MIND MELD: Our Favorite Gadgets from SF

[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]

In part 2 of our Mind Meld duo featuring fictional gadgetry (Part 1 featured magical items from fantasy), we asked our panelists this:

Q: Where’s my holo-deck, and aren’t we supposed to have flying cars?? What gadget (or gadgets) from SF(from Golden Age to the present), would you like to see go from Science Fiction to Science Fact? Are there any oldies that you were sure would be reality by now?

Here’s what they had to say…

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Shaking their sullen heads at the fact that June marks the first anniversary of the Three Hoarsemen Podcast, John E. O. Stevens, Fred Kiesche and Jeff Patterson LAUGH at the cruel passage of time and ride out for another adventure. This time around they ask the intrepid Kate Sherrod to take a break from enduring the floods in Wyoming and saddle up with them for a discussion on the works of Octavia Butler.

After that, they give their thoughts on Andy Weir’s The Martian, and scrutinize the truly staggering number of books and comics that have passed their eyes since last they met.

Also, because it’s a cruel summer, the Hoarsemen remember Jay Lake, and discuss Sarah Chorn’s stunning (and heartbreaking) column about what is important when faced with cancer.

1 hr 24 Min. In STEREO!

Listen below…

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Andy Weir‘s debut novel The Martian (which is currently in the top 20 on several best seller lists as of this writing) tells the story of Mark Watney, the seventeenth astronaut on Mars and the first one stranded there…and possibly the first one to die there.

Andy is a software developer by trade, currently programming on the Android operating system. He initially released The Martian, which he wrote as a hobby, for free in pieces on his blog. When some of his readers requested a more readable format, he put together a kindle version for the lowest price Amazon allowed: 99 cents.

The subsequent events were those that many authors dream of: picked up by a major publisher, large advance, movie rights…lending strength to the writing advice most often given: first, write a great book. Or, in Andy’s case: first, learn about orbital dynamics, write a simulator for an ion propulsion engine, absorb everything about Mars…and then write a great book.

Andy was gracious enough to submit to my barrage of emails and questions on a wide range of topics.
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BOOK REVIEW: The Martian by Andy Weir

REVIEW SUMMARY: An excellent science fiction novel that approaches dire consequences with a refreshing optimism.


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars after being left for dead by his crew.

PROS: Excellent premise; great characterization of Watney, who is smart, funny and immediately likable; engrossing; relies heavily on realistic science; optimism pervades the entire novel.
CONS: The science and math may put off some readers unaccustomed to sf.
BOTTOM LINE: A smart, thrilling and ultimately uplifting story grounded in realistic science.

As a science fiction reader, it’s easy to get used to the idea of wild, far-future science fictional concepts appearing in fiction. (I’m looking at you, FTL and post-humanism!) So much so that it’s just as easy to forget why you’re reading science fiction in the first place: because science is cool. That’s as true for the science of today as it is for the imagined science of the future.
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VIDEO: Andy Weir, Author of THE MARTIAN, Talks at Google

I’m almost done reading Andy Weir’s debut novel The Martian and enjoying it quite a bit. (Review soon!) One of the reasons is the realistic science that’s used in the novel.

Here’s the author at a recent talk at Google HQ. It starts with a 11 minute reading from the first chapter, then he discusses the realistic science that went into the novel. Beware! There’s a slight story spoiler when Weir discusses the software he wrote to calculate some of the orbital mechanics used in the novel.

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/Film is reporting that Drew Goddard (writer of Cloverfield and director of The Cabin in the Woods) is in talks to do a film adaptation of Andy Weir’s new book The Martian. Goddard will write the screenplay about a man who is stranded on Mars, left for dead by the other people on his crew, who subsequently tries to find a way to get back home.

This is till in the early stages here, so not much more is known, but here’s the book description to help you fill in some of the blanks:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

[Thanks, Richard Derus!]