Back when I was a kid I read an awful lot of science fiction – mostly Clarke, Asimov and Heinlein with a fair amount of Niven, Pournelle and others stirred into the mix. All of them portrayed futures in which the engineering problems that still confront us today had been largely solved. Space travel was … More We are living in Arthur C Clarke’s future
I miss old Mars. The Mars of imagination, the world with deep blue skies and red deserts filled with whatever magical societies and cities our whims desired. Real Mars is interesting too, and it’s there, and it’s what we’re going to have to deal with if we ever leave this planet. That Mars too can … More The wonder of old Mars and its sands
I went to Armageddon last weekend. No, not the apocalyptic destruction of the world that has been unfolding since about March. I mean the sci-fi convention held in Wellington’s Formerly Known As The Westpac Arena. I hadn’t been for a few years. This one featured virtual visits, by link, from stars of shows I hadn’t … More Armageddon – 2020 style
I often wonder, in idle moments, how we might talk to aliens if they turned up suddenly. The problem is that aliens are – well, alien. Picture the scene: Aliens turn up. Their language, to our ears, has just one word, ‘blubbleblop’. Nobody realises they communicate by eye movement and the sound is a product … More Will we ever understand aliens?
Apparently the way to land when falling from a great height is to come down on one knee and a fist in a ‘three-point’ landing, then pause dramatically for everybody to admire your sudden entrance to save the day. Superheroes do it, so it must be the way, right? I guess if you’re invulnerable, maybe. … More Don’t try the three-point superhero landing, OK?
When I was growing up, a ‘ray gun’ was a weapon that zapped somebody and turned them into a petrol attendant named Ray. OK, that joke’s actually from The Tick. That aside, ‘rays’ were a staple of deco-era sci-fi, especially Edward Elmer ‘Doc’ Smith’s space operettas, where ‘rays’ – meaning an undefined something that either … More Hurrah for deco-punk ray guns: when imagination outstrips reality
It had to be 1 April, of course. Naturally. On a dark country back-road with no other witnesses, the sort of place with permanent rain that private detectives in Borsalino fedoras and trench coats haunt for no better reason than that it looks good to be there. It felt like a Friday night, the sort … More My close encounter of the hard boiled kind
I found myself thinking, the other day, about the Six Million Dollar Man. You know the one: that series from the seventies where former astronaut Steve Austin crashes an M2-F2 lifting body and nearly dies, but luckily the technology’s there, in this exciting post-Apollo world, to rebuild him as the world’s first ‘bionic man’ – … More Six Million Dollar Silliness
Every so often I see something on Facebook asking you to name which super-powers you’d most like to have.That’s actually pretty cool, because – you know, super-powers. We all know what these are – invulnerability, invincible strength, teleportation, telekinesis, flying, being magnetic, telepathy, X-ray vision, squirting spider-web from your wrist and doing Tarzan swings with … More What five super-powers would you most like to have?
One of my favourite Robert A. Heinlein novels is Time for the Stars, a realisation of Albert Einstein’s ‘twin paradox’ that Heinlein wrote in the mid-1950s as part of his so-called ‘juvenile’ series. It was an outcome of the slightly berserk nature of Einstein’s 1905 theory of Special Relativity, which – with his theory of … More Einstein’s twin paradox explained