Monday, February 28, 2011

Cojoined

Discovery, Dextre and the ISS. I'm hoping they also release a shot showing the Soyuz, and the three (!) different cargo vehicles.
Back Flip

Space Shuttle Discovery doing its inspection maneuvers on final approach to the ISS.
Red Moon at Night

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is almost fit for Halloween. A red "snow moon" rises.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What Mad Universe

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows how strange and wonderful our universe can be at times. Loo at those craters!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

Liftoff!

Discovery rises into space.
Closeup: Many Worlds

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is a beautiful Hubble Space Telescope shot of NGC 4449. A "small" galaxy, I wonder how many worlds we are looking at.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What Has He Got In His Pocketteesssss?

Harkening back to a column that used to run in the business section of The New York Times, what does James Gurney have in his backpack?
Oh, Snap!

No more part-time job.
Party Like It's 1999

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day takes us to the southern reaches of Orion, to NGC 1999.
Ready to Launch

Discovery on the pad. Launch 90% go right now.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fell Into a Burning Ring of Fire (On Serial Matters)

Eric Flint; 1632 (Baen Books; 2000; ISBN 0-671-57849-9; cover by Larry Elmore).

Eric Flint (editor): Ring of Fire (Baen Books; 2004; ISBN 0-7134-7175-X; cover by Dru Blair).

Made up of: Preface (Eric Flint); In the Navy (David Weber); To Dye For (Mercedes Lackey); A Lineman for the Country (Dave Freer); Between the Armies (Andrew Dennis); Biting Time (Virginia DeMarce); Power to the People (Loren K. Jones); A Matter of Consultation (S.I. Viehl); Family Faith (Annette M. Pedersen); When the Chips are Down (Jonathan Cresswell and Scott Washburn); American Past Time (Deann Allen and Mike Turner); Skeletons (Greg Donahue); A Witch to Live (Walt Boyes); The Three Rs (Jody Dorsett); Here Comes Santa Claus (K.D. Wentworth); The Wallenstein Gambit (Eric Flint).

Counts as sixteen (16) entries in the 2011 Year in Shorts.
Chocolate Milk

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day Shows the Milky Way over the skies of Switzerland. This time of year we are looking at the "attic" of the Milky Way.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Heritage Hubble

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a Hubble Space Telescope image of NGC 2841 (in Ursa Major). George Lucas, eat your heart out.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blue Mars

But...but...I thought it was the Red Planet Mars! Paging Kim Stanley Robinson!
Completed Shorts

Philip K. Dick; The King of the Elves (The Complete Stories of Philip K. Dick, Volume 01) (Subterranean Press; 2010; ISBN 978-1-59606-339-6; cover by Bill Sienkiewicz).

It appears that a total of five volumes are planned. The second volume is listed at the Subterranean Press website.

Made up of: Stability; Menace React; Roog; The Little Movement; Beyond Lies the Wub; The Gun; The Skull; The Defenders; Mr. Spaceship; Piper in the Woods; The Infinites; The Preserving Machine; Expendable; The Variable Man; The Indefatigable Frog; The Crystal Crypt; The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford; The Builder; Meddler; Paycheck; The Great C; Out in the Garden; The King of the Elves; Colony; Prize Ship; Nanny; Notes.

Counts as one (01) entry in the 2011 Year in Shorts.
Crystal Japan

Edward Lipsett (editor); Speculative Japan 02 (Kurodahan Press; 2011; ISBN 978-4-902075-18-2; cover by Katoh Naoyuki).

Made up of: Preface (Edward Lipsett); Introduction (Darrell Schweitzer); A Gift from the Sea (Awa Naoko, translated by Sheryl A. Hogg); Freud (Enjoe Toh, translated by Kevin Steinbach); The Whale that Sang on the Milky Way Network (Ohara Mariko, translated by Nancy H. Ross); Old Vohl's Planet (Ogawa Issui, translated by Jim Hubbert); The Big Drawer (Onda Riku, translated by Nora Stevens Heath); Emanon: A Reminiscence (Kajio Shinji, translated by Edward Lipsett); Midst the Mist (Kitakuni Koji, translated by Rossa O'Muireartaigh); The Man Who Watched the Sea (Kobayashi Yasumi, translated by Anthea Murphy); Melk's Golden Acres (Takagi Nobuko, translated by Dink Tanaka); Q-Cruiser Basilisk (Tani Koshu, translated by Simon Varnam); Mountaintop Symphony (Nakai Norio, translated by Terry Gallagher); Open Up (Hori Akira, translated by Roy Berman); Perspective (Yamo Yuko, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori).

Counts as two (02) entries in the 2011 Year in Shorts.
Off on a Comet

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows one of the recently-returned images from Comet Tempel 1. All of the images can be found here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

North America in Two Views

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the North American Nebula in both "normal" light and infrared (roll over to get the alternate view). A stellar nursery at work! I've only had the luck of seeing this a few times; it is a large and diffuse object and requires both dark skies and a filter.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Interview with David Drake

In Episode 28 of The SF Signal Podcast, I go all fanboi over one of my favorite authors.
Valentine's Day

Just in time for Valentine's Day, today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Rosette Nebula. An elusive target unless you have dark skies, filters and (more usually) photographic equipment. A geeky posting for my wife!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cosmic Catch

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a very different kind of ice fishing. The search for neutrinos using deep holes in the ice at the South Pole. The variety among instruments used in astronomy is really amazing.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Remnant Population

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows supernova remnant Simeis 147. Amazing the beauty resulting in so much destruction.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Stretched Spectra

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the spectrum of the stars in the constellation Orion using a unique photographic method.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Galactic Patrol

In the late 1960's, I traveled between the galaxies.

In reality, I was standing in front of the wire-frame book rack at Packard's Market in Hackensack, New Jersey. My parents would bring us there for the weekly shopping trip, dump us in front of the books and we would happily browse while they shopped (can you imagine anybody doing that these days?).

Ah yes, the days before bookstores. Yes, there were bookstores in the world, children. Just not in Teaneck, New Jersey, not then. There was the library (with a shelf of science fiction for "juveniles" about four foot long) that I worked through. Alan E. Nourse (Rocket to Limbo, followed by books such as Raiders from the Rings and Scavengers in Space) was my first science fiction novel. Andre Norton (Star Born, the Forerunner books, Zero Stone, Uncharted Stars) soon followed, and then Arthur C. Clarke (Islands in the Sky) and other books from John C. Winston Books...

But those wire racks. Those took me between the galaxies.

You see around that time Pyramid Books reissued E.E. "Doc" Smith's classic Skylark books and Lensman books. I'm not sure what it was that caught my eye. Was it the name? (Did "E.E." have the same mysterious connotations as A.E. in A.E. van Vogt and C.L. as in C.L. Moore?) Was it the fact that it was a series (if you like the first, there's more to come!)? Was it the artwork by (as I learned later) Jack Gaughan?

The covers. Definitely the covers. Cool bug-like spaceships. They didn't look like the Mercury and Gemini capsules that I built models of. They looked like, well, spaceships! Far future craft, plying their way between the stars.

Standing there as the crowds swirled around us, I started with the first book in the series, Triplanetary. And was hooked. During subsequent visits (I was a fast reader), I went through the rest of the series: First Lensman, Galactic Patrol, Grey Lensman, Second Stage Lensman, Children of the Lens and Masters of the Vortex.

We didn't start small. Oh, no. We start with the collision of two galaxies, the creation of many worlds, the rise of two competing philosophies, war in space and on the Earth, the fall of Atlantis, the fall of Rome, World War II, World War ??? and then war between planets.

And that was just the start of the series!

The rise of the Galactic Patrol, the coming of Kimball Kinnison, space pirates, the layers of the onion that was the crime organization of Boskone, weird aliens that were allies...ships that got bigger and bigger, weapons that got bigger and bigger. Heck, skip ships, start tossing planets around! Single worlds! Fleets of worlds! Negaspheres! Vortexes! Mind power! More!

Corny? Yes. Characters? No. Nevertheless, hook, line and sinker. And I revisit them every couple of years.

The Lensman series led to Skylark. Skylark led to John W. "Astounding Stories" Campbell, Jr. Then there was Edmond "World Wrecker" Hamilton, Leigh "Planet Stories" Brackett, Jack "Space Legion" Williamson and all the other proponents of the first great age of space opera.

Space Opera, yep, that is my secret vice.

These things come in waves. Space opera, as it was later termed, helped to build science fiction and bring about the "golden age" (eleven). It helped to spawn films like Forbidden Planet and television series like Star Trek. Then it became uncool and we had the New Wave and the like and then the New Space Opera and it was cool again and then fell out of favor and came back as the New New Space Opera.

It lives, it breathes, it grows. Alastair Reynolds, Peter F. Hamilton, Iain M. Banks, Charles Stross, Ken MacLeod, John Ringo, David Weber, Travis S. "Doc" Taylor (finally, another "Doc"!), Howard Tayler and many more share in my "secret vice" now.

When does a secret vice become not so much a vice? Hmmm...time to crack open Galactic Patrol. Or maybe The Legion of Space. Or The Black Star Passes. Or...

(This was my contribution to the latest edition of SF Signal's Mind Meld feature...)

Addendum: Another 15 picoseconds of fame.
Voorweep

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows Hanny's Voorweep or Hanny's Object. What strange universe!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Pillars

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows NGC 2147, a stellar nursery where new stars are eroding the "mountains" that brought them into being.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Life Is Strange When You're Living in STEREO

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the first "whole image" of the Sun.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Highlands

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows the Fra Mauro Highlands and the area around the landing site of LM Antares during the Apollo 14 mission. Wish we were going back!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Kepler 11

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day shows a hypothetical depiction of the Kepler 11 star system. The Kepler space telescope team discovered six planets around that star.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Number 283 in a Collector's Edition

Another month...another Ansible!

As Others Avoid Us. The BBC's forthcoming Outcasts takes place on a far world colonized after Earth's nuclear holocaust: 'But don't call it sci-fi, which is pretty much a banned word on set,' warns the Daily Mail. Set designer James North of Doctor Who explains: 'Sci-fi has its own dedicated TV channel, and the BBC doesn't want to give the impression it's putting out a sci-fi show on prime-time BBC1.' Unthinkable! 'This is futuristic drama with the focus on pioneering humans who, out of necessity, just happen to be living on a planet that isn't Earth. There are sci-fi elements to the drama. But in terms of the sets and the dressing, we've tried to make it as Earthbound as possible. So no sonic screwdrivers.' Admittedly the South African setting has 'such spectacular and unusual scenery you could almost believe you were on an alien planet.' But series creator Ben Richards nervously adds '... an alien planet without scary monsters. Little green men and fearsome creatures isn't what Outcasts is about at all.' (all Daily Mail, 29 January) [JB]