On March 31, the UK Firefly and Serenity podcast Sending a Wave announced that it was coming to an end after twelve years of keeping Browncoats around the world up-to-date on all the latest conjurings in the Firefly fandom throughout the ‘verse. Sending a Wave will always be very special to all of us here at Take Back the Sky, because the podcast was the first media outlet to interview Jeff and me (way back in the 2012) about our efforts to convince Elon Musk and SpaceX to name their first Crew Dragon Serenity. Not only did our interview on Sending a Wave spread the news of what we were doing to a worldwide audience, it also gave our campaign a level of legitimacy in the Browncoat community that it hadn’t had previously. This was especially crucial to the success of our first online petition to SpaceX, which ended up with thousands of signatures from every continent except Antarctica, accompanied by comments in multiple languages.
About a year later we had the pleasure of meeting Wendy Scott, co-creator and host of Sending a Wave, in person at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con in June of 2013. At the con that weekend, Wendy interviewed me again about my work as the event coordinator of Pittsburgh’s Can’t Stop the Serenity charity screenings, and together we attended the Firefly panel that featured Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, Jewel Staite and Gina Torres. Wendy is a lovely woman who is tremendously knowledgeable about science-fiction and the film industry and an absolutely fascinating person to talk to. One of my favorite things about Wendy, both as a podcast host and as a friend, is that her “BS-meter” is finely-tuned, and she’s not afraid to call anyone out if their story has the odor of a fabrication or a retcon. (If you don’t believe me, you can hear her give me a much-needed history lesson upon our first meeting in Sending a Wave Episode 93: The One with Dragons!)
When I heard about the end of Sending a Wave, I contacted Wendy to ask her if it would be okay if I achieved some closure of sorts by bringing things full circle and interviewing her about what had been great run of a groundbreaking Firefly and Serenity podcast. She graciously agreed, and on April 28 we spent nearly three hours on Skype talking about everything from the podcast itself to geek culture, science-fiction of all kinds, Joss Whedon, CSTS, the current state of the film industry and even American and European politics. As you can guess, that conversation meandered in many different directions. The following is a transcript of questions Wendy answered that were specific to Sending a Wave:
Back in 2014, one of my favorite characters from DC Comics, John Constantine, was given his own television series on NBC. The series, which was simply called Constantine, starred Welsh actor Matt Ryan in the title role and used many of the classic stories from the original Hellblazer comics that were published by DC’s subsidiary comics imprint Vertigo. Despite strong stories and a very good cast, NBC never quite figured out how to promote Constantine properly, and it was cancelled after just one 13-episode season due to poor ratings in its Friday night time slot, much to the disappointment of a small but loyal fan base.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Since the earliest days of this site, I have written annually about a very somber week in the space community. That week begins today, with the anniversary of the flash fire that occurred on the launch pad during an Apollo 1 test 51 years ago, killing astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. Tomorrow will mark the 32nd anniversary of the mid-launch explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, which claimed the lives of astronauts Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik, Francis (Dick) Scobee, Ronald McNair, Mike Smith and Ellison Onizuka. Just four days later, on February 1, we will see the 25th anniversary of the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated during re-entry with the loss of astronauts David Brown, Rick Husband, Laurel Clark, Kalpana Chawla, Michael Anderson, William McCool, and Ilan Ramon.
Over the years I have written so much about these men and women, their bravery, their sacrifice and their willingness to give their lives if it meant that humanity would come one step closer to a future in which living and working out in the black was a regular part of our daily existence. (If you’d like to read any of it, simply search this site’s archives for any given year in the months of January and February.) As this week of remembrance approached again this year, I realized that I really didn’t have anything new to say that hadn’t already been said about them. I felt that at this point, if there is any one thing that bears repeating, it is that they should be remembered as heroes. Big. Damn. Heroes. Every one of them.
So this year, I would simply like to call your attention to how NASA has decided to honor these astronauts, the crew of Challenger in particular.
A couple of months ago AbbyShot, makers of fine clothing for many popular geek franchises, announced it was seeking Browncoats who would be interested in writing Firefly-related articles for their blog. One of the Browncoats who answered the call was Take Back the Sky co-founder Christopher Tobias, who is now moonlighting as a blogger over at abbyshot.com.
When Chris was asked to submit ideas for articles for the blog, it’s no surprise the first thing that came to mind was an overview of Take Back the Sky and its six-year campaign. The end result of that inspiration is now the latest entry on AbbyShot’s blog. It’s the first of many articles that Chris plans to write for them.
We’d like to thank AbbyShot for boosting our signal, and for giving one of our founding members another outlet with which he can express his love of all things Firefly and Serenity.
And when you head over to abbyshot.com to check out Chris’ blog post, be sure to take a look at the Firefly and Serenity merchandise they have for sale. They offer a very accurate replica of Malcolm Reynolds’ belt and holster rig, as well as a replica of his suspenders and replicas of his iconic browncoats from both the TV series and the motion picture. (If you’ve ever seen Chris’ Mal Reynolds costume at a con or a Can’t Stop the Serenity screening, then you’ve probably seen him modeling the AbbyShot suspenders and the Serenity variant of their browncoat.) If you’re looking for a holiday gift for that special Browncoat on your list, you aren’t likely to find finer Firefly or Serenity apparel anywhere in the ‘verse. We’re sure you’ll agree it’s very shiny.
Peace, love and rockets…
Hey, everybody. It’s Chris Tobias, co-founder of Take Back the Sky. I usually don’t post on our blog under my own name, but I feel the need to take personal responsibility for this one, and by that I mean both for what I’m about to say and for the social media post that gave me reason to say it.
On November 25, I tweeted an article by the Smithsonian on Take Back the Sky‘s Twitter feed about Mike Hughes, a self-taught rocket scientist who designed and built his own rocket, which he planned to launch this weekend with himself as a pilot. My comment on the tweet was: “This is the #Browncoats spirit!” You can still see the original tweet on Take Back the Sky‘s Twitter feed. It has not been deleted, and we have no plans to do so.
That in and of itself is relatively innocuous, but that’s not the whole story, of course. You see, Mr. Hughes was going to all this trouble because he was hoping that it would help to prove his belief that the Earth is flat! The article also stated that afterwards he planned to run for governor, which is somewhat eccentric, to say the least. I thought it was obvious that my admiration was solely for his gumption in designing, building, launching and piloting his own rocket. I should have known better.
This morning I got an e-mail from Take Back the Sky‘s other co-founder, Jeff Cunningham. He wanted to know if the tweet got the same amount of attention on Twitter that the cross-post had generated on our Facebook page (it hadn’t). According to Jeff, my posting of this one article had generated more discussion and comments than 99% of the other things we’ve ever posted to our Facebook page, and most of it wasn’t very positive. When I tweeted “This is the #Browncoats spirit!” I was referring to the fact that Mike Hughes was willing to do something against seemingly impossible odds because he believed strongly in a cause, even if the majority didn’t agree with him. But when I looked at the comments on Facebook, it was obvious that people were focusing on the fact that he believed in a flat Earth and was not a proponent of science, even though he was obviously making use of science in order to accomplish what he had set out to do.
In his e-mail Jeff made it clear that he did not see how Mike Hughes’ flight, or the Smithsonian‘s coverage of it, advanced an anti-science agenda. The Smithsonian is the last institution that either of us would accuse of that, and Jeff and I agreed that should be quite evident in the tone of their article. While I was relieved that he understood the motivation behind my posting it, he was obviously concerned that now some of our followers might actually believe that we were anti-science (despite over six years of statements to the contrary on this site, as well as Facebook and Twitter) just because we praised this man’s actions, even if we were viewing them independent (no pun intended) of his motivations. So I decided to take a closer look at the comments, and was very disappointed by what I saw.
Autumn arrived in the Northern Hemisphere this past week, which means it’s time for us to reprise our “Leaf on the Wind” campaign to convince SpaceX to name their first Crew Dragon Serenity.
We’ve written about this campaign here a couple of times before, but in case you don’t want to go sifting through the archives to read about it, here’s how it works:
We’re asking each and every supporter of Take Back the Sky to go into his or her yard (or perhaps a park) and pick a leaf. It should be a leaf that is either still on the branch, or one that is very freshly fallen. Put that leaf in a small, sealable plastic bag, and put it in an envelope with a short note to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk and/or president Gwynne Shotwell asking SpaceX to name its first Crew Dragon Serenity (and I do mean short– one or two sentences will do). Once you’ve done that, seal the envelope, slap a stamp on it and mail it to this address:Space Exploration Technologies Attn: Elon Musk (or Attn: Gwynne Shotwell) 1 Rocket Road Hawthorne, CA 90250 USA
When Elon Musk and Gwynne Shotwell get piles of leaves big enough to jump in, we’re pretty sure they’ll get the message that Browncoats around the world are passionate about the idea of a manned US spacecraft called Serenity!
Now, here are a few tips for a successful “Leaf on the Wind:”
- I can’t speak for Canada or Mexico, but for those in America, the US Postal Service will allow the mailing of plant matter only as long as it will not decompose before it reaches its destination, so be sure to pick a leaf that is either still on the branch or very freshly fallen. Those pretty autumn colors may look just like Serenity’s logo, but Elon Musk will never see them if the envelope gets flagged and pulled because it has a certain aroma of unpleasantness about it when it arrives in California. If you want your leaf to stay fresh longer, you can blow a tiny amount of air into the bag (not too much, or it won’t fit in the envelope) before you seal it. That way you really are sending SpaceX a leaf “on the wind.” Another helpful technique is to take a very small wad of paper towel, toilet paper or Kleenex tissue and moisten it slightly, and then wrap it around the leaf’s stem before you seal it in the bag.
- The note you include should be brief and hand-written. This will set it apart from the letters that have already been arriving. Again, one or two sentences will do. (I chose to include a little Haiku with mine: “Watch your Dragon soar/With the name Serenity/A leaf on the wind.”) It’s probably also a good idea to sign it, because CEO’s and presidents of big companies tend to get a little nervous when they start getting anonymous notes in the mail! If you want to make it seem informal, yet personal, try signing just your first name and where you’re from (for example, “Chris from Pittsburgh”).
- Make sure you know what kind of leaf you’ve chosen so you’re not sending a leaf that’s hazardous to the touch. (We want Elms and Maples, not Poison Ivy or Poison Sumac!)
- For our supporters who are not in North America, you can still get involved, but it will take a little bit more work. Since your leaves on the wind aren’t likely to arrive before they decompose, you’ll have to think outside the box, but you could send a handmade leaf cut out of construction paper. They may not be real, but I’m sure they still will be all kinds of pretty, and you won’t have to worry about them losing their beauty before Elon Musk or Gwynne Shotwell ever sees them. If you don’t want to go through that trouble, feel free to copy, print and cut out this one (coloring it is optional, but including a little note is still a really good idea):
- Regardless of whether your leaf on the wind is hand-picked or hand-made, be sure to tell people you’ve sent it on message boards and on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (#LeafOnTheWind), and encourage them to do the same. If we want this campaign to succeed, we need as many people as possible to participate. Also, this campaign is not meant to take the place of regular letters. Ideally, the two should work in tandem. We need to keep sending those plain old ordinary letters as well!
- Don’t forget: just like letters, leaves don’t have to be a “one and done” statement. Fall lasts about three months, and that leaves you a lot of time (see what did there?) to send an awful lot of fall foliage to SpaceX!
So, if you’re a Browncoat who would like to see a manned US spacecraft named Serenity, or just someone who believes that bridging the gap between science-fiction and hard science will help rekindle American interest in space exploration, please take a few moments of your time and the cost of a postage stamp to send SpaceX a leaf on the wind– literally.
Peace, love and rockets…