Moving to a new site

I’ve finally created a website on my own domain. I’ve uploaded all my posts from here to the new site and future blogposts will appear only there, so if you’ve been following this blog, please follow my new website. It also has a language switcher, so my English-speaking readers will no longer be bothered with long posts about solely Czech works (and conversely).

See you all a couple of nodes later!

obalky_romanu

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The Writing Workshop in Prague

Are you an aspiring author writing in English and based in Prague, and want to join a workshop to improve your craft? You might consider the Writing Workshop, an initiative founded by a successful SF writer and friend of mine, Jan Kotouč. He’s been running the workshop for two years by now and starting with this year, he’s expanding and offering more courses and classes by more lecturers. Jan is teaching the Intro to Creative Writing, Public Speaking and Press Releases. Our marketing expert Honza Felt teaches Internet Marketing for Writers. These are all one-day courses. The six-lesson Creative Writing workshop is taught by Jan and me. We’ll also start offering courses on book promotion and publishing in speculative fiction magazines (by yours truly).

Anyone can join the upcoming courses – the only requirement is being able to communicate in English. We’ve already had students from Russia, Latvia, Finland, Fiji, Croatia and other countries and we are always looking forward to meeting students from the whole world!

‘Tis the Season…

So. It’s this time of year again. Cultists sing about elder gods stirring in their sleepsomething horrible is creeping down the chimney to eat your souls, skeletons dress in red robes and deliver presents (whether the original giver is available or not), things fall apartgiant robots roam the streets after sunset and aliens plot their invasions to Earth. You know, the usual stuff. And if we survive the season with our lives and minds intact, we can look forward to the new year.

And it’s looking like a pretty exciting year ahead of us. We’ll see whether Philae wakes up near 67P’s perihelion, what results Dawn brings about Ceres and how New Horizons‘ flyby of Pluto turns out.

Happy Christmas or whichever other festivity you’re celebrating. As for my Christmas wish for everyone: let’s keep working on gradually making this reality

Science-fictional & real science

If we have seen further, it’s largely by standing on layers of previous errors.

I had a lecture last week about cognitive biases, their possible adaptiveness and also impacts on science. It also led me to think about the old “hyper-competent scientist” trope so typical for SF. Science-fictional scientists can often recite complex information verbatim and know the answer to every question, even if it’s unrelated to their subfield of research – but then again, there are few molecular biologists focused on studying only one class of receptors in SF. Science-fictional scientists are usually either “generalists”, or very well-informed about basically every single subject of their field. A biologist can easily identify any plant or animal, run various analyses, create a model of a protein’s active site as well as an ecosystem simulation. And if they by chance don’t know something, they are able to quickly look the relevant information up or find out.

Mwahaha.

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Interview & public reading at APPlaus radio

I hope my English-speaking readers forgive me that this brief post is aimed primarily at Czech audience: I’m having an interview and book reading on September 16 at 8 p.m. at radio APPlaus. It’s possible to come sit in the radio’s café, listen live or visit the archive later. It’s going to be in Czech, however, and a later transcription being translated into English is unlikely at the moment. Since I’m a bit sick with cold right now, I wonder myself how it’s going to turn out… Hopefully with not much sneezing in the middle of sentences. But I’m an optimist: In the worst case, it will be really hilarious!

As to other appearances, I’m having a short lecture and a debate with other speakers on cognitive biases at University Pardubice’s seminar for new students on September 24 at 5 p.m. at the campus. The topic is slightly tied to one of my previous lecture topics, “Human: An (Ir)rational Animal”, which can be viewed on YouTube (in Czech, no subs).

And now for something completely different: Europa SF republished two of my articles from here, an interview with Martin Šust and my article on current SF magazines. Thank you, Europa SF.

Worldcon, Fringe & more

It had been a busy summer. I’ve attended the European Conference on Behavioral Biology (there would be a report coming up in the bulletin of the Czech & Slovak Ethological Society – in Czech), Worldcon in London, Edinburgh Fringe and I taught at a space-themed children’s summer camp. I hope you’ll forgive me cramming it all into one blogpost; I’ve only just returned home and have work to get to and you can always skip the parts you’re not so interested in. But I must say that each of these events had been very interesting and full of inspiration. This summer had been busy – and also really, really good.

Worldcon

So. My first Worldcon. It was great to experience the convention, meet new people and see some I had known through the internet in person for the first time. We discussed publishing with Neil Clarke, who is as brilliant in person as on the net, I met some very interesting and sympathetic people, especially among authors, did two interview for XB-1 and a part of a third one (which was conducted primarily by Martin Šust). So you can look forward to them here as well – after they’re published in the magazine, which has to wait for when the stories for the interview to go with are published. Patience will be rewarded.

From the big events, the philharmonic concert was very good except for the ventilation running loud, which had prevented me from fully enjoying the music (it practically ruined one of the pieces and harmed the rest). The theatre performance of The Anubis Gates disappointed me a bit, likely in a large part because the hall was not suited for theatre very well. However, the Hugo ceremony was just great and I was very happy about the results.

I’ve written a longer report for XB-1, which can be seen here (in Czech). And my photos from London (mostly sightseeing but Worldcon as well) are available on Google+.

Oh, and shortly before Worldcon, a new flash SF story of mine, “Catching a Ride“, was published in Perihelion SF.

Edinburgh Fringe

Though we had originally planned to go to Edinburgh for Turing Fest, it wasn’t held this year. Luckily, there was Fringe festival at the time of our scheduled visit, so besides sightseeing, we visited a couple of shows. The best highlight by far was the first one we attended: Man of Steal. James Freedman revealed some tricks (not only) pickpockets use and he did so in a very sophisticated and also entertaining way. Full of surprises and educating as well; a brilliant show.

Piaf: Love Conquers All was a great one-woman play focused on the life of Edith Piaf. Not having known much about Piaf’s life before, the play introduced me to it, and Laurene Hope was amazing at acting as well as singing.

Hecat’s Poison was a one-woman show too: a rendering of Shakespeare’s Macbeth for just one actress. S. T. Sato proved herself a brilliant actress, able to shift from one character to another on a whim and with the viewers always knowing what’s going on, because she gave each character a distinct performance style (without overdoing it). But as she had noted in the programme, Shakespeare is best done in full company. While she was great, the play lost much of its appeal with just one character at the scene at one moment. We could focus on each individual closely, which was fine, but the whole layer of interaction between characters was inevitably lost.

I Need A Doctor: A Whosical was an easy, fun affair. At some points, the singing was too off even for my untrained ears but it was good fun. Potted Sherlock was also fun but too aimed at children’s entertainment. Apparently, I should have read more reviews up ahead. And we had seen some interesting street performances, especially magicians. Also, Experimental: The Show That Plays With Your Mind was a great show, which gave us a good laugh and some material to think of.

Overall, we had a good, inspirational time in Edinburgh.

…and the camp!

Could I have expected a children’s camp to be a highlight of the summer? It was brilliant. The kids were great: curious, thoughtful, nice, mostly working together well. And some of them just completely amazed me by the depth and range of their knowledge. Just wow. They’re on a good way to become truly great scientists one day. And maybe science fiction writers…? But most importantly, all of them are already great people.

We had good viewing conditions two nights and could spend the time observing the sky. I learned just how much a hopeless theorist I am – a bookworm who can find her way through science papers but virtually unable to successfully point a telescope at a chosen object of interest and follow it on the sky. Well, I’m determined to learn til the next time if I go the following year too! For now, I had taught the basics about our solar system, exoplanets, Kuiper & Oort and icy objects with possible subsurface oceans and I had also prepared some games like a simulated space mission or Mars exploration. It had been great fun and I hope the kids had even much more fun than us instructors. There had also been some unexpected funny moments like when my colleague found a bunch of costumes stuck among the art supplies the last full day of the camp, just before announcing the winning team and giving off prizes and diplomas. The kids fell silent for a second when we walked into the room, and then burst into laughter. So if you by any chance encounter a photo of me dressed up as a crocodile, standing next to a bee and a chicken, you’ll know where it’s from.

I will miss this summer.

London: before Worldcon

Having arrived to London five days before Worldcon, I got to explore what the city can offer and found several interesting places to visit not only for a geek, but certainly very recommendable to one. The best highlight of those was the Ships, Clocks & Stars exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Not only is the search for precise longitudal measurements an interesting topic itself, but the exhibiton is also brilliantly composed and can offer an insight into the atmosphere surrounding the quest for winning the Longitude Act prize and allowing ships navigate the world safely. Sitting by an animated table with the comissioners of the Board of Longitude and listening to their disputes about whom the prize should be awarded was just priceless and seeing Harrison’s timekeepers and their development highly interesting.

Another exhibition, loosely connected to this one, is Longitude Punk’d, a steampunkey take on the longitude quest. This one is based at the Greenwich Observatory inside Flamsteed’s house. No fan of steampunk should skip this hillarious piece. This exhibiton is sort of two in one: you can look around Flamsteed’s house for serious and have fun over the fictional exhibits. Although, the one with the highest weirdness factor was a real submission for the Longitude Prize.

Science Museum is great to see too. I personally most liked the part focused on James Watt and the development of steam engines (yeah, steampunkers should visit here too) but the whole museum is fine. If you want to really explore it, take at least a day for it, better two (if you end sooner you can always try to visit the Natural History Museum but beware of queues – we’ve walked around two times and each time there was a truly horribly looking queue – not just for the special exhibitons but for the whole museum).

Ships, Clocks & Stars and the Watt exhibition have an important thing in common: They can remind us that the stuff we take for granted today and teach at primary schools was a part of painstakingly and slowly achieved progress. Could you spend several decades trying to assemble a precise enough clock that would run correctly on a ship? Would you choose a life in a tiny workshop, making and repairing scientific instruments day after day while running experiments in several science fields and trying to bring something new to mankind? (And now I’m probably inadvertently making it sound very pompous.) The thing is: we don’t see the endless days and nights spent with drawings and calculations and loose ends, year after year. We only see the results – and today, they might not at first sight seem so impressive since we’ve got computers and smartphones for everything and everyone can find their longitude or steam engine plans on their phone. And if you see the exhibitions, you can only stand in awe of how much skill, curiosity, intelligence, hard work and determination was needed to achieve scientific and engineering progress – and yet there was little heroic in it, though we might want to picture it that way. Sustained hard work – that might be the most accurate way of looking at it.

I’ve mentioned the easy information access allowed us by using computers. The museum also has a great part focused on the history of computing. (And among other things, you can see a half of Babbage’s brain there. Just saying. Braaains…)

Camden Town and its famous market are other locations for a fan to visit. Whether you’re a geek, goth, punk, otaku, steampunker or anything else, you might want to take a look over this place. And be sure to visit the food market. The stands offer meals from all over the world. The mixture of smells and sights is wonderful.

And if you wondered what it looks like in Camden…