Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, March 20-26, 2016

Topics run the gamut in this week’s batch of thoughty. I was hard pressed to know how best to present it all. I hope nothing jars too much. Then again, sometimes you need a week jolt to get the big squishy (brain) into gear 😉

This is why Finland has the best schools. The Syndey Morning Herald.

National Arts Centre to launch indigenous theatre in 2019. The Globe and Mail.

Tay exposes the lies we tell ourselves about racists. New Republic. Peter Bright reviews the Tay AI debacle for Ars Technica.

UN Women ask men and women to switch roles:

 

One woman tells her story of reporting sexual abuse. The Globe and Mail.

Scaachi Koul: I hope the Ghomeshi verdict makes you fucking furious. You know? It really does. Buzzfeed.

Barbara Moran writes about her mother’s death and how it indicates a greater system failure. The New York Times.

Your drunken aunt was right: the art of the hot toddy. Vinepair.

University Affairs devotes an entire issue to mental health and universities.

Brenda Knowles knows how to save an introvert/extrovert relationship.

Kira Asatryan offers six simple strategies for being happy alone. Time Magazine.

ASAP Thought. Should you trust your astrological sign?

 

Einstein is (almost) always right. It’s okay to be smart.

 

The equinox isn’t what you think it is. It’s okay to be smart.

 

NASA captures the crazy shockwave of an exploding star. Slate.

Earth is about to pass through the tail of Halley’s Comet, giving us a month of meteor showers. IFLS.

Another lovely picture of a strange geological formation on Mars. Slate.

19 pieces on non-human DNA found in the human genome. Yup we got junk in there. IFLS.

Covão dos conchos. A-MA-zing! The real interesting part in about 2:25.

 

Looks like Monty Python had it right. Rabbits (in medieval times) were deadly! The Poke.

Explore the tear-filled (and slightly creepy) world of Marina Bychkova’s dolls.

The White Wolf Pack shares these lovely photos of ravens. Have I even mentioned that corvus corvus rocks my world?  😉

Hope something in this mix gets those fingers moving on the keyboard. Inspiration’s what this is all about.

All the best until Saturday when my next chapter update lands!

Thoughty Thursday

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 20-26, 2016

Holy shemoley! Lookit all the Writerly Goodness!

Ok. This is big news around here. Sudbury has a new poet laureate, and its first woman in the role, my awesome soul sister, Kim Fahner! The Northern Life. And here’s the interview she did with Markus Schwabe of the CBC’s Morning North. She had a cold, but it’s still a fabulous interview 🙂 She’s on her way to Banff right now to work with the wonderful Mr. Lawrence Hill!

Jane Friedman points out the pros and cons of maintaining a personal profile versus a professional page on Facebook.

Susan Spann advises us when a book is considered out of print. Writer Unboxed.

Jed Herne guest posts on The Better Novel Project with The Half-Blood Prince guide to question arcs.

Michelle Hoover writes an excellent guest post for Writer Unboxed on the duplicity of a character’s desire.

John J. Kelley explores the art of the plausible for Writer Unboxed.

Barbara O’Neal discusses the matter of talent. Writer Unboxed.

C.S. Lakin offers three ways to keep readers reading past page one. Live, write, thrive.

Tiffany Lawson Inman explains how to build dramatic momentum in fiction. Writers in the Storm.

Janice Hardy explores the ebb and flow of plotting a novel. Fiction University.

K.M. Weiland’s back with five more ways to trim your novel’s word count. Helping writers become authors. Later in the week, she helps us choose the right protagonist.

Kate Elliott gives us the tools to write women characters into epic fantasy without quotas. Tor.com

Awesome: How do we write about diversity when the word has lost its meaning? With Daniel José Older, Ashley Cassandra Ford, and Tanwi Nandini Islam. Elle. (Really? Yuh-huh.)

Steve Kettmann: On knowing what to leave out. Medium.

Victoria Mixon shares her super-easy formula for creating a blurb.

Ruthanne Reid points out the two most important words for writers: don’t quit. The Write Practice.

Kerry Lonsdale writes an open letter to writers at every stage of publishing. Books by Women.

Kameron Hurley ponders her sales.

J.K. Rowling shares rejection letters on Twitter to help beginning authors. The Guardian.

Jamie Raintree explores how to decompartmentalize your art.

Anna Lovind bares herself in this post on the process of creative transformation.

Dan Blank shares what he’s learned from 30 days of vlogging.

 

Thinking about a writers’ retreat? Sarah Selecky gives you a place to start looking.

Madeleine Dore offers 50 ways to take care of yourself in the arts. Performing Arts Hub.

Robert J. Sawyer shares his creative process with Inverse’s Lauren Sarner.

Where five Canadian authors read. The Globe and Mail.

Buzzfeed lists 21 German words we should be using in English.

Victorian doctors thought reading novels made women incurably insane. History Buff.

On the other hand, art is proven to have mental health benefits. The Butler Collegian.

National Geographic lists its top ten book stores in the world.

Daniel José Older: Notes on love and revolution. Guernica Magazine.

Brainpickings shares Charlotte Brontë’s love letters.

The Telegraph lists ten novels with titles from Shakespeare.

Shakespeare’s skull stolen from grave. BBC.

15 Welsh myths and legends. Wales Online.

Michael Boyle and Daniel A. Kaufman wish Babylon 5 a happy birthday. This is one of my all time favourite series. The Electric Agora.

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted!

See you Thursday 🙂

Tipsday

Mel’s Movie Madness: March 2016 edition

Though I have seen more movies recently, I’m going to focus on four: Ant-Man, Deadpool, Sword of Destiny, and Pixels (believe it or not).

Ant-Man

I watched it recently on cable and enjoyed it. Marvel is doing a fairly consistent job of offering an entertaining movie experience, in my opinion, anyway. [Please note: I’ve also watched Avengers: Age of Ultron, but I wasn’t as thrilled with that movie and other reviewers have done a much better job than I can of pointing out its shortcomings.]

I liked the brief frame at the beginning of the movie with a young Dr. Hank Pym facing off against an aged Peggy Carter and Howard Stark, denying them, and the government, access to his technology.

I also appreciated the decision not to pursue this as Hank Pym’s story, per se. I think it makes for a much richer backstory in a more global sense.

Paul Rudd does a good job portraying Scott Lang, an engineer turned ethical thief burglar, who, upon his release from prison determines that he will not, for the sake of his family, continue to pursue his criminal ways. Sure, he was a geeky Robin Hood, stealing the ill gotten gains of corporate America and returning them to the victims customers from whom they were originally obtained, but his ex-wife, now dating a cop with a hate on for Lang, would never let him see his daughter again.

Re-enter Hank Pym, now retired and attempting to foil his former protégé from enacting a corporate takeover and selling Pym’s secret technology (which he has reverse engineered) to the highest bidder.

Pym needs someone expendable, not his daughter, Hope, who has remained in the family tech firm as a spy and who would like nothing more than to carry on her father’s legacy. In short, Pym needs Lang.

Pym’s been hiding more than the Ant-Man suit, though. Hope’s mother, A.K.A. Wasp, was lost in the quantum realm (not adequately portrayed, but we have no scientific context, so what the hey) during her last mission with Pym and was the main reason Pym decided the technology had to be hidden.

Lang is recruited in a so-convoluted-as-to-be-absurd sting operation and his determination to go straight crumples at the first real challenge, but overall, I found the movie entertaining and the denouement satisfying in a sappy way. The teaser in the credits was also satisfying and sets up the next instalment nicely.

Deadpool

I had to drag Phil out to see this one in the theatre. I knew from the trailers that it was going to be all kinds of irreverent, politically incorrect, and infantile humour. Right up our alley (lol).

From the opening freeze frame to the Ferris Beuller’s Day Off teaser in the credits (there was a second, plot-oriented one as well), we loved it. I know a lot of critics have stated their disappointment in the film, but I respectfully disagree. Let them say there’s no accounting for taste. I’m good with that.

Wade Wilson is a killer. He manages to function because of his startlingly off-colour and scatological sense of humour. Post Special Forces, he works as a mercenary, but we have a perfect “save the cat” moment when we get to see the nature of (at least one of) his current assignments. He protects children from bullies.

After he finds the love of his life, the clichéd hooker with a heart of gold (but really, isn’t it a perfect match?), karma catches up with Wade in the form of cancer. There is no cure. So, in desperation, he signs up for the experimental treatment of all experimental treatments, enforced genetic mutation.

Wade’s lucky (kind of). His genetic mutation expresses itself as immortality. He can, essentially, survive any physical injury, even dismemberment. His cancer is cured. The price? He now looks “like an avocado had sex with an older avocado . . . your face is haunting.” It’s really not that bad. Admittedly, he looks like he’s had first degree burns over 100% of his body, but it doesn’t make me want to vomit (c’mon, it’s Ryan Reynolds).

Then, the guy who transformed Wade and tried to kill him kidnaps Wade’s girl. The game is on.

Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead are there mostly to highlight the contrast between the typical X-men we’ve met to this point and Deadpool. Actually, they may provide analogues for the two negative reactions audience members might have to Deadpool as well.

Deadpool exacts his revenge without remorse. He kills. Unapologetically. Even as Colossus tries to “show him a better way” and Negasonic Teenage Warhead reacts with a solid “meh” to everything he says and does, Deadpool bulldozes through his nemesis’s minions, has an epic throw down, and saves his girl.

Of course, he must then face said girl’s displeasure because he left her without a word months ago.

It’s all good in the end, though.

You just have to leave your maturity at the door and enjoy the movie. Seriously.

The Sword of Destiny

This is a Netflix original movie and a sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Michelle Yeoh returns as Yu Shu Lien, the only survivor of the first movie. [This is the Chinese tradition. Most stories, except those for children, are tragedies. Please don’t hate a movie because of its genre or tradition.]

Li Mu Bai’s legendary sword, the Green Destiny, becomes the focus of a warlord who wants to possess its power in order to ensure his military domination of the region.

Yu Shu Lien once more becomes involved when she travels to honour the death of the man who has been entrusted with the sword’s protection. She is soon reunited with Meng Sizhao, also known as Silent Wolf, the man she was to marry prior to the events of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. She thought he’d died fighting the warlord Hades Dai, but Silent Wolf only thought to offer her the choice to marry her true love, Li Mu Bai, and let everyone think he’d died.

There is another young, star-crossed couple, witches, vendettas, and a lot of fabulous martial arts battle scenes. The Sword of Destiny isn’t as epic in scope as the first movie, but it is a solid follow up.

Though it may be a spoiler, they eschew the traditional ending for one more suited to Western audiences.

Pixels

This movie surprised me. I hate Adam Sandler movies on principle, but this one was bearable. Colour me amazed. There were many cringe-worthy moments and a number of huge plot holes, the effects were cheesy (but that’s probably because they were all based on 80’s video arcade games), and the acting was over the top, but it actually has some storytelling chops. And I laughed my ass off. Peter Dinklage in a mullet—gah!

Crazy, eh?

Warning: This one is totally spoilery.

The movie begins with critical backstory. In 1982, Sam Brenner and Will Cooper attend the World Video Arcade Gaming Championships where Ludlow “The Wonder Kid” Lamansoff joins them and they dominate the competition until, in the final, Eddie Plant, the returning champion, defeats Brenner at Donkey Kong.

From this experience, Brenner learns that he is a loser, and it is the lie that defines his life.

Flash forward to adulthood and Brenner is a member of the Geek Squad while his buddy, Cooper, is President of the United States (yes, strains credulity, but bear with it. It’s actually one of the least absurd events in the movie).

After meeting up with his bud, the President, at a local media event, Brenner has to install a new gaming system. The boy, Matty, informs Brenner that he’s received the system not because it’s his birthday, but because his parents are getting a divorce.

Brenner bonds with Matty over gaming, and comforts Matty’s mother, Violet, by revealing his own sad story on infidelity and betrayal. They are both called away after an awkward personal moment and each accuses the other of following them all the way to the White House, where Violet, Lieutenant Colonel Van Patten, has been summoned to an emergency meeting, and Brenner has been called in for moral support.

A strange alien attack has taken place, pixelating a US Military Base in Guam. Brenner recognizes the form of the attack as one of his 80’s video games, but his insane suggestion is dismissed, and so is he.

Lamansoff, now a conspiracy theorist, has hidden away in Brenner’s Geek Squad van and reveals himself to Brenner. At Lamansoff’s basement lair, he reveals a video taped message from the alien enemy. They’ve used 80’s television to deliver their ultimatum.

After the World Video Arcade Gaming Championships, a time capsule of all the arcade games was sent off with one of the deep space probes. Aliens retrieved it, and interpreted it as a declaration of war. They have created light weapons based on all of the 80’s video games and Earth will have three lives, and three chances to beat the aliens. If Earth fails, it will be destroyed.

Brenner and Lamansoff take the tape to President Cooper, and while the military dismisses them again, the aliens attack and destroy the Taj Mahal with Araknoid. They only have one chance left and the President gets the military on board. Violet creates light canons to fight the aliens and Brenner and Lamansoff try to train Navy Seals to fight them.

When the aliens attack next, using Centipede, the Seals prove unable to master the patterns of the game and anticipate the attack. Brenner and Lamansoff must take over and use their expertise to defeat the enemy.

The next challenge is issued. Pac Man will attack New York. Eddie Plant, who is serving time for fraud, is sprung from prison and Toru Iwatani, the inventor of Pac Man, is recruited. Though the team, now called the Arkaders, defeat Pac Man, Toru is injured and Eddie ends up in the drink.

At the victory celebration, Matty discovers that Eddie had cheat codes etched into his aviator shades. Eddie confesses that he used the same trick to defeat Brenner in 1982. The aliens announce that the Arkaders violated the rules of the game and Earth is now forfeit. They abduct Matty.

The Arkaders are stripped of weapons and abandoned; the military will take things from here. Cooper absconds with four light canons, and joins Brenner, Lamansoff, Violet, and a contrite Eddie in an attempt to avert disaster.

The final confrontation pits Brenner against the alien leader in—you guessed it—Donkey Kong. Matty and two other captives stand in the place of the princess as the prize. Brenner struggles until Matty reveals Eddie’s cheating during the battle against Pac Man and back in 1982.

Brenner rallies, beats the game, and saves the world.

Like I said at the outset, this is a deeply flawed movie, but the storytelling works well enough to save it.

I won’t necessarily recommend it, but I had to mention it in this review because it demonstrates the power of solid storytelling.

Yeah. That’s kind of the way I felt O.o

See you on Tipsday.

Mel's Movie Madness

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, March 13-19, 2016

Short on the thoughty this week (again).

Since this past week included St. Patrick’s Day, Quirk Books decided to share three magical Irish creatures cooler than Leprechauns.

On St. Patrick’s Day, I went to see a new local Celtic folk band, Fagroongala. Here’s the interview from CBC’s Morning North. They were awesome, by the way 😉

Creativity requires time.

 

Cree mythology is written in the stars. CBC’s Unreserved.

Rob O’Flanagan takes grief for a walk in the woods. Guelph Today.

Do fame and material success make you happy? Think for yourself.

 

The #IStandUp #WomenNotObjects campaign highlights the harm done to society by objectifying women.

 

Apparently, burning NH4Cr2O7 and HgSCN opens a portal to hell . . .

 

Hope you’ve been inspired. See you Saturday!

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 13-19, 2016

A little craft, a little business, and a lot of writerly randomness 🙂

K.M. Weiland shares five ways to trim your novel’s word count (part 1). Helping writers become authors. Later in the week, she helps us learn how to write deep and rich story conflict.

C.S. Lakin explains how novelists can benefit from using cinematic scene structure. Live, write, thrive.

Carly Watters interviews Susan Spann for her things I wish I knew series: navigating publishing contracts.

Mike Shatzkin posits that as the industry changes, publishing houses must make changes, too.

Selena Kitt exposes Kindle Unlimited scammers.

How to write an award winning, bestselling novel. Nathan Filer’s TED Talk:

 

Neil Gaiman discusses how stories last. BrainPickings.

Yann Martel invites us into his writer’s room. The New York Times Style Magazine.

Books about white, middle-class men send our students the wrong message. Olivia Eaton for The Guardian.

Bustle presents six reasons reading is amazing for your health.

This is just darling: The Chronicle Books Blog shares images of dogs mesmerized by the magic of reading.

Mental Floss lists 40 highfalutin H-words to heighten your vocabulary.

On the other end of the scale . . . cunty, cuntish, cunted, and cunting are added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Jezebel.

Things men say when a woman author confesses her profession. Lenny.

Oooh! Ima see this! Ms. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

 

And that’s Tipsday for this week! Come back on Thursday for your weekly dose of thoughty!

Tipsday

CanCon 2015, day 3: The Renaissance vision of utopia

Mini disclaimer: These are my notes and may contain errors. If you have corrections, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll amend the post directly.

Presenter: Professor Cristina Perissinotto, University of Ottawa

RenaissanceUtopias

My apologies, Cristina, for my poor photography skills 😦

Utopia is from the Greek, meaning ‘no place.’

More’s Utopia was published in 1515. He’s an important scholar. He was essentially optimistic. The king sent him to Flanders where the concept of the book was born. More visited Erasmus and was introduced to a Portugese sailor named Hythloday. The book documents their discussions of Utopia, the miraculous land Hytholday discovered in his travels.

The inhabitants are peaceful, they dress the same, they distribute goods equally among the people, they don’t engage in war, and they don’t use money except when they need to in their dealings with other nations.

The principle explored was this: that humankind, with good laws and education can create a good society.

It hearkens back to Plato’s Republic, which was a philosophical treatise on the nature of justice. The principles of Republic were applied on several occasions, but failed to take hold.

In the Renaissance, it was rediscovered.

Aristophanes, a comedic playwright, wrote The Assembly of Women, which suggested that women would institute a utopian society.

There are also elements of monasticism in utopian societies. Monks are communal, but set apart from society.

There is also the legend of Prester John, who was said to have founded a Christian Kingdom somewhere in Africa. Travelers would return with stories of strange beings with wolf heads, mono-pods, and people with faces on their chests.

The land of Cockaigne is another mythic place. The people there never speak of work or war. They only eat, drink, sleep, play, and dance. Real life is topsy-turvy. Nature is overwhelming. It’s a hedonistic place where people satisfy their needs and wants. There is no spirituality. They espouse anti-Christian values. It’s a symbol of lower class paradise.

Utopia is different.

Everyone works in Utopia. It’s like a machine that only functions if everyone does their part. It’s thought that the idea of Utopia was inspired by tales of the New World.

Arthur Morgan claimed that nowhere was somewhere. He posited that the Incas were the inspiration for Utopia. They had grain warehouses to feed everyone.

A utopian society needs to be insular, however.

Every utopia has the seed of its own dystopia within it.

The Italians loved the idea of utopia, but their efforts to create a utopian society were not focused on the happiness of the people. They aimed at the harmonic ideal. The pre-planned cities of the Quattrocento were an attempt to design such a utopia.

Utopias are not free. In More’s Utopia, there is no travel, a restriction on procreation, and the population is controlled by a pre-determined death age. So that they wouldn’t be a burden on the rest of society, women were killed at 45 and men at 50. Women were relegated to the role of housekeeper and mother. Because the model was a monastic one, it was hard to find a place for women within it.

Dystopias are dysfunctional utopias. 1984, Brave New World. Ernst Callenbach wrote Ecotopia in 1975. It was an ecological utopia.

We don’t believe in the idea of utopia anymore.

The first ‘gated community’ appeared in Florida, run by Walt Disney. It was an attempt at a modern utopia in the 50’s.

Findhorn is a Scottish commune started in the 70’s. It’s a self-sufficient community with green roofs and windmills for energy.

Modern attempts at utopian societies engage with reality. Writers can dream about possible futures.

The bosco verticale, or vertical forest, in Milan is another attempt at an ecological utopia. They want to green the city, use solar and wind power, clean the environment.

The proposed Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid in Tokyo Bay will eventually house a million people.

As we move into the age of space exploration, the search for utopia becomes a blank canvas. It is what we make it.

And that was the end of the last presentation I attended at CanCon 2015. I hope you’ve enjoyed my session notes.

My next convention won’t be until the end of April. Until then, I’ll attempt to entertain you with all the wonderful stuff I’ve learned from movies and television recently, and I might have a book review or two to share. Aside from that, I’ll still be writing my monthly next chapter updates.

Hope everyone has a fabulous vernal equinox. Spring is here (finally)! Though, as usual, we probably have a few more weeks of snow and cold to go around the Sudz.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, March 6-12, 2016

A few videos, some abandoned (and recovered) places, a bit of science, and some feels. Enjoy!

Susan Engel believes that joy is a subject schools lack. The Atlantic.

Reshma Saujani’s TED talk: Teach girls bravery, not perfection.

Caitlin Moran lists 12 things about being a woman that women won’t tell you. Esquire. Funny and true 🙂

Justin Trudeau: Gender equality is an opportunity, not a threat. The Globe and Mail.

Finland’s parliament: pioneer of gender equality. This is Finland.

Converted church—including graveyard—for sale as family home. Would you? If I had the money, I certainly would!

This 300 year old house has been completely renovated. Bright Side.

The Daily Mail shares these amazing pictures of a secret underground WWI hospital.

Francine Christophe: Human.

 

Scientists studying the DNA of ancient Europeans find evidence of a major population upheaval at the end of the last Ice Age. Doug Bolton for The Independent.

Another fast radio burst update from Phil Plait. Slate.

How do we know global warming is real? Phil Plait recommends a Tamino blog post that does a really good job answering that question. Slate.

Solar energy product rolls out like a carpet. Inhabitat.

To get you in the mood for St. Patrick’s Day, here’s part one of the National Film Board’s The Fairy Faith. Bailey Cotton.

 

For the feels. Eric and Peety, a mutual rescue story.

 

See you on Saturday!

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 6-12, 2016

A nice bit mix of craft, career, and creativity 🙂

K.M. Weiland continues her most common writing mistakes series with number 49: weak conjunctions. Helping writers become authors. Later in the week, she helps us keep things straight: Plot isn’t story.

C.S. Lakin explores cinematic scene openings in her scene structure series.

Lisa Cron tells us the shocking truth about info dumps. Writer Unboxed.

Christine Frazier helps us take charge of our novels’ symbolism. The Better Novel Project.

Janice Hardy offers the basics of punctuating dialogue. Fiction University. Later, she talks about getting readers to the end and making them glad they came.

Chris Winkle shares five haunting backgrounds for creating deep characters. Mythcreants. Then, Oren Ashkenazi shares five more reasons your story is sexist.

Laura Drake overcomes rejection: Don’t give up your power. Writers in the Storm.

Jaym Gates talks about making hard decisions and refocusing on what matters.

I’m so glad more writers are blogging about this. So important. Self-care for writers, by Jami Gold.

This is the dystopia we’ve built. Kameron Hurley reflects on life experiences and reviews The United States of Japan.

Laini Taylor offers some writing advice. The Book Life.

Publishing business news from Publishers Weekly: The Supreme Court rejects Apple’s appeal.

BBC presents ten women who changed science fiction for the better.

Bustle shares eight feminist science fiction novels. Moar recommended reading (!)

This is just amazing storytelling. The Maker.

 

Another brilliant piece of storytelling, but with a dystopian bent. iMom will creep you out. i09.

Entertainment Tonight online interviews Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe on season two of Outlander.

Thanks for stopping by.

Come back for some inspirational material on thoughty Thursday.

Tipsday

CanCon 2015, day 3: Whither and how the human exploration of the solar system?

Mini disclaimer: These are my notes and may contain errors. Got corrections? Email: melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com

Panellists: Trevor Quachri, Wolfram Lunscher, Eric Choi

SpaceExplorationPanel

TQ: What do you think would be the most promising method of space travel for the exploration of the solar system?

WL: Nuclear-powered space travel. Once you’re in space, chemical rockets make less sense. NASA has developed a reactor the size of a fridge for interplanetary travel. Financing of the Mars program has been a contentious issue, however, and, for now, the Russians are ahead of the West.

EC: There is a lot of optimism about space travel again. It’s the positive influence of science fiction. Are there negatives to the way fiction portrays space travel?

TQ: Not really. Except, “where’s my rocket pack?” People want access to this technology now. It’s hard to see the destination when the process is so drawn out. We need to encourage science literacy.

WL: 2001: A Space Odyssey shows the way it was supposed to work, the way we thought it would work. There was a lot of optimism. After the moon landing, we were going to establish a presence on the moon in the 70’s and then use that as a step toward Mars, and eventually Jupiter.

EC: Fred Ordway was the advisor for 2001. They showed the use of flat screen monitors and newspads. While we don’t have human exploration of the Jovian system, in terms of the other technology featured in the film, we’ve been there and beyond.

TQ: The human interest aspect is crucial. We lose some of the romance when we compare what’s actually happening with what’s portrayed in science fiction.

WL: Space exploration was a human endeavour in the 50’s ad 60’s. That robots would go first wasn’t part of the picture. Arthur C. Clarke followed up on this with the message the monolith transmitted. There was a documentary on Discovery about a manned mission to another planet. The craft was totally automated.

TQ: In some fiction, automated probes are designed to build habitat and biological bodies for scientists, then the scientists’ consciousnesses are transferred into the remote bodies.

WL: They’re looking at similar possibilities for the moon.

EC: In Stephen Baxter’s alternate history Voyage, Kennedy survives and the mission to Mars is accomplished in the 70’s. They swung around Venus. We know more from robotic probes than the characters were able to gather. What are the hurdles we need to overcome to make this kind of vision happen?

TQ: Public interest needs to be sustained over long periods of time. This is the primary challenge. Science fiction is optimistic that we can overcome the obstacles.

WL: The biggest hurdle is money. We have to invest heavily to make the vision a reality. The money spent on The Avengers: Age of Ultron exceeded the cost of the last probe sent to Mars. The money being generated from the space program isn’t being realized in the same amounts as the money being invested into it. The money comes from the government or military, so it becomes politicized. It’s all quid pro quo. We need to build an industrial space infrastructure that will lead to colonization. There are parallels to be drawn to the discovery of the New World.

EC: William Proxmire, a former US senator, created the Golden Fleece Award, and gave it to scientific experiments that he considered to be the biggest wastes of taxpayer money. A number of them resulted in advances, but it just reflects his misunderstanding of science and scientific enquiry. Niven and Clarke both wrote stories about him. Sagan knew that Proxmire was opposed to SETI, but the senator was also concerned with the nuclear arms race. Sagan framed SETI in terms that were attractive to Proxmire and was able to get support for the project.

Q: How do private enterprises figure in?

TQ: Heinlein pre-figured that private industry would be responsible for our exploration of space. The Military-industrial complex worked toward it. Outside of public good, how do they identify the cost effectiveness of their efforts?

WL: What goes out has to come from somewhere. Rocket Ship Galileo was owned by the older brother of one of the characters. Serenity was bought in a junkyard. Elon Musk doesn’t fund Space X entirely out of his own pocket. NASA is his partner. They’ve faced hardship because of rocket explosions. That’s how research and development goes, though. Sometimes experiments fail.

TQ: In the golden age of science fiction, the archetype was the two-fisted astronaut-explorer. Now characters fit into the Elon Musk or Tony Stark archetype.

WL: In Clarke’s Prelude to Space, the mission tot he moon was funded by the last millionaire in England who bequeathed his fortune to the space program. The general belief is that mad scientists working in basements come up with all of the scientific innovations. In reality international teams of scientists do that work.

TQ: It’s a childhood fantasy, though. People have been building rockets in their back yards.

WL: Larry Niven isn’t just an author. He was involved in the Strategic Defence Initiative, the Citizen’s Advisory Council on National Space Policy, and an advocate for the Single-Stage-to-Orbit concept. He’s advised the Department of Homeland Security.

EC: Elon Musk was asked, how does one make a small fortune in space? His answer? You start with a large fortune. He went to Russia and tried to buy a rocket. It was beyond his means and so he started his own company.

WL: The question of security has been raised. What are they afraid of? That we’ll drag everyone to the trailing edge of technology? It’s so expensive because, to this point, most projects have been one-offs. One shuttle. One space station. Or the numbers have been limited. It’s the opposite of manufacturing. We need to think of efficiency and reusability for space exploration to move into the future.

And that was all we had time for.

Fascinating. Thoughty, even 😉

Next week, I’ll be coming to my last report from CanCon 2015. Sunday was not only a short day because of travel, but it was also the day when I had most of my pitches and blue-pencils scheduled.

It’s been fun. I won’t have more convention reportage to share with you until after Ad Astra at the end of April. In the meantime, I’ll fill up Saturdays with movie madness, series discoveries, and next chapter updates. I might even muster a book review. You never know.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Feb 28-March 5, 2016

The days are getting longer. I must think on solar power 😉

Jessica Lahey explores how the focus on academic achievement in schools can lead to failure. The Atlantic.

No, honey. You can’t be anything you want to be, but that’s all right. The Washington Post.

The men of the Oscars humiliate brilliant costume designer, Jenny Beavan. Heather Mallick for The Toronto Star.

New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, bans “conversion therapy.” Several other states have already done so, but this barbaric practice needs to be abolished. Now. The American Psychiatric Association.

Monarch butterfly numbers are on the rise over winter. YAY! The Toronto Star.

These orphaned crows return to check in on their adoptive human family every year. UPI.

Why do dogs tilt their heads when we speak to them? Short answer: nobody knows for sure. Entertaining post, though. IFLS.

An ancestor of the domestic cat chose humans, not the other way around. Seriously? Hasn’t this always been the way with cats? Samme Chittum for Life with Cats.

This jaguar is blissing out!

 

Jill Suttie shares five ways nature can help you become kinder, happier, and more creative. Greater Good.

What’s the one thing you need to be truly happy? Read on and find out 😉 Inc.

Yes. This is a laundry commercial. #sharetheload

 

A photographer visited a lost, Mongolian tribe and took these amazing pictures. Shareably.

Online parish records will change the way we research genealogy. Irish Central.

Allison Meier shares fantastic images of holloways, roads that have been tunnelled into the earth over time. Atlas Oscura.

Medieval oaks found in Winston Churchill’s old back garden at Blenheim Palace. The Daily Mail Online.

Wales Online features 33 amazing castles in Wales. Though the article calls them Welsh castles, a kind reader pointed out to me that many of these castles were actually built by the English. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. Seriously cool.

Phil Plait explains leap days and how they work. Because astronomy. Slate.

Astronomers posit that the moon was created by a head on collision between Earth and a protoplanet. UCLA science and technology.

See you Saturday!

Thoughty Thursday