3 Big events for the 20 years in Outer Space

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It should be an exciting two decades in Space.  The last few years have had their own excitement:  water on Mars, two Jupiter moons, and a variety of asteroids; missions to the edge of the Solar System; the reality that there is probably life (although evidence points to microscopic life forms within our Solar System but not on our planet).  Much of this is tied to theory, but the next two decades promise some more palatable adventures:

  1. A permanent manned base on the Moon.  Frankly, I’m wondering why we’ve waited so long.  We have a permanent satellite that is manned in orbit that really requires more danger and maintenance than a base on the Moon would.
  2. Asteroid mining.  I finished a novel about this last year.  I’ll be very surprised if some version of actual asteroid mining isn’t engaged by 2037.
  3. A permanent manned base on Mars.  This one grabs all the headlines, and is actually the most costly and far-fetched.  Target dates of 2034 will likely come and go, but maybe… just maybe we’ll make it by 2037.

It is sad to be aging.  I may be able to witness these three events, but assuming they become a reality, it is the next 20 years that will really turn our lives into the science fiction novels I read as a youth.

Doc

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What is Star Wars 8 up against in 2017

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In the battlefield of science fiction and fantasy movies many casualties fell along the way in 2017.  Disney went out with a bang in 2016, giving us Rogue One (the best Star Wars movie since Empire Strikes Back) but I entered 2017 with not such a new hope in Episode 8 of the Star Wars Saga that is about to open.  Still looking at 2017 there are only three films that help up to my much narrowed palate in the genre today.

The movie I most looked forward to in 2017 was Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.  It did not disappoint.  Granted it didn’t feel nearly as fresh as Volume 1, and it did have a dry spot on Planet Ego, but nonetheless I found it fulfilling, fun, exciting, romantic, and loved almost all the characters including many of the villains.

The two other movies that Episode 8 to rock my world include Wonder Woman and Logan.

Wonder Woman demonstrated that DC & Wonder Woman are capable of producing an entering popcorn movie.  I might not have seen this film, but for the buzz.  So my first pleasant surprise of 2017 was Wonder Woman.  The duck out of water aura of Wonder Woman in World War I London caught nuances “wonder”fully.  The romance, action, and yes… loss, made this a memorable movie.

Logan was another surprise.  I’ve seen several of the X-Men movies, but have never really enjoyed most of their characters.  Even in this one, Patrick Steward did nothing in this film to make it watchable, except perhaps his final scene.  Logan as the reluctant, aging hero turned the trick though.  There was plenty of action, confrontation, and loss.

I mention loss a lot in these three films.  I understand that Marvel will likely kill off several of its popular characters in their next two movies.  Being a fan of some of those characters I’m not really excited about losing them, but the perennial saves for major characters takes away from the legitimacy of many films.  I was a huge fan of Harry Potter books and movies, but when Harry’s sacrifice is miraculously overturned it was a groan moment for me.  A non-sacrifice sacrifice, a non-tragic tragedy.  Rogue One had that. 

Granted we are in Episode 8 of a nine episode story arc, Carrie Fisher is dead, so we can have a tragic loss there, but I’m hoping that Episode 8 is not simply a retooled Empire Strikes Back.  We’ll see… soon in a Megaplex far, far away.

The Orville – Hit or miss?

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Okay, I was ready for this to be really fun.  I’m a huge fan of Galaxy Question, so some tongue-in-cheek humor at Star Trek’s expense sounded like fun.

So far?  So-so.  Seth McFarland and Adrianne Palicki play off each other as a divorced couple forced to work together running an exploratory vessel.  I like Penny Johnson Jirard (think the Captain in Castle) as the omniscient doctor.  The rest of the cast hasn’t really clicked and the story line could use some help.

Still I continue to root for the series to pick up some traction.  Moving from Jerry Lewis slapstick to a more subtle Jerry Seinfeld approach might help.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep watching and keep hoping.

Doc

 

 

Robert Heinlein – Rolling Stones

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In Sixth Grade I started reading Robert Heinlein novels, and I suspect this was either the first or second of his juvenile science fiction novels I read.

Twin teenagers Castor and Pollux are very much like Fred and George Weasley in the Harry Potter novels; really smart and mischievous.  They are Loonies (not to be confused with the one dollar coin in Canada, but rather Moon natives.  They buy a junker space ship and try to renovate it but run into problems of their own, ultimately drawing in their family and grandmother along the way.

The twins want adventure and riches.  They decide to buy and renovate bicycles.  This doesn’t go well by the time the family reaches Mars.  Along with this disaster, they also pick up a local pet, a Flat Cat.  If you want a visual representation, I always think of the Star Trek (original series) episode, “The Trouble with Tribbles.”  The flat cats begin reproducing at a rate that make rabbits look like monks.  The flat cats are both a temporary curse and ultimately a salvation to the Loonie twins.

The sense of pioneering, independence, and freedom from the traditional burdens of society are dominant throughout the book.  In 2017 it would be a refreshing read.

Doc

 

 

Adrift

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Aloha – Whether drifting in a spaceship, or floating down the Mississippi with Huck Finn, it has been a busy week, but not for writing.  I am one of those folks who believe in global warning as a natural consequence of our relationship with the sun rather than some arrogant notion that its all about us.  Yes, we have successfully polluted much of the environment, but the normal cycle of heating and cooling is more tied to our eccentric motion around the Sun, usually in 35,000 year cycles.

I finally toyed with a conspiracy novel concept.  It turns out the scientific community has been conspiring with world politicians for over a decade, with Al Gore as a front man.  They have known that the planet was becoming unlivable not because of an asteroid, but as a natural consequence of global warming caused by our own Sun.  To confuse the population they have created a giant debate to occupy the news media, while we broil to our final demise in… 20 years?  The concept for the conspiracy is working fine, I just haven’t come up with the right combination of characters for the novel.  And there’s the rub.  I like characters to play with and develop, but how to develop them in a possibly familiar, but not totally hackneyed approach.

I liked how the characters evolve in Salt of the Earth (yet to be released).  I’m not feeling it with this one.  I have three other books I’m thinking about, so I may table this idea and let someone else turn it into a best seller 🙂

Doc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Heinlein – The Puppet Masters

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The Puppet Masters is one of those stories that gets under my skin for a couple of reasons:  first, the confusion with a much more recent series of horror movies, and second because of the obvious parallel with Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Heinlein’s novel was published in 1951, Body Snatchers and the myriad of copies began in 1956.  The horror movie series began in the late 1980s.

I’m not sure why, but even when Heinlein’s novels get movie treatment (without being someone else’s knock off) they tend to fall flat.  This novel finally got a movie treatment in 1994, but even with a good cast, it came across as a TV movie paying homage to movies like Alien, rather than as a stand alone memorable movie.

The story itself is one of alien invasion through mind control.  The protagonist is an agent for a very secret government? agency.  If you want the cliff notes version you can rent the movie (Donald Sutherland, Eric Thal, and Julie Warner star).  It isn’t great movie making, but it does give a fairly accurate summary of the story and ideas behind the story (as opposed to Star Ship Troopers that barely kept the title intact).  The book is a good summer read although not one of my favorites from Heinlein.

Doc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Heinlein – Between Planets

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Okay, this is one of several of my favorites from Heinlein.  We open with teenager Don Harvey out in the southwest desert on his horse.  His horse is startled and Don draws his pistol and shoots the nasty rattlesnake.  Old West suddenly meets the future as Don gets a cell phone call that he is being picked up by helicopter for an emergency.  It turns out that Earth is at odds with the colonized planets (particularly Venus and Mars).  Because of the potential of war, he is being recalled to Mars.

There is plenty of adventure before Don even gets off Earth, but things take a nasty turn when he gets to the relay station which has been taken over by Venerian troops.  The Venus rebels destroy the station, and Don finds himself declaring Venus citizenship and is whisked off to Venus, instead of his home on Mars.

What happens to him as he adapts to a planet he has not been on since early childhood draws out the best and worst of humankind, which is further elaborated upon in a later favorite novel, Citizen of the Galaxy… more on that on another post.

This is first and foremost another of Heinlein’s juvenile adventure stories in the arena of science fiction, but Heinlein is starting to address more complex issues.  Characters are no longer all good guys or bad guys.  But the dissonance is not carried beyond the bounds of a good story for teenagers.  Worth the read even today,

Doc