What fresh hell is this? Where’s the old menu?

Well now, isn’t this a bit of fun? The new main menu marks a significant change in direction for theLogBook.com, and it’s one that I hope everyone will enjoy.

The premiere of the timeline project you see here marks the end of regular, regimented, posted-like-clockwork, routine updates to the site. This does not mean that no more updates are forthcoming – far from it. The site will continue to expand and grow. That’s never going to stop. At least not until I stop.

But that’s been the problem behind-the-scenes in the past few years – where theLogBook.com used to have an active staff, in recent years it’s just had me for the most part. Curiously, this “solo flight” coincided with my becoming a parent. I’ve tried my best, over the past five years, to maintain the site as well as being a dad. In a way, they’re both my babies. theLogBook.com is, to some extent, me, in written and electronically stored form. In a strange sort of way, I want it to continue forever. In addition to everyone else out there enjoying it, on a purely selfish level I want my son to have this strange resource chronicling what the old man was “into” back in the day.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For a year now, I have been carefully cultivating and incubating a special project that will nudge theLogBook.com into the very medium that it excels in covering. One of the basic underlying principles of that concept is the amazing movement of technology within my lifetime. I was born in the same year as the last lunar landings, and the same year as the first video game. In four decades, incredible things have happened technologically and culturally. Some of these things have been good, some of them have been bad. Many of them have been amazing to witness. Have we really moved forward?

To that end, theLogBook.com’s old main menu has been retired in favor of the timeline. Originally set up as a support site for my multimedia project, it struck me that this should be the new shape of the interface through which people experience the wealth of (admittedly somewhat trivial) information and opinion stored here. One of the great advantages I’ve found in writing books based on the site’s content has been that it eliminates a lot of clutter and makes the content king. The content has always been king, but having to go hunting for it is less fun. The books forced an organizing principle onto that content and streamlined it somewhat. This menu will do the same thing, on a day-by-day basis, year-round.

The timeline mixes the pop culture covered by theLogBook.com with real history. Much of that history is focused on science, technology, and space – three areas I’m incredibly passionate about. Since much of the site dwells on science fiction, it made sense to concentrate on those areas. I’m incredibly passionate about the history of space exploration, for example – I’ve just never found a way to integrate it into a site that concerns itself mostly with science fiction. In a way, this lets me have my cake and eat it too.

It’s interesting to see what NASA was doing while Star Trek was just getting started, for example, but none of this material is here to necessarily imply causation. While it’s well-documented that NASA and JPL had a healthy population of Trekkies int their midst, it’s hard to point to anything – at least anything prior to the christening of the Space Shuttle Enterprise – and say, “This is the cause, and this is the effect,” without research to back that up. theLogBook.com’s timeline is here to provide a cursory history, and a gateway into the rest of the site as it already stands. No attempt is being made here to aggrandize fiction or trivialize fact. But despite that, this history is peppered with delightful intersections like this:

JPL-1701
JPL ground controllers wearing “Spock ears” during the 1967 Mariner 5 mission

ISS-74656
ESA astronaut Samantha Crisoforetti, after capturing a Dragon cargo spacecraft at the International Space Station in 2015

The timeline is also here to provide an interpretive window through which these events – both momentous steps in the sciences and major events in popular media – can be viewed relative to one another. The cumulative effect will, hopefully, offer just a taste of what it was like to be around in those moments, seeing both the real and the fantastic converging and jockeying for attention. Since so much of the site is about science fiction, it’s interesting to hold up a mirror and show how real science was, perhaps, paralleling or inspiring that fiction. The timeline chronicles events, but leaves you to draw your own conclusions about the cumulative cultural effect of science and science fiction.

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