Wednesday, September 24, 2014


I've heard NASA has awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to provide rides for astronauts to the space station, starting in 2016/2017. I figured something like this was coming, because I knew that
1) they discontinued the shuttles because Congress won't let them do more than one project at a time. I guess that's one 'transportation' project, because there's been loads of science projects done at the same time.
2) they were paying Russia a b**tload to carry astronauts to the station, but recent events in Ukraine have made that arrangement tenuous.
3) private companies have already been given contracts to take supplies and equipment to the space station, including mice and other lab animals, so why not people?
I've also been thinking about the history of exploration, of people moving into new and unknown territories. Most of it happened before any notes were kept, before the only government was tribal hierarchy. But from what I can remember of world history, there was a pattern to exploration and settling a new 'unknown' territory.
The pattern seems to be that a government would send people out to explore. Sometimes the ruler would accompany his army, such as Alexander the Great, but in other instances, the government merely provided the means, such as for Christopher Columbus.
Alexander may have been 'seeing what was there' for himself, but his great venture was more about conquest than exploration, and the lands he went were already well occupied and settled, so there was not much in the way of resettling.
But in the case of the Americas and Australia, there was still plenty of land available. And people set out to claim their own little piece. (Yes, this was not voluntary in the case of Australia, I know that.)
The point is that governments may have 'found' and 'explored' unknown territory, but businesses and individuals then did the actual moving in. Yes, it's more dangerous to leave Earth for a space station, the moon or another planet than to sail across an ocean of water. But as a government agency, NASA has done its job in producing a space station, exploring the moon and is now moving on to more distant territories.

It's time for (some of) us to move out there to start homes and businesses.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mac!

It dawned on me that book characters have birthdays, too. In Mac on Fireball, the soap opera I'm putting out as a blog, Lt Bugalu's birthday is August 2. He was born on Earth, so he knows that.
People born on a colony - whether planet, space station or even space-faring ship - don't necessarily have the same calendar to work with. Gaelund, which is where Mac was born, not only has slightly more gravity, but a slightly longer year. She reached legal age (of 18 Earth years) to sign up to join the Fleet when she was 16.5 Gaelund years old.
On Gaelund, she knew when her birthday was. But when she reached the Academy, which works on the Earth calendar, she was informed that Sept 17 was her Earth birth date. So at the Academy, and on any Fleet ship she works on, her birthday is on that date.
But she is a Gaelunder, and sometimes she feels affronted to be 'aging' faster than everybody else from her home world. When she first reached the Fireball, she was 27.75 Earth years old, but only 25.6 Gaelund years. Maybe it is this too-speedy aging that makes her somewhat reluctant to celebrate her 'birthday' by this time.
Or possibly - since she won't talk about her earlier assignments, this is pure speculation on Bugalu's part - her birthday offered an obligation to accept gifts from crew members - and officers - that she didn't want to accept.
Whatever her feelings about her birthday, while she is in the Fleet, Mac celebrates on a date that has no noticeable correspondence to the date she was born on the Gaelund calendar. At the Academy, the early fall date didn't feel anything like the early spring date she knew as her 'real' birthdate. It may be easier on a ship, where there are no seasons. Or maybe not, since the calendar is not the one she grew up with.

What about you? If you were suddenly told your birthdate was now Korbalco 33rd, and you were a few years older than you thought you were, would you be inclined to celebrate that date or not?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Shamrokon Report

After visiting the doctor, we rode the train to Holyhead (Wales), where we caught a ferry to Dublin (Ireland). We pulled into Dublin port around midnight on Thursday, and were lucky to catch a taxi going in our direction. The driver asked if we were in town for the convention, we specified which convention, and he knew exactly what hotel it was in. He almost delivered us to there, instead of the one we had requested, which was 3-4 blocks away. We checked in, and this was an actual hotel room, instead of a closet.
Shamrokon was the European science fiction convention. Although held in Dublin this year, it travels from city to city, like the World Con does. Since we were traveling to London for the World Con, and Dublin was just a wee bit away, we decided to check it out.
John thought the con started early on Friday, at 9 or 10, so we had breakfast and walked over, only to find signs that registration would open at noon. So we walked back and I made the mistake of laying down. When it came time to go, I could not get up, and my throat was sore. John went by himself and I slept. I did get up for supper, but I was probably asleep again before the sun went down. It was disappointing to miss the first day.
Saturday, we walked over and kind of went our separate ways, choosing different panels to attend. In looking over the list of panels, I got the impression that European conventions take their science fiction somewhat more seriously than Americans. But it’s possible I didn’t understand any inside jokes they may have.
They also had far more panels devoted to one guest than I’m used to seeing. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with that guest’s work, so I didn’t feel a need to attend those panels. Actually, I seldom attend panels that are based on one of the guests; it’s the subject matter of a panel that gets my attention.
One panel I attended on Saturday was about how their plan to have WorldCon in Dublin in 2019. I wouldn’t have a chance to site-see before we left, so the idea of coming back appealed for me. They were taking a bus load of people to the Convention Center on Sunday morning, but I had a panel to be on. Happily, John opted to join that bus load for the look-see.
Another panel I attended gave the answer to, “Why have a pen name?”, a question I’ve wrestled with for some time. Let’s say somebody reads books by Trudy Myers and they are fantasy and science fiction. Then they see a new title and grab it (I’m dreaming a little, but this is just an example). If it turns out to be a romance or a western, that reader will be disappointed and confused. But if I write fantasy and science fiction as Trudy Myers, romance as Linda Joy and westerns as Mel O Myers, and they know that, then they know what to expect based on the name I’m using. It’s all about branding. I don’t know if I ever heard anybody explain it so well before.
Saturday night, we got to see the new Doctor Who in his first episode on a big screen (Well, bigger than we have). What fun!
My panel was about mapping and world-building. The moderator spoke about star-maps, and I stated that I had not mentioned stars in my novel, but I did mention the planet’s 4 moons, which the natives call ‘Mother & daughters’. I design worlds by deciding where the plates are located and which direction they move, which gives me mountains, rift valleys and some volcano locations. Then I consider the prevailing winds, which would determine which areas get lots of rain, and which ones get very little. Later, I was surprised when all the questions that came my way were about the moons! Did I know their orbits? Did they have strange tides because there were 4 moons? I tried to give answers that would satisfy their curiosity.

Dublin’s Shamrokon was an interesting experiment for us to try. It was not nearly as big as a World Con, and hadn’t expected to be. It had 5 (maybe 6) panel rooms, ranging from large (seating 350) to medium. If I had to guess, I’d say it was about the size of a decent regional convention in the US. Maybe that’s why I could enjoy it; the size did not overwhelm me. Also, the trees in the yards, the houses and businesses along the route we walked to get there and back were... homey.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dr Who? Experience

After the World SF Convention in London, we took a train to Cardiff in Wales.
The map showed our hotel as a straight shot east of the closest rail station, about 2 or 3 blocks. In real life, the road made an S-curve, and the distance was 4-5 blocks. But we got checked in, and it was still early afternoon. This room had a desk and chair, drawers and a closet!
My husband does not sit quietly well. He decided we should walk ‘into town’ and visit the museum. It was pretty much a straight shot to get there, but distance was a little vague. Well, if I reached the utter end of my endurance, we would have to figure something out.
The center of Cardiff is one big shopping area, no cars allowed, and a wonderful mixture of new buildings among the really old ones. We went through that, and turned a block too soon, but it was simple to correct our aim and get to the museum... 45 minutes before it was scheduled to close!
They had a wonderful section on history of Earth that I had to race through, and I had almost reached the point where people began to evolve when I was told they would close in 5 minutes. Bummer! Now for the walk back.
When I’m getting tired, I count my steps. It simply distracts my mind and keeps a rhythm. When we finally reached the hotel, I pretty much collapsed into a chair in the restaurant for supper. I had made it!
We had tickets for the Dr Who Experience the next morning. Again, the distance was kind of vague (I thought it was about half a mile), and this time, the directions were vague, too. (It wasn’t shown on the map.) “Go into that shopping mall across the parking lot, and just before you get to the theater, turn left, exit the building, follow the path, and you can’t miss it. Happily, the ‘path’ was marked by signs with a Dalek to show us which way to go.
I won’t spoil the experience by telling you much about it. On the other hand, they will probably change it soon, for what we experienced was the Matt Smith doctor. But it did have Daleks, and the Doctor tried to convince them that we were not worth ‘extermination’ because we were obviously an inferior type of human known as ‘shoppers’.
After this entertainment, we were in the museum, where John took lots of pictures. We weren’t allowed to touch anything, but I had John taking close ups of buttons and lace bits, lapel styles... And then it dawned on us - there are no Dr Who costume police! As long as your costume is recognizabe, you are enthusiastically accepted!
Even so, we still analyzed the costumes on display, especially those not made of cloth, like the rubber suit that looked like it had octopus suckers all over it. We could see a small slit (maybe 9 inches) in the lower back, but was that the only opening? Further study revealed the feet were separate, as were the hands, and probably the head as well. I am not eager to wear an entire rubber suit - think sauna - but I am trying to learn to make such prosthetics, so I was happy to study these items.
We could not take a tour of the studio, as the sets were being revamped, getting ready for filming. So that left the souvenir store.
John had a particular shirt he wanted, but he couldn’t find it. Bummer. I found a shirt and a poster for me, and he settled for the sweater vest of Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor. We went to the snack bar for something to drink, then walked back to the hotel, where we had a quiet afternoon as he surfed the net, trying to find the shirt he’d wanted.
We also did not find any jelly babies in the Dr Who shop, although we had found them at Stonehenge and in London. Not finding them in the DW shop was a real bummer!

To me, Cardiff was better than London! Not as crowded, in other words. I enjoyed our brief stay there. At one time, I would have hated the idea of walking that far to see a museum, but this time, I saw it as a challenge, one I managed to survive. And I got the reward of seeing a fantastic display about the History of Earth that I could have spent at least half a day in, if given the chance. The Dr Who Experience was icing on the cake.