Saturday, April 30, 2011

New Sci Fi Models from Fantastic Plastic

I get monthly newsletters from Fantastic Planet, sharing news on their new model kits, and I'll start sharing them here.

We close out April with a lot of exciting news and stuff from the Virtual Museum of Flying Wonders. Please read on...!

JUST RELEASED: The C-31 "Dragon" Assault Ship in 1:144

After some delay, we're proud to announce the formal release of the 1:144 C-31 "Dragon" Assault Ship from James Cameron's 2009 blockbuster "AVATAR.". Featuring 105 pressure-cast pieces, this is by far the most complex kit we've ever produced. The kit was created in CAD by Scott Lowther and cast by Masterpiece Models. The model is 11 inches long when completed. The C-21 Dragon is available now in the Virtual Museum Store for $169.95 plus shipping.

NOTE Due to a combination of high demand and long production time on this kit, please allow one to two weeks for delivery.

Click the box art above for photos and details.

JUST RELEASED: The X-71 Super-Shuttle from "Armageddon" in 1:144

Our second April release is the X-71 Super Shuttle from Michael Bay's 1998 megahit "Armageddon" starring Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck. Most of us still remember our disappointment with Revell's 1998 version of the X-71-- which was little more than a standard Space Shuttle with a bunch of doo-hickies slapped onto it. Well, it's taken more than 13 years, but sci-fi modelers now have a chance to build the real X-71.

Mastered by Alfred Wong based on dozens of photos of the actual SPFX miniature and 1/2 scale mock-up, this 37-piece all-resin kit faithfully reproduces the lines, proportions and details of the X-71 orbiter. Decals by JBOT allow you to build either the "Freedom" or the "Independence." Landing gear are also included.

The X-71 Super Shuttle is available now in the Virtual Museum Store for $90.00 plus shipping. Click the box art above for photos and details.

RE-RELEASED: The BSG Colonial One Presidential Transport in 1:350

Back by popular demand is our Colonial One Presidential Transport kit in 1:350. Originally released in 2006, this kit has been out of the Fantastic Plastic catalog for the three years. Mastered by Alfred Wong and cast by Mana Studios, the kit includes 19 pieces, including a rotocast main body. Decals are my Microscale.

The 1:350 Colonial One Presidential Transport is available now in the Fantastic Plastic Virtual Museum Store for $80.00 plus shipping. Click the box art above for photos and details.

COMING IN MAY: The BSG (TOS) Eastern Alliance Destroyer in 1:288

Our May release is the Eastern Alliance Destroyer from the 1978 "Battlestar Galactica" (TOS) episodes "Greetings from Earth," "Baltar's Escape" and "Experiment in Terra." This 21-piece kit was mastered by Alfred Wong and cast by Millennium Models International (MMI). Decals are again by JBOT.

More than 12 inches long when completed, the Eastern Alliance Destroyer is priced at $75.00 plus shipping. To reserve your copy, email us at Click the photo above for additional details.

"Private Sale" Continuing - Act Now!

We're continuing to clear out our final inventory of "Private Sale" kits. Remember, these are kits NOT AVAILABLE to the public through the Virtual Museum Store. And when they're gone, they're gone. If you want any of these limited castings, you have to contact us directly at Here's what's left:
Royal Cruiser (3 remaining) 1:288 - $75.00 plus shipping
Royal Yacht 1:288 - $55 plus shipping
Stand-Up Fighter 1:144 - $55 plus shipping
Two-Man Fighter Bomber (1 remaining) 1:144 - $48.00 plus shipping

Lesbian writer Joanna Russ dies, aged 74 Lesbian writer Joanna Russ dies, aged 74
Writer and critic Joanna Russ has died in Arizona after suffering a series of strokes.

Science fiction publication Locus Magazine has confirmed the 74-year-old died peacefully in hospice care in Tucson. She first suffered a stroke in February and was admitted to care in April after a further series of strokes.

The lesbian writer first came to prominence in the late 60s in a science fiction world largely dominated by men. She is lauded as being one of the most outspoken authors to challenge male dominance in the field, and is generally regarded as one of the leading feminist science fiction scholars and writers.

Russ was best know for The Female Man, which was published in 1975. She suffered from health problems including back pain and chronic fatigue syndrome, which reduced her writing output.

Sci-fi plays eschew the tech, explore the big issues

STLToday: Sci-fi plays eschew the tech, explore the big issues
Remember that scene in "Alien," when the space creature emerges from someplace inside John Hurt?

Or how about the fight in "The Matrix," when Keanu Reeves is suspended in midair?

For that matter, think back to that incredible scene in "Star Wars" when our heroes blew up the Death Star.

Could any of that happen onstage?

No chance. The special effects that give science fiction its adrenaline jolt in the movies and on television depend on technology.

But in live theater, technology usually means something a lot simpler.

Remember that cocktail table that rolled down the stage by itself in "Titanic" last summer at the Muny? On stage, that constitutes a special effect. Heck, when the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis staged "Dracula" in 2007, audiences were knocked out when a woman seemed to levitate. It was definitely impressive, but that play opened in 1924. You can't exactly call it cutting-edge.

Maybe that's why, even though science fiction is a popular entertainment genre, you don't see a lot of it on stage: Movies and TV can do it better. Nevertheless, two plays with strong sci-fi elements are running here this week: "Intelligent Life" at HotCity Theatre and "Dark Matters," a Stray Dog Theatre Studio Workshop production.

There's no question that they are fiction. Science is another story.

But maybe, says Annamaria Pileggi, they just aren't science fiction the way we usually think of it today. To find more apt comparisons, think of science fiction TV programs from years gone by, like "Star Trek" or "The Twilight Zone."

Those shows used conventions of science fiction as a way to look at other issues: interpersonal relationships, social responsibility, love and loyalty and honor.

Some playwrights today are doing practically the same thing: not writing hard science fiction, but using science fiction conventions to set the stage for issues they want to explore.

That's how Pileggi sees "Intelligent Life," the comedy she's directing at HotCity. In the play, a band of fringe-of-the-fringe characters who call themselves the Utah Alien Chasers think they have found their grail when they encounter a mud-stained boy dressed in a dinosaur costume. Is he from Earth — or someplace else?

"It's not a wannabe movie," said Pileggi. "It is meant for the stage.

"It's about the interaction among these people and how little it takes to get somebody to believe what he or she wants to believe. I think what Lauren (Dusek Albonico, the playwright) has done is quite smart. This is a play about faith." Two years ago, "Intelligent Life" was a finalist in HotCity's Greenhouse New Play Festival.

Albonico — a Washington University alumna from St. Louis who now lives in Santa Fe — told Pileggi that the idea for the play came from her own experiences. No, she does not chase aliens. As a Catholic, however, she was always aware that she believed things that other people in her classes did not. What does that mean, she wondered? To push the question a little harder, she took it to extremes, giving her characters really strange beliefs to insist on — and making them funny.

There's nothing funny about Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's "Dark Matters" — and nothing very high-tech about it, either. "We do a few things with lighting," said the director, Justin Been. "But the heart of the play lies in the family. Science fiction is just a catalyst to bring up other points."

Set at a remote house in the mountains of Virginia, Aguirre-Sacasa's drama starts with the missing woman. Her husband and their teenage son do all they can to find her, but she's gone. Then, just as suddenly as she vanished, she returns — speaking of strange visitations and other-worldly beings.

"It's more about the thought of aliens than the presence of aliens," Been said. "The people in this family have secrets that test their relationships when they have to deal with them. It isn't humorous but it is suspenseful."

Stories of people who believe things that others dismiss have been told before (Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People," Shaw's "Saint Joan," and, closer to home, Deanna Jent's stage adaptation of C.S. Lewis' novel "Till We Have Faces," closing Sunday at Mustard Seed Theatre). Stories of families confronting secrets are legion (Miller's "Death of a Salesman," Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," Sophocles' "Oedipus Rex"). These aren't just legitimate themes for the stage, they are favorite ones. Science fiction offers just one more way to examine them, through a lens that theatergoers don't often get to look through.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

South African author wins Arthur C Clarke award South African author wins Arthur C Clarke award
Lauren Beukes honoured with top science fiction prize for her novel Zoo City, set in an alternate Johannesburg
South African author Lauren Beukes has won the UK's top science fiction prize, the Arthur C Clarke award, seeing off the favourite, Ian McDonald, with a story of the criminal underclass in an alternate Johannesburg.

Published by the tiny UK press Angry Robot, Zoo City beat not only McDonald, but also the US National Book award winner Richard Powers and the Guardian children's fiction prize winner Patrick Ness.

Speaking after the "unexpected" result, Beukes said she felt "like Gwyneth Paltrow – but I promise I won't burst into tears".

"I had a speech prepared and it was curse you McDonald," she said. South Africa, is an "an incredible place to live ... and write about", she added. "It's really where science fiction is. It's in the developing world, it's first world, it's third world – the way we use technology is different to the way it's used elsewhere. This book is about magic and technology and it's very special to be here."

Described as "Jeff Noon crossed with Raymond Chandler", Zoo City tells of the festering Zoo City slum, where psychic criminal guilt takes the form of an animal familiar and where Zinzi December, looking for missing pop starlet Songweza, uncovers secrets that the local crime lord and dark magician wants to stay hidden.

According to judge and author Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Zoo City was the "clear winner".

"Zoo City filters brutal social honesty through a stunning imagination to produce a world recognisably ours and obviously different," he said. "The plotting is tight, the characterisation strong and the writing superb."

Chair of judges Paul Billinger agreed, describing the novel as a book that "realises the enormous potential of SF literature, and as a piece of social commentary it is unsurpassed in the field".

Beukes wins £2011, and becomes the ninth woman to take the Arthur C Clarke prize since Margaret Atwood first won it 25 years ago. She was presented with the award last night (Wednesday 27 April) by China MiĆ©ville, who last year won it for a record-breaking third time with his novel The City and the City.

The author later revealed on Twitter – whose users she had earlier thanked for their advice "on good places to dump a body in Johannesburg" – that "those are red wine stains down the front of my dress in the Clarke award photos".

McDonald, meanwhile, might have missed out on the Arthur C Clarke to Beukes, but he can comfort himself with the fact that his tale of a near-future Istanbul, The Dervish House, beat the South African author to the British Science Fiction Association award for best novel on Tuesday – an award he has now won with each of his last three novels. McDonald was also shortlisted for the Hugo best novel prize earlier this week.

"It seems extraordinary to think that Ian McDonald has won [the BSFA award] for each of his last three novels until you read him, and realise he really is that good. The Dervish House may even be his most complete achievement, vigorous and enthralling," said Niall Harrison, editor in chief of Strange Horizons. The BSFA prize is voted for by members of the British Science Fiction Association.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

BBC America announces 'The Fades' and explains its science-fiction fixation

Los Angeles Times: BBC America announces 'The Fades' and explains its science-fiction fixation
It may be royal-wedding week in the U.K., but BBC America has its eye on spookier things: The network just announced that it’s co-producing a new supernatural drama called “The Fades,” to premiere January 2012.

Written by Jack Thorne (who wrote for the U.K. versions of “Skins” and “Shameless” as well as co-writing the Shane Meadows movie “This is England ’86”), it stars Lily Loveless and Daniel Kaluuya (who both starred in the original U.K. “Skins”) and features a plotline about a boy who sees spirits.

This comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that the channel would air 80 hours of 2003 sci-fi classic “Battlestar Galactica,” which originally ran on Syfy, starting June 18. Not only that, but the recently announced upcoming slate also includes the new series “Outcasts,” described as a “frontier sci-fi drama” about power struggles and sex in “a new post-Earth era” (premieres June 18) and the spooky fall 2011 drama “Bedlam,” about an apartment building haunted by its former inhabitants -- patients in a lunatic asylum. These new shows will join existing programs such as “Doctor Who” and “Being Human” on BBC America’s “Supernatural Saturday block.”

So is BBC America trying to compete with Syfy to become the geek network of choice?

According to Perry Simon, general manager of BBC America, it’s just a matter of focusing on what they do well. “Science fiction is a staple of British television -- there’s rich history of it, and they do it very well. As a result, BBCA has gotten a steady pipeline of quality British science fiction, and we have over the years wanted to deliver it in coherent fashion, which led us to brand 'Supernatural Saturday.' "

Some fans expressed surprise about the signing of "Battlestar Galactica,” which has no English angle (except for a few of the actors, who artfully disguised their British accents). Simon pointed out that “Galactica” joined “Star Trek: the Next Generation,” which has been in reruns on BBC America for a while. But the bulk of the programming, he promises, will be “British science fiction.”
Even the British shows may be getting a little American action, though: The season opener of “Doctor Who” found the Tardis landing in the U.S. And that may give it a boost here -- the show’s season premiere this weekend nabbed it almost 1.3 million viewers, up from last season’s opener.

Simon says the Doctor’s American setting partly “grew out of conversations about how to grow the franchise in American audience” -- but that more than anything it was creative excitement on the part of “Doctor Who” producer Steven Moffat. As he told EW, “We had an idea, and it seemed cool, so we did it.”

Saturday, April 23, 2011

‘Doctor Who’: Longest-running science fiction TV show kicks off new season stateside

Columbia Spectator: ‘Doctor Who’: Longest-running science fiction TV show kicks off new season stateside
Doctor Who, the world’s longest-running science fiction television show, returns to the small screen on Saturday, April 23, with a bang—literally.

One of the most popular shows in Britain, Doctor Who is a cult favorite in America. The show follows the adventures of the Doctor, a 908-year-old time-travelling alien, known as a “Time Lord,” from the planet Gallifrey. The Doctor has two hearts, and instead of dying, he regenerates into a new form—hence the ability for different actors to play him—with the same memories and similar quirky characteristics.

Matt Smith plays the 11th incarnation. He gives the Doctor an incredible range.

Steven Moffat, the show’s head writer, once remarked that though Smith is the youngest man to ever play the Doctor, it seems like he is the oldest. This simultaneously old and young Doctor is delightful to watch on-screen and appears to be portrayed by Smith with ease.

The Doctor voyages throughout the universe in a TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) that disguises itself as a blue police call box from 1960s Britain. He is the last of his kind, after he destroyed his home planet and his race in the Time War. The Doctor travels with a human companion, saving the universe—and usually humanity—from sinister aliens such as the Daleks, the Cybermen, and the Weeping Angels.

[Today], the new season begins with the first of a two-part arc entitled “The Impossible Astronaut.” It is the first episode in the 48-year history of “Doctor Who” to film principally in America.

The show opens with Amy (Karen Gillan), the Doctor’s current companion, Rory (Arthur Darvill), her husband, and Dr. River Song (Alex Kingston)—a mysterious woman from the Doctor’s future—receiving envelopes telling them when and where to meet.

They head to Utah, where the Doctor awaits their arrival. There, they meet Canton Everett Delaware III, a former FBI agent. Within the first 10 minutes, a fan-favorite character dies, and it comes as such a surprise that shrieks of anguish were heard at the episode’s screening.

Delaware tells the remaining company to travel to Washington D.C. in 1969, and there the adventure truly begins.

Nixon makes a delightful appearance, and as this is a British show, it is full of American stereotypes. Whenever given the possibility, an American whips out a gun and threatens to shoot something, and the only logic given for this trigger-happiness is that they are Americans. Typical.[And true!]

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Consequential Strangers, by Melinda Blau and Karen Fingerman

This book is off-topic, but it's so interesting that I thought I'd share it.

There's an old saying, "I shall only pass this way but once, so any little good I can do, let me do it now, for I shall only pass this way but once."

We pass strangers every day - each one of them has their own problems and preoccupations. A smile from you might change their life - so might a frown or a casual insult (such as sneering at their weight, or something of that nature.)

It costs nothing to give someone a friendly smile, and you never know what it might accomplish as the stranger at whom you smile goes on to struggle through his or her day.

Consequential Strangers: The Power of People who Don't Seem to Matter, but Really Do, by Melinda Blau and Karen Fingerman
W W Norton and Co, 2009
219 pages, plus Appendices, notes and index. No photos
Library: 155.927 BLA

They punctuate our days, but we take them for granted: our barista, our car mechanic, a coworker, a fellow dog lover. Yet these are the consequential strangers who bring novelty and information into our lives, allow us to exercise different parts of ourselves, and open us up to new opportunities. They keep us healthy and are invaluable when we're sick. They fuel innovation and social movements. And they are vital in times of uncertainty.

In their unprecedented examination of "people who don't seem to matter," psychologist Karen L. Fingerman, who coined the term "consequential strangers" collaborates with journalist Melinda Blau to develop an idea sparked by Fingerman's groundbreaking research. Drawing as well from Blau's more than two hundred interviews with specialists in psychology, sociology, marketing, and communication, this book presents compelling stories of individuals and institiutions, past and present.

A rich portrait of our social landscape-on and off the internet-it presents the science of casual connection and chronicles the surprising impact that consequential strangers have on business, creativity, the work environment, our physical and mental health, and the strength of our communities.

Table of Contents
Introduction - The Birth of a Notion
1. The Ascendance of Consequential Strangers
2. The View From Above
3. Beyond the Confines of the Familiar
4. Good for What Ails Us
5. Being Spaces
6. The Downside
7. The Future of Consequential Strangers
Epilogue: The Postscript is Personal
Appendix I: 20 Questions
Appendix II: The Occupation Test

Monday, April 11, 2011

Terrarium (2003)

12 astronauts volunteer to pioneer a colony, on a newly discovered planet. They awake from their frozen 15 year sleep to discover that the ship has crashed and that they are trapped in their cryotubes. To make matters worse, a hairy beast breaks in and begins devouring them, one by one...

On a whim, I did an Image search for "science fiction movie" and the first result was for Terrarium - a movie from 2003 that starred Tim Daley (not to be confused wth Tim Daly!) and Jason Hall.

An independent, low budget production.

It has a website: