Thursday May 1, 2008

Either a Prediction or Free Advice

Joss Whedon's upcoming series Dollhouse is about people who can be temporarily programmed with any personality or skills.  The Actives, as they're called, spend time between missions at a facility called The Dollhouse, where they have only rudimentary personalities of their own, and their names reflect this; the characters announced so are called Echo, Sierra, Victor, and November.  Get it?  They're named according to the phonetic alphabet.

Continue reading "Either a Prediction or Free Advice"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
02:52 AM in Science Fiction , Television | Comments (8) | Submit: | Links:

Sunday April 20, 2008

Fact-checking Ray Bradbury

James Lileks dug up an amazing bit of pop-culture this week: a TV commercial in which none other than Ray Bradbury appears, hawking Sunsweet pitted prunes.  No kidding.  Check it out:

At the end of his post (it's the most recent one at the moment, the permalink isn't working) Lileks writes, citing Bradbury's own words, "It's true: he didn't mention prunes in any of his stories."  But is this true?  The answer may shock you!

Continue reading "Fact-checking Ray Bradbury"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
01:47 AM in Science Fiction , Television | Comments (8) | Submit: | Links:

Saturday April 19, 2008

Robot Identification

Having now seen the WeRobot shirt from ChopShop (via, via), I can't help but treat it as a quiz.  How many of these robots can you identify based on their silhouettes?  (My answers after the jump.)

Continue reading "Robot Identification"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
06:08 PM in Science Fiction | Comments (17) | Submit: | Links:

Tuesday February 5, 2008

Firefly by Brust

Heads up, Firefly/Serenity fans: one of my favorite authors, Steven Brust, has released his Firefly novel My Own Kind of Freedom (previously mentioned here) as freely-downloadable fanfic.  That's free as in beer!  Now, I'm not the sort of person who uses the word squee, but I have to tell you, when I saw the novel had finally been released, it was a near thing.  It always gives me a special thrill When Fandoms Collide.  If only we could figure out a way to get the ghost of Robert Heinlein writing BSG fanfic...hmm, or maybe Buffy fanfic would be more up his alley...

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
12:59 PM in Science Fiction | Comments (1) | Submit: | Links:

Monday September 17, 2007

Mysterons vs. Mysterians

I suppose confusion is understandable—the names are so similar, after all—but I think it's important that we get this straight once and for all.  So pay close attention:

Continue reading "Mysterons vs. Mysterians"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
09:17 PM in Film , Music , Science Fiction , Television | Comments (2) | Submit: | Links:

Sunday March 11, 2007

Stalking the Psychic Nosebleed

Over at Polite Dissent (previously mentioned here), one of the regular features is titled "Your Moment of Psychic Nosebleed Zen".  In it, intrepid physician and medicine-in-comics blogger Scott writes about instances of a very common trope in comics and science fiction.  To quote the TV Tropes Wiki:

Purely mental battles are hard to show with special effects.  Therefore, when a character with psychic powers pushes them to the limit, or when a character is under mental attack, often you'll see a thin trickle of blood oozing from their nose.

Recently, Scott posed a question to his readers: what was the first appearance of the psychic nosebleed, in comics, literature, or film?

Continue reading "Stalking the Psychic Nosebleed"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
05:23 PM in Comic Books , Science Fiction | Comments (7) | Submit: | Links:

Saturday March 10, 2007

Why Do I Even Bother?

Apparently, the British military can't be bothered to follow the most basic precautions.  How can I help you if you don't listen, British military?  Sigh.  (via)

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
10:54 PM in News , Science Fiction | Comments (2) | Submit: | Links:

Tuesday January 30, 2007

SF Book Meme

After the jump you'll find my contribution to the "way too much information about my taste in SF" meme.  (via via via)

Continue reading "SF Book Meme"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
06:15 PM in Science Fiction | Comments (9) | Submit: | Links:

Monday January 15, 2007

Star Trek vs. Jefferson Airplane

Check out this awesome video mashup.  I hope you relish it as much as I:

Most linguisticky moment: "smoking caterpillar"—the edit is in just the right place to get you to reanalyze hookah-smoking caterpillar in the intended way.  The "remember" bit is clever too—referencing a scene from Wrath of Khan by using a similar scene from TOS without breaking up the visual feel of the video.

It's amazing how close to the surface the drug subtext was in Trek.  For a similar mashup addressing a different subtext, see Closer [NSFW].

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
06:33 PM in Music , Science Fiction , Television | Comments (3) | Submit: | Links:

Friday December 8, 2006

Most Significant SF Books

I was too busy to write up a response the first time I saw this list of the 50 "most significant" SF books mentioned, but now somebody else I know has written about it, so it must be destiny.  I bow to the inevitable.

Continue reading "Most Significant SF Books"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
05:05 PM in Science Fiction | Comments (16) | Submit: | Links:

Wednesday December 6, 2006

Fencing in Germany

For the last couple of months, I've been fencing twice a week at the local club over here.  Everyone seems to be younger, faster, and more precise than I am, but they've been very friendly, patiently putting up with my terrible German and my slow, never-gonna-be-better-than-intermediate fencing.  What's impressed me the most, though, is how fencing is clearly a bigger deal over here than in the US, and that's reflected in the quality of the facilities.  For instance, the gravity controls are way more advanced than any I've seen in the States.

Continue reading "Fencing in Germany"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
03:47 AM in Fencing , Science Fiction | Comments (5) | Submit: | Links:

Tuesday August 22, 2006

Threepio's Buddy?

Over the last few days I've been noticing a steady stream of visitors to this site who have found it via Google searches for threepio's buddy (for which this page is currently the number one hit).  Anybody know what that's about?  Is there some new Star Wars parody going around that I haven't heard of?  I've gotten a big kick out of the last three, and I wouldn't want to miss out.

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
07:10 PM in Film , Science Fiction , Weblogs | Comments (5) | Submit: | Links:

Saturday July 22, 2006

Whedon and Feminism

For those of you who are into this sort of thing: an interesting post on the new-to-me blog Wax Banks titled "Is Joss Whedon feminist enough?"  Follow the links, there's a lot more where that came from.  (hat tip: jobbi)

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
10:27 PM in Science Fiction , Television | Comments (0) | Submit: | Links:

Friday July 14, 2006

Poulpe Pulps

Always on the lookout for narrowly defined genres, I bring you (via Incoming Signals) Poulpe Pulps: A Silly Website, which is a collection of pulp novel and comic book covers featuring octopi octopodes octopussies octopuses.

(This post is for Chiara.)

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
02:21 AM in Books , Comic Books , Science Fiction | Comments (1) | Submit: | Links:

Saturday May 20, 2006

Eye of the Beholder

Submitted for your approval, direct from the depths of one man's subconscious.  On the left, Gary Numan, 38 seconds into the the video for "Cars".  On the right, one of the doctors from the Twilight Zone episode "Eye of the Beholder":

The same hair, the same eye liner, the same curl of the lip.  Coincidence?  Perhaps, but maybe something more—for you see, this just happens to be...The Twilight Zone.

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
04:24 AM in Music , Science Fiction , Television | Comments (3) | Submit: | Links:

Tuesday May 9, 2006

Doc's Exercises

The Church of Scientology is reportedly about to unveil a center in Clearwater, Florida specializing in their "Super Power" training program, which trains you in, well, super powers.  Shhh!  It's secret, and scientific, too:

A key aim of Super Power is to enhance one's perceptions - and not just the five senses we all know - hearing, sight, touch, taste and smell....  Super Power uses machines, apparatus and specially designed rooms to exercise and enhance a person's so-called perceptics. Those machines include an antigravity simulator and a gyroscope-like apparatus that spins a person around while blindfolded to improve perception of compass direction, said the former Scientologists.

A video screen that moves forward and backward while flashing images is used to hone a viewer's ability to identify subliminal messages, they said.

This sounds strangely familiar.  Wait!  My inhumanly acute powers of memory are tingling...throbbing...yes, it's all coming back to me now—Doc Savage's exercises!

Continue reading "Doc's Exercises"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
03:29 AM in Religion , Science Fiction | Comments (21) | Submit: | Links:

Tuesday April 18, 2006

What Would Heinlein Do?

Today on Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow wrote about John Varley's new novel Red Lightning, calling it "The novel Heinlein would have written about GW Bush's America".  He goes on to explain:

Heinlein was an ideological libertarian. You could call his politics right wing, and they were, on many of the left-right axes. But Heinlein never would have sat still for the Patriot Act and the daily and deep incursions on liberties that have come to characterise life in America and increasingly Britain and other parts of the world. He never would have accepted that you had to take away freedom to save liberty.

Doctorow is employing a common rhetorical device, here—asserting that some famous historical personage would surely have agreed with him on some current controversy—but what I know about Heinlein, based on his own writings, doesn't suggest to me that his positions would be as easily predictable as Doctorow thinks they are.

Continue reading "What Would Heinlein Do?"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
10:43 PM in News , Science Fiction | Comments (30) | Submit: | Links:

Tuesday March 28, 2006

This I Believe #9

...that New Caprica is Earth during the last Ice Age.

Continue reading "This I Believe #9"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
04:59 PM in Science Fiction , Television , This I Believe | Comments (8) | Submit: | Links:

Tuesday February 14, 2006

Hugo SIPs

Some time after Amazon added the "Search Inside!" feature, they also began displaying a list of "SIPs" and "CAPs" for most searchable books.  CAPs are Captitalized Phrases that occur frequently in the book.  They usually include things like character and place names.  SIPs (Statistically Improbable Phrases) are more interesting.  They're characteristic phrases that occur more often in the book in question than in all the other searchable books.  To show you what SIPs look like, I've gone through the (searchable) novels that have won the Hugo Award and collected their SIPs.  It's interesting to see how the SIP algorithm sometimes successfully distills the flavor of the language of a novel (and sometimes not).

Continue reading "Hugo SIPs"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
10:47 PM in Linguistics , Science Fiction | Comments (13) | Submit: | Links:

Monday February 13, 2006

To the Martians

This week's episode of the public radio show Studio 360 included a hilarious piece by Jack Handey (the guy who did "Deep Thoughts" on Saturday Night Live for years) called "My Speech to the Martians".  You can listen to it here.

I came here in peace, seeking gold and slaves, but you have treated me like an intruder.  But maybe it is not me who is the intruder, but you.  No, not me—you, stupid.

Continue reading "To the Martians"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
04:59 AM in Science Fiction | Comments (1) | Submit: | Links:

Tuesday January 10, 2006

Tek Jansen Redux!

I've posted before about the newest sensation in fake-celebrity-authored fake technothriller space opera: Stephen Colbert's Alpha Squad 7: Lady Nocturne: A Tek Jansen Adventure.  Well, thanks to long-time-reader-first-time-emailer Brian White, I have fantastic news to report.  Colbert has apparently decided to do an end run around the elitist bookanistas in the mainstream publishing industry by self-publishing his 100,000 word epic, a chapter at a time, on the new Tek Jansen website.  O happy day!

Continue reading "Tek Jansen Redux!"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
02:46 PM in Science Fiction , Television | Comments (1) | Submit: | Links:

Saturday October 29, 2005

Tek Jansen!

If you've been waiting for the Next Great Sci-Fi Adventure Novel, you're in luck.  It's already been written, and by a fictional character to boot.  TV news personality "Stephen Colbert" (as opposed to comedian Stephen Colbert) is posting excerpts from his "self-published, currently undistributed" novel Alpha Squad 7: Lady Nocturne: A Tek Jansen Adventure on the website for The Colbert Report.  The first few paragraphs from chapter 26, "Abraxxia's Gambit", are truly exceptional.  More please!

Continue reading "Tek Jansen!"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
04:08 PM in Science Fiction , Television | Comments (5) | Submit: | Links:

Thursday September 15, 2005

The Paradox of Japan

Perhaps the most hackneyed cliché in travel writing is to describe a foreign country as "a land of contrasts".  But Japan, more than anywhere else in the world, really is such a place.  Everywhere you turn you find a startling mix of the old and the new, the traditional and the novel, the past and the future.  These contrasts are rooted in the tumultuous history of Japan in the 20th century.

From the beginning of the century through the Second World War, Japan's course was not without precedent.  Its industrialization and colonial adventures were, quite consciously, a compressed recapitulation of the recent histories of the European powers.  But everything changed in those two cataclysmic flashes of terrible light in the skies over Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Occupation followed, and then reconstruction, although the latter term hardly seems strong enough to capture the thoroughness of the changes to Japanese society at all levels.  As the nation emerged from occupation in the 1950's with its new and unique constitution, in which it forsook the practice of war for all time, it seemed poised to chart a course different from that of any other nation.  Just how different was more surprising than anyone expected.

Continue reading "The Paradox of Japan"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
02:29 AM in Science Fiction , Travel | Comments (2) | Submit: | Links:

Sunday June 5, 2005

Size Matters

Check out the coolest web site I've seen in a month: it lets you compare the size of various spacecraft from all sorts of different science fictional universes, including Star Wars, Star Trek, 2001, Farscape, Aliens, Babylon 5, and best of all, Macross.  Ever wanted to know how a Zentraedi Nupetiet-Vergnitzs flagship stacks up against an Imperial Star Destroyer?  (Don't look at me like that—you know you have!)  Now, if you're using IE, you can drag them side-by-side and compare.  I especially enjoyed the 2km-per-pixel scale tab, which includes the Halo, both Death Stars, and Unicron, with the Earth's moon in the background...you know, "for comparison".

The site is pretty comprehensive.  The only absence I noticed was the various ships from Gunbuster.  Buster Machine Number 3 was made out of Jupiter, for example—that's big!  (hat tip: Pious Agnostic)

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
04:23 AM in Science Fiction | Comments (3) | Submit: | Links:

Tuesday May 17, 2005

On Continuity

On my about page (go ahead, I'll wait) I mention an interest in various wife-numbingly geeky subjects, including "the problem of maintaining continuity in long-running multi-author works like comic books and television shows".  I'd always intended to write a long post (or possibly dissertation) on this subject, so I was delighted to read this article by Todd Seavey about continuity in general and Star Wars continuity in particular.  (hat tip: No-sword)

I have one quibble with something Seavey says.  Fair warning: I'm going to geek out here, so either put on your Spock ears with me or bug out now.

Continue reading "On Continuity"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
05:24 AM in Science Fiction | Comments (5) | Submit: | Links:

Monday April 18, 2005

Bionic Suit

There was a post on Boing Boing last week about a robot suit called "HAL" being developed at the University of Tsukuba in Japan.  Calling the suit "a mobile suit gundam of sorts", the Boing Boing post goes on to quote this passage from an article in New Scientist:

Two control systems interact to help the wearer stand, walk and climb stairs. A "bio-cybernic" system uses bioelectric sensors attached to the skin on the legs to monitor signals transmitted from the brain to the muscles. It can do this because when someone intends to stand or walk, the nerve signal to the muscles generates a detectable electric current on the skin's surface. These currents are picked up by the sensors and sent to the computer, which translates the nerve signals into signals of its own for controlling electric motors at the hips and knees of the exoskeleton. It takes a fraction of a second for the motors to respond accordingly, and in fact they respond fractionally faster to the original signal from the brain than the wearer's muscles do...

"It's like riding on a robot, rather than wearing one," says (University of Tsukuba researcher Yoshiyuki) Sankai.

Continue reading "Bionic Suit"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
01:46 AM in Science Fiction | Comments (1) | Submit: | Links:

Friday March 18, 2005

Star Wars Poll

Over at Byzantium's Shores, Jaquandor has posted his answers to a long poll about Star Wars.  The quarter is over and I have some free time, so I figured I'd throw in my two cents.  Note that I've left blank some of the questions I don't have strong opinons about and, like Jaq, I've added a couple of questions at the end.

Continue reading "Star Wars Poll"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
08:29 PM in Science Fiction | Comments (8) | Submit: | Links:

Thursday March 17, 2005

Revenge of the Sith Trailer

Last week, Lucasfilm released the trailer for the final Star Wars movie, Revenge of the Sith.  After watching it a few times, I'm really looking forward to seeing the movie—after The Phantom Menace (capsule review: pretty bad), and Attack of the Clones (capsule review: better, but still disappointing), RotS is his last chance to get it right, and I think he just might be on track.

Continue reading "Revenge of the Sith Trailer"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
03:25 AM in Science Fiction | Comments (2) | Submit: | Links:

Wednesday March 16, 2005

Fairy Shrimp My Ass!

I was reading the science news over at Yahoo! News, and I came across this article, which says in part:

Biologists with the Idaho National Guard have discovered a new species of fairy shrimp living in the oft-dry lake beds of Idaho's desert.

Though they look delicate enough to match their name, they are strong enough to survive, unhatched, for years in the baking heat of summer and the frozen tundra of winter until enough rain falls and the pools return. Once they awaken they live a few frenzied weeks, mating and leaving behind tiny cyst-like offspring, and die.

This may not seem alarming at first, but that's because you haven't seen the picture...

Continue reading "Fairy Shrimp My Ass!"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
08:05 PM in Science Fiction | Comments (4) | Submit: | Links:

Friday March 4, 2005

The Doctor Returns

The new Doctor Who TV show is about to start, on March 26th in the UK, but we poor Americans with our mere Sci-Fi Channel apparently won't be seeing it.  This is annoying, because I'm curious to see if the new series is any good.  (It could hardly be worse than the 1996 TV movie.  Trust me.)  I guess I can understand why the Sci-Fi Channel is reluctant, though.  Can you imagine them trying to bring the (largely Who-ignorant) American audience up to speed?

Previously on Doctor Who...um, there was this old guy and his granddaughter (except forget about her), and he traveled through time and stuff, and then he changed into a different guy (several different guys, actually), and some aliens tried to take over the Earth (several different kinds of aliens, actually, and they succeeded pretty often), and he flies around in a police box.  Uh, a police box is like a British phone booth, except only for police.  It's bigger inside than out, and it's broken, so it can go pretty much anywhere in time and space.  Anyway, he's a Time Lord and he's got a sidekick.  Enjoy!

(hat tip: Boing Boing)

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
02:28 PM in Science Fiction | Comments (8) | Submit: | Links:

Saturday February 26, 2005

Earthless

A couple of recent reviews by Anoop over at Special Circumstances reminded me of an odd little sub-sub-genre of science fiction that I noticed a few years ago: stories in which human (or post-human) civilization has spread across the solar system, but in which the Earth is somehow unavailable—devastated, off-limits, or ignored.  There's no name that I know of for this genre, but I privately think of it as "Earthless circumsolar civilization fiction".  I find the fictional histories of these stories particularly fascinating: scattered populations of refugees, cut off from the mother planet, whose cultures evolve in weird and unexpected ways.  In this post, I survey the best exemplars of this kind of fiction that I am aware of, and then discuss some of the similarities and differences among them.  [Warning: spoilers aplenty.]

Continue reading "Earthless"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
04:05 AM in Science Fiction | Comments (22) | Submit: | Links:

Tuesday November 23, 2004

Straylight Run

There's two kinds of people in the world: those who, upon discovering that there is a band named Straylight Run, will react by saying, "Oooo, cool name—wish I'd thought of that," and those who will react by saying, "Stray what-now?"

(If you're in the second category and don't get the reference, there's a hint after the jump.)

Continue reading "Straylight Run"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
11:21 AM in Science Fiction | Comments (0) | Submit: | Links:

Thursday November 18, 2004

Blast from the Past

How much of a geek does it make me that when I saw this, I immediately thought of this?

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
07:13 PM in Science Fiction | Comments (2) | Submit: | Links:

Wednesday June 9, 2004

Flash Gordon

I re-watched the 1980 version of Flash Gordon yesterday. I hadn't seen it for many years, but TiVo picked it up. Now, I can't claim that I had high expectations going in. I remembered it as being mediocre. Turns out I remembered wrong: it's a terrible, terrible movie.

Continue reading "Flash Gordon"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
05:02 AM in Science Fiction | Comments (9) | Submit: | Links:

Monday May 10, 2004

15 Minutes!

Holy cow, Qov is gonna be famous! Go to the site for the upcoming documentary Earthlings, move the mouse cursor over "About the Movie", select "Meet the K.L.I.", then click on "click here to view". That's her, third from the left!

Continue reading "15 Minutes!"

I am The Tensor, and I approve this post.
05:05 AM in Science Fiction | Comments (5) | Submit: | Links: