Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Capclave 2012

(Last updated September 26, 2012.)

It's become something of a tradition for me to participate in the annual DC-area con, Capclave. It's a user-friendly-sized gathering of fans and area authors. The con's motto (see the associated logo, nearby): "Where reading is not extinct."

Capclave 2012 is being held the weekend of October 12-14, in the DC suburb of Gaithersburg, MD. 

Capclave icon
The author Guest of Honor is John Scalzi -- a very droll guy, as he demonstrated yet again emceeing at the recent Worldcon Hugo Award ceremonies. And a great author. And, for a little while longer, also the president of SFWA.

This year I'll be attending the con only on the middle/main day: Saturday, 10/13. My updated (but not yet definitive) schedule is:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Looking every which way

Herewith, something of a catch-up/catch-all post -- but (I like to think) interesting stuff ...

Jodrell Bank was one of the first great radio observatories. For me, at least, just to encounter the name evokes a sense of wonder. And so, I was sad to learn that the man behind Jodrell Bank, "British astronomer Bernard Lovell dies at 98."

Above Valles Marineris
But there's more wonder to be had, as "Scientists Discover Tectonic Plates on Mars." Plate tectonics are crucial to keeping Earth a living planet. We need the crust stirred up so that critical substances don't get locked away from, well, life.

(Consider how, on Earth, plate tectonics are integrally tied into the carbon cycle (and keep in mind that organic chemistry is the chemistry of carbon). "Follow the water" has become a NASA mantra for locating signs of past or present extraterrestrial life; the availability of carbon is, IMO, just as important. At least for as long as the life for which we're looking is presumed to match terrestrial patterns ...)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Of the Ringworld, the Fleet of Worlds, and the Worldcon panel that wasn't

Many visitors to this blog are familiar with the sprawling, enduring future history that is Known Space. They know about Larry Niven's Ringworld novels and Larry's and my Fleet of Worlds novels. They know that Fate of Worlds: Return from the Ringworld, newly published, is the finale to both series.

In the beginning
And so, regular visitors to SF and Nonsense may not be surprised to read that Larry and I envisioned a panel at the just concluded Worldcon at which we would field moderator and fan questions about the two interrelated series.

(Which isn't to suggest that you can't read these books standalone. You can -- and more on that later. But the more Known Space books you read, the more connections you'll see.)

Alas, circumstances kept Larry from attending the con, and the panel didn't happen. And I'd hate to see my in-advance musing about likely questions go to waste ...

In the following Q-and-A with myself, I've tried to keep spoilers to a minimum. That said, read on at your own peril.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The end of several eras

I apologize for have missed my usual Tuesday morning posting. Chalk it up to post-Worldcon exhaustion ...

Neil Armstrong
A somber prelude to each Worldcon's Hugo Awards ceremony is a remembrance of those in the science-fiction community who passed away in the previous year. This con, most sadly, the roll included a non-SF individual who remains an inspiration to us all: Neil Armstrong. The applause for this great American hero was long and loud.

Alas, since his "one small step," the U.S. not only forgot how to send people to the moon, we forgot how to put a person into low Earth orbit. And as reticent as Armstrong was to criticize, when the present administration canceled the Constellation program -- meant to replace the retiring space shuttle, return astronauts to the moon, and eventually carry humans to Mars -- he had reached the limits of forbearance. He said of this "plan":
We will have wasted our current $10-billion-plus investment in Constellation, and equally importantly, we will have lost the many years required to recreate the equivalent of what we will have discarded. For the United States... to be without carriage to low Earth orbit and with no human exploration capability to go beyond Earth orbit...destines our nation to become one of second or even third rate stature.
Sad to say, his words changed nothing.