Future Historian Steve Carper - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Steve Carper is a Future Historian, researching how the dazzling future that dominated the Golden Age of science fiction was created—starting with the technological frenzy of the late 19th century.

Steve writes a bi-weekly robot column at BlackGate.com and his latest book, published in June 2019, is Robots in American Popular Culture. This book examines society’s reactions to robots and androids such as Robby, Rosie, Elektro, Sparko, Data, WALL-E, C-3PO and the Terminator in popular culture.

Steve and I discussed his new book, covering some of the most famous robots of fiction and then all aspects of robot technology in our culture: robots as servants, enemies, lovers, children, successors and doubles. Where will the evolution of robots take our society next? Klaatu barada nikto.

Science Fiction Author Darren Beyer (#2) - TMO Background Mode Interview

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Darren Beyer is a former NASA Space Shuttle engineer at Kennedy Space Center who worked on launching and recovering more than a dozen missions. He also conducted astronaut training and had the honor of working onboard every Space Shuttle orbiter except Challenger. In late 1998, he left NASA to become an author.

The result was the Anghazi series of novels, Casimir Bridge, released in 2016 to rave reviews thanks largely to his commitment to putting the science back in science fiction. The second installment, Pathogen Protocol was released in October, 2018. In this second show with Darren, we continue our previous discussion: Back to the Moon first or off to Mars first? With robot companions? Industrializing the Moon. Plus: Darren’s approach to the third novel in the Anghazi series and an explanation of how his characters achieve interstellar travel.

In Semiosis, You Have to Watch out for Alien Plants

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Semiosis by Sue Burke has an interesting premise: When you land on another planet, what if instead of worrying about alien life forms or animals, you had to keep an eye on the plants? It’s a wholly unique book that I had fun reading. Instead of following the same characters, we’re presented with a new cast in every chapter. We start with the original colonists as they land on Pax, then follow each subsequent generation as they have to deal with the land, the flora, and the actions of the previous generation. Will the children of the Parents adhere to the rules, or will they rebel? I thought the book was great, and look forward to the second book coming later this year. Apple Books: US$9.99 | Kindle: US$9.99

In Semiosis, You Have to Watch out for Alien Plants

TMO Background Mode Interview with Author and Artist Michael Benson

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Michael Benson on Background Mode.

Michael Benson works at the intersection of art and science as both a writer and artist. His new book, Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece examines the four year long production of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Michael saw the movie 2001 at age six, and it had a profound influence on his career, especially in his art and science/photography books. We chatted about his book: how Arthur Clarke and Stanley Kubrick met, Kubrick’s view of the best scifi movies of the time, the development of the 2001 script, the depiction of artificial gravity in the legendary centrifuge apparatus, the depiction of aliens, the visual contributions of Douglas Trumbull, and the enduring influence this movie has had on our technology and psyche.

Book: The Absolved by Matthew Binder Hits Close to Home

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The Absolved by Matthew Binder feels like one of those books that could predict the future. It’s 2036. We follow along with the character Henri, who is a wealthy physician, husband, father, and “serial philanderer”. He is also one of the relatively few people to still have a job. Automation and other technological advances have led to unemployment so severe that many people are no longer expected to work and are now known as “The Absolved.” Meanwhile, it’s election season, and a candidate from a radical fringe party called the Luddites is calling for an end to the “Divine Rights of Machines.” After Henri is displaced from his job, two Luddite sympathizers—whom Henri has befriended at his local bar—frame him for an anti-technology terrorist act. The prospect of Henri’s salvation comes at the cost of foregoing his guiding principles in life. This new vision for the world, after all, just might prove better than the technological advancements that, paradoxically, have left humanity out in the cold. Apple Books: US$3.99

Book: The Absolved by Matthew Binder Hits Close to Home

TMO Background Mode Interview with Science Fiction Author Darren Beyer

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Darren Beyer on Background Mode

Darren Beyer is a former NASA Space Shuttle engineer at Kennedy Space Center who worked on launching and recovering more than a dozen missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope. He also conducted astronaut training and had the honor of working onboard every Space Shuttle orbiter except Challenger. In late 1998, he left NASA to become an entrepreneur, and, lately, an author.

The first result was the Anghazi series of novels, Casimir Bridge, released in 2016 to rave reviews thanks largely to his commitment to putting the science back in science fiction. The second installment, Pathogen Protocol was released in October, 2018. We chatted about Darren’s early life inspirations, his NASA career, an interesting experience with an astronaut, his scientific approach to SciFi writing, and how private industry may well send manned missions to Mars before NASA.

Surviving Mars Game Now on macOS

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The Surviving Mars game is now available in the Mac App Store. The game challenges players with building a sustainable future on Mars by relying on smart resource management, key colonists, and supplies from sponsors back on Earth. First, players select their space agency, each with its own strengths and goals, and begin determining a location for the ideal colony. Once the flag has been planted, players must get to work on building habitable domes and infrastructure, research new possibilities, and utilize drones to unlock more elaborate ways to shape and expand the settlement. Experience the drama around the lives of colonists, each with individual attributes that can aid in the colony’s progress or throw a wrench in the whole endeavor. There will be a myriad of challenges to face on the red planet, but most important of all is keeping your colonists alive. Not an easy task on a strange new planet, especially with unexplained mysteries sure to pop up. App Store: Surviving Mars – US$29.99

Surviving Mars Game Now on macOS

TMO Background Mode Interview with Science Fiction Writer & Biographer Alec Nevala-Lee

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Alex Nevala-Lee on Background Mode

Alec Nevala-Lee is a science fiction novelist, essayist and biographer. He’s known for the scifi novels: The Icon Thief, City of Exiles, and Eternal Empire. He’s written for Analog Science Fiction, and he’s had essays and non-fiction published in the Los Angeles Times, Salon, The Daily Beast and more. We chatted about growing up in California, the influential book that inspired him to become a writer, his early career, life at Harvard, and quitting his job to become a struggling – then successful novelist. Alec also shared a bit about his writing tools and techniques. Finally, we explored his new biography entitled: ASTOUNDING, a critical look at the life, writing and mutual influences of four famous scifi authors: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard during the Golden Age of Science Fiction in the 1940s and 50s.

Check out This Absurdly Awesome Door

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Check out this crazy, this stupidly cool door. It was created by one Warwick Turvey, who is, of course, an Aussie, because [Oz]. And yeah, sure, it has a hole in the door where the handle is, but who cares?!? That’s how cool it is! According to various sources who have mentioned Mr. Turvey’s work, he was inspired by video games. This YouTube incarnation of the video mentions unnamed art as an inspiration, too. All I want to know is how it’s possible that EVERY door doesn’t work this way now that we’ve seen it done!

TMO Background Mode Interview with Science Fiction Novelist Steven Brust

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Steven Brust on Background Mode

Steven Brust is a popular science fiction author with 31 novels to his credit. He’s known for the Vlad Taltos series as well as the Khaavren romances. He’s also a musician: drummer, guitarist and banjo player, and he has a solo record out, A Rose For Iconoclastes. Like many writers, as we pondered on the show, he has a cat. We chatted about his early career as a computer programmer and the life-changing event that launched him into writing science fiction. Steven’s career has been filled with a fortunate series of happenstances, “luck,” both in the cover art of his novels and his choice of themes. Inspired by Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light, Steven writes what he’d love to read himself, and that has worked amazingly well. You’ll enjoy our chat about all things science fiction.