Category Archives: Science Fiction

Star Wars – The Force Awakens Trailer – 2

Nerds are foaming at the mouth:

EXPERT ANALYSIS BY BOOKSHELF Q. BATTLER, THE NERDIEST OF THEM ALL

  • For the first time in over thirty years, Luke Skywalker and co are back on the big screen.
  • It is said that Leia has the force, which was never displayed in the films (though it makes sense)
  • Han and Chewie are back.  Han looks as good as a man in his 70s can.  Chewie has either found the fountain of youth or he dyes his fur.
  • Don’t those droids ever get updated with newer models?  I feel like I have to upgrade my phone every five minutes.
  • Harrison Ford – for the love of God, can you please stay away from the WWII planes?  Yes, we love you.  We’re glad you survived the crash.  But come on man, if you crash an antique plane (yeah yeah besides the obvious tragedy) do you realize what a bummer that would put on this awesome movie?  STAY AWAY FROM THE WWII PLANES!
  • Enormous crashed Star Destroyer!
  • Luke’s robot hand on R2D2’s head!
  • Darth Vader’s crushed helmet!
  • X-Wings!
  • Tie Fighters!

It looks great!  This Christmas…celebrate the birth of Christ and…yeah yeah yeah bring on STAR WARS!

Meanwhile, the first six films are available on digital download for the first time in forever.  Have you downloaded any of them yet?  Which one is your favorite?

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Nimoy’s Last Tweet

Inspiring to the end, the final tweet of Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Mr. Spock on Star Trek:

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In Defense of Shatner

Today, the Prime Minister of Israel gave a historic speech before Congress.  Also, a vocal critic of the Russian president was shot to death recently near the Kremlin.

But if you’re a nerd like me, the big issue on your mind is:

WAS WILLIAM SHATNER IN THE WRONG FOR NOT ATTENDING LEONARD NIMOY’S FUNERAL?

Shatner, who played Capt. Kirk on Star Trek opposite Nimoy’s Mr. Spock, stated he was unable to attend the funeral of his longtime co-star as he had already committed to a Red Cross fundraiser in Florida.  Over the weekend, he was bombarded on Twitter by critics claiming he should have dropped everything to make it to the service of the man who portrayed his highly logical science officer.

Was Shatner wrong for not going?images-2

No.  In no particular reason, here are some reasons why:

  • Shatner is 83 years old –  I don’t claim to know what’s on his mind.  I’m not a mindreader.  All I know is the older I get, the more accepting I become of the fact that death is an inevitable part of life.  Every funeral I attend, the less debilitated I am when I lose someone dear to me.  Loss of a loved one never becomes less painful, but one eventually grows steeled to the fact that death happens.  Therefore, I know that by the time I (hopefully) reach eight decades of life, I’ll be able to soldier on while still feeling bad about the loss of a dear friend.  In other words, for a person who has lived a long life, it is possible to keep a stiff upper lip and attend a planned fundraiser while still feeling bad about the loss of a friend at the same time.
  • Logistics – Again, Shatner is 83 years old.  To drop everything, charter an expensive jet at the last minute, fly all the way back to California and then attend a funeral?  That’s going to take a lot out of a young person, let alone an old timer.  (Capt. Kirk I apologize for calling you old but what the heck, it’s a defense).
  • Commitment – Shatner had committed to a fundraiser.  Would the people involved with the event have understood had he left?  I don’t know.  I assume so, but I can’t speak for them.   Obviously, the Red Cross is a cause that’s important to Shatner and he didn’t want to leave people who worked hard on a special event holding the bag.  That’s admirable.
  • Friendship – Shatner and Nimoy worked together since the 1960’s.  I have no idea what their friendship was like behind the scenes, but I have to imagine there was enough respect there to get them through a TV series and several films.  Again, I’m not a mindreader.  Neither are the critics.  Bottomline – I’m sure Shatner loved and cared about his colleague very much.  No one has the right to tell him he doesn’t.

Finally, what would a Vulcan say about all this?

ME:  Hello Mr. Vulcan.  Should William Shatner drop a charity event he committed to, spend a ton of money on a last minute private jet charter to fly across the country only to attend a funeral that in the end, probably won’t make him feel any better about losing his friend anyway?

VULCAN:  No.  That would be highly illogical.  Stay at the charity event.  The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

There you go nerds.  Let’s give our Captain a break.

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Ask the Alien

Alien Jones, so named because his true moniker is virtually unpronounceable by the average human, is taking

Alien Jones, Special Guest Contributor

Alien Jones, Special Guest Contributor

your questions and telling all in an effort to raise Earth above it’s current status as “the armpit of the universe.”  (His words, not mine.)

What’s the deal with probing?  Crop circles?  Area 51?  Space travel?  Other planets? What’s his favorite

book? TV show?  Movie?  Ask him about the great mysteries of the universe, or hell, ask him why McDonald’s discontinued the McRibwich.  There is no question his genius alien brain cannot answer.

So ask away and you never know, he may even be gracious enough to plug your blog in his answer.

Ask him in the comment section of this blog, tweet your questions to @bookshelfbattle or ask him on the Bookshelf Battle Google + page.

Together, we can help this alien in his message to raise our home world’s collective intelligence level.  And let’s face it, that’s a pretty tall order.

Alien Image Courtesy of “Marauder” on openclipart.org

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Long Before Being Nerdy Was Cool…

Statement by the President on the Passing of Leonard Nimoy

Long before being nerdy was cool, there was Leonard Nimoy. Leonard was a lifelong lover of the arts and humanities, a supporter of the sciences, generous with his talent and his time. And of course, Leonard was Spock. Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the center of Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.

I loved Spock.

In 2007, I had the chance to meet Leonard in person. It was only logical to greet him with the Vulcan salute, the universal sign for “Live long and prosper.” And after 83 years on this planet – and on his visits to many others – it’s clear Leonard Nimoy did just that. Michelle and I join his family, friends, and countless fans who miss him so dearly today.

I just want to point out one part:

“Long before being nerdy was cool…”

We are now in a time when being nerdy is cool.  Do you remember a time when it wasn’t?  I do.  It wasn’t fun.  Kind of bittersweet, isn’t it?

The White House has official stated nerdy=cool and recognized Nimoy as a pioneer of nerdyness.  We live in good times.

Well, ok, aside from all of the other atrocities you hear about on TV everyday…but beside those, we live in good times when it comes to being a nerd.

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A Sad Day for Nerd Kind

RIP Leonard Nimoy/Spock. I have set my phaser on sad.

What was your favorite Spock moment?

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Movie Review – Jupiter Ascending (2015)

WARNING:  REINCARNATED SPACE SPOILERS AHEAD

I’ve been looking forward to this one for a long time, mainly because I feel like they’ve been promoting in forever.  Given that it is up against Seventh Son, a fantasy film, nerds have plenty to watch this weekend, though these films may be cannibalizing one another’s profits since their core audiences are going to be the same contingent of geeks and dweebs.

That’s not an insult geeks and dweebs.  I am one of you.

And sadly, since they’re both movies that cater to a younger crowd, I think they’re both going to be trounced by…dun dun dun… Spongebob: Sponge Out of Water.

But enough about business talk.

The plot?  It turns out that worlds aren’t so much natural occurrences as they are business assets of a corporation owned The Abrasax family.  The three heirs, played by Eddie Redmayne , Tuppence Middleton, and Douglas Booth, as heirs to a fortune often do, squabble over their inheritances, always trying to gain more planets for themselves.

But they don’t want to rule them.  They want to harvest them.  We’re all basically cattle and once a planet’s population exceeds its resources, the Abrasaxes have all of the people killed and somehow they are turned into a juice that can be bathed in to reverse the aging process.

Umm…good luck with that.  All I can say is if you bathe in a juice made out of me, you’re going to be pretty disgusted.

Somehow, and they don’t really explain how, but Jupiter Jones, played by Mila Kunis, is a reincarnated version of the Abrasax kids’s mother.  That’s a problem for them, seeing as how their mother, before being murdered by Redmayne’s character, Balem, wrote it into her will that her reincarnated self would inherit Earth.

Sidenote – this movie realized that I’ve done very little to ensure that my assets will be transferred to my reincarnated self, and thus as soon as I’m done writing this review, I’m going to get my attorney on the horn posthaste.

Keep in mind that at the start of the film, Jupiter has no idea that she’s a reincarnated space queen.  She was born a Russian immigrant and cleans rich people’s toilets for a living.

Middleton’s character, Kalique, is happy to have a version of her mother back.  Booth’s Titus contrives a scheme to marry Jupiter, claiming that doing so will protect Earth and keep it out of Balem’s grubby mitts.  However, Titus has his own evil plans.

Here’s a rundown of a conversation I had with the Wachowskis in my mind as I watched the film:

ME:  So this guy is trying to marry a reincarnated version of his mother?

WACHOWSKIS:  Yes.

ME:  That isn’t incest?

WACHOWSKIS:  No.  She’s not actually his mother.  She’s his reincarnated mother.

ME:  But she’s his mother brought back to life so…

WACHOWSKIS:  SHUT UP AND WATCH THE PRETTY SPECIAL EFFECTS!!!!

Anyway, Channing Tatum plays Jupiter’s protector, Caine Wise, a human-wolf hybrid, and at this point, the man’s abs must be a multi-million dollar business.

HOLLYWOOD:  Channing, we want you in our next picture.

CHANNING:  I’m gonna have to charge you a million per ab.

And much to my surprise, Sean Bean was in the movie and he didn’t die.  He dies in every movie he’s in, so it was kind of a disappointment that his character didn’t bite the dust, buy the farm, or kick the bucket.

All in all, for a February film, it was pretty decent.  I’ve seen ads for this forever, and when a movie is hyped for this long, you kind of go into it expecting your socks to be knocked off, and usually they never are.  But sci-fi nerds and space geeks will be pleased.  The Wachowskis of Matrix fame are masters of the genre and they don’t disappoint with their special effects skills.  People fly, there’s space craft warfare, and so on.

Plus, the scene lampooning the bureaucratic process that Jupiter has to go through to be named Queen was amusing.

One minor complaint – there were a lot of characters, aliens, technologies, organizations – in short, just a lot going on.  It leaves you with questions that unfortunately a movie just doesn’t have time to answer.

The special effects alone are worth seeing on the big screen though, and let’s face it, you’ve got nothing else better to do this weekend, so go see it.

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Let’s Talk Sci-Fi – What’s the Difference Between an Android and a Robot?

Gonna go out on a limb here and guess this is a robot.

Gonna go out on a limb here and guess this is a robot.

Geeks, dweebs, nerds, and poindexters of the world, assemble, for I have a doozy of a question for you.

What is the difference between an Android and a Robot?

As we’ve previously discussed, I’m working on a science fiction novel, and seeking the advice of nerds everywhere for help.  Don’t be offended by being called a nerd.  It’s a badge of honor, really.  Frankly, who wants advice about robotics from a non-nerd?

This is total nerd stuff, baby.

I find that in the science fiction world, the words “android” and “robot” are often used interchangeably.  But should that be the case?

The best advice I’ve found thus far:

“A robot can, but does not necessarily have to be in the form of a human, but an android is always in the form of a human.”

– Edmond Woychowsky, TechRepublic – “The Difference Between Robots and Androids, 2010

Click here for Woychowsky’s Full Article

Well, wait a minute.  That sounds simple enough at first, but what about C3P0?  He and his buddy RD2D are invariably referred to as “droids” in the Star Wars universe.  Haven’t you heard the infamous line from Obi-Wan Kenobi, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for?”

C3P0 has a torso, arms, legs, a face with eyes, he is definitely modeled after a human, but he’s also built out of a golden colored metal, his arms and legs only move so much, his eyes are pretty much just sockets, and there’s just a slit where his mouth should be.

That’s not exactly a human, is it?  What did Edmond have to say?

“It can be argued that an android should be able to pass as a human in natural light. So, if you subscribe to this belief, C-3PO from Star Wars and R. Giskard Reventlov from Isaac Asimov’s The Robots of Dawn are robots, not androids.”

Seriously?  So George Lucas got something wrong?  In addition to Jar Jar???

So, if you take this android vs. robot information seriously, then C3P0 is a robot.  The robots from the film I, Robot, starring Will Smith, are robots (that’s a given, since they didn’t call it, I, Android).

Rosie, the Jetson family’s maid, is a robot.  C3P0, Rosie, and the I, Robot bots, all might have human-inspired designs, but if you were to see them, you would say, “Hey, that’s a robot!”

Apparently, the question of whether an “artificial being” is a robot or an android boils down to whether or not you can tell when you first meet said being.  As Woychowsky notes, Data from Star Trek: Next Generation, does appear to be a human, “albeit with an odd complexion.”

As an additional example, I would submit that Ash from the original Alien movie is an android.  He was so passable as a human that this is actually a major plot point of the film – he was passing as a crew member but in secret, was an android with a special mission.  For part of the film, the audience doesn’t even know he’s not a human.

So what say you, readers?  I need your nerdy opinions, because the novel I am working on, and sadly, procrastinating on, might feature robots, or it might feature androids, but I want to make sure I’m using the right terminology so that my nerd credentials are not questioned.

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My Contributions to Star Wars Voicemail

#starwarsvoicemail is blowing up on twitter. Here are my contributions:

And my favorite, though I suppose it is a little dark:

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Let’s Talk Sci-Fi – How Much Tech Explanation Do You Really Want?

I think we need to transport Ann and John into the future.

If you’ve yet to hear of them, and why have you, when I only have three readers, Ann and John are my go-to fictional power couple that I use whenever I have questions about writing.  You can catch some of their past misadventures in :

Ann and John Explore Copyrights

Ann and John and Accents/Non-English Speakers

So now, let’s transport Ann and John to the year 2200, through a time machine.  The three people who regularly read my blog, my Aunt Gertrude being one of them (hi Gertie), know that Ann and John inevitably end up battling a strangler.  So behold, I give you – Bay Area Strangler III – Curse of the Robostrangler

So let’s start with a basic question.  As a reader, how technically detailed do you want me to get when it comes to future tech?  For example, take this scene that involves a robot:

EXTREMELY DETAILED

“We need you, Ann and John,”  said General Jones as he lead the the world’s most notorious strangler hunting detectives into a secret laboratory deep below the Pentagon.  “We’ve received a communication from the future.  It’s a bleak world where the population has been decimated.”

“How could such a thing happen?”  Ann asked.

“Robostrangler,” the General said.  “Initially designed by Alpha Tech Corp in 2075 to provide neck massages to elderly nursing home shut-ins, his Nano Brain Chip malfunctioned.  A nano brain chip provides both acceleration and deceleration of higher brain functions, creating a complex system of reactions, both positive and negative, and when mixed together through the funnel apparatus of a concave refractal interior nano scope, a robot’s artificial mind is able to replicate basic human functions.  Unfortunately, Alpha Tech failed to realize that its product could replicate feelings found in the most evil of humans, and alas, Robomassager turned into Robostrangler.”

Compare with:

LESSER DETAIL

“We need you, Ann and John,” said General Jones as he lead the the world’s most notorious strangler hunting detectives into a secret laboratory deep below the Pentagon. “We’ve received a communication from the future. It’s a bleak world where the population has been decimated.”

“How could such a thing happen?” Ann asked.

“Robostrangler,” the General said. “Initially designed and marketed as Robomassager by Alpha Tech Corp in 2075 to provide neck massages to elderly nursing home shut-ins, his Nano Brain Chip malfunctioned, turning him into Robostrangler. Now he’s gone berserk and strangling everyone he sees.”

Which version do you prefer?  Personally, I like the second one.  Admittedly, I made the explanation up in the first one.  I suppose if I really wanted to get detailed, I’d have to do some serious research into how robot brains work and how they could theoretically turn evil.  But, as a reader, do you really have the time to care?  Isn’t, “the damn robot went nuts!” enough?  I submit that’s enough.

Let’s talk time machines:

LOTS OF TECH DETAIL

General Jones showed Ann and John the X21 Time Closet.

“This device has the ability to destabilize your bodily particles, eject them into the cosmos, send them hurtling to any time, past or present, where they will then materialize.  Once you’re in the future, you’ll be on your own against Robostrangler.”

Compare with:

PRETTY MUCH NO EXPLANATION

General Jones led Ann and John into the X21 Time Closet.  He set the date for Jan. 1 2200 and Ann and John instantly found themselves in a dystopian world where strangled corpses littered the streets, and the Robostrangler reigned supreme.

I’m torn here.  I feel the destablize/materialize your particles was enough of an explanation of what’s going on without getting into the theoretical science of Star Trekian “Beaming” technology.

So those are just some examples, using my old friends A and J.  The main question – when the author introduces a newfangled sci-fi gadget, do you want a detailed explanation of how it works, or should the author just make it work?

My 2 cents – I just like to see it work, because hell, I have no idea how have the shit in existence in my life now works, let alone how future shit will operate.  You can explain to me a million times how this damn computer in front of me works and yet the best I can come up with is that each time I press a key on the keyboard, a tiny gremlin is poked in the ass, causing it to etch a letter on my screen.

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