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A serious run for the X-Prize money will be made on 29Sep04 by Paul Allen’s SpaceShipOne. This will be the first launch for the prize, and the second launch for SS1 after it’s suborbital flight in June. Their 2nd Prize launch is set for October 2nd.

The Ansari X-Prize is $10M, to be awarded to the first team that puts the equivalent of 3 men in orbit, lands, and repeats the feat in 2 weeks in the same vehicle. No governments need apply; this is strictly for real people and private organizations or companies. The Romanian Team had a successful test launch on the 13th (yesterday as I write this); the Da Vinci Team has a launch for the prize set up on October 2nd of their Wildfire; and there are 23 more teams in for the prize.

Right now, SpaceShipOne and Wildfire are neck-and-neck, and I am rooting for Da Vinci. Allen is financing SS1 with his Microsoft earnings, using a radical new engine developed by SpaceDev, and launching from the back of a modified aircraft. Da Vinci is an all-volunteer team from Canada, financed by an online casino, and launching from a balloon! Now there is my kind of space program, by the people, for the people!

If you want to learn more about the X-Prize and the attitude behind it, here are a few more links you can look into. For attitude, the best story I have seen comes from Space Daily. To learn more about the engine behind SS1 (and their satellite launch vehicle) check out Universe Today.
If you want to check out all the Teams involved in the contest, XPrize Primary is your best bet. If you want to get directly involved, either as a Teacher looking to fire up your student’s, or a participant looking to enter, be sure to look into Build A Rocket. And if you are a teacher, be aware there is a prize (the EGGs prize) for the middle school team who can meet the criteria!

For anyone who is still not sure if they want to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, may I say you are Making a Mistake! If the movie’s home page didn’t convince you it was worth your time and money, let me point you to a wonderful interview with the lunatic behind the project, Kerry Conran. This is my kind of maniac; he spent most of the last decade building this movie on his home computer, but only 26 days filming the actors on set. In the process he may be spearheading a whole new breath of life into indi films, and big budget scifi movies as well. Using his approach, things like Ringworld or The Uplift Wars could be brought to the screen for less money than the national debt (or even the interest on it). And if this wasn’t enough, his next project may well be A Princess of Mars, the first book in the E.R.Burroughs John Carter of Mars series. Would I love to see that one as a movie; like so many other great SF books, the scope has often been beyond the technology of the movie industry. Maybe with this new paradigm, it will finally get made.

There are some great movies hitting the theaters in the next few weeks; at least one of these should catch your attention!

First up is Resident Evil 2, Apocalypse. I am not a horror fan, but from the trailers this looks like it may be more action than thriller. I have been waiting a long time for the next two, and am thrilled that it looks like Sky Captain and the World Of Tomorrow will finally come out on the 17th. On that same day another one I have been eagerly awaiting also hits the screen; Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. And word just got to me that there is an American release set for the Brit spoof Sean of the Dead. What fun, see you in the theaters!

The other thing Cross-Universe means to me is also known as Paratime, Otherwhen, Alternate History, and the Multiverse. The list from this group would take MANY entries, and is my favorite form of ‘What If’ entertainment. My introduction to it was through H. Beam Piper’s Lord Calvin of Otherwhen , a serious classic I had reread 5 times before I found my next example. For more detail on Piper’s stories, and a wonderful Sideways In Time site, be sure to check out UChronia’s Piper Page.

A few others include James P. Hogan’s Paths To Otherwhere , Joan Aiken’s Wolves series, anthologies such as Roads Not Taken , game universes like Steve Jackson and GURPS, and way more than I can go into here.

Eric Flint and Harry Turtledove are building some of my favorite new stories in this category; the history of alternate history goes back to Ben Disraeli in the early 1800’s, and Winston Churchill (at the same link) in 1931. I don’t find it a great surprise that the folks who lived their lives at the pivot points of history were some of the earliest contributors to this genre!

And drop by Alt.History , just for a grin.

I have wanted to do an entry on scifi cross-universe pages for a while, but the phrase means two different things to me, and I couldn’t decide which to do first. So the heck with it, here are examples of the first, the next entry will start on the other!

In Fan circles, a cross-universe story is one where characters from 2 different fictional universes get together (also called Shared Universe stories) and interact. Some of them can be quite outrageous, like the classic “You Can’t Do That On Trek” site, where fans contributed some of the funniest Photoshopped images you ever saw (I’ll post the link if I can ever find a live version of it; the Paramount legal dept. blue meanies went after it pretty hard, my last good link to it died in 2001). Another great one, still online, is Stone Trek ; Star Trek meets the Flintstones! What makes this one special is the Flash Webisodes, nine at last count and still growing. And the list goes on, with FanFic , Logical Comparisons , RPG’s , Board/Model Games , and more. Each of these categories deserves it’s own entry here, with lot’s of details and info.

It isn’t just the Fan’s who have fun with this. The difference is, the Pro’s actually make money with it. Authors sometimes open up their worlds for others to play in; like Keith Laumer’s BOLO, Fred Saberhagen’s Berserker, and David Weber’s Honorverse, to name a few. (BTW, seen the ads for Sky Captain? Wouldn’t Angelina Jolie make the perfect Honor Harrington, when it’s time to make the movies?). Sometimes a group of authors rally around a concept and build the universe in parallel, like Wild Cards, The Fleet, and Chicks In Chainmail. And if you don’t know what any of those are, run, don’t walk, to your nearest library or bookstore; You are missing something wonderful!

Books aren’t the only media; comics have a long history of this kind of thing, starting with single meetings within the same House (Batman showing up in a Superman issue kind of thing). Then they took it between Houses, although mostly the independents. Then a few brave souls took it between media types, with things like The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. And let’s not forget the movies, with offerings like the film version of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or Alien Vs. Predator. But then, movies were doing it back in the Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman days.

OK, see why I didn’t want to get started? This is just the tip of the iceberg on this topic, almost no intro at all compared to what lives in this realm. If you haven’t been there before, I hope at least one link here fires your imagination. I will be returning to this topic a lot in future entries’, count on it!

It is with sadness I pass on this link; another TOS star is in retrograde. After Spock, Scotty was the character I identified with most. Here is the short version, from the BBC .