Eurocon 2016: Watch it online!

My first Eurocon has been an even more amazing experience than I had expected. We arrived in Barcelona with Lucie Lukacovicova and her husband the evening before the convention, so we almost immediately jumped into the event. The first panel I saw was the Queer SF panel, to which we arrived a little late, but catching up was not a problem, and we learned about lots of interesting works. After that came my panel “Where are the aliens?” with Jonathan Cowie and Ian Whates. You can watch our discussion in the video below!

The Cross-Media panel and the Evil Females panel (including Lucie; watch it here) concluded the official Friday program for us. Saturday started with Ian Watson’s very interesting Orwell Tour around places in Barcelona marked by Orwell’s presence, and continued with the Genre Translators panel (including Lucie; unfortunately, program held in this hall was not recorded). The panelists were from the Czech Republic, Finland, China, Poland, Bulgaria and Italy, and listening to the peculiarities of translating into different languages was most interesting. Cultural context, history, grammatical gender, names bearing meaning – all of that can wreak havoc with a translation (especially if the name is something like Hodor…). My talk “Is Venus habitable?” came next. Watch it below.

Robot Companions by Carme Torras were a very interesting talk. I would recommend you watch it, alas, it was in the hall that wasn’t streamed. At least google some of the projects especially by Boston Dynamics, then. Sunday morning, I wanted to be at three places at once, so I left Euro Steampunk before the end to attend Beyond Jurassic Park. The talk had little new in store for me, but it was brilliantly structured and delivered: great fun with lots of interesting information, smoothly going from one part of a topic to another, and engaging the audience through Mentimeter polls. Great idea!

I also wanted to at three places at once in the afternoon, same as Lucie and Atlan, so each of us went to one of the program items. “Does SF prevent bad future?” was my pick, and liked the discussion, although (unsurprisingly) the question was not resolved. Then came the closing ceremony including the results of Euro SF Awards. The Czech Republic had no winners in the main categories, but the Czech Encouragement Award went to Jan Hlávka and Jana Vybíralová for their “Ledové hry” (“Ice Games”) space opera series.

Starting Monday, we’ve had time to explore Barcelona. I’m writing this at the airport, soon to leave the beautiful city (note: I was. And then an exceptionally busy week happened. No time travel involved, believe me.). I might add something more about Barcelona later. But as I have two talks and three interviews to conduct in the week after I return to the Czech Republic (not saying home, because I’ll almost immediately go to the other end of the country, and to the opposite one afterwards) (note: Already happened. Great events and great people I had the honor to interview!), and in the week after that, I’m teaching and also having my PhD exams (alas, that is still going to happen). Everything beside those things will have to wait until early December (unless I find a way how to apply the time travel).

Most of Eurocon program items can be watched here. If you’re in for some interesting talks and panels, don’t hesitate. And if you can attend the next Eurocon (in Dortmund next June), the same applies. I’ve met lots of wonderful people at this Eurocon; we went to dinner or lunch with some of them, talked with others during program breaks, en route to talks and panels… So, thank you, Lucie, Atlan, Cheryl, Kevin, Tasha, Charles, Ian and Ian, Jonathan, Pedro, Charlie, Mike, Djibril, Valeria, Cristina, Elena, Atanas, Mihaela, Klaus, and Arrate, for your great company. The people are always what makes conventions so amazing.

I’ll be registering for both the next Eurocon and Worldcon (in Helsinki in August) soon. Two more things before I conclude this post: You can still help kickstart Piracity, an anthology of pirate stories by writers from Bristol and the Caribbean, edited by Cheryl Morgan. I have just contributed with my pledge. Aaarrgh!

And the last thing: I have uploaded mobi and epub formats of Dreams From Beyond, so you can check out the anthology of Czech speculative fiction in English on any device now!

Eurocon 2016: Venus, Fermi paradox and more

This year’s Eurocon is approaching fast! The convention will be held in Barcelona on November 4-6. The program has been ready for a couple of weeks, and there’s a lot to be looking forward to: interesting talks, panel discussions, cultural events, award ceremonies… I’m on two program items I’d like to invite you to: one panel discussion and one popular science talk.

Friday 12:15 “Where are the aliens?”

Although we know that the Fermi Paradox is not exactly a paradox and not exactly Fermi’s, the question “where are they” remains an interesting food for thought for science fiction authors, scientists and the public as well. To attempt to answer it (even if any truly reliable answers are far away due to the lack of data), we can look at the number of potentially habitable planets in our galactic neighbourhood, cultural aspects of our technological civilization, difficulties of interstellar travel, percolation theory models of colonization, and much more. We’ll be discussing the topic with authors and editors Jonathan Cowie and Ian Whates.

Saturday 13:30 “Is Venus habitable?”

My Saturday talk ended up with a somewhat provocative title “Is Venus habitable?”. We’ll look at the largely unknown past of the proclaimed “Earth’s sister planet” (Could Venus have had liquid water oceans at some time? For how long before its greenhouse effect evaporated the last bits of them? Could it have had plate tectonics and effective geochemical cycles when it still had water – if it had?) and thus chances of potential habitability in the past, current conditions in its cloud layer, life in Earth’s atmosphere, our historical thinking about Venus and more. I’ve been planning to write a popular science article about Venus’ past for some time, and I hope to have it ready not long after the talk.

Dreams-From-Beyond_coverI’m also going to launch an anthology of Czech SF in translation into English, Dreams From Beyond. It’s one of several anthologies from different countries, edited specially for this year’s Eurocon.

And something for my fellow Prague-dwellers: Before Eurocon, I’ll be having a public reading and discussion about the relationship of science and science fiction at the Czech Centre in Prague as a part of the Week of Science and Technology. It’s on November 2, starting at 17:00.

The day after is a press conference about the involvement of Czech students in astronautics. It starts at 11:30 in restaurant Mamacita Catalina in the Mucha Hotel in Karlin, Prague, and it’s also a part of the Week of Science and Technology. I’ll be talking about this year’s IAC and science outreach through astrobiology. After that, off to Barcelona!

Update: Eurocon will be streamed live here, so you can watch it from anywhere!

IAC 2016, Part 2: Moonshots and deep oceans

The International Astronautical Congress had been full of interesting talks, people and events. We’ve already discussed the budding race to Mars, but there was so much more to the IAC. It would be a mistake to reduce it all to proposals of crewed missions to the Red Planet. In this part, we will discuss robotic Mars exploration and its astrobiological implications, the Moon Village concept, visions of future icy moons exploration, and last but not least the student program on the IAC.

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IAC 2016, Part 1: The Race to Mars

This year’s International Astronautical Congress is over, and we can now reflect on what it brought forth. It had been especially eventful this time and left hardly anyone cold. Possibly the main theme which resonated throughout the conference had been Mars exploration – talks by SpaceX’s Elon Musk on one hand, Lockheed Martin on the other hand, and numerous people in the technical sessions might have marked the beginning of a true race for Mars. But another pattern also emerged, and that was making space more accessible for everyone. A part of that were talks about affordable internet connection, satellite telecommunication or disaster management in developing countries, but also the Moon Village concept, first presented last spring by ESA’s Director General Jan Woerner. Musk’s grand Mars colonization plans and Woerner’s vision of the Moon Village stand in an interesting contrast next to each other. Now, don’t get me wrong, by no means do they exclude each other. On the contrary, I can imagine both activities going at the same time. But the spirit of those visions is very different; more on that later.

Mars has been the target of our imagination for centuries, if not millennia. We’ve dreamed of its exploration and colonization since the late 19th century. It’s not surprising that these dreams are being given a shape every once in a while. Today may be different, offering a real chance of achieving that dream. But does it really?

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ESA Citizens’ Debate

Today was the historically first ESA Citizens’ Debate: an event spanning two continents (ESA member and cooperating states in Europe, and Canada, working with ESA under their cooperation agreement) and including about 2000 citizens discussing the future directions of European space activities.

The Czech debate had a good attendance of around 100 people. Now, the results of the debate in each country and polled together are just being processed and you can already see some at www.citizensdebate.space/results.

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But the part of our discussion about getting people to become more interested in space has inspired me to make a short list of space-related popular science magazines, websites, organizations or contests in the Czech Republic. It’s not comprehensive, so if you think I’ve omitted something, let me know. I’ll try to include as many relevant entries as possible. I haven’t included space-themed popular science books so far, because they’re so many, but I’ll eventually add them.

So, here we go…

Print magazines

Websites or online magazines

Contests

Organizations

Not solely about space, but you’ll find it there too…

  • Vesmír.cz (popular science magazine + website)
  • Přírodovědci.cz (popular science magazine + website)
  • Osel.cz (popular science website)
  • Technet.cz (popular science website)
  • Nedd.cz (popular science website)
  • Věda z kufru (science experiments for schools)
  • …and many more e-zines or outreach programs I’ll keep adding!

Norway, Aeronautilus Awards & IAC16

You may have noticed some silence on my social media in the last couple of weeks. I’ve been on a vacation and tried to avoid the internet during that time. I wouldn’t have much time for it anyway – Norway was too amazing. I have more than a thousand pictures to go through, this is just a tiny sample snapped on my phone…

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I barely had time to unpack and pack again to go to Festival fantazie after my return from Norway. The convention was certainly worth it, and a pleasant surprise awaited me there in the list of nominations for the Aeronautilus Awards (imagine something between Locus and Hugo Awards in a Czech context): My novel Elysium and my anthology Terra nullius were both nominated for the best SF book of 2015. Stories from Terra nullius dominated the short story category: Three of the five nominations were from there, one of them my own story. Website of magazine XB-1, for which I work as a writer and translator, was nominated for the best SF-related site. XB-1 won this category for the fifth time in a row. Congratulations, especially to its editor Martin Šust! Without his hard work and dedication, the site wouldn’t thrive in the way it does.

Elysium won the best book category, and Zaříkávač lodí (The Ship Whisperer, published also in English in the March issue of Asimov’s and in Chinese in last September’s issue of ZUI Found) got the best short story award. Big thanks to all the readers voting in the awards! I’m immensely happy that so many people liked the stories and supported them, and even more so that it’s the second time I’ve won an Aeronautilus for the best short story. Last year, my Šeré město (The Dusk City, not yet published in English but working on it) got the award.

aeronaut 2016

Last but certainly not least, I was notified that I’m among the students selected for ESA sponsorship for the attendance of this September’s International Astronautical Congress in Guadalajara. I’m looking forward to it very much and I’ll be sure to write at least a few reports from there. I’m very grateful to ESA for selecting me!

It doesn’t look so promising with the DPS-EPSC in Pasadena, but at least I’ll have some colleagues there and I’ll be following the news. I may attend the Evolution of Chemical Complexity conference in Liblice (not that far from Prague) in September, if all goes well (and if it does, some reports will certainly appear here).

That’s all from me now; after the vacation, I should get to writing some papers, popular science articles, stories and novels, editing, transcribing interviews, translating, preparing a part of the program of two science-themed summer camps and so on. Being busy is quite good if I enjoy the work, and this I do.

FameLab & LPS16

Last Sunday, the Czech FameLab finale was held in the Ypsilon theatre in Prague. Eleven finalists; eleven great and fun science talks. I imagine it was difficult to choose which ones to reward, and it’s all the greater honor to me that my talk about the manipulation hypothesis, specifically the effects of toxoplasmosis, was awarded with the Czech Centers’ Award, including a one-week stay in a selected Czech Center in Europe and meeting scientists from the particular city. I’m looking forward to it immensely.

The Czech Republic will be represented at the international finale by Eliska Selinger from the First Faculty of Medicine. Her talk about epigenetics (specifically methylation) was great fun and really captivating. Wish her good luck in the world finale! She’ll travel with Lenka Zychova, whose talk about gamma rays and their impact on life on Earth in the past was also great.

In other news, this year’s Living Planet Symposium has started yesterday. It’s being held in the Congress Center in Prague. I’ve only seen a few talks and the exposition so far, but hopefully expect some highlights later. In the meantime, I have a few quickly snapped pictures at least.

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Edit: Eliska will go through the semi-finale first, so let’s wish her good luck so that we can do the same later in the world finale :).

AFO 2016

This year’s Academia Film Olomouc has ended on Sunday and has been just as awesome as the last one, perhaps even more. I’ve interviewed several guests of the festival: Mark McCaughrean, Doug Vakoch, and Jim Kakalios. The interviews will appear in Přírodovědci and XB-1 in Czech. They may also appear later in English here; we’ll see.

As usual, the combination of interesting documentaries, movies, talks and additional program was great, as well as meeting the people of AFO. See you in Olomouc next year!

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Credit: The image belongs to Academia Film Olomouc.