Liveblogging Launch Pad

Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop

One of the great things about having an astronomy workshop for writers is that they tend to write about the workshop as it’s going on. That’s a good thing for me because as an instructor, the near-real-time feedback on our lessons is invaluable.

The downside to being an instructor is that there is no time to blog, myself. So, while I shall endeavor to offer my thoughts on a later date, I’ll share the posts from the attendees here and keep updating throughout the week (in theory):


Sunday, July 14 2013

Brenda Clough – Liveblogging Launch Pad

The Workshop

Monday, July 15 2013

Liz Argall – Monday, day one of Launch Pad (Liz also has a running comic she’s making during the workshop as well)

Chaz Brenchley – Liveblogging Launch Pad

Jennifer Campbell-Hicks – Launch Pad workshop: Day 1

Doug Farren – Launchpad 13 Day 2

Jamie Todd Rubin – Launchpad Day 1: Space is Big… And So Are Robots

Tuesday, July 16 2013

Liz Argall – Day 2 at Launch Pad, part one. All kinds of light and a little angular momentum

Chaz Brenchley – Liveblogging Launch Pad

Jennifer Campbell-Hicks – Launch Pad workshop: Day 2

Doug Farren – Launchpad 13 Day 3

Jamie Todd Rubin – Launchpad Day 2: Sex In Space and Other Interesting Scientific Tidbits

Wednesday, July 17 2013

Chaz Brenchley – Liveblogging Launch Pad

Chaz Brenchley – Liveblogging Launch Pad (second post)

Jennifer Campbell-Hicks – Launch Pad workshop: Day 3

Brenda Clough – Liveblogging Launch Pad

Doug Farren – Launchpad 13 Day 4

Anna Leahy & Doug Dechow – Launch Pad: Astronomy for Writers

Jamie Todd Rubin – Launchpad Day 3: At the Top of the World

Thursday, July 18 2013

Jennifer Campbell-Hicks – Launch Pad workshop: Day 4

Brenda Clough – Liveblogging Launch Pad

Doug Farren – Launchpad 13 Day 5

Friday, July 19 2013

Chaz Brenchley – Liveblogging Launch Pad

Doug Farren – Launchpad 13 Day 6

Saturday, July 20 2013

Chaz Brenchley – Liveblogging Launch Pad

Jennifer Campbell-Hicks – Launch Pad workshop: Day 5

Brenda Clough – Liveblogging Launch Pad

Jamie Todd Rubin – Launch Pad Days 4 and 5 (Catching Up)

Departure / Post Workshop

Sunday, July 21 2013

Doug Farren – Launchpad 13 Day 7 & 8

Monday, July 22 2013

Andrew Penn Romie – Launch Pad 2013: Space is Big. Really Big.

Liz Argall – Launch Pad Video Blog burbling summary

Jamie Todd Rubin – Launch Pad Days 6 and 7

Tuesday, July 23 2013

Jamie Todd Rubin – Going Paperless: The Paperless Classroom: A Case Study at Launch Pad

Jamie todd Rubin – The Amazing Friends I Made at Launch Pad

Wednesday, July 23 2013

Caren Gussoff – Not to scale

Thursday, July 24 2013

Anna Leahy & Doug Dechow – Launch Pad: Facts about the Moon

Wednesday, July 31 2013

Anna Leahy & Doug Dechow – Launch Pad: The people

Thank you, Launch Pad founders!

It’s been a really busy 30 days gearing up for this year’s Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop for Writers, and I haven’t even started putting together my presentations yet. That’s because I learned that apart from an actual day job, running a crowd funding campaign was almost a second job in and of itself.

But it was so worth it.

Due to a lack of NASA and NSF funding (that is, to say, none), Mike Brotherton and crew had to have attendees come to Launch Pad at their own expense, charge them a $500 $300 tuition (reduced!), and then come up with a way to raise the rest of the money to have any kind of workshop this year.

Fortunately, it all worked out, thanks to these awesome people:



Uwingu (which means “sky” in Swahili, and is pronounced “oo-wing-oo”) is an organization led by a team of leading astronomers, planetary scientists, former space program executives, and educators. They employ novel techniques, such as exoplanet naming and adoption, to raise funds for qualified activities.

Vonda N. McIntyre

Vonda N. McIntyre Vonda N. McIntyre is the author of the Hugo and Nebula-award winning novel Dreamsnake and the Nebula winning The Moon and the Sun. McIntyre wrote the Starfarers as well as its three sequels, later referring to it as “my Best SF TV Series Never Made”, and came up with Hikaru as the first name of the Star Trek character Mr. Sulu.

David Brin

David Brin David Brin is a scientist, best-selling author and tech-futurist. His novels include Earth, The Postman (filmed in 1997), and Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War. A leading commentator and speaker on modern trends, his nonfiction book The Transparent Society won the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association. Brin’s newest novel EXISTENCE explores the ultimate question: billions of planets are ripe for life. So where is Everybody?

Ellen Datlow

Ellen Datlow was the fiction editor at Omni magazine. She co-edited the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror series, and now edits The Best Horror of the Year published by Night Shade Books. Among her many awards are the Hugo for Best Professional Editor in 2002 and 2005, and for Best Short Form Editor in 2009 and 2010. She co-hosts the Fantastic Fiction reading series at the KGB Bar in NYC. In 2013, Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, an anthology edited by Datlow and Terry Windling, will be published by Tor Books.

Jody Lynn Nye

Jody Lynn Nye is the author/co-author of over forty published novels and over one hundred short stories, specializing in science fiction, fantasy action novels, and humor. Her humorous series include The Magic Touch and Mythology 101. Her military science fiction include Strong Arm Tactics and View from the Imperium. Jody began collaborating with Robert Lynn Asprin on the MythAdventures series in 2003. Ater Asprin’s death in 2008 she continued MythAdventures and is now writing sequels to his contemporary fantasy series, Dragons. She currently teaches the annual Science Fiction Writing Workshop at Dragon*Con.

Richard Ramsey

Richard Ramsey is a writer living in the Pacific Northwest. He is a regular story contributor to the award winning WORDOS Writer’s Workshop, a clarion based critique group consisting of mainly Science Fiction and Fantasy writers. He is the first place winner in the Ghost and Ghouls category of the 2003 Planetree Publishing Limited writing competition for Dead Man Stout, and second place for his story Thoughts Out of Time which appeared in MOTA 4 Integrity by TripleTree Publishing. He is currently at work on his first novel, Tears of the Shaman.

Ali Ries

Ali Ries (DBA Casperium) is a digital artist specializing in space and astronomical art. Her work has been featured in Star Trek: Stellar Cartography (cover), the film Star Trek: Renegades, Discovery Networks series Through the Wormhole and Curiosity, and Universal Television/Studios BSG: Blood and Chrome. She is currently working on the digital effects for the upcoming movie Space Command, and the web series Nobility.

Deborah J. Ross

Deborah J. Ross began publishing professionally in 1982 as Deborah Wheeler with Jaydium and Northlight, and short stories in Asimov’s, F & SF, Realms Of Fantasy, Star Wars: Tales From Jabba’s Palace, and most of the Sword & Sorceress anthologies. Under her birth name, Ross, she continues the Darkover series created by the late Marion Zimmer Bradley. Her original novels include the epic fantasy trilogy, The Seven-Petaled Shield. Two of her stories, Mother Africa and The Price of Silence earned Honorable Mention in The Year’s Best SF.

Lori Ann White

Lori is a science writer for the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University. As a self-proclaimed science geek, an opportunity to use her degree in English to communicate the work at SLAC to the public is her dream job. She writes for SLAC Today, a daily newsletter. Her favorite work at SLAC is profiling the scientists who work there. “People have great tales, and you can display a sense of humor in the stories about them. It’s a great combination of human interest and science!”

Special Thanks

A huge thank-you to everyone who contributed to our Rocket Hub campaign to make this year’s event possible:

  • Forrest Johnson
  • Kari A Ramadorai
  • Jeffrey A. Carver
  • Glenn Dallas
  • Kate Nepveu
  • Michael Brotherton
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • John Murphy
  • Marc Laidlaw
  • Shannon Leight
  • Mary Turzillo
  • Ellise Heiskell
  • Nivair H. Gabriel
  • Robin Christian
  • Cecilia Ready
  • David D. Levine
  • Diane Turnshek
  • Eric James Stone
  • John Appel
  • Linda Nagata
  • Matthew Kressel
  • Mike Poole
  • Rina Weisman
  • Robert J. Trembley
  • Rudi Dornemann
  • Samantha Henderson
  • Sandra McDonald
  • Tanya Hale-Nurmi
  • Warren Marts
  • Christian Ready
  • Christopher Cornell
  • Katharine Mason
  • E.D. Trimm
  • Ella
  • Jamie Grove
  • Mike Blevins
  • Paul Witcover
  • Todd Vandemark
  • Jana Christine Remy
  • Chia Evers
  • C0r1n Sän Inman

The Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop is Nigh

Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop One of the greatest things about science fiction is that it inspires new and interesting areas of scientific inquiry. One example is in Carl Sagan’s Contact, where Sagan proposed a traversable wormhole as a means of transporting his heroine across the galaxy. It was this sort of idea that led Kip Thorne and his colleagues to actually come up with solutions to Einstein’s field equations that might make such wormholes a theoretical possibility. That’s an example of science fiction at its best.

On the other hand, poorly written science fiction not only makes for bad storytelling, but can further propagate misconceptions in the public’s mind about the universe (don’t get me started on all of the horrible science in Star Trek Into Darkness). That’s why Mike Brotherton, an astronomer at the University of Wyoming and a science fiction author himself, came up with a nifty idea – what if science fiction writers, editors, and filmmakers got together for a week and took an astronomy 101-level course? The result is the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop.

Last year, I was invited to be a guest instructor at Launch Pad and I was amazed at how enthusiastic the students were. It was a lot of work, but it was great to see the attendees getting so much out of it. I’m thrilled to be asked to be an instructor again this year, but this year’s workshop will be very different from previous years.

You see, the previous workshops were funded through grants from NASA and the NSF. After all, if the storytellers’ work helps educate the public (and since most writers are notoriously underpaid for their work), it would be nice to cover their travel and tuition costs. Unfortunately, with all of the cutbacks in funding, the only alternative left was to ask students to pay tuition and to see if we could raise funds to cover the rest of the costs. Happily, several did apply and we are having a workshop this year despite the lack of funding!

However, their tuition only covers part of our costs and so we’re seeking donations to help make up the rest. To that end, Uwingu kicked in with a generous donation which will really help us out this year. And we also set up a crowd funding campaign over at Rocket Hub (yes, we hosted there because of their name). Here’s the promotional video we created:

So what do you think? Can you kick in a few bucks to help us out? We’d really, really appreciate it!

The Sequester, NASA, and BRAIN


Sequestration is having a horrific effect on Americans from one coast to another (except, of course, for those that enacted it) and it’s only going to get worse as time goes by. We’re watching it unfold before our eyes – cuts in funding for schools, airport towers shutting down, federal employees and contractors being furloughed, and some rather horrible cuts to NASA.

But the news is decidedly mixed.

The Bad News is that NASA has had to suspend its Education and Public Outreach funding, which is funding that the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop depended on for some time, followed by National Science Foundation funding, which also has been sequestered. There is much I could write about this, but the folks over at Sci Show have done a great job summing it up for me very nicely:

Ironically, there is some good news here. Despite the cutbacks to its EPO programs, NASA’s budget actually got an increase of $200 million to develop planetary exploration – including a possible mission to Europa!

Not mentioned in the video is an exciting new BRAIN Initiative announced by the White House today. This could bear some very beneficial fruit in understanding just how we’re wried and how we can treat traumatic brain injuries and possibly psychological disorders.

Such as who the hell thought sequestration was a good idea?


Lest I get too snarky, I have to say that the BRAIN program is exactly what government should be doing to promote science. If it can benefit all of us and/or no private enterprise can justify investing in it, government funding should get it started. Just ask any company that uses technology pioneered by NASA, for example.

I should also point out that my Launch Pad partner Mike Brotherton offers his take on the sequester as well.