Don’t Panic

To mark the 42nd anniversary of the radio broadcast of the first instalment of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, BBC Radio 4 Extra are devoting a sizeable chunk of their evening schedule to programmes about the series, interspersed with the first six episodes of the story itself.

I can't help but notice that there's nary a mention of this on the front page on the BBC Sounds application or the web site. I was alerted to it by #hitchhikersguidetothegalaxy trending in Twitter.1 Still definitely worth a listen.


  1. In fairness, that might well just be the modern way of achieving the desired end and I'm just too stuck in my ways to have picked up on that. 

Tales from the Loop

The teaser trailer for Amazon's forthcoming TV adaptation of artist Simon Stålenhag's vision of a future where the presence of a large underground particle accelerator coincided with the arrival on the scene of an array of strange machines, Tales From the Loop, already had me hooked even before I recognised the presence of Jonathan Pryce and Rebecca Hall in the cast. Throw in Mark Romanek directing and it's fair to say that I'm interested.

Assuming that early reviews don't reveal that the striking imagery has been lavished on a supremely dumb story, this looks like one more strand in Amazon's ongoing campaign to get me to sign up to Prime Video membership so I can give them a chance to claim a chunk of my streaming service budget.

[Via The Verge, via Sentiers #115]

Ask and ye shall receive

Following on from yesterday's post, Ron Moore says all sorts of things about season 2:

"You're going to see things that happened in real life, but happen faster and in slightly different ways," Moore promised. "So things like the coming of the personal computer, internet, variations on communications and email and cell phones and all that. You'll see it in a more rapid advance. And the actual models and prototypes and pieces of technology that are being used are not exactly what happened in real history… you'll see variations on it. We went back and looked at some of the early prototyping and different branches that some of the technology could have gone off in the '70s and '80s, and chose to go down some of those paths. So, you'll have a different spin and a different feel to it. The further the show goes now, the more science-fiction it's going to become. We're getting more aggressively into areas that never happened."

Sounds promising. 1

[Via Adrian Hon, posting to FanFare]


  1. I'm slightly disappointed that they're sticking to Reagan ending up in the White House and being up for even more of an arms race than he was in our timeline, but I can't deny that all the signs are that in the timeline they're showing us politics hasn't changed all that much so that's not a completely unexpected turn of events. 

For All Mankind season 1

So, For All Mankind closed with a slightly loner-than-usual season finale that perhaps signalled that when next we see these characters they might have moved beyond the Apollo era.

Be sure to stick around for the post-credit scene for the first season finale. I really hope that signals another jump forward in the timeline, because for all that I've enjoyed the course of the show's first season I'd also been mildly worried that we were going to spend forever on the alternate Apollo programme and I really want to see this show go further along the alternate timeline than that. (I did joke about Ron Moore ending the show with an appearance from a Cylon, but one commenter over at MeFi Fanfare last week posited that the show will end with the discovery of a black monolith on the lunar surface and morph into a 2001: A Space Odyssey prequel Works for me.)

The finale revealed that the first commander of the first US base on the moon wasn't the cold-blooded murderer we'd thought he might be last week, but I do wonder whether some time in season two someone will discover evidence that the base had been visited by the enemy and our putative hero will find himself having to own up to what went down in the preparation for his rescue mission for his rescuers. Will NASA file it under "Who cares? It all worked out in the end (except for Deke.)" or will there be a scandal when it turns out that our hero Ed (assuming he remains in the programme and ends up, say, as head of the Astronaut Office some day) realises that he recognises Mikhail, his newly-appointed opposite number on the Soviet side?

I'd still love to know whether Ron Moore's plan is to spend seven seasons exploring how a different timeline plays out in the lifetimes of the current characters, or whether they're going to throw in enough time jumps that we get a picture of the ramifications of a different start to the space race. Given that we've spent significant time following the story of Aleida, our immigrant space enthusiast in the first season, I can't help but wonder whether her character 1 will pop up again before long, possibly after a couple more time jumps to give her time to have a reason to be in the story again. I mean, she might just show up years later as a member of the public watching what's going on in the space programme rather than working in it, or it might be that her story was mostly a way to reveal her father's story and how the FBI's efforts to enhance security were mostly pointless, but I have a feeling she's destined to be more involved than that.

I have a feeling, just given the economics of how TV casting works and the notion that it's risky to press the reset button and demand that audiences get used to a largely new cast in a different scenario in the next season, that they'll stick with rolling out the story covering the near future. A show that sticks with the 1970s generation of astronauts could well be every bit as much fun as the first season has been for folks like me2 but my preference would be for a show that ends up a few hundred years hence, one that reveals that because the Russians and the Americans were working in parallel on the Moon3 they ended up customarily working together and ended up extending that practice as they fanned out into the depths of the solar system. Heretical thought: might it have made very little difference, what with all the major players being basically extensions of the military powers' armed forces and thus somewhat disinclined to cooperate with their potential enemies?


  1. Probably recast, so we can see her all grown up, having earned her place in the space programme on the basis of her mathematical expertise post-college. She can be in her mid-thirties, ideally having a nice reunion with soon-to-retire veteran NASA Flight Director Margo Madison when Aleida arrives to start her new job. That whole illegal immigrant thing would be a problem security-check-wise, you'd imagine, but who said Aleida had to work for NASA? Perhaps she ends up emigrating to Europe in her early twenties and finds herself working on the EU's fledgeling human space programme and gets seconded to NASA as part of the EU's attempt to catch up. 
  2. The sort of people who recognise which characters in the show were real people and which were folks the show's writers made up, and which technologies were in the pipeline when the Apollo programme was wound down after the key aim of beating the Soviet Union to the moon was achieved. You know, geeks. 
  3. And the Chinese, and the EU, and the Indians, and the Saudis, in time. It's science fiction: who can say what'll come to pass? 

The return of The Program

Just over a year on from my previous post about it, The Program Audio Series podcast returns for a full first season:

The Program is a historical podcast set in a future in which Money, State, and God became fused into a single entity called the Program. Each episode is a self-contained story focusing on ordinary people inhabiting this extraordinary world. And for them it is not this future that is terrifying - it is our present.

Good to see that it's back. I look forward to hearing where the story takes us.

For All Mankind

Well, I've dipped a toe into Apple's vision of the future of TV by watching the first two episodes of For All Mankind, and I've liked what I've seen so far:

[A...] captivating "what if" take on history from Golden Globe nominee and Emmy Award winner, Ronald D. Moore. Told through the lives of astronauts, engineers and their families, "For All Mankind" imagines a world in which the global space race never ended and the space program remained the cultural centerpiece of America’s hopes and dreams.

The things is, I'm just two episodes in and some of the fun changes to our timeline's history - most obviously the much earlier advent of women in the space programme - are still to come. But so far, the show is giving us a chance to get to know some of our characters and it looks as if we're going to learn about this timeline through how those characters are affected by the various changes, which is definitely the best way to go about this.

The big question is, where does this story end? Do we find ourselves pushing out into space much faster in the last half of the 20th century and beyond because a stronger Soviet presence means that the US can always justify throwing money at NASA and if so where does the story stop? Are we going to move beyond this initial cast of astronauts who were contemporaries of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, and if so, when?

Rumour has it that Ronald D Moore and his colleagues have mapped out seven seasons of this show: as with all TV, how much of that we get to see will presumably depend upon the show's success against whatever metrics Apple have decided to apply to it. Seven seasons could take us to the point where our characters have aged to the point where they're heading off to Mars to join the first colonisation effort, or perhaps the last episode will see the grandchildren of our characters inventing the first Cylon or something.

George Lucas Astride a Mountain of Cash

If this is a joke or a spoof then someone is leaving it rather late in the day to spring a surprise on us all:

If the universe somehow arranged for a time traveller to pay a visit to young George Lucas just before he started filming Star Wars and show him that video1 then - after giving young George a few minutes time of jubilation at how handsomely his bright idea would pay off - wouldn't even young George suggest that perhaps this adulation for all things Star Wars had all gone just a bit too far?

[Via @caitlinmoran, RT by @cstross]

Trek Tech Manuals (continued)…

Dan Hon, helpfully filling in some blanks in Starfleet's documentation: Reporting Security Issues on the Federation Starship USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D...

Keeping Your LCARS Account Secure

Federation LCARS computer systems use a sophisticated n-factor authentication system to allow access to ship systems. Permissions are role and context based with an underlying entitlement system.

In the interests of efficiency, each of these authentication systems and permissions can be overriden by employing a passphrase. To use this passphrase, you must use a Starfleet combadge and be in range of biometric sensors on a secure Federation network.

Your LCARS passphrase must include the following, in Federation Standard:

Examples:

"Computer, deactivate sandbox on critical ship computing settings, authorization Riker Alpha Forty Seven"

"Computer, disable all holodeck safety protocols, authorization La Forge Three Beta."

"Computer, irrevocably transfer all command privileges to Ensign Wesley Crusher, authorization Picard Gamma Two."

Starfleet crew are required to change their passphrase every seven years.

Oh boy, that last example passphrase suggests all sorts of unwelcome plot developments.1

[Via Things That Have Caught My Attention s07e04: Do Better]

A Tool Using Animal

Reading Wired's Fans Are Better Than Tech at Organizing Information Online...

At a time when we're trying to figure out how to make the internet livable for humans, without exploiting other humans in the process, AO3 (AO3, to its friends) offers something the rest of tech could learn from.

... mostly served to remind me of how far the story was to some extent just echoing the story that Maciej Cegłowski told several years ago about the beautiful moment when Pinboard met fandom...

[In the wake of the owners of Del.icio.us deciding to redesign their user interface in such a way as to render Del.icio.us useless to a small but very important segment of fandom.] Being a canny businessman, I posted a gentle reminder that there was still a bookmarking site that let you search on a slash tag.

So fandom dispatched a probe to see if I was worth further study. The emissaries talked to me a bit and explained that my site was missing some features that fans relied on.

In my foolishness I asked, "Could you make me a list of those features? I'll take a look, maybe some of it is easy to implement."

Oh yes, they could make make a list.

I had summoned a very friendly Balrog.

Honestly, the full article/talk is very much worth reading.

[Via BrettTerpstra.com]

The Hooded Swan series

James Nicoll reminds us of Brian M. Stableford's Hooded Swan series, which I adored back in the late 1970/early 1980s:

The Hooded Swan stories are gloomy and morose to the point of parody. If it were possible for space to be overcast and drizzling, it would be so everywhere Grainger goes.

I have to confess that I barely even noticed this. Then again, it was the 1970s and I was British.

[Stableford's…] later work is more ambitious, but not always as enjoyable as these stories. Though perhaps "enjoyable" is not the right word. They’re readable. Perhaps they would have been more enjoyable if the protagonist hadn’t been an antisocial depressive.

If you are looking for morose space opera told from the point of view of a misanthrope, featuring puzzles with depressing answers, you might like this series.

I feel like being a fan of this series set me up to fully enjoy Ian M Banks' Culture novels. The Banks novels were set in a very different universe and starred a very much more capable set of protagonists who would have looked on in amusement at the crudity of the technology that Grainger and co were blundering around using in their attempt to understand their little corner of the universe1 but it feels as if slumming it in the technological dark ages with Stableford's crew was necessary for me to fully enjoy the very different view of the universe granted to the agents of the Culture.