September 23, 2017

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...]

Review: Leviathans of Jupiter by Ben Bova.

A Classic Sci-Fi Read!

Back in the halcyon days of my science fiction-laced youth, I read a novel entitled Millennium. Said book depicted a joint U.S.-Soviet lunar colony in the then unimaginably far off year of 1999, and a world on the brink of annihilation by nuclear war. Like Larry Niven’s Footfall and other tales of the era, Millennium served as a dire warning reflecting the darkest days of the Cold War. [Read more...]

Review: The Best in Sci-Fi Poetry with Star*line & Dwarf Stars!

2011-12 offerings from the SFPA!

This week, I wanted to give a quick shout out to two periodicals that you may not be reading, but should be.  We’re talking, of course, about the sub-sub genre of science fiction poetry the standard of which is purveyed by the Science Fiction Poetry Association via their Star*line and Dwarf Stars periodicals. Fans of this space will recall our tales of the exploits of these gallant periodicals as they espouse the virtues of all that is science fiction (or do you say speculative?) poetry with poems, reviews, Sci-fi haikus (known as Scifaiku) and more. This is where it’s at, the underground-of-the-underground, a cyber-catacomb deep beneath the pedestrian science fiction mainstream where Steampunk-dressed beatniks meet. Voting has recently closed for this year’s Rhysling Awards, and last year’s winners were announced at the 2011 Readercon on July 16th; we’ll give a shout out when the dates for the 2012 awards go up.

And last year, all that is science fiction poetry made an appearance at the 2011 Necronomicon in St. Petersburg, Florida, an exciting convention that we were privileged to attend.  Even avid science fiction readers may have only been exposed to sci-fi poetry briefly in snippets over the years; Star*line and Dwarf Stars gives you a full taste in one place. This definitely fulfills Goethe’s recommended daily allowance to “hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture…”

Of course, the sister genres of fantasy and horror are woven into the field as well as it is with standard Sci-Fi. Anything from rockets to ray guns to vampires and zombies goes. Try it. Try writing an “ode to a flesh eating zombie parasite from Venus” sometime. Much like flash fiction, science fiction poetry distills the idea down to the point, a punch line with a swift jabbing delivery without the standard benefit of exposition or character development. There’s nothing else like the rush, except for maybe the Drabbles and Twabbles of Norm Sherman’s the Drabblecast.

The works Ann Schader, Wendy Rathbone, Elizabeth Barrette and hundreds more speculative poets and poetesses are represented in these hallowed bi-monthly pages of Star*line & Dwarf Stars. Our secret 2011-12 fave? Pattern Recognition by J.E. Stanley, a clever play on CAPTCHA that serves as a warning against trusting our mis-spelling overlords.

Honorable mention also goes out 2002: Galileo Dies, an ode to the doomed spacecraft by Mary Turzillo, and Europa’s Stoic Dance, a tribute to the icy moon by Kurt MacPhearson. There are so many good nuggets of Sci-Fi prose, to many to list here, so I’ll let the magazine do the talking…

Want a taste? Check out the Amazon storefront of the SFPA. Be sure to also listen to the 2011 Halloween audio readings of selected works… remember, a good dealer always offers the first one for free!

Next Week: Our frequent-flyer/guest reviewer Sabrina will be back with a look at Fair Coin, a Pyr Books original!

18.10.11: All Hail the Necronomicon!

Invading planet Earth this weekend!

In the Saint Petersburg, Florida area this weekend? Let me turn you on to one of Tampa Bay’s premiere events; the Necronomicon, a convention of all things science fiction, fantasy and horror which celebrates its 30th anniversary in a ‘fest of all things wacky and weird. This year, Hugo award winning author Ben Bova (Millennium, Out of the Sun, and the Grand Tour series) will be the guest of honor, and the ‘Con will feature piles o’ panels, events, and a unique masquerade ball known as the Necronomi-Prom… [Read more...]

October 2011: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere.

A recent personnal 1st; an ISS Solar Transit!

(Photo by Author).

October is one of our favorite months, crowned as it is by a holiday that sees suburbanites re-enact pagan ancient Cross-Quarter festivities. We’re talking Halloween, Samhain, All Hallows Eve, whatever your household preference. Now is a good time to roll out the ‘scope, put on some H.G. Wells War of the Worlds rebroadcasting, and show the neighborhood hob-goblins the wonders of the night sky. What follows is a rundown of the witchery that we’re brewing up here at Astroguyz HQ;

Coming to a Sky Near You: Comet C/2010 X1 Elenin was to break naked eye visibility this month as it climbs through the constellation Leo in the 1st part of October, but of course now all bets are off since the comet disintegrated last month into tinier fragments. (No, Bruce Willis wasn’t the cause). Elenin will safely pass 0.23 AU from the Earth on October 16th, and reach a northerly declination in the dawn skies of +30.9 degrees on October 28th. The surprise wild card event, however, *may* be the peak of the Draconid meteors on the 8th. Also sometimes known as the Giacobinids, this usually obscure shower generally rates nary a second thought most years but has been known for storm level outbursts of over a 1,000 meteors per hour or more. There is some buzz in the meteor modeling community that 2011 may be just such a year…but those rates may be diminished by the Moon reaching Full on the 11th, which is also visually smallest Full Moon of the Year. On the 21st, the Orionid Meteors peak, a less dazzling but more dependable shower with a ZHR=20-30. On the 29th asteroid 1036 Ganymed (largest Amor asteroid) reaches opposition at magnitude +8 after a series of stellar occultations in the Cassiopeia-Perseus-Andromeda region. Finally, on the 28th occultation of Mercury by the 2 day old Moon occurs low in the dusk for Australian and New Zealand viewers, (The rest of us will just see a close conjunction), and on the 29th, the planet Jupiter reaches opposition.

This Month in Science: This month, we dig into some our favorite reads as we review Magick, Mayhem, & Mavericks, a look at the messy history of the realm that is physical science. Also this month we look at Falling to Earth, the biography of an Apollo 15 astronaut, and review Science Illustrated, a bi-monthly science magazine. Another gem has hit our inbox in the form of Miss Leavitt’s Stars, a fascinating biography of astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt. Finally, the star party is on at Starkey Park in New Port Richey on the 22nd, although we “may” be missing in action that night because of the following…

This Month in Science Fiction: The Necronomicon, Central Florida’s premiere science fiction convention, occurs on October 21-23 in Saint Petersburg Florida, and yours truly will be a humble member on a panel or three. Come out, dress like a Klingon, join the fun, and peek through our telescopes. We’ll be setting up for both solar and night-time viewing, and its sure to be more fun than a barrel of Ewoks! Also, in our we’ve-been-towing-it-around-for-years-and-now-we’re-finally-reading-it file, we’ll be reviewing  Alpha Centauri by William Barton and Michael Capobianco. Hot off the pre-release press we’re also furiously reading Hearts of Smoke and Steam, Book 2 of the Society of Steam series due out in November from Pyr Books!

Launches in October: This month, all eyes will be on the Russian Soyuz and the hoped for “Return to Space” after their loss of an unmanned Progress vehicle this summer. Not that the pressure is on, or anything…the first Soyuz mission to watch is the Galileo IOV aboard the 1st Soyuz launch out of Kourou French Guiana on the 20th. This will be followed by a Delta 2 launch with the NASA-NPP spacecraft plus accompanying Tweetup out of Vandenberg AFB 25th. Also on tap is a Proton with the Glonass satellite out of Baikonur 25th. To Be Determined launches to watch include a manned Soyuz to headed to the ISS, a Proton with ViaSat 1, Soyuz with Globalstar, and Zenit rocket carrying 3SLB/Intelsat 18, all from Baikonur. Follow us @Astroguyz on Twitter for all the updates!

Astro-Atta-Boy: We finally caught Clash of the Titans, the 2010 remake, not the cheesy 1980’s take on the mythological tale that depicts a bunch of miniatures flying around. Say what you will about this adaption of the Perseus myth from Greek mythology, it does have a pretty good depiction of a total solar eclipse as part of the plot line, probably one of the best on screen we’ve seen since the film Lady Hawke, and way better than Mel Gibson’s eclipse in Apocalypto. Do I sense a blog post on eclipses in film and fiction in the works?

Astro Bloopers: Alright, when the rumors hit the cyber-sphere that George Lucas was once again tweaking the Star Wars saga for Blu-Ray release, we thought to ourselves; could it be that he’s finally going to correct the hoary old “parsec” error from episode IV: A New Hope? After all, it is kind of an embarrassing thing for such a seasoned sky-pilot as Han Solo to say… but alas, it wasn’t to be. No sooner than we made light mention of the possibility, than the self-appointed trolls that guard the flame of all that is Lucas attempted to defend the quip with several ill-conceived ad hominem attacks. Sorry guys, we may not know every world and creature in the Star Wars pantheon, but we do know science. A parsec is a measure of distance, and saying that “it made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs…” is a nonsensical statement, akin to “I went from here to New York in 12 miles…” and what’s more, a parsec is an Earth-based measure of distance, hardly fitting for a “galaxy far, far away…” George really missed his chance on this one…

Astro Quote of the Month: “I have seen the dark universe yawning where the black planets roll without aim; where they roll in their horror unheeded, without knowledge, luster, or name.”

-HP Lovecraft, Nemesis, 1918