Pixel Scroll 2/20/17 The Catcher In The Quadrotriticale

I’m winding up President’s Day Weekend by assigning a Scroll entry to each of our First Executives.

(1) GEORGE WASHINGTON. He’s the foundation, the one we’ve all heard of. Just like that breakthrough Chinese science fiction writer Liu Cixin, who has a story coming to the big screen – just not the one we were told to expect.

“Another Story by Chinese Sci-Fi Writer Liu Cixin to Hit Screens” reports China Film Insider.

Chinese sci-fi novelist Liu Cixin is set to have another of his stories hit the big screen even as his more famous novel The Three Body Problem continues to languish in development limbo.

Local media outlet Sina Entertainment reports that filming on an adaptation of the Hugo and Nebula-winning novelist’s short story The Wandering Earth will begin in March and is expected to hit screens either in summer 2018 or at the beginning of 2019.

In the short story, scientists build massive engines to propel the planet toward another star after they discover the sun is about to grow into a red giant.

…[Director Frank] Gwo told Sina Entertainment he’s already been working on the film for half a year and said the main roles had already been cast, but he declined to name names. The director hinted at the project in a new year’s day Weibo post featuring artwork for the film.

Liu’s other, more famous book, The Three Body Problem, was meant to hit screens in 2016 but has been hit by multiple delays and still has no definite release date. Liu, often referred to as China’s answer to Arthur C. Clarke, has sought to temper expectations about the film.

(2) JOHN ADAMS. Before he was President, Adams served as ambassador to England, the country that now blesses us with the BBC.

And the BBC likes Logan — and even admits that some SF is very good:

For genre purists, it can be disconcerting to see comic book movies classified as sci-fi. And though the X-Men franchise, being about genetic mutation, has maybe more of a claim to that designation than, say, Thor, the outsize arcs and simplistic good vs evil binaries of the superhero film do not often lend themselves to the thoughtful curiosity that is a hallmark of the best science fiction. It would be overstating it to say that Logan reaches sci-fi heights – there’s a standard-issue British Evil Scientist (played with pale-eyed zeal by Richard E Grant), a henchman with a Terminator arm (Boyd Holbrook, good value in a relatively small role) and an albino mutant (Stephen Merchant in a rare and surprisingly decent dramatic performance) whose photosensitivity is so extreme he’ll burst into flames in sunlight like Nosferatu. So, you know, this is not Tarkovsky’s Solaris.

(3) THOMAS JEFFERSON. An inventor like Jefferson didn’t wait for somebody else to solve the problem. Which is the spirit shown by computing pioneer Grace Hopper, as illustrated by “Grace Hopper’s compiler: Computing’s hidden hero”.

But what Grace called a “compiler” did involve a trade-off.

It made programming quicker, but the resulting programmes ran more slowly.

That is why Remington Rand were not interested.

Every customer had their own, bespoke requirements for their shiny new computing machine.

It made sense, the company thought, for its experts to program them as efficiently as they could.

Open source

Grace was not discouraged: she simply wrote the first compiler in her spare time.

And others loved how it helped them to think more clearly.

Kurt Beyer’s book, Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age, relates many tales of impressed users.

One of them was an engineer called Carl Hammer, who used the compiler to attack an equation his colleagues had struggled with for months.

Mr Hammer wrote 20 lines of code, and solved it in a day.

Like-minded programmers all over the US started sending Grace new chunks of code, and she added them to the library for the next release.

In effect, she was single-handedly pioneering open-source software.

(4) JAMES MADISON. Madison’s wife, Dolly, saved the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington when the British burned the city of Washington in 1812. Here’s a news item about a lesser artwork.

Last night’s episode of “The Simpsons” began with the traditional scene of the Simpsons rushing to the couch in the living room to take in some TV.  But the familiar painting of a sailboat, that’s been in the living room for decades, is gone.  Where is it?

Homer decides to investigate and leaves the set, giving him an opportunity to storm through other sets (including “South Park.”)  He finds the sailboat painting in the office of some geek, who gives it back after explaining that the painting was the most exciting addition to his collection “since I won a bid for a Ziploc of Jonathan Frakes’s beard trimmings.”

(5) JAMES MONROE.  Fair point.

(6) JOHN QUINCY ADAMS. The first descendant of a President to be elected to the office. So although they are not related, this seems the right place for a multiple Chus question.

(7) ANDREW JACKSON. He didn’t get much of a childhood – as a kid he was slashed by a British cavalryman in return for a defiant remark. No comic books for him, either.

In the February 19 Washington Post, Michael Cavna interviews Margaret Atwood about the second volume of her graphic novel series Angel Catbird.  Atwood explains that she doesn’t want readers to think she’s just a ‘nice literary old lady” sitting in her rocking chair, but someone who has always loved comics and who’s loved cats ever since she wasn’t allowed to have one as a child.

She is experiencing, she says, one of her “unlived lives.”

Atwood laughs at how this apparent career pivot might be perceived. She imagines that some fans would have her fulfill the stereotype of a “nice literary old lady,” resting in her rocking chair, “dignified and iconic.” But the “Angel Catbird” series, illustrated by Johnnie Christmas, realizes the creative vision of an author who has little patience for resting on her laurels.

From her earliest years in the 1940s and ’50s, as her family traveled between Quebec and other Canadian points, Atwood not only passionately read newspaper and magazine comics, from “Batman” to “Blondie” to “Rip Kirby”; she also drew them herself.

“That’s what we did in Canada,” she says. “We were living in the woods.” Her older brother’s plotted-out drawings “were more about warfare,” she says, while her characters — including rabbit superheroes — “were playing around.”

(8) MARTIN VAN BUREN. Old Kinderhook was governor of New York. Even then, theater was a big deal. From Variety, “Magic Show Produced by Neil Patrick Harris and Directed by Frank Oz to Open Off Broadway”:

“In & Of Itself,” the Frank Oz-directed magic show that played L.A.’s Geffen Playhouse last year, will get an Off Broadway run this spring from a varied team of producers that includes Neil Patrick Harris.

The hybrid show, which fuses magic with storytelling, is created by Derek DelGaudio, the magician whose “Nothing to Hide” (seen in New York in 2013) was directed by Harris. Joining Harris and his Prediction Productions on the project are Werner Entertainment led by Tom Werner, the prolific TV producer (“Roseanne,” “The Cosby Show,” “Survivor’s Remorse”) who is also the chairman of the Boston Red Sox, as well as Gary Goddard Entertainment (Broadway’s “The Encounter”).

Oz, who’s directed movies including “In & Out” and “Little Shop of Horrors” and voiced characters from “Sesame Street” and “Star Wars,” stages “In & Of Itself” with an interdisciplinary creative team that encompasses conceptual artist Glenn Kaino, on board as artistic producer; composer Mark Mothersbaugh, the frontman of the band DEVO; and A.Bandit, DelGaudio and Kaino’s “performance-art collective” credited as production designer.

(9) WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON. Another general whose war record vaulted him into the Presidency, he died only a month into his term of office.

“San Diego native Greg Bear uses science fiction to explore military culture, war”

Q: What got you started on the “War Dogs” trilogy?

A: Since I was a Navy brat, I got to hang around with a lot of people who were Marines, Navy officers, pilots. A lot of them were in my family or extended family. I was fascinated by the whole culture, the attitudes, that kind of stuff. Plus I’m a big fan of history. I’ve read a lot about World War II. I taught a class about World War II from the Japanese theater perspective in the 1980s.

I started writing this while looking back at a lot of classic military science fiction like “Starship Troopers” and “The Forever War,” all these different approaches to wars in space. I’d already written the “Halo” trilogy, but that was set 100,000 years ago. What I wanted to do this time was take a look at how things had changed and what happened to the whole idea of the military with the no-draft, all-volunteer forces. I wanted to do a serious examination of the modern-day military and the military attitude that goes back centuries.

(10) JOHN TYLER. The first Vice President to succeed to the Presidency. And here’s a news item about the character who succeeded Peter Pan – “’Hook’ Prequel Film ‘Bangarang’ Reaches Kickstarter Goal”.

A Hook prequel film centering around Lost Boy Rufio will become a reality thanks to Kickstarter.

The campaign. started by Dante Basco who portrayed Rufio in Steven Spielberg‘s original 1991 film, has reached over $40,000 on Kickstarter from its original $30,000 goal.

… The story has been reverse engineered from what was set-up in Hook. We answer all the questions you’ve ever wondered — How and why is Rufio the leader of the Lost Boys? Where does ‘bangarang’ come from? And of course, how he gets the mohawk.”

(11) JAMES POLK. The President whose acquisitive policies were lauded as “Manifest Destiny.”

Is it your destiny to grab all the Nebula nominees you can read for free?

Every year I have trouble finding a hyperlinked list of all the free Hugo and Nebula reading, so this time I’m going to take the initiative and make one myself right away instead of waiting….

Nothing in the novel or novella categories is free yet.

(12) ZACHARY TAYLOR. Judging by James Michener’s portrait of him in the novel Texas, “Old Rough & Ready” as he was known was not famed for having natural, let alone artificial, intelligence.

WIRED reports:“The AI Threat Isn’t Skynet, It’s the End of the Middle Class”.

In February 1975, a group of geneticists gathered in a tiny town on the central coast of California to decide if their work would bring about the end of the world. These researchers were just beginning to explore the science of genetic engineering, manipulating DNA to create organisms that didn’t exist in nature, and they were unsure how these techniques would affect the health of the planet and its people. So, they descended on a coastal retreat called Asilomar, a name that became synonymous with the guidelines they laid down at this meeting—a strict ethical framework meant to ensure that biotechnology didn’t unleash the apocalypse.

Forty-two years on, another group of scientists gathered at Asilomar to consider a similar problem. But this time, the threat wasn’t biological. It was digital. In January, the world’s top artificial intelligence researchers walked down the same beachside paths as they discussed their rapidly accelerating field and the role it will play in the fate of humanity. It was a private conference—the enormity of the subject deserves some privacy—but in recent days, organizers released several videos from the conference talks, and some participants have been willing to discuss their experience, shedding some light on the way AI researchers view the threat of their own field.

The rise of driverless cars and trucks is just a start. It’s not just blue-collar jobs that AI endangers.

Yes, they discussed the possibility of a superintelligence that could somehow escape human control, and at the end of the month, the conference organizers unveiled a set of guidelines, signed by attendees and other AI luminaries, that aim to prevent this possible dystopia. But the researchers at Asilomar were also concerned with more immediate matters: the effect of AI on the economy.

(13) MILLARD FILLMORE. In American history. Millard Fillmore was credited for “the opening of Japan” by sending Commodore Perry there with an exhibition of trade goods and inventions. So we’ll just drop this news item here.

“McDonald’s release new ‘Yakki’ burger based on a popular Japanese meal” reports Rocket 24.

To make sure nobody misses the new burger announcement, McDonald’s has also unveiled a promotional event designed to stimulate all five senses, with the announcement of Yakki The Movie, which is being billed as “the world’s first-ever 4-D Hamburger Movie“. Screening on 21 February, the day before the burger’s official release, the five-minute movie can be viewed at Toho Cinemas at Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills…

 

(14) FRANKLIN PIERCE. An item matched up with one of the most forgotten Presidents. Because nobody expects snark like this to be paid any attention, right?

(15) JAMES BUCHANAN. Every Sunday he went out and picked up a 10-gallon jug of whiskey from a distillery. I’m guessing his NASA would have looked a bit different than today’s –

Prohibition in space? The BBC chronicles why astronauts are banned from getting drunk in space. I dunno, it’s not as if there’s anything to run into up there.

While Nasa has long had strict rules on alcohol in space, the Russians appear to have been more relaxed in the past. Cosmonauts on board its Mir space station were allowed small amounts of cognac and vodka. There were apparently grumblings when they found out the ISS would be dry.

The odd tipple, however, does still find its way onto the ISS. In 2015, Japanese brewer Suntory — which has its own Global Innovation Center — shipped some of its award-winning whisky to the space station. It was part of an experiment aimed to monitor “development of mellowness in alcoholic beverages through the use of a microgravity environment”. In other words, the way booze ages in microgravity could be different, causing it to taste better, faster. And that’s something every distillery on Earth would want to learn more about.

(16) ABRAHAM LINCOLN. This President was a storyteller known for his endless fount of humorous anecdotes.

In the YouTube video “Pixar in a Box: Introduction to Storytelling,” produced for the Khan Academy, Monsters Inc.director Pete Docter discusses the Pixar approach to storytelling.

(17) ANDREW JOHNSON. Helping keep eastern Tennessee in the Union during the Civil War led Andrew Johnson to become Lincoln’s second-term running mate. He wasn’t pliant and the postwar Congress tried to oust him from office.

Inverse recommends “The 7 Sexiest Science Fiction Novels About Dystopias”:

George Orwell’s 1984 has ascended bestseller lists again. If its place on your high school syllabus makes it a turn off, this is a list of sexy dystopian novels…

  1. The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is her most famous dystopia, and it, too, has garnered comparisons to the current American political climate. If you’ve missed it, it’s a must read, and it’s soon coming to television. However, if that’s the only Atwood title you know, you should also try The Heart Goes Last. It’s completely bonkers and off-the-wall. In between its commentary on income inequality and corporate corruption, it packs in sex robots, a torrid affair, ritualistic murder, a hint of bestiality, sex with inanimate objects, and Elvis impersonators. No one can walk away from this book with the notion that dystopia is just something you read in school and frown about.

(18) ULYSSES S. GRANT. This president’s book was published and made everyone involved a lot of money, beginning with the publisher, Samuel Clemens.

In contrast, Milo Yiannopoulos’ book, for which he was given a quarter-million dollar advance, has been canceled by the publisher.

Milo Yiannopoulos’ book Dangerous was canceled abruptly Monday after Republican conservatives released clips of videos-with-audio in which he seemed to condone sex between men and boys.

In a terse statement released Monday afternoon, the right-wing provocateur’s publisher said: “After careful consideration, Simon & Schuster and its Threshold Editions imprint have canceled publication of Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos.”

Minutes later, Yiannopoulos posted this on Facebook: “They canceled my book.”

Vox Day is defending Milo and he proposes that Castalia House publish Dangerous.

According to The Guardian, “It is the third book that Yiannopoulos has announced that has not eventuated, after he flagged forthcoming titles on the Gamergate controversy and Silicon Valley that never appeared.”

(19) RUTHERFORD B. HAYES. Roll your own here. I’ve no idea….

CinemaBlend’s “Guardians 2 Poster Features A Hilarious Baby Groot” leads us to —

(20) JAMES GARFIELD. This President might have survived an assassin’s bullet if his doctor hadn’t been secretive and incompetent.

CheatSheet refutes “5 Lies You’ve Been Told About Star Trek”.

  1. Star Trek fans are nerds

What do you think of when you picture a Star Trek fan? Most likely it a nerd in their parents’ basement who spends their free time dressing up as their favorite character and throwing the Vulcan salute at anyone who passes by. The concept of a “Trekkie” — a Star Trek fan that shies away from normalcy and social interaction — has long been part of our pop culture, but the stereotypes that have been perpetuated are both inaccurate and unfair.

Sure, fandom can be nerdy; but these days, it’s a lot more socially acceptable to embrace geekiness of all kinds. And Star Trek, like any other big entertainment franchise, has an impressively diverse fan base. NASA scientists, billionaire Richard Branson, and celebrities like Mila Kunis all count themselves as Trekkies. In other words, there’s no wrong way to be a Star Trek fan — and absolutely nothing wrong with being one, either.

(21) CHESTER A. ARTHUR. He is the answer to a trivia question – and so is this:

The phrase “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” was first uttered on screen by Bert Lahr in the 1944 comedy “Meet the People.” Lahr is also the main influence for the voice of the cartoon lion Snagglepuss.

(22) GROVER CLEVELAND. This is from Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s Track Changes.

It is said that when Rob Reiner’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novella Stand By Me (1986) was in theaters, some audiences howled in visceral anguish when, at the very end of the film, the adult Gordie, now a writer, switches off the computer he is using to type without any visible evidence of having hit Save.

(23) BENJAMIN HARRISON. The grandson of William Henry Harrison. You could look it up, in a library.

Atlas Obscura recalls “Library Hand: the Fastidiously Neat penmanship Style Made for Card Catalogs”.

 “The trouble in handwriting,” said Mr. James Whitney, of the Boston Public Library, “is that there is apt to be too much flourishing.”

Professor Louis Pollens of Dartmouth College agreed: “We want a handwriting that approaches as near to type as possible, that will do away with individual characteristics.”

A Mr. C. Alex Nelson, of the Astor Library in New York, then mentioned that “T.A. Edison, the inventor” had lately been experimenting with penmanship styles in order to find the most speedy and legible type of handwriting for telegraph operators. Edison, Nelson recalled, had ultimately selected “a slight back-hand, with regular round letters apart from each other, and not shaded.” With this style, Edison was able to write at a respectable 45 words per minute.

Hearing this, Dewey set out a catalog-minded mission for the group: “We ought to find out what is the most legible handwriting.”

This was the beginning of “library hand,” a penmanship style developed over the ensuing year or so for the purpose of keeping catalogs standardized and legible.

(24) GROVER CLEVELAND. The only President to serve non-consecutive terms of office, but never a superhero.

The actress who played Wonder Woman on TV is now Supergirl’s President. “Supergirl: Lynda Carter Returns in Kevin Smith’s Second Episode”.

Carter previously appeared on Supergirl as President Olivia Marsdin on ‘Welcome To Earth’. Carter’s appearance in the episode was a huge fan-pleaser, and even included a reference to Carter’s most famous role on a superhero TV show: as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince on the iconic ’70s Wonder Woman series. In the episode, Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) complimented the President on her private plane… to which she replied that Supergirl should see her other jet – a reference to Wonder Woman’s invisible plane!

We’re thrilled to see Carter return to the series as President Marsdin, especially with Smith behind the wheel on this episode. We don’t know yet exactly what this episode will be about, but it is set to air in late March, and will presumably be involving both the President and a little of Mon-El’s (Chris Wood) backstory or involvement (based on the inclusion of Daxamite tech in the second image). We may even discover whether Marsdin’s reference to the jet was just an easter egg for comic book fans, or if she might actually be Wonder Woman in this universe!

(25) WILLIAM McKINLEY. David Klaus call this infographic the Okudagram table of elements. “ The table of elements in the Star Trek universe is a little…different from ours.”

(26) THEODORE ROOSEVELT. I prefer the Teddy bear.

“WTF? They’ve renamed the Tasmanian Devil as Theodore Tasmanian”

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros. ill-tempered but much-loved Tasmanian Devil is being renamed as Theodore Tasmanian.

And he’s an Accountant!

In the upcoming Looney Tunes series Wabbit, airing on Boomerang from next month, the character will be working in an accounting department, repressing his true wild and crazy self.

(27) WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT. He was the first President to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to begin the baseball season.

The Washington Nationals have announced their promotions schedule, and will hold Star Wars Day on May 27. The first 25,000 fans will receive a “Chewbacca koozie,” which is a hairy thing for holding a soft drink. Martin Morse Wooster says he will gladly miss that opportunity in order to attend Balticon, which is the same weekend.

(28) WOODROW WILSON. He was the first President to travel to Europe while in office.

And Randy Byers is asking for votes for a candidate for another trans-Atlantic trip.

I’m one of Sarah Gulde‘s TAFF nominators, and because the voting deadline is coming right up, we are taking the unusual step of posting the PDF of the new issue of CHUNGA (#25) before we’ve mailed out the paper copies. If you haven’t made up your mind about who to vote for yet, please download the PDF of the new issue, read Sarah’s delightful article about the Nerd Camps she’s organizing in Portland and then read my endorsement in Tanglewood. Then download the ballot using the link on this page and vote! Instructions for how to vote online can be found on the ballot. Please pay close attention to the eligibility requirements, because not everybody can vote for TAFF. Good luck, Sarah!

Get your digital copy of Chunga at eFanzines.

(29) WARREN G. HARDING. Scoffers claimed this handsome President was elected by women just recently given the vote. He must have been a good-looking dinosaur. And that gives us a smooth (ha!) segue to….

JJ says “This guy saying ‘never mind Raquel’ and squeeing over the dinosaurs instead is hilarious.” Ryan Harvey, One Million Years B.C. on Blu-Ray—Because You Love Dinosaurs Too” at Black Gate.

I once read a customer review on Amazon for the One Million Years B.C. DVD that remarked at the end, “If you’re buying this, you’re buying it for Raquel.” I wonder if the reviewer nodded off during stretches of the film and somehow failed to notice that there are dinosaurs all over it? Dinosaurs created by special effects legend Ray Harryhausen!

I’m not casting aspersions on the appeal of Raquel Welch; she has a enough screen presence to fill in a rock quarry and was a massive part of the movie’s marketing and initial global success. She adds a tremendous amount to the film and helps hold up the human action between stop-motion sequences. Yes, she is stunningly gorgeous on screen to the point that she almost seems unreal. But Raquel Welch has never been as popular as dinosaurs. Sorry, there’s no contest.

Let’s be honest: if One Million Years B.C. had no stop-motion Ray Harryhausen dinosaurs, it would be remembered today for the famous Raquel Welch image and that’s it. People wouldn’t still be watching the film or buying new releases of it more than fifty years later. The film itself would be a side-note, something discussed in terms of Welch’s career and popular 1960s sex symbols, but not anything viewers today would sit down to enjoy in full. Harryhausen’s effects make One Million Years B.C. a perennial.

(30) CALVIN COOLIDGE. The original pinball games would have been familiar to Calvin. But nothing like this. From CBS Sunday Morning.

Anyone who’s ever played pinball knows it takes skill, and a little luck. Now the blast from the past is catching on with a new generation. Ben Tracy delivers his hands-on report.

 

(31) HERBERT HOOVER. Pluto was discovered during his Presidency. Surely that ought to count for something?

A BBC video investigates — How earth-like are “earth-like” exoplanets? “The Earth-like planets we have found may not be like Earth”.

There are more planets in our galaxy than there are stars, says science writer and astrophysicist Adam Becker. He explains what these “exoplanets” are like to BBC Earth’s Melissa Hogenboom and Michael Marshall, with help from the animators at Pomona Pictures.

Chip Hitchcock warns, “Dippy animation to an interview, but the speaker is clear and concise.”

(32) FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT. He inherited a country in bad economic shape, too.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has published a thought experiment — “Mapping ‘The Hunger Games’: Using location quotients to find the Districts of Panem,”. Even if the process doesn’t result in a map of literal, contiguous regions, the process is enlightening.

“…Panem, the country that rose up out of the ashes of a place that was once called North America.” –The Hunger Games (Scholastic Press)

In The Hunger Games, author Suzanne Collins never reveals the exact locations of the Districts of Panem. What if you could map them by using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)?

Fans of the popular The Hunger Games trilogy know that the stories are set in Panem, a futuristic area previously called North America, with a capital located somewhere in what was known as the Rockies. Panem is divided into districts, each of which has a primary industry. BLS employment data can help you solve the puzzle of where in North America those districts would be.

Keep reading to learn how to use BLS data to identify 12 districts of Panem. Because BLS data cover the United States, this article uses clues from U.S. locations rather than from North America as a whole.

District 1: Luxury goods

District 2: Rock quarrying

District 3: Electronic goods manufacturing

District 4: Fishing

District 5: Power generation

District 6: Transportation manufacturing

District 7: Lumber

District 8: Textiles

District 9: Grain

District 10: Livestock

District 11: Crops

District 12: Coal mining

(33) HARRY S.  TRUMAN. He dropped The Bomb.

“A Million People Live in Thee Underground Nuclear Bunkers” at National Geographic.

In the late ’60s and ‘70s, anticipating the devastation of a Cold War-nuclear fallout, Chairman Mao directed Chinese cities to construct apartments with bomb shelters capable of withstanding the blast of a nuclear bomb. In Beijing alone, roughly 10,000 bunkers were promptly constructed.

But when China opened its door to the broader world in the early ’80s, Beijing’s defense department seized the opportunity to lease the shelters to private landlords, eager to profit from converting the erstwhile fallout hideaways into tiny residential units.

(34) DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER. Eisenhower’s memoir was titled Waging Peace.

Cat Rambo talks about communication under the influence of one of the masters: “Another Word: Peacetalk, Hate Speech” for Clarkesworld.

Here’s something that makes me sad—at a time when there’s so much contention and arguing about fandom, one of the most helpful books is out of print and unavailable electronically. One of the smartest, savviest voices I know was stilled a few years back. Suzette Haden Elgin, who understood how language works, wrote multiple SF works, but also a series on communication that has changed a number of lives, including my own: The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense and the other verbal self-defense books that followed it.

But one of her last books, Peacetalk 101 was a simple little story, with twelve maxims about how to communicate with other people….

Elgin’s book is a slim little thing, a series of incidents in the daily existence of a man named George who’s given up on life. He meets a homeless man. (I am aware that the trope of the magic disadvantaged is problematic. I will simply acknowledge it in passing and otherwise cut Elgin a little slack.) Over the course of a number of days, George learns how to communicate effectively in a way that changes his life and restores his hope. The maxims are simple, and I’m actually going to provide them out of order, because one speaks to the heart of this essay. It’s this:

Choose your communication goals. What do you want out of your part in the great conversation? I want to offer people interested in better communication a set of tools that I’ve found handy and to make people think before typing every once in a while—not so they silence or self-censor, but so they know what their communication goals are and have a reasonable chance of achieving them. Do you want to give information? Persuade the reader? Change their behavior? Help them? That will affect what you say and how you say it.

This is why the tone argument is—at least to my mind—both right and wrong. The truth of an argument is unconnected to the tone in which it’s delivered, and yeah, there are people in the world who will perceive something as hostile no matter what that tone is, but another fact of the matter is that tone affects reception and that’s part of the equation that you have to consider. I will defend to the death the right of someone to sing their truth however they want, to express things and experiences that may otherwise not get sung, but if you want that song to be an act of communication, to be composed of more than one voice, you must consider the key in which the other voices are singing and perhaps bring yours down an octave….

(35) JOHN F. KENNEDY. Soon after this date in history, the author of Profiles in Courage began a friendship with the astronaut and his wife.

  • February 20, 1962 — Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. He made 3 trips around the earth in his Mercury-Atlas spacecraft, Friendship 7, in just under 5 hours.

(36) LYNDON JOHNSON. As Vice-President, he was closely identified with the space program.

The real stories behind the “hidden figures” of the movie, and of others at that time in the BBC Magazine.

In 1943, two years after the US joined World War Two, Miriam Daniel Mann was 36 years old. She had three children, aged six, seven and eight – but she also had a Chemistry degree.

Job opportunities for married women were limited then, especially for those with children, and even more so for African-American women.

But as men went off to war, there was a skill shortage in vital industries. The president signed an executive order allowing black people to be employed in the defence sector for the first time, and Nasa’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), started looking for black women to work on mathematical calculations.

Through her husband, a college professor, Mann heard about the recruiters visiting black college campuses. She registered to take an exam, passed it, and became one of the first black women to work as a “human computer” at the NACA aeronautics research facility at Langley in Virginia.

(37) RICHARD NIXON. This President ran afoul of Judge Sirica in the Watergate case.

The Australian Horror Writers Association has announced the judges for its Australian Shadows Awards.

The awards celebrate the finest in horror and dark fiction published by an Australian or New Zealander for the calendar year of 2016. Works are judged on the overall effect – the skill, delivery, and lasting resonance – of a story. Previous winners have included Greg McLean, Aaron Sterns, Lee Battersby, Terry Dowling, Paul Haines, Brett McBean, Kirstyn McDermott, Bob Franklin, Kaaron Warren, Will Elliott, Deborah Biancotti, and Amanda Spedding.

Entries are open across seven categories including short fiction, long fiction (novellas), novels, collected works and edited works, The Rocky Wood Award for Non-fiction and Criticism – named after former HWA president and AHWA member Rocky Wood – and graphic novels/comics (for works written by an Australian or New Zealand writer).

2016 Judges

This year’s awards will be adjudicated by a panel of judges comprising of:

The Paul Haines Award For Long Fiction: William Cook, Brett McBean, Lee Pletzers

Edited Works: Dmetri Kakmi, Piper Medjia, Craig Hughes

Collected Works: Lee Murray, Michael Pryor, Tracie McBride

Short Fiction: David Hoenig, William Cook, Lucy A. Snyder, Silvia Brown

Comics/Graphic Novels: Gareth Macready, Lee Pletzers, Steve Herczeg

The Rocky Wood Award for Non-Fiction and Criticism: Piper Mejia, Maree Kimberley, David Kernot

Novels: Chris Pulo, Lee Pletzers, Steven Casey, Robert N Stevenson

(38) GERALD FORD. Chip Hitchcock notes, “Apparently nobody in charge of programming thought about the effect of 24/7 Pokestops on the neighbors. ISTM that a curfew would have been easy to code….

“Pokemon Go away: Troublesome Sydney Pokestop shut down”

One of Australia’s best places to catch Pokemon has been deleted in the latest update to the augmented reality game.

Three Pokestops, the game’s real-world locations, attracted hundreds of players to a park in inner Sydney.

Nearby apartment residents endured traffic jams, piles of rubbish and noise until the early hours.

The creators of the game are working to remove some real-world locations that do not wish to be included in the mobile game.

(39) JIMMY CARTER. Has an American President ever written a work of fiction? You guessed it. Carter wrote The Hornet’s Nest (2004) set in the Revolutionary War.

Jasper Fforde is auctioning a Tuckerization in his upcoming novel on eBay.

Hello. Jasper Fforde here. I’m just putting the finishing touches to my latest novel, ‘Early Riser’, a thriller set in a world where humans have always hibernated, and the book centres around a Novice Winter Consul named John Worthing, who finds himself stranded in a lonely outpost known as Sector Twelve. The Winter is not a kind master, and before long he is embroiled in Nightwalkers, Villains, the mythical WinterVolk, sleepshy somniacs, other deputies each one more insane than the next, pharmaceutical companies and a viral dream. It’ll be out in either later 2017, or early 2018.

So why is this on eBay? Well, I have a character who could do with a name and likeness, and I thought I would offer the part up for sale in order to raise some money for two causes: Firstly, the friends of my kid’s primary school, which needs to make up the shortfall of the education authority’s current ‘leaning towards frugality’. Second, our local branch of the Sanctuary for Refugees, whose work can be found at http://hbtsr.org.uk/

So what do you get for your cash? The character is a personal assistant to Dr Hektor, the head of HiberTec, a pharmaceutical company that markets Morphenox, a key plot line in the book. You’re not a bad person, just doing their job – and very much a corporate person. You have one appearance.

(40) RONALD REAGAN. Would this President, the grandson of immigrants from County Tipperary, have enjoyed this variation on a theme? “McDonald’s Thinks it’s Time for a Sci-Fi Milkshake Straw!”

We all know McDonald’s classic St. Patrick’s Day beverage, in five flavors this year. Turns out, it has more in store for us then an expanded line of Shamrock Shakes! McDonald’s has hired aerospace and robotic engineers to redesign the regular straw to deliver the fifty-fifty ratio of flavors of its new Chocolate Shamrock Shake…

(41) GEORGE BUSH. Jerry Pournelle was among the sf writers predicting our “weapons’ of mass culture would democratize the Middle East. But of course, it could go the other way, too. “Jeddah: Scifi fans flock to first ever Comic Con expo” reports Al-Jazeera.

It is not every day that young Saudis wander down the street dressed as the Hulk or Doctor Doom.

But for three days over the weekend, some 20,000 Saudis decked out in costumes and face paint queued to get into the kingdom’s first-ever Comic Con, where robots, video games and giant anime figures filled a tent in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

The global comics expo was held under the auspices of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority, which has hosted a series of festivals, comedy shows and concerts this year.

Saudi Arabia is trying to boost its entertainment sector as part of an economic and social reform drive aimed at creating jobs and weaning the country off its dependence on oil….

The CNN report says the idea met with resistance.

Setting up the event took over a year, and a balance was struck to keep the spirit of the Comic Con while adhering to the country’s religious regulations.

Indecent symbols or logos that went against Islamic teachings were prohibited and attendees were not allowed to cross-dress.

Even then, there was uproar online against what was considered a Western phenomenon in the traditional Islamic kingdom.

A hashtag calling Comic Con a “devil worshipping” festival became popular on Twitter and some called for boycotting it.

(42) BILL CLINTON. “’A Wrinkle in Time’ Soars in Amazon Sales After Chelsea Clinton’s DNC Speech”.

When Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, took the stage at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Thursday night, she delivered a moving speech that painted her mother as big-hearted, patient and scholarly, driving home the fact that reading played a big role in the former first daughter’s upbringing.

“My earliest memory is my mom picking me up after I’d fallen down, giving me a big hug, and reading me Goodnight Moon,” Clinton said.

Later in her speech, she relayed another literary anecdote about talking to her mother incessantly for a week straight “about a book that had captured my imagination, A Wrinkle in Time.”

(43) GEORGE W. BUSH.

(44) BARACK OBAMA. Disney will adapt another of its animated hits — “James Earl Jones and Donald Glover to star in live-action ‘Lion King’ movie”.

The original classic about an animal kingdom in Africa starred Jones as Mufasa and Matthew Broderick as his son Simba. Jones will reprise his character in the re-make, while Glover will take over the Simba role.

(45) DONALD TRUMP. Can you imagine him buying a cheap pen? Never.

Choose your clan:  “Luxury company Montegrappa releases line of Game of Thrones-inspired pens”.

Montegrappa’s pens come in several varieties, including ones inspired by several of the Great Houses of Westeros: Stark, Baratheon, Lannister and Targaryen. The barrels and caps of each pen are made with colorful lacquered surfaces while the trim is made from palladium or yellow and rose 18k gold-plate. The cap ring has Game of Thrones engraved on it. The nibs of the fountain pens are stainless steel and are decorated with a sword. Each fountain pen is both cartridge and converter-fed and is available in several writing grades: Extra Fine, Fine, Medium and Broad.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Rambo, David K.M. Klaus, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Darren Garrison, Peer Sylvester, Camestros Felapton, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day (F7CEOTD for short) Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/26 The Strange High Pixels on the Blog

(1) TRADITIONAL THANKS. Joe Vasicek’s “Giving Thanks” at One Thousand and One Parsecs is one of the best posts I saw that combined an sf theme with a serious reflection on the holiday.

So in the spirit of that first Thanksgiving feast, here are the things that I am especially thankful for this year:

  • I am thankful for my near and extended family. Tolstoy was wrong when he said that all happy families are alike: every family has their own quirks, even the ones that hold together. I wouldn’t give up my family’s quirks for anything.
  • I am thankful to live in a free country, where my rights to life, liberty, and property are respected and honored. I am also thankful for the brave men and women of our armed forces who sacrifice so much to keep it free.
  • I am thankful for the opportunity to pursue a career as an author, and for the flexibility and control that indie publishing provides. I have no one but myself to blame for my failures, but my successes are all my own. Even after four years, it’s still exhilarating.
  • I am thankful for my readers, who have made and continue to make this publishing journey possible. I am thankful for all that they do that supports me, from buying and reading my books to sharing with friends, posting reviews, sending me fan mail, and connecting in a hundred other little ways that together make this whole thing worthwhile. Seriously, you guys are awesome. The only thing I could ask is to have more of you!

(2) AMAZING THANKS. Steve Davidson sends holiday wishes to all in a post at Amazing Stories.

Whether you occupy the North American continent or not, and whether you celebrate “Thanksgiving Day” or not, I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of myself and all of the supporters, contributors, members and passersby at Amazing Stories to wish you a few moments of happy reflection on this day.

I urge you to take a moment to think back over the year and remember the people and happenings you’re thankful for this year.

I’m thankful for my wife and her support, and of the support and well-wishes I receive from our extended family….

(3) CONTRARY THANKS. David Brin ends his post “Cool science stuff… and more reasons to be thankful” at Contrary Brin with minor key gratitude.

Okay!  That great big pile of cool items ought to keep you busy, clicking and skimming while groaning and loosening your belts on Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday)… or else however you folks elsewhere around the world celebrate Thursday.  (Ah… Thursday!)

Don’t let grouches undermine our confidence.  Star Trek awaits.  Do thrive and persevere.

(4) DAUGHTERS. Three writers who love their daughters for exactly who they are:

(5) PREMIERE CONTEST. Omaze.com’s new charity fundraiser offers a chance to “Win a Trip to the Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. Deadline to enter is December 4 at 11:59 PST. The winner will be announced December 5.

Charity:

Africa Cancer Foundation; Arts in the Armed Forces (AITAF); Barnardos UK; Central London Samaritans; Damilola Taylor Trust; fStop Warrior Project; Feeding America; Make-A-Wish; Malala Fund; PACER: Children’s Mental Health and Emotional or Behavioral Disorders Project; Phab; St. Francis Hospice, Raheny; The Circle; UNICEF; Union of Concerned Scientists (“Charity”)

Prize Provider:

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (“Prize Provider”)

Details:

This experience includes attending the red carpet premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (“Picture”) in either Los Angeles or London. The attendance by any specific cast member, filmmakers, or such other talent from the Picture during the Premiere is not guaranteed and shall be subject to such talent’s availability and Sponsor’s and/or Prize Providers’ sole discretion. Neither Sponsor nor Prize Providers guarantee any type of meeting or photo opportunity with any specific cast member or talent from the Picture during the trip.

(6) CAPALDI IN AUCKLAND. “’Dr Who’ arrives to soothe pain” in the New Zealand Herald.

SPOILER WARNING. MAYBE.

Peter Capaldi

Peter Capaldi

Though Peter Capaldi, who plays the 12th incarnation of the sci-fi character hinted that, as it has been for more than 50 years, things in the show aren’t always clear-cut.

“My message for them would be life is tough,” Capaldi joked to The Herald about fans upset by Clara’s passing, sounding not unlike his second most-famous character, harsh spin-doctor Malcolm Tucker from political comedy The Thick of It.

“But Doctor Who is never quite what it seems. We haven’t told a lie. The story is the story but the Doctor is not going to rest. He is not going to accept that that is the last time he will be see Clara.”

(7) DAVID TENNANT. Io9 points to“David Tennant Celebrates 100 Years of General Relativity in This Clever Animation”, a YouTube video.

(8) Today In History

  • November 26, 1922 — In Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, British archaeologists Howard Carter and George Carnarvon became the first humans to enter King Tutankhamen’s treasure-laden tomb in more than 3,000 years.

(9) Today’s Birthday Boy

  • Born November 26, 1919Frederik Pohl. Pohl himself had started out in sf as a teenaged fan – not without controversy, for he was one of the six Futurians who were thrown out of the First Worldcon in 1939. The scales of justice would balance later when he was named guest of honor at the 1972 Worldcon, L.A.Con I.

(10) Leah Schnelbach’s “Frederik Pohl Made Doing Literally Everything Look Easy” at Tor.com is an entertaining overview of one of the field’s great figure. One paragraph may need a small fix.

Agent. Frederik Pohl attempted a career as a specialist science fiction literary agent, at a time when that wasn’t really a thing that existed. By the early 1950s he had a large number of clients, but he finally decided to close the agency to focus on editorial work. He was the only editor Isaac Asimov ever had.

Perhaps she meant “only agent”? Asimov’s work went under the hand of lots of other editors, according to the Internet Science Fiction Database.

(11) WRITER DISCIPLINE. Marc Aplin tells “How Writing Is A Lot Like Fighting – Part 1: Introduction” at Fantasy Faction.

The key to both statements is that the speaker’s practice/training has given them a degree of confidence that allows them to enter into a familiar situation (whether opening a word document or stepping into a ring/cage) and allowing their instincts to take over. It is important that you understand here that this isn’t simply ‘willingness’ to do their chosen activity (although that will be the first step), this is instead such a strong grasp of fundamentals that the person can switch their conscious mind off (i.e. ‘enter the zone’).

(12) CELTIC EXHIBIT. “British Museum Explores Celtic Identity” by Sean McLachlan at Black Gate.

For many of us, the Celts are an enduring fascination. Their art, their mysterious culture, and the perception that so many of us are descended from them makes the Celts one of the most popular ancient societies. So it’s surprising that the British Museum hasn’t had a major Celtic exhibition for forty years.

That’s changed with Celts: Art and Identity, a huge collection of artifacts from across the Celtic world and many works of art from the modern Celtic Revival. The exhibition is at pains to make clear that the name ‘Celts’ doesn’t refer to a single people who can be traced through time, and it has been appropriated over the last 300 years to reflect modern identities in Britain, Ireland, and elsewhere. “Celtic” is an artistic and cultural term, not a racial one.

The first thing visitors see is a quote by some guy named J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote in 1963, “To many, perhaps most people. . .’Celtic’ of any sort is. . .a magic bag into which anything may be put, and out of which almost anything may come. . .anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight.”

(13) HUMBLE BUNDLE. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America announced that the newest  Book Bundle will be supporting SFWA’s Givers Fund.

Pay what you want for Obsession: Tales of Irresistible Desire, One-Eyed Jack (Elizabeth Bear), Digital Domains: A Decade of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and Word Puppets (Mary Robinette Kowal).

Pay more than the average price to also receive Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep, The Year’s Best Science & Fantasy Novellas: 2015, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2015, New Cthulhu 2: More Recent Weird, and Witches: Wicked, Wild & Wonderful.

Pay $15 or more for all of that plus Ad Astra: The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook, The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2015, and Warrior Women.

Choose the price. Together, these books ordinarily go for up to $86. Here at Humble Bundle, though, you name the price! …

Support charity. Choose where the money goes — between the developers and three charitable causes (Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Worldbuilders, or the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America–Giver’s Fund).

The bundle will be available til December 9.

(14) LETSON REVIEW. At Locus Online, Russell Letson begins his review of Greg Bear’s Killing Titan with an admission:

I should probably cop to this: I’m fascinated by military history, but I’ve never been much taken by what I think of as genre military SF, by which I mean adventure stories set in the military establishment and emphasizing weaponry, com­radeship, chains of command, career progress, and (of course) combat. As much as I enjoyed and understood Starship Troopers and The Forever War, I have found the run of routine combat or military-life series, well, routine and no match for the best of their historical-setting cousins (C.S. Forester, Bernard Cornwell, Pat­rick O’Brian, George MacDonald Fraser).

Nevertheless, it’s a positive review of Bear’s novel.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg.]

Greg Bear Has Heart Surgery

Greg Bear underwent emergency open heart surgery on September 23.

A public announcement was made by organizers of the San Diego Comic Fest. Bear was to have been its Science-Fiction Guest of Honor in October:

Greg is one of the finest people in science fiction and a great author and we look forward to seeing him as a guest at a future Fest.

He reportedly is doing well post-surgery.

Update 09/26/2014: Bear’s wife, Astrid, posted on Facebook that he was diagnosed with an aortic artery dissection. The aorta was surgically repaired and a mechanical aortic valve installed. By the next morning he was off the breathing tube and capable of sitting up in a chair for half an hour. 

SF Exhibit at SDSU

strange2_0Greg Bear’s lecture today, March 22 at 2:00, kicks off San Diego State University’s exhibit of science fiction items from its collection, Strange Data, Infinite Possibilities.

An SDSU alumnus, Bear sold his first short story to Famous Science Fiction at age 15 and, along with high-school friends, helped found San Diego Comic-Con. At SDSU, he was a teaching assistant for Prof. Elizabeth Chater’s science fiction course and went on to be a quite successful writer of hard science fiction, fantasy and horror. Bear is the recipient of two Hugo Awards and five Nebula Awards and has had more than 60 works published. His newest book, Halo: Silentium (Tor Books, 2013) will be available for signing.

Other lectures in this series will be given by Larry McCafferey (April 18) and Vernor Vinge (May 16).

The library built its SF collection with contributions from SDSU English professor Elizabeth Chater, who in 1977 began donating her science fiction books to Special Collections in Love Library; William D. Phillips, Jr.; Larry McCaffery; and Edward E. Marsh

Strange Data, Infinite Possibilities will remain in the library’s Donor Hallway through late August 2013. 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Tarpinian: AltCar Expo Report

Bill Goodwin, Greg Bear, and Howard V. Hendrix. (The image behind them is a 3D photo of a 50 mile section of Gale crater)

By John King Tarpinian: The AltCar Expo was held at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on September 29. If you are in the market for a 100% electric BMW or a Dodge 2500 CNG pick-up this was the place to be. My little Volvo only has 26,000 miles on it so I’ll have to wait for next year when they show off the hovercrafts.

My attendance and the only reason to run the gauntlet known as Carmageddon was to hear the talk, “Mars and the Heart of Humanity: Ray Bradbury’s Million-Year Picnic.” Bill Goodwin, Greg Bear and Howard V. Hendrix each took turns talking about Mars in fiction and how it relates to reality, giving credit to Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs. It is hard to talk about Mars, in science, without mentioning these four gentlemen and their contributions to literature.

Charles Baker brought with him a $30,000 1/10th scale model of Curiosity along with a 20” diameter wheel from the sister rover that is used to test possible maneuvers here on earth before they try them on the Red Planet.

If you have seen photos of the rover you may have noticed holes in the wheels’ treads. The reason for the holes is so that sand/pebbles will “fall out” and not weigh down the rover. The original design had the openings be the letters JPL but politics got in the way. So they redesigned it with the holes. What the geeks at JPL did not mention was that the three rows on each wheel spell out JPL in Morse Code. The geeks won!!! (You can see the holes in the photo with the rover model sitting on top of the wheel.)

1/10th scale model of Curiosity Rover being held by Charles Baker.

An extra wheel for Curiosity.

Altcarmageddon

AltCar Expo 2012, an exposition of the future of renewable energy and alternative transportation, takes place Friday and Saturday, September 28-29 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The event is free.

Leading sf writers and scientists will be there Saturday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. for “Mars and the Heart of Humanity: Ray Bradbury’s Million-Year Picnic,” a panel devoted to remembering Ray and discussing his favorite planet, Mars, “as it’s been imagined in the past, as it’s being discovered today and as it might eventually become.”

Appearing are Greg Bear, Hugo and Nebula award-winning author of over 40 books, including Hull Zero Three, Howard V. Hendrix, sf novelist, scholar and editor of Visions of Mars and The Mars Encyclopedia, and Charles Baker, Cruise, Entry, Decent and Landing Lead Mission Planner for JPL’s Curiosity Rover. Bradbury friend Bill Goodwin will moderate.

Of course, good luck getting there on Saturday if you’re not coming from a location west of the 405 freeway. Carmageddon II begins midnight Saturday, and for the next 48 hours they’re shutting down 10 miles of freeway on that side of LA to facilitate removal of a bridge in the Mulholland Pass.

People won’t need alternate cars that day, they’ll need alternate transporter booths.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Bear on Mars

Greg Bear’s bold ideas about the red planet in “Why I Love Mars” for CNN include a daring theory that we’re really Martians —

Earth was still cooling down from its natal heat, still barraged by asteroids, and life, if it developed at all here, was probably getting the crap kicked out of it on a regular basis. Starting over again and again from scratch, or not starting at all.

Until — and this is just speculation, but it may have a foundation in fact — until something big hit Mars and sprayed the seeds of Martian life across the gulf of space to land on Earth. Backwash. Martian spitballs.

We’ve analyzed small meteorites knocked loose from Mars. They fell onto Antarctica, and some scientists have taken the very controversial view that there is evidence of life in them. Not proven, not certain, but …

My vacation on Mars could really be a homecoming. We may all be Martians. Wouldn’t that be utterly cool to know?

You and Marvin the Martian – twins separated at the birth of the solar system.

[Thanks to Steven H Silver for the link.]

Clarke Center Created at UCSD

The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination is being created at UC San Diego (UCSD) by the University of California, San Diego and the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation.

The Clarke Center will develop, catalyze and be a global resource for innovative research and education “drawing upon the under-utilized resources of human imagination.” It will span a wide range of disciplines and fields such as technology, education, engineering, health, science, industry, environment, entertainment and the arts. 

The center will work with academia and industry and also draw upon the creative worlds of media and the arts. Contemporary science fiction authors such as UC San Diego alumni David Brin, Kim Stanley Robinson, Vernor Vinge, Greg Benford and Greg Bear are involved.

Sheldon Brown, named the center’s director, is a professor in the Department of Visual Arts at UCSD and the former director of the Center for Research in Computing and the Arts at UCSD’s California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technologies. 

Brown said:

As we harness more and more technology, we must also nurture our human resources – including our unique gifts of imagination to create, innovate and sustain constructive advances. By making human imagination itself the subject of study, we can develop ways to make more effective use of it.  We believe the center can become a unique global resource near term and long term.

The Clarke Foundation chose UCSD from among several universities that responded to its request for proposals to create the new center.

[Thanks to Gregory Benford for the story.]

Amazon Starts SF Line

Amazon, rapidly becoming a major publisher of paper-and-ink books, now has moved into the sf, fantasy and horror genres with its seventh new imprint, 47North.  

Among its first 15 titles will be a paper edition of The Mongoliad, currently being produced online a chapter at a time as a serial novel designed to be read with a browser, smart phone, or tablet. The writers are Erik Bear, Greg Bear, Joseph Brassey, E. D. deBirmingham, Cooper Moo, Neal Stephenson and Mark Teppo. The book version will be released April 24, 2012.

In The Mongoliad: Book One, it is the spring of 1241. The Mongol takeover of Europe is almost complete. The hordes commanded by the sons of Genghis Khan have swept out of their immense grassy plains and ravaged Russia, Poland, and Hungary… and now seem poised to sweep west to Paris and south to Rome. King and Pope and peasant alike face a bleak future–until a small band of warriors, inheritors of a millennium-old secret tradition, conceive of a desperate plan to kill the Khan of Khans.

Their leader, an elder of the order of warrior monks, will lead his elite group on a perilous journey into the East. They will be guided by an elusive and sharp-witted young woman, who believes the master’s plan is insane. But this small band is the West’s last, best hope to turn back the floodtide of the Mongol Empire.

As you probably already guessed, 47North is the latitude of Seattle, Washington where Amazon was founded.

[Via Michael J. Walsh, John Mansfield and Andrew Porter]

SF Writers Visit with Homeland Security

A couple of years ago Arlan Andrews, Greg Bear, Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven and Sage Walker got their pictures in USA Today when they represented Sigma at a Homeland Security conference. Sigma is a kind of think tank where science fiction writers share insights about the future with agencies laying real-world plans. 

This week Sigma sent sf writers Arlan Andrews, Catherine Asaro, and Greg Bear to another DHS conference and they made the papers again. The Washington Post reported:

Harry McDavid, chief information officer for Homeland Security’s Office of Operations Coordination & Planning, had a question for Catherine Asaro, author of two dozen novels, about half of them devoted to her Saga of the Skolian Empire. She also has a PhD in physics. McDavid’s job involves “information sharing” — efficiently communicating information about response and recovery across agencies, states, business sectors. How, he wanted to know, did Asaro come up with the Triad system in her novels of flashing thoughts instantly across the universe?

“It evolved along with the story,” Asaro said. Basically, she applied principles of quantum theory — one of her specialties as a physicist — to a fictional theory of “thought space.”

McDavid has no plan to add telepathy to Homeland Security’s communications strategy. That wasn’t the point of his question — or of the agency’s invitation to science fiction writers in the first place. He’s looking for ways to break old habits of thought.

“We’re stuck in a paradigm of databases,” McDavid said later. “How do we jump out of our infrastructure and start conceptualizing those threats? That’s very cool.”

Sigma’s website shows around 40 authors are in the group. The website looks homemade, and its content is rather uneven. However, what they do is illustrated by Michael Swanwick’s gem of an editorial, “Fresh Flowers and Small Robots: The Open-Security Airport of 2010”. Swanwick sketches a compelling near-future vision where TSA does its business quite differently, and “Most amazingly, nobody takes their shoes off.”

Sigma’s news page, regrettably, occupies the other end of the quality spectrum. A group striving to impress prospective clients with its professionalism should not be repeating headlines that read:

DARPA, who teamed up with Dan Quale to invent the Internet…

If somebody wants to give props to Dan Quayle, spell his name right. But stop portraying Quayle as someone trying to poach credit that another Vice-President once claimed for creating the internet. Everyone just ends up looking foolish.

[Thanks to Francis Hamit and Andrew Porter for the link.]