Pixel Scroll 1/11/18 Agent 770, With A License To Scroll

(1) YOUNG PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll asked the crew at Young People Read Old SFF their response to Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild”. Two of the four readers said it was their first experience with the author. (The others didn’t say one way or the other.)

Octavia E. Butler was one of a small handful of African American SF authors back in the 1970s, an era when SF was often whiter than a crowd of naked albinos holding loaves of Wonder Bread in a snowstorm. Butler’s stories often focused on people doing their best from a position of profound weakness, striving despite slavery, apocalypse or worse. This example of her work won the 1984 Nebula Award for Best Novelette, the 1985 Hugo Award for Best Novelette, the 1985 Locus Award for Best Novelette and the 1985 Science Fiction Chronicle Award for Best Novelette.

Young People Read Old SFF also recently tackled “The Light of Other Days” by Bob Shaw. Some liked it, but Mikayla did not disappoint….

Bob Shaw was born in Northern Ireland. Over the course of the three decades of his career, he won three BSFA awards and was nominated for the Hugo, the Locus, the Campbell, and the Clarke.

The Light of Other Days is an atypical Shaw. It is a classic idea story, a story in which an author tries to show unexpected implications of some new development. Slow glass, a material in which the speed of light is so slow it takes decades for light to pass from one side to the other of a thin sheet, was one of the rare examples of an idea veteran editor John W. Campbell considered actually original at the time of publication. It was shortlisted for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story and for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story.

Of course, just because professionals and fans liked a story half a century ago is no guarantee modern readers will. Let’s see what they thought….

(2) HUNGARIAN BLOGGER. Bence Pintér recommends the new English-language blog of Balázs Farkas, a Hungarian author; especially his post on Black Mirror.

Black Mirror needs to reinvent itself. The sooner, the better.

Don’t get me wrong. The fourth season has cleverly written, beautifully directed episodes throughout, as usual. It’s still the prime science-fiction anthology, and one of the most relevant TV series, even if contemporary science-fiction writers and futurologists already explored most of its ideas. The problem is, the new season didn’t have any new ideas, at all…

Also recommended, his thoughts on the comedy in Get Out

Last year Get Out was nominated for a Golden Globe in the category of Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Many consider Get Out one of the best horror films of 2017. I was intrigued for months, but I rarely watch movies nowadays, but I decided to see Get Out for myself and see whether it’s a comedy or a horror. Well, I found out it’s neither, but can be interpreted as both, and it’s really fascinating to see why.

And on the short fiction of Aleister Crowley.

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

The interesting thing about Aleister Crowley is that he really believed this. We don’t consider him a fiction writer (at least not primarily), but he went and did it for a while, because he could do whatever and whenever. So he wrote fiction, but only between 1908 and 1922, that’s merely fifteen years from his prolific and incredibly versatile mind. This was an era when he approached the literary world as a critic and writer, although at first quite reluctantly (“I had an instinctive feeling against prose; I had not appreciated its possibilities,”  he wrote, later admitting that“the short story is one of the most delicate and powerful forms of expression”). He wasn’t only a writer, but he still made sure that his legacy includes a large collection of miscellaneous prose, now presented in a prestigious (and affordable) Wordsworth edition, titled The Drug and Other Stories.

(3) INSIDE THE SHELL. In The New Yorker, Teddy Wayne tells why “A Storm Trooper Reconsiders His Support for Snoke”.

…Except things started changing when Snoke passed that big tax bill. The very next day, we’re told our pensions are getting cut—which hardly matters, because Storm Troopers have a seventy-five-per-cent fatal occupational-injury rate. (Some from combat, but mostly guys falling into chasms off narrow ship walkways that for some reason don’t have guardrails.)

Sure, the galaxy’s health insurance wasn’t perfect, but at least I got a little subsidy from Vadercare. Snoke repeals the individual mandate and all these Storm Troopers, fresh out of the academy, thinking they’re invincible, go, “Awesome—I’m young and healthy, Han Solo’s dead, screw it.” My premiums suddenly shoot through the roof, so I’m going without it this year and hoping I don’t run into a freaking Jedi Knight. But how am I gonna pay for the infirmary visit when a trespassing Resistance fighter conks me on the head to steal my uniform and gain access to a ship’s inner sanctum, which now seems to happen every other year? And if my arm’s sliced off with a lightsabre, you think my Storm Trooper’s comp will cover the robotic prosthetic?

(4) A FAITHFUL 451. The Hollywood Reporter interviews co-writer, exec producer and director Ramin Bahrani, who assures them “HBO’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ Will Stay True to Ray Bradbury’s Central Themes”.

Bahrani, who co-wrote the telepic alongside Amir Naderi and reteams with Shannon after he starred in their feature 99 Homes, confessed that he told his agent at one point that he should call HBO and refund the network’s money because he felt that he couldn’t finish the script. He spoke at length about the parallels between Bradbury’s 1953 work and what’s happening in the world today.

“I don’t want to focus so much on [Trump] because I don’t want to excuse the 30 to 40 years prior to that; he’s just an exaggeration of it now,” he said. “I don’t want us to forget what Bradbury said — that we asked for this. We elected [politicians] over many decades, we’re electing this thing in my pocket [pulls out his cellphone]. Between the technological advancements in the last 20 years and politics, Bradbury’s biggest concern about the erosion of culture is now.”

Bahrani said he never had the opportunity to meet with Bradbury before his death but did an extensive amount of research, watching and reading multiple interviews and more. “Bradbury’s novel was set in the future where he was predicting having screens on the wall that you could interact with. Social media and supercomputers like my phone are real now. [The film] is not set in the distant future like Bradbury’s novel but an alternate tomorrow where technology is here right now — like Amazon’s Alexa,” he said. “One of the things in the film is storing knowledge, books in DNA. This exists now. All your drives could be stored 100-fold in DNA. There was no reason to put it in the future; it’s just [set in] a strange tomorrow.”

(5) THE TOLL. Kameron Hurley, who I admire for her unflinchingly transparent posts about her life as a writer, tells a heartbreaking story about her experiences in 2017 — “The Year I Drowned My Emotions”.

Depression is a complex state of being. I know we want to try and pretend it’s easy. Just pop a pill, increase your meds, try new meds, find something that works! But there’s also depression caused by external forces, and that’s the sort of depression that you can paint over with pills, sure, but the root of it is still there, like painting over a crack in your wall.

I was already feeling overwhelmed and deflated in the months leading up to the election. I was struggling with the reality that I’d produced three books in a year but still had to function at a day job, and the relentless treadmill of publishing was still going, without the sort of reward I needed in order to maintain my sanity. I’ve talked before about how writing all those books and then promoting books and having a weird dude-bro day job (at the time) conspired to murder me. What we don’t acknowledge is that when you experience that kind of breakdown followed by grief and disappointment, you can’t just… get back up like nothing happened.

(6) HADLEY OBIT. At ComicMix, Glen Hauman reports “Cinamon Hadley, The Girl Who Was Death, Has Died”.

Cinamon Hadley, whose appearance inspired the look of Death in the Sandman comic series, passed away today according to Sandman co-creator Neil Gaiman.

The body-piercer and goth icon whose portrait was immortalized as the second eldest in a family of anthropomorphized forces called the Endless, Hadley was described as extremely tall, extraordinarily thin, with bone-white skin, impeccable make-up and thin, black hair.


  • Born January 11, 1937 — Felix Anthony Silla, known for his role as the costumed character of “Cousin Itt” on television’s The Addams Family.

(8) ADVENTURE OR COOKBOOK? Having seen the movie, this one has me a little worried – Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Chewie and the Porgs:

From Emmy award-winning writer Kevin Shinick comes a lovable tale of Chewbacca the Wookiee and the pesky porgs of Ahch-To Island. Featuring adorable illustrations by artist Fiona Hsieh.

(9) WATCHWORTHY. In “Consumption: 2017”, John Harden makes “a list of everything I watched in 2017 plus my very excellent and totally correct opinions on same.”

I make this list every year, for fun and as a reference. As always, it only reflects things seen for the first time. “POLTERGEIST on TV, 14th viewing” doesn’t make the list. Nor do films not viewed in their entirety, for example, Guy Ritchie’s THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E, which got ejected from the Blu-Ray player after 15 minutes. I’d never seen Henry Cavill in anything before but he seems to emit some kind of anti-charisma particle.

I didn’t bother making a numbered best-of list this year. But if I had, LOGAN would be at the top. It’s perfect. Damn you James Mangold, for making me cry at your Wolverine movie.

(10) SLOW DOWN, YOU MOVE TOO FAST. How fast is the universe expanding? “‘Serious gap’ in cosmic expansion rate hints at new physics”.

To calculate the Hubble Constant, Prof Riess and others use the “cosmic ladder” approach, which relies on known quantities – so-called “standard candles” – such as the brightness of certain types of supernova to calibrate distances across space.

However, a different approach uses a combination of the afterglow of the Big Bang, known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), as measured by the Planck spacecraft and a cosmological model known as Lambda-CDM.

The Hubble Constant obtained using these data is 66.9 kilometres per second per megaparsec. (A megaparsec is 3.26 million light-years, so it follows that cosmic expansion increases by 66.9km/second for every 3.26 million light-years we look further out into space).

The gap between the two is now at a confidence level of about 3.4 sigma. The sigma level describes the probability that a particular finding is not down to chance. For example, three sigma is often described as the equivalent of repeatedly tossing a coin and getting nine heads in a row.

A level of five sigma is usually considered the threshold for claiming a discovery.

However, Prof Riess said that at the three sigma level “this starts to get pretty serious I would say”.

(11) EYES IN THE SKY. “Finnish start-up ICEYE’s radical space radar solution” — swarms of small cheap satellites for continuous coverage.

Big things sometimes come in small packages. That’s the hope of Finnish start-up ICEYE, who are about to see their first satellite go into orbit.

The young company are making waves because they’re attempting what no-one has dared try before; indeed, what many people had previously said was impossible.

ICEYE aim to launch a constellation of sub-100kg radar micro-satellites that will circle the Earth, returning multiple pictures daily of any spot on the globe, whether it’s dark or light, good weather or bad.

The special capability of synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) satellites to sense the planet’s surface whatever the conditions is loved by government and the military, obviously – and they make sure they always have access to this kind of imagery.

But here’s the rub: the spacecraft that gather this sort of data have traditionally been big, power-hungry beasts.

(12) ANCIENT WINGS. BBC invites you to “Meet the butterflies from 200 million years ago”. They evolved nectar-suckers before there were flowers.

Newly discovered fossils show that moths and butterflies have been on the planet for at least 200 million years.

Scientists found fossilised butterfly scales the size of a speck of dust inside ancient rock from Germany.

The find pushes back the date for the origins of the Lepidoptera, one of the most prized and studied insect groups.

… “These finds push back the evolution of this group with proboscises – with a tongue – by about 70 million years,” said Dr van de Schootbrugge.

“Our finds show that the group that was supposed to co-evolve with flowers is actually much older.”

(13) REEL STINKERS. ComicMix’s Arthur Martinez-Tebbel looks back on the worst of the year in “Box Office Democracy: Bottom 6 Movies of 2017”. At the very bottom is —

  1. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

If this was just about wasted potential, Valerian would easily be on the top of this list.  There are five worse movies this year but none of them have a fraction of the visual artistry displayed here by Luc Besson.  Valerian has some of the best design I’ve seen in a movie all year and two of the most inventive chase sequences maybe ever.  It also features a terrible script that meanders forever over trivial nothing and merrily skips past dense plot without a moment for inspection.  I loved watching the action but I never really understood why any of it was going on.  Toss on top some of the worst chemistry I’ve ever seen between an on-screen couple (and honestly maybe Dane DeHaan isn’t ready to be a leading man) and this is an unpleasant movie to watch at any volume above mute.

(14) BURROWER DOWN UNDER. Introducing Vulcanops jennyworthyae – “Giant bat: Remains of extinct burrowing bat found in New Zealand”

The fossilised remains of a giant burrowing bat that lived in New Zealand millions of years ago have been found on the country’s South Island.

The teeth and bones of the extinct bat were found to be three times the size of an average modern bat.

The bat, which weighed around 40g (1.41oz), not only flew but also scurried about on all fours looking for food.

The remains were recovered from ancient sediments near the town of St Bathans.

(15) ALTERED CARBON. Netflix has released Altered Carbon Official Trailer # 3.

In the distant future, human consciousness can be digitized and downloaded into different bodies. Brought back to life after 250 years by Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) the richest man on Earth, ex-Envoy soldier Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman / Will Yun Lee) must solve Bancroft’s attempted murder for the chance to live again in a world he doesn’t recognize. Altered Carbon debuts exclusively on Netflix February 2nd, 2018.


(16) SCORCHED EARTH. The Official Trailer –

The planet has suffered an environmental collapse; the air became dangerous to breathe, the water became toxic, and billions of people died. Generations later, mankind has finally re-established a rudimentary society, in an attempt to pick up the pieces that continue to blister in the sun. Attica Gage (Gina Carano) is a bounty hunter with a chance at the bounty of a lifetime: to bring down the ruthless outlaw, Elijah Jackson. Gage infiltrates Jackson’s gang, and everything is going to plan until she meets a slave girl who reminds her of her dead sister. With her loyalty to only herself now tested, Gage learns that there might be more to life than just survival.


[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mark Hepworth, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 11/22/16 Scrollhood’s End

(1) DOGGONE IT. Once upon a time Republicans obeyed the Eleventh Commandment – “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican” – and I thought that Sad Puppies followed the same philosophy until I read J. C. Carlton chastising Kate Paulk in “The Sad Puppies Should Have Done Better” at The Arts Mechanical.

What Happened To The Sad Puppies? In 2015 the Sad Puppies were a presence in SF and in culture in general.  In 2016 the Sad Puppies became almost a nonentity.  All through the year it was the Rabids that drove the show and that hurt both the Sad Puppies And possibly the future of Sf in the long term.

I think that the problem is that Kate Paulk, when she took over leadership didn’t understand what she was getting herself into. I think that she thought that if she had a more moderate approach that the kind of beating around that the Sad Puppies got in 2015 would be moderated.  I’m not sure what led her to believe that, but there was.

Then there was the launch of the Sad Puppies site, the nominations and then, nothing.  For months no reviews, no blog entries, nothing. It’s not as if she was off line either.  Yet for months she left the stage empty except for the Puppy Kickers and Vox.   I’m not sure why but it may be that she was hoping to avoid conflict.  Or she just got busy and could not give Sad Puppies the attention it deserved.  Yet there weren’t even any blog posts on either the Sad Puppies blog or the Mad Genius Club…..

Essentially as result of inactivity the Puppies left the field to Vox and “Raptor Butt invasion.”  Which was funny for a while, but after a while you realize that it’s puppy butt that’s being invaded.

Observant as Carlton is about some things, he’s completely in denial about others.

As far as this goes, the Hugos are dead, The Puppies didn’t kill them, they were dead when Larry started the Puppies. The Hugos were dead because nobody cared anymore.

The Puppies provoked a surge in support for the Hugos – the voter turnout for 2015 was 65% more than it was the previous year. The final statistics showed only a fraction supported Torgersen’s Sad Puppy or Vox Day’s Rabid Puppy slates.

(2) DEFENDING KATE. Amanda S. Green was incensed over Carlton’s post. She penned a scalding response – “Really?” – for Mad Genius Club. (But she follows a common MGC trope of refusing to use the name of the person being held in contempt, referring to Carlton throughout as OP.)

OP then spends time, after saying Kate didn’t give us reviews, etc., quoting others who take issue with her reviews of the Hugo nominees. Kate did more than most who were telling people who to vote for. She read everything in the Hugo packet and gave her honest opinions. But that obviously isn’t enough, especially since OP quotes notoriously anti-puppy sites to back his stance.

Essentially as result of inactivity the Puppies left the field to Vox and “Raptor Butt invasion.”  Which was funny for a while, but after a while you realize that it’s puppy butt that’s being invaded.

OMFG. I don’t know whether to beat my head against the wall or the OP’s. That statement is not that much removed from that of the other side telling SPs they had to denounce Vox or it proved we were all cut from the same cloth. One thing those of us closely involved with the Sad Puppy movement learned in 2015 is that there is nothing anyone can do to rein in Vox. We would have had Raptor Butt no matter what. Vox will do what he wants, when he wants and he doesn’t give a flying fuck who he bumps against in the process.

The problem is that if there any desire to keep the Hugo Awards as anything other than a pissing contest between the vilest people in SF, we Puppies failed miserably.  The Rapids dominated the noms and the Kickers “No Awarded” every thing in sight, again. Both sides followed by crowing victory, when in fact everybody lost.

See, here is the biggest problem with OP’s post. He thinks that Sad Puppies is about saving the Hugos. It isn’t. I’m not sure it ever was. It was about showing how the Awards have been manipulated and ruled over by a very small group of Fans, folks who don’t want the unwashed masses joining in their little club. The Hugos were effectively dead, at least to most fans, long before Larry started Sad Puppies. It is in its death throes now. Don’t believe it? Look at the rules changes that are being proposed and those that have been passed. Fans with a capital “F” want to to make sure they continue to control the awards. Most real fans aren’t going to pay the price of even an associate membership just to vote. Why should they when they can buy a number of books for the same price?

… Sad Puppies 1 – 3 beautifully pointed out, and proved, the pettiness in Fandom. Sad Puppies 4 continued what Brad started with Sad Puppies 3, the ourtreach to those fans who didn’t understand what was going on. Fans who had been drawn in by the outrageous rhetoric from the other side started looking closer at Sad Puppies when Brad and his family were attacked. They started listening closer when Kate engaged only when she was forced to. So explain how, when Kate reached out and made connections with people how had never before considered backing the Sad Puppies, she failed in her job?

There is more to this battle than whipping out your dick and proving it is bigger than the other guy’s. Kate understood that. We should be thanking her for taking on the job instead of condemning her because she didn’t do “the job” the way someone else wanted her to.

(3) PUPPY SEASON APPROACHING? And in a comment on the previous post, Amanda S. Green predicts we will hear very soon what’s coming next.

George, there will be an announcement about this year’s effort within the next 24 hours, or so I’ve been assured.

(4) I WONDER WHO THEY MEAN. For another example of an MGC columnist refusing to use someone’s name, last week Kate Paulk, in “The Good Kind of Othering”, never mentioned N.K. Jemisin by name but everyone in the comments section knew exactly who she was dissing.

In an attempt to stay well away from the toxic soup of political matters, I’ve spent a lot of time this past week doing Other Stuff. This, I promise you, is a Good Thing, because my snark-o-matic was maxed out and the uber-cynical button stuck in the ‘on’ position.

While I’m quite sure there are those who enjoyed the results, it’s tiring and kind of draining when it lasts long enough: I’m the kind of extreme introvert who needs plenty of down time to recover from bouts of mega-snark.

Which means that I really, really shouldn’t go near the rather sad rant of a certain award-winning author who managed to let slip that she knows she’s a token winner but still thinks that’s okay because those who disagree are ___ist.

(5) EVERYTHING BUT PUPPIES. Once upon a time there was Walt Kelly’s Pogo comic strip. The anthropomorphized animals in the strip inspired Walt Willis and Bob Shaw, assisted by Vince Clarke, Chuck Harris, and James White, to produce a 1952 fanzine called Fen Crittur Comical Books [PDF file] – which is now available online at Fanac.org.

The cast of Fen Critturs includes Pogo Hoffum, Harlan Owl “an organsing genius”, and Birdbury “a vile pro.”

(6) THEY MAKE A DESERT, AND CALL IT A MINISERIES. Frank Herbert’s Dune has been optioned for possible TV and film projects reports Variety.

Legendary Entertainment has acquired the rights from the Frank Herbert estate for his iconic novel “Dune,” granting the production entity the film and television motion picture rights to the work.

The agreement calls for the development and production of possible film and TV projects for a global audience. The projects would be produced by Thomas Tull, Mary Parent and Cale Boyter, with Brian Herbert, Byron Merritt and Kim Herbert serving as executive producers.

(7) HINES STARTS FUNDRAISER AUCTIONS. Today Jim C. Hines posted the first of a bunch of SF/F auctions he’s doing as a fundraiser. Going under the hammer are two autographed Star Wars novels from Chuck Wendig.

Welcome to the first of 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions.

Transgender Michigan was founded in 1997, and continues to run one of the only transgender helplines in the country, available 24/7 at 855-345-8464. Every tax-deductible donation helps them continue to provide support, advocacy, and education.

We begin the fundraiser with autographed copies of the Star Wars novels AFTERMATH (paperback) and AFTERMATH: LIFE DEBT (hardcover), by Chuck Wendig.

(8) AMAZON’S BEST SFF OF 2016. Now it’s Amazon’s turn to tell you its selections as the best science fiction and fantasy of 2016. Twenty titles, mostly familiar, but including a couple I don’t remember seeing anyone here discuss before.

(9) REFINING YOUR GOLDEN WORDS. Cat Rambo based this post on a day-long workshop she just taught at Clarion West: “For Writers: Re-visioning, Rewriting, and Other Forms of Fine-Tuning Your Fiction”.

Stage II of the Revision Process: You marked all over the printout, making changes and then incorporated them. Here I print out a fresh copy, because unfortunately my process is not particularly eco-conscious.

Now you’re looking at a finer level than the first pass. Stage I was coarse sandpaper; now you’re moving to a finer grade. This is the point where I look hard at paragraphing, splitting up overly long paragraphs, using single sentence paragraphs for an occasional punch, and making sure the first and last paragraph of every scene works, creating a transition that doesn’t allow the reader to escape the story.

I have an unfortunate propensity for scattering scene breaks through my work; this is the place where I remove a lot of them, because I know that every time one occurs, it bumps the reader out of the story and reminds them that they’re reading. I also remove a lot of unnecessary speech tags at this point. I make sure the speaker is identified every third or fourth speech act in two people dialogue so the reader never has to count back in order to figure out who is talking at any point.

I’m also looking at sentence length. Here is an exercise that may be useful: take a page of your prose and go through counting how many words are in each sentence. If they are all around the same length, it creates a sense of monotony. Split things up. Short sentences have punch; long sentences full of polysyllabic words create a languorous, dreamy feel that may be desirable to your narrative yet radically slows things down on the page. (Did you catch what I did there?)

(10) SPACE NEIGHBORS. If E.T. phones your home, Stephen Hawking’s advice is – don’t answer.

Hawking’s comments are motivated by a fear of what the aliens would do to us if they find us. In his mind, the aliens are the Spanish Conquistador Cortez and we are the Aztecs he made contact with in central America.

Tribal warfare, genocide and ethnic cleansing have been part of our history for thousands of years. Hawking’s fear is a fear of what we have done to ourselves.

Would advanced alien civilisations be as barbaric as we are? Are our genocidal tendencies at all representative of advanced alien civilisations? Maybe.

Hawking says he worries that any aliens “will be vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria”.

(11) PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM. A programming pioneer: “Margaret Hamilton, Apollo Software Engineer, Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom”.

The very first contract NASA issued for the Apollo program (in August 1961) was with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop the guidance and navigation system for the Apollo spacecraft. Hamilton, a computer programmer, would wind up leading the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory (now Draper Labs). Computer science, as we now know it, was just coming into existence at the time. Hamilton led the team that developed the building blocks of software engineering – a term that she coined herself. Her systems approach to the Apollo software development and insistence on rigorous testing was critical to the success of Apollo. As she noted, “There was no second chance. We all knew that.”

Her approach proved itself on July 20, 1969, when minutes before Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon, the software overrode a command to switch the flight computer’s priority system to a radar system. The override was announced by a “1202 alarm” which let everyone know that the guidance computer was shedding less important tasks (like rendezvous radar) to focus on steering the descent engine and providing landing information to the crew. Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon, rather than aborting the approach due to computer problems. In fact, the Apollo guidance software was so robust that no software bugs were found on any crewed Apollo missions, and it was adapted for use in Skylab, the Space Shuttle, and the first digital fly-by-wire systems in aircraft. Hamilton was honored by NASA in 2003, when she was presented a special award recognizing the value of her innovations in the Apollo software development. The award included the largest financial award that NASA had ever presented to any individual up to that point.

Today, Margaret Hamilton is being honored again – this time at the White House. President Obama has selected her as a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The highest civilian award of the United States, it is awarded to those who have made an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

(13) TOM HANKS GOES TO THE WHITE HOUSE…AGAIN. Actor Tom Hanks also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom today. The news reminded John King Tarpinian of a favorite anecdote:

Here is another cute story that is not specifically about Ray but at a Ray event.  As you know, if a library called Ray would come, even libraries that did not need financial help.  The last time, and I mean very last time, Ray was guest of honor for the Beverly Hills library he basically held court for the rich and famous.  Even the docents for the library were people of note.

A table was setup for Ray to chat with people and sign books, most of them personalized.  The library had pre-sold books or was given books by patrons who could not attend.  A docent would bring out half a dozen books at a time.  I’d take the books, open them to the signature page, then pass them to Ray for signing.

Ray’s caregiver was standing on the other side of Ray when the first batch of books were brought out.  He looks at the docent and says to him, “Have people ever told you that you look like a younger Tom Hanks?”  The response from the docent was, “Yes, I have been told that before.”  I have a big grin on my face as he looks over to me and gives an all knowing wink.  The docent was Colin Hanks.

This came to mind because Tom Hanks received the Medal of Freedom from the president today.

(14) MY FAVORITE HEADLINE OF THE DAY: “Sith Gets Real: Lucasfilm Releases New ‘Rogue One’ Stills With Clear Look At Darth Vader” — from ScienceFictin.com.

(15) YADA YODA. Gamespot leads us to this clip from Stephen Colbert’s Late Night show — “Carrie Fisher Reveals More (Fake) Star Wars Secrets”:

There were a lot of pranks on set. One time we cut off Mark Hamill’s hand and they decided to keep it in the movie.


[Thanks to Bartimaeus, JJ, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Free Ebooks of TAFF Reports and Classic Fanfiction

A selection of trip reports by Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund winners are now available as free ebooks says TAFF website host David Langford.

Fans can also download Walt Willis and Bob Shaw’s 1954 classic The Enchanted Duplicator, and Jim Theis’ definitely-not-classic The Eye of Argon (1970), the latter once popular for reading aloud at late-night marathons, with the reader losing his turn as soon as he cracked himself up.

What Nice Rockets Don’t Do

A bright explosion on the Falcon 9 landing platform illustrates the Guardian’s skeptical reaction to Elon Musk’s tenderly-phrased description of the event:

Private spaceflight company SpaceX has released new pictures of its Falcon 9 rocket attempting to land on a floating platform in the Gulf of Mexico before undergoing what its chief executive, Elon Musk, euphemistically referred to as “RUD” – that’s “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly”.

In other words, it blew up.

I’m reminded of Bob Shaw’s line about a company trying to market submarines that took “unplanned depth excursions.” Which is to say, they sank.

Mowatt Pubs TAFFworld #1

Twin Planets by Bob Shaw

Twin Planets by Bob Shaw

Auctions and other activities at Loncon 3 helped replenish the coffers of the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund — read all the details in Jim Mowatt’s TAFFworld #1 [PDF file] hosted on eFanzines.

Bob Shaw’s stained glass drew throngs to the Fan Funds Auction. The three pieces on offer inspired fierce bidding, bringing in a total of £790. Mowatt says “Twin Planets 2” (above) was the most sought after.

Talkin’ About the 50 Ways

So many capsule histories of fan fiction are appearing under the influence of Fifty Shades of Grey that one occasionally defies Sturgeon’s odds.

The Guardian’s Ewan Morrison presents an exceptionally coherent history of fan-fic, “In the beginning, there was fan fiction: from the four gospels to Fifty Shades”, noteworthy for its gloss of this faanish classic:

The Enchanted Duplicator by Walt Willis and Bob Shaw was a metafiction based on Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, but which described a world populated with sci-fi fans. It chronicles the adventures of hero Jophan in “the land of Mundane”. All of the characters in the book are renamed versions of real fans from the London SF circle of the 50s and the book was created entirely for their pleasure.

(Note: This post cried out to be named “50 Shades of Purple” — in America the word “duplicator” triggers images of volatile-smelling copies fresh from the school’s spirit duplicator. However, as anyone likely to care already knows full well, The Enchanted Duplicator is a mimeograph. The technology A.B. Dick trademarked in America as the mimeograph was often called in Britain by its generic name, stencil duplicator, otherwise shortened to duplicator.)

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

Rogers: Peanuts! T-Shirts! Pre-Supporting Memberships!

By M. Lee Rogers: Ron Zukowski and M. Lee Rogers hope y’all will mark the date of Saturday June 18 on your calendars for an evening to remember a very special event.

Things are still tentative, but June 18 is the planned date for the ConFederation 25th Anniversary Celebration. The facility and other plans will be announced later, but this will give you as much notice as possible.

The Celebration will be a one-day party for Southern SF fandom and its friends to remember that weekend when we brought the science fiction community to our part of the world. It is not a convention itself. It will be open to members of ConFederation and to those other fans who are known to the organizers. The Celebration is not open to the general public, primarily because it is not trying to be Dragon*Con.

The Celebration will request a small donation but will not turn anyone away for financial hardship. Any material surplus will be donated to fan funds.

Obviously, the organizers will need some help in pulling this shindig together. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact us at mleerog (at) bellsouth (dot) net.

NOTE: ConFederation was the 44th World Science Fiction Convention held in Atlanta, GA on August 28-September 1, 1986 at the Atlanta Hilton, Hyatt Regency, and Marriott Marquis Hotels. Ray Bradbury was Guest of Honor, Terry Carr was Fan Guest of Honor, and Bob Shaw was Toastmaster.

Sound and Fury Signifying Trivia

Today’s trivia question: Every winner of the Best Fan Writer Hugo has made at least one professional sale, but two winners have never sold a science fiction story. Can you name them?

The winners since the creation of the category in 1967 are: Terry Carr, Richard E. Geis, Mike Glyer, Dave Langford, Cheryl Morgan, Alexei Panshin, John Scalzi, Bob Shaw, Wilson Tucker, Harry Warner Jr., Ted White and Susan Wood.

Most of the names are easy to rule out because their record in the sf field is so well known.

Wilson Tucker won the 1970 Best Fan Writer Hugo, then had Year of the Quiet Sun nominated as Best Novel in 1971.

Scalzi’s novel Old Man’s War and its sequels have received Hugo nominations.

Dave Langford’s “Different Kinds of Darkness” won Best Short Story in 2001.

Bob Shaw’s classic short story “Light of Other Days” received a Hugo nomination in 1967. He didn’t get around to winning the Best Fan Writer Hugo until 1979 (and again in 1980.)

Ted White’s first novel was written in collaboration with another Best Fan Writer winner, Terry Carr. Invasion from 2500 (1964) was published under the pseudonym Norman Edwards. Ted went on to write lots of other novels under his own name.

Terry Carr, in the middle of a run of seven other nominations for his fan writing and fanzines (Fanac, Lighthouse) had a short story nominated for the Hugo in 1969, “The Dance of the Changer and the Three.” The year Terry finally won the Best Fan Writer Hugo, 1973, he was also nominated for Best Professional Editor (in the category’s debut), and it was as an editor he won his last two Hugos (1985, 1987).

Alexei Panshin won the first Best Fan Writer Hugo in 1967. He declined his nomination in 1968, hoping to set an example for future winners. He also had great success as a pro. His novel Rite of Passage received a Hugo nomination in 1969 and won the Nebula.

Harry Warner Jr. had 11 short stories published in the mid-1950s (and grumbled when that was discovered by his neighbors in Hagerstown — see the link below in comments).

Richard E. Geis has sold any number of erotic sf novels.

I trail this parade at a respectful distance, with one pro sale that appeared in Mike Resnick’s Alternate Worldcons.

That leaves two winning fanwriters to account for: Cheryl Morgan and Susan Wood. Cheryl has made nonfiction sales, but the Locus index lists no fiction. Susan Wood published scholarly work about the sf field, but no stories. So Morgan and Wood are the answer. (Subject to correction, as always…)

Update 10/12/2009: Of course Harry Warner sold short stories — text corrected. Thanks to Patrick Nielsen Hayden for the assist. Update 10/13/2009: And to Dave Langford for catching mistakes about Shaw’s story I have been helplessly repeating since, oh, 1967, although they ought to be avoidable  — I can always remember the exact year “Neutron Star” won its Hugo. 10/18/2009: Alexei Panshin’s comment gives the real reason he turned down his Best Fan Writer nomination in 1968.

Fanwriting Before the Internet

The other day I wrote how happy I was to find a collection of John Bangsund’s fanwriting, and moaned over the superb fan writers who thrived in the age of the mimeograph that have none of their articles online.

I’ve realized since then I oversold the tragic fate of these great fans of the past. They didn’t write blogs, and for the most part their material is unavailable in searchable HTML form, so their work has a low profile. However, a lot of fanzines have been scanned in and posted online. All that needs to be done is to give people a reason to want to read them. The PDF versions may lack the scent and feel of disintegrating Twiltone paper, but is that a bad thing?

Quite a few of Wilson “Bob” Tucker’s fanzines can be accessed. For example, 46 of the 67 paper issues of Le Zombie, and the five issues of e-Zombie are at the Midamericon site. And there are even more on FANAC.org.

The FANAC.org Classic Fanzines site has many zines by top fanwriters of the past. The Walt Willis, Chuck Harris, et al, issues of the immortal Hyphen are there, as well as Lee Hoffman’s Quandry, and Terry Carr and Ron Ellik’s BNF of IZ.

Also, an entire area within the site is devoted to The Enchanted Duplicator by Walt Willis and Bob Shaw. The introductory page includes Willis’ revelation that the portions specifically written by Bob Shaw are most of Chapters 5 and 6, part of Chapter 7, and the first paragraph of Chapter 17.

Update 8/1/2008: Removed Bangsund ASFR link, which only leads to a list of issues.