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February 17-19, 2023 — Westin Boston Seaport District
January 12, 2015

Mini Interviews with Guy Consolmagno, Steven Popkes, and Tom Easton

Today’s set of Mini Interviews features participants who have something very cool in common. SCIENCE! Whether it’s the stars your after or something a little closer to earth, you’re sure to enjoy meeting Guy Consolmagno, Tom Easton, and Steven Popkes.

Guy Consolmagno

Former MITSFS skinner and former Boskone special guest, Jesuit astronomer at the Vatican Br. Guy researches meteorites and asteroids, and has written books on popular astronomy and science/religion topics, including the upcoming Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? Visit Guy’s website or follow him on Twitter @specolations.

What are you looking forward to at Boskone?

For me, Boskone is a homecoming. Boston was my home (or at least home-away-from-home) for nearly 20 years, during the 1970s and 1980s, and I still have so many friends in the area. It’s also the time and place when I first encountered Fandom. (My first SF convention was Boskone 10 in 1973, if I recall correctly). So while I love the panels and the art show and the dealer’s room, the real thing that brings me back to Boskone are the people… Old friends, of course. But this also means, the people I meet for the first time here! A few years ago at a Boskone I got to finally meet a couple of writers (Sharon Lee and Steve Miller) whose work I had long admired. Last year, I met a young writer (Sarah Beth Durst) whose work was completely new to me, but I have become quite a fan of hers as a result. Michael Flynn and John Farrell are two others who immediately come to mind, whom I first met at a Boskone. My experience of science fiction is far richer for having participated at this convention.

What event or experience stands out as one of those ‘defining moments’ that shaped who you are today?

In the fall of 1970, I was a miserable freshman at Some Other College in Boston when I visited Mike Timmreck, my best friend from high school, who was attending MIT. Mike showed me the MIT Science Fiction Society library, and I was gobsmacked. You could actually hold original pulp SF magazines from the 1930’s! I pulled one off the shelf — and immediately another MITSFS member, Marc Alpert yelled at me — “if you want to just browse through the old magazines, go to the bound volumes!” Which made perfect sense. (Marc and Mike are both still great friends of mine, after all these years.) Something told me then, that this was where I belonged… where I could dream, and where I could maybe make those dreams come true. I transferred to MIT, became a scientist, and never looked back.

How would you describe your work to people who might be unfamiliar with you?

I am a Jesuit brother — a member of a religious order — and a planetary scientist, an active research with all the usual academic credentials and published papers. I also give a lot of popular talks, and write a lot of non-fiction books, about both my jobs. I see myself as a missionary, yes — but as a missionary of science, and science fiction, to people who might be afraid of them. My message? Like science fiction, science itself is actually about more than just the subject matter we study or write about; it’s about people — our human curiosity, our desire to know and know more and know better. It’s about the ways that we test the assumptions we make all the time about the universe. It’s about holding onto the things that stay the same so that we can be free to explore the things that are always changing… and being able to recognize which things are in the first category, and which are in the second.

Tom Easton

Tom Easton will retire in 2014 from his position as Professor of Science at Thomas College in Waterville, Maine. On the way to this event, he has written science fiction and textbooks and has spent 30 years as the Analog book columnist. For more information, visit Tom’s website.

How would you describe your work to people who might be unfamiliar with you?

I am constantly reviewing and commenting on the work of others, in science (teaching, textbooks) and in science fiction (my 30 years as the Analog book columnist are over, but the attitude remains).

What are you working on now? What excites or challenges you about this project?

The biggie at the moment is the 12th edition of my Science, Technology, and Society issues textbook (McGraw-Hill). I love finding topics such as the fight between utilities and home solar advocates. They are often very sfnal!

What is it that you enjoy most about Boskone?

I like seeing old friends and making connections for projects such as the Pink Narcissus I and Judith K. Dial have been doing. Since I like to talk, doing panels is a big part of the fun as well.

Steven Popkes

An expatriate Missourian, Steven Popkes makes his home in New England. Along with writing science fiction, he pursues other impossible tasks such as growing watermelons and making a drinkable Concord wine. For more information, visit Steven’s website.

What is it that you enjoy most and what are you looking forward to at Boskone?

I’ll answer both: I like the science that shows up. Science in the panels. Science in the fiction. Authors, scientists, engineers, all talking about how the world really works. In fiction. In life. In industry.

What are you working on now? What excites or challenges you about this project?

I like to think my work answers questions. In this case the question is what does child abuse, redemption and the terraforming of Venus have in common? The answer is my book. The challenge is to bring all the pieces together.

If you could recommend a book to your teenage-self, what book would you recommend? Why did you pick that book?

It would be Robert F Jones Blood Sport: A Journey up the Hassayampa. This is what fiction can and can’t do. This is why it is important. This is why words are both more and less important than you think they are. You don’t learn from a magnificent success; you learn from a magnificent attempt.


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