On August 3rd, that’s this coming up Wednesday, at 7 in the PM (stardate 94192.84) a vortex of stories and science is forming right in the middle of The Last Bookstore. Not only will we have Dr. Ingrid Daubar from NASA/JPL and Dr. Amy Hofmann from CalTech/JPL – which is already two stellar events combined into one cosmic superevent – but we’ll also have the just barely contained supernova Jessica Fox. She makes movies, she writes books, she works with scientists, she smokes a pipe like some crusty, old school genius: holy cow, who is this person?!
Here is just the outer ring….
Eric Larkin – Ok. I’ll be honest: you have so much going on, it’s tough to know where to begin. You’ve got this strong science track, with your astronomy studies and work with NASA. On the other side, there is a real art pedigree, with your filmmaking and writing. It kinda looks like you’re living the dream right now with a foot in both worlds. Did you start with a specific vision of what you wanted to do in life?
What would be your ultimate dream job?
Jessica Fox – I’m what happens when an artist and an engineer decide to have a kid. My childhood was filled with going to museums, then Radio Shack, in equal measure, so it was probably inevitable that I’m most at home somewhere in between; and yes I always knew what I wanted to do. I was about 8 years old when it dawned on me that Indiana Jones and Hercule Poirot were not actual career options, so I decided to focus all my effort on telling stories, creating mythic images and making movies.
My dream job? Beyond making a ridiculously sweeping costume drama? Honestly?…It would probably be creating and visualizing stories for the Holodeck. I love getting adults to play pretend, so in lieu of theater or sketch comedy or films, I’d love to create stories for fully immersive interactive experience, epic adventures, maybe ones where you could travel through time, and ones that help people at different stages of their life.
EL – The obvious question is: are you a science fiction / speculative fiction fan? If so, what scifi worlds or stories have influenced you the most?
JF – I’m a huge SciFi fan, just not a well read one. I grew up watching lethal amounts of Star Trek the Next Generation and of course wanted to be best friends with Data and had a massive crush on Number #1. I would dream about getting beamed aboard the Enterprise in my pajamas. Captain Picard would exclaim “What is this child doing on the bridge?” but, on recognizing a kindred spirit when he saw one, he’d add, “Oh fine, get her a uniform, we’ll take her with us.”
I love A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court [we do, too!], anything by Richard Feynman, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett (though he’s more fantasy yes?) and everyone should know about Jay O’Callahan, the storyteller, and his NASA story. (click here, scroll down a bit)
Recently I interviewed Gentry Lee, Chief Engineer for NASA, who also produced Cosmos with Carl Sagan and co-wrote with Arthur C Clarke. After a particularly intense conversation about life in the universe, it dawned on me that scifi folks are – in general – optimists…about the universe, yes, but mostly about human potential. There is an acknowledgement that we as a society – even if it is a warning tale – are incredibly powerful with seemingly infinite creative potential.
EL – Any advice for young people who – perhaps like you – are curious about everything and ambitious to create and do a million things, but… are not sure where to start?
JF – I definitely still need that wisdom myself, but my very inarticulate advice is: know yourself well so you can thrive. There are no rules – some folks thrive with having a million things on the go, some need to do one at a time, but whatever works for you, own it.
AND Parkinson’s Law: “work expands to fit the time allowed”.
EL – I would ask about your next project, but (I think) you have several. What’s coming up for you that you’re most excited about?
JF – It’s like we’ve already met. You’re quite right. I have about 9 projects keeping me busy right now, and I’m excited about all of them. Everything from a Mars doc to a fairy tale series to the first ever bookshop holiday experience (The Open Book) to consulting for some cool tech companies. I’ve just finished my next book, so hopefully it will see the light of day…fingers crossed…
EL – Scotland. Haggis. Did you do it?
JF – Yes. And I’d do it again.
EL – One last question that’s more a matter of vice-envy than anything. In a story I found on Platorm 505, there is a photo of you smoking a Sherlock-style tobacco pipe, and you appear to be working. Can you explain this? I’ve smoked pipes before, and it’s like a full-time job to keep that thing lit. So, are you faking it there or do you have some kinda magic technique?
JF – HA this is the best question ever. And coming from someone who knows. They ARE a full time job. It began as a way of stopping me from compulsively shoving sweet things in my face while writing. So I just chewed on it…until Scotland and then it definitely got some use. Smoking a pipe is an excellent way to keep warm in a house with no heat…and goes very well with a wooly jumper.
Can you even imagine a cooler person to hang out with on a Wednesday night? AND don’t forget she’s bringing Dr. Daubar and Dr. Hofmann from
Space Command JPL, etc.. Don’t pull a Matt Damon and get stranded somewhere out there in the mid-week multi-verse. Get your ASStronaut butt down to HQ for your science/stories briefing. We’ll see you at 19:00.