SpaceX’s First Human Spaceflight Is Tomorrow!

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The Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon on the launchpad today. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Astronauts have not blasted off to space from American soil in nearly nine years. But tomorrow, that finally changes. SpaceX will launch its first ever crewed mission, Crew Dragon Demo-2, tomorrow at 4:30 pm Eastern Time. The rocket will ferry NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Benkhen to their scheduled rotation on the International Space Station.

This is a big deal. It’s especially a big deal if you work in a space-related field, like I do, but it should be a big deal to everyone. In 2011, this could have been the news story of the week. Maybe even of the month if it was a slow month.

I don’t even remember the last time we had a slow month in the news media. I think it was in 2015.

The United States has not had the capability to launch our own astronauts into space since the retirement of the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2011. Ever since, every astronaut to go into space has had to hitch a ride with the Russians.* Elon Musk, although he’s not the only person in the game anymore (Boeing is planning to do it next year), was arguably single-handedly pushing us in this direction for years, and that work is finally paying off.

The mission will go on tomorrow, weather permitting. You’ll be able to see it live on NASA TV, SpaceX’s live stream, and on the Discovery and Science Channels. So if you’re stuck at home for quarantine, or if you otherwise have some time to set aside, be sure to check out this historic event.**

*Aside from a few Virgin Galactic tourists on sub-orbit flights, and those only by FAA standards, not international standards.

**Full disclosure: I am a postdoc at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. However, this post represents solely my own opinions and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of NASA or the United States Government.

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#4 – The Roots of Sci-Fi in Adventure

#4 – The Roots of Sci-Fi in Adventure A Reader's History of Science Fiction

Jules Verne was perhaps the first author to systematically incorporate the latest science into his work, becoming one of the biggest minds behind the idea of science fiction. Yet his focus wasn't so much on sci-fi as it was on adventure fiction. In this episode I explore how he contributed to the development of the genre. Book recommendation: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas by Jules Verne.
  1. #4 – The Roots of Sci-Fi in Adventure
  2. #3 – The Roots of Sci-Fi in Horror
  3. #2 – The Roots of Sci-Fi in Satire
  4. #1 – What Is Science Fiction

Jules Verne was perhaps the first author to systematically incorporate the latest science into his work, becoming one of the biggest minds behind the idea of science fiction. Yet his focus wasn’t so much on sci-fi as it was on adventure fiction. In this episode I explore how he contributed to the development of the genre.

Book recommendation: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas by Jules Verne.

Check out this episode!

Posted in Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Writing Advice: Scrivener

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/15/Scrivener_Logo.png

Disclaimer: not a sponsored post. I just really like Scrivener.

It’s been a long time since I’ve given any proper writing advice on this blog, but I had one thing I wanted to tell you after seeing recent developments in the community.

I’ve been using Scrivener for my writing since…well, since it was still in beta for the Windows version. Novels, essays, podcast scripts, and even these blog posts: all in Scrivener. If you don’t know about it, Scrivener is a writing program designed specifically for writers, and if you’re a serious writer, I highly recommend it. It’s not free, but it’s definitely worth the price.

The thing is, over the past…oh, about a year or so, I’ve seen a number of YouTube creators talking about a website called World Anvil. Long story short, World Anvil lets you create your own wiki for your fictional worlds. These YouTubers are more into worldbuilding than they are writing, but some of them are writers, too. Recently, I’ve also seen a similar website called Campfire mentioned.

And here’s my problem: I’ve looked into World Anvil multiple times, and…I just don’t get it.

I’m sure World Anvil is a fine website, and it might be of more use for certain kinds of projects, but I honestly don’t see the point. It seems like it would be more work to curate wiki articles instead of your own notes, with a dramatically poorer organization system. (It’s hard to pull up a comprehensive, organized list of articles on a wiki.) It just doesn’t seem like it would be useful to me when I can do almost everything it does in Scrivener.

Yet, I see so many writers and worldbuilders whose opinions I respect recommending World Anvil that I wondered if I was missing something. So, I started poking around, and it turns out, it’s a lot simpler than I thought. A quick Reddit search told me all I needed: a lot of people use Scrivener as an alternative to online services like World Anvil. I’m not missing anything. I just already have exactly what I need.

I think I’ve been using Scrivener for so long that I’ve forgotten how revolutionary it was when I first got it. Scrivener is offline. It’s a one-time $50 purchase instead of a subscription service, so it’s better value than those websites if you use it for more than a year. It lets you organize all your work (including external files and images) in a nice, intuitive folder system. You don’t have to write your whole novel in one long document, and you don’t have to write your notes separately. Everything goes on separate pages of a single project, where you can call up a specific chapter easily and even rearrange them if you want. Plus, it will compile those pages into a standard manuscript format for you. It’s like night and day compared with a normal word processor like Microsoft Word.

(As for being offline, I know people swear by the Cloud these days, but I much more trust computers that I own outright, despite needing to back them up manually. And with my career/lifestyle, I’m rarely far from my computer when I want to work on my writing. Also, you don’t have to worry about your internet connection with an offline program.)

So, basically, my advice to serious writers is to get Scrivener if you can. Maybe for a group project or something that’s all worldbuilding like an RPG campaign, a website like World Anvil would be better (indeed, that seems to be World Anvil’s target audience), but if you plan to use your worldbuilding for writing stories, stick with Scrivener.

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#3 – The Roots of Sci-Fi in Horror

#4 – The Roots of Sci-Fi in Adventure A Reader's History of Science Fiction

Jules Verne was perhaps the first author to systematically incorporate the latest science into his work, becoming one of the biggest minds behind the idea of science fiction. Yet his focus wasn't so much on sci-fi as it was on adventure fiction. In this episode I explore how he contributed to the development of the genre. Book recommendation: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas by Jules Verne.
  1. #4 – The Roots of Sci-Fi in Adventure
  2. #3 – The Roots of Sci-Fi in Horror
  3. #2 – The Roots of Sci-Fi in Satire
  4. #1 – What Is Science Fiction

Note: WordPress seems to have a new option for an embedded podcast player, although it still has to be inserted manually. I may continue to tweak the post format once I have a better idea of how it works.

Check out this episode!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Roots of Sci-Fi in Satire

Several books widely regarded as the first science fiction novels date back as far as the sixteenth century, but most of these weren’t dramatic stories at all, but were satirical instead. In this episode, I explore how satire contributed to the genre of science fiction.

Book recommendation: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.

Check out this episode on Libsyn!

Edit: LibSyn’s player doesn’t work on WordPress basic, so I will be manually editing the podcast posts with the direct-linked MP3. If you don’t see the player on a future episode, it should be up by the next day, or you can click the LibSyn link.

Posted in Uncategorized

What Is Science Fiction

In this first episode, I explain how I developed the idea of this podcast, what I mean by science fiction, and how this podcast will proceed. A preview for the rest of the series.

The cover art is the heart of the Tarantula Nebula as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Check out this episode!

Posted in Uncategorized

I’m Starting a Podcast!

A long time ago–around the time I started this blog, actually–I decided I was going toread all the classic novels of science fiction. It was a long list, so it’s taken me eight years to get through it, but I’m nearly at the end of the list now. And as I finished the the list, I though I’d start writing some blog posts about it, but I soon realized this was too big a topic for a simple series of posts. It would work better as a podcast.

If you’re wondering why I’ve been radio silent for the past few weeks, one of the reasons is that I’ve been getting this ready. A Reader’s History of Science Fiction is a bi-weekly podcast where I explore…well, it’s right there in the title. I think there are a lot of interesting stories to be told about how the genre developed and how these classic works influenced its development.

The first episode should be up here and at the major podcast distributors tomorrow morning. You’ll see a new episode every other Monday. They’re only fifteen minutes long, so you can consume it in bite-sized chunks, and each episode (after the first) will include a book recommendation so you can explore the history of sci-fi yourself as we go.

So, if you’re interested in science fiction (and if you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing there’s a good chance you are), I hope you’ll check it out.

Posted in Announcements, Science Fiction | Tagged , | 1 Comment