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Science Fiction Thursday: NASA Announcements, 'The Expanse', Plus Book and Movie of the Week

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Science Fiction | November 5, 2015 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Science Fiction | November 5, 2015 |

First up this week, we got a couple of bits from NASA, who frankly have been knocking it out of the PR park these last few weeks in the wake of The Martian. They’ve posted a half hour video of the sun in ultra-HD, which I think is defined as “something higher resolution than the YouTube clip we’re all going to watch it on”.

Says the NASA about their video:

It’s always shining, always ablaze with light and energy. In the ubiquity of solar output, Earth swims in an endless tide of particles. Every time half of the Earth faces the Sun, we experience the brightness of daytime, the Sun’s energy and light driving weather, biology and more. But in space, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) keeps an eye on our nearest star 24/7. SDO captures images of the Sun in 10 different wavelengths, each of which helps highlight a different temperature of solar material. In this video we experience images of the Sun in unprecedented detail captured by SDO. Presented in ultra-high definition video (4K) the video presents the nuclear fire of our life-giving star in intimate detail, offering new perspective into our own relationships with grand forces of the solar system.

NASA could not be reached for comment as to whether they should have sent a poet.

What else from NASA? Well, they’ve announced that they’re going to announce something major about Mars’ atmosphere on Thursday afternoon at 2pm EST. So NASA has mastered the Internet age art of teasers for trailers for teaser trailers. But I’m writing this Wednesday night, so stay tuned on the Internet for what it might be. My money is on evidence related to the three-bosomed lady from Total Recall.

Next up, a lot of you are looking forward to the SyFy series The Expanse based on the fantastic series of novels by James SA Corey. It’s getting two episodes on subsequent nights (Dec 14 and 15), but SyFy has now announced that it’s actually going to debut them three weeks early online and on VOD on Nov 23:

The Expanse’s first episode can be viewed via Syfy On Demand,, the Syfy Now App, Hulu, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, Playstation, Xbox, Facebook and YouTube. Additionally, Syfy has partnered with Twitch, Wikia, IGN, IMDb, Good Reads, Crave Online and Roku to host the series premiere with original custom content.

Here’s the full trailer if you haven’t seen it yet:

Meh. It doesn’t look terrible in a complete vacuum, but it’s impossible for it to hold up well compared to the book series, which I quite enjoy. If SyFy’s going to churn out promising series that collapse into forgettability by half way through the soon-to-be-cancelled first season, they could at least just do it with original properties.

Book and movie of the week! This week’s were The Three-Body Problem and the film How I Live Now. If you want to comment about either of these, put it in its own comment with the first line being either “The Three-Body Problem Spoilers” or “How I Live Now Spoilers”. Also: if you reply to a comment with one of these spoiler tags, you don’t need to bother putting the spoiler tag yourself. Everyone should just assume that if the top level comment is a spoiler, it’s spoilers all the way down.

The Three-Body Problem Spoilers
This is a tricky book to review, because I really wanted to like it. It has moments of absolute brilliance. Everything that takes place in flashback, into the time of the Cultural Revolution is harrowing and fascinating. The moment when she reveals that she betrayed the location of Earth on purpose because humanity didn’t deserve to survive? Monumental. It reminded me of the particularly brutal passage of The Gulag Archipelago in which it’s described that when the zeks learned of the beginning of the Korean War, they secretly celebrated in the hopes that nuclear war would annihilate their own country.

But nothing else in the book worked for me. I loathed the video game subplot that took up half the book. And the entire thing about unfolding a proton, sending it to Earth, and basically using it to do magic was eyerolling enough, but the fact that it was being used to make scientists believe that experiments don’t work and therefore drive them to suicide? Everything about that supposedly revelatory cliff hanger was just laughable to me.

How I Live Now Spoilers
My original interest was in the fact that it was a low budget post-apocalyptic film with a well-regarded director and an excellent lead. That lasted about ten minutes until it became clear that the story was about a standard annoying teenager and falling in love. The fact that no plot or story actually related to the conflict taking place is supposed to make the film more universal, but all it did was eliminate the only interesting part of the movie. Call me old, but a generic World War III can’t make me give a shit about teenage hormones.

Next week: We’ll read A Talent for War, the first of Jack McDevitt’s Alex Benedict series, and one of my favorites of the series. For a movie, we’ll go with Monsters, which TK thought was fantastic in those ancient days before Disqus.

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.