Thursday, June 30, 2011

Convergence Con in the Twin Cities This Weekend!

Man, I'm totally slipping! Somehow this one got by me--but there's still time: Convergence Con sci-fi/fantasy gaming/comic/local celebrity extravaganza is is going on this weekend. It started today and runs through Sunday, so if you're within driving distance set your booster to maximum power out and get out here! Stat block:
What: The four-day annual convention for fans of science fiction and fantasy, with celebrity guests, film screenings, live music, a masquerade ball and themed party rooms
When: Thu.-Sun 6/30-7/3
Where: Sheraton Bloomington Hotel, 7800 Normandale Blvd., Bloomington
Registration: $80

Event Programming
In addition to the usual (artist alley, gaming, nerd movies, silent auctions, costume contests) the program schedule includes some real gems like "I'm Your GM, Not Your Therapist" and "Elaborate Death Traps and Why They Never Work" so you know you're definitely getting your money's worth.

More Info
Local zine Vita.MN did a great article about local musician Jeremy Messersmith's D&D game. They also did a nice de-coding guide for newbies and non-nerds so you can just send it to your significant other without further explanation and they'll instantly speak your lingo/encourage you to attend. (Kidding! Like that would be possible....).

Anyway, my birthday is tomorrow so I'll check it out this weekend as a present to myself.  :)

Video: Every Harryhausen Monster chronological order. Set to Tito Puento's drums:

Via Boing Boing

UPDATE: Here's another definitive list of Ray's monster gallery.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Less than 3 Days Left to Help Kickstart Technoir: Expandable, Moody Sci-fi RPG

THIS is cool. "THIS" being Technoir, a "high-tech hard-boiled" science fiction RPG by Twin Cities RPG designer Jeremy Keller. Technoir is on Kickstarter at the moment, and you should go check it out. From the author:
Technoir is an RPG in which you play characters entrenched in the criminal underground of the near-future. These protagonists use illicit skills and high-tech gear to exploit opportunities in the hopes of escaping their desperate lives. It's the shady stories of hardboiled crime novels of yesterday set in the dystopian sci-fi cities of tomorrow.
One of great things about the game is that Keller is planning on rolling out "transmissions" which are like missions/adventures. the game has already surpassed funding goals and as an added bonus to backers on Kickstarter he's offering additional themes to tweak the setting to your taste. Check out the beta version on the Technoir official site.

I'd suggested SpinnerNoir--basically Technoir set in a Syd Mead/Blade Runner setting. Go vote for the suggested settings on his latest Kickstarter post.

Less Than 3 Days Left
If you're inclined to give Technoir a go, you've got a little less than 3 days to become a backer and support this phenomenal project. I'm a backer and I'm already thinking of upping by support level. It's great to see this kind of homebrew creativity right in my hometown!


What Sci-Fi character type do you usually play?

I'm doing a little anecdotal research and thought I'd do a quick poll. Go ahead and cast a vote and if your vote requires explanation, please comment on this post. Include any notes (maybe it's a combo of two or why you like playing that character).

I'll post the results after the holiday weekend.

Thanks for participating!

Colonies in Space: Inspiration Realistic and Fantastic

Space colonies are the pinnacle of non-terrestrial habitation in space. It's far trickier to build your world than it is to land on with the keys already in the ignition. I'd done a previous post on colonies--even reused a few images (man do I love the orange death star!) but I wanted to focus on a few different ones for this post. I suppose you could separate them into two categories: realistic futurism (that is to say design concepts by artists and engineers for exploratory purposes) and Hollywood's interpretation.

My point with this series hasn't been to be exhaustive--that is to track down every space or moon base in pop culture. Rather, just to share some art that I think is really cool.

Let's start with the realistic (images courtesy of NASA image archives). Many of these show large agricultural parcels to feed their on-board populations, much like the way the pioneers needed to become self-sustaining:

Here's a few concepts designed for TV and film, toys, books, comics, etc. that may or may not have made it the screen. They didn't need to be accurate in order to wow viewers, but a few--like Babylon 5--have gone the extra mile to include solar panels, centrifuges, shuttle bays, hydroponics facilities, etc.

The Valley Forge was technically a ship, but it serves very much as a colony of sorts...

Some Disney concepts...

Probably the most famous space colony in science fiction...

Just for kicks, here's a huge graphic comparing scale between space stations, spaceships, and other intergalactic craft, both real and imagined.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Falling Skies + Red Dawn = Marketing Genius!

Click to see a preview of tonight's episode.

TNT is showing Red Dawn right now--and plastering every free second of commercial time with spots for their new Falling Skies series. I haven't seen it yet, but the parallells are hitting me over the head like a giant cushy cartoon hammer. Here's a recap of last week's episode (the first one) in case you missed it like me.

Okay fine...I'll watch your alien invasion series!

/planning to anyway


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Torus Wheels: Iconic Spinning Space Stations

The Stanford Torus or "wheel" is often regarded as the quintessential design template for orbiting space stations in that it provides microgravity via centrifugal rotation. That is, it spins and people stick to the floor.

While it's been popularized in comic books, science fiction novels, and film, the design has grounding in real-world physics. The concept was developed at Stanford University based on theories rocket engineers Wernher von Braun and Herman Poto─Źnik.

This scene is actually from a centrifuge area on the spaceship Discovery One, but the concept is the same.

NASA took the Torus further by using the design to help the public understand how people might live in space one day. The Torus is perhaps the closest approximation to Earth-like living--that is to say extended or semi-permanent residence--for humans in space.

During the Space Race, the wheel design achieved star status as a pop culture icon of human achievement in the marathon to establish a permanent orbiting settlement.

And now, for your viewing pleasure:

Real World Torus Wheel Concepts
NASA's Torus work
Article about recovered, long-lost scenes from 2001 A Space Odyssey

Next Time: Outer Space Colonies!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Space Station Inspiration

We covered moon bases earlier this week, so it seemed appropriate to throw a few starbases (space stations) up. These aren't all cutaways, and many of them are more fantasy inspired.

Next Time: Wheels in SPAAAAAACE!

Click the tags below to see more Space Stations or more inspiring posts!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Help Decide the Best Sci-Fi Books!

On my shelf at the moment....
NPR is hosting a summer readers poll to determine the best sci-fi and fantasy novels--evah. They did a pretty good job outlining the criteria to nominate your favorites. Looks like there will be a vote-off to follow. Here's the rules:
1. Limit yourself to five titles per post. Don't hesitate to nominate a book that someone else has already listed; your entry will count as a vote in favor of that title progressing to the next round.

2. No young-adult or children's titles, please. We plan to devote a poll to YA next summer. (It's also no fun if Harry Potter wins every year.)

3. Horror and paranormal romance are also out, which disqualifies most of Stephen King (also a big winner in previous polls), Charlaine Harris and Stephenie Meyer. Once again, we'll cover horror in a future poll.

4. Feel free to nominate a series — such as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings or Asimov's Foundation — as a single, collective work rather than listing individual books.

5. That said, there are series and series: To qualify as a collective work, the books in a series must be written consistently by the same originating author or authors. For example, you can't nominate the whole Star Wars franchise, though you can nominate individual Star Wars novels.
Go put in for your favorite stories on their site. List 'em here too while you're at it. Feel free to expound on literary greatness in sci-fi, why it's good fodder for games, or maybe there's just "this one part, that was totally cool." Plus, I'm always looking for recommendations!

Moon Base Adventures: Cutaways and Illustrations

Here's a few illustrations of moon and star bases that would make for some great adventure art and maps!