Literature Sister Site Launches

The Literature StackExchange site is now available to the public.  If you’ve got questions that need answering by a literature expert, then this is a good place to ask – note that their current definition of “literature” is quite wide (it includes popular fiction, not just “those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit”).

The site actually has quite a large proportion of questions that are about science fiction and fantasy literature, so if you’ve got some expertise there, you might be interested in answering some questions for them (if you’ve got an account on our site with at least 200 reputation, then if you associate the two accounts – you’ll be prompted to do this if you use the same OpenID – then you’ll start off there with 101 reputation).

If you’ve got a question about science fiction or fantasy literature, where do you ask that question, now that there’s both sites?  Consider who you would like an answer from: an expert in science fiction / fantasy, or an expert in literature in general; different types of questions will suit each site.  Some questions will be perfectly acceptable on both sites, and in those cases it’s up to the asker to decide where they’d like to ask (in general questions won’t be migrated between the sites, and duplicates may exist on both sites, as long as they are not exact duplicates).  You should definitely not post the same question on both sites, however.

If you’ve got questions about writing science fiction or fantasy, then you’re still probably best off asking over at Writers rather than Literature or our site.  Note that the Literature site currently accepts recommendation questions, which are off-topic at our site, so if you’re after a science fiction or fantasy recommendation, then you can ask there (we continue to welcome these questions in chat, as well).

iPad PADD application: disappointing

Ever since it was released, the iPad has been compared to Star Trek’s PADD – the “personal access display device” used since the original series.  The official iPad PADD app (from CBS Interactive) brings the PADD-iPad loop full circle by turning an iPad into a PADD simulator (US$5 in the App Store).

The interface of the app mimics the LCARS (Library Computer Access and Retrieval System) interface that was used in The Next Generation.  This is well done, with appropriate sound effects, Majel Barrett‘s voice, and good-looking graphics.  The only complaint I have here is that the app doesn’t rotate to portrait (which PADDs in TNG certainly did). Note that while it looks authentic, this is mostly cosmetic – tapping an image of a cast member will take you to the cast index page, not the page specific to that character, for example, and many areas you would expect to be ‘hot’ do nothing at all.

The app provides access to the information available on (aliens, locations, technology, and an episode guide).  This is the most disappointing aspect of the app —one of the reasons that I purchased it was that I hoped it would be a useful reference source for answering [tag]star-trek[/tag] questions; unfortunately the information available is extremely limited and superficial.  If the app was an interface to Memory Alpha or Wikipedia, it would contain a wealth of information, in an attractive interface (and would be much closer to the actual PADD).  Although Memory Alpha’s content is only available under a non-commerical license (non-commerical and Star Trek merchandising are rather like matter/antimatter), I think Wikipedia’s content could have been included (supplementing the official content) and would have significantly increased the amount of information available.

Personally, I would have preferred if the links went beyond Star Trek information, and if this was a LCARS interface to a true encyclopedia (Wikipedia would suffice).  There are plenty of other Wikipedia browsers, but this one would hold a certain fan appeal.  I doubt I would use it for most Wikipedia searches, but it would appropriately set the mood when doing Star Trek research.

The app description does say “The official Star Trek PADD app database does not contain all information within the Star Trek Universe.  We will continue to update the database as information becomes available”.  I’m hoping that they do mean the whole universe here (and not simply whatever is available on, and I’m hopeful (but skeptical) that there will be regular updates that significantly increase the amount of content available.

I’m keeping the app installed on one of my iPads for now, but I suspect that I’ll rarely use it, and when I next purge unused apps, it’s likely to go.  If you’re only interested in the cosmetic appeal, or if the shallow information available at is all you’re interested in, then it might be worth $5 to you.

Elvis Has Left the Building

Renovation logoWith the Closing Ceremonies complete at 4 PM today, Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction Convention has officially drawn to a close. Technically, this was the shortest Worldcon ever, since chair Patty Wells forgot to gavel the con open at the Opening Ceremonies on Wednesday. So officially, we have not actually been at Worldcon, but just an amazing five day simulation. It’s the kind of thing that SF&F fans take completely in stride. Patty gaveled the con open and shut at the Closing Ceremonies. I’ve gotta say, it’s been an awfully well-done simulation; my feet hurt.

Chicon 7 siteNow, it’s onward to Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention, in Chicago, to be held August 30 through September 3, 2012. We met with the Convention Chair of Chicon, and perhaps Stack Exchange will have a presence there. Watch this space.

We were able to reach many science fiction authors, artists, and fans, and we gave away a lot of Stack swag. Your tip for the day: writers and musicians (who do a lot of autographing) think the Stack Exchange retractable Sharpies are awesome.

Though Renovation is over, we still have stories from Reno to file. Over the next few days, we’ll be posting an interview with a SF&F podcaster (just as soon as we get home and edit the audio); writing a post talking about some of the panels we attended; and probably one or two more.

The Hugo Awards: Live Coverage

The con ends tomorrow, but the key event happens tonight in the Tuscany Ballroom at the Peppermill Hotel and Casino: the presentation of the Hugo Awards. If you’re not with us here in Reno, you’ll be able to follow along in two ways:

Renovation will be providing a live video stream via UStream. That’s scheduled to start just before 8 PM PDT.

There will also be text coverage via CoverItLive, also beginning a few minutes before 8 PM PDT. You’ll be able to find that coverage on the Hugo Awards site.

More details about the Hugo Awards ceremony and the live coverage at the Renovation 2011 Hugo Ceremony page. If you need a refresher on the nominees, that’s also on the Renovation site.

We’re not going to reveal all of our votes, but just for fun, here’s how we voted in two categories:

Best Novel:

Dori: Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis
Tom: The Dervish House by Ian McDonald

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:

Dori: Toy Story 3

Tom: Inception

Let’s see who picked correctly!

Late-breaking news: here’s the complete list of winners.

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