Space Pirates Plunder Internet Radio

On Tuesday June 2 from 10am until noon Eastern time, tune your web browser to Internet Voices Radio for Crazy Tuesday! This Crazy Tuesday is all about SPACE PIRATES and regular host “Row-hard” Rowena Cherry will be joined by “Madman” Mark Terence Chapman, “Dastardly” David Lee Summers and Jacquie “jolly” Rogers to plunder the icy blackness of space. Hope you’ll join us!!

To get a preview of some of my thoughts on space piracy, you can see my guest post at Rowena Cherry’s Space Snark Blog.

I Boldly Went…

…to see Star Trek last week.

All in all, I felt the new Star Trek hit all the right emotional notes. I believe much of the credit goes to the cast. Though the writers clearly played homage to the original characters, each of the cast members worked to make the iconic Star Trek characters their own and turned in consistent and believable performances that I truly enjoyed. The two standouts for me were Bruce Greenwood as Captain Pike and Karl Urban and Dr. McCoy. Credit also goes to Michael Giacchino for creating a stirring soundtrack.

The premise was a fun twist on the idea of a madman seeking revenge on the crew of the Enterprise. In this case the villain is essentially an ordinary miner accidentally sent back in time when his planet is destroyed. I especially enjoyed how the writers and cast explored and embellished upon the classic characters. In the original series there were moments, especially early in the series, when Spock and Uhura flirted. This has been turned into a full-fledged romance. Also, Sulu finally got to show off his fencing ability. If I had a complaint about characters, it’s simply that they could have spent more time with the miner, Nero, and allowed Eric Bana to develop that character more.

Overall, I felt the plot was serviceable but not extraordinary. It served the purpose of introducing the crew to one another and was a fun ride worth taking. Even though I did like the little spin the writers put on the familiar revenge plot, I think it would have been stronger if the crew had faced a more original challenge. For me, revenge is a dish that has grown cold.

I really liked the movie’s production design. In my last post I mentioned that I was especially interested in the look of the Enterprise’s engineering section. After watching the movie, I definitely felt that an engineering section full of pipes, conduits and big machines seemed more correct for a starship like the Enterprise than the set used in the original series. In the series, I never could figure out why engineering was this big empty room, but Scotty always had to crawl into cramped spaces filled with pipes to actually fix something. That said, because engineering in the new movie was a redress of an actual industrial location, it somehow felt too big to fit in the ship. It would be nice if in the next movie they could find a compromise between the two extremes and find something that seems both like it’s functional and fits inside the ship.

My favorite element of the production design was the uniforms. In the original series, there were hints that the crew wore colorful shirts over black t-shirts. In this movie, it’s clear that’s the case and it was nice to see the classic uniforms on the big screen.

Given my background in astronomy, there was one moment in the film that particularly bothered me. It was a scene in which Spock is standing on one planet and watches the destruction of another planet. The only way he could see the event with the clarity shown would be if the planet he stood on was orbiting the other planet. However, from the course of events in the film, it doesn’t seem like that’s the case. However, the context of the scene is that Spock is conveying his memories to Kirk through a mind meld. It occurs to me that Spock might not have literally seen the destruction of the planet in question, but might have felt it much like he felt the destruction of a starship in the original series. Given that Spock has been there and done that and given that Obi-Wan Kenobi also went there and did that in the first Star Wars when Alderaan was destroyed, it’s probably just as well that Spock didn’t go there and do that again. I think it’s good that the writers came up with a new way of presenting his reaction to the destruction of a planet. However, it would have been nice if it was more clearly a “visual metaphor” than it was.

All in all, I must say I enjoyed J.J. Abrams’ version of Star Trek. I’ve already seen it twice and I look forward to getting it on DVD so I can see it a few more times.

A Short Break, Star Trek, and Space Sirens

A Short Break

I had a shorter than normal break from work during the week of April 26. In some ways, it felt more like a pit stop than a real rest. I went to the doctor to have a persistent cough checked out. With swine flu in the news, this led to some extra testing, but after a day at the doctor’s office, the diagnosis proved to be allergies as I originally suspected.

I spent the next day at the dentist. The balance of my week was spent mailing out the spring issue of Tales of the Talisman and catching up with correspondence.

I returned to Kitt Peak on Monday, May 4 to instruct a new set of observers in the use of the 2.1-meter telescope. The next days, I moved on to some training sessions at the WIYN 3.5-meter telescope, learning about the upgraded bench spectrograph and the WIYN tip-tilt module that’s used to improve images with WIYN’s infrared camera. As we head into the weekend, I’m now supporting an infrared observing project at WIYN and will continue to do so into next week.

Star Trek

Those who know me know that I have been a Star Trek fan for a long time. The original series sparked a lot of my interest in both space science and science fiction. Admittedly the science in the original Star Trek series was often dubious, but the writers showed enough respect for and optimism about science, that it was infectious and succeeded in getting me to ask questions and seriously investigate what science was all about. Not only that, but I paid attention to the names of Star Trek’s writers. The show introduced me to such folks as Harlan Ellison, Norman Spinrad, Jerome Bixby, and David Gerrold — writers I enjoy to this day. It’s probably no surprise then that I’ve been looking forward to J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie. However, because of my current work schedule at Kitt Peak, I won’t be able to see the new Star Trek movie until it’s been in theaters for about a week. So please, anyone who does see it, don’t spoil it for me by telling me the story.

My interest in the new Star Trek goes beyond my love of the original series, though. Early reviews suggest the movie is a fun action/adventure film that captures the optimism of the original series and has some thoughtful elements. Some people would have you believe that serious and thoughtful can’t go together with action and adventure. However, that’s very much the kind of spirit I try to capture in much of my writing. I’m looking forward to seeing how well the new movie pulls it off.

I have also heard that J.J. Abrams redressed some real industrial locations and used them for such areas as the engine room on the Starship Enterprise. I gather a lot of people don’t think this is effective, but I look forward to forming my own opinion. I work in a place that, in many ways, exists on the cutting edge of technology. However much of Kitt Peak really has a very industrial feel. There are oil pumps and pipes carrying water and glycol to various parts of buildings. There are cranes for heavy lifting and some very large motors and fans. All of this is right next to cutting-edge, precision electronics. To me, the engine rooms in the various Star Trek movies and series have just looked like sets. They haven’t looked the way I imagine the heart of a “real” starship would look.

Anyway, I’ll post my thoughts once I get a chance to see the movie next week.

Space Sirens

Earlier this year, Flying Pen Press released the anthology Space Sirens edited by Carol Hightshoe. The anthology features my story, “Hijacking the Legacy” set in the same universe as my novel The Pirates of Sufiro.

Space Sirens

The anthology was briefly reviewed in the May 3 issue of The Denver Post. Fred Cleaver notes that, “The second volume of local publisher Flying Pen Press’ Full-Throttle Space Tales has the theme of women in space.” He goes on to mention his three favorite stories in the anthology: “‘Outpost 6,’ by Julia Philips about the new doctor on a backwater planet (and a mining accident); ‘Real Hero,’ by W. A. Hoffman, about a kidnapped singer and her captor; and ‘Ruler,’ by David B. Riley, about a princess appointed a planet’s governor.”

You should definitely check out Space Sirens by clicking on the cover above. You can also find great stories by David B. Riley and W.A. Hoffman in Full-Throttle Space Tales #1: Space Pirates. You can learn more about the first anthology at: http://www.amazon.com/Space-Pirates-Full-Throttle-Tales-1/dp/0981895700/

Tales of the Talisman

As mentioned above, the spring issue of Tales of the Talisman has been mailed out to subscribers and contributors. If you haven’t subscribed or ordered a copy, it’s not too late. Just visit: http://www.talesofthetalisman.com where you can learn more about the issue and place an order. While you’re at the site, you can also check out our new weekly web comic: “Tales From Behind the Wall” by Adonis Emir.