Pixel Scroll 11/30/16 It Ain’t Necessarily Scroll

(1) OUTRUNNING CANCER. Pat Cadigan decided – why wait to party? “The Hormones Laughed At Me, Saying, ‘Sleep? B!tch, Please – You Can Sleep When You’re Dead! Mwahahahahahaha!’”

Truth to tell, I suspected I was going to have some sleepless nights coming up anyway. This December was my original estimated time of departure. I didn’t believe for a moment that it would be (I’ve probably said that about a thousand times, here and elsewhere). But when a doctor gives you an expiration date, it kinda sticks in your mind even if it doesn’t come true. And though I didn’t believe it, I tried to imagine what it would be like but as I never got within spitting distance of Death’s Door, it didn’t seem like a productive use of my time so I stopped.

Anyway, starting tomorrow, 1 December, every day is a party. They won’t all be noisy and lively parties; some will be too sedate to really be worthy of the term. But I’m calling them parties anyway. From 1 December till…well, who knows? Whatever I’m doing, I’ll be partying. If I’m writing, I’m partying. If I’m in the bathtub, I’m partying. If I’m reading, I’m partying. You get the idea.

(2) IT ONLY TAKES MONEY. Martin Morse Wooster knows how you can get into the Hollywood sci-fi event of the season:

Now I know you’d like nothing better than to go to the Star Wars premiere in LA and chill with Forest Whitaker afterward.  Well, guess what:  this experience is yours for ONLY $35,000!  But you get TWO tickets.

This offer is made on a website called ifonly.com, which offers “unique experiences.”  I wish I could tell you more but they demand you sign up for their newsletter before they show you what they have so that’s what I’m able to tell you.

You know, the Washington Nationals only charged me $40, and I got to see two Cy Young winners AND get a Coveted Star Wars Thingie.  Five digits for a STAR WARS experience is a little much…

Details

  • 2 tickets to the premiere of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” in Los Angeles on December 10
  • 2 passes to the after-party
  • Does not include a meet & greet with any cast members
  • Must be 16 or older
  • Travel and accommodations not included
  • Background check may be required and guests must provide names within 24 hours of the auction’s close

Auction ends December 5.

(3) END OF TORONTO FAN INSTITUTION. In her latest newsletter for the group, Yvonne Penney announced Toronto’s First Thursday gatherings will end next week.

December will be the final First Thursday as founded by Tommy Ferguson in 1997. This decision has not been an easy one because of its longevity in the SF community in Toronto and region.

Here is why this is happening:

  1. I am retiring in 2017 and I have a long list of things that I want to accomplish and hopefully will have the time and continued health to do it in.
  2. Arthritis is slowly making its presence felt. For a number of years I have had difficulty in walking because of arthritis in my right ankle, my shoulders are in constant pain and my hips give me grief at times.
  3. Because of an unfortunate atmosphere that has arisen because one member decided he didn’t like the pub we were using. When the Foxes Den suddenly closed its doors (It’s now a Firkin), a new venue needed to be found, and rather than work with the group, he decided to start his own. He and his group cannot lay claim to the original pubnite as they were not around when the First Thursday Pubnite was created, which by the way was not created solely for the 2003 Worldcon bid – it predates that. Also, attendance has been low for the past several years; we no longer had the numbers, even at the Foxes Den, we once had many years ago.

This sort of split is not new; it occurs all the time anywhere in the world for any community or interest. I find it stressful….

(4) TREASURE HOUSE FOR READERS. Literary Hub reveres the memory of James Lackington — “The Man Who Invented Bookselling As We Know It”.

Today, few people are likely to remember James Lackington (1746-1815) and his once-famous London bookshop, The Temple of the Muses, but if, as a customer, you’ve ever bought a remaindered book at deep discount, or wandered thoughtfully through the over-stocked shelves of a cavernous bookstore, or spent an afternoon lounging in the reading area of a bookshop (without buying anything!) then you’ve already experienced some of the ways that Lackington revolutionized bookselling in the late 18th century. And if you’re a bookseller, then the chances are that you’ve encountered marketing strategies and competitive pressures that trace their origins to Lackington’s shop. In the 21st-century marketplace, there is sometimes a longing for an earlier, simpler age, but the uneasy tension between giant and small retailers seems to have been a constant since the beginning. The Temple of the Muses, which was one of the first modern bookstores, was a mammoth enterprise, by far the largest bookstore in England, boasting an inventory of over 500,000 volumes, annual sales of 100,000 books, and yearly revenues of £5,000 (roughly $700,000 today). All of this made Lackington a very wealthy man—admired by some and despised by others—but London’s greatest bookseller began his career inauspiciously as an illiterate shoemaker.

(5) HINES AUCTION #5. In the fifth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions, up for bid are two autographed books (one trade paperback, one hardcover) by author Stephen Leigh.

Today’s auction is for a signed trade paperback of the Spectrum Award-winning DARK WATER’S EMBRACE and a signed hardcover of CROW OF CONNEMARA, both by Stephen Leigh.

The Crow of Connemara is a contemporary Celtic fantasy set primarily in Ireland.  Picking up threads from ancient Irish mythology and folktales, this story is fantasy, drama, and tragic romance all at once, a tale caught in the dark places where the world of ancient myth intersects our own, where old ways and old beliefs struggle not to be overwhelmed by the modern world.

Often compared to Ursula Le Guin’s ground-breaking The Left Hand of Darkness, Dark Water’s Embrace is a fascinating look at issues of human (and alien) sexuality. Stephen Leigh creates a rich world with elaborate care and uses this alien backdrop to delve into issues of survival, sexuality and the meaning of life itself.

(6) STRAHAN’S FAVORITES FROM THIS YEAR’S SHORT NOVELS. Spotted via Black Gate, Jonathan Strahan posted his imaginary ToC of Best Short Novels 2016

  • The Dream Quest of Vellitt Boe, Kij Johnson (Tor)
  • The Ballad of Black Tom, Victor LaValle (Tor)
  • Every Heart A Doorway, Seanan McGuire (Tor)
  • This Census-taker, China Mieville (Del Rey)
  • The Charge and the Storm, An Owomoyela (Asimov’s)
  • The Devil You Know, K.J. Parker (Tor)
  • The Iron Tactician, Alastair Reynolds (Newcon)
  • The Best Story I Can Manage, Robert Shearman (Five Storeys High)
  • The Vanishing Kind, Lavie Tidhar (F&SF)
  • A Taste of Honey, Kai Ashante Wilson (Tor)

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 30, 2011 — A pristine copy of Action Comics #1, famed for the first appearance of Superman, sold for $2,161,000. It was the first comic book to break the $2 million mark.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born November 30, 1937 – Ridley Scott

(9) QUARK FOR REALZ? Daniel Dern drew a connection between this New York Times news item and a Seventies TV show — “Space Trash Collector? A Japanese Entrepreneur Wants the Job”.

Sitting in a drab industrial neighborhood surrounded by warehouses and factories, Astroscale’s Tokyo office seems appropriately located for a company seeking to enter the waste management business.

Only inside do visitors see signs that its founder, Mitsunobu Okada, aspires to be more than an ordinary garbageman. Schoolroom pictures of the planets decorate the door to the meeting room. Satellite mock-ups occupy a corner. Mr. Okada greets guests in a dark blue T-shirt emblazoned with his company’s slogan: Space Sweepers.

Mr. Okada is an entrepreneur with a vision of creating the first trash collection company dedicated to cleaning up some of humanity’s hardest-to-reach rubbish: the spent rocket stages, inert satellites and other debris that have been collecting above Earth since Sputnik ushered in the space age. He launched Astroscale three years ago in the belief that national space agencies were dragging their feet in facing the problem, which could be tackled more quickly by a small private company motivated by profit.

Dern remembers Quark was a 1977-1978 TV show. Per Wikipedia:

Quark was created by Buck Henry, co-creator of the spy spoof Get Smart.

The show was set on a United Galaxy Sanitation Patrol Cruiser, an interstellar garbage scow operating out of United Galaxies Space Station Perma One in the year 2226. Adam Quark, the main character, works to clean up trash in space by collecting “space baggies” with his trusted and highly unusual crew.

In its short run, Quark satirized such science fiction as Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Flash Gordon. Three of the episodes were direct parodies of Star Trek episodes.

(10) MIND MELD RETURNS. At Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, Shana DuBois curated “Mind Meld: Some of Our Favorite Characters”.

Kate Wilhelm wrote, “Great fiction reveals that there is no such thing as a common, everyday uninteresting person. They are all interesting if you learn enough about them to discover who lives behind the facade.”

So we asked members of the genre community:

What is one of your favorite novels in which the characters sucked you into the story? What about these characters sets them apart?

The panelists answering the question are: Michael Damian Thomas, Cheryl Morgan, Jana Nyman, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Arianne “Tex” Thompson, Rachel S. Cordasco, and Beth Cato.

(11) FIGHTING ALZHEIMERS. Bill Gates tells about the research he saw on a visit to CalTech in “Why I’d Love To Be A College Student Again”.

People often think that the U.S. spends a huge amount of money—perhaps too much—on R&D. In fact, all U.S. R&D spending accounts for less than 1 percent of national income.

I’ve written before about the importance of government investment to jumpstart innovation. Government-backed research in universities and labs leads to new ideas and technology that build new businesses, create jobs, and strengthen our overall economy.

But those big, life-changing discoveries and innovations—from the cancer cures to moonshots to solar cells– often get their start as an experiment in a university lab, an equation sketched on a professor’s blackboard, or a student asking, “What if?”

A new idea is a fragile thing. It needs allies to nurture it. Government R&D investments provide that important support. Without it, we would have fewer scientific breakthroughs.

Let me give a couple examples of why this is so important.

Some of the most exciting research I learned about during my visit was from Caltech scientists working on identifying possible treatments for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. All of the researchers received government R&D funding.

(12) VISION QUEST. Diane Duane told Facebook readers she developed an eye problem last Sunday. She feared it was a torn retina. It wasn’t – though the real problem is also a concern.

So here’s the tl:dr; version of today’s episode of the Adventure of the Dexter Eye.

Part 1: What happened to me was (thank all Gods in the neighborhood) NOT any kind of retinal detachment, vitreous detachment, or similar traumatic damage to the retina. So today’s teaching moment is: even if you are a health care professional (or former one) and expert at Googling For Symptoms, don’t be so sure you know what’s going on.

This means that I’ve dodged this bullet, only to find I’m standing in front of a bigger, slower one.*

Part 2: What seems to have happened to me is a small transient circulatory blockage in the retina….

And that could be symptomatic of any number of other problems.

This is a herald of other things that may be going on elsewhere. So over the next couple of weeks I get to go to my GP here and have a full workup of bloods and various diagnostic procedures to be determined as we go along, with an eye to ruling in/out a complex of possibilities: circulatory system problems, heart problems, incipient dIabetes, plaque, sunspots, you name it. (There are way too many possible causes for this event…) (OKAY, maybe not sunspots.)

(13) MARTIAN HOPS. The Space Review posted the first part of a discussion of two new productions with Martian roots. “Love and a Red Planet: popular entertainment and the settlement of Mars (part 1)” at The Space Review.

It takes Hollywood about two years to produce a movie or a television show. It can happen faster, and it certainly can be done slower—a situation often referred to as “development hell” in the industry—but two years is about average. Thus, it is unlikely that any of the Mars-themed shows and movies appearing today are a direct result of the success of last year’s movie The Martian. More likely, National Geographic’s Mars series and the weepy teen romance The Space Between Us got started as a result of the success of Andy Weir’s 2014 book that inspired the hit movie, as well as the increased attention that human exploration of Mars gained starting around 2013 or so with Mars One and Elon Musk. The success of the movie, which starred Matt Damon and premiered in fall 2015, probably only reassured any nervous financiers that movies and television shows that used Mars as a backdrop could find an audience.

Mars premiered on The National Geographic Channel on November 14. The Space Between Us was to open in theaters in mid-December (it has recently been delayed to early February), but had a special advance showing in Washington, DC, a couple of weeks ago. Both have at their core fictionalized stories about the first humans on Mars, and in both cases they depict plans for settlement involving public-private partnerships, as opposed to the more common theme of human exploration of Mars. Because of these similarities they serve as useful indicators of how the subject of human settlement of Mars—not simply exploration—is being depicted in popular entertainment. Has Mars-themed entertainment been liberated of some of its prior constraints and is it evolving in new ways, or is it still beholden to many of the standard tropes we’ve seen in numerous other movies? This article will address The Space Between Us, and the second part will address the National Geographic series Mars.

Has Mars-themed entertainment been liberated of some of its prior constraints and is it evolving in new ways, or is it still beholden to many of the standard tropes we’ve seen in numerous other movies?

…Part 2 will address National Geographic Channel’s Mars miniseries.

(14) DEEP SPACE NEIN. With fake news getting so much attention right now, can a new Moon mission succeed in convincing people Neil Armstrong really went there in 1969? “German Mission to the Moon Will Prove the Apollo Landings Weren’t a Hoax”. Gizmodo has the story.

A German Lunar X-Prize team has announced its intentions to send two mobile probes to the Moon to inspect the lunar rover left behind by the Apollo 17 mission. Finally, something that’ll get the Moon landing conspiracy nutters to shut the hell up.

The group, known as PT Scientists, is one of 16 teams currently vying for the $30 million Google Lunar X-Prize, a competition requiring a private group to land an autonomous vehicle on the Moon, travel more than 500 meters (1,640 feet), and transmit high-definition photographs back to Earth. The group is currently working with German automobile manufacturer Audi to develop the rover, and it has signed a deal with broker Spaceflight Industries to secure a ride on a commercial launch vehicle (which rocket company is yet to be determined).

[Thanks to Murray Moore, JJ, Daniel Dern, Mark-kitteh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

87 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/30/16 It Ain’t Necessarily Scroll

  1. I can’t believe you sheeple are so in thrall to NASA propaganda that you actually believe there’s a Moon.

  2. @PhilRM

    Bah! You degenerate Diana denial-ists disgust me! If there is no moon where does green cheese come from, my friend? Where, I ask?!? Quod Erat Demonstrandum.. and, allow me to add: checkmate!

  3. Hey, kinda a Meredith Moment:

    The Magic of Recluse by L. E. Modessitt, Jr. is on sale for $2.99 at Amazon, B&N, and iBooks.

    The first book of the Recluse Saga, The Magic of Recluse is one of my comfort reads. A young jerkface named Lerris leaves his stifling home island of Recluse on an enforced walkabout of the mainland to learn their politics and customs. A long, meandering, onomatopoeia-filled walkabout where he learns about the world, and himself, and magic.

  4. @Eli: Heh. I have a vague recollection of some Golden Age story in which the first lunar mission (which is of course manned) orbits the moon and discovers that it’s just a huge prop – a flat disk facing the Earth. Anybody else remember that?

  5. @PhilRM: I think I remember that one; I seem to recall that, unknown to the astronauts, it was merely a dress rehearsal (presumably an incompetently staged one),.

  6. @phil yes i do. But i cant remember neither name nor author. But its an old one (and must have been available in german. Heinlein or Asimov?)

    And I just saw that The last dragonslayer is coming on Sky1 in England at x-mas day. I wonder when Ill be able to watch it (and if its watchable. I never was a fan of the Pratchett-Tv-Productions, they somehow werent as charming or funny as the books)

  7. My favourite comments on the ‘moon landing hoax’ idea came from cinematography students who pointed out that while we may have had the technology to get to the moon… we definitely didn’t have the technology to fake the footage that accurately at the time.

    Then, of course, There’s Darryl Cunningham’s book How to Fake a Moon Landing, which rips into a lot of the issues.

  8. PhilRM
    It was also a Gahan Wilson cartoon, though that one had it as a half a sphere, and the back was plywood and 2x4s.

  9. I can’t believe you glizznarks are so in thrall to Moon propaganda that you actually believe there’s a NASA.

  10. For me, the most convincing thing about the moon landing footage (and the thing that I don’t think ever gets done right in movies, TV, etc.) is the dust the astronauts are kicking up as they walk around — because there’s no air, it doesn’t billow; it just flies up and back down on a nice parabolic trajectory.

    It’s especially obvious when the rover is tooling around kicking up dust.

  11. I’ve been reading the Long List 2 anthology and it’s all good stuff. Stronger, I think than last years. Well worth it.

  12. It’s a long time since I read any Recluce, I think I bailed once the prequels started getting a bit … convoluted. I suspect these early ones will still stand up as good readable fun.

    #14 – THAT’S NO MOON

  13. @Jeff Jones: That’s it. Thanks!
    @Nigel: Snort. (Also, bonus points for use of glizznarks.)

  14. @JJ: thanks, that’s where I found out about the sale, then as I was typing my post decided to highlight the first book. Because IMHO, Towers of the Sunset is by far the weakest book of the five that make up the initial story arc.

    @Mark: see above. My headcanon Recluce Saga ends after the fifth book. Even though I read…four? five? more after that one before giving up.

  15. Reading matter…

    Recently I have read books by four different authors that interacted oddly in my head.

    Kim Stanley Robinson, Aurora. I didn’t like it, even though it is beautifully written and chockfull of interesting science neep. But the author vehemently objects to a major trope of SF, to the point that for a reader like me, who enjoys that trope, this book is rather like having cold water thrown in your face. I also took a strong dislike to the heroine, especially after the scene in which she is so upset by the views expressed by a speaker in a public forum that she runs up to the podium and punches him in the face, to obvious authorial approval. Yuck. But, as I said, beautifully written.

    Nnedi Okorafor, Who Fears Death. This was also a difficult read, but for completely different reasons. It’s an outstanding book that I recommend very strongly, but with trigger warnings out the wazoo. The friend who recommended it to me said, “Read it when you’re feeling strong.” Oddly enough, I got through the horrific rape scene and the genital mutilation and the reference to offstage child molesting only to bog down in the middle of the book because I liked the heroine so much, and there was a prophecy that she would come to a bad end. I couldn’t bear to read on and watch it happen, after she had survived so much already. But my friend urged me to keep reading, and once again, she was right. The prophecy has unexpected complications, and the book does in fact end on an emotionally satisfying, upbeat note, with a vision of a better future.

    After these two books I wanted to read something fluffy, so I finished up Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy. It’s a guilty pleasure, but nevertheless a pleasure. The author is an academic historian, so when she takes her characters back to the London of 1591, where most of the middle book is set, she really knows what she is talking about; and her writing style is highly acceptable. The first book is far too romance-y for my taste, but once the witch-and-vampire couple have gotten together, the fantasy mystery element takes over and the plot becomes much more interesting. Oddly enough, there is a certain similarity to Who Fears Death, because both stories center on a woman learning to use her magical powers.

    And finally I read the Arabesk trilogy by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, police-procedural mysteries set in an alternate North Africa in a timeline where the U.S. stayed out of WWI and the Ottoman Empire not only remained in power but took Egypt back from the British. I enjoyed these enormously even though the protagonist is male and I’m not. But there are good female characters too. My one complaint was that the central mystery of the hero’s true identity was never fully explained, though many hints were dropped, some of them seemingly contradictory. Maybe the author will write more books in the series; I hope so, since I would love to read them.

    Summing up, I’d say that Who Fears Death is the best book in the batch and the one that I would vote for if this were an award shortlist. But I still consider Robinson the best writer even though I didn’t care for Aurora. The author I enjoyed most was Grimwood, and Harkness has probably been the most successful financially, which I suppose makes her work the best by canine standards. Something for everyone!

  16. @Dawn Incognito

    I’ve just checked wikipedia (the internal chronology of that series is messed up) and I’m pretty sure it was book 6 Fall of Angels that made me drop out because there was a character that I wanted to strangle, so I think I’ll share your headcannon if that’s OK by you?

  17. @Nigel: that’s only if you accept the acronym at face value; those of us in the know know it really stands for –

    No Actual Science Administration…

  18. Down and Out, by Ken Wharton (“Science Fiction by Scientists”; November 15, 2016; Springer International Publishing) is an outstanding short story. The protagonist is an alien and yet the story is moving, the science is strong, the plot is solid–it’s probably the best hard SF story I’ve seen all year–maybe for the past two years.

  19. @Dawn Incognito – Thanks for pointing out the Magic of Recluse sale. I’ve been wanting to replace my (unreadable to me) paperback copy for allergy reasons. I can now pass along my copy to my Nephew & his husband.

  20. Moon Hoax

    My wife and I saw the set of the Fox “Alien Autopsy” at the UFO Museum and International Research Center in Roswell, New Mexico 15+ years or so ago. It was awesome!

    If you ever get to Roswell, the gift shop at the UFO museum is wonderful.

  21. @IanP: to the comfy chair with you, me lad. Also, a perfect description of the Filers.

  22. A couple years ago I read a relatively recent book (title & author both gone with the wind) set partly on Earth & partly on a space habitat, where one of the political issues (for the USan characters, at least) is that “there is a solid firmament of Heaven” has become the new anti-evolution: many fundie Christians believe it, so all politicians have to at least acknowledge it as valid, and many say they believe it whole-heartedly.

    IIRC I found the book reasonably amusing: it made fun of both academe and US politics (target-rich environments to be sure). Does anyone know what book I’m talking about? I think the author may be a woman, and the book MAY have been a first novel.

  23. I really was feeling awful last night; it’s taken me till now to find the new scroll!

    I loved Capricorn One. It was just lots of fun. Best chase scenes ever!

  24. Capricorn One was educational, too. Where else could I have learned that a modern attack helicopter can be handily outmaneuvered by an ancient crop duster?

  25. @Dawn Incognito: I just reread that. It wasn’t as good as I remembered — maybe my 23-years-younger self just didn’t catch the almost Dicksonian ending — but it still kept the sense (that Modesitt made explicit in his WFC interview) that both sides are mistaken in believing they have all the answers.

    @Doctor Science: Could it be Joan Slonczewski’s The Highest Frontier? Rather more left-wing assumptions of how-things-work than I found plausible, but there was definitely political kowtowing to religious idiocy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *