(1) Martin Morse Wooster opened my eyes to a previously unrealized fact — Wil Wheaton is a celebrity homebrewer.
On November 7, 2015, the American Homebrewers Association hosts Learn to Homebrew Day across the country. This year, celebrity homebrewers Wil Wheaton and Kyle Hollingsworth have teamed up with the AHA to promote the celebration! Kyle and the AHA created a video together, which can be viewed here.
Wheaton even has a dedicated blog for his homebrew activities – Devils Gate Brewing. He’s also appeared on Brewing TV.
(2) While researching the homebrew story, I observed Wheaton deliver this absolute home truth —
Saturday Night Live debuted 40 years ago today. 39 years and 51 weeks ago, people started complaining that it isn’t as good as it used to be
— Wil Wheaton (@wilw) October 11, 2015
(3) Crowdfunding conventions doesn’t always work. The fans who’d like to hold Phoenix Sci-Fi Con 2016 have only managed to raise $50 of the $12,500 goal in 13 days. The last donation was almost a week ago.
(4) “Neiman” has launched a new science-fiction and fantasy news aggregator, Madab, which is the word for “sci-fi” in Hebrew. (Says Neiman: “It fits, since I’m an Israeli in origin.”) The website focuses on books and written stuff, and follows more than a hundred sources.
(5) Zoë Heller, in “How Does an Author’s Reputation Shape Your Response to a Book?” for the New York Times Sunday Book Review, said about her experience as a slush pile reader:
The important thing was to send back manuscripts at a steady rate and to keep the slush pile low. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. Under my supervision, the slush pile grew and grew until it became several tottering ziggurats of slush. I’d like to say that it was the thought of dashing writers’ hopes that paralyzed me. But I was quite heartless about that. What stopped me in my tracks was the dread of having to make independent literary judgments. I had never before been asked to evaluate writing that was utterly reputation-less and imprimatur-less. In college I had read I.A. Richards’s famous study, ‘Practical Criticism,’ in which Richards asked Cambridge undergraduates to assess poems without telling the students who had written them. The point of the experiment was to show how, when deprived of contextual clues, students ended up making embarrassingly ‘wrong’ judgments about what was good and bad. I was convinced that the slush pile was my own ‘Practical Criticism’ challenge and that I was going to be revealed as a fraud, with no real powers of literary discrimination.
Andrew Porter made a comment about his own experiences, which the Times published:
I read the slush pile at “The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction” for 8 years, from 1966 to 1974, going in once a week to sort through anywhere from 100 to 140 unsolicited manuscripts. The ultra-short stories of under 500 words were usually rejected—none of the writers measured up to Fredric Brown, master of the short-short—while poetry, seldom published, also got the boot. Holiday stories sent in during the holidays were also rejected; most authors have no idea what sort of lead time magazines require. Then there were so many stories with punchline endings: “We’ll go to the third planet: the natives call it ‘Earth'” or “Eve? Gosh, my name’s Adam!” Some of those were 25,000 words, and most ended badly.
Occasionally there was a gem among the dross; I pulled Suzette Haden Elgin’s first published story from the piles, and it went on to be published and anthologized many times.
I was paid a pittance, yes ($25 a week), but did my best by the magazine and the authors. We sent them rejection forms, with sometimes a note encouraging more submissions—which was usually a mistake; they sent in their vast files of unpublishable stories. But sometimes…
All life is a is a judgement call, whether of unpublished stories, where to live, who to marry, or what to have for dinner. Heller failed the writers and her employers. I hope her subsequent life judgements have been wiser.
(6) Aaron Pound’s well-written CapClave report on Dreaming About Other Worlds ends with this insight:
After the convention, I spoke with my mother on the phone. She had traveled to New York to visit my sister for the weekend, and she was somewhat perplexed that the redhead and I had gone to CapClave rather than New York ComicCon. While the redhead and I enjoy big conventions with tens of thousands of attendees every now and then – we have been to DragonCon once, and we go to GenCon every year – there is simply no substitute for the congenial and friendly atmosphere of the smaller fan run conventions like CapClave, Balticon, Chessiecon, and the hundreds of other small conventions that take place every year. The blunt truth is that the large professionally run media conventions like New York ComicCon are simply exhausting. New York ComicCon had about 170,000 attendees this year. CapClave had about 400. To attend almost any panel at New York ComicCon, you have to wait in line, often for hours. You might be able to see stars like Chris Evans, George Takei, or Carrie Fischer, but you’ll likely see them from the back of an auditorium as they speak to a couple of thousand people. Or if you want a personal interaction you’ll pay for the privilege, and you will likely only be able to interact with them for a minute or two. At CapClave, on the other hand, the panels are small and interactive. I have never had to spend any appreciable time waiting in line for anything. Most of the authors who attend are more than happy to sit down and talk with you, whether after a panel, sitting in the con suite, or simply while hanging out at the hotel bar. An event like New York ComicCon is a spectacle, while CapClave, by contrast, is a conversation. There is room for both in the genre fiction world, but as for myself, I prefer the conversation.
(7) A Brian K. Vaughn comic may be made into a TV series.
After years of trying, Hollywood finally threw in the towel last year and stopped trying to make a movie version of Y: The Last Man. Brian K. Vaughan’s epic 60-issue series recounts the adventures of Yorick Brown, his pet monkey Ampersand, and all the ladies on Earth who want a piece of him because he is—spoiler alert—the last man, after a mysterious plague kills everything with a Y chromosome except for him. After the rights were returned to Vaughan following New Line dropping the ball on the films, it was unclear if anything would ever happen with it, given the creator had left television and was concentrating on comics once more.
But much like astronauts returning to Earth from the International Space Station, Y: The Last Man has returned to the world of filmed adaptations. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the sci-fi comic is being developed into a series for cable channel FX. Along with producers Nina Jacobsen and Brad Simpson, the network is looking for a writer to develop the show with Vaughan.
(8) Ross Andersen reports on “The Most Mysterious Star in Our Galaxy” for The Atlantic.
Between these constellations sits an unusual star, invisible to the naked eye, but visible to the Kepler Space Telescope, which stared at it for more than four years, beginning in 2009…..
The light pattern suggests there is a big mess of matter circling the star, in tight formation. That would be expected if the star were young. When our solar system first formed, four and a half billion years ago, a messy disk of dust and debris surrounded the sun, before gravity organized it into planets, and rings of rock and ice.
But this unusual star isn’t young. If it were young, it would be surrounded by dust that would give off extra infrared light. There doesn’t seem to be an excess of infrared light around this star.
It appears to be mature….
Jason Wright, an astronomer from Penn State University, is set to publish an alternative interpretation of the light pattern. SETI researchers have long suggested that we might be able to detect distant extraterrestrial civilizations, by looking for enormous technological artifacts orbiting other stars. Wright and his co-authors say the unusual star’s light pattern is consistent with a “swarm of megastructures,” perhaps stellar-light collectors, technology designed to catch energy from the star.
“When [Boyajian] showed me the data, I was fascinated by how crazy it looked,” Wright told me. “Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider, but this looked like something you would expect an alien civilization to build.”
Boyajian is now working with Wright and Andrew Siemion, the Director of the SETI Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. The three of them are writing up a proposal. They want to point a massive radio dish at the unusual star, to see if it emits radio waves at frequencies associated with technological activity.
If they see a sizable amount of radio waves, they’ll follow up with the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, which may be able to say whether the radio waves were emitted by a technological source, like those that waft out into the universe from Earth’s network of radio stations.
(9) George R.R. Martin announces that Esquire’s Sexiest Woman Alive…
…is Emilia Clarke, our own Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea.
(10) Tom Knighton reviews the novel The Martian:
I’d heard all about the science, how it was supposed to be so accurate. I’d heard that Weir wrote a pretty compelling story. While I’m not sure about the former, I do agree with the latter, they left out one key piece of commentary on The Martian. It’s actually funny!
Mark Watney, the main character, is a natural smart ass and an independent spirit…in addition to a mechanical engineer and botanist. Honest, if you’re going to strand a guy on Mars, it might have been the perfect choice, which some may perceive as a chink in Watney’s armor on this story, but I disagree.
(11) SFFWorld interviews Seanan McGuire:
SFFWorld: With so many interesting universes that you create, you have fans who like them all. But do you ever have fans getting mad at you because you are working on one series and they want a new book in their favorite series?
McGuire: Fans are people, and people sometimes get mad at air. I know I do. So I have people huff at me because I’m not doing what they want, but I also have people get mad because I use profanity, or because I exist in material space, or because I was at Disneyland when they thought I should be writing. I just keep swimming. I need to switch between projects to keep from burning myself out, and I like to think that my true fans would rather have me writing for a long time than get exactly what they want the second that they want it. Unless what they want is a puppy.
(12) “Most of the story team for the next Star Wars film is female” reports Fortune.
Today, Kennedy is president of Lucasfilm, producer of the next installment in the Star Wars series, The Force Awakens. Still, she believes the challenges for women have remained much the same since the late 1970s. “I don’t think things have changed much for women for jobs in the entertainment industry, especially in technical roles,” she said. Kennedy added that at a recent Saturday Night Live taping she attended, she saw no women operating the cameras….
“People in powerful positions are not trying hard enough [to bring women into the industry] and there are an alarming number of women who are not able to get those jobs,” she explained.
And — “Kathleen Kennedy Promises She’ll Hire A Female Director For A Star Wars Movie” reports GeekTyrant
“I feel it is going to happen — we are going to hire a woman who’s going to direct a Star Wars movie. I have no doubt. On the other hand, I want to make sure we put somebody in that position who’s set up for success. It’s not just a token job to look out and try to find a woman that we can put into a position of directing Star Wars.”
(13) No matter what William Shatner told the Australians, Justin Lin is directing Star Trek Beyond — and people are leaking photos of the aliens from Lin’s movie.
(14) “One step closer to Star Trek: New 3-D printer builds with 10 materials at once” from Christian Science Monitor.
It’s built from off-the-shelf parts that cost about $7,000 in total, and is capable of printing in full color with up to 10 materials at a time, including fabrics, fiber-optics, and lenses.
Traditional multi-material printers use a mechanical system to sweep each layer of the printed object after it’s laid down to ensure that it’s flat and correctly aligned. The extreme precision of such a system is a big part of the reason that printers are so expensive. But the MultiFab uses a machine-vision system instead of a mechanical one, which allows for precise scanning – down to 40 microns – without the need for so many pricey components, project engineer Javier Ramos told Wired.
(15) All six Bonds together, that is, at Madame Tussaud’s!
(16) Frock Flicks: The Costume Movie Review Podcast, does a serious, in-depth study of historical costuming in Monty Python and the Holy Grail – which gets high marks despite having been done cheap, cheap, cheap!
The Historical Setting of Monty Python and the Holy Grail
The movie is supposedly set in 932 A.D., and, of course, the story is King Arthur, which is quasi-fictitious anyway. The person who might be the historical basis for the Arthurian legends could have lived in the 5th to 7th century, and 932 is right around the reign of Æthelstan, who was a king of the Anglo-Saxons and the first to proclaim himself King of the English in 927. But hey, whatever this is a comedy, who pays attention to the title cards, right? Other than all those moose and llamas…
In a way, it doesn’t matter because medieval clothing, at least for men, is somewhat vaguely defined from the 5th though 12th centuries, being mostly belted tunics and such. But for reference, here are a few examples of how ruling men were depicted in documents of the period in England. The garment shapes are simple, and the higher up in status a man was, the more decorative trims and jewelry he got. It’s also interesting to note the hair and beard styles.
(17) John Hertz offers a piece he entitles, “Do you, Mister Jones?” —
All this throwing round of the word “geek” recalls a handy little acronym I had published a while ago in The MT Void 1279 (or you may have seen it later in Vanamonde 956, where I added “Among reasons to form one’s own opinions, people can be vigorous in accusing one of one’s virtues”; not to burden the File 770 Reference Director, I allude to Aesop, H. Andersen, B. Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man”, and “The Marching Morons”).
Grapes are sour.
Emperor has no clothes.
Each put-down of you means I win.
Kornbluth didn’t tell the half of it.
[Thanks to James H. Burns, John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, David K.M. Klaus, John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]