store for webcomic merchandise featuring Canadians with geometrically-shaped heads! ]