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.]

Pixel Scroll 6/13/16 Carry On My Wayward Scroll

(1) NEXT STEP. Sigrid Ellis responds to the Orlando attack with a series of autobiographical notes in “The road to murder is paved with microaggressions”.

  1. I was horrified to hear the news out of Orlando. But I wasn’t surprised. I wish I found murders of LGBTQIA folk to be surprising. But I have been found guilty of being gay my entire life. I know how much, how casually, how thoughtlessly I am hated. Hated not because I am evil, but because I am merely the most horrible disgusting thing people can imagine.
  2. The shooter went to a place of refuge, of joy, of celebration. He went to a place where queers go when we are told we are too queer to be seen anywhere else. He went to the place where all the shoving and flaunting of queer would have been hidden away from him. He sought it out, this crusader vigilante, this one good man with a gun we hear so much about. He took his righteousness and hunted down the gay he hated and feared.
  3. So how do we go on. How do we live in a world that hates and fears us?

I cannot stop anyone from murdering anyone else. I don’t have that power. But I am … done. I am done with letting the jokes and remarks slide by. I cannot continue to passively agree that I am a punchline, a threat, a bogeyman, a cautionary tale. I just, … I am done.

I can’t stop the Orlando murders, or any other murders of queers.

But I am done being complicit.

(2) HELPING. Stephanie Burgis researched a list of links about ways to help Orlando victims, and community LGBTQ organizations.

This is not the post I wanted to write today. Today, I was planning to announce a fun new project up for pre-order. I was going to talk about other stuff, the normal, small incidents of life. But I’m still reeling. So I’ll post about all those things another day. Today, I just want to pass on the things I’ve seen that might help a bit:…

(3) DIAMOND TIME. Alastair Reynolds’ story “Diamond Dogs” will be on stage in Chicago this season.

An adaptation by Althos Low (the pen name for Steve Pickering and creatives from Shanghai Low Theatricals) of Alastair Reynolds sci-fi story “Diamond Dogs” will complete The House Theatre’s 2016-17 season.

The production, set in the future, follows characters caught in an alien tower and will be third in the company’s season, running Jan. 13-March 5. Artistic director Nathan Allen will direct.

(4) TIME TRAVELERS PAST. The Economist discusses“Time-travel from H.G. Wells to ‘Version Control’”.

MUCH of what is good in science fiction is not about the future. Rather, the genre uses the future as a canvas on which to imprint its real concerns—the present. Counterintuitively, perhaps, time travel stories are often those tales that are most anchored in the present. As Sean Redmond argues in “Liquid Metal: the Science Fiction Film Reader”, time travel “provides the necessary distancing effect that science fiction needs to be able to metaphorically address the most pressing issues and themes that concern people in the present”.

One of the earliest time-travel novels, H.G. Wells’s “The Time Machine”, can, for example, be read as reflecting contemporary anxieties about the effects of the industrial revolution on Britain’s rigid class system. The elfin “upper class” Eloi are seemingly content, but are in fact easy prey for the ape-like “working class” Morlocks. The fear that a strong but supposedly inferior working class, empowered by industrialisation, could come for them would have resonated with many of Wells’s Victorian readers.

Robert Heinlein’s time and dimension-hopping novels featuring Lazarus Long, who lives for over 2,000 years, are rooted in the author’s rejection of the social norms of his times. With their enthusiasm for nudism and free love, the novels, which must have seemed provocative in the 1950s and 60s, can now feel dated.

(5) REYNOLDS WOULD STAY. Alastair Reynolds tells “Why I’m for the UK remaining in the EU” at Approaching Pavonis Mons by balloon.

Many of the arguments for and against membership of the EU seem to revolve around economics, which seems to me to be an extremely narrow metric. Even if we are better off out of the EU, which we probably won’t be, so what? This is already a wealthy country, and leaving the EU won’t mend the widening inequality between the very rich and almost everyone else. More than that, though, look at what would be lost. Friendship, commonality, freedom of movement, a sense that national boundaries are (and should be) evaporating.

(6) THE CENTER WILL NOT HOLD. SF Gate reveals the crime of the millennium — “The great city of San Francisco no longer has a center”.

A brass surveyor’s disk, recently installed on an Upper Market-area sidewalk to mark the precise geographic center of San Francisco, has been stolen.

On Wednesday, city surveyors and Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru visited the spot in the 700 block of Corbett Avenue to call attention to the disk and to the work of the surveyors who had established the spot as the precise center of town.

It wasn’t technically the center of town — that spot is under a bush on a nearby hillside — but it was close, and it was publicly accessible.

At the time, surveyor Michael McGee predicted that the small brass disk — attached to the concrete with heavy-duty glue — would suffer the fate of similar markers and be stolen by vandals.

“I’d give it about six weeks,” McGee said.

He was off by five weeks and six days.

On Thursday, an orange arrow and shakily written “Geographic Center of City” were still on the sidewalk. A circular patch marked the spot where the disk had been, briefly.

(7) YOU SHOULD WEAR A HELMET. “Could a satellite fall on your head?” BBC follows German scientists’ efforts to find out.

“There are a lot of satellites in orbit and they will come down sooner or later,” he says. “They’ll probably break up and the question for us is: what is the chance of an impact?”

In other words, could sections of dead satellites survive re-entry to hit something or, worse, someone?

The wind tunnel being deployed for Willems’ experiment resembles a giant deconstructed vacuum cleaner attached to a pressure cooker, arranged across a concrete floor. The gleaming machine is covered in a mass of pipes and wires. Capable of producing air currents of up to 11 times the speed of sound, the wind tunnel is used for testing the aerodynamics of supersonic and hypersonic aircraft designs.

(8) GENRE DINERS. Lawrence Schoen presents — Eating Authors: Naomi Novik, the June 13 edition of his Q&A series.

I’m preparing this week’s post from New Mexico, where I am ensconced at a writers’ retreat and working hard to up my craft (while also enjoying great company, fabulous meals, and some truly awesome leisurely walks through nature). But such things cannot stop the juggernaut that is the EATING AUTHORS blog! Which is about as much of a segue as you’re going to get this week by way of an introduction for my latest guest, Naomi Novik, who should already be known to you for her Temeraire series which blends fantasy and alternate history (or, as it’s more commonly described, the Napoleonic Wars with dragons!).

(9) SEND ONE BOOK. Throwing Chanclas pleads the case for a Nevada high school library looking for book donations. Cat Rambo says SFWAns are pitching in.

I live in a town of 1200 people in the Northern Sierra Nevada –where it meets the Cascade Range near Mt. Lassen National Park and about two hours drive northwest of Reno, NV.  Two hundred of that population is students. Over the years as the population dwindled after mines closed, then mills–nothing except tourism and retirement have emerged as ‘industries.’ Many businesses have closed down and with it many things we take for granted—like libraries….

What we’re lacking is pretty much everything else.

We need racially diverse books. We need graphic novels. We need women’s studies. We need science. We need series. We need film. We need comics. We need music. We need biographies of important people. Looking for Young Adult. Classics. We want zines! Contemporary. Poetry. Everything that would make a difference in a young person’s life. Writers send us YOUR BOOK. We have many non-readers who we’d love to turn on to reading. We need a way to take this tiny area and bring it into the 21st century. We have a whole bunch of kids who don’t like to read because all they’ve ever been given is things that are either dull , dated, or dumbed down.

The students who are excelling are doing so because they have supportive parents at home and access to books and tablets elsewhere. But most students are without.

So here’s what I’m asking. Will you donate a book? A real book. Something literary or fun—something that speaks to your truth, their truths. Something that teaches them something about the world. Makes them feel less alone?

I’m not asking for money. I’m asking for you to send a new book or film or cd to us to help us build a library we can be proud of. Just one book.

So who is with us?

Send us one book.

Greenville High School/Indian Valley Academy
Library Project Attn: Margaret Garcia
117 Grand Street
Greenville, CA 95947

Thank you for your support.

If sending during the month of July (when school is closed) please send to

Library Project/Margaret Garcia
PO Box 585
Greenville, CA 95947

(10) SFWA. Today was the second SFWA Chat Hour. Streamed live and saved to video, you can listen to Operations Director Kate Baker, member Erin Hartshorn, Volunteer Coordinator Derek Künsken, President Cat Rambo, and Chief Financial Officer Bud Sparhawk talk about the organization’s new member experience, game writer criteria, the state of SFWA finances, volunteer opportunities, Worldcon plans, the 2017 Nebulas, awards for anthologies, what they’re reading, and more.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born June 13, 1943 — Malcolm McDowell

(12) TSF&HF. Leonard Pierce experiments with placing the emphasis on each different word in this six-word phrase, and ends up with a column called “Third Booth on the Left”.

“So, what do you guys sell?”

“Traditional science fiction and high fantasy.”

“Your average author isn’t 83 years old and nearly dead, then?”

Traditional science fiction and high fantasy.”

“Oh.  Okay.  But, I mean, you don’t just do space operas based on the technical education of someone who was an undergraduate when Eisenower was in the White House, right?”…

(13) TEH FUNNY. John King Tarpinian recommends today’s Reality Check cartoon by Dave Whamond.

(14) CHINA SF AWARD. “The Chinese Government is Setting Up Its Own Major Science Fiction Award” reports the Lifeboat Foundation.

This is pretty interesting: during the latest national congress of the China Association for Science and Technology, chairman Han Qide announced that the country would be setting up a program to promote science fiction and fantasy, including the creation of a new major award.

Throughout much of its genre’s history, China’s science fiction has had a legacy of usefulness, often promoted to educate readers in concepts relating to science and technology. This new award will be accompanied by an “international sci-fi festival” and other initiatives to promote the creation of new stories.

(15) HE BITES. A deliberately harmful robot named “First Law” has been built to hype discussion about the risks of AI.

A robot that can decide whether or not to inflict pain has been built by roboticist and artist Alexander Reben from the University of Berkeley, California.

The basic machine is capable of pricking a finger but is programmed not to do so every time it can.

Mr Reben has nicknamed it “The First Law” after a set of rules devised by sci-fi author Isaac Asimov.

He said he hoped it would further debate about Artificial Intelligence.

“The real concern about AI is that it gets out of control,” he said.

“[The tech giants] are saying it’s way out there, but let’s think about it now before it’s too late. I am proving that [harmful robots] can exist now. We absolutely have to confront it.”

(16) VERY LATE NEWS. Appropriate to the previous item, Bill Gates was named 2015 Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award Winner – in January.

Story

January 3, 2016 — The Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award is annually bestowed upon a respected scientist or public figure who has warned of a future fraught with dangers and encouraged measures to prevent them.   The 2015 Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award has been given to Bill Gates in recognition of his fight against infectious diseases, his warnings about artificial intelligence, and his funding of improvements in education since a smarter civilization is one that is more likely to survive and flourish.

About Lifeboat Foundation

The Lifeboat Foundation is a nonprofit nongovernmental organization dedicated to encouraging scientific advancements while helping humanity survive existential risks and possible misuse of increasingly powerful technologies, including genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and robotics/AI, as we move towards the Singularity.

(17) PLAY BALL. “Chewbacca Mom and some special ‘Star Wars’ friends threw the first pitch at the Rays game”, as major league baseball blogger Chris Landers told Cut4 readers.

Over 150 million Facebook views later, “Chewbacca Mom” was born. She sang with James Corden. She was offered a full scholarship to Southeastern University in Florida. She started charging $20 for an autograph. And finally, on Saturday, the cherry on top: Payne threw out the first pitch before the Rays’ 4-3 loss to the Astros.

But, befitting a woman who was brought happiness to so many, it wasn’t just any first pitch. It was a “Star Wars” first pitch — featuring the cantina song, another Wookiee, and of course, Taylor Motter at catcher wearing a Chewy mask.

[Thanks to Cat Rambo, Jim Henley, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 5/18/16 Griefer Madness

(1) GENRE RECAPITULATES ONTOLOGY. Damien Walter divides the audience into “The 8 Tribes of Sci-Fi”.

Calling sci-fi a genre in 2016 is about as accurate as calling the United States one nation. In principle it’s true, but in practice things don’t work that way. While crime, romance and thrillers all remain as coherent genres of fiction, it’s been decades since sci-fi could be comfortably understood by any shared generic criteria. What do Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Seas trilogy, the fiction of Silva Moreno Garcia and the erotic sci-fi of Chuck Tingle actually have in common, beyond being nominated for major sci-fi book awards this year?

The answer is they all belong to one of the eight tribes of sci-fi…..

The Weirds Most writers at some point play around with the effects that can be induced by engineering stories with internal inconsistencies, mashing together disparate metaphors, or simply being weird for weirds sake. The weirds take this as an end in itself. With China Mieville as their reigning king they were riding high for a while. However, with newer voices like Molly Tanzer’s Vermillion coming through, the American ‘bizarro fiction’ movement, and with authors including Joe Hill and Josh Mallerman rejuvenating the traditional horror genre, the Weirds are still among the most creatively interesting of the eight tribes.

(2) SILENT THING. According to Digiday, “85 percent of Facebook video is watched without sound”.

Facebook might be hosting upwards of 8 billion views per day on its platform, but a wide majority of that viewership is happening in silence.

As much as 85 percent of video views happen with the sound off, according to multiple publishers. Take, for instance, feel-good site LittleThings, which is averaging 150 million monthly views on Facebook so far this year. Eighty-five percent of its viewership is occurring without users turning the sound on. Similarly, millennial news site Mic, which is also averaging 150 million monthly Facebook views, said 85 percent of its 30-second views are without sound. PopSugar said its silent video views range between 50 and 80 percent.

(3) YAKKITY CAT. Steve Davidson says an interview with Timothy the Talking Cat will appear on Amazing Stories this Thursday. I’m running neck and neck with Steve in pursuit of interviews with the hottest new talents in the field — he won this round!

(4) JENCEVICE OBIT. SF Site News carries word that Chicago conrunner and club fan Mike Jencevice died May 16.

Chicago fan Mike Jencevice (b.1955) died on May 16. Jencevice entered fandom in 1978, publishing the fanzine Trilevel and serving as the long-time president of Queen to Queen’s Three, a media fan club. He ran the dealers room at Windycon for more than 30 years and served on the ISFiC Board for much of that time. He was one of two associate chairs for Chicon 2000.

(5) VR. BBC News explores “How will virtual reality change our lives?”

Four experts, including Mark Bolas – former tutor of Palmer Luckey, who recently hand-delivered the first VR handset made by his company Oculus Rift – talked to the BBC World Service Inquiry programme about the future of VR.

Mark Bolas: Out of the lab

Mark Bolas is a professor at USC School of Cinematic Arts and a researcher at the Institute for Creative Technologies. He has been working in virtual reality since 1988.

VR hits on so many levels. It’s a real out-of-body experience, and yet completely grounded in your body. …

To find a way to make it low cost and still retain that field of view, we harnessed the power of mobile phones – the screens, tracking and processing – and we figured out a lens design that was extremely inexpensive.

It’s been really fun playing all these years, but there’s something more important now, which is making it a space that allows us to harness our emotions, our desire to connect with people.

I’m worried by our current computer interfaces. I watch people walking around like zombies with cell phones in their hands, and I have to manoeuvre a mouse to fill out little boxes on web forms in a horribly frustrating way. I think VR will allow us to transcend this.

I don’t worry so much about where VR is going, I worry about where we currently are.

(6) SHEER WEIR. By the Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach: “Andy Weir, author of ‘The Martian,’ aims his pen at the moon”

Lots of people who are interested in going to Mars have been gathering this week at George Washington University for the annual Humans to Mars Summit, and the star attraction this morning was Andy Weir. He’s the author of the novel “The Martian,” which has sold 3 million copies, been translated into something like 45 languages and served as the basis of the blockbuster movie by the same name, directed by the legendary Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon. So, yes, that book did well — remarkably so given that he originally published it in chapters on his website and later as an electronic book that could be downloaded for free.

Weir, whom I interviewed on stage in the summit’s opening session (you can probably find the video here), was scheduled to pop by The Post for today’s “Transformers” event and then visit Capitol Hill to testify before the House subcommittee on space. Busy day! He said he was going to talk about how an interplanetary spacecraft, such as one going from Earth to Mars, can be designed to spin to create artificial gravity. That’s a potential way to moderate the severe physical effects of weightlessness on the human body. Without artificial gravity, the first astronauts on Mars would likely spend many days just trying to recover from all those months in zero-g conditions.

But he’s also working on another novel, this one about a city on the Earth’s moon that features a female protagonist who is something of a criminal but still lovable, according to Weir.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born May 18, 1931 — Mad magazine cartoonist Don Martin
  • Born May 18, 1930 — Fred Saberhagen

(8) THE REAL-LIFE GRINGOTT’S. The BBC tells where the gold is kept.

The largest by far lies in the Bank of England. It holds three-quarters of the gold in London, or 5,134 tonnes. Most of the gold is stored as standard bars weighing 400 troy ounces (12.4 kg or 438.9 ounces) – there are about 500,000 of them, each worth in the region of £350,000.

But the official reserves of the UK Treasury account for less than a tenth of this.

“Just 310 tonnes of the gold in the Bank of England is from the UK Treasury, the rest is mostly commercial,” says Adrian Ash of BullionVault.com.

The gold is held in a system of eight vaults over two floors under Threadneedle Street in the City. This is to spread the weight and prevent the vaults from sinking into the London clay beneath the bank.

“So no maze of caves bored into rock,” says Chip Hitchcock, sounding a little disappointed.

(9) MARCON HARASSMENT, PART ONE. Steven Saus relays “Reports of Harassment at MarCon 2016, including ‘The Chainmail Guy’ who harassed people at CONTEXT” at Ideatrash. (To refresh your memory, see File 770’s post about Context.)

Sadly, I’m hearing from friends who attended MarCon this year that the stance about Chainmail Guy’s harassment – the one that some members of the board decided to destroy the con over rather than censure a buddy who was harassing people – was completely justified.

According to multiple accounts, he was very visible in the main corridor, apparently with a table displaying some chain mail. (Which is exactly the setup that spawned problems at Context.) Sure, he wasn’t a volunteer, but had a very prominent bit of real estate. And, much like the complaints at Context, kept inserting himself into private conversations, just as he did before.

Unlike Context, he was in the main hall – and therefore much harder to avoid.

As one person put it, “if you heard about the stuff about Context, you’d get the very clear opinion that MarCon was okay with all that.”

Sadly, this might just be the case.

There were reports (and these were forwarded to the con chair) of another guy suggesting he should “frisk” a young woman after earlier reaching out to touch her without consent.

A corset vendor walked the line between creepy and harassment by insisting their corset fit perfectly, and any impression otherwise was due to the person’s “body issues”. He told another person that “he needed to see me try on one of the corsets and not in a friendly way…in front of my kids.”

And this is just what’s managed to cross my awareness.

(10) MARCON HARASSMENT, PART TWO. Saus also published “A (Good) Response From One of the Security Team From MarCon about Harassment”. It is signed by JP Withers.

As a fan I really hate it when our community is damaged by harassing behavior. Inclusion is kind of the point of our thing to me.

Our security and operations folks need help making our space better for everyone, and that help is reporting stuff when it happens. I know there can be a lot of reasons someone might not report behavior, but if one of those reasons is a feeling we won’t take it seriously I can tell you that isn’t the case for anyone on my team….

(11) MARCON HARASSMENT, PART THREE. Ferrett Steinmetz, immediately after Marcon, published these generalized comments calling into question how some apply the principle that “A Person Is Innocent Until Proven Guilty By Law”.

…And all the complexity comes to a boil when we’re discussing how to handle missing stairs in a community – potentially dangerous people who have gossip swirling about them, but no definitive proof. (Because most consent violators are smart enough not to do terrible stuff in public with witnesses.) And what do you do to keep your parties free of dangerous players when the only proof you have is the equivalent of “She said Phil didn’t pay her back”? Do you ban people on someone’s word?

Maybe you think the court’s standards are worthy for any institution, which is a noble goal. There is a strong case to be made for “I will hold the people who would spread rumors to the highest of standards,” because yeah, the ugly truth is that there are corrupt cops and there are people who’ll trash folks they don’t like. Having standards for evidence is good, and though there’s no single True goal, having high standards when the penalty is “Banning someone from a party” is not necessarily a bad thing.

But stop extending that to the idiotic argument of “If something someone says has not been proven in a court of law, it is automatically untrue.” No. If that happens, you are adopting the court’s standard of, “We would rather have someone guilty attending our parties than risk ejecting an innocent person.”…

(12) MARCON HARASSMENT, PART FOUR. Reddit ran its own recap of the latest episode, the essence of which is —

But now a different Ohio convention, MarCon, has had a problem with a harasser… and it’s the SAME GUY:

It’s the same stuff different day syndrome at its worst. There is no way for cons in general to keep these people out since conventions don’t have any kind of shared governance… so even when “missing stairs” are dealt with at one con, they aren’t at another. 🙁

(13) UNPAID MINIONS. The Seattlish has screencaps of the legal papers — “Someone Is Suing Emerald City Comicon for Not paying Volunteers”.

A class action lawsuit has been filed by a former Emerald City Comicon volunteer—the organization calls them “minions”—alleging that the convention violates labor laws by treating their volunteers like employees, but failing to pay them.

The suit, filed in King County Superior Court on May 16 by plaintiff Jerry Brooks and naming ECCC and three members of the Demonakos family as defendants, alleges that as many as 250 people may be among the class.

According to the suit, the volunteers are expected to work essentially as paid workers would—performing functions necessary to the operation of the convention—but aren’t required to be paid for their labor or their overtime due to their volunteer status.

This suit could be hard to prove; the volunteers not only willingly enter into an agreement stating that they’ll work for free, but the culture of the convention fosters a competitiveness for the volunteer positions. A lot of people really like volunteering. In a blog post from 2013, a minion wrote that it “isn’t the  kind of thing you do for money.”

(14) STORYBUNDLE. The Story Collection StoryBundle is available for another 15 days. Readers can choose to donate part of each purchase to SFWA. Curator Lisa Mason tells how the bundle was assembled here.

As always at StoryBundle, you the reader name your price—whatever you feel the books are worth. You may designate a portion of the proceeds to go to a charity. For the Story Collection StoryBundle, that’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (“SFWA”). SFWA champions writers’ rights, sponsors the Nebula Award for excellence in science fiction, and promotes numerous literacy groups.

The initial titles in the Story Collection StoryBundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • The Green Leopard Plague by Walter Jon Williams. Two stories in this collection won the Nebula Award.
  • Collected Stories by Lewis Shiner. This extensive and multi-genre collection was prepared as an ebook for StoryBundle.
  • Errantry: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand.

Those who pay more than the bonus price of $12 get all three regular titles, plus five more:

  • Women Up to No Good by Pat Murphy. Two stories in the collection were nominated for the Nebula Award.
  • Strange Ladies: 7 Stories by Lisa Mason Six Stories by Kathe Koja. The collection was created by the author for StoryBundle.
  • What I Didn’t See: Stories by Karen Fowler. The collection won the World Fantasy Award and the title story won the Nebula.
  • Wild Things by C.C. Finlay. The collection was prepared as an ebook for StoryBundle and has a brand-new Afterword. Finlay is the editor of F&SF.

(15) NEBULA CONFERENCE. SFWA President Cat Rambo has vivid memories of “Nebula Conference 2016, Chicago”.

For me, so much of the weekend was a reaffirmation of joy in our genre and the worlds that we love, worlds created by some of the best and brightest. Opportunity to talk with so many talented, kind, and outstanding members of the industry. A chance to stand by one of my heroes, someone whose work I’ve read most of my life and who has been one of my role models, and see her body of work recognized. A chance to be in a place where people treated each other with respect as peers and took pride in each other’s accomplishments, where there weren’t the sort of pettinesses that belong on the playground rather than among fellow professionals. A chance to tell people some of what SFWA’s been working hard at in the past year, and some of what’s coming down the pike.

And Liz Argall is still buzzing about Henry Lien’s Radio SFWA.

(16) CONVERT MADE. Say what you like about Seveneves, Bill Gates wrote on his website that it’s got him back reading sf.

“What Bill Gates says: “I hadn’t read any science fiction for a decade when a friend recommended this novel. I’m glad she did. The plot gets going in the first sentence, when the moon blows up. People figure out that in two years a cataclysmic meteor shower will wipe out all life on Earth, so the world unites on a plan to keep humanity going by launching as many spacecraft as possible into orbit.

“You might lose patience with all the information you’ll get about space flight—Stephenson, who lives in Seattle, has clearly done his research—but I loved the technical details. Seveneves inspired me to rekindle my sci-fi habit.””

(17) STAY INVESTED IN THE FUTURE. Helen Sharman speaks out — “First UK Astronaut calls for more Brits in space”.

Britain’s first astronaut has said the UK risks becoming a “backward nation” if the government does not pay to send more people into space.

Helen Sharman believes the country would lose many of the benefits of Tim Peake’s mission if a commitment to more flights is not made very soon.

Ms Sharman said that this was the UK’s “last chance” to be involved “in the future of the human race”.

She spoke to BBC News on the eve of the 25th anniversary of her spaceflight.

The government has effectively paid for one spaceflight, Tim Peake’s, according to Ms Sharman. After he returns to Earth in June, it is unlikely there will be more UK astronauts in space unless the nation makes a further commitment of funds at a ministerial meeting of European Space Agency (Esa) member states later this year.

(18) MR. ROBOT SEASON 2 TRAILER. The Hollywood Reporter summarized the preview video.

“This is what revolution looks like,” the text of the trailer reads. “Control is an illusion.”

Although they were successful in their hack, fsociety will face more obstacles in season two. “They need to know we haven’t given up,” Darlene (Carly Chaiken) says. “That we meant what we said about changing the world.”

However, the most worrisome image in the clip is Mr. Robot himself (Slater) as he puts a gun to Elliot’s head. “Our revolution needs a leader,” he tells Elliot.

 

(19) NEWS FOR HITCHHIKERS. “Towel Day” is coming on May 25, and Nerdist reports a candy store is readying its supply of babelfish.

The fandom of Douglas Adams and his writing is intense, to say the least, and has even resulted in a holiday to honor the late author. Every May 25th, fans around the world celebrate “Towel Day” which itself is a reference to what Adams thought to be the most important item you could have with you through your galactic travels.

As a way of showing their love of everything Hitchhiker’s, a candy shop in Florida that specializes in nerdy confections decided to celebrate by creating some Babel fish of their very own. Using an antique 19th-century drop candy roller, the folks at Public Displays Of Confection rolled out a serendipitous 42 bags of these fish shaped candies just in time for Towel Day, and we can only assume that they went with piña colada flavor because it’s just too hard to perfect the essence of a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, Cat Rambo, Chip Hitchcock, Steve Davidson, Tracy Benton, Darren Garrison, Steven Saus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]