Freedom, Responsibility, and the Three-Edged Sword

(EDITED TO CLARIFY/CORRECT INFORMATION LISTED)

(DISCLAIMER: The incident described in this blog entry is based on second-hand knowledge, either posted online publicly or provided to me in confidence (“off the record”, if you will) by people whom I know and trust.  I was not at Worldcon, nor the panel in question, and I have NOT watched the video described below, nor will I link to it.  The other panelists have stated that they did not give their permission to be recorded, and as such the recording and posting of the video of the panel was, in my opinion, unethical, and I will not watch it, nor will I post links to it.  Also, I will not be naming names.  If your ethical position permits you to watch it, then you can do a Google search and find it online yourself.  I, however, will not promote this sort of behavior.  Also, I am speaking solely for myself, and not for Philcon, nor any other business or organization to which I may have worked, volunteered for, or done business with.)

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(Picture and quote via AZ Quotes.)

This past weekend at the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), something controversial happened.  (I know… you’re totally shocked, aren’t you?:-/ )

It seems, and has been reported, that at a panel with a topic regarding short stories in SF, a prominent SF editor, who was also the moderator of the panel, started the panel by reading a pre-written statement regarding how a small group of SF writers, editors, and fans had hijacked the genre in order to advance their own liberal political agenda.  Starting at 10 minutes into the panel, other panelists began asking him to stop, as this statement was off-topic in regards to the panel topic (the term “shouted down” has been used in some reports, as opposed to “asking him to stop”, but most of the reports I’ve read have used some variation of the term I’m using, so I’ll use that here).  He continued on for at least another 10-15 minutes, during which time he refused to stop, and continued reading his statement.  According to many reports, the panel turned into a shouting match after that.  This editor then posted online a recording (there is conflict over whether it was audio only, or audio AND video) of the panel, for which he did not ask, nor did he receive, permission from the other panelists (all of whom are clearly identified in the recording) nor the audience members to record or to post online.  Later that day (FRIDAY), the editor in question had his membership to Worldcon revoked.  A number of people claim that he was “thrown out” of the con due to his views, and the fact that he spoke up about them.  Others claim that his membership was revoked because he violated the con’s CoC (Code of Conduct).

The above seem to be as far as reports on the issue agree… and I’m stretching the definition of the word “agree” in saying that!

So, here’s the thing… I don’t give a damn about this editor’s politics, his views, or his opinions about SF, liberalism, misogyny, racism, or anything else.  I mean, I don’t necessarily agree with them, but otherwise, I have no dog in this fight.  The man can believe what he wants to believe, and he is free to express those views (in fact, I think that it’s important that he DOES express those views… but that’s another topic for another post, at another time).  The important thing here is that he is free to express his opinion… that’s the whole point of that “freedom of speech” portion of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.  By airing out his”dirty laundry” as it were, we get to see it for what it is, whole and unvarnished.  And we can then choose to agree or disagree, as we will.  And the same is true for those who hold the exact opposite politics, views, and opinions.  To quote J. Michael Straczynski, from an episode of Babylon 5, “Understanding is a three-edged sword; your side, their side, and the truth.”  Let the ideas be expressed, and we can find the truth between them (unless, of course, one side is TOTALLY WRONG… but again, that’s another post…).

However, with that freedom, as with all freedom, comes something else… responsibility.  In this case, with freedom of speech, it’s important that it be used at the appropriate time, in the appropriate place, and in the appropriate manner.  From all appearances, this man did all of the following:

  • Pre-planned the hijacking of a panel that he was moderator of (thus limiting other panelists ability to stop him, or mitigate his actions),
  • Delivering a statement that had nothing to do with the panel topic at all, and derailing the panel, to the determent of the panelists who had prepared for that topic, as well as the audience members who had come to see a panel on that topic, as opposed to a manifesto,
  • Pre-wrote the statement/manifesto he delivered, as opposed to delivering it off-the-cuff, thus showing his prior intent to disrupt the panel, and the con,
  • Showed no sign of stopping, or pausing in his delivery/diatribe, even when asked to by other panelists and audience members,
  • Recorded audio and/or video of other panelists and audience members without their permission,
  • Posted said recording online, again without permission,
  • Bragged (it’s the only word I can find that I feel is appropriate based on what I read regarding statements he made on his blog) about planning to disrupt the panel, preparing the statement, make the recording, and posting it without permission,
  • Stated that he was “thrown out” of the Worldcon due to the political content of his statement.

Several of those items are clear violations of Worldcon’s CoC (like recording people without their or the con’s permission, thus violating privacy and creating a hostile environment).  As such, Worldcon had every right (and, in fact, the duty) to revoke his membership, regardless of their personal feeling about his opinions or politics.  They could have agreed with every word that he said, and they STILL should have tossed him out.

But, on top of that, it was inappropriate behavior on his part.  Just because he felt he could deliver a manifesto doesn’t mean that he should have at that panel.  I mean, I don’t know if Worldcon had a panel on that topic, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t… many cons, including Philcon, the one I work with, have panels on topics just like that, and if Worldcon did have a panel like that, he could have delivered his statement, or hopefully a shorter version of it (apparently the editor needs an editor… physician, heal thyself) at that panel, or at a similar one at another con.  Also, planing in advance to disrupt a panel that one is moderating (thus violating a position of trust), recording people without their permission, and then bragging about what you did… all of this is completely inappropriate.  Perhaps he wouldn’t have his membership revoked for some of those things individually, but by God, I certainly hope that the SF fan community shuns him, puts him into his place, stops providing hits on his blog and buying his work, and doesn’t invite him as a participant at future cons.  Because he’s shown everyone that he can’t be trusted with the responsibility that comes with freedom of speech.  When I ran programming for Philcon (and again, I am not speaking for Philcon, or any current or any prior committee members, but only on behalf of myself), if it was reported or I witnessed a program participant acting inappropriately, I would do anything from not assigning them to certain panels, all the way to not inviting them back the following year, and might take these actions for even less egregious behavior than this supposed professional engaged in!

Freedom gives you great power.  And, as that great thinker Stan Lee wrote, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  Perhaps one of the things wrong with the world today is that we’ve forgotten that, and we need to re-learn it.

That’s all for now.  Have a great day, and a great weekend!

By wearehugh

So, you want to be a millionaire…?

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Oh, look!  Your future bank account!  (Photo via Dreamstime.com)

Want to be a millionaire? Here’s the secret: save, invest, repeat. Somewhere around your 50’s to 60’s, the balance will tick over to seven figures.
 
Make sure your investments are broadly diversified… stock funds, bond funds, cash/money markets. If you’re young, invest more heavily in stocks and riskier investments (if your balance drops a lot in a given year, you have lots of time to recover). As you get older, do what most people FORGET to do and rebalance your portfolio, gradually moving funds into more conservative, less volatile investments like bonds and money markets. KEEP SOMETHING IN ALL OF THEM… you always want SOME growth and SOME stability, but how much of each will change over time.  There are mutual funds available (for example, Vanguard’s Target Retirement Funds) that will do this automatically for you… you pick a target year, and the fund rebalances based on the length of time left until that year.
 
Make maximum use of tax-free or -deferred plans, like employer retirement plans, or Traditional or Roth IRAs. At the least, you’ll defer taxes until you take money out (and you’ll hopefully be in a lower bracket by then). At best, such as with a Roth plan, all of the growth will be tax-free! (But you still pay taxes on the income the year it goes in… so Roths work best when you’re in a lower tax bracket and plan to move up!)
 
Also, stay married and employed (divorce or joblessness… not to mention BOTH… will demolish your savings… trust me, I know).  Also, buy a house, stay in it, and DON’T MOVE (let the kids inherit it), and don’t move your investments around to the new hot thing (by the time you see it doing well, you’re too late; you’ve missed the run-up).
 
Oh, and don’t get sick… that’ll clean out your savings faster than anything else. Again, trust me… I know!
 
And there you are… the secret to becoming a millionaire… time, patience, saving, and having your life go just right. PLEASE NOTE: As always, do as I say, not as I do.🙂

For more, check out the link below… she knows what she’s talking about!

Liz Weston: Secrets of next-door millionaires

(Disclaimer: I worked in the financial industry for over 15 years, and spent almost ten of those years as an investment and retirement professional for The Vanguard Group.  Trust me, I know of where I speak.)

By wearehugh

Why The World Needs More Happy…

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Does this make you sad? If so, good. It should. As the rock band Kansas said in that one song, “Nothing lasts forever but the Earth and sky…”. But it should bring you joy, too… joy that you live in such times, and have so many such things we can enjoy.

If my cancer, and the loss of such beloved figures such as Leonard Nimoy, Alan Rickman, and David Bowie (and many others, of course) over the last year-plus has taught me anything, it has been this; Find joy… unmitigated joy… in all things, because all joy is tinged with sadness, and all things will come to an end.  Because, if you do not lose those things you love because they go away, you will lose them because you will!

When I was waiting for my cancer surgery, something I came to realize was that, if I were to die, then while you might be sad because you lost me, I would, at the same time, have lost each and every one of you!

So, find joy, find love, and find happiness… as I always say, the world needs more happy! And then hold it near, hold it close, and hold it tight, and do not let it go, because we do not pass this way again. Be happy.😀

By wearehugh

A Rare Political Post. No, really…

First of all, I will ask that you NOT try to change my mind or argue with me online about who I plan to vote for, or who you plan to vote for.  You honestly will not be changing my mind.  I have no intention of telling you who to vote for, because you’re supposed to be a responsible adult and can make your own decisions.  “Y’know, that blog post/Facebook comment really changed my mind about my political views,” said NO ONE, EVER!  I have no problem with your discussing the candidate/party you support, and why you want to vote for them, but please… be polite, be respectful, and be kind.  Also, TRY keeping an open mind, and talk about why you want to vote for (candidate)… NOT why you’re voting against (other candidate).  If there’s gonna be discussion, I want it to be positive, not negative.  As always with any political post, it’s my online space, and my rules, and the delete button, block button, and the banhammer will be in full effect.

So, to start, let me show you this photo…

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First Lady Hillary Clinton and employees at Gene’s Books, King of Prussia, 1996

In the center, in red, is then First Lady Hillary Clinton.  To the right, standing at the third spot in behind Fred, who is kneeling, is a very young-looking me.  So, yes, I have actually MET Ms. Clinton, personally, if only for a short time.

In 1996, I was working at Gene’s Books in King of Prussia, PA.  Ms. Clinton had just published her book, “It Takes A Village“, and was doing a book tour.  One of the bookstores she visited was Gene’s.  Now, a lot of people don’t know this, but Hillary’s family, the Rodhams, have a home in northern PA, and some neighbors of theirs happen to be friends of mine…  so we had something personal in common.

We were told to just say hello to her as she came around to shake our hands, but I’m terrible at following directions. *heh*  So, when she got to me, I greeted her, and mentioned that we had friends in common.  She then stopped and asked who, and I told her “I happen to know Sandy R.!” (Not using her full name, as I don’t have her permission.)  Ms. Clinton broke into a wide smile, grabbed my hand and elbow, and loudly exclaimed, “Oh my God, you know SANDY!”  She then looked down the line at the other employees waiting to meet her and turned back to me.  “Give me just a few moments,” she said.

After going down the line and greeting everyone, and with secret service agents trying to get her to move along, she came back to me.  We then spent a couple of minutes talking about how much we both LOVED Sandy (who really is a great lady), and how sad it was about her husband (who had just recently passed on), and how absolutely DELICIOUS her homemade baked pies were, and how Bill Clinton once sat down and ate an ENTIRE one of her pies at a cookout at the Rodham home… and, finally, the secret service and her assistant convinced her that it was time to go.  She took my hand again, not in a handshake, but holding it in both of her hands, looked me in the eye, and said, “Thank you so much for talking to me.” I then put my other hand over hers (a breach of protocol, yes, but it seemed right), and said, “No, thank YOU for taking the time to talk to me, Ms. Clinton.  It means a lot to me.”  She smiled and nodded, and then left with her entourage, the moment over, the two of us no longer just two people talking about a mutual friend, but me being just a clerk in a bookstore, and her the First Lady of the United States.

Now, I’ve seen a lot written over the last few months about how Hillary seems cold.  Calculating.  Condescending.  But I have to tell you, the woman I met that day was none of those things.  She was warm.  She was genuine.  And she was someone who spoke with me as an equal… as someone with something in common with her, and someone on the same level as her (regardless of whether one considers that to be the case or not).  She was intelligent, well spoken, and was quite kind to me.  And, to be honest, I have to continually wonder… if those things that people say about her didn’t jibe with what I experienced during that brief meeting, how many other things that people say about her don’t line up with reality?  And, in my opinion, it’s probably more than a few things.  Many more than a few.  Can I point to anything directly?  Honestly, no, not off the top of my head.  It’s a feeling.  But it’s a feeling I have from having actually having met and spoke with her, as limited as it was.  Because, even though it was limited, it’s still more time spent with her than the majority of people who have made negative comments about her.

This is a woman who graduated near the top of her class at Yale Law School, then went on to become an activist, a successful practicing attorney, a law professor, First Lady of both the state of Arkansas and the United States, a US Senator, and the US Secretary of State.  She is probably the most competent, and most prepared, person to run for the office of President in recent history.  This is a job that it’s almost impossible to be prepared for… after all, there are currently only 5 people in the whole world who’ve held the job!  But Ms. Clinton is someone who enjoys the unique position of having BEEN a part of the Oval Office, both as First Lady, AND as Secretary of State.  With the exception of those five men to have previously, or currently, hold the office, she is probably the person in the world most familiar with how the office works.  Plus, she will actually BRING an ex-president with her into the office, with Bill Clinton as First Gentleman (which I believe is going to be his official title if she is elected).

Do I agree with all of her policy positions?  Oh, absolutely not!  I actually probably agree more with Bernie Sanders on certain issues than with Ms. Clinton.  But he is not the Democratic nominee.  And I agree with Ms. Clinton more than I disagree with her.  And I CERTAINLY agree with her far more than I agree, or ever could agree, with the current GOP candidate.  If you’re interested in her actual official positions on the many issues facing our nation, I would suggest you check out her website, where she has a full page discussing her positions.  And, please, also check out the positions of the GOP candidate as well!  And determine for yourself who you agree with more, and vote your conscience come this November.

Thank you all for reading my ramblings.  I appreciate it.

By wearehugh

LUNACON schedule update!

 

There is an update to my panel schedule at Lunacon, which I posted here yesterday

First, I am no longer a panelist for “Fake Geek Girls, Threat or Menace?” at noon on Saturday.  I will probably attend that panel anyway, as I’d like to put my own two cents (or more) in anyway.

Also, the panel “Safe Spaces, Standards, 2nd Chances” has now been moved to 7pm on Saturday.

Lastly, I am NOW scheduled for to be on the panel “Target Diameter“, in the Birch room at 9pm this evening.  This would seem to be an expanded version of the “flirting/dating” panels that you often see at cons.  The description is:

Want that fan across the room to notice you (in a positive way)? Flirting is great, and will definitely be a part of the package, but we’ll also look at how to dress, carry yourself, and converse in general to send the message you want — and how to kindly but firmly reject the fellow fans who aren’t right for you along the way, as well as how to take a rejection gracefully, but not personally.

Now, there is a good chance that I may still be on-the-road, and on my way TO Lunacon, when that panel starts, so do not be surprised if I am late or unable to attend.  But I will still hold out hope that I will be there in time.  And I will still be on all my panels tomorrow and Sunday.  So I hope to see you there!

By wearehugh

My LUNACON Panel Schedule!

I have been invited to be a panelist at this year’s LUNACON in Rye Brook, NY (just north of NYC).  Here are the panels that I will be speaking on…

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Fake Geek Girls, Threat or Menace?    Seymour Boton    Fan Interest         Sat 12:00 PM    

Sex & sexism in fandom. How do we fight stereotyping & stigmas, while still honoring the fact that for many, our fannishness and sexual self-expression are intertwined? Can we create a safe space where sexy self-presentation is respected but not expected from men, women, and genderqueer fen alike? How do we deal with loving works that are problematic? How much is it fair to judge any single work for its contribution to a climate in which women are disproportionately represented in certain ways?

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Game of Thrones: TV vs. Books    Westchester Ballroom A2    Media         Sat 3:00 PM    

We’ve had two seasons of HBO’s GAME OF THRONES, roughly covering books 1-2 of GRRM’s “A Song of Ice and Fire.” How good is the adaptation, and how does it differ from the books? Does it matter to your impression that Martin is involved in the adaption?

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Sci-Fi Movie Making On the Cheap    Oak    Media         Sat 6:00 PM    

How do you get your sc-fi fantasy idea on video. There are many ways to shoot low budget and still get something watchable. We will discuss some tricks of the trade.

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Steampunk – More than Cool Goggles     Westchester Ballroom A2    Costuming    Sun 10:00 AM    

These days almost anything goes. Find out the essential parts needed to make an outfit steampunk.

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Safe Spaces, Standards, 2nd Chances    Seymour Boton    Fan Interest     Sun 12:00 PM    

The controversy over sexual harassment at Readercon raises the question, how do we make our cons as safe spaces as we can? What policies should we set & how should we communicate them? What standard of proof can we legally & should we ethically require, & what do we do about cases that don’t reach it? What can & should we do about participation from people who have allegedly committed harassment at other cons? Is it ever appropriate to let someone try again? If so, when, & who decides?

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Where Are the Fen?           Birch          Conrunning    Sun 1:00 PM    

Bringing SF readers to cons seems harder than ever… how do we reach them? How does a generalist con continue to attract an audience when their interests are no longer stigmatized, the Internet allows them to connect to other fen year round, and specialized events dig deeper into individual fannish interests?
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I will be spending a lot of time at the PHILCON table as well, selling memberships to those who want them.  So, if you have the chance to come by and say hi, please do so! 🙂

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By wearehugh

BEHIND THE SCENES – The Boy Who Lived

(Clockwise from upper left: Emma Watson (Hermione), Rupert Grint (Ron), and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), in 2000.)

As I mentioned yesterday, we’re talking about beginnings this week. And here we have the publicity photo that was released when Warner Bros. announced the casting for the three major roles in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. All three of them were about 11 years old at the time, and it was an amazing trip over the next decade watching them grow up into an amazing trio of actors.

(The actors in 2011, at the premiere of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” Photo via The Guardian.)

By wearehugh

BEHIND THE SCENES – Let’s start at the very beginning…

So, I have a collection of what I call “behind-the-scenes” images that is actually pretty big.  Like, over 1200 production stills, candid shots, pre-processed SFX photos, and lots of other goodies sitting on my hard drive.  Some of them are actually very little seen images, or are very rare.  So, I decided, why not share some of these here on my blog.  So, I’m going to start making “BEHIND THE SCENES” a regular feature here… provided that all of you enjoy it, of course.

Well, since we’re starting something here, I figured that this week I would share some images that have to do with “beginnings” in some way.  And what better “beginning” to start with than the filming of one of the most famous title sequences in film history…

Click for full-sized image

“It is a dark time for the rebellion…”
(Photo via Industrial Light & Magic)

Yes, this was how the shot the original opening crawls for the first three STAR WARS films shot (this one being for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK in particular).  The titles were painted onto a glass sheet, which was then lit from below by very strong studio lights (which you can see at the bottom of the photo in the round holes).  A motion-control camera would then slowly track over the sheet, with all of the lights in the studio (except the ones under the glass) turned off.  That way, the only thing that the film picked up was the lettering of the opening crawl that the lights shone through.  They then used a filter to get the yellow tint for the lettering, superimposed the crawl over a shot of the opening starfield (which was a black velvet cloth with pinprick-sized holes poked into it, with strong studio lights behind it), and viola… classic STAR WARS opening crawl!

Anyway, that’s all for right now.  There will be more posted this week, and I hope you enjoy them!

By wearehugh

“The Call of Great Cthulhu” (to the tune of “Chattanooga Choo-Choo”)

 

Pardon me, boy, is that the call of Great Cthulhu?
Ia!  Ia!
From the City of Dreams!
Just listen, you’ll hear the screams!

Can you afford to ignore the call of Great Cthulhu?
No! No!
The stars have aligned,
So you might lose your mind!

Oh, the sunken burb of R’lyeh will being to arise
Thousands of byakhee will then take to the skies!
Hangin’ with the Old Ones!
They sure are some fun ones!
Soon you bet their minions will be eating someone!

When you hear the screaming and the cries of “Ia!”,
Then you know the End of Days is not very far.
This is a disaster!
Bow to your new master!
Just remember not to call the name of [He-Who-Is-Not-To-Be-Named]!

There’s gonna be a lot of terror ‘cross the nation
Scream! Scream!
Blood, guts, and gore,
From now until evermore!

You’re gonna cry
‘Til you finally get to meet your doom!
So, please, Oh Great Cthulhu
Won’t you please eat me soon?
Please, Oh Great Cthulhu,
Won’t you please eat me sooooooooon?

 

Oh, and if you’d like the musical accompaniment, we have this…

By wearehugh

Twenty years of BABYLON 5…

Twenty years ago today, the TV series BABYLON 5 premiered.  While never a huge hit in it’s own time, the show became incredibly influential… it was the first show to not only tell season-long story arcs, but it was the first series to actually tell one complete story, from beginning to end, over the entire series run.  And, unlike some shows that drop the ball at the end (looking at you, BSG and LOST), the final episode of B5, “Sleeping in Light”, is still one of the best hours of television out there.  (And that last 5 minutes still makes me cry like a little baby…)

So, for those of you who were fans of the show… what was your favorite part?  Which character(s) did you love the most?  What made you love the show?

And, as a little gift for you, here’s a photo taken in April of last year of several of the cast members and show creator and producer J. Michael Straczynski after they enjoyed a small dinner party together.  I found this in my collection of behind-the-scenes photos, and I love it…

L to R: Bruce Boxleitner (Sheridan), JMS, Patricia Tallman (Lyta), Bill Mumy (Lenier), Mira Furlan (Delen), and Claudia Christian (Ivanova).

And here’s a photo of the entire cast from season 4, displaying the class and refinement that defined the show…

So, have a happy Babylon 5 day, everyone! 🙂

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By wearehugh

Domino Theory

 

 

First of all, look at this gif…

Doesn’t seem terribly impressive, right?

Now, what if I told you that the largest “domino” in that shot weighs over 100 lbs.?  Suddenly, it’s a lot more impressive, isn’t it.

Just remember… don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re “too small”, “too weak”, or “not big enough” to accomplish something.  Sometimes, it’s just all about having the dominoes in the right order.

By wearehugh

Allen Steele at Philcon 2013!

 

Well, as the Programming Division Head for Philcon 2013, I get to pass on this happy bit of news!

Philcon is pleased to announce that our Principal Speaker for 2013 will be bestselling SF author Allen Steele!

Allen M. Steele was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a prolific author of novels, short stories, and essays. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages worldwide. Before he established himself as a science fiction author, he spent several years working as a journalist.

Steele began publishing short stories in 1988. Some of his early novels, such as “Orbital Decay” and “Lunar Descent” were about blue-collar workers working on future construction projects in space. Since 1992, he has focused more on stand-alone projects and short stories, although he has written several novels about interstellar exploration centered on the moon “Coyote”.

He is a three-time Hugo award winner: first in 1996, for his novella “The Death of Captain Future”, then in 1998 for his story “…Where Angels Fear to Tread,” and again for best novella in 2011 for “The Emperor of Mars.”

Steele serves on the Board of Advisors for both the Space Frontier Foundation and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and he is a former member of the SFWA Board of Directors. In April, 2001, he testified before the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics of the U.S. House of Representatives, in hearings regarding space exploration in the 21st century.

He lives in western Massachusetts with his wife Linda and their dogs.

We are happy that Mr. Steel will be joining us for this year’s Philcon, being held Nov. 8-10, 2013, at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill, NJ. Please check our website for further details as they are available.  We look forward to seeing you all there!

By wearehugh

Sir Patrick Stewart In A Kilt. You Heard Me.

 

Good Morning, everyone! Here, have some Sir Patrick Stewart in a kilt!

“Make it so… regimental!”

Happy Monday!

(I’ve been offline from home for almost two weeks, and unable to post, so I figured that I should post something that would really jumpstart this blog. How’d I do? *grin*)

By wearehugh

Quote For The Day…

 

“The Future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.”

                                                                            – William Gibson

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By wearehugh

The Official White House Response to the Petition to Build a Death Star

This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For

By Paul Shawcross,Chief of the Science and Space Branch at the White House Office of Management and Budget

(The original response was posted on the White House website HERE.  The original petition is HERE.)

The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn’t on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:

  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

However, look carefully (here’s how) and you’ll notice something already floating in the sky — that’s no Moon, it’s a Space Station! Yes, we already have a giant, football field-sized International Space Station in orbit around the Earth that’s helping us learn how humans can live and thrive in space for long durations. The Space Station has six astronauts — American, Russian, and Canadian — living in it right now, conducting research, learning how to live and work in space over long periods of time, routinely welcoming visiting spacecraft and repairing onboard garbage mashers, etc. We’ve also got two robot science labs — one wielding a laser — roving around Mars, looking at whether life ever existed on the Red Planet.

Keep in mind, space is no longer just government-only. Private American companies, through NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office (C3PO), are ferrying cargo — and soon, crew — to space for NASA, and are pursuing human missions to the Moon this decade.

Even though the United States doesn’t have anything that can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, we’ve got two spacecraft leaving the Solar System and we’re building a probe that will fly to the exterior layers of the Sun. We are discovering hundreds of new planets in other star systems and building a much more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope that will see back to the early days of the universe.

We don’t have a Death Star, but we do have floating robot assistants on the Space Station, a President who knows his way around a light saber and advanced (marshmallow) cannon, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is supporting research on building Luke’s arm, floating droids, and quadruped walkers.

We are living in the future! Enjoy it. Or better yet, help build it by pursuing a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field. The President has held the first-ever White House science fairs and Astronomy Night on the South Lawn because he knows these domains are critical to our country’s future, and to ensuring the United States continues leading the world in doing big things.

If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star’s power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.

By wearehugh