Shimmer Program Taking Applications for a “Science Fiction Adventure in China”

Fans have until April 1 to apply to the Shimmer Program for a travel grant to visit the sff community in China:  “To Come on A Science Fiction Adventure in China ——Application guidelines for The Shimmer Program’s First Two-way Exchange Fund”.

They will pick one or two recipients who already “have a certain presence in [their] local or an international science fiction community” and are not citizens of China.

Familiarity with the Chinese language is not a requirement. All application documents and the interview will be in English.

The chosen travelers will visit China later in 2018 or 2019, and meet the sff community in at least two of these four cities: Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, and Shenzhen. In each city, the traveler will make a presentation about their science fiction community. They will report on the trip in social media, and agree to carry out other responsibilities once the trip is over —

After you return from the exchange project, you should host at least one presentation event where you share your experience in China, experience with Chinese science fiction and your experience with The Shimmer Program with your local (international) science fiction community. If possible, we would like for you to serve as an ambassador for Chinese science fiction, and spread the words about Chinese science fiction in other international communities.

Full guidelines are at the linked article.

[Thanks to Darnell Coleman for the story.]

Foz Meadows on Other Prospective Apologies

Foz Meadows, who readily accepted Lou Antonelli’s apology for claiming Camestros Felapton is a pseudonym for Foz Meadows’ husband, Toby, said today she has a different policy and expectation for any apologies and retractions that might come from Dave Freer and others who ran with the story because of all the abuse they packaged with it.

A Collection of Contrary Opinions

Compiled by Carl Slaughter:


  • 10 people who hated working on Marvel movies

  • 10 actors who said no to Marvel


  • Cinema Sins takes on the most beloved science fiction movie of all time

  • Cinema Sins takes on Your Friendly Neighborhood Spiderman

  • Cinema Sins takes on a science fiction movie favored by critics


  • Michio Kaku on the alien mega structure

Zoo theory:  aliens may know we’re here, but not want to disturb us. From Newsweek, “Where Are All the Aliens? Zoo Theory Has Creepy Explanation for Why We Haven’t Made Contact Yet”

One popular theory to explain why aliens have not made open contact with humans is the “Zoo Theory.” John A. Ball, an MIT radio astronomer, proposed the theory in 1973, suggesting that aliens may purposely be avoiding contact with humans so they don’t interfere with our activity, similar to zookeepers at a zoo or nature preserve, Science Alert reported.

“ETI (extraterrestrial intelligence) may be discreetly and inconspicuously watching us but not dabbling,” Ball wrote in his paper on the subject.

According to this theory, we are too unevolved and uncivilized to be a threat or burden to alien life, but rather than interfere with our natural evolution, they monitor us from afar. Of course, they aren’t completely perfect in their effort to stay out of human affairs, which is why we have several thousand alleged sightings each year.

Alternate and Non-canonical Star Trek Roundup

Compiled by Carl Slaughter: (1) Deadline reports “Quinton Tarantino’s Star Trek will be R rated”:

After Deadline this week revealed that Quentin Tarantino pitched a Star Trek film to JJ Abrams and Paramount, the whole thing is moving at warp speed. Tarantino met for hours in a writers room with Mark L. Smith, Lindsey Beer, Drew Pearce and Megan Amram. They kicked around ideas and one of them will get the job. I’m hearing the frontrunner is Smith, who wrote The Revenant. The film will most certainly go where no Star Trek has gone before: Tarantino has required it to be R rated, and Paramount and Abrams agreed to that condition. Most mega budget tent poles restrict the film to a PG-13 rating in an effort to maximize the audience. That was the reason that Guillermo Del Toro’s $150 million At The Mountains of Madness didn’t go forward at Universal, even though Tom Cruise was ready to star. The exception to this rule was Fox’s Deadpool, but that film started out with modest ambitions before it caught on and became the biggest R rated film ever.

(2) Most lethal Star Trek captains

(3) ScreenRant tells about “17 Canceled Star Trek TV Shows And Movies We Never Got To See”:

(4) Dodged the bullet: ScreenRant tells “15 Ways Star Next Generation Was Almost Completely Different”.

  1. Gene Roddenberry Super Did Not Want Captain Picard Or Patrick Stewart

Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry did not like Patrick Stewart. Actually, that’s putting things pretty lightly. Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry hated Patrick Stewart.

He didn’t want Stewart to play Captain Picard, he didn’t even want him to audition for the part. The creator famously described Stewart as both “too old and too bald” to play the iconic captain.

Roddenberry pushed heavily for Yaphet Kotto to play the ship’s captain. While we can’t imagine The Next Generation without Stewart’s devilish smile and never-ending sense of fun, but it’s hard to actually argue with Roddenberry on this one.

Had Kotto been cast in the role, he would have given the Star Trek franchise their first black captain decades earlier. There’s just nothing wrong with that.

(5) Trek online game: “Bridge Crew drops its VR headset requirement”

There’s no question that Star Trek: Bridge Crew benefits from VR — it helps fulfill that fantasy of helming a starship. Most people don’t have the VR headset you need to play the game, however, which makes gathering a crew rather difficult. Red Storm and Ubisoft’s solution? Make the game playable for everyone. It just released a “non-VR” update that makes the game playable for anyone with a PS4 or sufficiently capable PC. You can play with others whether or not they have headsets, and there are even graphical enhancements for non-VR players to take advantage of the lighter processing requirements.

So some strange thoughts transcend our wonted themes, and into glory creep

By John Hertz: Happening to read D. Hoffman, The Billion-Dollar Spy (2015; Adolf Tolkachev 1927-1986), I came across this striking passage (p. 163) about the subject’s son in 1981.

Oleg … a teenager [1966-  ] … interests ran … toward … arts, culture, music, and design….  attended a special school that emphasized English instruction.  He was already reading Kipling and Asimov

– my emphasis.  There’s glory for you!


[Title ref.] H. Vaughan, “They Are All Gone into the World of Light”, Silex Scintillans [“The Flashing Flint”] 2nd ed. 1655, no. 1; L. Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass ch. 6 (1871)

MacFarlane, Stewart, Lee Interviews

Curated by Carl Slaughter:


Wall to wall carpet, wood, leather, house plants.  “It looked like a really plush corporate office.  That makes it the most realistic portrayal what it’s like in space.  If you’re out there for years and years, you’d go crazy if you were in something that looks like a submarine.”   Pre-Discovery and pre-Orville interview with Seth MacFarlane.


“When I look at the television shows that I responded to, if I watch a cop show, if I watch a medical show, I’m going to see the murder of the week, I’m going to see the disease of the week.  Growing up, I liked things like ‘The Twilight Zone.’ I was a ‘Star Trek’ fan because I didn’t know if I was going to see and adventure story, or a quiet relationship story, or a story involving some sort of social and political commentary.  To turn on a show and not have any idea what it is you’re going to see.”  Plus Seth MacFarlane’s imitation of Captain Kirk.  Also pre-Discovery and pre-Orville.



  • Patrick Stewart didn’t think Next Generation would last

  • Patrick Stewart on the moment he knew he was finished playing Professor X

  • Patrick Stewart:  “Warning:  Unknown British Shaekespearian Actor”

  • Patrick Stewart –  Larry King interview


  • Larry King – Stan Lee interview


Star Wars Video Roundup

Compiled by Carl Slaughter:

(1) Last Jedi Easter eggs

(2) New Hope – deleted Scenes

(3) Empire Strikes Back  –  deleted scenes

(4) 45,000 signatures on a petition to remove Last Jedi from the canon.

(5) John Williams recruited for Han Solo project:

Solo will stay in the Star Wars family with veteran franchise composer John Williams set to write the theme for the standalone film about Han Solo, slated for release on May 25. It will be Williams’ ninth assignment.

(6) If the Caretakers aren’t your favorite Last Jedi characters, you can’t sit with us

While the hype swirling around those silly little Porgs that pepper the screen in Star Wars: The Last Jedi is completely understandable based on looks alone, one group of characters has been vastly underrated, and frankly, it’s an abomination if you ask me. The dark horse I have in mind? The caretakers who keep the Jedi village on Ahch-To looking fresh as hell, that’s who.

Canadian SFF Authors’ Quest to Help Homeless Man

For months Canadian fantasy author Caitlin Sweet and her husband, sf writer Peter Watts, had a homeless man living in the ravine behind their house in the east end of Toronto.

Last week Sweet shared their experience on Steve Paikin’s nightly TVO program, The Agenda, viewable on YouTube. (Air date: December 15.)

City living includes all kinds of unexpected encounters. But it doesn’t usually include having someone take up residence in your backyard. That is what happened to novelist Caitlin Sweet, giving her a glimpse into the world of those in this city who regularly navigate Ontario’s very complicated mental health and shelter system. The Agenda welcomes Sweet to learn more about her experience.


Sweet also wrote a long article for the TVO website — “What to do about Kevin: Demons, little fires, and the man who lived in my ravine”.

For months, he lived behind my house. He was friendly and well-educated. He loved his cat, Blueberry Panda. He shouted at demons and started fires. I wanted to make him get help—shelter, medication, support. But this is Ontario

We call 911 on a rainy night in October. Kevin’s in our yard again, though he promised us he wouldn’t be. He shouts that he’s alone with Blueberry Panda (his cat) on the surface of a giant sun, and nothing else exists in time or space and only he, almighty, can harness the power of this sun for the purposes of destruction.

The paramedics arrive after five minutes, and the first police car a couple of minutes after that. Others follow. Just like two weeks ago.

Six officers, all with flashlights, tromp along the narrow, overgrown path that leads to the back of the yard at our house in the east end of Toronto. Kevin’s hunkered down with his sodden sleeping bag over his head, rocking, looping, round and round.

“Kevin—let’s get you up,” one of the officers says. “Let’s get you somewhere dry.”

“No,” he snaps, briefly free of the loop. Then he resumes: “You are not speaking English. Blueberry Panda and I are in an unknown location because we are the only creatures in all of time and space. Blueberry Panda and I are in an unknown—”



He’s standing now. His wild, curly hair and beard look even wilder in the glow of the flashlights; his brown skin looks grey.

In the end he goes with the officers quietly.

…. At 3 a.m., long after Kevin leaves with the cops, the phone rings. It’s a frontline worker from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; she tells us Kevin has just been sent away in a taxi, having not been assessed or medicated. He was lucid again by the time someone at the ER had spoken to him. He answered their questions. He got in the cab. He’s supposed to end up at a shelter.

He’s back at our place six hours later, calling for Blueberry Panda.

…The first time Kevin was taken away, I thought everything was going to get better—I was convinced that professional and qualified people would be looking after him from then on. That was before I learned about Ontario’s rules for involuntary admission.

It works like this: Someone (typically a police officer) sees a person exhibiting signs of mental illness and decides they should be taken to hospital. At hospital, that person is examined and assessed. If various criteria are satisfied, the examining doctor can fill out a Form 1—that is, an application for psychiatric assessment—which allows the hospital to hold the person for up to 72 hours, without legal review.

…Back in September, Kevin started shouting in the middle of the night. He explained later that he could see the demons most clearly after dark. Shouting was how he banished them. So we’d lie in bed, listening to him shout the demons away.

One night, he sang instead: first Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All,” then Madonna’s “Like a Prayer.” Another night, we looked out the window and saw flames: Kevin had made a fire. For a few moments the flames leapt high, toward the rain-soaked trees.

We didn’t call the police; we wanted to avoid involving law enforcement, if at all possible, as we’d read too many stories about Toronto cops and their sometimes violent interactions with mentally ill people. So who were we supposed to contact?

I sent our city councillor a long, wordy email that boiled down to: Help. We don’t want anything bad to happen to this man, but he’s mentally ill and now he’s making fires in our yard and he won’t go anywhere without his cat and please help. I got a response from a staffer a few minutes later: she said she’d refer the issue to someone from the city’s Streets to Homes program. She thanked Peter and me for being such caring people.

Five days later, I’d heard nothing more, so I emailed our councillor again, and again I received a quick reply: she’d follow up with the city. She’d keep me in the loop. Thanks again for all we were doing.

I didn’t hear from the councillor’s office again, and I never heard from the city….

Peter Watts also blogged about it – “We Need to Talk About Kevin”.

A few nights back I found myself standing out in the rain at 2 a.m., peering through the fence to see if the fire Kevin had lit was in danger of burning down our shed or setting the ravine alight. It wasn’t; but obviously the guy needs help. I just don’t know if the current system can give him any. In terms of mental health this place has gone to shit ever since the government decided to cut costs by classifying everyone as an outpatient. It’s a lesser-evil sort of thing.

Gateway guy has made no progress; Big Cop (Officer Baird, I learn later) approaches me and says, “I think we got off on the wrong foot. You don’t know me, you’re judging me by the uniform. I’m honestly trying to help this guy; you say you have a relationship with him? Maybe you could try talking to him?”

“Well, sure,” I say, suddenly feeling like kind of a dick.

We go back to Kevin’s tent— my tent, until I gave it to him on the condition that he stop screaming death threats in the middle of the night (or at least that he make it really clear that those death threats were not aimed at us). I remember he smiled when I said that, looked kind of rueful. Now that I think back, though, I realize he made no promises.

He’s originally from Trinidad. Speaks with this cool accent. Back in the nineties he earned a degree from the University of Toronto: dual major in chemistry and philosophy. How cool is that?

Now he huddles half-naked in the woods, and rages against monsters at three in the morning….

Sweet and Watts were actually able to get Kevin into the only shelter that allows pets, by incredible persistence. Sweet wrote on her blog —

November 1

There’s room at the inn. I’ve called every couple of hours, as the front desk person told me to weeks ago. And at last, at last, a bed at the Bethlehem United shelter for Kevin, and a place for Blueberry Panda with him.

I’m at work. Peter hurries to the ravine and tells Kevin. Peter rents a Zipcar and hurries to pick it up at a Canadian Tire sort of near our house. When he gets back, Kevin is starting little fires. There’s no Blueberry in the carrier. “She got upset,” Kevin says. “She ran away. I can’t go without her.”

Peter yells at him—articulately, I’m sure. He convinces Kevin to put his stuff in the trunk and himself in the front seat. Drives him to Bethlehem United, way north-west of our place. He tells me later that Kevin was conversational.

He drops Kevin off at the shelter. Promises to bring Blueberry Panda as soon as we can wrangle her (which will be hard; she gets skittish when Kevin’s not around). We don’t catch her that day or the morning of the next—but that’s OK, because Kevin comes back, of course, swearing he’s going to get her into that carrier this time; swearing he’s going back to the shelter. He’ll be gone before 4 p.m., he tells Peter, who tells me that he doesn’t believe him. But when Peter goes out onto the porch at 4, Kevin’s stuff is gone. The carrier’s gone. He calls the shelter; yes, Kevin showed up, carrier in hand.

We call for Blueberry one more time that night, as we put out kibble. Just in case.

November 3

I wake up at 5 because I think I hear him across the fence. “Did you hear that?” I whisper. “Yes,” says Peter. But in the morning there’s no sign that anyone’s been there.

If people wish to support the only pet-friendly shelter in Ontario, click the link — Bethlehem United Shelter.

Several years ago, Fred Victor and Street Health presented a photo-journal study at a national conference on homelessness in Toronto on the role pets play in the lives of people living on the street.  They called the study, Paws for Thought.  We found out how important it was for people to stay connected to their four-legged friends when everything else seemed to have been taken away from them.

So, when, Fred Victor got involved in opening a new shelter in northwest Toronto (Caledonia and Lawrence), everyone agreed that pets should be welcomed into the shelter with their owners.  It is the only pet-friendly shelter in Toronto.  By creating this unprecedented access, Fred Victor has kept close to its mandate of meeting the needs of people who would otherwise spend a night on the street.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

How to Write Criticism

By John Hertz:   Actually it’s a lesson from Hilaire Belloc.  He (1870-1953) wrote 150 books; his comic poems Cautionary Tales for Children (1907) include “Rebecca, who Slammed Doors for Fun and Perished Miserably”; two of his essay collections are On Everything (1909) and On Nothing (1910); his polemical biographies of Wolsey (1930) and Cranmer (1931) are masterly; by the first decade of the 20th Century people who did not agree with him – I often don’t (literary present tense) – were among those who called him the greatest living prose writer.

Here he is, writing in those days and in the style of his time, about what had just been.

In one epoch lubricity, in another fanaticism, in a third dulness and a dead-alive copying of the past, are the faults which criticism finds to attack.  None of these affected the Victorian era.  It was pure — though tainted with a profound hypocrisy; it was singularly free from violence in its judgments; it was certainly alive and new; but it had this grievous defect (a defect under which we still labour heavily), that thought was restrained upon every side.  Never in the history of European letters was it so difficult for a man to say what he thought and to be heard.  A sort of cohesive public spirit (which was but one aspect of the admirable homogeneity of the nation) glued and immobilized all individual expression….

It is to be carefully discerned how many apparent exceptions to this truth are, if they be closely examined, no exceptions at all.  A whole series of national defects were exposed and ridiculed in the literature as in the oratory of the day; but they were defects which the mass of men secretly delighted to hear denounced and of which each believed himself to be free.

Preface to Froude’s Essays in Literature and History (1906)

in J. De Chantigny ed., Hilaire Belloc’s Prefaces, p. 86 (1971;
B goes on to say “In such a time Froude maintained an opposing force”, p. 87)