TryCelery Error

Apologies to anyone who pre-purchased tickets to The Fifth Element earlier this year. I went to the sales vendor (, and marked the tickets as shipped. What I didn’t know is that when I did so, it would email each and every one of you a “Great news! Your order is on it’s way!” without warning me it was about to do so. But don’t worry. Nothing is on its way. It’s just confirmation of that ticket long ago. I’m writing them a sternly worded email now.


Dunsels: Nurnies, Greebles, Gundans, and Fuidgets

No I am not randomly typing on the screen. I’m taking a pause from the Starship Troopers review to establish some much-needed vocabulary. Oftimes in science fiction, details are added to things for the sake of feeling more real, but that don’t actually do anything and, more importantly to our interests in scifinterfaces, aren’t even guided by a design philosophy. They’re the equivalent of “bullshit” in the H.G. Frankfurt sense. They don’t care about the diegetic truth of themselves, they only care about their effect.

Collectively, I call these things dunsels. But don’t thank me. Thank the midshipmen in the Star Trek TOS universe.

Dunsels appear in three major places in sci-fi.

The surface of objects: Nurnies and greebles

When they appear on spacecraft or futuristic architecture, they’re called greebles or, interchangably, nurnies. These terms come to us from the folks at ILM, who coined the term while developing the style for Star Wars.

I think I’d also apply these terms to props as well, that get covered by details that may not do anything or have much design logic behind them. That means weapons and gadgets, too.




The walls: Gundans

When this suface detailing is applied to sets, it’s called gundans. This after the Star Trek TOS pipes that got labeled “GNDN,” for “goes nowhere, does nothing.” Hat tip to Berm Lee for pointing me to this term.


Interfaces? Fuidgets

Not surprisingly, we need to have a word for the same sort of thing in screen interfaces, and I’ve never heard a word to describe them. (If a competitor’s already out there, speak up in the comments.) So after some nerdy social media talk amongst my Chief Nerds and Word People, my friend Magnus Torstensson of Unsworn Industries (and long time supporter of the scifiinterfaces project) suggested combining Mark Coleran‘s acronym “FUI” for “fictional user interfaces” and “widgets” to produce fuidgets, which is pronounced FWIDG-its. I love it. I’ll high-five you when I get to Malmö in November for Oredev, Magnus.


This neologism appropriately sounds as awkward as “nurnies,” “greebles,” and “gundans,” and simultaneously conveys their abstract, fantasy, digital nature. It’s a tough thing to wrap into a single word and I’m in awe that my Swedish friend beat me to it. :)

Using “fuidgets”

The spirit of apologetics (which is, perhaps, the core of this project) asks that you don’t dismiss details as H.G.Bullshit. You try as hard as you can to find sense in them. That way we don’t get caught up in a spiral of second-guessing an author’s intent, and moreover, that’s where some of the niftiest insights of this sort of analysis come from. But try though we might, sometimes there is just no explaining odd details that litter sci-fi displays, surfaces, and gadgets, other than to admit that they mean nothing and are there only to give a sense of truthiness. So, now we have that word. Fuidgets. You saw it in Monday’s posts, and I’m sure you’re going to see it again.

Creative Control

Are you a supporter of indie sci-fi? Want to be? There is a Kickstarter that I want to point you to, for some shared-interest reasons, and other completely selfish ones. First, the Kickstarter. It’s for a film called Creative Control, by Benjamin Dickinson.

In Near-Future Brooklyn, an ad exec uses a new Augmented Reality technology to conduct an affair with his best friend’s girlfriend…sort of.

Creative Control

The shared-interest reason I’m sharing it is that it looks like cool, indie sci-fi. The kind of stuff that’s not about pimping action figures, but about luscious storytelling.

The selfish reason I’m sharing it is that the director, Benjamin Dickinson, has asked me to consult on the interfaces for the film. You see, the kickstarter money is specifically for the funds to get the UI conceived, designed, and built. The first threshold of money goes for the VFX, but if it doesn’t happen, there won’t be a project for me to consult on. If you’re the sort who supports indie projects like this and the film goes through, I’ll be working with Ethan Keller, the guy behind the now-familiar and beautiful Productivity Future Vision for Microsoft.

Benjamin’s no slouch either, being a kickstarter “veteran”, funding his first feature-length film there, which garnered a lot of audience love, attention, and praise. Check out First Winter on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video if you’re curious about that.

Oh, and the cast is eye opening too, amongst which are H. Jon Benjamin (of Archer and Bob’s Burgers fame) and Reggie Watts of this wonderful insanity.

On top of that the big brains may (still in talks) at META consult on the VFX as well. So, an all star team all around.

I’ll admit I’m eager to lend my voice to the project, and therefore eager to see it get funded. Check it out and pony up some credits if you want to see a film with some UI by a filmmaker who wants to see it done right, with attention to the interface as an important part of the narrative rather than just indulgent “interface porn” or a pretty-stick afterthought.


Here’s an idea. In a recent chat, I was told recently that the bar I’ve set for reviews is prohibitively high (fair enough), and that even folks who loooove and are interested in participating in the blog are a little scared of the Cliffs of Insanity that is reviewing a whole movie at once. (Special Man-in-Black tip of the hat to Clayton Beese for being the only other person to date willing to scale those things solo.)

But today I was thinking of running an experiment in Nerdsourcing. What if I picked a movie, identified the interfaces in it, and then asked for volunteers to pair up to review one or two of those interfaces? I’d provide the screen caps, teams would work in Google Docs initially and then move to Droppages (or some other live web-hosting solution) for the final markup. I’d be the editor, working asynchronously with each team to maintain voice, offer my thoughts, help answer questions, scheduling the final posts, etc.

This way you would not be faced with the monumental task of doing an entire movie. Instead of committing weeks, it might just be a handful of weeknights, depending on how quickly you worked and the complexity of the issues you are your partner uncover. At the end you’d have a good time, a fun post to share with friends and maybe put on a resume, and of course full credit on the post itself. (Stuff on the site is Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0) If you want to stretch your creative muscles you could even create a comp of a better solution. We’d have a first nerdsourced scifiinterfaces review. Who of this rag-tag readership is interested? Hands up in the comments.

The follow up question is for which movie could we run this experiment?


Make It Sew is thrilled to announce the completion of…a follow-up book!


From the back cover:

Few people realize the indelible mark that crafting in general—and sewing in particular—have made on science fiction as a genre. Building on the success of the original work, Make It Sew: Crafting Lessons from Science Fiction scours the history of popular and obscure science fiction to find and analyze the best patterns from the textile arts.

Make it sew number one

Chapters include

  • The fabric of the Federation
  • Seam Reapers
  • Lilo’s stitch
  • Famous and infamous seamsters: From Picard’s plackets to Darth Quilt
  • Warp & Weft
  • The rise of the RoboBobbins


Early Praise for Make It Sew:

I was at my wit’s end when little Timmy asked me to help him with his cosplays, but now thanks to Make it Sew I know I’m using the very cuts and fabrics that changed the face of science fiction.  Timmy couldn’t be happier, and his Leia Slave costume couldn’t fit any better.
Betty Womack
from Lands Ford, Indiana
This season its all about futuristic fabrics and forward-thinking colors for your home and wardrobe. From fur-lined Barbarella bedrooms to form-fitting imperial blast armor, Make It Sew is the inspiration behind my brand new sci-fi product line.
It’s not Science fiction, it’s Science Fashion, people. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get crafting.  Sew. Say. We. All.
Laura Roslin
President of the Colonies


Fans of the book will be excited to learn of a companion website, Let me know in the comments below if you’d like to be on the mailing list for when it goes live!




Credit where credit is due:

  • Han Sewlo is holding a Star Wars quilt actually made by RobinLovesQuilting. Check it out on her blog.
  • Leeloo did not knit that herself. It’s from Dorothy Perkins.
  • Picard is working on a sampler straight from the hilarious Subversive Cross Stitch, specifically the “Bitch, Please” kit. Go buy one, because awesome.

Fifth Element tees


Major thanks to everyone who came out and joined me for the first ever movie night at The New Parkway in Oakland! It was a sold-out show, and while there were a few glitches, folks are telling me they had a great time and are looking forward to the next one. There will be a more detailed report once the pre-show video comes out. But in the meantime, this: If you didn’t win the trivia contest or weren’t able to attend, you can still get your hands on the “movie night” t-shirts I debuted there.


Head on over to the spreadshirt shop. It’s ugly (with the default CSS). It doesn’t have a custom URL or anything. It only has 5 products at the moment. But hey, that’s all part of the charm if you’d like to wear your sci-fi interface nerdiness with pride.

P.S. I have no idea why the women’s KEEP CLEAR tee is not appearing in orange since I designed it like the Men’s tee, but I have a request with Spreadshirt now. Hopefully it’ll be fixed soon.


I’m thinking the Bay Area has an appetite for maybe two movie nights a year (let me know if I’m wrong) but I’d also love to try this in Berlin. Do you (or someone you know) know of a cinema in Berlin like the New Parkway that might be interested in my replicating this there?

Introducing Clayton Beese

Now this this exciting.’s first guest review begins this week! That’s right, someone took a look at the terrifying Contribute! page, and stepped up to the sci-fi plate! So with no further ado, let me introduce Clayton Beese, and share his answers to a few questions I posed to him.

Clayton Beese

Hi there. Tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your name, where are you from, how do you spend your time?

Hi! I’m Clayton Beese, a User Experience designer from Overland Park, Kansas, and I’m someone who is drawn to the idea of storytelling as a very basic human activity. Outside of work I bike, I’m an amateur writer, I am usually the designated photographer on family trips, and I like taking random classes in things like rock climbing, blacksmithing, and Tai Chi to see what they’re like. Science fiction has always captured my interest because it asks questions about our needs as people, and what we want to see out of our future.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi interfaces (Other than in Wall-E)? (And why.)


Iron Man: Tony Stark has managed to create an interface that tracks his eye focus, his conversational commands, and his gestures perfectly, and he has mastered their use. I think it’s one of the biggest gaps in current gesture technology, in that they’re only tracking one piece of cognition that their user is working with. By just capturing the motion of a person’s arms the interface is missing out on eye focus, which is a huge hint as to what the user actually wants to work with; and without being able to capture the random vocal thoughts that seep out, the interface is lacking context to add richness to the choices of gesture commands.


The new Battlestar Galactica: The show got to play with two completely different technology aesthetics. The Galactica is a brutalist machine, meant to take a beating and come out the other side still working. It has redundant systems, physical hardware everywhere it can, and a lived-in quality that says those systems are well used. The Galactica isn’t the most efficient, but it gets across its needs. The Cylon ships are the complete opposite. They speak to interactions that don’t require memorization or practice, and instead speak of an intuitive grasp of a system that can figure out what you want to do. The ships are so built around the idea that their users interact at a higher level than mere physical-ness that the walls aren’t even painted.


And, from pure enjoyment of how intuitive and awesome they’ve managed to make everything, Gurren Lagann.

Why did you pick Wall-E for your first scifiinterfaces review?

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 5.03.12 PM

I really like how Wall-E shows the two spectrums of endurance technology: both post-apocalyptic hardened ruggedness, and post-AI takeover hands-off automation. There was also a lot to work with in the motivations that the different interfaces were built to serve. For me, watching how the Axiom works is always fun because it describes what Buy-N-Large expected out of its customers. I think there are a lot of companies that would like to do what BNL did, and the movie asks us if it’s really a world we want to live in.

Also, of the Pixar movies that has interfaces to review, Wall-E is my favorite.

What was your biggest surprise when doing the review?

I was surprised at how easy it was to descend into nitpicking aspects of the interface designs, without acknowledging that they were very effective at their purpose. After writing a review, I could go back and realize that I made it sound like the interface failed completely when that wasn’t my intention at all. Especially when most of the interfaces I went into the most detail on were the ones that I really enjoyed. Pixar did a good job relaying Buy-N-Large’s design goals and intentions through their interfaces, and I really wanted to get that idea through when I did my reviews.

What else are you working on?

The biggest single other project I’m working on (outside of work at least!) is my first full-length novel. I’ve written a lot of stuff for fun, but this novel has grown far past my initial attempts to just write down some fun scenes and concepts I was working on. It’s turned into a way of getting down ideas I’ve had floating around about artificial intelligence and having fun writing long form plot that is actually intended to be marketable:

When a vindictive fellow pilot tries to steal Elizabeth’s warship and Artificial Intelligence, Phi, Elizabeth suddenly realizes that there’s more to an interplanetary war than just fighting against enemy forces. Elizabeth will have to tease out who she can trust among her fellow pilots, and whether she should hide the surprising intelligence Phi displays from her paranoid superiors if she wants to survive the growing conflict.

It’s aimed at a high school reader, and just needs a bit more work before it’ll be ready to go out and look for an agent.