Have scarf will travel. Part three.

Cap-bosk run in six parsecs

Dublin 2019 chair James Bacon and scarf.

By James Bacon. I’m a bit rough around the edges. Coffee is trying to sharpen my state of mind and indeed it tastes good but I’m tired, that good tired where I cannot stop, the convention tired where you want to keep going, I’ve no headache or hangover but the body knows it’s been a punishing time, it’s been so much fun. A bit more sleep, that’s it. No. Wait. Not that much!

I’ve had a mighty time. I am farewelled in the lobby and I leap into the taxi with the delicacy of a well used wet bath towel hitting the bathroom floor. I get to O’Hare and am working on this piece as I go. It’s been great fun.

What is fun though? Why am I asking that question, how long before this piece goes a bit gonzo?

Fun is so subjective.

I’m not sure if the debate about what makes a con fun would match the passion that I saw demonstrated during the Last Jedi panel where it was clear that some wanted to debate really hard whether Rey, growing up on the streets, would have more or less skills than a whiney farm boy or whether the film was good or not and whether it’s now ruined the next instalment. There was earnestness there, an energy that manifested in thoughtful challenging opinions, held strongly and by people well able to put their argument forward clearly with fine examples. Did I ruin the fun by finding the intransigence of some entrenched views wonderful, pulling myself from the mired muddy débâcle to observe the melee, noting that watching on as opinions are sharpened and objections raised the blood obviously flowing more strongly as people care about the concepts and interpretations that they have taken from a film animate them into a position where it’s clear how there is no changing this viewpoint, and I’m not arguing, rather watching on impressed that a film can create such discussion and loving it. It was a fabulous panel, and Timothy Zahn was very good on it.

I saw people enjoying themselves, could mean anything.

I have to elucidate a little more coherently. Why did it feel good. It’s true I’m welcome here but from the reg desk through to the way people are applauded for their first Capricon, I hope they feel welcomed, but it sure looks like it.

Rey’s staff

By Friday over 1,000 people were members, every child that walked into kids programme to make Rey’s staff was greeted warmly even when they were drifting between ambivalence, shy driven distaste, but all came along onward and all got the crafting going and soon the dejected few were finding that a multi coloured staff of their own design with their favourite colours was really desirable. All are then shouting CAP-RI-CON with a room full of kids where it’s all very organised but only a heart beat from chaos, and a good time while taking a five foot foam and pipe staff home was not all that bad. ‘Who doesn’t know Rey, any one need to be patronised about how awesome she is?’ I ask. They are smart and brutally honest, patient but happy to voice and act on immediate feelings and if you aren’t doing a good job, they will let you know. Fannish feedback that is not so much sharp, incisive and cutting here, but a brutal hack and slash instantaneous style that means one implores ‘no blasters no blasters’ and dive behind the table for cover.

My flight has gone astray. A bit. My plans today are changing shape. An hour for the dealers room to see the awesome Art Exhibit at Boskone, is now going to be lost. Indeed as I write this I’ve no idea if I’ll make the Craig Miller GOH item that has excited me so much. I was sure I’d miss it, then when the schedule came out it worked perfectly and now it’s in the air. Literally. I may turn up late. Sneaking in down the back and pretending I was there all the time could be a plan but it’s imbued with a rake of potential pitfalls, creaky doors, noises clumsiness, worse the entrance of shame with an annoyed welcome from the top, it’s all a bit exciting.

Damnit can this fecking plane not belt down the runway any faster. Maybe if I play some Ramstein it will quicken the pace. Faster. Come on. It’s not working. I flick the fingers over the glass and choose ‘Into the trap’ by John Williams, oh yeah, this is more like it, I’m pushed back into the seat, and soon we rotate, and hit some awesome turbulence just as I hear and imagine the falcon swooping through the fleet, the orchestra rising in tempo and quickening like my heart as we rise and jet skyward towards Boston.

Last night at Capricon; ‘Are you British?’ washes past me, was that a question, was it humour, was it rhetorical, can I spell rhetorical, I’m unsure, but the question fails to even raise a pithy, abusive and sarcastic ‘bloody septic’, and as I see there’s a response required I smile calmly, ‘no Irish’ which oddly leaves everyone else more worried than anything, is my smile menacing,  I try to smile more, it doesn’t help, is it now a bit demented looking, it’s easy to go astray with accents, and smiles, and aren’t we all fans, but this is awkward and doesn’t my Train Driving Licence have the Union Flag on it,’ I’m an immigrant living in London.’ I helpfully say. Did that help? I dunno. Everyone’s friendly, fall back to a trope or as I heard it described this weekend, a story device that frequently works well. ‘Where’s the beer?’ I smile as I ask, everyone smiles and points

Who’d nationalise individuals, isn’t that dreadful, aren’t we are all fans in this happy borderless bliss. British Fan Dermot Dobson careens around the corridor corner and I greet him, he is exceptionally well-known in these north westwards Chicago parts, and he is soon brandishing his new Irish ID at me, we embrace long and warmly and cheer and whoop and he smiles and gesticulates and I, in an instantaneous semi-official self-appointed capacity welcome him to his newly found fannish family and he describes the joy of his receiving his new passport and I’m pleased like he’s joined Dublin 2019 but a version that is infinite. Irish fan Dermot Dobson. Many are envious. I ponder if we can import all the fans and make them Irish and whether Octocon chair Janet O’Sullivan would string me up, strike me down or send me some extra membership forms.

There’s a Star Wars vibe at Capricon but it’s not overpowering. Sarah Wilkinson and Timothy Zahn are show stealers, both are so erudite and enthusiastic but also love the world they have a place in and it shows. I meet four Princess Leia’s, although I admit I wish there was a Jyn here, there’s a couple of Sith and a few Jedi, I’d like more rebels really. I cosplay up myself, doing a personal interpretation of The Bombshells Batgirl in a Baseball uniform but adjusting it as you do and switching up to Batwoman. I meet Michigan fans in Star Wars cosplay, and an excellent local family, with superhero and star wars cosplay on.

Princess Leia

There’s a solid programme at Capricon and it creates that conflict of annoyance that there is too many good things to go to. There’s over 200 programme items and that doesn’t include screenings, games and all the parties. Items of interest vary from discussing Mary Shelly at 200 to the diversity backlash. I consider listing my top 10 programme items, but rather, I shall cover my favourites in more detail later. It has been a great programme.

I’ve missed a cracking party at Boskone. Erin Underwood arranged a Dublin 2019 late night meet up. I’m envious although at the same time I’m dancing at a party, my feet flying across the floor like a rhino on ice. I am not the only one dancing, and across in Boston, I hear reports that Geri Sullivan is leading the dance there. Erin reports that great chat is happening as fans sit around and are joined by Dublin GOH Ginjer Buchanan and the dancing is fun and there are lots of green lights. Meanwhile, the Dublin 2019 team in Dublin may be sleeping after an excellent day at Leprecon. I get sent a lovely set of photos, one in Scrabble’s letters, really makes me smile.

Message from Leprecon

Back at Capricon, Tammy has set up a ‘Pop-Up’ cocktail spread at Lance’s party, and Deanna is doling out fabulous ciders. Cows are having a fun session, and I cannot believe that Dr Zhivago nails it. (Fannish Family Feud) Barfleet are here in strength with two party suites, providing a disco, Friday was awesome 90’s music, now there is a great mix, decent rock and well-known anthems. They really know how to party. The Barfleet team show everyone a great time, and indeed very warm welcome. The UBS Abandon, the Chicago Chapter of Barfleet is celebrating its tenth anniversary, and they really throw one hell of a party, while it is lovely how they recognise their volunteers so well, and indeed, recognise fan achievment. I am impressed.

Ten Years

The plane, which has formed my writing desk, is descending. ETA is 12.50 it’s early. John Williams has worked, the Cap-bosk run in six parcecs! It’s 12.20. OK, so we did it in less time, and the distance is 4.694e-11 in parsecs, but don’t ruin the flow of a good story with hard science.

We land. We taxi…Why has the plane stopped?  This is not good. This is not a jetty this is somewhere in Logan but not where I need to be. That’s it. Move to the jet bridge. Unload you feckers. Luggage. I have all the luggage, it’s 1240 now. Jackie Kamlot is waiting, the car is not revving, but soon it is. Crikey we are going.

12.48 I can see the Westin on the horizon, the car skews around and we gain traction. Engine still running as I get out. 12.54 I am walking into the Westin, badge on, say hello to the Dublin fan table team, and beg grace to go see an item, and then walk into the Harbour III room just as Craig finishes ensuring the presentation is set up right. Craig starts. Made it. Done it.

Done it Mike.

Pixel Scroll 2/9/18 Pixel, Pixel, Scrolling Bright, On The Servers Through The Night

(1) THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE. Evil Mad Scientist has released downloadable “Evil Mad Scientist Valentines: 2018”.

This year’s set features parallel lines, friction, and activation energy:

What could be more romantic than telling someone that the second derivative of your potential energy is at its minimum when you’re around them?

Evil Mad Scientist has been doing this for awhile:

You can download the full set here, which includes all 36 designs from all six years (a 1.6 MB PDF document).

(2) WHERE APES HAVE GONE BEFORE. There will be a “50 Years of Planet of the Apes Exhibit and Film Retrospective” at the University of Southern California in LA through May 13.

The USC School of Cinematic Arts has partnered with 20th Century Fox Film to host an exclusive exhibit and retrospective celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Planet of the Apes franchise titled 50 Years of Planet of the Apes.

A vast collection of props, costumes, photos, posters and artwork from across all iterations of the longstanding franchise will be on display in the Hugh Hefner Exhibition Hall at USC this spring. The exhibit will be available to visit as a work-in-progress from January 26th – February 8th and all final displays will be open from February 9th through May 13th, 2018. A series of panels and screenings will complement the exhibit, including all feature films from the Planet of the Apes universe.

The exhibit is in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the 1968 release of the first Planet of the Apes film, the original installment of the still expanding franchise that now includes four sequels, a TV series, an animated series, comic books, merchandise, and 20th Century Fox Film’s highly successful prequel film series Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and War for the Planet of the Apes.

There is a schedule of associated film screenings at the link.

(3) ROOSTING. Watch the two Falcon Heavy boosters come booming back to Earth in this video at digg: “Seriously Cool Amateur Footage Of The Simultaneous Falcon Heavy Booster Landing”.

(4) ROASTING. Falcon Heavy’s third booster didn’t make it home intact: “SpaceX confirms it lost the center core of the Falcon Heavy”.

What’s more, it landed the two flanking boosters in perfect synchronized formation. But the fate of the core booster was unclear; now it appears that the center booster, which was supposed to land on a drone ship, was lost.

Elon Musk said on a conference call with reporters that the launch “seems to have gone as well as one could have hoped with the exception of center core. The center core obviously didn’t land on the drone ship” and he said that “we’re looking at the issue.” Musk says that the core ran out of propellant, which kept the core from being able to slow down as much as it needed for landing. Because of that, the core apparently hit the water at 300MPH, and it was about 100 meters from the ship. “It was enough to take out two thrusters and shower the deck with shrapnel,” Musk said. That should be worth seeing on video: “We have the video,” Musk confirmed, “it sounds like some pretty fun footage… if the cameras didn’t get blown up as well.”

(5) SFWA AUCTION. Steven H Silver tells about a SFWA fundraiser:

Did you miss our charity auctions in December? Good news! SFWA will be auctioning off five new items every month on Ebay. Available items in February include an autographed uncorrected proof copy of Fevre Dream by George RR Martin, uncorrected proof  13th Annual Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (signed by Ellen Datlow), and a rare signed copy of This Island Earth by Raymond F. Jones.

The bidding began on February 5th and will run through February 12: Ebay.com/usr/sfwa65

All auction proceeds will be earmarked for the SFWA Givers Fund which is used to disperse grants to deserving applicants, along with bolstering the existing Emergency Medical (EMF) and Legal Funds.

For more information about our funds and what they support, please visit sfwa.org/donate. If you have items you would like to donate for future SFWA Charity Auction fundraisers, please contact Steven H Silver at steven.silver@sfwa.org for more information.

Use this search to find items.

(6) BOSKONE PROGRAM. Look forward to the panels and participants discussing “Black Science Fiction at Boskone”, February 16-18 in Boston.

This year Boskone features a program with a strong selection of panels and discussions dedicated to black science fiction authors, publishers, and fans. Our program includes everything from black publishers and Afrofuturism to works by authors such as Octavia Butler, science panels that include the future of medicine, writing discussions that tackle young adult fiction, and much, much more!

Here’s a quick list of some of our program items with an emphasis on black science fiction and the authors who will be joining us from across the country. For the full set of program items, view the Boskone 55 program….

(7) VOLCANO IN TOWSON. Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast visits with Norman Prentiss to sample the volcano shrimp at a Chinese restaurant in Towson, MD.

And who is this episode’s guest? Why, it’s Norman Prentiss, who won the 2010 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Long Fiction for Invisible Fences, and the 2009 Stoker for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction for “In the Porches of My Ears.” His powerful, personal fiction has been reprinted in both Best Horror of the Year and The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and his poetry has appeared in Writer Online, Southern Poetry Review, and A Sea of Alone: Poems for Alfred Hitchcock.

 

Norman Prentiss

We discussed the day he wowed the other kids on his school playground by reading them Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the movies a Catholic Church newsletter’s warnings made him want to see even more, the supernatural superhero comic that led to a lawsuit against Harlan Ellison, the upside and (surprising) downside of having won a $35,000 college writing prize, how the freebies he got at a Horrorfind convention goosed him to start writing fiction again, why he wrote the last part of his novel Odd Adventures with Your Other Father first, how he’s been able to collaborate with other authors without killing them, what can be taught about writing and what can only be learned, why he ended up writing horror instead of science fiction, and much, much more.

(8) WONDER ANNUAL POWERS, ACTIVATE! Rich Horton announced the contents of
The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2018 Edition so Jason went to work at Featured Futures and finished his “Collated Contents of the Big Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, with Links!)”

Last year, I collated and linked to the webzine stories picked by Clarke, Dozois, Horton, and Strahan for their annuals. This year, I’ve collated all the selections. (I’ve also noted whether I’ve read them and, if so, whether they got an honorable mention, a recommendation, or were recommendations which made my Web’s Best Science Fiction or Web’s Best Fantasy.)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born February 9, 1960 – Laura Frankos

(10) FRANKOS. Steven H Silver celebrated Frankos at Black Gate with “Birthday Reviews: Laura Frankos’s ‘A Late Symmer Night’s Battle’”.

… When a follow-up attack of reremice occur, the fairies must question what they are fighting for and what makes a race worthwhile. While Frankos could have told the story with tremendous amounts of gravitas, the venue for its publication was looking for more lighthearted fare and she managed to deliver, sprinkling her tale with wonderful puns….

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY UNIVERSE. The BBC has the snapshot: “Marvel Cinematic Universe celebrates its 10th birthday with an epic cast photo”.

Over the past decade Marvel has brought us 18 films, starting with Iron Man in 2008 and including Thor, The Avengers and Captain America.

The class photo of 76 actors appeared on Twitter on Thursday.

It includes major players in the films like Robert Downey Jr, Vin Diesel, Scarlett Johansson and Letitia Wright.

The picture was shortly followed by a behind the scenes video.

It begins with Thor’s Chris Hemsworth saying: “It was sort of like being at the Academy Awards or something, every person had been in one or all of my favourite films.”

 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy asks, “Is Gumby genre? Perhaps so…” — The Flying McCoys.
  • And Mike learned from  Basic Instructions, “If you wish to be an evil Emperor, do not waste time taunting your nemesis. Especially in falsetto.”
  • Cath found another cat/book/humor connection in today’s Breaking Cat News.
  • Cath also knows I need proofreading advice —

(13) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. Is the work of comic book colorists inherently apolitical?

(14) MORE ON ACKERMAN. Adam-Troy Castro heard about Forrest J Ackerman’s behavior in 1997:

Yes, I knew about Forry Ackerman twenty years ago.

I was part of the committee that gave him the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award. I need you to know that I was outvoted. We were giving two awards that year and the Ackerman partisans were given what they wanted in order for those who were against the citation to be given what they wanted. Even so, the hell that went on behind the scenes was intense and lasted for months after the official announcement was made. But yes, one of the things that came up during the hellish brouhaha that followed was that he had, quote, “a house full of child pornography.”

The months of invective that went on, back and forth, behind the scenes, amounted to the worst period of my writing career….

(15) WET WORK. Beneath the waters of the Gulf: “Long-Buried Ice Age Forest Offers Climate Change Clues”.

Scientists say it’s a remarkable discovery.

“The underwater forest is like the Garden of Eden underwater,” says Christine DeLong, a paleo-climatologist at Louisiana State University. She says tests date the forest to be between 50,000 and 70,000 years old.

“It’s a huge deal,” DeLong says. “Because here we have this like perfectly preserved time capsule of an ice age forest.”

(16) LIGHTEN UP. Thanks to French scientists and a NASA probe, “Secrets of solar flares are unlocked”.

Flares can occur on their own, or be accompanied by powerful eruptions of plasma (charged gas) from the Sun.

If charged particles from these eruptions reach Earth, they can create havoc with infrastructure, such as satellite systems and power grids.

Now, researchers in France say the interaction of distinct magnetic structures controls these outbursts from our star.

Generally speaking, solar eruptions are caused by a sudden, violent rearrangement of the Sun’s magnetic field.

At a deeper level, the process is controlled by two types of structures that form in the magnetic field of the Sun: ropes and cages.

The rope is confined within the magnetic cage. If the cage is strong, it can contain the rope’s contortions, but when the cage is weak, an eruption can take place.

(17) WATER SIGN. Sydney has a unique solution to trucks trying to get into tunnels they’re too tall for: a water wall as a screen for a giant projected STOP sign. (Video at the link.) “That will stop them in their tracks! Virtual barrier made from curtain of water halts lorries from driving through too small tunnels”.

They had tried flashing signs, neon signs and staggered signs.

But when lorry drivers continued to keep on driving their over-sized trucks though low tunnels, Australian authorities took the extreme measure of warning drivers with water signs.

Drivers are greeted with a curtain of water falling from the entrance of tunnels with a huge ‘stop’ sign projected on to them….

Laservision said that the Sydney Harbour Tunnel has experienced more than 10,000 incidents of vehicles hitting the structure since it opened.

The damage caused by too large vehicles crashing into the overhead of the tunnel affected up to 12,000 motorists at peak time, the company said.

There’s also this TV clip of the sign in action –

And the manufacturer’s writeup: “Activated 8 times in 8 weeks, with 100% success!”

(18) BUGEYED. “What Scientists Learned From Putting 3-D Glasses on Praying Mantises”: The Atlantic has the story.

One might assume that any animal with two forward-facing eyes would automatically have stereopsis, but that’s not true. It’s a sophisticated skill that requires a lot of processing power and a complex network of neurons—one that not every animal can afford to build. Indeed, after stereopsis was first confirmed in humans in 1838, it took 132 years for scientists to show that other species had the same ability. Macaque monkeys were the first confirmed member of the stereopsis club, but they were soon joined by cats, horses, sheep, owls, falcons, toads—and praying mantises. In the 1980s, Samuel Rossel placed prisms in front of these insects to show that they do triangulate the images from both eyes to catch their prey.

When Jenny Read, from Newcastle University, first read about this, she was amazed. How could an insect pull off such a complicated trick with a brain that contains just 1 million neurons? (For comparison, our brains have 100,000 times that number.) To find out, she and Nityananda set up their mantis 3-D cinemas….

They presented the insects with screens full of black and white dots, with a slightly different pattern projected to each eye. Against these backgrounds, a small circle of dots—a target—would slowly spiral inward from the outside. “It’s meant to be like a little beetle moving against a background,” says Read.

By tweaking the dots, the team could change how far away this target would appear to the watching mantises. And they found that the insects would start to attack the target when it seemed to get within striking distance. Clearly, the insects have stereopsis.

But their stereopsis is not our stereopsis. We use brightness as a cue to align and compare the images that are perceived by our two eyes. Scientists can confirm this by presenting one eye with an image that’s a negative of the other—that has black dots where the other has white ones, and vice versa. “For us, that’s incredibly disruptive. We really can’t match up the images anymore, so our stereopsis falls apart,” says Read. “But the mantises are completely unfazed.” Brightness clearly doesn’t matter to them.

(19) THUMBRUNNERS. I’m not sure “parts is parts” when they’re human — “Special Report: U.S. body brokers supply world with torsos, limbs and heads”.

Demand for body parts from America — torsos, knees and heads — is high in countries where religious traditions or laws prohibit the dissection of the dead. Unlike many developed nations, the United States largely does not regulate the sale of donated body parts, allowing entrepreneurs such as MedCure to expand exports rapidly during the last decade.

No other nation has an industry that can provide as convenient and reliable a supply of body parts.

(Larry Niven once said he preferred Alexei Panshin’s “thumbrunners,” but having been beaten to the term, he’d come up with his alternative, “organleggers.”)

(20) SPACE MOUNTAIN. You get a glimpse inside the illusion created by a popular Disneyland attraction in this Orange County Register piece: “Space Mountain fan gets the roller coaster’s 87-year-old designer to ride it one last time at Disneyland”

How fast do you think you’re traveling when you’re in the rockets on Space Mountain?

Think of the speed of a car on the freeway. Is Space Mountain faster than that? Slower? Is it 100 miles per hour, like Bill Watkins has heard people telling each other?

Watkins contemplated the speed question for years in the early- to mid-1970s. He built his first Space Mountain at Walt Disney World in Florida. But it was bigger – a 300-ft. circle on two tracks. When the Disneyland Space Mountain opened in 1977, Watkins had completed what he always saw as a giant math problem.

Space Mountain is a gravity coaster. Unlike the Matterhorn, which relies on thrusters to help move its vehicles forward, Space Mountain simply starts up and goes down. Technically, it’s 75 seconds of free fall.

At its maximum speed (which can vary slightly depending on the combined weight of the riders) the car you’re riding in Space Mountain is traveling about 40 feet per second.

That’s 27.27 miles per hour.

That seems really slow.

But Watkins somehow made it just right. More than 250 million people have ridden Space Mountain since it opened. And while it’s unclear if it’s the best – Disneyland’s public relations department would only say that Space Mountain is, according to guests, “a top 10 attraction” – how many are better?

It is certainly arguable that Bill Watkins created the most popular roller coaster of all time.

“I seldom meet anyone who hasn’t ridden it,” he said.

(21) BEST PRO ARTIST RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank’s  “2018 Professional Artists” page is designed —

To help people make nominations for the 2018 Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist, we have set up a “lightbox” system to let fans quickly flip through the works of over 113 artists listed below and to set aside the ones they particularly liked.

Greg Hullender says —

This is aimed at helping people pick artists to nominate, based on covers for magazines and for books containing original novels or anthologies. We don’t have pictures for reprints.

Where possible, we have links to the artists’ portfolios, so readers can get a broader idea of any particular artist’s work. To simplify that a bit, for eligible artists who had just a few works published in 2017 we’ve padded their list of pictures with their art from earlier years. (They’re marked by date for the benefit of those who only want to see works published in 2017.)

(22) ROBOTECH RETURNS. Titan Comics will publish a new graphic novel based on the classic Robotech saga.

A mysterious ship crashes on a remote island… 10 years later, the ship’s ‘Robotechnology’ has helped humanity advance its own tech. But danger looms from the skies and an epic adventure is set to begin…

The world-famous, fan-favorite animated epic returns to comics with a classic transforming-jetfighters-versus-giant-aliens adventure! Written by Brian Wood (Star Wars, Briggs Land, X-Men), with art from Marco Turini (Assassin’s Creed) and colorist Marco Lesko! Return to the fan-favorite Macross Saga that began the classic Robotech franchise, as hotshot Veritech pilot Roy Fokker and skilled rookie Rick Hunter are pulled into an intergalactic war when the Earth is invaded by the insidious Zentraedi! Whether you’ve seen the classic cartoon to the point you can quote every episode, or whether you’ve never experienced Robotech before, this graphic novel collection is for you!

 

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cath, Andrew Porter, Will R., David K.M. Klaus, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day evilrooster.]

Pixel Scroll 7/27/2017 Your Pixeled Pal who’s Fun to Scroll With

(1) FILLING A KNEAD. A German company is working to make bread-baking in the ISS happen: “3, 2, 1 … Bake Off! The Mission To Make Bread In Space”.

Crumbs may seem harmless here on Earth, but they can be a hazard in microgravity — they could get in an astronaut’s eye, or get inhaled, causing someone to choke. Crumbs could even float into an electrical panel, burn up or cause a fire.

That’s part of the reason why it was a very big deal in 1965 when John Young pulled a corned beef sandwich out of his pocket as he was orbiting the earth with Gus Grissom.

“Where did that come from?” Grissom asked Young.

“I brought it with me,” Young said.

Young took a bite and then microgravity took over, spreading bread crumbs throughout the spacecraft.

Today, instead of bread, astronauts usually eat tortillas: They don’t crumble in the same way and they’re easy to hold with one hand as the astronaut floats about.

But for many Germans, tortillas just don’t cut it. So when a man named Sebastian Marcu heard that German Astronaut Alexander Gerst is returning to the International Space Station in 2018, that got him thinking: “Shouldn’t we do something to enable him to have fresh bread in space?”

(2) BLOWN UP. The inflatable ISS module is still going strong, and may lead to complete inflatable space stations: “After A Year In Space, The Air Hasn’t Gone Out Of NASA’s Inflated Module”.

The module is called BEAM, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, and it has been attached to the International Space Station since April last year.

Expandable modules allow NASA to pack a large volume into a smaller space for launch. They’re not made of metal, but instead use tough materials like the Kevlar found in bulletproof vests.

The station crew used air pressure to unfold and expand the BEAM, but it’s wrong to think about BEAM as expanding like a balloon that could go “pop” if something punctured it.

NASA’s Jason Crusan says there is a better analogy: “It’s much like the tire of your car.”

Chip Hitchcock calls it, “Another example of science bypassing SF — it looks like we may never have the space-based construction workers featured by writers from Heinlein to Steele.”

(3) BECOMING MARTIANS. Click to see a video of a long-term simulation of life on Mars: “On a mission to Mars (with Hawaii stopover)”

Researchers living near the active Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa are six months into an eight-month mission which simulates what it’s like to live on Mars. We asked how “living on Mars” – in close quarters – has been so far.

(4) OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS. Fantastic Trains: An anthology of Phantasmagorical Engines and Rail Riders is taking submissions until Midnight September 30, 2017.

Edited by Jerome Stueart and Neil Enock, the anthology focuses on speculative fiction stories of trains—fantasy, steampunk, science fiction, horror, slipstream, urban fantasy, apocalyptic, set in any time, any place—and will be released by EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing in the spring of 2018.

Stories must be previously unpublished, in English, between 1,000-5,000 words.

Authors are invited to structurally play with some ‘locomotifs’ that will add interesting connections to these disparate and individual stories.

For more information, check out the call for submissions.

(5) CLARION. The 2018 Clarion Summer Workshop instructors for 2018  will be:

  • Week 1 – Daniel Abraham
  • Week 2 – Ken MacLeod
  • Week 3 – Yoon Ha Lee
  • Week 4 – Karen Lord
  • Week 5 – Karen Joy Fowler
  • Week 6 – Ellen Datlow

(6) PRESS GANG. Boskone 55 has announced that Harlan Ellison biographer Nate Segaloff as the NESFA Press Guest.

(7) SORRY GUV. I guess this just now came to the top of his To-Do list <rolleyes> — “Dick Van Dyke sorry for ‘atrocious cockney accent’ in Mary Poppins”.

Dick Van Dyke has apologised for the “most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema” more than half a century after his role in the 1964 Disney classic Mary Poppins.

The US actor played chimney-sweep Bert in the film, and has been the subject of much teasing from fans about his famously off-radar accent.

Van Dyke, 91, was chosen this week by Bafta to receive the Britannia award for excellence in television. Speaking afterwards, he said: “I appreciate this opportunity to apologise to the members of Bafta for inflicting on them the most atrocious cockney accent in the history of cinema.”

… Van Dyke recently announced that he would be doing “a little song and dance number” in the Mary Poppins sequel. He will play the part of Mr Dawes Jr, chairman of Fidelity Fiduciary bank, alongside Emily Blunt as the nanny extraordinaire in Mary Poppins Returns.

Van Dyke rose to prominence in films including Bye Bye Birdie, Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, as well as his 60s TV sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show. His wide-spanning career has earned him five Emmys, a Tony, a Grammy, the SAG lifetime achievement award and induction into the Television Hall of Fame.

But he has previously spoken about his turn as Bert, saying he would never be allowed to forget it. “People in the UK love to rib me about my accent, I will never live it down,” he said. “They ask what part of England I was meant to be from and I say it was a little shire in the north where most of the people were from Ohio.”

(8) DIRECTING TOLKIEN. Finnish filmmaker Dome Karukoski confirms that he has been hired to direct a Hollywood biopic on British fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien: “Finnish director Karukoski attached to US Tolkien movie”

A biopic based on the coming-of-age of writer J.R.R. Tolkien is to be made by the same Hollywood studio as the recent War for the Planet of the Apes. It could also be Finnish director Dome Karukoski’s international debut.

(9) TED TALK. Howard Hendrix passed along the link to the TED talk he presented in April at UC Riverside, “since it’s sfnal, concerns Phil Dick (among other matters), and was presented by a science fiction wirter (me).” It was just posted by TED last week. “Saving Private Mind: Madness, Privacy, Consciousness | Howard Hendrix”

Society is not a prerequisite for the existence of privacy. Privacy is a prerequisite for the existence of society. Howard Hendrix’s TEDxUCR talk explores the philosophical, legal, neurological and evolutionary contexts for understanding the relationship between privacy and individual human consciousness — particularly through the lens of “madness” in the lives and works of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick and Hendrix’s younger brother, Vincent John “Jay” Hendrix.

 

(10) THEY HAVE A WORD FOR IT. John Hawthorne helped create a resource on the topic of “amazing words that don’t exist in English.”

I recently reached out to over 150 language learning websites and facilities and asked them to give me some of their opinions on what are the most interesting foreign words that are not found in English. I took all my research and gave it to my colleague Adrian who made a list of 35 of the best words.

You can read all the takeaways from their research right here. These are three examples:

Antier/Anteayer (Spanish)

Can we all agree that saying, “The day before yesterday,” is a complete waste of words? So many words for such a simple concept. Those who speak Spanish have a much simpler version: “Antier”.

When did you last talk to your mom? Antier.

Desvelado (Spanish)

Insomnia. The tossing. The turning. The inability to fall asleep. That feeling of being sleep deprived is called “desvelado” in Spanish. It’s that feeling of exhaustion that comes after a terrible night’s sleep.

You need five cups of coffee. Why? Because desvelado.

Tuerto (Spanish)

What do you call a man with one eye who isn’t also a pirate? Tuerto. It seems like this word would have rather limited usage unless you work in a BB gun factory or something.

But you do have to admit, have a single word to describe someone with one eye is pretty fantastic.

(11) EARL GREY LISTENS. Elizabeth Fitzgerald, in “My Current Podcast Playlist”, provides an excellent survey of more than 15 sff, gaming and writing podcasts.

Not Now, I’m Reading: A new podcast just started by Chelsea of the Reading Outlaw and Kay Taylor Rae which focuses on reviewing genre books and media. As a keen reader of romance, I appreciate that their focus is a little wider than just SFF and the way they’re unapologetic about their passions.

Overinvested: Gavia Baker-Whitelaw and Morgan Leigh Davies review movies, TV shows and comics. Most are genre, though not all. These ladies are savvy critics who really know their stuff and are also not afraid to love material they know is rubbish.

The Skiffy and Fanty Show: This Hugo-nominated podcast is headed up by Shaun Duke and Jen Zink with a large cast of co-hosts. They do multiple segments of varying kinds, including signal boosts, interviews and Torture Cinema (wherein a panel reviews a movie deemed to be awful by pop culture).

(12) SWARMING SHARKES. Are these the final transmission of the Shadow Clarke Jury? The Clarke Award winner, Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, was announced today.

Awards, it seems to me, work in unusual ways in the science fiction community. They link to an existing community of fans, writers and publishers that has its own particular shape and weight. Fandom is changing. Having spent much of the twentieth century on the edges of literary culture, what was once marginal is now thoroughly mainstream. The success of major titles such as Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games, promoted by cinematic adaptations, has broadened the pool of readers—but simultaneously brought pressures of its own, the pressure to sell and sell big, to build blockbuster brands.

Awards fit awkwardly into this changing space. Are they primarily markers of prestige? Are they handed out by fan communities to honor the successes of their own? Do they chart new trends? Whereas winning the Man Booker Prize can have huge ramifications for an author’s career—and their sales—this isn’t really the case for science fiction awards. Many writers and editors will tell you that even the Hugos in most cases don’t result in a substantial change in sales numbers. One case, oddly enough, where it did was Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem which won the 2015 award for best novel, a year that was mired down by the Sad Puppies/Rabid Puppies slate-creation. In fact, it may well have been the high volume of conversation in online circles surrounding those Hugo awards that inadvertently contributed to the sales boost. Certainly, journalists could sense a story and so the firestorm may well have provoked media attention that simply wouldn’t either ways have focused on the Hugos.

And if awards themselves occupy an ill-defined space then the relationship between awards and criticism is even murkier. Sometimes critics participate in the process of choosing award winners but just as frequently that role falls to the fans themselves, through various membership and voting systems. Fans of a genre that has always had a popular element—almost by definition—and has for much of its existence been barred from prestige culture may well have a justified suspicion of criticism. And yet just as science fiction is going mainstream, it is also entering areas where it was previously barred: there are several degrees that include science fiction literature within the UK and the field itself has developed through prizes like the Clarke Awards and through institutions like the British Science Fiction Association.

What they thought should win —

As regards the Sharke winner, the race was between Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station, and Martin MacInnes’s Infinite Ground. But whilst Infinite Ground enjoyed passionate support from two or three jurors in particular, and Central Station ran a close second for pretty much the entire jury, in the end it was The Underground Railroad that came through as the clear winner. ‘The Whitehead is a phenomenal book,’ Vajra said, summing up our discussions. ‘In my reading, the very core of science fiction is not novelty, but freedom: that is, emancipation. By this measure The Underground Railroad is as core as core science fiction can possibly be, and the extent to which this is contested is an indictment of the state of discourse in science fiction itself. I would like to see it win all the awards and be firmly planted in this soil so that a better science fiction could grow from here. It’s not Whitehead that needs it so much as the rest of us.’

What they predicted would win —

We all felt that whilst Ninefox Gambit is very much a traditional space opera, it also presents some interesting variations on that tried-and-tested formula by being more ambitious in terms of its concept, more inventive in its use of language, more diverse in relation to its character demographic. For all these reasons – together with the fact that we all, to varying degrees, found things in this novel to admire – we came eventually to the conclusion that Ninefox Gambit would be the title inside that envelope:

(13) THE BOOKER. The 2017 Man Book Prize longlist was announced yesterday. Mark-kitteh says, “I see several books of genre interest in the Booker. Underground Railroad, 4 3 2 1, and Exit West. (There may be more, I’m not familiar with them all).” You can add Lincoln in the Bardo, for sure.

Title Author (nationality) (imprint)

  • 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
  • Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber)
  • History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)
  • Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4th Estate)
  • Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
  • The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury)
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury)
  • Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)

(14) TOOTHSOME. Once the Sharkes wrap up, people will have to depend on Syfy for their finnish entertainment: Sharknado 5: Global Swarming.

With much of America lying in ruins, the rest of the world braces for a global sharknado, Fin and his family must travel around the world to stop them.

 

(15) STARSHIP PRANKS. Fox showed this version of their trailer for The Orville  at Comic-Con.

THE ORVILLE is a one-hour science fiction series set 400 years in the future that follows the adventures of the U.S.S. Orville, a mid-level exploratory vessel. Its crew, both human and alien, faces the wonders and dangers of outer space, while also dealing with the familiar, often humorous problems of regular people in a workplace…even though some of those people are from other planets, and the workplace is a faster-than-light spaceship. In the 25th century, Earth is part of the Planetary Union, a far-reaching, advanced and mostly peaceful civilization with a fleet of 3,000 ships.

 

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Mark-kitteh, John King Tarpinian, Paul Weimer, Martin Morse Wooster, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (Hopefully I’ve used this only once…).]

Fagan Wins Gaughan Award

Kirbi Fagan was presented with The Jack Gaughan Award for Best Emerging Artist during the NESFA Awards ceremony at Boskone on February 19.

The Gaughan Award “honors the memory of Jack Gaughan, a long-time friend of fandom and one of the finest SF artists of the 20th century.” The winner is selected by a three-person jury appointed by the President of the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA).

A gallery of her art can be viewed here.

Skylark Award Goes To Walton

SF/fantasy author Jo Walton was presented with the E.E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction (the Skylark) during the NESFA Awards ceremony at Boskone on February 19.

The award is given annually by vote of the Regular members of the New England Science Fiction Association to a person, who “has contributed significantly to science fiction, both through work in the field and by exemplifying the personal qualities which made the late ‘Doc’ Smith well-loved by those who knew him.”

The Boskone Blog outlined Walton’s career for a recent interview —

Jo Walton has published thirteen novels, three poetry collections and an essay collection. She won the John W. Campbell Award in 2002, the World Fantasy Award for Tooth and Claw in 2004, the Hugo and Nebula awards for Among Others in 2012, the Tiptree Award for My Real Children and the Locus Non Fiction award for What Makes This Book So Great in 2014. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal. She reads a lot, enjoys travel, talking about books, and eating great food. She plans to live to be ninety-nine and write a book every year.

 

Pixel Scroll 2/22/16 Through Pathless Realms Of Space, Scroll On

(1) NUKED THE FRIDGE. Yahoo! News says there may be a good reason why Indy survived the atomic blast, in “Fan Theory Explains That Much-Maligned Indiana Jones Scene”.

Much like ‘jumping the shark’ from ‘Happy Days’, the Indiana Jones movie series has a similar phrase to encompass the moment it all went a little bit too far.

And it’s ‘nuked the fridge’.

Many ardent fans of Harrison Ford’s swashbuckling archeologist very much drew the line at the moment in ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ where Indy jumps into a conveniently situated fridge to protect himself from a nuclear blast.

Walking away unscathed, it did seem a trifle unfeasible….

(2) POWERLESS LEAD ACTRESS. The name of the show, Powerless, makes punning inevitable. “Vanessa Hudgens Is Far From ‘Powerless’ – ‘Grease’ Star Will Headline NBC’s New DC Comics Sitcom” reports ScienceFiction.com.

Vanessa Hudgens is on a roll after starring in FOX’s smash hit version of ‘Grease Live!’  She’s just landed the lead role in NBC’s upcoming DC Comics-inspired sitcom ‘Powerless’.  Hudgens will play Emily Locke, an insurance claims adjuster, working for “the worst insurance company in the DC Universe” which covers victims caught in the crossfire of super hero/villain battles.  This workplace comedy has been compared to ‘The Office’ but set within the DC Universe.

(3) DECLAN FINN’S FELINE FAN. At Camestros Felapton’s blog, a hilarious faux interview “Timothy the Talking Cat Reads Honor at Stake”.

[Camestros] Noted. So what book do you have today?
[Timothy] Well, today I have with me Honor at Stake by Declan Finn. A tale of love and vampires in modern New York.

[Camestros] And why this book in particular?
[Timothy] Well I was reading twitter and there was this tweet with a graph that showed it was really doing well in the Sad Puppy 4 lists.
[Camestros] The graph from my blog?
[Timothy] Your blog? I don’t think so, this was some sort of SadPuppy4 twitter account.
[Camestros] They tweeted my graph. Do you not even read this blog?
[Timothy] Good grief, no. I mean your very name offends me.…

[Camestros] So the sexy love interest vampire – she is conflicted about this? A bit of a Romeo & Vamp-Juliet thing going on?
[Timothy] No, no. She is a good vampire and a good Catholic girl. She goes to mass and everything.
[Camestros] So crucifix don’t work on vampires then?
[Timothy] No, you see the book has this all worked out. Vampires can be good or bad and the more good you are the nicer you look and the less things like holy water and sunlight affect you. The more bad you are the more hideous you become and the more holy water hurts,
[Camestros] OK so the bad vampires are like regular vampires.
[Timothy] Yup – a bit like the ones in Buffy.
[Camestros] Let me guess – the author explains this by comparing them to the vampires in Buffy?
[Timothy] Exactly! Quality writing – explains things up front so you know what is going on.

(4) MEMORIAL CUISINE. Frequent File 770 contributor James H. Burns has found yet another way to time travel… See “Recipe For the Dead” at Brooklyn Discovery.

Perhaps this is unusual. I have no way of knowing. But when I’m missing a loved one who has passed, or wishing to commemorate someone who is no longer with us… Sometimes, I’ll cook a meal that they loved. Not that I necessarily ever cooked for the departed. But sharing a repast that they favored, having those aromas in the air as the food is cooking, seems a very real way of honoring a memory.

(5) OSHIRO STORY FOLLOWUP. Here are some items of interest related to the Mark Oshiro story.

  • K. Tempest Bradford on Robin Wayne Bailey

3) I am and remain a big fan of Ms. Rosen. I’ve only read one of her novels, but I fell in love with her personality from the two times I’ve been to ConQuesT. She is lively, articulate on her strong opinions, and she is a strong woman. No, I do not always agree with her. In fact, I often greatly disagree with her and her methods of dealing with situations. It in no way changes my respect for her. She doesn’t need me to agree with her for her to be comfortable in her skin. We can disagree, and it in no way takes away from her person. That’s the biggest reason I like the woman. So, in my opinion, she can pull her pants down whenever she wants. Her white legged exposure at ConQuesT 45 was in no way indecent, and no one was assaulted by anything more than her wit, charm, and strong opinions. And honestly, if that’s not what you’re looking for, then you probably shouldn’t go to a convention filled with writers. If the writers at a convention are going to be overtly nice and congenial, I’m not going to pay a hefty entry fee to go listen to their polite little opinions. I go to conventions because of the lively discussion of various opinions from very opinionate writers. If I leave feeling strongly about something, even if that feeling is offense, then in my opinion, the panelists have done their jobs and done them well.

4) I was not present at ConQuesT 46 and cannot speak to the events that happened there.

(6) THE LEVERAGE CONCEPT. Elizabeth Bear offers help in “We provide…Leverage”.

If I am a guest at a convention you are attending, or simply a fellow attendee, and you feel that you have been harassed, intimidated, or that your boundaries have been trampled or ignored, please feel free to ask me for support, help, intervention, or just an escort to a safer area or backup on the way to talk to convention or hotel security.

If you do not feel that you can stick up for yourself, I will help. I will be a buffer or a bulwark if necessary or requested.

Just walk up to me and ask for Leverage, and I promise that I will take you seriously and I’ll try to make things better.

(This is not an exhaustive list.)

(7) BOSKONE COMPLETE. Steve Davidson finishes his Boskone report at Amazing Stories.

Final thoughts?  There were lots of smiles walking out the door on Sunday.  The David Hartwell memorial was touching, much-needed and well-handled.  From what I was able to see, everything went very smoothly (except for perhaps a few hiccups with pre-registration that I understand are already being addressed).

(8) SLOCOMBE OBIT. Cinematographer Douglas Slocombe has died at the age of 103 reports the BBC.

Slocombe shot 80 films, from classic Ealing comedies such as The Lavender Hill Mob and Kind Hearts and Coronets, to three Indiana Jones adventures.

In 1939 he filmed some of the earliest fighting of World War Two in Poland.

Indiana Jones director Steven Spielberg said Slocombe – who won Baftas for the Great Gatsby, The Servant, and Julia – “loved the action of filmmaking”.

(9) NOW YOU KNOW. Some believe Carrie Fisher revealed the working title of Star Wars: Episode VIII when she tweeted this photo of her dog. It’s on the sweatshirt back of the director’s chair.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 22, 1957 — When Scott Carey begins to shrink because of exposure to a combination of radiation and insecticide, medical science is powerless to help him in The Incredible Shrinking Man, seen for the first time on this day in 1957. Did you know: special effects technicians were able to create giant drops of water by filling up condoms and dropping them.

Incredible Shrinking Man Poster

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born February 22, 1968 – Jeri Ryan
  • Born February 22, 1975 – Drew Barrymore

(12) CORREIA ISN’T LEAVING TWITTER. Well, what else do you say when somebody announces “I’ll leave the account open to post blog links back to here and book ads, but other than that I’m not going to use it for any sort of conversation,” as Larry Correia did on Monster Hunter Nation today?

Recently they created a Trust and Safety Council, to protect people from being triggered with hurtful dissenting ideas. Of course the council is made up of people like Anita Sarkesian, so you know how it is going to swing.

They’ve been unverifying conservatives, and outright banning conservative journalists. Then there were rumors of “shadow banning” where people would post, but their followers wouldn’t see it in their timelines. So it’s like you’re talking to a room that you think has 9,000 people in it, but when the lights come on you’ve been wasting time talking to an empty room.

For the record, I don’t know if that’s what happened to me or not. Some of my posts have just disappeared from my timeline entirely. Other tweets seem to show up for some followers, but not others, and it wasn’t just replies. Beats me. Either something weird was going on and I’ve violated the unwritten rules of the Ministry of Public Truth, or their technical interface is just getting worse (never attribute to malice what could just be stupidity). Either way it is enough of a pain that it was getting to be not worth the hassle.

Then today they disappeared all of my friend Adam Baldwin’s tweets. Ironically, his only visible post (out of 8,000) was a link to an article about how Twitter is banning conservatives. That was the last straw.

(13) THAT DARNED JOURNALISM THING. Actually, Adam Baldwin deleted himself.

….Baldwin, who has nearly a quarter of a million followers, deleted his entire Twitter history Monday morning, leaving only one tweet asking for the CEO of Twitter to be fired and the abolishment of the platforms new Trust and Safety Council….

“This group-think, Orwellian, so-called Safety Council is really killing the wild west of ideas that Twitter was,” Baldwin laments:

“That’s what made Twitter fun. You could run across all sorts of differing viewpoints. That is what free speech is all about. As long as you’re not threatening people with violence, have at it.”

Baldwin cites the banning of prominent conservative tweeter Robert Stacy McCain as a major reason for leaving …

(14) REASON’S INTERPRETATION. Reason.com’s “Hit & Run” blog asks “Did Twitter’s Orwellian ‘Trust and Safety’ Council Get Robert Stacy McCain Banned?”

Twitter is a private company, of course, and if it wants to outlaw strong language, it can. In fact, it’s well within its rights to have one set of rules for Robert Stacy McCain, and another set of rules for everyone else. It’s allowed to ban McCain for no reason other than its bosses don’t like him. If Twitter wants to take a side in the online culture war, it can. It can confiscate Milo Yiannopoulos’s blue checkmark. This is not about the First Amendment.

But if that’s what Twitter is doing, it’s certainly not being honest about it—and its many, many customers who value the ethos of free speech would certainly object. In constructing its Trust and Safety Council, the social media platform explicitly claimed it was trying to strike a balance between allowing free speech and prohibiting harassment and abuse. But its selections for this committee were entirely one-sided—there’s not a single uncompromising anti-censorship figure or group on the list. It looks like Twitter gave control of its harassment policy to a bunch of ideologues, and now their enemies are being excluded from the platform.

(15) BRIANNA WU DEFENDS TWITTER. Brianna Wu commented on Facebook about Correia’s Twitter statement. (File 770 received permission to quote from it; the post is set to be visible to “friends” only.)

He and other conservative figures like Adam Baldwin are claiming that Twitter is breaking down on “free speech” and capitulating to the “SJWs,” which I guess means people like me. I have spent much of the last year asking Twitter and other tech companies to improve their harassment policies. There is one problem with Mr. Correria’s claim.

There is no evidence whatsoever for it.

None, zilch, zero. It’s a fantasy. A similar lie is going around that Twitter has put Anita Sarkeesian in charge of their Trust and Safety council, which is similarly baseless. I’ve spoken with a lot of tech companies in the last year and I have never heard anyone propose shadowbanning.

The only “proof” that Twitter is shadowbanning people comes from a disreputable conservative blog, that is so disreputable it cannot even be used as sourcing on Wikipedia. That blog used anonymous sourcing, and was written by someone with a personal axe to grind against Twitter.

The truth is, companies like Twitter are finally enforcing their own TOS if you threaten someone, dox someone, or set up an account specifically created to harass someone. That has led to some people being banned, and some accounts that perpetually break Twitter harassment rules to become deverified.

The backlash against Twitter is by people that prefer these system to remain as they are – a place where the women in your life will get rape threats, where anyone can have their private information posted, and where swarms of vicious mobs are destroying people’s reputation with slander.

The last I checked, almost 100 people have spread Mr. Correria’s baseless claim – and even more with Adam Baldwin. This is an important thing to fact check, and I hope you’ll share this to set the record straight.

(16) ELSEWHERE ON THE INTERNET. Bailey Lemon at Medium writes “Why This Radical Leftist is Disillusioned by Leftist Culture”.

…And yet I witness so many “activists” who claim to care about those at the bottom of society ignoring the realities of oppression, as if being offended by a person’s speech or worldview is equal to prison time or living on the streets. They talk about listening, being humble, questioning one’s preconceived notions about other people and hearing their lived experiences…and yet ignore the lived experiences of those who don’t speak or think properly in the view of university-educated social justice warriors, regardless of how much worse off they really are. That is not to say that we should accept bigotry in any form?—?far from it. But I would go as far as saying that the politically correct mafia on the left perpetuates a form of bigotry on its own because it alienates and “otherizes” those who do not share their ways of thinking and speaking about the world.

I’m tired of the cliques, the hierarchies, the policing of others, and the power imbalances that exist between people who claim to be friends and comrades. I am exhausted and saddened by the fact that any type of disagreement or difference of opinion in an activist circle will lead to a fight, which sometimes includes abandonment of certain people, deeming them “unsafe” as well as public shaming and slander.

(17) YES, THIS IS A SELECTED QUOTE: Dave Freer makes his feelings clear as the summer sun:

I couldn’t give a toss how I ‘come over’ to File 770 and its occupants, (there is no point in trying to please a miniscule market at the expense of my existing readers) but it’s a useful jumping off point:…

Is Freer simply unable to generate his own column ideas? He proves his indifference by spending most of today’s 2,500-word post teeing off about half-a-dozen imagined slights he thinks self-published writers suffered here.

(18) PROVERBIAL WISDOM. Mark Lawrence declines to reap the dividends of political blogging.

When you declare a political preference (especially at either end of the spectrum) you’re immediately plumbed into an extensive support network. It’s rather like a church. Complete strangers will shout “Amen, brother!”.

Yes, you may well alienate half the political spectrum but you’ll still have half left, and half of ‘everything’ looks pretty attractive when all you’ve got is all of nothing.

Plus, the business of blogging becomes easy. You don’t have to think up something new and original to write, you can just turn the handle on the outrage machine and content drops onto the page.

“SJWs ate my baby!”

“This group of two is insufficiently diverse, you BIGOT.”

If you don’t ‘get’ either of those headlines from opposing political extremes then I’m rather jealous of you.

Anyway, the fact is that joining a side in the culture war can seem like a no-brainer to an aspiring author who needs backup. I’m entirely sure that the motivations for many authors taking to political blogging are 100% genuine, born of deep convictions. I’m also sure that many jump on board, dial up their mild convictions to 11 and enjoy the ride, blog-traffic, retweets, prime spots on the ‘right on’ genre sites of their particular affiliation, oh my.

It’s a step I’ve never been able to take. I do have moderately strong political convictions, but they’re moderate ones, and moderation doesn’t sell, doesn’t generate traffic, doesn’t get retweeted.

(19) CASE IN POINT. io9 reports “The BBC Is Bringing Back The Twilight Zone As a Radio Drama”

Ten classic episodes of The Twilight Zone will be broadcast in the UK for the first time—but, much like the show’s trademark, there’s a twist. The episodes will be reinvented as radio plays taken from Rod Serling’s original TV scripts, thanks to BBC Radio 4 Extra.

According to the Independent, veteran actor Stacy Keach will step in to perform the late Serling’s iconic monologues; other cast members throughout the series will include Jane Seymour, Jim Caviezel, Michael York, Malcolm McDowell, and Don Johnson. Producer Carl Amari has owned the rights since 2002, which he obtained in part by promising to do the episodes justice in terms of production values and casting.

(20) TECH TUNES UP FOR TREK. The Daily News profiled cast members of the Star Trek musical parody being performed this weekend at CalTech.

It’s not unusual for the cast and crew to open up text books, work on papers and discuss theoretical physics in their downtime. It provides an opportunity to network too, with students acting beside people who work in the fields they’re studying, Wong said.

“To be able to stand on stage with all of these people and sing about ‘Star Trek’ that’s just crazy,” he said.

“Boldly Go!” started out with the cast meeting on weekends, before amping up to twice a week and nearly every day in the past month.

Marie Blatnik, who studies experimental nuclear physics and plays a fierce Klingon named Maltof, described the scheduling as hectic. She originally auditioned — in half a Starfleet uniform — for a different role, but the brothers recast a male Klingon when they saw her energy.

“It kind of feels like a cult where they lure you in with ‘it’s only 15 bucks’ then jump to ‘I want your life savings,” Blatnik joked about the time invested in the show.

(21) YOUR GAME OF THRONES NEIGHBORS. Seth Meyers has had two Late Show skits where Game of Thrones characters are featured in everyday situations:

  • Melisandre at the Meyers’ baby shower:

  • Jon Snow at a dinner party:

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Frank Wu, Rob Thornton, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus (you know who you are!).]

Pixel Scroll 2/20/16 It’s Like My Body’s Developed This Massive Pixel Deficiency

(1) CROTCHETY GOES TO TOWN. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson gets his Boskone report off to a fast start with a post about Day 1.

I’m at Boskone this weekend, hanging out with the fans, loquaciously displaying my intimate knowledge of arcana  on several panels and availing myself of various perks offered by this long-running (53rd year) convention that was launched as a bid for the 1967 Worldcon.

It’s operated by the New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA), one of the longest running fan clubs in the country.

One of the things NESFA does is clear out their library and make the clearances available on a freebie table.  Last year, someone snagged a bunch of large-size Analogs out from under my reaching hand (‘sigh’).  This year I was one of the first ‘gleaners’ to hit the table and was rewarded with:

several D series Ace Doubles; a good-sized stack of early Locus fanzines;  same for File 770; a handful of Groff Conklin paperback anthologies (filling in a couple of gaps.  The paperbacks are shortened versions of the hardback anthologies Conklin produced over the years.); a couple of Lee & Miller hardbacks; a NESFA anthology of Lester Del Rey shorts (edited by our own Steven H. Silver); the remaining issues of Galileo magazine that I didn’t have (complete run now!). (Galileo was a “semi-prozine” from back in the late 70s); a few issues of Infinity digest magazine, and a smattering of this and that interesting looking items.

I’m thinking a loquacious displayer would be a great subject for an Audobon drawing.

(2) HARTWELL REMEMBERED. Boskone ran a David Hartwell memorial panel.

(3) THE NEW WAY TO BE HAPPY. Authors shared their excitement over the Nebula Award announcement.

(4) WOULDN’T YOU LIKE TO PWN IT TOO? David Brin leads off “Science Fiction and Freedom” with  this book deal —

While in San Francisco for a panel on artificial consciousness, I had an opportunity to stop by the headquarters of the Electronic Frontier Foundation — dedicated to preserving your freedom online and off.  As part of their 25th year anniversary celebration, EFF released Pwning Tomorrow, an anthology of science fiction stories by Bruce Sterling, Ramaz Naam, Charlie Jane Anders, Cory Doctorow, David Brin, Lauren Beukes, and others. You can download it for a donation to this worthy organization.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

UPI-Almanac-for-Saturday-Feb-20-2016

  • February 20, 1962 — A camera onboard the “Friendship 7” Mercury spacecraft photographs astronaut John H. Glenn Jr. during the Mercury-Atlas 6 space flight.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 20, 1926 – Richard Matheson

Matheson

(7) MUSICAL MISSION. In San Diego on March 31, the Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage 50th Anniversary Concert will be performed by a symphony orchestra.

Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage brings five decades of Star Trek to concert halls for the first time in this galaxy or any other.

This lavish production includes an impressive live symphony orchestra and international solo instruments. People of all ages and backgrounds will experience the franchise’s groundbreaking and wildly popular musical achievements while the most iconic Star Trek film and TV footage is simultaneously beamed in high definition to a 40-foot wide screen.

The concert will feature some of the greatest music written for the franchise including music from Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek: Insurrection, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Starfleet Academy and much more. This never-before-seen concert event is perfect for music lovers, filmgoers, science-fiction fans and anyone looking for an exciting and unique concert experience.

(8) PERCEPTIONS ABOUT DISABILITY. At The Bias, Annalee Flower Horne covers a lot of ground in “The Geeks Guide To Disability”.

I want the science fiction community to be inclusive and accessible to disabled people. I want our conventions and corners of the internet to be places where disabled people are treated with dignity and respect. I’m hoping that if I walk through some of the more common misconceptions, I can move the needle a little–or at least save myself some time in the future, because I’ll be able to give people a link instead of explaining all this again.

What is Disability?

This may seem like starting from first principles, but a lot of the misconceptions I’ve encountered within the science fiction community have been rooted in a poorly thought-out model of what the term ‘disability’ means….

(9) THE “TO BE HEARD” PILE. Escape Pod has done a metacast about the stories they ran that are eligible for the Hugos.

(10) LONG FORM EDITOR. George R.R. Martin, in “What They Edited, The Third”, posts an impressive resume from Joe Monti of Saga Press, the new science fiction imprint of Simon & Schuster/ Pocket Books.

(11) PRIVATE LABEL. From the Worldcon in the city where everything’s up to date….

(12) FINNISH SNACKS. Things are up to date in Helsinki, too, but there’s a reason you don’t see reindeer roaming the streets….

(13) AND SPEAKING OF EATING. Scott Edelman says a second episode of his podcast Eating the Fantastic has gone live, with guest Bud Sparhawk.

Bud Sparhawk

Bud Sparhawk

I chatted with Bud—a three-time Nebula finalist and Analog magazine regular—about how Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions anthology inspired him to become a writer, what it was like to write for three different Analog editors over four decades, the plotters vs. pantsers debate, and more.

Edelman ends, “If all goes well, Episode 3 will feature writer, editor, and Rosarium Publishing owner Bill Campbell.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Rose Embolism, and Gerry Williams for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Hartwell Memorials Planned

David Hartwell’s funeral will be held January 28 in Marshfield, MA at the MacDonald Funeral Home. More details at the link.

Kathryn Cramer has asked that those planning to attend RSVP her so she can know the number coming.

Cramer wrote online she plans to be at Boskone and the ICFA (International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts) convention, March 16-20, in Orlando, and other conventions to memorialize Hartwell.

Tor Books is also planning a memorial in New York City at a later date, to be announced.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 12/4 “Nightrise, Nightfall,” from Astronomer On The Roof

(1) SAFETY LAST. I didn’t know it was this dangerous to work for J.J. Abrams. Or to be J.J. Abrams.

In his interview on the Howard Stern show, Abrams tells stories about (1) how a hydraulic door on the “Force Awakens” set slammed down on Harrison Ford’s ankle, (2) how Abrams broke his back trying to lift the door, and on an earlier occasion, (3) Leonard Nimoy broke his nose while working on the Star Trek reboot.

“He fell, he hit his nose… he had a gash on his nose,” J.J. revealed. “I thought, ‘holy crap, this is a disaster.’ I felt horrible. I wanted to kill myself at this point.

(2) GENERAL LEIA. Louis Virtel of Hitflix decrees: “Carrie Fisher just scorched ‘Good Morning America’ and you’re not worthy” .

The most intense and thrilling part of this universe is the real-life Carrie Fisher, whose self-possessed wooziness makes her one of pop culture’s most sublime entities. She was just on “Good Morning America” chatting about losing weight to play the part of General Leia. She brought her dog. She was electric. She was rad, weird as hell, and right. She awakened America.

I love everything about this interview, namely Carrie’s one-liner about resuming her role in the “Star Wars” universe. “I got in character and I’ve never gotten out again – and really, I’ve tried everything.”

(3) FORBIDDEN BOOM. That highly scientific party-pooper Adam Korenman (When the Stars Fade) pulls back the curtain on “Dramatizing Space Battles in Film and Fiction” at SF Signal.

[First of three points.]

Star Wars, like pretty much every space drama of the past 40 years, is more in the realm of fantasy than science-fiction. Though our understanding of arriving and surviving outside the atmosphere has grown tremendously, our representations of such acts in film and literature remains steadfastly in the realm of fiction. In my series The Gray Wars Saga, I am equally guilty of playing space battles more for the drama than the science. Why is it that every auteur from Heinlein to Abrams showcases a false image of the dark void above? Let’s take a look at the realities of space combat and see if we can find out.

1) Explosions are Pretty, Space-splosions are not.

In any space opera worth its salt, a massive ship is bound to explode. As an audience, we anticipate it the same way we expect anyone in a dark hat to be a bad guy. To paraphrase Anton Chekhov, if you show a spaceship in Act 1, you’d better be blowing it up by Act 3. But explosions, and fire in general require three elements to exist: Heat, Fuel, and Oxygen. You’ll notice I bolded the last word, as it is fairly important. Space is famously lacking in O2—to the point where people think you explode if you’re ever exposed to the vacuum (also not true, but Cracked already covered that, so let’s move on). Space explosions look more like the time you dropped your LEGOs on the kitchen floor than when you dumped a pack of Mentos into a 3 liter of Diet Coke. The rapid expansion of heat (literally the definition of an explosion) will rend your big ol’ ship into pieces, and those shards will head in every direction until acted upon by another force (thanks, Newton). No fireball, no awesome ring-shaped shockwave. Just scrap….

Real space may not be able to carry sound (no oxygen, so nothing to carry the vibrations) but a movie theater with a THX monster system can. If we’re going to allow musical cues in our cinematic experiences to pull our emotional strings, we can surely forgive a few foley artists getting creative with the sound design. It allows the truth of the drama to reach the audience on more levels. And if playing to one of our senses for the sake of drama makes the cut, then allow us science-fiction writers the joy of delivering fiery ends to our marvelous creations.

(4) BOSKONE GUESTS. At the Boskone Blog, “Mini-Interview: Robert J Sawyer and Cerece Rennie Murphy.

How would you describe your work to people who might be unfamiliar with you? [Robert J Sawyer:] I’m a hard-SF writer, heavily influenced by the best of Frederik Pohl (I consider his Gateway to be the finest novel our field has ever produced). I’m also liberal, even by Canadian standards, and a rationalist, a secularist, and a humanist (Humanism Canada gave me their first ever “Humanism in the Arts” award) — and my work embraces all those things. I mostly do near-future or present day stories, usually set on Earth, with a strong philosophical bent. My prose is pellucid (much more Arthur C. Clarke than Gene Wolfe) and my tone usually upbeat….

What is your favorite Star Wars memory, scene, or line? What is it that that memory, scene or line that continues to stick with you today? [Cerece Rennie Murphy:] (It could be a moment from within any of the films, a moment associated with the films, or something inspired by the films. – My favorite scenes from Star Wars are all the scenes between Luke Skywalker and Yoda from Empire Strikes Back. I remember watching theses scenes in the theatre when I was 7 years old. They literally changed my perception of God, my place in the world and my potential. I realized then, as I still believe now, that we’re all Jedi, we just don’t know it. Watching Luke’s fear and doubt keep him from fully accessing his own potential was powerful for me, even then. I don’t think you can sum up the human condition any better than that. “Luminous beings are we….not this crude matter,” I really believe that the healing of our entire world could begin with this statement.

(5) HELP ANN TOTUSEK. “I’ve started a GoFundMe to help with my family’s housing situation,” Ann Totusek told me. Her complete narrative about her situation is here.

As a short overview, Ann recommended Steven H Silver’s comment at Whatever.

Through a change in circumstances, Minneapolis fan Ann Totusek has found herself in a situation where she either needs to buy her house or find herself homeless. Ann is currently the caregiver for her mother, suffering dementia, and her teenage son, who suffers SPD. Ann, who helps run conventions throughout the upper Midwest in Iowa, Minneapolis, and Chicago, is running a GoFundMe to raise money for the down payment on their home.

Ann has run Green Room and Program Ops for me at several Windycons as well as the hospitality suite at the Nebula Award Weekend in Chicago in 2015 (and plans to again in 2016). Her hospitality has always been wonderful and now we have the opportunity to repay some of that hospitality by ensuring that Ann and her family can live and thrive.

In the first 11 hours, the appeal brought in $8,463 of its $150,000 goal, including a $2,000 boost from Ctein and another $5,000 anonymous donation.

(6) MARKETING TIP. Fynbospress makes a compelling argument for placing more of the “front matter” in the back of your self-published ebook, in “What’s the matter with front matter?” at Mad Genius Club.

Why? Well, a sample is 10% of your entire file, not 10 percent of your story. When you get a reader interested enough that they downloaded a sample, or are clicking “look inside” on a web page, you really don’t want them to scroll past all of that stuff only to find three paragraphs of story! You want a couple pages to hook them in, draw them deep, and make them immediately click “buy the book” so they can keep reading.

Some very savvy authors actually set up the amount of front matter and their story so the 10% cutoff falls directly after a cliffhanger. This is sneaky and wonderful, because you can immediately deliver the payoff with the rest of the book.

(7) Today In History

  • December 4, 1985:  Barry Levinson’s Young Sherlock Holmes makes its theatrical debut.
  • December 4, 2008: Forrest J Ackerman passes away.

(8) DOES SIZE MATTER?

Two Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers stand with three vehicles, providing a size comparison of three generations of Mars rovers. Front and center is the flight spare for the first Mars rover, Sojourner, which landed on Mars in 1997 as part of the Mars Pathfinder Project. On the left is a Mars Exploration Rover test vehicle, a working sibling to Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on Mars in 2004. On the right is a test rover for the Mars Science Laboratory, which landed Curiosity on Mars in 2012.

 

PIA15279_3rovers-stand_D2011_1215_D521 COMP

(9) THEATER HISTORY. Alex Ross’ profile “The Magnificent Memory of Norman Lloyd” at The New Yorker shows the 101-year-old actor still has the power to bring history to life.

Through the Group Theatre, Lloyd came in contact with the Stanislavsky method, and he applied it to his character in “Caesar.” In Act III of Shakespeare’s play, Cinna the Poet ventures out to attend Caesar’s funeral; a mob mistakes him for another Cinna, a member of the conspiracy, and drags him off. Welles had realized that the scene could stand in for contemporary Germany, where even non-Jews were persecuted for having Jewish-sounding names. Initially, Welles thought of the character as a Byronic figure, wearing a beret. But Lloyd wanted to pattern Cinna on someone he knew: the Greenwich Village poet Maxwell Bodenheim, who used to sit on the stoops around Washington Square, offering to write poems for twenty-five cents. Lloyd pictured Cinna as a bum in a suit, foolscap spilling out of his pockets. Welles said, “O.K., do it your way.”

(10) LOGGIA OBIT. The actor who played the President’s military advisor in Independence Day, and the toy company mogul who danced on the piano with Tom Hanks in Big, Robert Loggia, died December 4at the age of 85. He had been battling Alzheimer’s Disease for the past five years.

He was best known for his roles in the movie Scarface and in the TV series Mancuso FBI

During a long career he worked a lot, in the beginning often playing ethnic characters, usually Hispanic or Middle Eastern, and at the end frequently cast as a mobster.

His genre appearances in television included episodes of One Step Beyond (“The Hand,” 1959), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (“Graveyard of Fear,” 1966), The Wild Wild West (“Suspicion,” 1967), Wonder Woman (“Wonder Woman vs Gargantua,” 1976), The Bionic Woman (“Jaime and the King,” 1977), The Six Million Dollar Man (1976), Tales of the Unexpected (1984), and The Outer Limits (2000).

(10) REDISCOVERED TALKIE. High Treason (1929), not only one of the earliest sound movies but an sf movie to boot, will be shown December 6 at the Anchorage International Film Festival. The sound version of the film was long thought lost until it was rediscovered in 2005 in a group of old films in Washington State. Kevin Tripp, a moving image archivist in Alaska, arranged transfer of the nitrate films to Library of Congress for salvage – having first completed a hazardous materials training program.

HT29-title1

The film was taken from a play by Noel Pemberton-Billing. He was an aviator, politician and inventor who founded the Supermarine aviation company, which would produce the Spitfire fighter plane in World War II.A declared pacifist, the playwright nonetheless advocated aerial bombing of civilian targets in wartime, two topics that weight heavily in the script.

Read an in-depth study of High Treason illustrated with many stills at And You Call Yourself A Scientist!

File 770 reader Steve Johnson says, “I will be in the Bear Tooth Theatre for the show on Sunday–my wife snapped up two reserved seats.”

(11) DESTROYED AGAIN. Funded as a stretch goal of Lightspeed’s “Queers Destroy Science Fiction!” Kickstarter campaign, a companion publication “Queers Destroy Fantasy!” is now available from Amazon.

…This month we’re presenting a special one-off issue of our otherwise discontinued sister-magazine, FANTASY, called Queers Destroy Fantasy!: an all-fantasy extravaganza entirely written—and edited!—by queer creators. Here’s what we’ve got lined up for you in this special issue: Original fantasy—edited by Christopher Barzak—by Catherynne M. Valente, Kai Ashante Wilson, Carlea Holl-Jensen, and Richard Bowes. Reprints—selected by Liz Gorinsky—by Caitlin R. Kiernan, Austin Bunn, Shweta Narayan, and Nicola Griffith. Nonfiction articles—edited by Matthew Cheney—by merritt kopas, Matthew Cheney, Keguro Macharia, Ekaterina Sedia, Mary Anne Mohanraj, and Ellen Kushner. Plus an original cover illustration by Priscilla Kim and original interior illustrations by Goñi Montes, Odera Igbokwe, Sam Schechter, Elizabeth Leggett, and Vlada Monakhova.

(12) LOAFING AROUND. Will R. sent along the link to “Make This Awesome Dune-Inspired Sandworm Bread” with a skeptical comment: “I have to agree with the person I saw this via, who said ‘delicious-looking is not the description I would have used.’” Will had a valid point, and that is why I didn’t gank the picture to go with the excerpt.

Fans of the novel and movie Dune will appreciate this spice-filled sandworm bread recipe from geek baker extraordinaire Chris-Rachael Oseland….

The sandworm bread consists of a basic sweet bread with a spice filling and a sugar glaze. Yum. Blanched almonds are added to create the sandworm’s intimidating, toothsome maw. I can smell its melange breath from here!

(13) S.H.I.E.L.D. S.P.O.I.L.E.D. Those who know say that spoilers abound in this trailer for Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD 3×10 “Maveth” (Winter Finale).

S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra go head-to-head in a battle that will change Coulson’s world forever.

 

[Thanks to Steve Johnson, John King Tarpinian, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Art Widner (1917-2015)

Art Widner at the 2008 Corflu. Photo by Alan White.

Art Widner at the 2008 Corflu. Photo by Alan White.

Always ready to help, never a better friend, opinionated, long on experience and wise about fannish weaknesses (even his own), a fascinating storyteller, organizer and party host, Art Widner passed away April 17 at the age of 97.

Widner wrote not long ago that he had prostate cancer, which had spread to his bones, reports Andrew Porter. He had outlived his children, but is survived by several grand-and great-grandchildren.

Art himself lived two complete fan lifetimes, interrupted by a three-decade gafiation.

His first fannish life began when he discovered fandom through the prozines. And that life was characterized by a zeal for fanpolitics and organizing.

“Like so many fen, I was the Old Weird Harold on my block, carrying home those lurid pulp magazines with nubile bimbos on the cover wearing VW hubcap bras – which was remarkable because Volkswagen hadn’t been invented yet,” he told the audience at the 1989 Worldcon’s “Family Reunion.”

As other proto-fans did in the 1930s, he wrote letters to the prozines reviewing their efforts and criticizing their shortcomings – many of them to Weird Tales.

He helped organize “The Stranger Club” in 1940, Boston’s first science fiction club, together with Louis Russell Chauvenet, Chandler Davis, Gertrude Kuslan, Louis Kuslan, Norman Stanley, R.D. Swisher, and others. He chaired  the city’s first two sf conventions, Boskone I (1941) and Boskone II (1942). He published his first fanzine, co-edited with Earl Singleton and Francis Paro, FanFare.

Along with Louis Russell Chauvenet and Damon Knight, he was responsible for the formation of the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F). Supporting Damon Knight’s call for a national fan organization, Widner wrote in FanFare  in 1940, “The crying need is cooperation among all fans and this seems an impossible situation at present. Fandom should have some sort of united front to put toward the rest of the world, or it will continue to be regarded as just the juvenile goshwowoboyoboy gang.”

Art Widner and Russ Chauvenet at the 1994 Corflu. Photo by Rich Lynch.

Art Widner and Russ Chauvenet at the 1994 Corflu. Photo by Rich Lynch.

He was also one of the big name fans on the board of directors of the Fantasy Foundation announced at the 1946 Worldcon, touted by Forry Ackerman as a museum of imaginative literature.

As a young man Art was reputed to be Built Like A Gorilla. Robert Madle was grateful to have him on hand at the 1941 Worldcon when C.M. Kornbluth was in a violent mood:

He [Kornbluth] was the arrogant one of the group, the one who had a personality like a snake. Not to cut him down his writings, which are very excellent. But he had a peculiar personality. Like there was that night they were going to beat the shit out of me at one of the conventions.

Fortunately I had with me Art Widner. We used to call him Popeye because he had muscle bulging out of his arms. Kornbluth said, “Hey, I’m going to beat the shit out of Madle,” and Widner said, “Who’s going to beat the shit out of who?”

I think that was the Denver convention. Other than that I had no real problems with Kornbluth – other than that night when he decided to beat the shit out of me.

(From C.M. Kornbluth: The Life and Works of a Science Fiction Visionary by Mark Rich.)

He was regarded a member of the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA) Brain Trust, a colloquial name for those who engaged in weighty discussions. On the other hand, nobody liked a good time better.

Widner featured in the 1940 Worldcon masquerade as Giles Habibula, his costume constructed out of “Pogo’s hat, Trudy Kuslan’s pillow, and an anonymous bartender’s wine bottle.” He returned in 1941 as “Old Granny” from Slan.

But often Art was looking for something beyond simple fun. He is credited with creating the first original science fiction board game, Interplanetary (1943), which he described as —

a combination of a standard [auto] “race” game and Monopoly. One had to get to a planet and bring back a cargo in order to finance a trip to the next distant planet where a still more valuable cargo would be obtained, etc., out to Pluto, which harbored “Immortality Dust,” the game winner. The novel aspect was that the planets moved, making it difficult to land on one, plus such hazards as the “negasphere”. (from EESmith epics–now known as a black hole) and pirates, to say nothing of falling into the sun, getting hit with space junk, etc.

With all these complexities, it took 8-12 hours to complete a game. Using a streamlined set of rules, it became popular with fans again in the 1960s. LASFS still owns a giant Interplanetary board and has hosted games in recent decades.

Art’s literary output was limited to a single prozine sale, “The Perfect Incinerator”, under the name Arthur Lambert, that appeared in a 1942 issue of Robert Lowndes’ Science Fiction Quarterly (priced, appropriately, for a quarter.)

Widner was the most inveterate poll taker in early 1940s fandom. The Widner Poll of 1940 included a list of the top ten science fiction pulps voted on by fans. When a gloating reader pointed out to editor Ray Palmer that not one belonged to Ziff-Davis, which published Palmer’s magazine, he dismissed it, saying that although Widner’s poll may have represented a dozen fans, Ziff-Davis circulation figures showed its magazines represented several hundred thousand readers from all walks of life, all over the world.

A few years later Art launched Poll Cat, chronicled by Jack Speer  in Fancyclopedia I:

Originally it was simply concerned with preferences among stf authors, etc. Appeals were broadcast in all leading fanzines for readers to send in their votes on certain questions, and as returns were compiled, they were published, later returns being published later. Then one issue of a fanzine called The Poll Cat appeared, at which time Widner set out to test the thesis that fans are a separate and distinct type (slans or whatever you want to call them)….Looking for unusual average in fans, Widner found several characteristics that looked significant, such as longevity of grandparents, larger hat size, and greater height….

 Art attended the first Worldcon in New York in 1939, and the next four, in Chicago (1940), Denver (1941), Los Angeles (1946) and Philadelphia (1947).

He drove to the Chicago Worldcon in a 1928 Dodge, the Skylark of WooWoo, the last model made by the Dodge Brothers.

He made an epic cross-country trek to Denvention I — the Widneride — in the FooFoo Special, a car without a trunk, accompanied by “Moneybags Unger, Tree Toad Rothman, Pretty Boy Madle, [and] Sourpuss Bell.”

(Now that Widner has passed away, only four people remain alive who attended the first Worldcon: Dave Kyle, Bob Madle, Erle Korshak and Jack Robins.)

Widner married during World War II, then was drafted into the service. However, because he was “volunteered” to be a technician-guinea pig at the newly formed Climatic Research Lab in Lawrence, MA he still got to go home nearly every weekend.

His fanac slowed while he was in the military and ground to a halt when he moved his family to Los Angeles in 1948. Soon after that he gafiated completely.

Signifying his disappearance from fandom, although Art is constantly mentioned in Warner’s 1940s history All Our Yesterdays, he doesn’t have a single listing in the index of the sequel about the 1950s, A Wealth of Fable.

Widner reappeared in fandom in the 1970s – reminiscing that like Voyager 2 after 10 years he had explored the local system, science fiction fandom, and went to see what lay beyond. “Thirty-five years later I came back to report: it’s pretty lonely out there.” He returned to fandom as an “eo-neo” and bumped into Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden “who knew who I was – or rather, had been.”

Art Widner, Poul Anderson and Charles Burbee at the 1974 Westercon. Photo by Dik Daniels.

Art Widner, Poul Anderson and Charles Burbee at the 1974 Westercon. Photo by Dik Daniels.

His best known fanzine YHOS, first published from 1940 till 1945, resumed publication after a 34 year hiatus and remained a prominent faanish zine into the 1980s and 1990s. (Even Harlan Ellison read it – something Art learned when Harlan phoned his cabin early one morning to take exception to a story Art had run.)

Originally revived as Art’s FAPAzine in 1979, YHOS consisted mainly of personal reminiscences about 1940s fandom and mailing comments.  Then it started to fill out with long travel reports, the kind of thing it was known for in its original incarnation. There was a “special travel issue” about Art’s trip to the ’79 Worldcon in Britain, a report on a trip to China, and another about his visit to Australia.  In time, it took on all the features of a genzine, with a host of original contributions and classic reprints.

Art also visited the Soviet Union in 1978 with a fan tour group that included Forry Ackerman, Joe and Gay Haldeman, Art Widner, Clifton Amsbury and Charles N. Brown.

And he enjoyed sidling up to folks who hadn’t seen him since the 1940s to see if they recognized him:

I believe it was at a Norwescon that I wandered into the SFWA suite and spotted Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm sitting by themselves waiting for something to happen…. We had both changed considerably, and I only recognized him because he was famous and had his picture in Locus. He didn’t recognize me as I sat down nearby. I kept mum and gave him a chance to see past the wrinkles and gray beard, but he apparently decided it wasn’t worth the effort and resumed talking to Kate.

Finally I introduced myself and he cracked up. Turning to Kate, he said, “I’d like to have you meet the guy who helped me start the dumbest organization in all fandom.”

That was the N3F. But when he resumed going to Worldcons Art said he was “quite astonished [to find] that the NFFF was still alive and kicking. Not only that, but the good-hearted fuggheads running the Welcome Room were pathetically eager to induct me into the mysteries of Trufandom about which they didn’t know a blessed thing!”

He attended the first 18 Corflus without a miss. A classic moment at the 2008 edition was Art serenading his fellow eo-fan, Jack Speer, with the first-ever filksong, written by Jack himself.

Although the term “filksong” had yet to be invented, several of these songs were sung at the 1940 Worldcon. Jack created them by setting new lyrics with a science fictional theme to familiar tunes. A snippet of one goes:

We’ll build a tempo-ship
And we’ll take a little trip,
And watch a million years go by.

You can still hear Art Widner’s mellow tones in Bill Mills’ Voice of Fandom podcast #16.

The 2007 Ditto was organized around Art’s 90th birthday and held in his hometown of Gualala, California. “I have never seen that much alcohol in a con suite, maybe even counting Midwestcon,” recalled Hope Leibwoitz in her conreport. “At the birthday party, there were 15 bottles of scotch on the table.” Art was a great fan of good scotch. People toured his eight-sided green-painted house. At one point in the con, Art read the 10 things it took him 90 years to learn, eventually published in Yhos.

He later added a new #3, in “R. Twidner”-style:

It’s specificly directed at the Religiosity Ryt.  ‘Forget John 3:16.  Read Matthew 23’  It’s what Jesus thot of the Philistines, scribes & harisees, i.e., Big Time Hypocrits.

(Michael Ward’s  photos of Art’s 90th Birthday party are online: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, plus Saturday Dinner at St. Orres, Art’s House, a visit to Bowling Ball Beach, and Picturesque Scenes from Gualala, California, and The Breakers Inn.)

Art was a guest of honor at many other conventions: Boskone IV (1945), Noreascon 3 (1989, as part of The Strangers Club), Norwescon VI (1983), Westercon 43 (1990), Minicon 25 (1990), Corflu 16 (1999), Ditto 19 (2007) and twice at BayCon.

A member of First Fandom and the First Fandom Hall of Fame, he was honored with the Big Heart Award in 1989, and in 2001 was selected at Corflu as Past President of the Fan Writers of America for 2000. Along with the other members of The Stranger Club, he was Fan Guest of Honor at Noreascon 3. He was nominated for the 1946 Best Fan Writer Retro Hugo at L.A.con III in 1996. He received a Special Lifetime Achievement Award at Corflu in 2011.

He was voted Down Under Fan Fund delegate in 1991 and attended the Australian NatCon.

Glenn Glazer aptly commemorated Art Widner’s passing with this quote from The Hobbit:

‘No!’ said Thorin. ‘There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

Freed of the ambitions of his first fannish life, the second time around Art knew exactly how to make this a merrier world. He set a great example for the rest of us.

Update 04/27/2015: Added Jack Robins as a surviving fan who attended the first Worldcon in 1939. Thanks to John Coker III for the correction.