2014 Parsec Awards finalists are announced!

DragonCon 2013 - Parsec Awards
photo by Kyle Nishioka

As some of you may know, I’ve been on the steering committee for the Parsec Awards for several years now. The awards seeks to celebrate the best in speculative fiction podcasting. If you have an interest in audio fiction of the science fiction, fantasy, horror, and steampunk flavors (just to name a few), then I can recommend nothing better than the current and past lists of finalists and winners.

It took a bit longer than usual for us to listen through and evaluate this year’s round of nominee samples, so I’m happy to announce the finalists for 2014! Check out these podcasts for stories, audio dramas, science behind the stories, and geeking out about favorite speculative fiction content.

I went to a con…

This past weekend I went to my fourth RavenCon, the local science fiction slash fantasy slash gaming slash podcasting slash writing slash whatever convention. As I was getting ready to head over to the hotel for the first day, I reminded myself that there would be a lot of “attempts at conversations with socially awkward people” and I shouldn’t be too put off by this. As it turns out, there were far fewer of them than what I encountered at my first RavenCon, in part because I now have a “tribe” of folks that come regularly and with whom (for the most part) there are no awkward conversations.

In fact, I spent very little time participating in the con programming, and far more time talking with friends about anything and everything. So, I can’t really say whether this was a good RavenCon or not, except that for me, it was fantastic and more fun than I expected.

The Holiday Inn Koger Center renovated the lobby since last year, putting in a bar and lots of conversational seating groups. This became our default gathering space around meal times or between panels. At any given time, if I wandered out there, I’d see at least one person that I knew and wanted to hang out with.

I also found myself living the mantra of “where I am now is where I want to be.” Often when I am at conferences or conventions with many options of things to do and people to do them with, I will end up feeling like the option I didn’t choose would have been better, regardless of whether that is true or not. This time around, I managed to enjoy myself with most everything, at least, until the end when I was too tired to enjoy much of anything that wasn’t my bed and a darkened room.

That’s what I call a good con.

LITA 2008: Hi-Fi-Sci-Fi-Library: Technology, Convergence, Content, Community, Ubiquity and Library Futures

Presenter: Michael Porter, WebJunction

Hi-fi is usually associated with audio equipment, but fidelity is very much related to our work: interoperability, compatibility, quality of the document, etc.

When you distill what libraries are and what they do, it comes down to content and community, and this is what libraries will still be in the future. Star Trek’s LCARS stands for Library Computer Access and Retrieval System — even those folks thought that the “library” would be that integrated into everything in the future.

The line between hardware and software is blurring now, particularly with software that can emulate hardware. Costs for technology are decreasing, computing power is increasing, and battery life is getting longer. There are newer and better methods of creating content, and competition for content provision is getting fierce. And, you can find community all over the Internet.

The Google Android phone is actually just software that is open source and can be used by any wireless phone manufacturer, and can be hacked by any coders who want to enhance the functionality. The Bug is hardware that comes in components that can be hooked together to created whatever you need, like a digital camera or portable computer.

Audio test for the video section – Rickroll!

The Time Machine: Computer interface in the library is represented as a human hologram. Also, the reference interview was… a bit rude. Books were represented as being behind preserved glass, and the students carried hand-held pads to download content.

Star Trek IV: Human-computer interaction in the Star Trek future uses voice recognition, but in 1985, that wasn’t possible.

Star Trek IV: Spock is working with three monitors, each presenting different problems. He uses a mixture of voice and tactile inputs to respond.

Futurama: 1000 years in the future, we will still have books and the Dewey Decimal System.

I, Robot: “ban the Internet to keep the libraries open”

Futurama: Will be able to get physical things from the Internet. We already have printers that can print in 3-D!

How William Shatner Changed the World: TNG wanted us to get the notion that we should not be afraid of technology.

Minority Report: Manipulates computer visuals using hi-tech gloves.

How William Shatner Changed the World: Modern-day physicist uses his knowledge to examine the realistic possibilities of Star Trek.

Zardoz: Ring that projects data.

Futurama: Librarians hold the keys to power, but it doesn’t always appear that way.

geekgasm

Last week I was in Phoenix for the NASIG conference, which was awesome, but equally awesome was getting to hang out at the DracoVista Studios for a recording of the Babylon Podcast. You can hear me make a few comments in some upcoming episodes.

Getting to meet one of the hosts, Summer Brooks, was a highlight of my trip. Here is a rare photo of Summer, which I think the drooling fanboys will be excited to see:

Summer Brooks

RavenCon 2008

RavenCon — it’s not just for ravens anymore.

General Grievous, Princess Leia, & nobleman of the steampunk era
photo by me

I attended RavenCon for the first time this year. It’s a relatively new con, with this being the third year of its existence. One of the reasons why I attended was because it was held here in Richmond, and because several podcasters I listen to but have never met were planning to be in attendance. Over the course of the weekend, I had a chance to chat with all but one, who ended up being unable to attend.

By now, I’ve figured out how these small-ish regional cons tend to run, so aside from doing the fangirl thing, I was prepared for mediocre panels and lots of dead spaces where I attempted to make friends with people who are quite happy to remain in their little cliques, thankyouverymuch. I quickly discovered that this con is different.

Maybe it’s because it’s so new, or maybe I just had better luck, but in the end, I have to conclude that this was the best con I have attended so far. 95% of the panels I attended were interesting and informative. While I did run into a few cliques, I managed to quickly locate the room party with the types of folks who like to talk to new people, and I was able to make a few new friends by the end of the weekend.

All in all, I’m glad I went. And, I plan to go again next year.

more photos

radcon 4c

Last Wednesday, I woke up and decided I needed to be with my people.

Spaceball CityLast Wednesday, I woke up and decided I needed to be with my people. By that I mean I decided to attend Radcon. Radcon is a science fiction and fantasy convention held in Pasco (WA) every year over President’s Day weekend. I attended it last year, which was the first time I had been to a scifi con, unless you count the time I hung out with some pals in the same hotel as a con in North Carolina half a lifetime ago. I don’t think that counts.

Not much different happened at the con this year compared to last year, except this time I knew what to avoid and what to attend, and there were more familiar faces in the crowd. I still feel a bit like an outsider hoping to get invited to the party, but that’s the problem with any relatively small group of people. Anyway, I took some pictures this time, although I missed most of the Star Trek costumes (dangit!), and I also use the video function on my digital camera to capture two medieval combat events (event 1 and event 2).

BSG

A few weeks ago I watched the episode of Battlestar Galactica with the Galactica doing the free-fall drop through the atmosphere of New Caprica. I was quite impressed, and not nearly as freaked out as I was after watching the miniseries and first episode. I now have “The Story So Far” sitting in my iTunes folder and a few more episodes, um, recorded and waiting to be watched. Haven’t had the time or energy to actually watch them yet, but I plan to.

In related news, I hope everyone saw today’s Dilbert with the BSG reference.

frazzled

Some days I wish I only had to work a half-day. Usually when I do work a half-day, I remember why I don’t do it very often. I find myself feeling very rushed and flustered trying to cram in everything I need to cram in before leaving work.

Then there is the reason why I am working a half-day. Almost always it’s because I’m going out of town for something, and inevitably I’ve left the packing or the one last errand to be done as soon as I leave work. I end up harried and annoyed with myself because it takes me longer to get it all done than I planned for.

Eventually, I’m in my car and cruising down the interstate just a bit over the speed limit in order to make up for the extra time spent getting ready to go. This time I was heading towards Seattle with forty-eight hours of a local science fiction convention ahead of me.

Foolscap is in its eighth year of existence. The con focuses on flat media, which is mainly books and artwork, as opposed to the more general conventions one usually hears about (ie WorldCon, Dragon*Con, Norwescon, etc.). Each year the con features one author and one artist, and this year it was C. J. Cherryh and Mark Ferrari, respectively. I was not familiar with either of them before attending the con, and they weren’t the reason why I went. I just wanted geek out all weekend with a bunch of people who enjoy reading similar stuff and talking about it.

By the time I found the hotel in Bellevue, got checked in, and parked my car, my brain was nearly fried. I get that way when I travel, and the events listed above didn’t help that much. Dragging my suitcase along behind me, I headed towards the elevators where I saw two older women getting on. Quickening my pace, I was able to get in before the doors shut.

I notice they were both wearing name tags, and in my befuddled state, I asked the one standing directly across from me if she knew where the registration desk was located. She told me where it was on the first floor, and somehow I managed to retain that information, despite my embarrassment at realizing that I had just asked the Guest of Honor, C. J. Cherryh, for directions.

D’oh.

The next time I go to a con, I’m going to do my homework and make sure I can recognize the GoH’s on sight.

battlestar galactica: the end

As much as I would like to, I cannot watch any more of the Battlestar Galactica episodes. On Sunday, over a week after I watched the miniseries, I finally was in the right mind frame to watch episode one. It was good, and not nearly as tension-filled as the miniseries, but I could not shake the dread I felt at the thought of having to go through all twenty-three episodes of the first two seasons.

Ever since I was a young child, I have been easily frightened by visual images. I have overcome my fear of the Ghost of Christmas-Yet-To-Come; a fear that began around age six when I first saw Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. However, I still carry other visions that get the adrenaline pumping just from thinking about them. For fifteen years I had trouble using the toilet at night due to a scene from Stephen King’s IT that I stupidly attempted to watch. Even now the paranoia kicks in on occasion, and I have to remind myself that these things aren’t real and I’m safe.

So, you can see why I try to avoid watching scary movies or viewing disturbing images. These things stick with me for too long.

The trouble with Battlestar Galactica is that I am interested in the characters and the story arc. I want to know what happens, but the Cylon element is just too scary for me. Walking alone to my car on Sunday evening, I could almost imagine that a Cylon was right behind me with its red eye sliding back and forth. I knew then that I had to stop watching. It is just too much.

I have been very impressed with what I’ve seen of the series. I can see why folks like it so much. The future technologies seem much more realistic and related to current technology than those presented by Star Trek, for example. I just wish I could watch it, too. But, I know what’s best for me, so I’m stopping now. However, I do plan to read the episode summaries on the Battlestar Galactica wiki. Even though I won’t be watching any more, I still want to know what happens.