September 23, 2014

Review: The Return of the Discontinued Man by Mark Hodder

A sci-fi classic!

Alt-history Steampunk has never been hotter. We recently finished up the fifth book in a brilliant science fiction series courtesy of Pyr Books.  We’re talking about The Return of the Discontinued Man by Mark Hodder, out earlier this month. This is the fifth and (final?) book in the outstanding Burton and Swinburne series. We’ve chronicled our addiction to this series in the past, starting with The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack up through The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon and The Secret of El Yezdi[Read more...]

Week 9: Of Nukes and Travel Nuances

Cue spaceship… it’s Devil’s Tower!

Terror is laying awake in a tent the middle of the night in a South Dakota summer thunderstorm, listening to the tree limbs crack in the distance and waiting for the “half-dollar – do they still make half dollars? – sized hail” that the weather radio promises to arrive. [Read more...]

Week 6: Into the Wilds of Wisconsin

Grand Yerkes!

Ahhh, cooler weather at last… and while the sixth week of our North American adventure has yet to see us encounter a run on clear skies, we have gotten  back out camping once again for the first time in six years. This week has seen us explore the great state of Wisconsin, from its southern Illinois hinterland across to its farmland heart. [Read more...]

Review: Crowded Orbits by James Clay Moltz

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Space is becoming a crowded place. In the past 50+ years, the environs of space around our fair planet have evolved, and the political and even legal landscape has struggled to keep up with it.

This week’s review entitled Crowded Orbits: Conflict and Cooperation in Space by James Clay Moltz out from Columbia University Press is a fascinating look at where we’ve come from in commercial and military space, and where we may be headed. Fans of this “space” (bad pun intended) will recall our review of Mr. Moltz’s book Asia’s Space Race recently. [Read more...]

Upon a Sea of Stars by A. Bertram Chandler

A scifi classic!

Don’t mess with John Grimes, and don’t ever dare to call him a pirate. He prefers the term privateer, thank you very much. This week, we take a look at the very latest collection of tales of the Galactic Outer Rim by A. Bertram Chandler, collected in one volume for the first time.

We’re quickly getting addicted to this swashbuckling golden age of sci-fi saga, that’s for sure. Written back in the 1960’s and 70’s, the Grimes saga harkens back to an age where, in the words of the late great Douglas Adams; “…little furry green creatures from Alpha Centauri were real little furry green creatures from Alpha Centauri.” [Read more...]

Astro-Vid Of the Week: An Online Messier Marathon

On your marks, get set, Messier Marathon!

‘Tis the season when it’s possible to hunt down all the 110 of the deep sky objects in Messier’s famous deep sky catalog in one night. We recently wrote about the potential for carrying out this feat of astronomical observation for 2014. [Read more...]

November 2013: The Month in Science Fiction

The pre-holiday movie season has begun. As we approach the cusp of the holiday season, several fine science fiction offerings are already in theatres. We were duly impressed with Thor 2, and glad to finally see Orson Scott Card’s science fiction classic Ender’s Game at last get its big screen due. Heck, we even enjoyed the movie Gravity, despite its minor (and one major) science faux pas… spoiler alert: you can’t journey to the International Space Station from the Hubble Space Telescope! Now, all eyes are turning towards the big screen adaptation of Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games. [Read more...]

Review: Assignment in Eternity by Robert Heinlein

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Why read old scifi? We’ve often heard this question kicked around in the darkened corners of science fiction conventions and on ye’ ole cyber webs. Hey, it’s true that we now live in an age where such red-letter sci-fi dates as 2001 and 1984 have come and gone… and even The Terminator’s Skynet was to have been long since operational by now. [Read more...]

October 2013-Life in the Astro-Blogosphere: The 2013 NecronomiCon!

The armillary sphere logo for Necronomicon 2013! (Credit: Stone Hill.org)

October for us means cooler climes, Halloween, pumpkin beer, and the “busy ‘Con season,” by way of the Tampa Bay NecronomiCon. Now in its 32nd year, this was our 3rd “Necro” event as fans from all over Florida and beyond gathered to celebrate all things sci-fi, fantasy and horror. Thankfully, the feared government shutdown-induced zombie apocalypse never came to pass, making it that much easier to spot the cosplay zombies, or at least tell them from any would-be real ones. [Read more...]

September 2013-Life in the Astro-Blogosphere: Touching Mars

A fragment of the Zagami meteorite!

It’s a long journey, from the shores of the Florida Space Coast to the surface of Mars. This past week, we made the journey from Astroguyz HQ in Florida to the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASC) to attend the New Media Workshop in Boulder, Colorado for the upcoming launch of MAVEN, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission. [Read more...]

Astro-Vid Of the Week: Watch the Trailer for Europa Report

(Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures).

The indie film season is almost upon us.

August occupies the entertainment realm betwixt the summer blockbusters and the holiday shopping season flicks. It’s also time to track down those indie gems that often pass us by like an asteroid occultation in the night.

One such film that we’ve been anticipating is Europa Report. Directed by Sebastián Cordero and starring Sharlto Copley and Embeth Davidtz, the film is already generating a buzz, drawing comparisons to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2009 indie flick Moon. [Read more...]

Review: The Nebula Awards Showcase 2013

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It’s the dream of many a science fiction author.

The Nebula Awards are one of the biggest recognitions in the world of science fiction. Every year, the Nebulas honor the very best in sci-fi novels, novellas, short stories and poetry.

This week, we take a look at the best of the best in the Nebula Awards Showcase 2013, edited by Catherine Asaro and out from Pyr Books. Whether your interest leans toward the fantastical, or harkens back to the hard “rockets & rayguns” of science fiction past, the 2013 compilation brings it all together for you in one tome. [Read more...]

Review: Rocket Girl by George D. Morgan


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The untold tales of the early Space Age are legion. Many of these were shrouded in secrecy, while others simply fell to the bureaucratic wayside. There’s no doubt some amazing stories are still left to tell in the piles of dusty documents and long lost archival footage in vaults that no one remembers… [Read more...]

July 2013: This Month in Science Fiction

The mid-point of the year, and with it the middle of the summer blockbuster season, is nigh. This year has brought no less than three each smashed moon sightings in the films Oblivion, Star Trek: Into Darkness and Man of Steel. Just what is it that Hollywood has against planetary companions, anyway? It almost seems that having a smashed moon is mandatory these days, whether the planet of discussion is Qo’noS (I say Kronos), Krypton or Earth. [Read more...]

Review Rising Sun by Robert Conroy.

On sale now!

History is filled with “What Ifs”. What if Einstein had never immigrated to the US? What if Lincoln had never gone to Ford’s Theatre? While many decisions in history might have been inconsequential, others may have radically altered the course of history and our role in it today.

[Read more...]

Review: The Princeton Tec Red-Light.

An indispensable piece of astronomical gear!

We always find astronomy in unexpected places. Recently, a new review product came to our attention while reading No Easy Day, an account of the Navy SEAL/DEVGRU raid that took out Osama bin Laden. The May 2nd, 2011 raid was timed to coincide with the darkness afforded by a New Moon (another astronomical tie-in), but it was a piece of SEAL gear and its cross-over potential for astronomy that caught our attention.

[Read more...]

Week 4-The Quest for Dark Skies: Into the Appalachians.

A very slender Moon…

(All photos by Author).

The mountains always beckon. In the end, all astronomers must heed the call of dark, pristine skies and head into the foothills beyond the suburban lowlands in search of the universe only hinted at from our backyards. This past week we did just that in our week four installment of the great American Road Trip as we explored the U.S. Southeast and beyond. And, hey, we arrived under pristine skies just in time for this year’s Geminid meteor shower!

One Geminid of MANY seen!

Sunday saw a breakfast that couldn’t be beat at the Nosedive Bar and our departure from Greenville, South Carolina. As reported in week three of our 4-state spanning sojourn, we thoroughly enjoyed this town, a hip Portlandia-esque oasis in the South.

An armillary sphere-spotting at the Red Horse Inn!

A short drive saw us posed to hop across the North Carolina border in Landrum, South Carolina. Actually, we crisscrossed the border twice into “The North,” hitting the two outstanding wineries of Green Creek & the remarkable Overmountain Vineyards. We stayed at the charming Red Horse Inn in Landrum, where we consumed our days’ booty (a bottle of wine) under the stars in the hot tub adjoining our cabin. The Red Horse Inn would make an excellent star-gazing destination, as a short trip down the road finds you in total darkness away from the cottage lights… this would also make a fine group astronomy expedition area, especially as a good jumping off point for the graze line of the August 2017 total solar eclipse passing over the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area just to the west.

Mmmm… beer… line ‘em up!

For our next adventure we headed northward into Asheville, North Carolina. If Greenville is the Portland (Oregon) of the South, Asheville is its Seattle, set long before Grunge became a name brand. We stayed at the enormous Grove Park Inn, a massive hotel complex perched just outside the city. Asheville itself is a wonderful, rambling city sprawling over dozens of foothills that put us in mind of Amman, Jordan, repleate with art spaces and breweries instead of mosques and sheesha bars. The Arts District alone was fascinating, as was the encaustic work of Constance Williams. Hey, we’d never even heard of encaustic in our High School Art I & II days! The Moog factory was also a fascinating stop. Based in Asheville, Moog has been the proud manufacturer of keyboards and synthesizers since 1978. And hey, who knew that they still make the theremin? Sheldon would be glad know… check out the action on Moog’s YouTube and Twitter feeds!

At Moog, where the theremin still reigns!

After hitting the local Asheville  Brewing Company and a fine Tapas meal at Cúrate, it was off to Mars Hill, North Carolina and the Scenic Wolf Resort for a night of dark sky observing. Located at about 4,000 feet elevation in the shadow of Mount Mitchell (the highest peak in the Appalachians) our cabin afforded a fine view of the 2012 Geminid meteors. And this was none too soon, as BBC 5 Live called us up that very night for a Skype interview! With a limiting magnitude of +5.5, I’d say that the Geminids put on one of the best displays in recent memory, with dozen several meteors seen gracing the sky before midnite!

The skies over Mars Hill, North Carolina.

But alas, we had to depart the beloved darkness for light-polluted climes all too soon. Having reached the northernmost apex of our journey, our ingress into society saw a brief stop in exotic Lincolnton, North Carolina… more to come next week!

 

Astro-Challenge: Hunting for Van Maanen’s Star.

A Earth-sized star. (Credit: NASA/RXTE).

It’s sobering to ponder the ultimate fate of our Sun. We orbit a middle-aged main sequence star, one that will continue to happily fuse hydrogen into helium for our energy consuming convenience for the next few billion years. We see the ultimate fate of our Sun, however, when we look out at planetary nebulae and burned out cinders known as white dwarfs. [Read more...]