CanSmof Scholarships Announced

pic00CanSMOF Inc. is pleased to announce the availability of up to three scholarships for convention runners to be used towards the cost of attending SMOFCon 34, to be held in Chicago, December 2-4, 2016. SMOFCon is the annual convention about organizing Science Fiction conventions.

The first Scholarship of up to 500 CAD is open to a Canadian citizen or resident involved in running conventions with a preference for those who have not previously attended a SMOFCon.

The second scholarship of up to 1000 CAD is open to anyone not residing in North America*, involved in running conventions with a preference for those who have not previously attended a SMOFCon.

The third scholarship of up to 500 CAD is open to anyone involved in running conventions, regardless of their place of residence with a preference for those who have not previously attended a SMOFCon.

Applicants will automatically be considered for any and all scholarships for which they are eligible. Preference will be given to fans who have not previously attended a SMOFCon, but this is not necessary to be an applicant. The submission deadline is September 18th, 2016 SST (UTC-11). We reserve the right to not award any or all scholarships. Any questions should be directed to

To apply for a scholarship, simply follow this link:

More information on Smofcon 34 may be found at:

General information about Smofcons, including a list of past Smofcons may be found at:

*North America being defined as Canada, Mexico, the United States of America, the islands of the Caribbean, St. Pierre et Miquelon, Bermuda, and the Bahamas.

Impulse for August now on line

The August edition of Impulse is now on line.  Thank you Keith!

Our August meeting is traditionally our “fan-craft” day, and we hope you will come bearing samples of your SF/F related hobbies.

I will be giving a crash course on how to use our website, with a hand-on workshop for those interested in becoming contributors.

Keith will be speaking on copyright legislation, and how the fall out from the Axanar case will impact  fanfic & films. This case has shaken a lot of nuts out of the trees, take a look:

Sylvain will give a presentation on the field trip to the Sfarfleet Academy. Apparently, there are some neat little videos which were e-mailed to participants after the trip, and these will be shown.

Food–The theme for the snack table is alien food! It doesn’t have to look appetizing, but it does have to be edible!! 😉


Balloons for the 2017 eclipse

INTERCONTINENTAL BALLOON NETWORK: Aug 21, 2016, is an important date. It’s the one year pre-anniversary of the Great American Solar Eclipse. On Aug. 21, 2017, the Moon will pass in front of the sun, producing a total eclipse visible from coast to coast in the USA. To record the eclipse as never before, and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus will lead more than a dozen teams of citizen scientists in launching balloons through the path of totality. Our goal: to photograph the eclipse from the stratosphere and create a unique movie of the Moon’s shadow sweeping across the continent. Such an ambitious project requires practice, and we’re starting now:

For the next month, we’ll be launching groups of balloons from multiple sites around North and South America. Each site (including the one in Chile) will be crewed by students and teachers involved in the Solar Eclipse Balloon Network. Launching large numbers of balloons simultaneously is a key logistical challenge for the 2017 eclipse, and this will be good practice indeed. The first launch on Aug. 21st will involve as many as four balloons lifting off from Chile, California, Oregon and Illinois.

Because our standard eclipse payload includes radiation sensors, we will be learning a great deal about the geographical distribution of cosmic rays in Earth’s atmosphere. The Chilean launch, in particular, promises interesting results as it occurs directly beneath the South Atlantic Anomaly. Stay tuned!


SPACE LIGHTNING OVER CHINA: On Aug. 13th in China, photographer Phebe Pan was photographing the night sky, hoping to catch a Perseid meteor. Instead, he witnessed a spectacular bolt of “space lightning.” Working atop Shi Keng Kong, the highest mountain peak in the Guangdong province, “I was using a fisheye lens to capture as much of the sky as possible,” says Pan. “Suddenly we saw a flash of blue and purple ejected from the top of a nearby thundercloud. It just looked like a tree with branches, and grew up very fast. So awesome!”

“It just looked like a tree with branches, and grew up very fast,” says Pan. “It lasted just less than one second. So awesome!”

Oscar van der Velde, a member of the Lightning Research Group at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, explains what Pan saw: “This is a very lucky capture of a gigantic jet. It’s the first time I’ve seen one captured using a fisheye lens!”

Think of them as sprites on steroids: Gigantic jets are lightning-like discharges that spring from the tops of thunderstorms, reaching all the way to the ionosphere more than 50 miles overhead. They’re enormous and powerful.

“Gigantic jets are much more rare than sprites,” says van der Velde. “While sprites were discovered in 1989 and have since been photographed by the thousands, it was not until 2001-2002 that gigantic jets were first recorded from Puerto Rico and Taiwan.” Only a few dozen gigantic jets have ever been seen.

Like their cousins the sprites, gigantic jets reach all the way up to the edge of space alongside meteors, noctilucent clouds, and some auroras. This means they are a true space weather phenomenon. Indeed, some researchers believe cosmic rays help trigger these exotic forms of lightning, but the link is controversial.

Field Trip: Away we go to the Starfleet Academy!

Field Trip to Ottawa to see the Starfleet Academy Exhibit in Ottawa, August the 6th, 2016.

Photos by Sylvain St-Pierre, More photos are available to our members.

Stranger Things: Season 1

Looks like Netflix has a winner here:
Snitched from the Wertzone
Hawkins, Indiana, 1983. Four young schoolboys spend their time watching movies, playing Dungeons and Dragons and avoiding bullies. One of the boys, Will, abruptly vanishes. Shortly afterwards, a mysterious girl appears in the woods. Known only as “Eleven” she agrees to help the three boys find their friend, if they help keep her safe.

A few moments into watching the first episode of Stranger Things it is entirely possible you will forget you are watching something made in 2016 and come to believe that the Duffer Brothers have somehow opened a space/time portal to 1983 and gotten their hands on a contemporary TV show that they have spruced up with modern editing and effects. Setting a story in the early 1980s is one thing, but Stranger Things takes a step forward in authenticity by making it feel like it was written and filmed then, with a battery of different techniques used to sell the period detail. It is a remarkable achievement.

It would be, however, all for naught if the show was not well-written and good enough to stand on its own feet. And it certainly is that. Stranger Things takes its cue from the 1980s but is clever enough to use more than just a few tropes and basic ideas. Stretching a single Steven Spielberg or Joe Dante movie idea across eight hours would, no matter how good the plot, result in a badly padded and stretched story. Instead, the Duffer Brothers throw a lot more into the mix. You have a kid-focused storyline reminiscent of The Goonies or E.T., a teenage-focused storyline that seems to be riffing briefly on The Breakfast Club but also every teen horror movie ever (and occasionally even The Evil Dead and John Carpenter’s films) and an adult-oriented mystery story riffing more on Close Encounters of the Third Kind (with lightbulbs replacing mashed potato), The X-Files and Twin Peaks. But Stranger Things uses these things as flavourings and touchstones. The story and characters are more than strong enough to stand on their own.

At the heart of the story is the disappearance of Will and the impact this has on his friends, his older brother and his mother Joyce (played with aplomb by Winona Ryder, whose casting provides a neat, authentic tie-in to the decade in question). This ties with themes of childhood, innocence lost, the worst fears of parents and helplessness in the face of an uncaring world. This very relatable theme informs everything else that goes on in the story. Similarly, the discovery of Eleven (12-year-old Millie Bobby Brown providing the breakout performance of the story) and the abuse she suffered at the hands of a coldly uncaring government institution only interested in results and advantages taps into societal beliefs about the innocence of children, the morality of scientific research and notions of corporate responsibility. The complexity of these elements, emphasised by Eleven’s Stockholm Syndrome-like relationship with Dr. Brenner (a career-resurging move for Matthew Modine), is an element where Stranger Things differs from its forebears, where the likes of Close Encounters and E.T. ultimately had well-meaning government agents whom the heroes eventually team up with. In Stranger Things the bad guys remain relentlessly bad.

Other elements of the story also evoke traditional tropes but stand them on their head. Nancy (Natalia Dyer) is caught in a love triangle between the cool Steve (Joe Keery) and the shy, more geeky photographer Jonathan (Charlie Heaton) which is so 1980s it hurts, down to Steve’s cruel jokes and Jonathan being almost too shy to talk to Nancy but later proving his worth with a baseball bat ordained with nails. However, the show complicates things by showing Steve as having more nuance and depth than it first appears and by giving Jonathan some rather unlikeable traits (like taking pictures of people without their knowledge or consent). Nancy herself is also a more interesting character than many of her inspirations, with her later belligerence and disregard for her own safety (but deep concern over the safety of others) in tackling the monster being quite impressive. Police Chief Jim Hopper (David Harbour) feels a bit under-developed as a protagonist in the opening episodes but he acquires more layers as the series proceeds and the final episode sets his character on a path which is downright intriguing.

Continue reading Stranger Things: Season 1

Breakdown of Aurora Results

CSFFA has published the breakdown of nominations and voting for the Aurora Awards. Two areas need work: the fan awards and the voting from Quebec. I didn’t get into the voting myself, I didn’t know the majority of the nominees, and didn’t have time to go through the package. Must get my act together next year!

Long range sensors detect…