(1) David Brin urges everyone to make a fashion statement for Back To the Future Day:
Okay so October 21 is “Back to the Future” Day,” when movie houses all over will be holding special showings of BTTF-II, to commemorate our crossing that particular frontier — when Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrived at the ‘future’ of 2015 from the year 1985. Here is a rundown of ways the film was eerily on target… and another… if you set aside hover boards and flying cars and hydrated pizzas. And Mr. Fusion, alas. Hey, everyone wear a DOUBLE TIE that day! I haven’t heard anyone else pushing that meme, so pass it on starting here!
(2) Jim C. Hines’ Icon report includes a photo of a group posed around the “Future Birthplace of James T. Kirk” monument in Riverside, Iowa. Hines is there with Ann Leckie, David Gerrold, Joe and Gay Haldeman, and some others I should probably recognize.
(3) Amanda S. Green considers possible outcomes of Amazon’s new move against fake reviews in “To Pay or Not to Pay”.
I can’t speak for Amazon but I have a feeling what we will see happening is that a number of reviews will simply drop off the site. These reviews will either be directly tied to the sites Amazon has suspicions about or will have key phrases that are oft repeated across other reviews. It is easy enough to code a data crawler to find such similarities. It is basically the same sort of tool that schools use to determine if a paper contains any plagiarized parts.
Amazon might go one step further. Right now, if you look at Amazon customer reviews, you will see some from verified purchasers and then those that aren’t. A verified purchaser is someone who actually purchased the item from Amazon. The only problem with this is it doesn’t reflect those who borrowed a book or short story under the Kindle Unlimited program. This may be the point where Amazon needs to add that as one of the descriptors. I know a number of authors, and readers alike, who have been asking Amazon to do just that. At least that way, people who look at reviews before buying something would have an idea if the reviewer actually put down money on the book in question.
There is always the possibility that Amazon will require you to have purchased an item from them before you are allowed to review it. I’ll admit to being torn about this option. That would keep reviewers like Shiny Book Review from posting reviews on all sales sites. It would kick out reviewers who receive free copies of books unless Amazon has them register as reviewers. This is a path I’m not sure I want to see them go down.
Right now, Amazon gives more weight to reviews written by verified purchasers. As they should.
(4) The Tiptree Award is looking for recommendations. Got one? Click and fill out their form.
Most of the books and stories that Tiptree Award jurors read to pick a winner are nominated by authors and readers. We need your suggestions. If you’ve read a work of science fiction or fantasy that explores or expands our notions of gender, please tell us about it by filling out the recommendation form below. If you have more than one, just fill out the form again with a new recommendation and submit it until you’ve told us about them all.
Recommendations close on the 1st of December, 2015.
(5) Fans and everyone seeking eyeballs for their blog are busy mining the newly-released Star Wars trailer for provocative material like – Who dies in the movie?
The first full-length trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens gave fans plenty to speculate wildly about, but one moment in particular is causing widespread panic across the galaxy — or at least, the Internet. Towards the end of the trailer (watch it here!), there is a one-second shot of heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley) sobbing over what looks like a dead body. So who dies?
(6) Geeks Are Sexy has photographic proof that Canada’s Newest Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is a member of the Rebel Alliance. Eh?
(7) Catherynne M. Valente delivers The Big Idea today at Whatever. You were warned!
Radiance doesn’t have a big idea at its heart.
It has about six. It’s a decopunk alt-history Hollywood space opera mystery thriller. With space whales.
Over-egging the pudding, you say? Too many cooks going at the soup? Gilding that lily like it’s going to the prom? I say: grab your eggs and hold onto your lilies because I am cannonballing into that soup FULL SPEED AHEAD.
(8) Brandon Kempner assesses the chances of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora getting a Hugo nomination.
The Hugo is a murkier award in 2016, given the turbulence surrounding it. 2312 took third place in 2013, and was also third in the nominations. Given the campaigns that are sure to take place in 2016, 3rd place is probably vulnerable to being pushed out. Add in that 2016 is a strong Hugo year (former Best Novel winners Robinson, Stephenson, Leckie, Walton, Bacigalupi, Scalzi, and Liu are all fighting for 5 spots, and that’s not even factoring in Puppy campaigns or buzzy authors like Novik). As a result, I think Robinson will miss the ballot, but a strong year-end push could definitely grab Robinson a spot.
As for metrics, as of mid-October 2015, Aurora has 2,535 Goodreads ratings with a 3.79 score and 264 Amazon ratings with a score of 3.7. Those aren’t great but they aren’t terrible. It’s a rare thing to see the Goodreads score higher than Amazon, but I couldn’t tell you what that means. I think around 1500 Goodreads / 100 Amazon is the cut off to be competitive, so KSR is well above that. Score doesn’t seem to matter for either the Hugos or Nebulas; VanderMeer won a Nebula last year with a 3.62 Goodreads score.
(9) Tobias Buckell is losing readers right and left. Mostly right. “Today’s passive aggressive fan mail: reader will not read more of my books because I don’t speak English English as my first language”
(10) Peter David “Just when boycotts couldn’t get any more stupid: Star War VII”
When the first “Star Wars” film came out in 1977, it was criticized for the overall whiteness of it. The one major black actor, James Earl Jones, wasn’t even given voice credit (his choice). This was answered with the introduction of Lando in the very next film, but still, mostly white.
So now the new film prominently features a black hero and there are actually idiots who are declaring it should be boycotted because of that? I mean, I knew there are people for whom Obama can do no right because of his skin color, but this is quite simply insane.
(11) But Gary Farber says it’s a fake boycott trolled by 4chan.Here’s one of those claiming credit.
So #BoycottStarWarsVII is a 4chan op and sjws swallowed it :3
— A Cat in Dandy (@The_Extrange) October 19, 2015
(12) Meanwhile, in the interests of being fair and balanced, we bring you the A.V. Club’s post “Conservative pundit bravely comes out in support of the Galactic Empire”.
Star Wars’ Galactic Empire tends to get a bad rap. Oh sure, Emperor Palpatine started the whole thing by manufacturing a phony war to scare people into supporting a leader who would slowly take away their freedom in exchange for “safety,” the entire organization is suspiciously stocked with almost exclusively white human men, and there was that one time it destroyed an entire planet full of innocent people just to prove that it could, but is any of that stuff objectively evil? Conservative pundit Bill Kristol doesn’t think so, according to a tweet he posted this morning in response to a joke about how the Star Wars prequels encouraged conservatives to root for the Empire….
(13) Today In History:
- October 20, 1932 — James Whale’s The Old Dark House makes its theatrical debut.
(14) Today’s Birthday Boy:
- Born October 20, 1892 – Bela Lugosi. As they say at IMDB:
It’s ironic that Martin Landau won an Oscar for impersonating Bela Lugosi (in Ed Wood (1994)) when Lugosi himself never came within a mile of one, but that’s just the latest of many sad ironies surrounding Lugosi’s career.
(15) Today’s Birthday Book:
- October 20, 1955 – The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien published. The Wertzone pays tribute:
The Return of the King, being the third part of the novel, was released on 20 October 1955, completing the publication of the tome that had begun on 29 July 1954 with the publication of The Fellowship of the Ring. The Return of the King had originally been planned for release much earlier in the year, but Tolkien delayed it due to working on the book’s appendices, to the annoyance of readers (yet another epic fantasy trend begun by the Tolkmeister).
(16) Belfast-born writer C.S. Lewis is to be honored in his native city with a series of new sculptures depicting characters from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe reports the BBC.
Belfast City Council has commissioned six new pieces of public art, including Aslan the Lion and the White Witch.
They will be erected in a new civic square, currently under construction, at the Holywood Arches in east Belfast.
…As well as the lion and the witch, the six pieces of art also include sculptures of Mr Tumnus, Jewel the unicorn, Mr and Mrs Beaver and the Stone Table
(17) Belfast is also where the third C.S. Lewis Festival takes place from Thursday 19 – Sunday 22 November 2015, marking the 52nd anniversary of the death of the author, theologian, academic and creator of the incredible Chronicles of Narnia series.
Across 4 days of Lewis-related events will be reflections and assessments of the cultural significance of Lewis’ rich legacy, the impact he had on Belfast, as well as the strong influence his native city had on his vast body of work. There will be something for everyone with many magical and free events offered; it’s definitely worth checking out.
Clive Staples Lewis was born in Belfast in 1898. The C.S. Lewis Festival will recognise and celebrate both his life and his legacy to the world. Across 4 days of Lewis-related events will be reflections and assessments of the cultural significance of Lewis’ rich legacy, the impact he had on Belfast, as well as the strong influence his native city had on his vast body of work.
(18) Free lifetime memberships for trying it! One of the best book cataloging sites. LibraryThing launches in iPhone app.
We’re thrilled to announce the official LibraryThing iPhone App!
What it does. This is our first version, so we’ve limited it to doing the most basic functions you’ll need for cataloging on the go:
- Browse and search your library.
- Add books by scanning barcodes. Scanning to add is VERY FAST!
- Add books by searching.
- Browse and upload covers, using the iPhone camera.
- Do minor editing, such as changing collections and ratings. Major editing sends you to LibraryThing.
(19) Wait, you mean it isn’t fake? “This Software Lets Someone Else Control Your Face”
Researchers created expression transferring software that projects mouth, eye, and other facial movements onto another face in real time.
(20) “Life on Earth likely started 4.1 billion years ago – much earlier than scientists thought” reports Phys.org.
“Life on Earth may have started almost instantaneously,” added Harrison, a member of the National Academy of Sciences. “With the right ingredients, life seems to form very quickly.”
The new research suggests that life existed prior to the massive bombardment of the inner solar system that formed the moon’s large craters 3.9 billion years ago.
“If all life on Earth died during this bombardment, which some scientists have argued, then life must have restarted quickly,” said Patrick Boehnke, a co-author of the research and a graduate student in Harrison’s laboratory.
Scientists had long believed the Earth was dry and desolate during that time period. Harrison’s research—including a 2008 study in Nature he co-authored with Craig Manning, a professor of geology and geochemistry at UCLA, and former UCLA graduate student Michelle Hopkins—is proving otherwise.
“The early Earth certainly wasn’t a hellish, dry, boiling planet; we see absolutely no evidence for that,” Harrison said. “The planet was probably much more like it is today than previously thought.”
The researchers, led by Elizabeth Bell—a postdoctoral scholar in Harrison’s laboratory—studied more than 10,000 zircons originally formed from molten rocks, or magmas, from Western Australia. Zircons are heavy, durable minerals related to the synthetic cubic zirconium used for imitation diamonds. They capture and preserve their immediate environment, meaning they can serve as time capsules.
(21) A New York Comic Con panel on the economics of Star Trek gathered Trek writer Chris Black; Manu Saadia, author of the book “Trekonomics”; Annalee Newitz, founding editor of the culture site io9; moderator Felix Salmon, of Fusion; Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist; and Brad DeLong, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley.
“Gene Roddenberry tried to paint our future,” said DeLong, noting that we’ve gone far down that road. “We’re now, in fact, approaching post-scarcity in food and products.”
But, as Newitz pointed out, because “Trek” is a future where money no longer exists, people work because they want to but are therefore supported by other economies. To prove her point, she cited as an example “Measure of a Man,” an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” that centered on the character of Lt. Cmdr. Data, an android.
Even though Data is a crew member of the starship “Enterprise,” unlike his fellow crewmates, he’s a robot. But does that make him a person or Starfleet property?
“We’re constantly being reminded that slavery and low wages support the comfortable, ‘Enterprise’ living,” Newitz said….
Salmon, the panel’s moderator, pointed out that in 2016, “Star Trek” will turn 50 and Thomas More’s book, “Utopia,” will turn 500. He then asked the panel if there is anything utopian about “Trek.”
“We are problem-solving, puzzle-solving, status-seeking creatures,” DeLong said.
Krugman responded by saying: “People have an amazing ability to be unhappy. The problem with utopia is not the lack of scarcity — it’s people.”
[Thanks to Will R., Steven H Silver, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]