Some of the regulars of the Scifi.StackExchange main chat room (Mos Eisley) got together to enjoy (and mock) some Star Trek. The first episode we watched was And The Children Shall Lead, which is considered one of the worst episodes from the original series.
Star Trek TOS – And The Children Shall Lead.
The other episode we watched that evening was Space Seed, which Netflix incorrectly classifies as a prequel to the Wrath of Khan. That is like saying Batman Begins is a prequel to The Dark Knight. Stay tuned (the correct frequency is 7) to your inter-webs to catch the transcript from that episode.
Here is a preview: “Khaaaaaannnnnnnnnnnn!” (Not actually in that episode.)
All images pulled from TrekCore
Three representatives from Stack Exchange (Abby, Katey and myself (Brett)) traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina this past weekend to participate in HeroesCon. HeroesCon has a reputation for being one of the friendliest and most fun comic conventions in the United States. We were pleased to find out that the reputation was an understatement! The creators in attendance were all super psyched to be there and the floor was gently packed with enthusiastic and outgoing fans of all ages and fandoms. Even Saturday, usually the biggest day of any convention, managed to feel vibrant, crowded and alive without approaching the mosh-pit levels of closeness that the bigger conventions lean towards.
Stack Exchange’s adventure in Charlotte began on the Thursday night before the convention with a SciFi.SE-sponsored pre-party held at local comics shop, Spandex City. This event saw the debut of the now-infamous Stack Exchange Spinning Wheel. How infamous is it? I’ll be getting to that in a bit, but if you went to HeroesCon, odds are you saw (and probably spun) the wheel. While some of the store’s regulars enjoyed some righteous barbecue (from Charlotte’s own Lancaster’s BBQ), the Stack crew asked people questions from our site about their favorite science fiction and fantasy franchises. Game of Thrones? Harry Potter? Legend of Korra? Batman? Questions about all of these and many more were asked that night and throughout the weekend. An answer (note that we did not say right answer) allowed the participant to spin the wheel and win a prize. There was a healthy assortment of SciFi.SE bags, shirts and stickers there for all the winners; some lucky people even won 3-day passes to HeroesCon and comics. Spandex City was super generous with their time and space and we were incredibly thankful for that. The pre-party event went over well thanks to Spandex City’s great environment. If you’re in the Charlotte area, do yourself a favor and check them out! You can watch a video about the event here.
The big event itself started on Friday and lasted until Sunday. We expected that our table, located at the far end of the convention center floor on the edge of the artists’ space, would get some foot traffic. We really expected to spend the entire weekend shooting video content for our YouTube channel (StackHQ) with one person left behind to work the spinning wheel. That…didn’t exactly happen. Little did we know, but people love spinning wheels. And I don’t mean a passive love, I mean an all-consuming and incredibly active love. The kind of love that leads to repeat visits and waiting in long lines. Because we had long lines. For the better part of two days.
HeroesCon was our test run into exhibiting at a convention, so we didn’t quite prepare for the massive crowds we received. We had to ration our t-shirts and bags so as to not run out on Friday, although by Sunday all the t-shirts were gone. The same was true for the stock of comics we brought to give out alongside our stickers. Three trips had to be made to the show floor to find more comics for the prize wheel. Thankfully that wasn’t a big problem, although getting receipts from vendors at a comic convention proved more entertaining than I could have predicted. We did learn a few things from working the wheel nonstop for two days:
- People love spinning wheels (this cannot be reiterated enough)
- Regardless of the answer given, the spinning wheel is a fun introduction to our site that leads to many smiles and much swag
- Give away most of the bags and shirts on Friday so that people will be using them all weekend long; by Sunday we became known as the “bag people” because of the high number of our bags on the show floor
- It takes 3 people to man the booth; 2 to ask questions and 1 to wrangle the wheel’s line
- People care way more about trivia than swag, although swag is super awesome too; people came back multiple times JUST to be asked more questions
- Ask kids softball questions and be super awesome to them; they have parents attached to them who will probably like the site if the site’s representatives make their kids happy
- We need some banners: one that clearly states that the table is a SciFi.SE jam, and another that features a call to action about the spinning wheel (“Can you answer our questions?!” or something)
Since we didn’t get a chance to leave the table for the first two days of the con, we decided to shut down the spinning wheel and make video content our main priority for Sunday. My main goal with HeroesCon was to create video content that could live on the internet forever and reach a wider audience due to having informative content with creators that people care about. The success of the spinning wheel got a bit in the way of that, and led us to learn a few facts about creating video content at a convention:
- Try to bring enough people to a convention so that 2-3 can work the table and another 2-3 can hit the floor to get video content. If only 2-3 people can go to a con, set up a spinning wheel schedule so that all 3 days are relatively equal parts table-sitting and video production.
- Schedule interviews ahead of time! I had gotten permission from a few comic creators before the con to interview them, but the fluidity of our agreed-upon time led us to spinning a wheel for two days straight. Approaching all your people on Sunday? Not the best idea.
- Don’t bank on Sunday. Creators are tired by the last day of the con!
- Joe Quinones & Maris Wicks: In this interview, we asked the interviewees what their favorite sci-fi or fantasy property was and then centered the interview around discussing that question.
- Question in Conference Room B with Dean Trippe: This is pretty much the same as what we did with Maris and Joe, except with all of the fun dressings of our web series. Plus the more conversational nature of QiCRB allows the conversation to go in different places. This isn’t just a question-answer interview, it’s a discussion.
- Kelly Sue DeConnick: This is the main type of interview I want to do. I want to find the writers and ask them questions about the work they have created. Kelly Sue DeConnick is about to take over writing Ms. Marvel (now Captain Marvel), so who better to ask the one Ms. Marvel question on the site? Stack Exchange prides itself on getting expert-level answers, and in sci-fi and fantasy it doesn’t get more expert than the writers themselves.
By the end of the show we made a lot of new friends, came up with a lot of ideas to improve our future con presence, gave a few hundred people hands-on, in-depth experience with SciFi.SE, and created internet content that can be shared and enjoyed until the internet cracks in half. It was a lot of fun! For more photos from HeroesCon, visit the SciFi.SE Facebook page, or keep an eye on our Flickr.
Thanks to Dean Trippe, The Nerdy Show and Flame On! podcasts, Scott C., Kelly Sue DeConnick, Joe Quinones, Maris Wicks, Spandex City, Whitney Cogar and HeroesCon for a great weekend. See you next year!
All the movies:
- Magically gifted children age at an extremely inconsistent rate. (They aged 6 magic years in 10 human years).
- All the students immediately outgrew their wizarding robes after the second year, the robes will rarely be seen again.
- Harry Potter is the only one who gets into trouble for using magic outside of Hogwarts.
- 16-year-old Voldemort looks nothing like 17-year-old Voldemort (or 11-year-old Voldemort for that matter). If George Lucas had been involved this would have been fixed by the third release of the DVDs.
- Most of Griffindor (a house based on bravery) is comprised of students too afraid of their own shadows to be of much use half of the time.
- The “good enough” mentality is just as strong in the magical community.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone:
- The Sorting is not conducted in alphabetical order – what kind of system is that? Oh, and you’ll never see another Sorting.
- It is okay for teachers to play favorites, particularly Heads of Households.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:
- Children get injured constantly at Hogwarts and no one raises an eyebrow, but as soon as a few students get temporarily petrified, the future of this 1000-year-old institution is in jeopardy.
- Sometimes the students age in reverse order.
- Hagrid’s home (and really all of Hogwarts) is ridiculously overrun with spiders, at least until it no longer serves as a plot device.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban:
- I don’t know what Dumbledore was doing during Harry’s second summer break, but he must have been hitting the gym or something. He started the third year looking like an entirely new man.
- Malfoy is the only student to get injured for which there appears to be consequences to the staff and other involved parties.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:
- For some reason everyone decided that 70s long hair was cool. The girls, the guys, everyone.
- Harry only uses magic four times (in a movie about wizards).
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:
- Despite the looming threat of Voldemort’s return, everyone managed to find a barber shop over the fourth year summer break.
- Harry is a rage-oholic who likes his rage-ohol shouted at, not stirred.
Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince:
- Harry has apparently become homeless and now lives in a dirty subway tunnel.
- All of Harry Potter’s problems from the previous movie would have been solved if they just looked in his memories.
- The Slug Club sounds even worse when spoken aloud.
- Any fool could look at 11-year-old Voldemort and know he was going to grow up to be a mass murderer.
- They should be brewing gallons of “Liquid Luck.”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1 & 2:
- Harry doesn’t like other people taking risks for his sake. He’d rather let Voldemort just win already.
- Despite being free for 5 years, Dobby continues to wear the same tattered rags. His only addition is a pair of shoes. Yeah, that’s all you needed Dobby.
- The Weasley’s rebuilt The Burrow to look exactly like the old one did. That means their shabby house is by choice and not by circumstance.
- Every wizard’s house is apparently located in the middle of some huge empty field (except Snape’s).
- Even though people Disapparate together (holding hands) they rarely Apparate near each other.
- Harry is a wizard who never seems to think of magic as a solution to a problem. He’d rather jump into a freezing pool of ice water than cast a spell to warm the water first.
- Everyone is from Godric’s Hollow (which Harry didn’t know). It is apparently the source of all wizarding families.
- Gringott’s is probably not where you want to bank anymore, because they lost roughly 100% of their staff as a result of Harry’s break-in.
- Based on the number of people who died on that bridge, there can’t be all that many wizards left.
This post made possible by a grant from SciFi.StackExchange. That isn’t just a plug at the end of a PBS show, it’s the truth. Something like a ba-jillion years ago (Nov 15th 2011) I was one of the recipients of the Complete Collection of Harry Potter on DVD. I chose DVD because a) I didn’t have a BluRay, and b) I am not forward looking. I received this grant on the promise to help promote Harry Potter questions and answers on the site. Thanks to my contributions (and maybe others, I’m not keeping track) as of the writing of this post Harry Potter is the #1 tag on SciFi.StackExchange.
When I was a kid, I regularly read Whizzer & Chips and Buster and occasionally read of the Disney comics, but I never got into the DC/Marvel worlds – probably because they were too expensive and I was quite happy with books. Over the years I occasionally flicked through a comic, and I was vaguely aware of the major storylines, but never a regular comic reader. Over the last month, I’ve tried out the comic world. more »
It’s the new year, which means the winter breaks for TV shows are coming to an end, and the mid-season shows are starting up. Here’s a quick rundown on what new science fiction and fantasy shows will be premiering in the US this mid-season. For a reminder of which shows started back in the fall, be sure to check out our post from last fall. more »
The Dark Mirror and Blade of Fortriu are the first two books in Juliet Marillier’s Bridei Chronicles. In The Dark Mirror we see the rise to kingship of Bridei, a 6th Century Pict as well as his relationship with Tuala, his half-human foster-sister, and in Blade of Fortriu two of the minor characters from Mirror, Ana and Faolan take center stage in a story that mostly develops their own backgrounds and futures, with one of Bridei’s significant battles forming a secondary backdrop story.
These stories are based on real historical characters (e.g. Bridei I of the Picts), with more overt magic than stories like Stewarts’s Merlin stories, but still maintaining a generally realistic feel. This is a form of historical fiction that I particularly enjoy, although not knowing much about the history of the Picts the relationship to real history mostly passed me by.
The central characters of The Dark Mirror are compelling enough that I enjoyed the novel, although the outcome is never really in doubt to the reader, and of little doubt to most of the characters too. The story never truly captivated me, however, and felt slightly rushed at times, moving quickly from age to age. The quirky cast of characters that educate Bridei as a child were all interesting, but none very fleshed out (I got the impression that they might be recognisable characters from Pictish history, but I wasn’t able to verify this).
I expected more of Bridei (especially given the name of the series) and Tuala in Blade of Fortriu, although Marillier’s sequels often leave behind the central characters of the previous stories. Bridei and Tuala do feature, but are decidedly minor characters. I found the story of Ana and Faolan less interesting, with Ana’s development particularly dull (although the characters note how much she has changed, I didn’t see much change at all), and Faolan’s background less interesting than Mirror suggested it might be.
A love triangle features strongly in Blade; I don’t have any objection to this trope in general, but it wasn’t well done here. Other than his magical nature and exceptional good looks, there was nothing appealing about Ana’s other beau, even though it was obvious throughout that she would end up with him, rather than Faolan. Perhaps there’s some sort of redemption and superior love waiting for Faolan in a later book (the end of the story suggests that he might feature centrally in a later novel in the series), but I was rather unsatisfied that he came out of the triangle so poorly.
I’d recommend reading The Dark Mirror, at least – it works well as a standalone novel – and would recommend Blade of Fortriu to anyone that enjoyed Mirror. However, if you’re new to Marillier, I’d suggest starting with the superior Wolfskin/Foxmask or the Sevenwaters novels.
The Movies StackExchange site is now available to the public. If you’ve got questions that need answering by a film expert, then this is a good place to ask.
There don’t seem to be many sci-fi or fantasy movie questions yet, but if you’re particularly interested in or expert in film, then you might want to keep an eye on the questions there (if you’ve got an account on our site with at least 200 reputation, then if you associate the two accounts – you’ll be prompted to do this if you use the same OpenID – then you’ll start off there with 101 reputation).
If you’ve got a question about a science fiction or fantasy movie, where do you ask that question, now that there’s both sites? Consider who you would like an answer from: an expert in science fiction / fantasy, or an expert in movies in general; different types of questions will suit each site. Some questions will be perfectly acceptable on both sites, and in those cases it’s up to the asker to decide where they’d like to ask (in general questions won’t be migrated between the sites, and duplicates may exist on both sites, as long as they are not exact duplicates). You should definitely not post the same question on both sites, however.
Also, don’t forget that there’s a similar site for the written word, Literature, where there continue to be a reasonable number of science-fiction and fantasy literature questions, aimed more at a literature audience than a sci-fi/fantasy one.
“You’d love this,” said Scott. “I know you liked ‘Transmet’–” that’s the sprawling journalist-meets-dystopia Transmetropolitan “–and this is even better. And the art is amazing.” With this recommendation from my comic shop, I picked up the first and only “Planetary” collection: All Over the World and Other Stories.
Over the years, I read the rest of the stories Warren Ellis and artist John Cassady created about this team of “mystery archaeologists”. The titular team operates in a world complete with analogs to copyrighted pulp-fiction heroes. The series is a single story formed by the intersection of pocket-sized tales, and contains some of the best writing in superhero comic books. (Don’t even try to call “Planetary” a graphic novel; the story’s too firmly rooted in the pulps for that.)
The story was continued in the second book, The Fourth Man, which had a detour into Elijah Snow’s past as well as a reinterpretation of the entire story to date. However, the story wasn’t even halfway finished when Ellis seemed to lose interest in the tale, and Cassady–then becoming more well-known–started taking on other projects. Whatever scripts Ellis tossed his way probably ended up on the back end of the priority queue.
It was a decade after the release of the first issue that issue twenty-seven ended the story. The last few issues seemed fairly anticlimactic, but was that because they were of lesser quality? Or did our waiting months and sometimes years in-between issues rob us of momentum?
Huge spoilers below, yadda yadda. more »
Back in 1975 a movie came out that terrified people to not want to ever go into the ocean again. That movie was Jaws.
Similarly, there have been other movies that tried to be the “Jaws of [insert mundane activity here]” to no avail. But Contagion, at least for me, was quite successful in making me paranoid of every day life.
Contagion, written by Scott Z. Burns and directed by Steven Soderbergh, follows a young woman returning from Hong Kong to a very serious flu/disease. The beginning of the film shows how this disease was contracted by about 5-6 different people. Eventually, the virus starts killing people within days of being contracted.
The movie does a very good job of showing how easily a virus can become an epidemic and how easily the population can react to it. It even mentions the H1N1 virus and how the CDC didn’t do a very good job of informing the people about its actual dangers (or lack thereof).
There’s also a great deal of information on how the CDC and WHO actually create vaccines and the protocols for containing a virus of that magnitude. I learned a lot about bio-chemistry from this movie without even knowing it (Like what an R-0 of a virus is, or how a virus mutates, or that the average human touches their face 2500 times a day).
A social aspect of the movie that I found quite interesting was how it showed how some people followed rules and suggestions to the T, while others (mostly those who were in charge of said rules) created their own personal protocols for selfish reasons. See how sane people rationalize or go into a mob mentality when the urge to survive kicks in.
Another interesting theme I found was how it explored the idea of using a social network to bend the minds of the masses into either avoiding or taking a specific treatment. That is to say, how the use of Facebook or a blog can actually influence a certain population to do something that may or may not be the right thing to do, and how this control could be coming from a very unlikely place.
After the movie, I was literally scared to touch anything. I was scared to even use the bathroom in the theatre. This movie did exactly what it was intending to do, and that was to make me paranoid. I know this winter season, I’m now going to be carrying extra Purel and probably investing into a medical mask. All-in-all I would highly recommend this movie for those who like thrillers where there is no mystery, only the instinct to survive at the character’s grasp.
Review: Roger Zelazny, A Night in the Lonesome October
I am a watchdog. My name is Snuff. I live with my master Jack outside of London now. I like Soho very much at night with its smelly fogs and dark streets. It is silent then and we go for long walks.
This is the opening of A Night in the Lonesome October. This is my favorite novel by Roger Zelazny after Lord of Light, which I consider a masterpiece. A Night in the Lonesome October is the last book that Zelazny finished, and it was nominated for the Nebula in 1994.
The story is told in a prologue and thirty-one chapters, one for each day in October. It is sometimes said that it should be read one chapter at a time throughout October. I had read it several times, but always in one go, so I decided to give one chapter per day a try, albeit a month and a half early. Frankly, I can’t say that the book gained from the experience. But if you haven’t read it, you might give it a try. Read in one sitting or 32, it’s a good book either way.
Beyond the fine story, what I like about Zelazny is his mastery of style: so simple, so fluid, and yet so compelling. He does not use big words or big sentences. And even for him, the style in this story is appropriate for a dog, yet not dumbed down. The story simply flows from the page.
The novel tells the story of a strange Game, a metaphysical conflict between those who want to open the way for the Old Ones, and those who would thwart them. Every few decades, when moon is full on the night of Halloween, players spend the month of October preparing for the night when the fate of the world is to be decided. Each player has an animal companion.
This time, the Game is played in the suburbs of London. The players are a motley crew. Besides Jack, who prowls the streets of London at night with a knife and his faithful dog Snuff, there is Jill and her cat Graymalk. Other players are the Count, a seclusive being, and his equally nocturnal familiar Needle (a bat); Owen and the squirrel Cheeter; the Mad Monk Rastov and the black snake Quicklime; Morris and McCab, whose familiar is the owl Nightwind. Then we meet the vicar, by all appearances a respectable clergyman — but those who know of his secret activities would differ, and he has a companion, the raven Tekela. Other colourful characters include the Good Doctor, who seems to not only have an animal companion, the rat Bubo, but also a human one, a very large man sometimes seen lumbering about his house; Larry Talbot, who could be his own companion; and the Great Detective, a master of disguise.
As the story progresses, the players learn about each other, form alliances, turn traitor. Friendships are formed, too, not always following the alignment of the characters as players. The last night may yet reveal some secrets.
Jack and Jill went down the hill. Gray and I ran after.