Pixel Scroll 11/16/17 Pixel My Blue Suede Scrolls!

(1) SERFS ERRANT. Gizmodo covers “Amazon’s Last Mile”, about the people who actually bring you the stuff.

Near the very bottom of Amazon’s complicated machinery is a nearly invisible workforce over two years in the making tasked with getting those orders to your doorstep. It’s a network of supposedly self-employed, utterly expendable couriers enrolled in an app-based program which some believe may violate labor laws. That program is called Amazon Flex, and it accomplishes Amazon’s “last-mile” deliveries—the final journey from a local facility to the customer.

While investigating the nature of the program, we spoke to 15 current or former independent drivers across nine states and two countries whose enrollment spanned between a few weeks and two years, as well as three individuals attached to local courier companies delivering for Amazon. Their identities have all been obscured for fear of retribution.

(2) PERITEXTUAL. Peter Watts, in “After Party”, tells about his experience at the “Space Vampires and the Future of ‘I’” symposium about his fiction.

I knew it was bound to fail— but when people are flying in from Michigan and Chicago and fucking Australia to attend, what kind of a dick would I be if I said Nah, I can’t be bothered to take a twenty-minute subway ride…? So I gritted my teeth, and made the journey. Scheduled a haircut just an hour before, so at least I’d look a little less like Rick Sanchez.

And the lady cutting my hair told me about her parents, left homeless when Hurricane Maria crawled overtop Dominica and just sat there, sandblasting that island down to the bedrock, for four days. Told me that at least now she knew her family wasn’t dead (she’d had a month to wonder about that) but that cell and internet were still out so she still hadn’t had a chance to talk to them directly.

Coming out of that haircut, the number of people who might or might not show up in Room 100 of the Jackman Building suddenly seemed a lot less important than it had been. I showed up at “Space Vampires and the Future of ‘I’” reality-checked, and significantly less self-absorbed. And you know what?

It was a pretty great time.

(3) MORE BOOK RECS. And in the wake of Andrew Weir releasing his list of six SF books, Elon Musk has listed eight books that he says made him who he is.  They include Lord of the Flies and the Foundation series: “Billionaire Elon Musk says he was ‘raised by books’ and credits his success to these 8”.

Up until Musk was 8, he lived with both of his parents Maye and Errol Musk in South Africa, Strauss reported. But he did not see them much and mostly lived under the watch of a housekeeper, who Musk said was mainly there to make sure he didn’t break anything.

“She wasn’t, like, watching me. I was off making explosives and reading books and building rockets and doing things that could have gotten me killed,” Musk told the magazine. “I’m shocked that I have all my fingers.”

(4) WHAT GOES UP. CNN profiles the symbolic first step as “Asgardia, the world’s first ‘space nation’, takes flight”.

On November 12, Asgardia cemented its presence in outer space by launching the Asgardia-1 satellite.

The “nanosat” — it is roughly the size of a loaf of bread — undertook a two-day journey from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, the United States, to the International Space Station (ISS).

It contains 0.5 TB of data belonging to 18,000 of Asgardia’s citizens, such as family photographs, as well as digital representations of the space nation’s flag, coat of arms and constitution.

… The nanosat will then be detached from the NASA vehicle and begin its own orbital journey around the earth. Citizens’ data will remain in orbit for between five and 18 months, the typical lifespan of this type of satellite. It will then burn out and disappear.

For Ashurbeyli, the launch fulfills a pledge he made when establishing the “space nation” to take its citizens to space via their data.

“I promised there would be a launch,” he says. “We selected NASA as a reliable partner … because we have to meet the commitments that I made 13 months ago.”

Getting it off the ground

Within 40 hours of the project being announced in 2016, over 100,000 people had applied for citizenship on Asgardia’s website. After three weeks, Asgardia had 500,000 applicants.

Anyone over 18 years old, with an email address, regardless of gender, nationality, race, religion, and financial standing can apply for citizenship — including ex-convicts, provided they are clear of charges at the time of application.

… Going forward, the Asgardia team hopes to create habitable platforms in low-earth orbits — the first one located 100 to 200 miles (161 to 321 kilometers) from space, which is also where the ISS is located.

The first human flight to this location is projected to take place in eight years’ time.

(5) IT COMES IN THE MAIL, TOO. Craig Engler from Z Nation (currently in its 4th season on Syfy) has launched a crowdfunding appeal on the new Drip platform for The Last Days of Earth, a new kind of serialized SF novel that “blurs the line between fiction and reality.” It’s a story about the end of the world where readers receive mysterious objects and clues in the mail timed to coincide with the release of new story installments.

The Last Days of Earth is one of the hand-picked projects chosen by Kickstarter to launch its new Drip platform, which debuted yesterday. While Kickstarter is designed for one-time funding, Drip was created as a venue for ongoing funding such as recurring subscriptions. Kickstarter members can use their existing logins to seamlessly access Drip.

The Last Days of Earth started out as a TV pilot, but I realized the themes and concepts I wanted to explore would work better as a novel,” Engler said. “But not just any novel. To tell the story right, it needed to be a serialized online book that unfolded in ‘seasons’ like a TV show and included real-world objects that would show up in readers’ mailboxes.

“The mystery objects stem from a concept in narrative theory called paratext. The idea of paratext is that things outside the text of a book — the cover art, reviews, blurbs, etc. — influence how readers experience the book. I wanted to take that idea further and create a story where physical objects were integral to the experience.”

The Last Days of Earth starts when everyone on the planet learns the world will end in six months. It follows the lives of six characters, each uniquely impacted by the news, who will find their lives intertwined in unexpected ways. The main protagonist is Anna, a pregnant women who learns her due date is the day the world will end and is determined to find a way to save her unborn child.

(6) REALITY SHOW. Michael Damian Thomas had this response to the Dragon Awards category realignments:

(7) SECOND NATURE. Has this ever been seen in the wild?

(8) WHITEOUT. NPR’s Jason Sheehan rates the start of a new Richard Baker series: “The Troublesome Universe Of ‘Valiant Dust'”.

I’m giving Baker some credit here. The man has written a bunch of books. He’s a solid voice in the military sci-fi genre and served as a United States naval officer himself, giving an earned weight to his voice when it comes to describing the minutiae of naval matters. Valiant Dust is the foundation of a new series (called Breaker of Empires) which, presumably, will follow the characters introduced here through the universe he has built.

But that universe? It’s troublesome. Set centuries in the future (following the discovery of faster-than-light technology, a diaspora from earth as it falls to a barely mentioned global Caliphate, and the always convenient misplacing of several entire planets full of mono-ethnic peoples who then slip into a kind of futuristic techno-feudalism before being miraculously re-discovered hundreds of years later), Valiant Dust drops in at a point where the major “cosmopolitan” powers — the Euro-centric Aquilans, the Germanic Dremark Empire, and the Canadians, for some reason — have become a sort of First World commonwealth. In a peaceful state of détente, they are either nobly aiding the backwards human colonies recover from their isolation, or ruthlessly divvying up this galactic Third World as nouvelle colonial masters.

(9) CHATTING WITH CHATTERLY. A modern Eliza: “Tinder bot quotes Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Lady Chatterley’s presence on Tinder has come courtesy of Libby Heaney, who has created a profile for the character and programmed a bot to chat with real men, using only lines from the book.

She also created profiles for Clifford and Mellors.

After around 800 conversations with real romance-seekers, the exchanges are part of an artwork called Lady Chatterley’s Tinderbot, which will be exhibited for the first time in the UK at the Lowry arts centre in Salford from Saturday.

(10) UP IN THE AIR. Weather geekery: “The Hurricane Season, As Shown By Salt, Smoke And Dust” (text and video)

Hurricane Harvey as a ball of swirling sea salt. Hurricane Irma scooping up the sands of the Sahara. Hurricane Ophelia, bizarrely, taking smoke from Portugal and pulling it up to the coast of Ireland.

A new visualization from NASA shows the hurricanes from 2017 season from a new perspective — that is, their impact on particles carried in the wind.

The video pulls from satellite imagery and computer models to track how aerosols are affected by hurricanes.

(11) THROWING THE FIRST STONE. Action teaching: “Castle Gardens Primary School ‘hit by meteorite'”.

A tarmac company provided and transported the “meteorite” and altered the school playground.

The PSNI also went to the school to respond to the “emergency”.

Mr Gray said that staging the strike would have a number of benefits for the pupils.

“It gives the children the chance to experience and imagine an event they’d otherwise only see on video clips or photographs,” he said.

“We deliberately timed it to be the first Monday after the first AQE transfer paper so that pupils could take their minds off the test for a few hours.

Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment, “This is a step up from the why-witnesses-are-unreliable demo (a staple of journalism schools) that I got in junior high.”

(12) SLICE OF LIFE. The BBC reports: “First gene-editing in human body attempt”.

Gene-editing has been attempted on cells inside a patient, in a world first by doctors in California.

Brian Madeux, 44 from Arizona, was given the experimental treatment to try to correct a defect in his DNA that causes Hunter’s syndrome.

Mr Madeux says he was prepared to take part in the trial as he is “in pain every second of the day”.

It is too soon to know whether or not the gene-editing has worked in Mr Madeux’s case.

(13) RAMPAGE. There’s a new trailer out for a giant animal movie with Dwayne Johnson that’s coming out in April.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes  to  File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 10/1/17 And Lockjaw The Teleporting Bulldog (Played By A Bunch Of Pixels)

(1) STONY END. At Asking the Wrong Questions, Abigail Nussbaum delivers a masterful review of the third novel in the acclaimed trilogy, “The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin”.

It might seem a bit strange to say that The Stone Sky, the concluding volume of the Broken Earth trilogy, had a lot riding on it.  For the past two years, the SF field and its fandom have been falling over themselves to crown this trilogy as not just good, but important.  Both of the previous volumes in the series, The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate, were nominated for the Nebula and the Hugo.  When The Fifth Season won the Hugo in 2016, it made Jemisin the first African-American (and the first American POC) to win the best novel category.  When The Obelisk Gate won the same award earlier this year, it was the first time that consecutive volumes in a series had won the Hugo back-to-back since, I believe, Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead thirty years ago.  That’s probably not considered the best company nowadays, but it speaks to the kind of zeitgeist-capturing work that Jemisin is doing with this series.  In that context, the third volume might almost be looked at as a victory lap, just waiting to be showered with laurels.

To me, however, a great deal depended on the kind of ending Jemisin crafted for her story….

(2) STAN BY ME. This doctor makes house calls? Here in LA in October!

(3) THEY WERE JUST RESTING. Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch have launched a Kickstarter to bring back “Pulphouse Fiction Magazine” after a 21-year hiatus.

Dean returns as editor of Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, bringing back the attitude and editing eye that got Pulphouse three Hugo nominations and thousands of subscribers. Kris will function as executive editor. Allyson Longueira is the publisher, Gwyneth Gibby is the associate publisher, and Josh Frase will be the managing editor and website guru….

Pulphouse Fiction Magazine returns as a quarterly publication, with the first issue coming out in January 2018.

But before January, as was a tradition with Pulphouse Publishing, there will be an Issue Zero. Basically, Issue Zero will be a complete issue of the magazine, but will function as a test run.

Issue Zero will be given to anyone who supports this Kickstarter subscription drive if we make our goal.

They’ve already surpassed their $5,000 goal, with 17 days left to run.

(4) BURNING LOVE. The anonymous Red Panda Fraction calls Dragon Con their home convention, and seeks to justify one of their tactics to level the Dragon Awards playing field in “Why Did We Create a Red Panda Slate? 1st Post from Rad Sonja”.

Now that Dragon Con is over and our schedules have returned to normal, it seems like it’s time to explain why the Red Panda Fraction decided to create a slate for the Dragon Awards this year. It was the most controversial thing we did, and we noted the consternation among blog commenters. We appreciate the criticism that authors may not want to be on any slate because it would make them “political footballs” or put targets on their backs. If we create a recommendation list for the next Dragon Award, we will ask authors if they want to be taken off before sending anything out to the public….

“Rad Sonja” doesn’t really delve into the ethics of slating beyond the poetic “fighting fire with fire”, but instead indulges in lengthy speculation about the networking that led to certain results in the first year of the award.

Moreover, from the beginning, the most active boosters of the award have been Puppies. Among the first places to publish a story about the Dragon Awards (April 8th, 2016) was the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance (CLFA), a closed Facebook group which includes a number of major Puppy organizers. It didn’t take much digging for us to figure out that Dragon Con’s SF=literature track director, Sue Phillips, and long-time SF-lit track volunteer, the Puppy-booster blogger and podcaster, Stephanie Souders, (aka “The Right Geek”, who added Phillips to the FB group in 2014) were also members of the CLFA Facebook group. The CLFA actively promotes the work of their members on their blog. See, for example, this post from this year….

(5) FROM ARES TO ARTEMIS. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination will host “An Evening with Andy Weir” on December 9 at UCSD. Time and ticket information at the link.

 

Join us for the launch of the much-anticipated new novel by Andy Weir, #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Martian. Weir will discuss Artemis—a crime caper set on the moon, in a near-future world that Weir builds with his trademark rich, scientifically accurate detail.

Artemis is the first only city on the moon. If you aren’t a tourist or an eccentric billionaire, life in this fledgling new territory is tough. Providence and imperial dreams have been nickel-and-dimed from those who have called the moon their home. That’s why Jazz doesn’t rely on her day-job. She moonlights, instead, as a smuggler, and gets along okay with small-time contraband that is, until the chance to commit the perfect crime presents itself.

Weir will discuss Artemis with Dr. Erik Viirre, Associate Director of the Clarke Center and the Medical and Technical Director of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE.

Book signing to follow. Copies will be available for purchase.

(6) JUST GUYS DOIN’ STUFF. Ashe Armstrong answers the question “What is Orctober?” at Fantasy-Faction.

Orctober seeks, as you may have guessed by now, to celebrate the orc. With the Elder Scrolls and Warcraft blowing up like they have, thanks to World of Warcraft and Skyrim, orcs have started to be viewed differently. While there are still those who love the old vision of them, grimy and lanky and full of malice, many of us are embracing a changing view of them. Orcs can be just as varied as the other races. They’re no longer an Evil Race of Evil, or at least not just that. It even happened with the Forgotten Realms books, with Drizzt and the orc, Obould Many-Arrows. In Warcraft, you had Thrall and Durotan. The Elder Scrolls had Gortwog go-Nagorm, who sought to reclaim the lands of Orsinium and help his people find respect.

(7) IN LIVING 3-D. This is great! Walk through the Center for Bradbury Studies using My Matterport.

In the spring of 2007, IUPUI’s School of Liberal Arts created the nation’s first center for the study of Ray Bradbury (1920-2012)

(8) PERSONAL FANDOM STORIES WANTED. Joe Praska at The Continuing Voyage is looking for autobiographical contributions to their series “My Fandom. My Story.”

My Fandom. My Story. is a series on The Continuing Voyage that aims to share the stories of individuals; their fandoms, passions, identity, struggles and successes.  Maybe you have a passion for a certain science fiction franchise that’s helped shape your ideals as an adult, maybe your knitting hobby led you to find a sense of community, maybe your love for a specific book helps you feel a deeper connection to your family or your culture, or maybe your interest in science has shaped your career.  Whatever it is, we’d like to hear your story.

My Fandom. My Story hopes to bring to light personal stories that explore countless themes that may arise such as community, family, creativity, art, inspiration, identity, mindfulness, politics, social justice, and culture while of course exploring the fandoms and passions of the individuals writing.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

In the original and best The Wolf Man, Larry Talbot had been away 18 years working on Mt. Wilson Observatory in California.

(10) TRIVIALEST TRIVIA

Silent film actor Gibson Gowland appears in The Wolf Man as a villager present at the death of Larry Talbot. He also had been present during the Phantom’s death scene in the 1925 version of The Phantom of the Opera (1925), becoming the only actor to appear in death scenes performed by both Lon Chaney and Lon Chaney Jr.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 1, 1957 The Brain From Planet Arous premiered on this day.
  • October 1, 1992 — The Cartoon Network started.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born October 1, 1935 — Julie Andrews (whose best-known genre work is Mary Poppins.)

(13) COMPELLING SF. Publisher Joe Stech has released the 9th issue of Compelling Science Fiction. You can buy the issue from the Kindle store, or download the issue from Patreon in DRM-free mobi and epub format if you’re a subscriber. They also welcome readers to their new Facebook page — facebook.com/CompellingSF

(14) CHEERING FOR CHAOS. Camestros Felapton, in “Separatism, Spain, Catalonia, Russia, the Alt-Right & Chaos-Fascism”, tries to fathom the motives behind the latest political posturing.

I don’t know what Putin’s perspective is on Catalonia but I can guess by looking at more accessible proxy mouthpieces. Our least favourite science fiction publisher, Vox Day, is very much against the Spanish government’s actions and supportive of the Catalonian government. Likewise Julian Assange. The Alt-Right, in general, are treating events in Catalonia and the Spanish government’s heavy hand suppression of the voting as vague proof of something – it isn’t clear what they think it proves but their choosing of sides is clear: Madrid bad, Barcelona good. For once they aren’t on the side of militarised police beating the crap out of ordinary people. Why not? After all, in many ways, the current Spanish government is also nationalist and its application of force to quash dissent would, under other circumstances be cheered by the Alt-Right as strong government protecting national identity.

The answer is that there is always at least 50-50 chance which side of a cross-nationalist conflict they will pick but they will tend to pick the side that creates the biggest headache for trans-national cooperation. Putin wants Western Europe divided, both as payback and strategically and the alt-right follows suit. Everybody loses except chaos-fascism.

(15) BLATANT LIVING. Ethan Mills of Examined Worlds is ready to lament “The Death of Subtlety?” (if the answer turns out to be yes.)

The problem with our civilization is the death of subtlety.  Or – scratch that.  One of many problems with a lot of the culture of the United States in 2017 is that there is less subtlety than there maybe should be.

I continue to have – albeit with somewhat diminished enthusiasm as of late – hope that subtle questioning is on the whole a better method than bludgeoning people with the truth….

(16) IN ITS DNA. The Hugo Award Book Club argues that science fiction is, in some ways, a “more political form of literature” than other genres: “The Political Power Of Science Fiction”.

…You cannot write about imaginary futures and different worlds without showing how their societies are different than our own; how they are better and how they are worse. In this sense, as others have observed, science fiction is a medium of utopias and dystopias. And the determination of what makes a society dystopic or utopic is inherently about political values.

If you believe that all humans are really created equal, your utopia likely won’t include a caste system. If you believe that humans have a right to privacy, a government surveillance state will be depicted as a dystopia. If you believe that the world needs racial purity and genetically superior heroes to save us from corruption, you might write a fantasy about a man of high Númenórean blood who is destined to reclaim the Throne of Gondor.

These are all political beliefs.

Practical politics is about changing the world. Science fiction is about exploring worlds that have been changed. The two are intertwined.

This is what the Futurians and their critics at the first Worldcon all understood: By imagining utopias and dystopias, science fiction helps create blueprints that guide us towards, or away from, potential futures….

(17) TV TRIBUTE. Inverse has been eavesdropping: “Elon Musk Named ‘Moon Base Alpha’ After Grooviest Sci-Fi Show Ever”.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced Friday that his space exploration plans now include not just Mars but also the moon. Speaking at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia, Musk revealed the company’s planned next-generation rocket will make it possible to build a moon base — and the name he picked is just his latest homage to beloved science fiction, in this case, the British cult classic Space: 1999….

Musk’s proposed name for the base is Moon Base Alpha, which is a reference to the 1970s British cult classic Space: 1999.

(18) THIS JOB IS NOT THAT #@%! EASY. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination shares episode 10 of its podcast Into the Imagination, “Pictures, Pastries, and the Matter of the Universe”.

Physics is cool–and sometimes very hard to understand. …We talk to Duncan Haldane, winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize, about quantum topology and why the Nobel committee brought a bagel, a pretzel, and a bun to the award ceremony to explain his ideas. And with the inimitable Sir Roger Penrose, we explore the visual imagination as it relates to science, the work of artist M.C. Escher, and what it has to do with Penrose’s cosmological theory of the universe.

(19) ESKRIDGE PREMIERE. On October 5, the film OtherLife, written by Clarion Workshop alum Kelley Eskridge, gets its North American premiere at the San Diego Film Festival. In the film, OtherLife is a new drug that creates virtual reality directly in the user’s mind–a technology with miraculous potential applications but also applied to dangerous uses, like imprisoning criminals in virtual cells.

Click this link for time and ticket information.

(20) YOU AIN’T NOTHIN’ BUT A SOUND DOG. Warts and all, “The Voyager Golden Record Finally Finds An Earthly Audience” – from NPR.

Pescovitz approached his former graduate school professor — none other than Ferris, the Golden Record’s original producer — about the project, and Ferris gave his blessing, with one important caveat.

“You can’t release a record without remastering it,” says Ferris. “And you can’t remaster without locating the master.”

That turned out to be a taller order than expected. The original records were mastered in a CBS studio, which was later acquired by Sony — and the master tapes had descended into Sony’s vaults.

Pescovitz enlisted the company’s help in searching for the master tapes; in the meantime, he and Daly got to work acquiring the rights for the music and photographs that comprised the original. They also reached out to surviving musicians whose work had been featured on the record to update incomplete track information.

Finally, Pescovitz and Daly got word that one of Sony’s archivists had found the master tapes.

Pescovitz remembers the moment he, Daly and Ferris traveled to Sony’s Battery Studios in New York City to hear the tapes for the first time.

“They hit play, and the sounds of the Solomon Islands pan pipes and Bach and Chuck Berry and the blues washed over us,” Pescovitz says. “It was a very moving and sublime experience.”

(21) RED NOSES, GREEN LIGHT. Was this campaign meant to coincide with the clown consciousness-raising of Stephen King’s It? Or is it too funny for that to matter? From Adweek — “Audi Sends in the Clowns for This Madcap Ad About How to Avoid Them on the Road”.

A lot of car advertising treats the obstacles that drivers face on the road as literally faceless threats—an avalanche of rocks tumbling across a mountainside road, or a piece of cargo falling blamelessly off a pickup truck in the city.

But let’s face it. The real problem on the roads is the other drivers. Or, if you like, the clowns who share the streets with us…

As simple as it is, the concept also lends itself to brilliant visuals, as the Audi drivers have to deal with all sorts of clowns driving all sorts of clown cars (and buses). It’s all set to a whispering version of Sondheim’s “Send In the Clowns” by Faultline and Lisa Hannigan.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Joe Stech, Chip Hitchcock, Camestros Felapton,  Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jamoche.]

Pixel Scroll 8/30/17 Two Little Pixels Sitting In A Tree, S-C-R-O-L-L-I-N-G…

(1) GONE IN 60 SECONDS. They did the Monster Mash on Terry Pratchett’s hard drive, fulfilling his request that his unfinished work be destroyed: “Terry Pratchett’s unfinished novels destroyed by steamroller”.

The unfinished books of Sir Terry Pratchett have been destroyed by a steamroller, following the late fantasy novelist’s wishes.

Pratchett’s hard drive was crushed by a vintage John Fowler & Co steamroller named Lord Jericho at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, ahead of the opening of a new exhibition about the author’s life and work.

…The hard drive will go on display as part of a major exhibition about the author’s life and work, Terry Pratchett: HisWorld, which opens at the Salisbury museum in September.

(2) FIFTH HUNDREDTH. StarShipSofa posted its 500th show today, a reading of Harlan Ellison’s Nebula-winning story “How Interesting: A Tiny Man” by George Hrab.

10 years young, StarShipSofa features the best of speculative fiction and fact articles, delivered weekly by host and editor Tony C. Smith, fiction editor Jeremy Szal, and authors, narrators, and contributors from all over the world. Born from the most humble beginnings, StarShipSofa has gone on to present works by legends and rising stars in the field, as well as showcasing new or lesser known voices, diverse authors and stories, and works in translation. Among many highlights over the last decade, StarShipSofa has presented exclusive interviews including Pat Cadigan, Ted Chiang, Ursula K. LeGuin, Samuel R. Delany, and the late Ray Bradbury.

Last week, Show 499 featured Joe Haldeman (Aug 23), and next week Show 501 will air a story by Robert Silverberg (Sept 6).

(3) SERRIED RANKS. Vox Day, in a post otherwise spent cutting down the Game of Thrones TV show and the writing of George R.R. Martin, “Compression and decompression”, includes an irresistible list that ranks the top epic fantasy authors. Does your mileage vary?

Here is how I rank the writers of epic fantasy:

  1. JRR Tolkien
  2. Stephen Donaldson (Covenant)
  3. Margaret Weis & Terry Hickman (Dragonlance)
  4. David Eddings (Belgariad)
  5. Glen Cook
  6. Steven Erikson
  7. Raymond Feist
  8. George RR Martin
  9. Joe Abercrombie
  10. CS Friedman
  11. Tad Williams
  12. Daniel Abraham
  13. Brandon Sanderson
  14. R. Scott Bakker
  15. Mark Lawrence
  16. Terry Brooks
  17. Robert Jordan
  18. Terry Goodkind

Obviously, your mileage may vary, as may what you consider to be “epic fantasy”. I would have Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander, Tanith Lee, and Anne McCaffrey all ranked above Dragonlance, but their work is better categorized in other categories.

(4) IT’S A THEORY. Dragon Con advocates make their case: “5 Reasons You Should Attend Dragon*Con This Year”.

After 31 years, it’s safe to say that Dragon*Con is not a fad. Last Labor Day weekend saw a record 77,000+ attendees roar into the streets of Atlanta, which beat the previous high from 2015. 2017 is on track to break the record yet again, with 82,000+ people expected to attend. By comparison, the Chick-Fil-A kickoff game between Georgia and North Carolina, which was at the Georgia Dome the same weekend last year, drew 75,000 people. It’s no secret that college football in the south is like a religion. Dragon*Con has officially become the go-to place for gamers, sci-fi, fantasy and pop culture fans to convene in the Southeast. Here are 5 reasons why you should attend this year.

  1. Fan-Centric

Unlike other big conventions around the nation (Comic Con, Wonder Con, etc), Dragon*Con remains the last big “fan-driven” con. Usually corporations sense the success of any event and put their grubby little hands all over it. Then, instead of enjoying yourself, it begins to feel like you’re walking in an ad. Dragon*Con’s popularity has done nothing but balloon over the last few years, but it still feels as fan-centric as when it started. It says a lot when you’re surrounded by 70,000+ other people and yet you still feel the intimacy and care put into each detail of the entire weekend. This factor is crucial for the first time con-goer, because it keeps everything from feeling as overwhelming as it could get.

(5) TESTING, TESTING. Coast-to-coast in half-an-hour? That’s the goal: “Anyone for the Hyperloop? Testing high-speed pods in a vacuum tube”.

“Guys, this is getting awkward,” billionaire Elon Musk told a group of students from Switzerland as they struggled to control their Hyperloop pod.

If all goes well, their pod would eventually travel at more than 700mph (1,120km/h), propelling people between Los Angeles and San Francisco in half an hour, instead of six hours in a car or an hour-long flight.

But this is early days and the students are testing their pod for the first time on a nearly mile-long vacuum tube track outside Mr Musk’s office in Hawthorne near Los Angeles.

They’d lost connectivity. The vacuum needs to be unsealed and the pod fiddled with. Then the vacuum must be resealed and all the air inside pumped out. Revolutionising transport takes time

… None went even close to 700mph, but the winners, German’s Warr team from the Technical University of Munich, blew away the competition.

“Congratulations to the Warr team,” Mr Musk said as the crowd of students applauded. “That was an amazing job. That pod just went 324km/h, over 200mph.”

(6) SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW. The BBC says “Cassini hints at young age for Saturn’s rings”.

The spectacular rings of Saturn may be relatively young, perhaps just 100 million years or so old.

This is the early interpretation of data gathered by the Cassini spacecraft on its final orbits of the giant world.

The same article includes the precise time the probe is expected to break up. A little over two weeks from now.

Cassini is scheduled to make only two more close-in passes before driving itself to destruction in Saturn’s atmosphere on 15 September.

The probe is being disposed of in this way because it will soon run out of fuel. That would render it uncontrollable, and mission managers at the US space agency Nasa do not want it crashing into – and contaminating – moons that could conceivably host microbial lifeforms.

Cassini will melt and be torn apart as it dives into the planet’s gases at over 120,000km/h. Controllers will know the probe has been destroyed when Earth antennas lose radio contact, which is expected to occur at 11:54 GMT (12:54 BST; 07:54 EDT; 04:54 PDT) on Friday 15 September.

(7) TODAY’S DAYS

Frankenstein Day

The crackle of electricity, and the patter of rain drops on the stone walls and terracotta roof give an eerie feeling when combined with the dank laboratory that houses various experiments. Give yourself a bit of liquid courage, and step forward to embrace a little bit of darkness in Frankenstein Day.

Slinky Day

The Slinky was originally designed and sold in the 1940s. The inventor had accidentally knocked a spring off the shelf, and watched it ‘walk’ down a series of books, to a tabletop, and then to the floor where it neatly coiled itself. The creator, Richard James, had gone home to his wife Betty and said “I think if I got the right property of steel and the right tension, I could make it walk. ” It took the better part of a year, but he had done it. Making 400 Slinky units with a five hundred dollar loan, James and his wife had founded a company to make, and sell, this unique toy to the masses.

(8) TIPTREE FELLOWSHIPS. Applications are being taken for this year’s Tiptree Fellowships until September 15. The $500 grants are given to emerging creators “who are changing the way we think about gender through speculative narrative.”

Tiptree Fellows can be writers, artists, scholars, media makers, remix artists, performers, musicians, or something else entirely; so far our Fellows have been creators of visual art, poetry, fiction, and games.

The Tiptree Fellowship is designed to provide support and recognition for the new voices who are making visible the forces that are changing our view of gender today. The Fellowship Committee particularly encourages applications from members of communities that have been historically underrepresented in the science fiction and fantasy genre and from creators who are creating speculative narratives in media other than traditional fiction

Applicants will need to write short responses to two questions and to share a sample of their work. The guidelines are at this link.

The 2017 Tiptree Fellowships selection committee is Gretchen Treu (chair), Mia Sereno, Porpentine Charity Heartscape, and Pat Schmatz.

(9) OTHER COVENANTS. ChiZine Publications has opened a call for submissions for Other Covenants: Alternate Histories of the Jewish People, by award-winning writers and editors Andrea D. Lobel and Mark Shainblum. Contributors already confirmed include science fiction grand masters Harry Turtledove and Jack Dann.

Boy Eating

Other Covenants is now open to submissions of short fiction, through Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, at 11:59 PM Eastern Time. Submissions must be between 1,000 and 10,000 words in length, and may be in English or French (the book will be published in English and authors will be responsible for translations). Original stories are preferred, but the editors will consider reprints of significant works on a case-by-case basis. Payment will be 8 cents (Canadian funds) per word. Authors may be from anywhere in the world and do not need to be Jewish.

Full submission guidelines and the online submission system are here.

(10) TEQUILA! He knows how to set up the perfect shot – whether in the studio or at the bar:  “Film Director Guillermo del Toro’s Exclusive Tequila Project”.

Patrón Tequila just released a special edition that you helped create. Can you tell me about the project?

“The idea was to create a centerpiece and make the tequila the centerpiece of the centerpiece. It’s a shrine. And I think it looks beautiful as the centerpiece of any bar.”

How long did it take you to design the intricate bottle and case?

“You know we went through many permutations. In total, the whole adventure took three and a half years. First the idea was a reliquary but reliquary for me is too European and I thought altar. And we started thinking of a journey narratively for the box. First and foremost, the box is covered in a black suede with a silver skull. You start with black and then you open it and you see the box, which depicts all the stages of the processing of tequila, which is being done by skeletons to signal the ancestral tradition. Then all of a sudden you go from black to that beautiful two-dimensional box and then you open the wings and you reveal huge color and three-dimensions. You end up having a journey. You have votive candles that you can light. It’s a very beautiful piece.”

The maker’s website has a photo-filled display about how Del Toro came up with the design, and how all the components look, both in and out of the box.

 

(11) FANDOM AT THE GALLOP. The 18th issue of Rich Lynch’s personal fanthology My Back Pages is now online at the efanzines.com website.

Issue #18 notes my absence from both this year’s Worldcon and NASFiC, and has essays involving colonial debates, rescued conventions, curated fanzine collections, golden domes, long escalators, large aquariums, famous domiciles, notable science fiction fans, extinct stadiums, lingering controversies, divine ideas, memorable encounters, autographed books, enigmatic composers, 50-year reunions, fuel-efficient vehicles, personal records, motorcycle rallies, art museums, scenic sunsets, medieval cathedrals, and lots of snow-covered mountainous terrain.

(12) WHAT GOES UP. Another theory to explain dinosaur extinction: a “reverse gravitational event.” Proposed by James Propp at BAHFest East 2017.

(13) MUST COME DOWN. The Hollywood Reporter remembers “That Time on ‘Batman’ When Alfred Fought the Joker”.

And with it being made clear in the new Justice League trailer (which already has more than 23 million views on YouTube) that Jeremy Irons’ incarnation will once again take a more hands-on role with Batman’s adventures, it is time to look back at the heroics of the first live-action Alfred, played by Alan Napier.

Napier, who died in 1988 at the age 85, appeared as Alfred in all 120 episodes of the 1960s Batman television series.

And of all that character’s most memorable moments, the top one has to be when he fought The Joker (Cesar Romero), who forced his way into Wayne Manor with a hostage in the season two episode, “Flop Goes The Joker.” The best part of the three-minute clip is when Alfred and The Joker sword fight with fire[place] pokers.

 

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Mark-kitteh, IanP, Rich Lynch, and Alan Baumler for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 7/21/2017 It’s 1500 Miles To Helsinki, We’ve Got A Full Tank Of Pixels, Half A Pack Of Scrolls, It’s Dark, And We’re Wearing Peril-Sensitive Sunglasses. Hit It!

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to “Down drunken noodles with George R. R. Martin in Episode 43 of Eating the Fantastic”.

Some of might know him from the superhero short stories such as “Manta Ray Meets the Executioner” he was publishing in the ’60s in one of the greatest fanzines of all time, Star Studded Comics (which is where, as a young teen, I first encountered him), or as the creator and editor of the long-running Wild Cards series of mosaic, multi-author novels, some may know him better from such award-winning short fiction as “Sandkings” and “The Pear-Shaped Man,” or novels like Fevre Dream and The Armageddon Rag, while still others might know him best from his TV work … like … you know … The Twilight Zone and Beauty and the Beast—and don’t forget Max Headroom!

We discussed why he was annoyed Marvel Comics printed his letters but DC never did, the reason Gardner Dozois was responsible for his first science fiction short story sale, how the rock ‘n’ roll novel Armageddon Rag got him a job on the rebooted Twilight Zone, what he learned from the arc of Stephen R. Donaldson’s career, how losing the John W. Campbell Memorial Award got him his first editing gig, why he almost became a realtor, the time Harlan Ellison convinced him to apply to be the editor of Analog, and more. PLUS: Hear a snippet from an interview I did back in 1993 in which he makes an amusing admission about “a fantasy novel I’ve been working on off and on for awhile.”

(2) GOODBYE AND HELLO. Bence Pintér has sadly announced the closure of the Hungarian sf site Mandiner.sci-fi after two years of operation.

He is making up for it by writing a blog that will be partly in English, Spekulatív Zóna. Here’s the first post in English.

The rise of speculative fiction is a global phenomenon, but all of the important stuff are happening in English. Dealing with this topic, as a news editor, I followed the news in English and provided the news in Hungarian to the readers of mSF. But this was a one way road. In this blog I am mostly planning to write about the new releases in US and UK in English, while I also feel the need to talk to you about good Hungarian speculative books in English, because nobody else seems to be doing that. I want to channel what is happening in this tiny part of Central European fandom.

I have been reading in English for exactly a decade now. The first English book I read was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007, because I could not wait until the Hungarian translation’s publication in a few months (I bought the translated version as well, of course.) Ever since my fianceé at the time, now my wife, bought me a Kindle from the US in 2012, I have been reading methodically in English, eyeing for the new releases as well as genre classics which were not published in Hungary. (There are a lot of them.) Now, that mSF is gone and I can choose to read what I want, I plan to read even more in English. And to write about them. New releases, and also authors, sub-genres and the topics I have always wanted to examine more profoundly.

(3) SUMMER TV. Glenn Garvin, in “Vampires and Spies Dominate Frothy Fun Television Choices” at Reason.com, reviews Midnight, Texas.

It’s the time of the television year, safely past the May upfronts where all of next season’s advertising is sold and just before the big promotional push for the fall shows begins, when all the TV bosses flee for a few weeks to Malibu or the Hamptons or wherever it is that wealthy, imperious swine go to exchange tips on the most satisfying ways to whip the household help. And while the cat’s away, the junior programmers will play, unleashing hordes of vampires, spies and what-have-you who would never see the airwaves if the grownups were around.

The result is usually shows that are kind of fun if not necessarily any good. Which is a pretty fair summary of the week’s premieres: NBC’s pleasingly trashy spook opera Midnight, Texas; and the CNN spy documentary Declassified: Untold Stories of American Spies, which is either a carefully coded revelation about American espionage or mammothly incompetent documentary filmmaking, take your pick.

Midnight, Texas, is based on a series of books by Charlaine Harris, who authored the vampire novels that became HBO’s epic True Blood. But if you’re expecting a True Blood clone, you’re going to be wildly disappointed; the two series of books are completely different.

(4) MUSK. More Elon Musk blue-skying: “Elon Musk Says He Has ‘Verbal’ OK To Build N.Y.-D.C. Hyperloop”.

A plan to build an ultrafast Hyperloop tube train has been given “verbal [government] approval” to connect large cities on the East Coast, tech entrepreneur Elon Musk says. He adds that the system would whisk passengers from New York to Washington, D.C., in 29 minutes.

After his tweet about the plan set off intense interest, Musk added a clarification, stating, “Still a lot of work needed to receive formal approval, but am optimistic that will occur rapidly.”

Chip Hitchcock observes, “I remember this idea in Scientific American over 50 years ago, and in L. Neil Smith 40 years ago — but we still don’t have cheap tunneling as in Oath of Fealty (30 years ago).”

(5) CONFLICTING DIAGNOSES. Peter Davison puts his foot in his mouth over the new Doctor: “Two former Doctors clash over Jodie Whittaker casting”.

Peter Davison, who played the Doctor from 1981 to 1984, said he “liked the idea” of a male Doctor and that he felt “a bit sad” the character might no longer be “a role model for boys”.

His comments were promptly dubbed “rubbish” by his successor Colin Baker.

“You don’t have to be of a gender to be a role model,” said the actor, who portrayed the Doctor from 1984 to 1986.

“Can’t you be a role model as people?”

(6) COMIC-CON IN THE NEWS. BBC wrap-up of the first day of SDCC: “What happened on the first day of Comic-Con?”

  • The cast of Kingsman: The Golden Circle tweeted a picture of themselves on stage after they discussed the new film and showed footage of the action spy comedy.
  • Halle Berry stole the show though after she appeared to down half a pint of whiskey on stage.
  • But there was disappointment from fans that 20th Century Fox’s presentation didn’t include anything about the eagerly anticipated Deadpool 2 – especially as the first film was launched at Comic-Con in 2015….

(7) THEY ARE THERE. Galactic Journey covers a 1962 sci-fi movie release in real time: “[July 21, 1962] The Human Soul In A Robot’s Hand (Movie Review: The Creation of the Humanoids)”

The complex range of anger, fear, acceptance and love that characterize the relationship humans have with robotic life is hardly new ground for science fiction. You have stories that explore societies controlled by artificial intelligence like in Jack Williamson’s With Folded Hands, stories in which robotic life works in service to their human superiors in accordance with Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, and stories that span every possible combination.

The newest addition to the science fiction sub-genre dealing with the evolution of humanity and its integration with robots came out this month in the form of the movie The Creation of the Humanoids. Following its premier in Los Angeles on July 3rd, this intriguing film made its way into theaters across America, including the theater in my city. It suffers from several weaknesses, but more than makes up for them with solid dialogue, interesting characters and a plot that makes the audience think.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Junk Food Day

How to Celebrate Junk Food Day

Celebrate this wonderful day by eating any sweet or salty treats you want! Bake cupcakes, make cookies, heat up some popcorn, buy some of your favorite candies. Invite friends over and have them bring in their favorites and make a junk food buffet and spend the rest of the day watching movies. You can always go get some fast food for fun. Take a cheat day from your diet and have dessert for dinner.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 21, 2007 – The seventh and final Harry Potter novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is released.
  • July 21, 2011 — NASA’s space shuttle program completes its final, and 135th, mission, when the shuttle Atlantis lands at Kennedy.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born July 21 – Geri Sullivan

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY ROBOT

  • Born July 21, 1951 — Perennial funnyman Robin Williams. In 1999’s Bicentennial Man he starred as a robot trying to grow more and more human as he pursued and acquired emotions.

(12) AIRPLANE FOOD. Fans have had all kinds of experiences eating airplane meals. But only culinary historian (and sf writer) Richard Foss can take you back to the dawn of dining in the skies: “What Airplane Food Looked Like Through the Decades”.

Travel + Leisure spoke to culinary historian and author of “Food in the Air and Space: The Surprising History of Food and Drink in the Skies,” Richard Foss, to delve into the fascinating history of in-flight food and how much it’s changed over the decades.

The 1920s:

During the 1920s, there was a great deal of focus on the weight you could have onboard, with passengers often getting weighed before boarding, Foss said.

Engines were also feeble at this time, and since there was not as much freedom to divert energy from the engine to other sources, like heat, cold food was the norm.

Selections typically included cold fried chicken, fruit salads, and elegantly composed sandwiches, served in wicker baskets on the lightest chinawear servers could find, according to Foss.

(13) IRON FISTS AT COMIC-CON. During yesterday’s Next Big Thing Panel at Comic-Con International San Diego, Marvel Entertainment unveiled that it is joining forces with comiXology, Amazon’s premier digital comic shopping & reading service, for a line of exclusive digital comics. Available free to comiXology Unlimited subscribers and only available through comiXology and Kindle these comics will be part of the comiXology Originals line of exclusive digital content.

Marvel and comiXology’s team-up kicks off with Immortal Iron Fists, a 6-issue bi-weekly series written by Kaare Andrews with art by Afu Chan. Immortal Iron Fists is on sale today for $2.99 on comiXology and Kindle or free to comiXology Unlimited subscribers as part of their subscription. New users to comiXology’s popular subscription service can also access Immortal Iron Fists for free as part of their 30-day free trial. Additional exclusive series will be announced soon.

A unique entry-point that’s perfect for new fans and longtime readers alike, Immortal Iron Fists tells the tale of Pei, a young female monk from K’un-Lun and the youngest person to ever bear the mark of the Iron Fist. While Pei tackles the trials of high school, Danny Rand, the Immortal Iron Fist, faces his greatest challenge yet: training the inexperienced Pei. All the while, a growing threat appears that will take more than one pair of Iron Fists to defeat!

(14) COMFORT FOOD. C,J, Cherryh told her Facebook readers about a favorite food.

A confession: I am very fond of roast beef sandwiches with pickle and Miracle Whip. This from childhood. No, it is not a sophisticated taste. I also like bacon sandwiches with Miracle Whip. Mayo for other things. But these are my two favorite sandwiches.

(15) SHAZAM! Marcus Errico of Yahoo! Movies reports “Dwayne Johnson Won’t Be In DC’s SHAZAM! Movie”, which will be directed by David F. Sandberg and released in 2019.  (“Shazam!” is the guy formerly known as Captain Marvel.)

News broke at Comic-Con this week that the next hero up in DC’s movie universe is Shazam!, a story about an orphan who gains near-godlike powers. However, in his initial outing, Shazam won’t be facing his greatest foe.

Geoff Johns, the chief creative officer of DC and, with Jon Berg, architect of the DC Extended Universe, told Yahoo Movies on Thursday that Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam will be MIA from Shazam!

“We haven’t announced any casting yet,” Johns said. “But Dwayne isn’t going to be in this movie. He’s still doing Black Adam, but he won’t be in Shazam!

Johnson and DC will be developing Black Adam concurrent with Shazam!, with the idea that the two will eventually face off onscreen.

(16) BURNING MEMORY. Tor.com has the picture – “The Firemen Start the Fires in the First Look at HBO’s Fahrenheit 451”.

HBO Films has shared the first official photo from Fahrenheit 451, its forthcoming adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel set in a future where reading is outlawed and books are burned. It’s, appropriately, an action shot of firefighter Guy Montag (Michael B. Jordan) letting the flames fly on some contraband reading, while his superior Beatty (Michael Shannon) looks on approvingly.

(17) MORE TO PUT ON YOUR THIGHS. Adweek says more food pr0n is on the way — “McDonald’s Apparel Is Here, So Make Room in Your Closet Next to Your KFC and Pizza Hut Swag”. “Wear the fries you’re jogging for.”

Joining brands like Pizza Hut and KFC, McDonald’s is unveiling its own line of apparel and goods: The McDelivery Collection, in celebration of Global Delivery Day on July 26.

The collection is available via the UberEATS app in select countries. And while it’s a limited-edition set, don’t expect to find anything as vainglorious as a burger-shaped meteorite (à la KFC). Items include a World Famous Fries jogging suit, a Big Mac onesie—wonderful for ironic winks back to youth, though unclear whether it has a handy butt flap—and slippers that read “World Famous.”

On July 26 only, fans can score a single McDelivery Collection item on-demand, delivered with their UberEATS orders. Participating cities around the world will be unveiled on July 25 on McDeliveryatMcDonalds.com. And if you’re lucky enough to live in China or Japan, you might even be able to get them in-store!

(18) THE DEFENDERS. Stan Lee & Punisher trailer Seson 1.

(19) THE LOST VERSES. The Big Bang Theory cast sang previously unknown verses of “Soft Kitty” during their appearance at Comic-Con today.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, and Bence Pintér for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day John Seavey.]

Pixel Scroll 7/18/17 Fahrvergnügen 451

(0) What’s Daniel Dern’s title a reference to? Some commercials that aired before many of you were born.

(1) COLONIZE OR QUARANTINE? Pilita Clark, the Financial Times environment correspondent, complains “Elon Musk’s inter-planetary fantasy spells danger for Mars”.  (This link goes straight to a paywall, but via Google I found a way around.)

What is troubling is that he (Musk) seems to think of Mars mush as early European explorers viewed Africa and the Americas, as places to be colonised regardless of the consequences.

Mars is in a pristine state and experts say it should stay that way if we are to find proof of past or present life there.  Plonking a city of 1m humans on it would wreak havoc with such efforts, according to veteran space scientists such as Andrew Coates of University College London, whois working on the ExoMars rover due to launch in 2020.

Prof Coates says the big global dust storm on Mars could carry specks of terrestrial matter across the planet that scientists could mistake for evidence of Martian life.  He also worries about Mr Musk’s breezy attitude to the brutally cold weather on Mars, where temperatures average minus 63C.

(2) THE BREW THAT MADE KENTUCKY FAMOUS. We’ve mentioned Wil Wheaton’s beer before. Here’s this year’s edition of “Drew Curtis / Wil Wheaton / Greg Koch Stone Farking Wheaton w00tstout.

COLLABORATORS

Drew Curtis, Fark.com Creator & Patent Troll Killer

Wil Wheaton, Actor & Web Celeb

Greg Koch, CEO & Co-founder, Stone Brewing

It’s been four years since this otherworldly stout burst out of our collective proverbial chests. Four years since the primally viscous first release ooze-snaked across the galaxy. This specialty imperial stout draws its huge flavor from wheat (that’s Wil, natch), pecans and bourbon barrels (two homages to Drew’s home of Kentucky) and Greg’s lifelong quest for pushing the limits of “why the hell not?” to make bigger, bolder beers. The result is a mind-blowing amalgamation of intense yet smooth flavors, perfect for a warm summer evening, a cozy winter’s night or the approaching destruction of the entire human race (be it externally or internally inflicted).

For this year’s bottle art, we were thrilled to entrust the task to heralded comic book writer and artist Walt Simonson. He was gracious enough to work with us in exchange for our donation to The Hero Initiative, a charity organization that provides retirement funds for golden-age comic book artists.

(3) MARVEL’S LIVESTREAM FROM SDCC. Marvel Entertainment will air the action from their booth at Comic-Con starting Thursday, July 20.

Hosted by TWHIP! The Big Marvel Show’s Ryan Penagos and Lorraine Cink, and Marvel Gaming host Jessica Brohard, viewers will be able to watch booth events with their favorite Marvel comic, television and movie talent, hear panel recaps from special guests, and learn about all the fun surprises happening on the convention floor, from exclusive merchandise to special signings. Join in on the fun by visiting www.marvel.com/SDCC2017 or Marvel’s YouTube channel.

 

  • Thursday, July 20: 11:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET – 5:00 p.m. PT/8:00 p.m. ET
  • Friday, July 21: 11:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET – 5:00 p.m. PT/8:00 p.m. ET
  • Saturday, July 22: 11:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET – 5:00 p.m. PT/8:00 p.m. ET
  • Sunday, July 23: 11:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET – 3:00 p.m. PT/6:00 p.m. ET

(4) FROG FURY. The New York Times covers the brawl: “Kermit the Frog Performer and Disney Spar Over an Ugly ‘Muppet’ Firing”.

“This is my life’s work,” said Mr. Whitmire, 58, who lives in the Atlanta area. “The only thing I’ve done my whole adult life, and it’s just been taken away from me. I just couldn’t understand why we couldn’t resolve this.”

Disney, which acquired the Muppets in 2004 from the Jim Henson Company, painted a wholly different picture, portraying Mr. Whitmire as hostile to co-workers and overly difficult in contract negotiations. Members of the Henson family said they supported the dismissal as well.

… Henson’s family, which still runs the Jim Henson Company, chose Mr. Whitmire to replace Henson as Kermit in 1990 after Henson unexpectedly died of pneumonia at the age of 53. Some of those same family members say they supported the decision to replace Mr. Whitmire, though they are no longer involved with the Muppets.

“He played brinkmanship very aggressively in contract negotiations,” Lisa Henson, president of the Jim Henson Company, and Jim Henson’s daughter, said in a telephone interview.

Ms. Henson said Mr. Whitmire was adamantly opposed to having an understudy for his role, which presented problems when it came to what she called “B-level performances, such as a ribbon-cutting.” She said he was unwilling to appear on some of these occasions but also refused to develop an understudy and that he “blackballed young performers” by refusing to appear on the show with them.

Brian Henson, the company’s chairman and Jim Henson’s son, said that while Mr. Whitmire’s Kermit was “sometimes excellent, and always pretty good,” things changed when he was off set.

“He’d send emails and letters attacking everyone, attacking the writing and attacking the director,” he said.

Whitmire, meanwhile, has continued to characterize himself as indispensable in posts at Muppet Pundit, such as — “The Muppet Performers are not Interchangeable”.

The point is that there is so much vital and significant knowledge that was gained by the dwindling few of us who consistently stood next to Jim. From his characters to his methods and philosophies, it’s stuff you can never fully intuit from watching the Muppets. I know that to be true because I, too, was a completely obsessive Muppet fan with preconceived notions of my own that had to be unlearned when Jim hired me in 1978.

I approach The Muppets as a lineage tradition. For the inside knowledge-base steeped in its origins to survive and be passed down, there has to be a line of transmission, or you had to be there. For the Post-Jim performers to really understand enough about the Muppets to carry on the lineage they need to continue to be around the core performers Jim mentored as long as any of those people are willing and able to share.

None of this is a value judgement of any individual, it is a pointing out of the value of historical perspective so long as that perspective is used progressively. Having had the opportunity to spend the last 27 years cultivating knowledge of Jim along with feeling his presence through Kermit, I find myself at a place where evolving Jim’s vision has begun coming from a deep empathetic connection to him.

So, I see my most important task as providing a taste of the atmosphere created by Jim Henson to those Post-Jim core performers who will never otherwise come by it. My hope was to install it directly into their hearts and minds so that they could, in turn, be inspired to do the same for the next generation of performers instead of the characters becoming stale copies of their former selves. But, as I look around at what is presently transpiring it’s clear to me that the job is far from done.

(5) NO SH*T! Eliot Peper of Harvard Business Review tells “Why Business Leaders Need to Read More Science Fiction”.

At the end of the 19th century, New York City stank. One hundred fifty thousand horses ferried people and goods through the streets of Manhattan, producing 45,000 tons — tons! — of manure a month. It piled up on streets and in vacant lots, and in 1898 urban planners convened from around the world to brainstorm solutions to the impending crisis. They failed to come up with any, unable to imagine horseless transportation.

Fourteen years later, cars outnumbered horses in New York, and visions of manure dystopia were forgotten.

If 19th-century urban planners had had access to big data, machine learning techniques, and modern management theory, these tools would not have helped them. They simply would have confirmed their existing concerns. Extrapolating from past trends is useful but limiting in a world of accelerating technological change.

Science fiction can help. Maybe you associate it with spaceships and aliens, but science fiction offers more than escapism. By presenting plausible alternative realities, science fiction stories empower us to confront not just what we think but also how we think and why we think it. They reveal how fragile the status quo is, and how malleable the future can be…..

Science fiction isn’t useful because it’s predictive. It’s useful because it reframes our perspective on the world. Like international travel or meditation, it creates space for us to question our assumptions. Assumptions locked top 19th-century minds into believing that cities were doomed to drown in horse manure. Assumptions toppled Kodak despite the fact that its engineers built the first digital camera in 1975. Assumptions are a luxury true leaders can’t afford.

(6) FOR SOME VALUES OF OVERDUE. John Ostrander reminisces about a career spent pushing deadlines in “The Digital Dog Ate My Homework. Honest.”

In my earliest days as a pro writer, I did everything on typewriter (first manual and then electric; rumors that I chiseled them on stone tablets are just mean). I didn’t have a computer until later and, even when I did, some companies (including DC) were not equipped to receive them electronically. So that meant printing them up on my dot-matrix printer and then rushing them off to FedEx for overnight delivery.

Unless you called in your package by a certain time, usually much earlier than you had the work done, you had to take the package to the nearest FedEx office. If you didn’t hit the office by closing time (usually around 6 PM), you had to make the Midnight Run to the main FedEx office out by the largest airport around. More than once, Kim was the driver while I finished collating the pages, stuffing them in the envelope, and addressing the delivery slip. Let me tell you, Speed Racer had nothing on Kim. She’d run stoplights and take stop signs as suggestions to be ignored. Often, we’d meet other local freelancers also making the death defying Midnight Run. It almost got to be a club.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 18, 1986 Aliens burst into theaters.
  • July 18, 2001 Jurassic Park III opened.
  • July 18, 2008 The Dark Knight, the fifth film in the big-screen Batman series, opens in theaters around the United States.

(8) EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE. At Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere and Tadiana Jones each review Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us by Sam Kean. Capossere begins:

Informative, witty, vivid, often compelling, sometimes juvenile, knowledgeable, clear, and written throughout with verve and panache via what feels like a wholly singular voice, Sam Kean’s Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us (2017) is what every non-fiction book should aspire to. It’s been a while since I’ve so enjoyed a work of non-fiction so thoroughly and consistently.

Kean divides his exploration of air into three large sections, the first dealing with the origin of our current atmosphere, one of many our planet (if not humanity) has seen….

Jones is just as enthusiastic:

Kean has a vivid and engaging style of writing, with a wry sense of humor, which elevates Caesar’s Last Breath far above most pop science books. Gas molecules are described as feral, oxygen as a madman, our moon as an albatross (as compared to the gnats that circle most other mooned planets), and gravity as “that eternal meddler” that won’t abide two planets in the same neighborhood. I learned about the Big Thwack (when a hypothetical planet called Theia smashed into our earth, vaporizing itself and eventually reforming into our moon), the Oxygen Catastrophe of 2,000,000,000 BC, and the mushroom cloud-shaped cakes baked during the heady days of the late 1940s when nuclear blasts didn’t really seem all that dangerous.

(9) INSIDE BASEBALL. Jennifer Brozek shared “10 Things I Learned While I Was A Director-At-Large for SFWA” at the SFWA Blog.

6: Authors, even your favorite author, are only human.

Everyone has either heard the story, or experienced it themselves: “I used to love reading AuthorX, but then I met them and discovered they are terrible. I can’t read their work anymore.” Sometimes it is hard to discover your idols are human with human wants, needs, foibles, opinions, habits, and flaws. When you work on SFWA’s Board of Directors, you usually see all the behind-the-scenes stuff.

Sometimes, you work with an author/editor on a SFWA project and it doesn’t go as smoothly as you like. Sometimes, it appears as if an author once admired has nothing but scorn for the work you are doing and no desire to help out—just kvetch and complain. Sometimes, authors come to the Board at their worst—financial or medical difficulties, personal conflicts that threaten to spiral out of control, issues with editors, agents, or publishers. They don’t have their “public face” on. They are human. They make mistakes. They can be hurt. They put their pants on one leg at a time.

This is one of those learning lessons that really surprised me. I’m not sure why. I just know it did.

(10) STARFINDER’S APPENDIX N. Paizo is producing a new science fantasy RPG named Starfinder, and they’ve released an image of the “Inspirational Media” pages from the game.  It’s a wide list of old and new SF, not just books but also comics, movies, and games.

In the comment thread one of the developers remarks, “That said, I am excited to see fans talking about the things that moved them that we didn’t include. Those suggestions, and the conversations they start, are to me the greatest legacy of all these inspirational media appendices.”

Few appendices have made as big a splash in gaming history as Gary Gygax’s Appendix N. (I thought Cosmo’s appendix bursting at Gen Con that one year might have it beat, but he reminded me that was technically a gallbladder removal, so it’s OUT OF THE RUNNING!) That formative list of novels hit in 1979, in the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide. In it, Gygax laid out some of the works that had made the largest impact on him in the creation of Dungeons & Dragons, from Leigh Brackett and Robert E. Howard to Jack Vance and Andre Norton. In doing so, he created a reading list for an entire generation of gamers and fantasy fans, and had a tremendous impact on the genre as a whole.

When we created the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook in 2009, we gleefully took the opportunity to publish our own version of Appendix N, keen to introduce fans to our new favorites like Clive Barker and China Miéville, along with grand masters like C. L. Moore. Yet it was ultimately still a fairly small list—just a single column of text—and cribbed heavily from Gygax, focusing solely on novels.

When I first sat down to paginate the Starfinder Core Rulebook, I knew that space was going to be at a premium. I had, by some estimates, 800+ pages of content to cram into something even smaller than Pathfinder’s 576 pages. Yet I also knew that just one page of inspirational media wasn’t going to be enough. In order to make a game like Starfinder, we had to stand on the shoulders of innumerable giants, both childhood heroes and our friends and peers. We couldn’t in good faith restrict ourselves to just literature, either. How could you have Starfinder without Star Wars and Alien? Without Shadowrun and Warhammer 40,000? Without Starcraft and Mass Effect? It just wouldn’t be the same.

(11) BIG EARS. BBC News video: “Telescopes to reach nine billion light years away”.

South Africa has started to set up radio telescopes far more powerful than any current ones in use around the world, in its pioneering search for extra terrestrial activity.

(12) WATER HAZARD. In Washington, D.C. a security robot drowns in a fountain mishap. “We were promised flying cars, instead we got suicidal robots.”

A security robot in Washington DC suffered a watery demise after falling into a fountain by an office building.

The stricken robot, made by Knightscope, was spotted by passers-by whose photos of the aftermath quickly went viral on social media.

(13) RETURN TO TONE. Ian Leslie’s post “Unfight Club” on Medium contends there is a way to have discussions on Twitter without devolving into flame wars, virtue signalling, etc. etc.  If only.

  1. Beware the moral surge. The moral surge is the rush of pleasure you get?—?the dopamine hit?—?when you assert your moral integrity in public. A certain kind of columnist lives for it; much of social media is driven by it. Virtue signalling is its outer manifestation, but I’m talking about an inner mechanism. We’re all subject to it, and that’s not a bad thing in itself?—?it makes sense that we should feel good for ‘doing the right thing’ in the eyes of our group. But when you ingest too much of this drug, or get dependent on it, you end up giving your own bad behaviour a pass. When you’re addicted to the moral surge, personal abuse begins to seem like nothing when measured against high principles. ‘Anything I say to or about that person, however nasty or dehumanising, is justified, because they voted for austerity, which murders people,’ (the more apocalyptic your public language, the purer the hit). Letting your tribe see you condemn others feels good?—?so good that it degrades your own moral machinery. Viciousness becomes a virtue. Don’t let this happen to you: recognise your susceptibility to the moral surge, and be wary of it.

(14) THE EARLY 21ST CENTURY. Martin Wisse calls The New Weird “The last whites only literary movement in science fiction”.

As said, diversity when looked at from that white, middle class male perspective tends to focus on who’s being written about more than on who’s doing the writing. Not that this isn’t important in its own right, but it will still reflect the same limited perspective and no matter how well intentioned, often reducing anybody who isn’t (white, male, middle class) to the exotic. Diversity from this perspective is always from the outside looking in, making it easy to fall into stereotypes, cultural appropriation, orientalism and othering. You get things like making mutants as a metaphor for the Civil Rights struggle and thinking that’s enough, or writing alternate history in which America is conveniently empty when the Europeans land. This sort of diversity is only possible if your audience and peers are the same as you, or you can at least pretend they are.

The New Weird happened at arguably the last time that you could still hold up this pretence without immediadely being contradicted by the very same people you’re denying the existence of. Twitter, Youtube and Facebook didn’t exist yet, blogging was in its infancy and existing fannish and science fiction online spaces were still dominated by, well, white middle class men. What made Racefail not just possible but inevitable was that between the New Weird and Racefail the internet became not just mainstream but ubiquitous as both access and ease of access increased; it’s no coincidence that much of Racefail took place on Livejournal, one of the earliest social media sites and one that had long been home to sf fandom. Tools or sites like Twitter or Tumblr have only made it easier for everybody to let their voice be heard, harder to ignore people when they address you directly. It has its advantages and disadvantages, but the upshot is that science fiction can no longer pretend to be just white, middle class or male.

(15) LICENSE REVOKED. John C. Wright says “Dr. Who Is Not”.

The replacement of male with female is meant to erase femininity. In point of fact, and no matter what anyone thinks or wishes, readers and viewers have a different emotional relationship to female characters as male. This does not mean, obviously, that females cannot be protagonists or cannot be leaders. It means mothers cannot be fathers and queens cannot be kings.

It means if you want a female Norse warrior goddess, go get Lady Sif or Valkyrie, and leave Thor alone. It means if you want female Time Lady from Gallifrey, go make a spin off show starring Romana or Susan or The Rani, and leave The Doctor alone.

I have been a fan of Dr Who since age seven, when Tom Baker was the Doctor. I have tolerated years of public service announcements in favor of sexual deviance that pepper the show. But this is too much to tolerate.

The BBC has finally done what The Master, the Daleks and the Cybermen have failed to do. They killed off the Doctor.

Dr. Who is dead to me.

(16) ON HIS GAME. So can John shout BINGO! yet?

(17) PRO TIPS. Now I’m wondering what anyone would be asking David about File 770 at his site. Maybe, “Why doesn’t Mike pay for material”?

(18) TWEETS OF FAME. To satisfy your appetite for something that has nothing whatever to do with science fiction, we present this link to Bored Panda’s “The 10+ Most Hilarious Parenting Tweets Of The Year So Far”. Here’s #2 on their list —

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “A Single Life” is an animated short nominated for an Oscar in 2014 by Job, Joris, and Marieke which asks what happened if you had a 45 RPM record that enabled you to travel through time?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Francis Hamit, Chip Hitchcock, and Nancy Sauer for some of these stories. Title credit goes to  File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Eight Pieces of Science

By Carl Slaughter:

(1) 3-D printer robot constructs building. “MIT researchers create a robot that can 3-D-print a building in hours”.

The future of construction just got a little bit more real. Researchers at MIT have created a mobile robot that can 3-D-print an entire building in a matter of hours — a technology that could be used in disaster zones, on inhospitable planets or even in our proverbial backyards.

Though the platform described in the journal Science Robotics is still in early stages, it could offer a revolutionary tool for the construction industry and inspire more architects to rethink the relationship of buildings to people and the environment.

(2) Time travel is “mathematically possible.”  It’s all in the curve. “Building a real-life TARDIS is mathematically possible, say physicists”.

Tippett and colleague David Tsang from the University of Maryland have used Einstein’s theory of general relativity to come up with their mathematical model for time travel. They claim that the division of space into three dimensions, with time in a separate dimension by itself, is incorrect. Their model instead conceptualizes space-time as a continuum, whereby different directions are connected within the curved fabric of the universe.

Tippett reminds us that time is curved in the same way that space is: “The time direction of the space-time surface also shows curvature. There is evidence showing the closer to a black hole we get, time moves slower. My model of a time machine uses the curved space-time — to bend time into a circle for the passengers, not in a straight line. That circle takes us back in time.”

(3) NASA is running out of spacesuits.  (This better be a hoax.) “NASA Is Running Out of Space Suits”.

NASA seems to be running out of space suits for astronauts, according to a new report by the space agency‘s auditor, NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG)…..

(4) Mystery excuse. Elon Musk we know, but what’s the National Reconnaissance Office? “SpaceX delays launch of secretive satellite for U.S. Intelligence agency”.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has pushed back its launch of a mysterious satellite for the U.S. intelligence community because of a sensor issue.

(5) “Our laser beam is better than your laser beam.” “Straight Out of ‘Star Wars’: This ‘Death Star’ Laser Actually Works”.

 If it has a beam and if it can destroy an enemy spaceship, it’s a laser.  And a laser is a laser is a laser.  But it seems there’s always one more laser that operates differently than the others.  “Yes, but our laser uses energy transmission.”  “Yes, but our laser uses directed energy.”  “Yes, but our laser uses X-rays.”  “Yes, but our laser is more destructive than your laser.”  “Yes, but out laser is portable.”  And now, “Yes, but out laser uses convergence.”  If your laser can destroy a terrorist bomb without detonating the bomb, then you’ve got something.  Me, I’ll settle for a laser in a doctor’s office if it can eliminate the mole on my face so I don’t cut it open when I shave.

(6) Why Living On The Starship Enterprise Would Actually Be Awful.

(7) Scientist celebrities. “‘Genius’ director Ron Howard reveals why he’s on a mission to turn scientists into celebrities”.

Ron Howard’s new television series “Genius” continues the filmmaker’s decades-long love affair with science.

“Look at what Silicon Valley has meant to our economy and our ongoing influence around the world. … What we don’t want to do is cede that position to other countries, other nations, other cultures,” Howard told Business Insider.

Howard was born in 1954, was around for the first moon landings, the rise of personal computing, and the advent of the internet — but he’s also seen the missed opportunities.

“We could have had the [Large] Hadron Collider. But 15 years ago we decided not to fund that. So I’ve always lamented the fact that we didn’t stay in that pole position on that front of exploration,” he said.

(8) Fortune magazine interviews Bill Nye. “‘Science Guy’ Bill Nye’s New Mission”.

How big a danger is fake science and science denial?
Science denial is a big concern right now. Carl Sagan wrote about this 40 years ago—that if you had a society that is increasingly dependent on technology and you have fewer and fewer people who know how it all works, that’s a formula for a disaster. If we have people who refuse to get vaccinated, they become petri dishes for mutating germs. Soon we are going to have 9 or 10 billion people in the world, and those people are going to have to eat, they are going to have to get along, and they all are going to want clean water. And that depends on science—depends on technology that’s derived from science. So if you have people who don’t accept the process by which we create all this wonderful stuff, you’re going to have trouble.

Pixel Scroll 4/30/17 Scroll Like No One Is Filing You

(1) IS THIS A GOOD IDEA? What did Ray Bradbury think would happen when he left his personal books to the Waukegan Library?

When I covered the legacy in 2013, Bradbury’s daughters had approved trading some of the books to the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies to get other books for the library’s collection. That was before plans for a Bradbury statue got off the ground. The latest on that front is told by The Verge in “Ray Bradbury’s hometown is crowdfunding a statue in his honor”:

The committee is looking to raise $125,000 to fund the project, and launched its campaign earlier this month. Donors who give more than $150 will be given a book from Bradbury’s library. Thus far, the committee has raised around $13,000, with another $20,000 promised. Richard Lee, the Library’s executive director and chair of the statue committee, told The Chicago Tribune that he hoped that the statue will remind area children of the famous author, and that it might inspire them to become writers themselves.

The link for donations is here.

Gifts of any amount will make this project reality. Donors supporting the project at $500 and above will be recognized permanently near the statue on the grounds of Waukegan Public Library….

Gifts of $150 and higher will be acknowledged with a book from Ray Bradbury’s personal library, which was left to Waukegan Public Library after Bradbury’s death in 2012.

(2) COSPLAY MELEE WINNER. Jacqueline Goehner won Season 1 of Syfy’s Cosplay Melee. See her interview here.

(3) CHARON DUNN HAS LAUNCHED AGAIN. And this time she’s following Camestros Felapton’s marketing advice: “I had my cat interview me this time, but he’s not nearly as articulate as Timothy. So much for idea stealing.”

“An Interview with Charon Dunn, author of Retrograde Horizon, by T.B. Kahuna”

I interviewed myself to promote the last book I launched, and it worked! People actually bought copies! I was feeling all self-congratulatory about my self-inflicted promotional ability, when I reflected that everything on the internet is better with a cat in it. Maybe I could get my own cat to interview me to promote my current book!  So I woke T.B. Kahuna from his nap, and bribed him with some catnip and a bilateral ear massage.

Me: Kahuna, I really appreciate your being able to fit this interview into your busy schedule.

T.B. Kahuna: I have food in the square kitty dish but not the round one! Please move it to the round one right now. It’s kind of an emergency.

Me: Sure, but before I do that, I just wanted to talk about my most recent book, Retrograde Horizon….

T.B. Kahuna: Oh no, my catnip-filled squirrel got stuck behind the couch again.

It’s interesting that you should bring up politics. I did a little rewriting after the U.S. presidential election, since one of my villains is a politician – I toned down the violence and opinion-slinging, and I made my bad guy more generic. My stories take place far in the future, long after the corpses of current politicians have decayed into dust and the social problems we’re fighting about have been solved for the most part, leaving room for a whole bunch of new ones (for instance: if we create sentient life, do we have to consider it a sovereign nation?). My goal is escapism for people taking a breather from politics, not to browbeat people about the world they’re trying to escape. [Retrieves squirrel.]…

(4) WELCOME TO THE CLUB. Well said.

(5) DOING JUSTICE. Is the studio doing enough to promote Wonder Woman? Here’s an uptick in marketing from the past couple of days. “Wonder Woman: Diana, Steve Trevor & Etta Candy Arrive in New Photos”

Warner Bros. has released a handful of new images for the “Wonder Woman,” featuring Gal Gadot as Diana Prince, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Saïd Taghmaoui as Sameer and Lucy Davis as Etta candy.

The photos arrive amid criticisms that the studio isn’t promoting director Patty Jenkins’ film as heavily as it did last year’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” and “Suicide Squad.” However, it was revealed late last week that advertising spending for “Wonder Woman” is outpacing that for “Suicide Squad” at the same point in pre-release

Also:

(6) HOW PLASTIC WAS MY VALLEY. Silicon Valley deconstructed by In the Circle, on NPR: “In ‘The Circle’, What We Give Up When We Share Ourselves”.

The Circle, the film based on the novel by Dave Eggers, presents a dystopian view of the direction Silicon Valley is taking the world. And, as a longtime Silicon Valley correspondent, I have to say there is a lot that this comic and spooky film gets right.

Let’s start with the main character, Mae, a recent college grad played by Emma Watson. Mae is eager, idealistic and versed in the kind of marketing verbiage that rolls off the tongues of way too many young people in Silicon Valley. When she goes for a job interview at the Circle — the world’s biggest tech company — she impresses her interviewer with a comically perfect description of the company’s main service.

Sounding like a commercial voice-over, she says: “Before TrueYou, it was like you needed a different vehicle for every single one of your errands. And no one should have to own 87 different cars. It doesn’t make sense. It’s the chaos of the Web made elegant and simple.”

(7) THE ROADS MUST BURROW. More SF from Elon Musk: underground highways to reduce traffic jams: “Ted 2017: Elon Musk’s vision for underground road system”.

In a wide-ranging conversation with Ted curator Chris Anderson, the founder of Tesla and Space X said that he was inspired to consider a tunnel system to alleviate congestion because he found being stuck in traffic “soul-destroying”.

Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment, “The Big Dig may have been exceptionally expensive, but I don’t see this happening for under a billion dollars a mile.”

(8) FEELS MUGGY. There is a fantasy design, and several of the other designs also include one or two sff writers.

This sturdy 11 ounce (i.e., normal size) white ceramic mug is both microwave and dishwasher safe. There are books all the way around it, so it works beautifully for both coffee and tea drinkers, and for both righties and lefties.

This set is of 20 of the most beloved fantasy books of all time, including Game of Thrones, The Fellowship of the Ring, Stardust, and The Last Unicorn.

You know I’ll never hear the end of it unless I show you the one with a Bradbury reference. (It’s the third book from the right.)

(9) PINNING AWAY FOR THE FJORDS. The same outfit sells book pins like these. Use your psychic powers to figure out which one John King Tarpinian now owns.

(10) ZAHN’S STAR WARS NOVELS. THRAWN by Timothy Zahn, was published by Del Rey on April 11.

One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, from his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classic Heir to the Empire through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond.

But Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious. Now, in Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power—and infamy.

Other Thrawn novels:

Thrawn Trilogy:

  • Heir to the Empire
  • Dark Force Rising
  • The Last Command

Hand of Thrawn:

  • Specter of the Past
  • Vision of the Future

Star Wars Legends:

  • Outbound Flight
  • Choices of One

Carl Slaughter notes, “I have not been able to find material in Wikipedia, Amazon, or Good Reads about the previous Thrawn novels that provides insight into the development of the Thrawn character and his place in the Star Wars Universe.  I would appreciate anyone linking to or writing such material. “

(11) PAINFUL BUT GREAT. Review of The Handmaid’s Tale TV show by Annalee Newitz at Ars Technica. “The Handmaid’s Tale is the most horrific thing I have ever seen”

What’s really stunning about The Handmaid’s Tale isn’t its evocation of a dark political future, however. It’s the way we’re drawn into the personal perspective of June, a book editor who paid very little attention to politics until one day her credit card stopped working. Because she’s fertile, June is sent to a reeducation camp for handmaids. Eventually she’s renamed “Offred” when she becomes the property of a man named Fred and his supposedly infertile wife. Other women aren’t so lucky. The infertile are sent to die cleaning up toxic waste in the colonies. Lesbian “gender traitors” are hanged in public places, where their bodies are left on display for days.

(12) A HANDMAID’S TRAILER. You might be curious to compare the trailer for the 1990 adaptation of A Handmaid’s Tale with the current one.

(13) ONE ADAM-12. Grammar brawl in progress. Proceed Code Three.

(14) IT’S GREAT TO BE A GENIUS OF COURSE. C. and Matt make a promising beginning as two snooty critics in “The 2017 Hugo Awards shortlist: a conversation between two SFF fans” just before completely embarrassing themselves:

C. …So when I say I looked at this year’s list with a sigh, I’m being pretty literal. I’m quite resigned to the fact that the Hugo isn’t the best award for my tastes.

Matt …So over the last last three years I have tried to get involved.  The Hugos are not perfect they have been prone to white US male for a long time but it’s changing.  This year I think we have an almost puppy free list and that finally allows a debate on the quality of the books!

Be that as it may – they decided to go ahead with their debate although each admits not having read half the nominees for Best Novel. Here’s a scorecard —

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders

  • C: (Quit at page 150)
  • M: (Finished book)

A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers

  • C : (Refused to read – didn’t like first book)
  • M. (Read)

Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

  • C: (Read)
  • M. (Hasn’t read)

Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee

  • C. (Read)
  • M. (Read)

The Obelisk Gate, by N. K. Jemisin

  • C. (Read)
  • M. (Hasn’t read)

Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer (Tor Books)

  • C. (Hasn’t read)
  • M. (Hasn’t read)

Yet they confidently offer this opinion about the award –

So, let’s face it: both of some of the most popular novels on the list aren’t novels that, to me, bring something new to the genre. They are certainly crowd pleasers but I really wonder at their future legacy.

How the hell would they know? And then they go on to cover themselves with even more glory, discussing what they haven’t read in the rest of the award categories.

(15) FIVE MISCONCEPTIONS. Vintage Geek Culture seeks to convince readers there are places where the narrative and factual history part company: “Top Misconceptions People Have about Pulp-Era Science Fiction“. There are five, which, as we know, is the magic number.

“Racism was endemic to the pulps.”

It is absolutely true that the pulps reflected the unconscious views of society as a whole at the time, but as typical of history, the reality was usually much more complex than our mental image of the era. For instance, overt racism was usually shown as villainous: in most exploration magazines like Adventure, you can typically play “spot the evil asshole we’re not supposed to like” by seeing who calls the people of India “dirty monkeys” (as in Harold Lamb).

Street & Smith, the largest of all of the pulp publishers, had a standing rule in the 1920s-1930s to never to use villains who were ethnic minorities because of the fear of spreading race hate by negative portrayals. In fact, in one known case, the villain of Resurrection Day was going to be a Japanese General, but the publisher demanded a revision and he was changed to an American criminal. Try to imagine if a modern-day TV network made a rule that minority groups were not to be depicted as gang bangers or drug dealers, for fear that this would create prejudice when people interact with minority groups in everyday life, and you can see how revolutionary this policy was. It’s a mistake to call this era very enlightened, but it’s also a mistake to say everyone born before 1970 was evil.

(16) SPACE AT ANY SPEED. CBS Sunday Morning’s  “Book excerpt: Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Astrophysics for People in a Hurry'” inspires me to paraphrase Emily Dickinson’s line about death – “I could not slow for astrophysics, so astrophysics kindly slowed for me…”

Time is relative, but some of us still don’t have enough of it to fully take in the most salient aspects of such topics as dark matter, exoplanets, the Big Bang, and why so many objects in outer space are spherical.

Fortunately, we have Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose latest book, “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” (published Tuesday from WW Norton), offers a shortcut to scientific literacy, with entertaining, bite-sized chapters that explore cosmic questions.

Read the excerpts below. And make time for Martha Teichner’s interview with Tyson on CBS’ “Sunday Morning” April 30!

Excerpt from the chapter entitled “Dark Energy”

So what is the stuff? Nobody knows. The closest anybody has come is to presume dark energy is a quantum effect — where the vacuum of space, instead of being empty, actually seethes with particles and their antimatter counterparts.

They pop in and out of existence in pairs, and don’t last long enough to be measured. Their transient existence is captured in their moniker: virtual particles. The remarkable legacy of quantum mechanics — the physics of the small — demands that we give this idea serious attention. Each pair of virtual particles exerts a little bit of outward pressure as it ever so briefly elbows its way into space.

Unfortunately, when you estimate the amount of repulsive “vacuum pressure” that arises from the abbreviated lives of virtual particles, the result is more than 10120 times bigger than the experimentally determined value of the cosmological constant. This is a stupidly large factor — a consequence of what may be the most embarrassing calculation ever made, leading to the biggest mismatch between theory and observation in the history of science.

(18) SHARPEN UP THOSE SKILLS. CinemaBlend says “Machete Kills Again In Space Is Actually Happening”.

If you saw Machete Kills in theaters, then you probably also saw that hilariously ridiculous trailer for something called Machete Kills Again…in Space. At the time, we thought that was all we were going to get of the supposed third installment of the Danny Trejo-led franchise, but the man himself has confirmed that this is in fact in the works. Yes, we will be seeing Machete going berserk…in space! Trejo told Halloween Daily News that he and Robert Rodriguez, his Machete director, will be filming Machete Kills in Space. (Apparently they thought the “Again…” part was unnecessary.) We won’t even have to wait too long for it, as he also said that they will be “working on it this year.” If Trejo can’t land a part in Star Wars: Episode 7, 8 and/or 9, he’ll at the very least be able to brandish a lightsaber machete.

This is the 2014 teaser —

[Thanks to JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Mark-kitteh, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 3/29/17 “Scrolls! They Were Inwented By A Little Old Lady From Pixelgrad!”

(1) GEMMELL LONGLIST VOTING DEADLINE. First round balloting on The Gemmell Awards longlist closes March 31. It is free and open to the public. Click here to cast your vote for the Ravenheart Award (best cover art), Morning Star Award (best debut novel) and the Legend Award (best fantasy novel). The shortlists for each award will be announced and voting opened on April 21.

Legend Award “Snaga”

(2) MAKING BOOK. The next Doctor Who will be….? Here’s where British gamblers are putting their money this week.

Today, DoctorWhoTV.co.uk has shared a story from Betway. This particular bookmakers reckons that Fleabag star Phoebe Waller-Bridge – who’s set to appear in the young Han Solo movie next year – is in with a shot.

“Phoebe Waller-Bridge is all the rage with the punters at the moment”, a spokesperson revealed. “Her odds of being the next Doctor Who have collapsed from 20/1 to 2/1 since Monday morning and we’re on red alert, keeping an eye out for any more telling bets.

“Kris Marshall remains solid at 2/1, but the sudden rush of support for Waller-Bridge suggests the race to become TV’s next Time Lord is swinging in her favour.”

(3) SUBTERRANEAN HOMESICK LYRICIST. He’s on the road again. (Wait, that isn’t his song!) Songwriter Bob Dylan is doing two concerts in Stockholm, so long as he’s in the neighborhood… “Bob Dylan finally agrees to accept Nobel Prize for Literature”.

Bob Dylan will finally accept his Nobel Prize for Literature in Stockholm this weekend, the academy has announced.

The American singer was awarded the prize in October but failed to travel to pick up the award, or deliver the lecture that is required to receive the 8m kroner ($900,000;£727,000) prize.

The academy said it would meet Dylan, 75, in private in the Swedish capital, where he is giving two concerts.

He will not lecture in person but is expected to send a taped version.

If he does not deliver a lecture by June, he will have to forfeit the prize money.

(4) CHANGELINGS. Debbie Urbanski pushes the envelope of literary discussion with her post “In Which I Make Up a Categorization Called ‘Slow-paced Genre Realism”.

I had a great time this past month savoring Version Control by Dexter Palmer. It clocks in at a little over 18 hours as an audio book, but once I settled into the story, I found the slow pacing to be really wonderful. I wonder if we can create a sub-genre in science fiction or fantasy of slow-paced genre novels (or slow-paced genre realism?). Think a little Alice Munro or Karl Ove Knausgard transported into a genre setting. Into such a categorization, I’d throw some of my favorite books: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, as well as Molly Gloss’s Dazzle of the Day and Wild Life. Ah, and how about the beloved The Wall by Marlen Haushofer? My Real Children by Jo Walton? And then there is this one book I read 20 years ago, which I can not locate, no matter how many creative Google searches I do, about a regular California community and a regular woman, maybe a mother, who is just essentially living in an almost boring way–and then, in what’s maybe the last two chapters, there is a nuclear holocaust. But that is such a small part of the book, maybe even an afterthought…

I’ll stop my list now. But I do admire the authors who write this way. I think it takes some courage to straddle the line, not just in style but in plotting, between genre and realistic fiction as they do, as genre readers may find such fiction slow, and literary readers may wonder why there has to be aliens in the story….

Urbanski’s story with the intriguing title “On the Problem of Replacement Children: Prevention, Coping, and Other Practical Strategies” appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January/February 2017. Although you have to buy the issue to read it, the author interview about this story shows why that might be something you’d want to do —

Tell us a bit about “On the Problem of Replacement Children: Prevention, Coping, and Other Practical Strategies.”

I’ve been interested in the idea of speculative non-fiction these last few years: what if you took a certain emotional element of your life, put it in a speculative setting, and then wrote about it? So on the one hand, the emotions in this story capture my experience raising my son, who has autism, and my struggle to work through what I needed to work through, accept the child I actually have, and figure out how I can best be a parent to him. On the other hand, this is a fictional story about a world where children are snatched from under the lax eyes of their parents and replaced with a different child from another world….

(5) GHOST NOT INCLUDED. Who ya gonna call? The LA Times called the real estate agent — “Haunted Hollywood home of ‘Dracula’ legend Bela Lugosi for sale for $3 million”.

It’s been over 80 years since iconic cinema star Bela Lugosi slept in this stately Tudor in Beachwood Canyon, yet his reputation still haunts it. Whether it’s called Westshire Manor, Castle La Paloma, or simply the Bela Lugosi House, the remodeled mansion is now for sale for $3 million.

The hillside Los Angeles neighborhood where this mansion is perched is right under the world-famous “Hollywood” sign, and is in fact still known as “Hollywoodland,” which is what the sign said when it was first constructed.

Best known for playing Count Dracula, Lugosi moved around Los Angeles and was hard to pin down, but the best sources place him in this particular home between 1934 and 1937. Apparently he, his fourth wife, Lillian, and their large dogs, including Great Danes and a white German Shepherd, enjoyed hiking to what was the Hollywoodland sign at the time.

Lugosi wasn’t the only celebrity to inhabit the manor. Actress Kathy Bates lived there for several years. Considering her roles in “Misery” as well as “American Horror Story,” we thought Westshore Manor might have a scary actor vibe.

(6) WOTF LIVESTREAM. The Writers of the Future Awards ceremony will be livestreamed on Sunday, April 2 beginning at 6:30 p.m. (PDT).

Streaming will be live from writersofthefuture.com and Facebook.com/WritersandIllustratorsoftheFuture.

The event will open with a fire dance, featuring performers from EMCirque, a Hollywood and Las Vegas based Circus Entertainment Production Company. Concurrent with the dance, Rob Prior (creator of the poster art for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) and Larry Elmore will execute a live painting on stage.

Celebrity presenters will include Erika Christensen (co-star “The Case for Christ” releasing April 2017) and Marisol Nichols (Hermione Lodge in the CW’s “Riverdale”).

…As the top names in the science fiction and fantasy world, contest judges will be on hand to present the annual awards to this year’s writer and illustrator winners as well as the grand prize winner for each contest.

Writer judges who will be attending include: Kevin J. Anderson, Gregory Benford, Dave Farland, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Nancy Kress, Larry Niven, Jody Lynn, Nye, Nnedi Okorafor, Jerry Pournelle, Tim Powers, Mike Resnick and Robert J, Sawyer.

Illustrator judges will include: Ciruelo, Echo and Lazarus Chernik, Larry Elmore, Val Lakey Lindahn, Sergey Poyarkov and Rob Prior.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY WARRIOR

  • Born March 29, 1968 – Lucy Lawless

(8) CROWNED WITH LAURELS. Alison Bechdel will be the next Vermont Cartoonist Laureate. If that name sounds familiar, then you’ve doubtless heard of the Bechdel Test named for her. The test — whether a work of fiction features at least two women or girls who talk to each other about something other than a man or boy – first appeared in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985.

Next Thursday, April 6, Edward Koren will pass the torch — er, laurels — to his successor, Alison Bechdel, as Vermont Cartoonist Laureate. In a ceremony at the Statehouse, the longtime Bolton resident, creator of the strip “Dykes to Watch Out For,” and author of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic will become the third cartoonist laureate in the only state to regularly appoint one. The initiative originated with the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, the professional school founded by James Sturm and Michelle Ollie 10 years ago. Bechdel succeeds New Yorker cartoonist and Brookfield resident Koren, who in turn succeeded Vermont’s very first cartoonist laureate, James Kochalka of Burlington.

“It seemed obvious she could have been the choice from the get-go — we’re lucky to have so many great cartoonists in the state,” says Sturm of selecting Bechdel. “Besides all her accolades and fame, she’s really a cartoonist’s cartoonist. Cartooning is just essential to who she is and how she makes sense of the world.”

(9) MORE SCALZI BOOK TOUR STALKERS. There is now a “Johan Kalsi” YouTube channel and a second stalker video for it to host.

Made out to “Ted” (Theodore Beale) a.k.a Vox Day, John Scalzi encounters another unidentified member of the Dread Ilk, this time in Dallas, TX

 

(10) CH-CHING! Meanwhile, Nick Mamatas has discovered Bookscan is part of the vast conspiracy, or is accurately reporting sales of The Collapsing Empire, (probably the latter.)

(11) PLUG-INS, Roll on cyberpunk: Elon Musk creates brain-electrode firm.

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has launched Neuralink, a start-up which aims to develop technology that connects our brains to computers.

A report from the Wall Street Journal, later confirmed in a tweet by Mr Musk, said the company was in its very early stages and registered as a “medical research” firm.

The company will develop so-called “neural lace” technology which would implant tiny electrodes into the brain.

The technique could be used to improve memory or give humans added artificial intelligence. …

Specialists in the field envision a time when humans may be able to upload and download thoughts.

(12) ON THE GRIPPING HAND. While Musk’s scientists are coming up with next-generation advances, here’s what’s available today – and it’s pretty amazing. “Paralyzed Man Uses Thoughts To Control His Own Arm and Hand”.

First, surgeons implanted two electrode arrays in Kochevar’s brain. The electrodes detect signals coming from areas of his brain that once controlled his right hand and arm.

“We have an algorithm that sort of transforms those neural signals into the movements he intended to make,” says Robert Kirsch, a professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western.

But movement requires muscles. So doctors also implanted electrodes in muscles that control his arm and hand movements.

The final result was a system that could determine which movements Kochevar wanted to perform, then electrically stimulate the appropriate muscles in his arm.

(13) LEARNING CURVE. As part of getting enough English speakers in time for the Tokyo Olympics, Japan assigns Fawlty Towers and Red Dwarf as homework. Because you never know when it’s going to be necessary to tell someone they can’t drive a nail with a hamster.

Japan is struggling to make sure it has enough proficient English speakers when it hosts the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020.

And the classic BBC comedy series Fawlty Towers is being deployed by some teachers in an attempt to give Japanese students an example of spoken English – rather than focusing on written language and grammar.

Japan’s government and businesses want to use the Olympics to boost tourism and global trade and to present a positive image of Japan to the world.

So the government needs to ensure a supply of English speakers to be Olympic volunteers and work in the accommodation, tourism, and retail industries.

There is also a demand for professionals, such as doctors and nurses, to speak to visitors or competitors in English.

(14) BLOODSHED AND APPLE PIE. Two inseperable American traditions — Adrian Garro at Cut4.com says “Baseball is coming…and so are ‘Game of Thrones’ theme nights at MLB ballparks”.

This summer, fans of both baseball and GoT will have plenty to be excited about … because special Game of Thrones® theme nights are coming to ballparks around MLB — featuring commemorative collectibles, ticket packages, giveaways, special co-branded merchandise, social media events and a lot more.

MLB has staged promotions like this before — like, say, the trailer for “The Force Awakens” as reimagined by the Twins — but this will be on a whole other level.

HBO has yet to announce when Season 7 will get underway, but we do know it will be some time this summer. Currently, at least 19 teams are scheduled to participate, including the D-backs, Red Sox, Reds, White Sox, Astros, Dodgers, Royals, Marlins, Brewers, Twins, Athletics, Phillies, Pirates, Mariners, Giants, Cardinals, Rangers, Rays and Nationals.

Hold the door for more information coming soon about this partnership, which has to be the biggest news since Jon Snow coming back from … well, you know.

(15) OTHER MLB PROMOTIONS. Martin Morse Wooster also sent the link to Michael Clair’s article about this summer’s best Major League Baseball promotions because the author says the Noah-Syndergaard-as-Thor bobblehead is ranked as the number 1 giveaway by anybody this year.

In the original Marvel Comics, Thor inhabited Dr. Donald Blake’s body while on Earth. But that’s just a fictional story. In our actual universe, Thor inhabits Noah Syndergaard every fifth day. Thanks to the Mets and Marvel Comics, you can walk away with the depiction of this stunning transformation.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, David K.M. Klaus, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 2/4/17 Scroll Was Born With A Gift Of Pixel And A Sense That The World Was Mad

(1) SINCE THERE’S NOTHING ON TV TOMORROW. MeTV has located several downloadable designs for making Star Trek ships from paper that you can use to keep yourself busy on Sunday if football is not your thing.

In Japan, the art of paper modeling is commonplace. Companies like Sankei sell miniature papercraft kits for building everything from cartoon creatures to houses and vehicles. Here in the West, it has started to catch on, as fans use two-dimensional paper to recreate three-dimensional models of their favorite characters, props and even spaceships.

In the Sixties, you might recall, we had rather simple coloring books, sticker books and paper dolls. Now, this has gone to a whole new level. Better yet, fans have created patterns anyone can print up and assemble for free. (We recommend spending for some high quality photo paper, though.)

As fans find new ways to engineer this craft, no subject is left out of the mix. Star Trek, naturally, remains a mainstay of the craze, but just about any classic sci-fi show you can think of has papercraft models available for download. We found Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea submarines and the Jupiter 2 from Lost in Space….

We hunted down some favorites, if you are so inclined to give it a try. You can print and build:

The Galileo II Shuttle (instructions, template)

USS Enterprise NCC-1701

Kirk and Spock (template)

(2) MARS MY DESTINATION. Abraham Sherman of The John Carter Files tells why Elon Musk has him feeling more optimistic about reaching the Red Planet – “Home Sweet Mars”.

…Currently, the next milestone on SpaceX’s path to Mars is for them to finish and launch the Falcon Heavy (FH) rocket, the first of their rockets that will have sufficient power to get spacecraft to Mars.  After the FH gets off the ground late this year, the next milestone will be in 2018, when the unmanned Red Dragon capsule is to be launched atop a FH, and sent to test propulsive landing on Mars – a technique which forgoes parachutes and airbags and is entirely dependent on the built-in boosters of the capsule.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07Pm8ZY0XJI  The Red Dragon mission is the small tip of a much larger spear which was described in detail during Musk’s presentation at the IAC.

The SpaceX flagship for Mars colonization will be the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS).  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qo78R_yYFA  It will be the largest rocket ever built, and will be able to take one hundred Mars colonists at a time to the Red Planet.  It is in the design phase, and is currently scheduled to make its maiden voyage in 2024.  Once the colony is up and running and can accommodate massive numbers of new colonists at a time, the plan is to send dozens, or even hundreds of ITS spacecraft simultaneously to Mars.  SpaceX has proven to be uniquely motivated and situated to get to Mars several years ahead of any other organization, public or private….

(3) MOONWALKING. Famous astronaut “87-Year-Old Buzz Aldrin Slays The Runway At New York Fashion Week” reports The Huffington Post.

Buzz Aldrin took to the catwalk Tuesday in a New York Fashion Week debut he said was “as easy as walking on the moon.”

The 87-year-old astronaut ? who in 1969 became the second person to walk on the moon ? sported a metallic bomber jacket in designer Nick Graham’s show, aptly titled “Life on Mars.”

Aldrin couldn’t have looked cuter in his pants, sneakers and self-designed “Get your ass to Mars” shirt.

Walking the runway for @itsnickgraham #Mars collection WAS as easy as walking on the moon. #NYFWM

A post shared by Buzz Aldrin (@drbuzzaldrin) on

(4) JUST NEEDS A LITTLE SMACK. Ursula K. Le Guin took offense at a letter to the editor published by The Oregonian attempting to justify political “alternate facts” as akin to science fiction. Her rebuttal appeared on February 1:

A recent letter in The Oregonian compares a politician’s claim to tell “alternative facts” to the inventions of science fiction. The comparison won’t work.  We fiction writers make up stuff. Some of it clearly impossible, some of it realistic, but none of it real – all invented, imagined —  and we call it fiction because it isn’t fact. We may call some of it “alternative history” or “an alternate universe,” but make absolutely no pretense that our fictions are “alternative facts.”

Facts aren’t all that easy to come by. Honest scientists and journalists, among others, spend a lot of time trying to make sure of them.  The test of a fact is that it simply is so – it has no “alternative.”  The sun rises in the east.  To pretend the sun can rise in the west is a fiction, to claim that it does so as fact (or “alternative fact”) is a lie.

A lie is a non-fact deliberately told as fact.  Lies are told in order to reassure oneself, or to fool, or scare, or manipulate others. Santa Claus is a fiction.  He’s harmless. Lies are seldom completely harmless, and often very dangerous.  In most times, most places, by most people, liars are considered contemptible.

Ursula K. Le Guin, Northwest Portland

(5) NOW I UNDERSTAND. James Whitbrook of i09 explains “The Detailed, Depressing Reason Deep Space Nine and Voyager May Never Get Full HD Versions”.

…By the mid-1980s, video technology had advanced enough to the point that many TV shows—including Star Trek: The Next Generation—were no longer editing the 35mm film footage, but scanning it into computers, transforming it into the lower, TV-friendly resolution and edited from there to save money. In TNG’s case, that helped make the VFX work on the show easier, but it also meant there all the show’s film was left in separate pieces. Essentially, for the HD release of Star Trek, all people had to do was scan each episode. For The Next Generation, they would have to scan all those original pieces of film and then edit together each episode again, themselves. It’s more difficult, more expensive, and much more time-consuming.

What’s amazing is that they actually did this for TNG’s Blu-ray release, which was a radical, unprecedented, and incredibly daunting task. Following the edited tape versions that were originally broadcast, a new team painstakingly recreated every episode of the show from the 35mm film footage, a process that cost millions and millions of dollars. But as TNG is the jewel in the Star Trek crown for legions of fans, it was seen as worth it….

(6) NOT SCI-FI, BUT OH WOW! John King Tarpinian spied this item for sale —

(7) DON’T KNOW WHAT TO CALL THIS ONE. Atlas Obscura’s video about Wisconsin’s House on the Rock makes me want to visit. As a connoisseur of hoaxes, I wish I’d discovered it years ago!

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born February 4, 1940  Filmmaker and zombie auteur George A. Romero, in NYC.

(9) HORROR IN SPACE. Here is the Super Bowl TV Spot for the forthcoming movie Life. Looks interesting, in a menacing sort of way…

(10) URBAN WRIGHTS. Futurism shows six examples of what architects think “The City of the Future” will look like.

…Architects and urban planners are letting their imaginations run wild — after all, where else can we go but toward our most outlandish, exciting, and sometimes even dystopian imaginings of the future?

Artisanopolis

For five years now, the Seasteading Institute has been working toward building Artisanolopolis, a floating city that runs on solar and hydroelectric power.

To make food production sustainable, the entire city would feature greenhouses, and a desalination plant would be responsible for the production of safe drinking water. The floating island would be protected by a massive wave breaker designed to prevent water damage to the structure.

Last year, the Seastanding Institute signed a memorandum with the French Polynesian government to begin construction on this ocean domain by 2019. If everything goes according to plan, the world’s first floating city, operating with significant political autonomy, may be ready for habitation as early as 2020.

(11) MEMORY GAPS. Unlike me, the staff at MeTV seems to remember all “15 forgotten sci-fi and fantasy series of the 1970s”. The question is – which of us is better off?

Time Express

1979

Charlie’s Angels creators Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts failed to strike gold again with this nostalgic flop. Think of it as Fantasy Island with time travel. Vincent Price starred as the conductor of a time-traveling train that would take passengers to the past in order to relive important points in their lives. Only four episodes aired before it was canceled. The synthesizer-heavy theme song was cool, though, clearly inspired by Kraftwerk’s “Trans Europe Express.”

(12) NASFiC NEWS. NorthAmeriCon ’17, the NASfiC in San Juan, has opened Art Show registration.

NorthAmeriCon ’17 will have an Art Show! We welcome original art on science fiction, fantasy, astronomical, or fannish themes.

Registration for artists is now open through Jo Hogan’s website for managing artist data:

(13) AN ENCOURAGING WORD. NASA’s Kepler & K2 SciCon IV convention for scientists has a Code of Conduct, too. Thoughts?

Code of Conduct

The community of participants at astronomical meetings and in astronomical research is made up of members from around the globe with a diverse set of skills, personalities, and experiences. It is through these differences that our community experiences success and continued growth. We expect everyone in our community to follow these guidelines when interacting with others both inside and outside of our community. Our goal is to maintain a positive, inclusive, successful, and growing community.

As members of the community,

  • We pledge to treat all people with respect and provide a harassment and bullying-free environment, regardless of sex, sexual orientation and/or gender identity, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, nationality, ethnicity, and religion. In particular, sexual language and imagery, sexist, racist, or otherwise exclusionary jokes are not appropriate. We will treat those outside our community with the same respect as people within our community.
  • We pledge that all discussions between members of the community should be done with respect, and we pledge to take proactive measure to ensure that all participants are heard and feel confident that they can freely express their opinions.
  • We pledge to help the entire community follow the code of conduct and to act accordingly when we note violations.

This code of conduct applies to all community situations, including conferences, associated social events, on social media, and one-on-one interactions….

(14) SEE PROPS OF THE EXPANSE. Adam Savage visits the props department of Syfy’s The Expanse, where armorists and propmakers engineer the weapons, helmets, and the gear that give weight and story to the universe of the show. Prop master James Murray shows Adam some of the unique props his team has made, revealing aesthetic and functional details.

[Thanks to JJ, Andrew Porter, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

Pixel Scroll 2/2/17 If You Give A Kzin A Kazoo…

(1) LOOKING FOR SHADOWS. Leah Schnelbach’s “Groundhog Day Breaks the Rules of Every Genre” is a masterpiece about one of my favorite movies. (It first appeared on Tor.com in 2014.)

Groundhog Day succeeds as a film because of the way it plays with, subverts, and outright mocks the tropes of each of the genres it flirts with. While some people would call it a time travel movie, or a movie about small town America, or the most spiritual film of all time, or a rom-com, it is by breaking the rules of each of those types of films that it ultimately transcends genre entirely.

(2) SHARKNADO 5. Not sure why Syfy and studio The Asylum picked Groundhog Day to announce there will be a fifth Sharknado movie, unless it’s to wink at the fact they’re doing the same thing over and over again:

The original 2013 “Sharknado” introduced the concept of a shark-laden twister via one bearing down on Los Angeles. In “Sharknado 2: The Second One,” New York City was the target of the disaster, and in “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” a mega-sharknado made its way down the East Coast from Washington, D.C. to Florida. In the most recent installment, the very-close-to-copyright-infringement-titled “Sharknado: The 4th Awakens,” the shark-infested storms went national. The film ended with the Eiffel Tower ripping away from Paris and crashing down on Niagara Falls, setting the stage for the fifth edition of America’s answer to the sprawling sagas of the ancient world.

In “Sharknado 5,” with much of North America lying in ruins, the rest of the world braces for a global sharknado. Fin Shepard (Ziering) and his family must put a stop to this disaster before Earth is obliterated.

(3) TODAY’S SCROLL TITLE. On the other hand, Daniel Dern hopes you will add iterations of your own to his faux children’s book for Filers.

If You Give A Kzin A Kazoo…

whose text perhaps goes…

… he’ll <blatt> and leap.

If a Kzin <blatt>s and leaps,
he’ll rip you from gehenna to duodenum. [1]

If a Kzin rips you from gehenna to duodenum,
well, that’s the end of the story as far as you’re concerned,
unless you’ve got either an autodoc [2] nearby, or have Wolverine-class mutant healing factor.

[1] per Don Marquis, Archie & Mehitabel — Mehitabel on Marriage, IIRC.

[2] and health care insurance that will cover you 🙁

Probably if you put all that in, Filers will contribute a few dozen more verses.

(4) BOMBS AWAY. Before telling the “Five Things I Learned Writing Exo”, Fonda Lee confesses that Exo began life as a failed NanNoWriMo novel. (A guest post at Terrible Minds.)

This is how it went: I wrote 35,000 words by November 20th or so, and stalled out. It wasn’t working. At all. I read the manuscript from the beginning and hated all of it with the nauseous loathing that writers feel when looking at their own disgusting word messes. I had a shiny story idea in my head but it was emerging as dog vomit. So I quit. I failed NaNoWriMo hard.

I trashed everything I’d written and started again. I wrote a new draft over several months, and then rewrote 50% of that one. And did it again. After the book sold, I did another major revision with my editor. I was relieved and excited by how it was getter better and better, but part of me was also surprised and disheartened. I mean, Zeroboxer was picking up accolades and awards, and whoa, I got to go to the Nebula Awards as a finalist and dance on stage, so why the hell was it so hard to write another book?! This whole writing thing ought to be easier now, right?

Wrong. In talking (griping, whining, crying) to wiser authors, I learned there was wide agreement that the second book is often a complete bitch to write. A very loud voice in your head is telling you that because you’re now a Published Author, you should be writing better and faster, plus doing author promotion stuff with an effortless grin.

(5) REMEMBERING PAN. J. M. Barrie was one of several authors who put science-related observation into fantasies. The BBC tells you about it: “What Peter Pan teaches us about memory and consciousness”.

In this way, the stories appear to follow a tradition of great cross-pollination between the arts and the sciences – particularly in children’s literature. Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies was written, in part, as a response to Darwin’s theory of evolution, while Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland were a playful exploration of mathematics and logic. Even some of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales were inspired by new scientific and technological developments – such as the invention of the home microscope.

(6) A LARGER-THAN-EXPECTED COLLISION. The Large Hadron Collider didn’t end the world, as some cranks feared, but it did end this creature: “World’s Most Destructive Stone Marten Goes On Display In The Netherlands”

On Nov. 20, 2016, the animal hopped over a fence at the $7 billion Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, touched a transformer and was electrocuted by 18,000 volts.

The marten died instantly. The collider, which accelerates particles to near the speed of light to study the fiery origins of the universe, lost power and shut down.

“There must have been a big flame,” said Kees Moeliker, the director of the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam and the man behind its Dead Animal Tales exhibit, where the preserved marten is now displayed.

“It was scorched. When you’re not really careful with candles and your hair, like that,” he explained. “Every hair of this creature was kind of burned and the whiskers, they were burned to the bare minimum and especially the feet, the legs, they were cooked. They were darker, like roasted.”

“It really had a bad, bad encounter with this electricity.”

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Marten furs were once sufficiently tradable that Croatia’s currency, the kuna, takes its name from the Croatian word for the beast.“

(7) YOUNG PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. James Davis Nicoll turns the panel loose on Roger Zelazny’s “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”.

I selected 1963’s A Rose for Ecclesiastes for a few reasons. The least important is because I only recently read it myself (the story kept coming up in the context of a grand review project of mine and I got tired of admitting over and over again that I had not read it.). Another is its historical significance: this is one of the last SF stories written before space probes showed us what Mars was really like. The final reason is this story was nominated for a Hugo and I am hopeful that the virtues the readers saw a half century ago are still there.

Let’s find out!

(8) THE FOUNDER. Selected writings by Hugo Gernsback have been compiled in The Perversity of Things: Hugo Gernsback on Media, Tinkering, and Scientifiction, edited by Grant Wythoff. The book was published in November by the University of Minnesota Press.

In 1905, a young Jewish immigrant from Luxembourg founded an electrical supply shop in New York. This inventor, writer, and publisher Hugo Gernsback would later become famous for launching the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in 1926. But while science fiction’s annual Hugo Awards were named in his honor, there has been surprisingly little understanding of how the genre began among a community of tinkerers all drawn to Gernsback’s vision of comprehending the future of media through making. In The Perversity of Things, Grant Wythoff makes available texts by Hugo Gernsback that were foundational both for science fiction and the emergence of media studies.

…The Perversity of Things aims to reverse the widespread misunderstanding of Gernsback within the history of science fiction criticism. Through painstaking research and extensive annotations and commentary, Wythoff reintroduces us to Gernsback and the origins of science fiction.

Bruce Sterling gives the book a powerful endorsement:

Grant Wythoff’s splendid work of scholarship dispels the dank, historic mists of a literary subculture with starkly factual archival research. An amazing vista of electronic media struggle is revealed here, every bit as colorful and cranky as Hugo Gernsback’s pulp magazines—even the illustrations and footnotes are fascinating. I’m truly grateful for this work and will never think of American science fiction in the same way again.

(9) SARAH PRINCE. The family obituary for Sarah Prince, who died last month, appeared in the Plattsburgh (NY) Press-Republican.

Sarah Symonds Prince (born July 11, 1954) died unexpectedly of congestive heart failure in late January in her Keene Valley home. A long time resident and well-loved community member, she was active in the Keene Valley Congregational Church choir and hand bell choir, the town community garden program; she was a former member of the Keene Valley Volunteer Fire Department.

Sarah was an avid photographer and a ceramic artist, and a freelance graphic designer. She was an influential member of the science fiction fan community and publisher (in the 1980s/90s) of her own fanzine. Sarah enjoyed going to interesting places whether around the corner or halfway around the world. She loved the many dogs and cats that were constant companions in her life.

Born in Salem, Mass., Sarah was the third child of David Chandler Prince Jr. and Augusta Alger Prince. She grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she graduated from Walnut Hills High School. Sarah’s love of Keene Valley, N.Y., follows family ties that date back four generations as regular summer visitors.

Sarah graduated from the Ohio State University with a BFA degree. She trained in print layout and typesetting and worked in typesetting, layout and graphic arts for several publications, including Adirondack Life from 1990-93, a job which brought her to live full-time in Keene Valley. A deep curiosity about technology and a sustainable world led Sarah to Clinton Community College to study computer technology and earn an Environmental Science AA degree in May 2016.

Sarah lived with disability from mental illness and substance abuse for many years. She worked to raise awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by herself and others. She positively touched many who were also struggling.

Sarah is survived by her mother, Augusta Prince of Hanover, N.H.; four siblings, Timothy Prince, Catharine Roth, Charlotte Hitchcock, and Virginia Prince; seven nieces and nephews; and six grand nieces and nephews.

Donations in her memory can be made to North Country SPCA or the Keene Valley Library. Arrangements have been entrusted to Heald Funeral Home, 7521 Court Street, Plattsburgh, N.Y. To light a memorial candle or leave an online condolence please visit http://www.healdfuneralhomeinc.com

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 2, 1882 – James Joyce is born .

And that reminds John King Tarpinian of a story:

Sylvia Beach, owner of the bookstore Shakespeare and Co. in Paris, published the novel herself in 1922, but it was banned in the United Kingdom and in the United States until 1933.  Every July Ray Bradbury and his family would vacation in France.  Ray would always visit Shakespeare and Company.  The bookshop would make sure they had a book that Ray wanted, such as first editions of Jules Verne.

(11) CREEPTASTIC. Dread Central reports “Zak Bagan’s Haunted Museum to feature ‘one of the most dangerous paranormal possessions in the world’” — Peggy the Doll.

Excited about visiting Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum when it opens? Of course you are! This latest story though… this latest addition to Zak’s house of madness? Well, it’s going to be up to you whether or not you take your chances and take a look.

Zak has just informed us exclusively that he’s now in possession of the infamous “Peggy the Doll,” which he obtained from its previous owner, Jayne Harris from England. Featured on an episode of his series “Deadly Possessions,” Peggy is not for the faint of heart. It’s said you can be affected by Peggy by just looking at her… in person or in photos. As a result “Deadly Possessions” aired the episode with a disclaimer for viewers: a first for both the show and the paranormal in general.

(12) BUNK. Jason Sanford muses about “An alternate history of alternative histories”:

Ironically, the last book my grandfather read was edited by Poul Anderson, one of our genre’s early authors of alternate histories. Anderson’s Time Patrol stories, where valiant time travelers ensure history stays on its “correct” timeline, are an integral and fun part of SF’s long tradition of time travel fiction focused on keeping history pure. He also wrote a famous series of alternate history fantasies called Operation Chaos, originally published by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the 1950s. In these stories World War II was fought between completely different countries with magical creatures such as werewolves and witches.

Of course, Anderson’s stories of time travelers keeping the timeline pure and correct seem a little simplistic today, just as historical narratives today are far more complex than they were decades ago. I think this is partly because most historians now recognize how imprecisely history is recorded. History as it is written can even be called the original version of the alternate history genre, where the story we’re told deviates from what really happened.

After all, history is written by the victors, as the cliche states. Which means much of what happened in the past is left out or altered before history is recorded. And even the victors don’t name all the victors and don’t celebrate all their victories and deeds.

Theodore Sturgeon famously said that “ninety percent of everything is crap.” This applies equally to history as we know it — including the history of the alternate history genre.

(13) WHITE FLIGHT. Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel, in “Whitey on Mars”, ask if Elon Musk’s Martian proposals are part of a dream by rich and powerful people to further isolate themselves from the masses. (The title references Gil Scott-Heron’s 1970 “Whitey on the Moon.”)

Musk insists that humans in fact ‘need’ to go to Mars. The Mars mission, he argues, is the best way for humanity to become what he calls a ‘space-faring civilisation and a multi-planetary species’. This otherworldly venture, he says, is necessary to mitigate the ‘existential threat’ from artificial intelligence (AI) that might wipe out human life on Earth. Musk’s existential concerns, and his look to other worlds for solutions, are not unique among the elite of the technology world. Others have expressed what might best be understood as a quasi-philosophical paranoia that our Universe is really just a simulation inside a giant computer.

Musk himself has fallen under the sway of the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, who put forward the simulation theory in 2003. Bostrom has also argued that addressing ‘existential risks’ such as AI should be a global priority. The idea that Google’s CEO Larry Page might create artificially intelligent robots that will destroy humanity reportedly keeps Musk up at night. ‘I’m really worried about this,’ Musk told his biographer. ‘He could produce something evil by accident.’

These subjects could provide some teachable moments in certain kinds of philosophy classes. They are, obviously, compelling plot devices for Hollywood movies. They do not, however, bear any relationship to the kinds of existential risks that humans face now, or have ever faced, at least so far in history. But Musk has no connection to ordinary people and ordinary lives. For his 30th birthday, Musk rented an English castle, where he and 20 guests played hide-and-seek until 6am the following day. Compare this situation with the stories recounted in Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted (2016), where an entire housing industry has arisen in the US to profit from the poverty of some families, who often move from home to home with little hope of ever catching up, let alone getting ahead.

(14) COMIC SECTION. Martin Morse Wooster says, “I think today’s Prickly City expresses the dreams of many Filers.”

(15) ANOTHER COUNTRY HEARD FROM. When the next Doctor Who is chosen, one party thinks someone besides a human deserves consideration: “New Doctor Who should be a Dalek, say Daleks”, at The Daily Mash.

The Skaro natives have petitioned the BBC for ‘better representation’ from a show which has historically ‘erased and demonised’ their proud race.

The Supreme Dalek said: “It’s not the 1960s anymore. These narratives about heroic Gallifreyans saving humanoids from extermination are outdated and offensive.

“My son is an eight-year-old New Paradigm Dalek and his eyestalk droops whenever he turns on his favourite show to see that yet again, the Daleks are the baddies.…

(16) WHEN ROBOTS LAY DOWN ON THE JOB. Fynbospress told Mad Genius Club readers about running into a wall while using Word:

Interesting quirk I learned recently on MS Word. Say you have a MilSF novel, and you haven’t added the last names, planets, etc. to the customized dictionary (So they all show as a spelling error). As you’re reading through, it pops up a window saying “there are too many spelling errors in this document to show.” And promptly cuts out the red spelling and blue grammar lines.

(17) INFERNO. JJ says, quite rightly, this photo of the West Kamokuna Skylight in Hawaii resembles sculpture of bodies being sucked into hell.

If lava has the right viscosity, it can travel across a landscape via channels. The lava either forms the channels itself or uses a preexisting one. Along the same vein, lava tubes are essentially channels that reside underground and also allow lava to move quickly. Tubes form one of two ways. A lava channel can form an arc above it that chills and crystallizes, or an insulated pahoehoe flow can have lava still running through it while outer layers freeze. Lava tubes, by their nature, are buried. However, skylights form when the lava tube collapses in a specific area and allow one to see the flow inside the tube. Tubes can collapse completely and become channels, drain out, or get blocked up.

(18) FROM BC TO DC. CinemaBlend thinks the critical success of the DC Extended Universe hinges on the forthcoming Wonder Woman movie.

While Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice struggled to please critics, most agreed that Gal Gadot’s performance as Wonder Woman was one of its few shining lights. It’s hoped that the opportunity to explore the character even more, as well as take a peak at her origin story, will help to propel the DC Extended Universe forward, especially considering all of its recent troubles regarding both its releases and the films it has in development.

 

💛 💛 💛 #wonderwoman @WonderWomanFilm

A post shared by Gal Gadot (@gal_gadot) on

(19) I’M OUT. It may look like a chocolate chip thumbscrew, but it’s Dunking Buddy!

why_cookie_tray_medium

What if there was an easier, cleaner, more enjoyable way to enjoy dunking cookies in milk. Well the world is finally in luck, and based on the response so far, it couldn’t have come sooner! Two cookie dunking lovers, like so many others out there, took it upon themselves and created a cookie dunking device that does just that!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Moshe Feder, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]