Snapshots 135 Sesquiquadrate

Here are 15 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Still 85 days left to enter your auction bid for this domain name: science-fiction.org. Or if you’re in a hurry they’ll sell it to you outright for $10,000. Zero bids so far.

(2) E.T. flew home in a spaceship but his Atari 2600 game cartridges made a much shorter trip — in a trash truck.

Documentary filmmakers digging in a New Mexico landfill on Saturday unearthed hundreds of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” cartridges, considered by some the worst video game ever made and blamed for contributing to the downfall of the video game industry in the 1980s.

Some gamers speculate that thousands or even millions of the unwanted cartridges made by Atari were buried in a landfill in Alamogordo, about 200 miles (320 km) southeast of Albuquerque.

Who dumped the videos, how many they buried and why they did it inspired the dig and a documentary of the event by Microsoft Corp’s Xbox Entertainment Studios.

The first batch of E.T. games was discovered under layers of trash after about three hours of digging, a Microsoft spokeswoman said, putting to rest questions about whether the cartridges would be found at all.

(3) Scientists have created Onehundredseventeenium! Made up of 117 protons, the element is 40 percent heavier than an atom of lead.

Scientists have been aware of the existence of element 117 for some time, since its discovery by a group of Russian researchers in 2010. However it wasn’t officially recognized by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), an organization responsible for defining the periodic table, as they require the creation of a new element to be independently verified.

A multinational group of researchers led by scientists at Germany’s GSI lab have now managed to create four atoms of 117 and independently confirm its existence, before it disappeared in a tenth of a second.

“Making element 117 is at the absolute boundary of what is possible right now,” says Professor David Hinde, Director of the Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility, ANU Nuclear Physics Department, Australia, who collaborated on the research. “That’s why it’s a triumph to create and identify even a few of these atoms.”

(4) A radio play based on a Heinlein story. A live performance introduced by Ray Bradbury. A cast featuring Harlan Ellison? It happened! David Benedict reminisces about the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company’s production of “The Man Who Traveled in Elephants”.

In 1998, ARTC experienced an important moment in its history as we unveiled the first in our Dean’s List series of Robert A. Heinlein adaptations, The Man Who Traveled in Elephants. And, boy, did we go all out. You can see all of the below photos at full size in our Flickr gallery.

First, if you’ve read the story, you may notice that it’s not quite like anything else that Heinlein wrote for the most part. In fact, Bill Ritch and Brad Linaweaver, who were instrumental in helping us get the rights from Virginia Heinlein to do this adaptation, described it as “Bradburyesque,” referring to legendary science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. Wouldn’t it be fun, we imagined, if we could get Ray Bradbury to introduce us?

(5) Here’s how trufans play the game! Effie Seiberg makes con attendance affordable in “The Cheapskate’s Guide to SF/F cons”.

But everyone’s going to a restaurant: Yeah, sometimes this is what’s going to need to happen. If your favorite author invites you to join and you get starry-eyed at the mere mention of their name, you’re going. You can either go nuts and suck up the cost, or you can fill up on other food prior (your own, the con suite) and just order something light. You’ll still get to go, and a single appetizer won’t set you nearly as far back.

Drinks: This may be the hardest one on the list. You can of course bring your own, but then you’re that sad person drinking alone in their room. Most parties will just give you alcohol, so start with those and get your drink on. If you’re going to barcon (you know, where people have their own little con at the bar), you can always order a ginger ale instead, which is far cheaper. Especially since you still have your buzz from the parties.

(6) Pluto makes strange bedfellows, too. John C. Wright’s unexpectedly complimentary post about John Scalzi mentioned one thing they agree about is returning Pluto to its traditional status as a planet. This elicited an even more unexpected response from Vox Day. He told Wright –

While we may happen to disagree with regards to the various merits of Mr. Scalzi, I rejoice to learn that there is common ground to be found related to the position of the present status of Pluto, an outrage concerning which all men of sense and goodwill are bound to stand in harmony. I wish to inform you that I fully endorse your call for the restoration of Pluto to his rightful place as a full planet of our nine-planet system, and regardless of any other differences of opinion, I would be proud to stand with both you and Mr. Scalzi on any barricade dedicated to the defense of that noble position.

Imagine Wright, Vox Day and John Scalzi banding together for Pluto. That’s goofy!

(6) While checking Scalzi’s track record about planet Pluto, I discovered his delightfully humorous 2007 story “Pluto Tells All”.

I don’t want to sound like I was surprised, but yeah, I was surprised. Because just before, they were talking about adding planets, right? Me and Eris and possibly Ceres, and it looked like that proposal was getting good play. So it looked good, and Charon and I thought it’d be okay to take a break and get a little alone time. So there we are relaxing and then suddenly my agent Danny’s on the phone, telling me about the demotion. And I say to him, I thought you had this taken care of. That’s what you told me. And he said, well, they took another vote.

(7) The reasons Pluto was demoted include these advanced by Neil DeGrasse Tyson in his NPR interview in February:

So Pluto is not only the littlest planet, all right, that alone shouldn’t hurt it, but more than half of its volume is ice. No other planet has that. So if you moved it to where Earth is right now, heat from the sun would evaporate the ice and it would grow a tail. That’s no kind of behavior for a planet!

Pluto, its orbit is elongated so severely that it crosses the orbit of Neptune. Now, we have words for objects that cross the orbits of other planets and are made of mostly ice; they’re called comets. By the way, there are six moons in the solar system that are bigger than Pluto including Earth’s moon, which is five times the mass of Pluto. So really, Pluto was never the ninth planet; it was the first of a new class of objects that we didn’t really discover the rest of until the early 1990s.

(8) But Pluto can afford to be patient. As Amada Pelser tweeted:

From the time Pluto was discovered to the time it was “demoted” as a planet, it hadn’t even circled the sun once

(9) Before this year’s slate of Hugo nominees was buried under a kerfuffle avalanche some commentators were actually paying attention to the list’s history-making results.

Evelyn Leeper at MT Void:

Oddly, I find the editors’ names more familiar than the authors’, though it has been observed that this is the first time *ever* that Astounding, Analog, or its editor was not on the nominations ballot. In 1953-1956 and 1958, there was no short list, just a winner, and it won in 1953, 1955, and 1956, so that is really only 1954 and 1958 that it did not appear on the ballot. (Note: women are in the majority in the editor categories.)

Steven J Franklin (on Tor.com):

As this is a UK round-up, it’s probably worth noting that Lee Harris – who was nominated as Best Editor (long form) this year – is the first British editor to have been shortlisted in the entire history of the Hugo Awards!

The Bookseller.com:

Four out of five of the books nominated for Best Novel at this year’s Hugo Awards are published by Orbit in the UK.

Little, Brown’s Orbit imprint leads the Best Novel list, with nominations for Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice; Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross; Parasite by Mira Grant; and The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.

The final book in the category is Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles, by Larry Correia (Baen Books).

(10) One of the most amusing contributions inspired by this year’s Hugo kerfuffle is Cheryl Morgan’s “A Modest Proposal: The Corrective Hugos”.  Very few can keep their sense of humor when all about them are losing theirs…

It is noted that:

  1. In past years the WRONG people have often won Hugo Awards.
  2. Even more WRONG people have been nominated for Hugo Awards.
  3. That, despite repeated and vociferous demands from fandom, the Hugo Jury* has shamefully and persistently refused to rescind their decisions and correct these travesties of justice.

It is therefore resolved:

  1. To create a new category of Corrective Hugo Award

  2. Each year the nomination ballot shall include space for fans to nominate a year/category to be corrected, and a correct slate of nominations for that award…

(11) George R.R. Martin always seems fresh and unaffected, no matter how many times he’s been interviewed. Here’s part of Rolling Stone’s sit-down with the author of Game of Thrones.

Where does your imagination come from?
Ideas are cheap. I have more ideas now than I could ever write up. To my mind, it’s the execution that is all-important. I’m proud of my work, but I don’t know if I’d ever claim it’s enormously original. You look at Shakespeare, who borrowed all of his plots. In A Song of Ice and Fire, I take stuff from the Wars of the Roses and other fantasy things, and all these things work around in my head and somehow they jell into what I hope is uniquely my own. But I don’t know where it comes from, yet it comes – it’s always come. If I was a religious guy, I’d say it’s a gift from God, but I’m not, so I can’t say that.

(12)  Many conventions added an anti-harassment policy last year, or updated the one they had. Stephanie Zvan’s ”So You’ve Got Yourself a Policy. Now What?” walks conrunners through a challenging scenario and offers practical suggestions about the  way to respond.

To make this the most useful, let’s make it hard. Let’s take an edge situation with a lot at stake. Assume you’re an organizer who has just been told that one of your volunteers or your speakers has done something another volunteer found inappropriate. It isn’t a big thing, maybe a joke that relies on an obscure gender- or race-based stereotype, an overenthusiastic and overpersonal compliment, an unwelcome shoulder rub….

It’s also extra important that you get this right. Speakers/special guests and volunteers are in a position of power relative to your average attendee. If they do turn out to be predatory, their targets are less likely to feel they can comfortably resist, and they’re less likely to report problems directly to organizers because they’re less likely to think they’ll get a fair hearing. Speakers/special guests and volunteers are also the people that make your program run and put butts in your seats. You don’t want to antagonize them without reason.

(13) Production has started on the film adaptation of Goosebumps with Jack Black as author R. L. Stine.

The new movie will be based on the R.L. Stine books of the same name. The stories are horror tales written for children, and debuted in 1992. Stine wrote 62 books in the original series, and an additional 115 for the spinoff series.

(14) William F. Nolan is interviewed by Masters of Horror

How did you and George Clayton Johnson come up with the concept for Logan’s Run?

I came up with a concept when I was asked by Charles Beaumont to give a talk at his UCLA class on writing in the mid-1960’s. The topic was the difference between social fiction and science fiction. So I took the social concept of “life begins at forty” and turned it around. What if life ends at forty? In my talk I pointed out that in social fiction, a man might turn forty and then run off with a showgirl, have a mid-life crisis… but in science fiction, he has to face some real threat, technologically or in a future society that demands euthanasia at forty.

Later, I discussed the concept with George Clayton Johnson and we decided that it would have more impact if the age was lowered to 21. George wanted to immediately create a screenplay, but I felt strongly that it should be a novel first. George acquiesced, and we rented a motel room to remove distractions and for three weeks we took turns at the typewriter. The rest is history.

(15) Everybody needs a hobby – “A Florida resident drove around with a cellphone jammer for two years before being caught”.

Many states have banned talking on your cellphone while driving, but Florida is not one of them. So 60-year-old vigilante Jason R. Humphreys took matters into his own hands.

As The Tampa Tribune reports, Humphreys brought a cellphone jammer along on his commute every day for two years. You know, to ensure that his fellow commuters remained focused on the road. Until two local sheriff’s deputies caught him in the act and slapped him with $48,000 worth of fines, which he must pay or otherwise respond to within a month.

It turns out that Humphreys would have gone undetected if it hadn’t been for a local carrier noticing that something was messing with its towers. MetroPCS (which is owned by T-Mobile) notified the Federal Communications Commission that there was a peculiar outage on a certain patch of the Interstate 4 highway and downtown Tampa exactly a year ago. The FCC looked into it and discovered that wideband emissions — broadcast activity with wide frequencies or wavelengths — were emanating from a blue Toyota Highlander.

I didn’t know these had been invented. That’s the only way I’ve avoided temptation. Say, what size is the apparatus? Is there a hand-held version I can surreptitiously use when people are carrying on loud one-sided conversations with their cell phones in elevators, store lines and airport waiting areas — like they need to shout to be heard because the other person is far away! *Zap!*

[Thanks for these links goes out to John King Tarpinian, Dave Langford and Andrew Porter.]

Update 05/05/2014: Corrected Leeper quote attribution to Evelyn.

8 thoughts on “Snapshots 135 Sesquiquadrate

  1. The Atari dig was not really inspiring, and shows the value of constucting and pitching your own publicity. The game was considered very bad even amoung video enthusiasts, often listed as one of “the tep ten really awful” catagories from several people. All said and done, you have a news item about an artifact that is rubbish.

  2. Mssrs. Wright, Scalzi, and Beale seems to be unaware of the existence of the Society for the Preservation of Pluto as a Planet (SP3), founded in 2006 by Michael A. Burstein.

  3. Related story read long ago on the cell phone jammer was a civilian who had a device that he used to insure he had a green light whenever he approached a traffic stop.These are supposed to be used only by police and emergency vehicles. After while it was easy to pick the plate off a security camera and arrest the man. It must have been nice, just to keep om moving, no waiting…

  4. Once again the Star Trek future has been passed early: in “The Devil in the Dark” the miners are seeking Pergium, part of a number of stable trans-uranic elements, the atomic number of which (111) was considered something which would only be discovered in the far future. (111 on the periodic table has already been discovered, Roentgenium), and stable trans-uranic elements are now thought to be possibly above 300 on the periodic table.

Comments are closed.