Snapshots 37

Here are 12 developments of interest to fans:

(1) James Cameron did a Q&A after a Variety Screening Series presentation of Avatar at the Arclight in Hollywood on January 7. He replied to a question that there not only will be a sequel, it was always his plan to make a trilogy of these films, reports Ain’t It Cool News.

(2) Neil Gaiman tells the history of writing Neverwhere  in a piece for the Telegraph, and leaves ’em wanting more:

Sometimes people ask me to write more Neverwhere. They want to know what happens next. I have at least one more London Below story in my head, a big one, in which we meet all of the Seven Sisters and the brass bed that they are each determined to inherit. I really should write it. After all, we still haven’t met the Shepherds of Shepherd’s Bush.

(3) Washington SF Association’s Sam Scheiner, who hosts the 1st Friday meetings with his wife Judy, had a letter to the editor published in January 7’s Washington Post in which he takes George Will to task. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

(4) Now we’re told even the ordinary motions of the Sun and moon trigger deep tremors on the San Andreas Fault:

The faint tug of the sun and moon on the San Andreas Fault stimulates tremors deep underground, suggesting that the rock 15 miles below is lubricated with highly pressurized water that allows the rock to slip with little effort, according to a new study by University of California, Berkeley, seismologists.

So I guess we can forget about preventing earthquakes. It’s not easy to turn off the Sun and moon, and the side effects would be kind of hard to live with.

(5) David Klaus saw “A WAVE Takes Target Practice” on LIFE.com and realized that “Photo #16 is of the same training Virginia Heinlein would have gone through during World War II.”

(6) The so-called “Goldilocks zone” is the proper distance for a planet to be in orbit around its sun to permit liquid water to exist on the surface:

But scientists now say this elusive zone where conditions are not too hot and not too cold for life to exist is far bigger than originally thought.

“When people talk about ‘habitable zones,’ they mean where there’s liquid water on the surface. But there’s liquid water elsewhere in the solar system; it’s buried under thick sheets of ice on moons,” Francis Nimmo, a planetary scientist with the University of California at Santa Cruz, told Discovery News.

(7) The Website at the End of the Universe is hosting a calendar of old pulp covers which includes a month-by-month birthday list for dozens of sf writers. (The link is to the PDF.)

(8) Wired.com has an impressive list of science fictional weapons that already exist.

Even the angriest mobs would probably think twice about trying to pass a Taser Shockwave barrier. It is the less-lethal equivalent of a claymore mine. Push the big red button, and it will fire 24 electrified probes at the same time in a single direction.

David Klaus less-than-cheerfully predicts, “I have no doubt that the multiple-shot-at-once TASER weapon will presently be used within the United States against political protesters, just as the LRAD has already been.”

That pretty much deflated my sense of goshwow, even for this awesome zapper:

Behold the Laser Avenger, a cannon that could be used to take down incoming aircraft. Boeing was able to shoot a drone out of the sky with the hummer-mounted laser, even though it’s not particularly high-powered. It cooked the remote-controlled aircraft using a somewhat feeble 1-kilowatt beam.

(9) “Where’s my flying car?” is a clichéd complaint about the future we live in. But Popular Science has a new answer:  How to build a commercially viable flying car: first, make it a motorcycle.

The company chose a three-wheel design for the Switchblade to meet the criteria for a motorcycle rather than a car, thus side-stepping some automobile regulations, like the inclusion of bumpers, that add weight and reduce aerodynamics. The Switchblade still retains some car-like features — occupants sit side-by-side in an enclosed climate-controlled cab, for instance — but the long nose and canard is more rocket or drag bike than modern sedan.

Where it couldn’t dodge regulatory hurdles, Samson engineers have met them head-on, installing rearview mirrors that retract during flight to reduce drag and devising wings that scissor open during flight mode but stow away in contained, protective underbelly compartments during ground transit.

(10) Or there’s always the jetpack, recently featured on an episode of NCIS:

With a body-shaking roar, Dan Schlund emerges with a jet pack strapped to his back and flies out of the hangar over a group of actors, who don’t have to stretch their talent much to summon shock and awe before giving chase, guns in hand. It is a scene for an episode of “NCIS” called “Ignition”…

A retired stunt double for Chuck Norris, original Rocketman Kinnie Gibson coordinated the series of Rocketbelt flights.

(11) “The World on the Moon,” an opera by Joseph Haydn, will be performed January 19-28 in New York City’s Hayden Planetarium:

For the first time ever, the Hayden Planetarium will be transformed into an intimate opera house using a 180-degree dome and projections courtesy of NASA. Taking advantage of breakthroughs in laser and light technology, Il mondo della luna will fuse live opera and stargazing, immersing the audience in a completely new kind of theatrical event – an out-of-this-world experience for opera lovers, science buffs, and theatergoers alike.

(12) I got several good laughs and otherwise generally admired The Crotchety Old Fan’s tour de force “My Perfect SF World” with many gems like:

In my perfect SF world, SFWA holds the cards when it comes to dealing with Hollywood and New York. Film and television shows are vetted by the Concept Infringement Committee, (which also has the dubious task of apportioning the assessed fees and fines. Some concepts date all the way back to Weinbaum, Williamson, Merritt and Lovecraft). Harlan Ellison has been trying to dump his job as Chairman of that committee for four decades now.

Also:

In my perfect SF world, Forry Ackerman is famous for reasons other than eliminating the phrase SxxFx from the language. He’s also famous for getting 98% of the world to adopt Esperanto as their official language. This has gone a long way towards completely eliminating the troubles associated with translated works.

Spot on, Crotchety!

 [Thanks to David Klaus, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter and Michael Walsh for these links.]