Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Making a Great Space Helmet

Filed under: Art,Fun,On Creativity — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

It’s harder than you think!

It’s no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I love science-fiction. I don’t know if it’s the escape of it, or the promise of a better tomorrow. Or maybe just the idea that we can engineer our way out of some of the troubles we have created for ourselves as a race. I know that I believe that the Universe is far too large for us to be the only intelligent life out there. It seems statistically improbable that we’re alone in the entire vastness of space. And, perhaps optimistically, I have to believe that if such beings exists, eventually we will at least find evidence of them, which most likely means traveling to distant worlds. Just how distant and by what methods require more math and physics than my poor, little brain is capable of dealing with, but I think that just makes it easier to believe it’s possible.
In any case, that belief draws me to science-fiction about space travel, whether it’s novels or movies. I have to admit, though, a good, realistic feeling space travel movie is really a joy. You may remember that I shared a short with you last year about this time called Prospect, about colonists on an alien world, mining some precious mineral. Well, that short got expanded into a longer feature that’s been the darling of several film festivals. And, this week, I’m just sharing an interview with the creators of Prospect, where they talk about the challenges of making a good prop spacesuit helmet. It’s actually quite an interesting interview, especially if you have any interest in making movies, science-fiction or making props. It’s not too long, either, which gives you plenty of opportunity to refresh your memory and re-watch Prospect so you can admire their handiwork.

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.



Filed under: Art,Fun,Movies — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:20 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

A brilliant sci-fi short film.

You all know how I love free stuff and that I love science-fiction. This is both. And, it’s a film which debuted just recently at South by Southwest in Austin. It’s about prospectors on an alien planet, though exactly what they’re prospecting for is somewhat questionable. The risks they’re taking, however, are not questionable. Like all good science-fiction, Prospect explains nothing and just jumps right in and immerses you in the world the filmmakers have created.
It’s fun, definitely worth checking out and, frankly, if you’re reading my blog on a Friday, you don’t have anything better to do anyway.


This post originally appeared on Use Your Words by J K Hoffman.


Writing Science Fiction for the Government

Filed under: Art,Fiction,Fun,News and Current Events,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:06 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Yeah, it’s kind of a mind-bender, isn’t it?

So, the few regular readers who are left at this sad, old, mostly-neglected blog know that I’m a big fan of science-fiction.  And, when I have time, I read a lot.  Granted, since college I think I read more non-fiction than fiction, but, still, I manage to hammer away at it and more than exceed the national average of three to four books per year.  Also, I tend to think of myself as a bit of an amateur futurist.  By that I mean that I like to look at news stories and speculate on just where that particular trend is headed and what it will mean for us in the future.  As it turns out, the U.S. government has similar leanings.
Now, I’ve heard stories about how they gathered together some great sci-fi authors of the moment to brain storm some alien invasion defense ideas, but, frankly, that’s old hat and, well, kind of boring to me.  I mean, I think the alien invasion thing is kind of played out now, don’t you?  What’s far more interesting to me is a recent story from Wired about science-fiction book pitches to assorted U.S. Government agencies.  Apparently, the government can be more forward thinking than you might imagine from more recent news and a number of agencies have solicited book pitches from science-fiction authors based on the agencies’ area of specialty.  Yes, basically what I’m saying is they were looking for propaganda pieces cleverly disguised as sci-fi novels.
And, shockingly, some of them actually sounded like they might be good.  Imagine, your tax dollars finally put to good use; writing compelling, new science-fiction!

In any case, it’s Friday and you’re bored, so why not go check it out?  You might be surprised by who pitched what to the government!


Review: Pandorum

Filed under: Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:38 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Pandorum Sunday morning.

It was okay, but nothing fantastic, frankly, or overly surprising.
The premise is simple enough; a flight crew wakes up from an extended hypersleep on an enormous spacecraft that seems to be either abandoned or damaged, but they don’t know what or why and no one is there to tell them what’s going on.

But, of course, it’s more complicated than just firing up the computer and reading the ship’s log.  The power is out, mostly, except for power surges that are almost more trouble than the lack of power that seems to be the rule.  The flight crew is missing one person and suffering from a kind of temporary amnesia caused by the extended hypersleep, but things start to come back to them quickly.  The officer of the team, a Leutenant played by Dennis Quaid, gets enough emergency power routed to the local workstation to discover that the ship’s reactor is going to overload, or rather, it’s going into emergency shutdown before it does actually overload.  The Corporal, played by Ben Foster, just happens to have remembered that he knows how to restart the reactor and save the ship and everyone on it.  All he needs to do is get to it, which means getting past a whole lot of bulkhead doors effectively locked due to the power fluctuations.  Naturally, that means he’s going to have to crawl through a whole lot of very strange, ooky ducts that lead to a lot of eerie, drippy, abandoned corridors.

The thing is, as huge as the ship is, most of the crew and passengers aren’t there or awake.  And, while wandering the corridors, looking for a way to the reactor, the Corporal remembers that they’re a colony ship, sent to create a new Earth on a very distant planet.  A one-way trip meant to off-load a significant portion of the population of an over-stressed, worn-out, abused Earth and give humanity a new start.  Which makes it even more confusing that they seem to be all alone.
Only, it turns out, they’re not alone.  Something else is there.  Something human-like, but more animal.  Something that hunts in packs and seems to know the ship quite well.  Something that’s hunted the other flight crews down for food.  And, at least some of the colonists, too, as it turns out.
The Corporal runs into two colonists, each involved in life-sciences of one kind or another, who have learned to live in the dark, corroded ship, hiding from the alien things who have made it their hunting ground.

Well, that’s the basics of the movie.
It’s not a bad premise for a story, actually.  In fact, in one form or another, it’s been used in science-fiction for many years.  It was even the basis of at least one sci-fi role-playing game.  This movie handles the topic quite well, I think.  It produces a fairly realistic set of circumstances, if it’s possible to create a “realistic” setting in a science-fiction setting.  Then, it puts reasonable people in that setting and applies pressure.  I think that is the essence of a good story, whether in a movie or a book.  People are at their most interesting when they’re under significant pressure, when they’re given a chance to show their true character.
The sets are very much like the sets we saw in Alien, and many, many times since.  It’s nothing particularly new anymore, but I think Pandorum does it better than I’ve seen since the Alien movies, so it was fine and not over-done at all.  It is a dark movie, in both the cinematography and the theme are dark.  The sets are mostly in shadow and odd emergency lighting, reinforcing the idea that no one knows what’s going on and what dangers might be lurking just off screen.  And, of course, the idea that an entire ship of people, an entire colony, might be lost at any moment and the possibility that something sinister already has happened to them are themes that are ever-present and weigh heavily on both the characters and the audience.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a good science-fiction horror movie, but I have to say, Pandorum was that.  It wasn’t great, but it was good.  It’s hard not to compare it to Alien, since that was the first true sci-fi horror movie I ever saw.  But, it’s no where near as good as Alien.  Still, Pandorum is worth seeing on the big screen if you like scary, tense science-fiction films.  And, I did enjoy it.

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