Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Review: Gloss via spitkitten, Brain Harvest - a new online mag to launch March 1

Seattle writer Caren Gussoff, author of Homecoming (2000) and The Wave and Other Stories (2002) and a 2008 alumna of the illustrious Clarion West Writers Workshop (visit Gussoff at www.spitkitten.com for the full scoop on her work), drops in with a report on this week's Fantastic Fiction reading:
Oregon-based author Molly Gloss *pnwd* the intimate audience that attended her reading on February 23 at the Fantastic Fiction Salon (co-sponsored by Richard Hugo House and NW Media Arts). Gloss read her multiple award-winning short story, “Lambing Season,” the elegant tale of an isolated sheepherder who makes first contact (the story is available in Gardner Dozois’s The Best of the Best: 20 Years of the Year’s Best Science Fiction). The next workshop and reading features celebrated SFF author, Nancy Kress, on March 29 and 30 (get the details here or see the earlier post).
Thanks for the bringing the news! On March 1, Gussoff is also launching an online speculative fiction mag, Brain Harvest: An Almanac of Bad-Ass Speculative Fiction
, with co-editors Shane Hoversten and Eden Robins.

In the meantime, fun with following: BrainHarvest and spitkitten on Twitter, norwescon (the events schedule for April 9-12 is up) and seattlegeekly, too. Power to the Tweeple.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The search for new Earths is on in Seattle

Astronomer Alan P. Boss has a few fantastic jobs.
  1. He maintains NASA's official list of planets, as chair of the International Astronomical Union's (yes, this is the group that gave Pluto the boot*) working group on extrasolar planets.
  2. He oversees all NASA missions leading to the detection of habitable Earths, as a member of the NASA External Independent Readiness Board for the Navigator Program.
  3. He helps NASA plan its search for extrasolar planets.
What does it take to get such great gigs?
Just a doctorate in physics, some postdoctoral work for NASA, a post on staff at the Carnegie Institution of Washington Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, and more than 25 years of research into the formation of stars and planetary systems.

On March 5, the Kepler Mission, NASA's first mission capable of finding earth-size and smaller planets, launches to hunt for worlds that could potentially host life. "Kepler is scheduled to blast into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., aboard a Delta II rocket on March 5 at 10:48 p.m. EST," says a Feb. 19 NASA press release.

Eleven days later Boss talks extraterrestrials, 7:30 p.m., Mon., March 16 at Town Hall Seattle. And, as someone who has spent a lifetime closely watching the stars, Boss thinks we will find alien life. He'll explain why in his presentation, or, check out his book of the same title,
The Crowded Universe: The Search for Living Planets (2009). From the book blurb:
Life is not only possible elsewhere in the universe, Boss argues-it is common... America must stay in this new space race, Boss contends, or risk being left out of one of the most profoundly important discoveries of all time: the first confirmed finding of extraterrestrial life.

The intelligent life on earth sponsoring Boss' lecture includes: Seattle Science Lectures, Pacific Science Center, and University Book Store.

Tickets are $5 at www.brownpapertickets.com, call 1.800.838.3006, or at the door beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Hey, did I have you at Pluto? If you're free Monday night, you don't have to wait until March for your astronomy lecture. Check out astrophysicist and Hayden Planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson's talk The Pluto Files, 7:30 p.m., Mon. Feb. 23 also at Town Hall Seattle. Same deal as above with the tickets.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fantastic Fiction: Nancy Kress in March

After Molly Gloss' Sunday workshop Feb. 22 and reading Feb. 23, the Fantastic Fiction series brings Nancy Kress, the Hugo and Nebula award-winning author of Beggars in Spain (1993), to Seattle in March. Kress teaches a workshop, "Planning Your Novel," 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Sun., March 29 at Richard Hugo House and then reads and discusses her work, 7 p.m., Mon., March 30 at the house.

Kress is the award-winning author of 26 books (19 novels and more than 100 short stories). For 16 years she wrote for the “On Fiction” column in Writer’s Digest. M
ost recently, Kress received a Nebula for her novella, Fountains of Age, (Asimov's Jul 2007). Her short story collection Nano Comes to Clifford Falls made io9's top 11 books of 2008. Kress was also included in io9's article on Science Fiction Writers' Cruddiest (And Craziest) Day Jobs. Before becoming a full-time writer and writing teacher, Kress wrote training manuals for Xerox.

This spring, the Fantastic Fiction series continues at Hugo House with Sunday workshops and Monday evening readings
April 19 and 20 with Gregory Frost, author of the fantasy Shadowbridge (2008) and its sequel Lord Tophet (2008), and May 17 and 18 with Paul Park, whose most recent title is The Hidden World (2008), the fourth book in a fantasy series from Tor that began with A Princess of Roumania (2005).

Richard Hugo House and NW MediaArts co-sponsor Fantastic Fiction.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Review: science taps suspended animation

Emanating from the mud pots of Yellowstone, Lechuguilla Cave near Carlsbad Cavern, and your local hot springs, hydrogen sulfide, infamous for its rotten egg stench, may one day save your life.

At the latest Science on Tap, Dana L. Miller, Ph.D, shared what she and other researchers under the direction of Mark Roth are up to over at Roth Labs and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

They've been blowing hydrogen sulfide at fruit flies, water bears (the Northwest's cute moss-loving rotifers), and mice, and here's what they've found: suspended animation.

Hydrogen sulfide puts the critters into a hibernation-like state (metabolism slows, body temperature drops to room temperature). Even after hours in suspended animation, when the sulfide is replaced with a waft of oxygen, the creatures revive (without any heroic efforts on the part of the researchers) and go on about their business.

Lest you envision astronauts in stinky hydrotanks traveling to distant planets in suspended animation only to be devoured by aliens upon arrival, researchers don't know how long a creature can remain inert. They've topped the mice out at six hours, so far. And space travel isn't really what the scientists at Fred Hutch have in mind.

They do imagine that inducing suspended animation like states could be used to reduce the trauma of surgery and heart attacks (myocardial infarction for fans of House), and in triage on the battlefield (point of fact: the Department of Defense is funding this research).

The advantage to "metabolic flexibility" (in this case: the ability to slow down so we can use less oxygen when less oxygen is available) is that hibernating animals don't get sick. And they don't react to trauma. Sometimes our bodies' natural response to injury (say an elective surgery) only makes things worse.

Hydrogen sulfide could slow this response or "stave off the dying and allow medical intervention," as Miller says. It could even be administered before a surgery and shorten the recovery time. Maybe.

Don't forget though, hydrogen sulfide, like oxygen, is toxic. There's still a lot we don't know about these gases effects on and use in our bodies, Miller says.

But it's this not knowing, the discovery, that makes Science on Tap fun — oh, and the brew. Labs don't always yield expected results, questions don't always have pat answers, wacky sounding ideas might lead to real world applications — and beer, foamy.

Serious about hydrogen sulfide? Head to the actual research. Don't dally at this fannish review with its Guinness drenched knowledge. Read how worms on the gas had an unexpected response: They lived longer.

The next Science on Tap, Making the Internet Green: How to Build Sustainable Data Centers, will be 7 p.m., Feb. 23 in Ravenna at Third Place Pub. KCTS9 and Pacific Science Center co-sponsored the talk on suspended animation.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Abigail represents for Northwest at film fest

Emily Yoshida with her film, Abigail, represents for the Northwest at the Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival Saturday at the Cinerama. Of the 20 filmmakers from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands selected to show their work at the festival only Yoshida can claim some cred from Northwest origins. She was born in Japan and raised in the Tacoma area. So says her bio.

She's also a recent graduate of UCLA's School of Theatre, Film & Television where she worked on Abigail as part of her thesis. The film tells the story of a teenage girl who disappears in a club into a virtually infused reality where her best friend, Sam, tries to track her down. Look for a shot of L.A.'s Second Street Tunnel in the film, Yoshida's tribute to Blade Runner. See the trailer for Abigail here.

Yoshida, 23, is also the only woman filmmaker in the festival. Sadly, in The Tacoma News Tribune article,
From ‘Star Trek’ fan to sci-fi filmmaker, she concludes, “It seems like the sci-fi world is not big on girls."

Say it isn't so. Not in a world that includes: Broad Universe, Feminist Science Fiction, Ambling Along the Aqueduct, The League of Extraordinary Paranormal Women, WisCon,
Feminist SF-The Blog!, and even Sci-Fi Chick. More?

What about sci-fi world friendly groups for women filmmakers? They must be out there.

Abigail shows in the second session of 10 films, 7-9 p.m. at the festival. An awards ceremony follows. The first 10 films run 4-6 p.m. Tickets: $9 for one session, $15 for both at www.siff.net. Questions? Call 206.464.5830.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Writer of Outlander, Underworld 3, Amazon, Conan at science fiction museum

Screenwriter Howard McCain knows some of the secrets of our past, present and future film-watching, and he'll be in town 7 p.m., Tues., Feb. 17 at Seattle's Science Fiction Museum for the next in the Exposed: Inside Film series. $5 or free to EMP|SFM members. Call 1.877.EMP.SFM1.

In 2010, if all goes well on the big screen, a gladiatrix (played by Scarlett Johannsen?) will exact vengeance on the army that destroyed her homeland in Amazon and Conan (the famous Cimmerian/Barbarian) continues his adventures (begun in 1932 thanks to Robert E. Howard and Weird Tales) across the continent of Hyboria. McCain, and Dirk Blackman, wrote the screenplay for Amazon and were hired by Lion's Gate to write Conan.

In theaters now, McCain and Blackman also wrote the screenplay to Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, the origin story for the trilogy (vampires vs former slaves).

McCain also wrote and directed 2008's Outlander, and that's the film that will be shown and discussed at the next Exposed: Inside Film. Warren Etheredge of The Warren Report and co-founding faculty of TheFilmSchool in Seattle hosts.

Outlander takes place far, far in our past, 509 AD. An alien guy, Kainan, joins forces with Vikings to battle a creature known as The Moorwen after he and it crash land in Fjords in ancient Norway. Alien stud plus Vikings equals dead monster, right?

This weekend: the Science Fiction + Fantasy Short Film Festival starts 4 p.m., Sat., Feb. 7 at the Cinerama.