Pixel Scroll 3/14/18 Scroll Longa, Pixel Brevis

(1) HERSTORY. James Davis Nicoll, in “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part III”, continues his series for Tor.com.

…Clarion graduate P. C. Hodgell has been active since the late 1970s. She is the author of the long-running Chronicles of the Kencyrath (nine volumes since 1982). Readers of a certain vintage may have vivid memories of the twelve-year desert between the third book in the series, Seeker’s Mask, and the fourth, To Ride a Rathorn. Currently she has the active support of a publisher whose name escapes me. Since the series is continuity-heavy, you will want to start with the first volume, 1982’s God Stalk, in which an amnesiac woman of a race of staunch monotheists finds herself in a city of a thousand gods—none of whom seem to be particularly helpful gods…

(2) CROWDFUNDING AMAZING: AN UPDATE. The Amazing Stories Kickstarter has accumulated $7,811 of its $30,000 goal, with 23 days remaining. Steve Davidson has begun revealing the authors who will be in the first print issue:

We are pleased to announce the following writers have contributed stories; Kameron Hurley, Paul Levinson, Dave Creek, Shirley Meier, Drew Hayden Taylor, and Allen Steele.

While we’re excited about all our authors, let us tell you a little bit about Kameron Hurley and her story…

(3) ANALOG BLOG. From a Featured Futures’ links post I learned about The Astounding/Analog Companion, “the Official Analog Science Fiction and Fact blog.” Last month they published Gregory Benford’s background notes about a piece he wrote for the magazine: “Thinking About Physics a Century Hence”.

I’ve published over 200 short stories and over 200 scientific papers, reflecting a symmetry of sorts.

My career as a professor of physics at UC Irvine has taken most of my working life, with writing as a hobby that has surprised me by success. So I see SF through a scientific lens, focused on plausible futures. But sometimes I just wing it, and speculating on physics a century hence is a grand leap, indeed.

The mock future news report in the current Analog issue [“Physics Tomorrow: A News Item of the Year 2116,” March/April 2018 Analog, on sale now] came from a contest the journal Physics Today ran in 2016: to devise an entry for that journal in a century. I took the challenge, and produced this “story” because the physics intrigued me.

Physics Today did not select my essay, from 230 others. They published much more pedestrian stuff. Since then, I’ve worked with an old friend and general relativity physicist Al Jackson, to calculate in detail how to in fact make a “gravwave transmitter.”

Then I thought, why not try Analog? As a physicist and SF writer, both avenues are natural. Indeed, maybe writing future news items is a new way to think of SF….

(4) ASIMOV’S TOO. There’s also an Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine Author & Editor Blog called From the Earth to the Stars. They recently conducted a “Q&A with Mary Robinette Kowal” about her Asimov’s story “Artisanal Trucking, LLC.”

Asimov’s Editors: What is the story behind this piece?

Mary Robinette Kowal: I was at a conference in a round table discussion talking about automation and privilege. At some point, we were talking about how knitting, which used to be a necessary thing, became automated with knitting machines and now it is a luxury art. It’s expensive to buy wool. It takes time and leisure to make a garment. I said, “I imagine the hipsters of the future will totally do artisanal trucking.” I had more of a point but stopped talking as Story stampeded through my brain.

(5) USING SOCIAL MEDIA. Dawn Witzke begins a series of posts with  “On Professionalism: Part 1” at Superversive SF. No writer can go wrong following this piece of advice:

Social Media

Writers must be on social media, which means that everything, personal and professional is up for examination. How you present yourself online can affect what impression other authors, editors and publishers make of you.

Stick to arguing ideas, not making personal attacks. Most likely this will not be reciprocated. That’s okay. Let them look like the jerk.

Trolling is a whole other ball game. While it’s not seen as professional, some writers use it as a marketing tool (Milo Yiannopolus), which is all well and good if you publish in hotly debated subjects like politics. But in general, it creates as many enemies online as friends. Use with caution.

(6) HAWKING ON THE AIR. Watch Mojo has assembled the “Top 10 Unforgettable Stephen Hawking Cameos in Pop Culture.”

Renowned scientist Stephen Hawking passed away March 14, 2018. But before Stephen Hawking died, he not only made some incredible scientific breakthroughs; there are also many hilarious Stephen Hawking cameos to remember him by. Whether he was supporting Monty Python, speaking to John Oliver or playing poker on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Stephen Hawking was a fabulous ambassador for science.

  • #10: “Monty Python Live (Mostly)” (2014)
  • #9: “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” (1993-2009)
  • #8: Pink Floyd’s “Keep Talking” (1994) & “Talkin’ Hawkin’” (2014)
  • #7: “Stephen Hawking’s New Voice” (2017)
  • #6: “Anyone Can Quantum” (2016)
  • #5: “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” (2014-)
  • #4: “Futurama” (1999-2013)
  • #3, #2 & #1???


The downside of my celebrity is that I can’t go anywhere in the world without being recognized. It is not enough for me to wear dark sunglasses and a wig. The wheelchair gives me away.

As the world mourns Prof Stephen Hawking, who has died aged 76, there has been a particular outpouring of emotion in China, where the visionary physicist was revered by scientists, students, the state and even boy band stars.

In 1982, I had responsibility for his third academic book for the Press, Superspace And Supergravity.

This was a messy collection of papers from a technical workshop on how to devise a new theory of gravity.

While that book was in production, I suggested he try something easier: a popular book about the nature of the Universe, suitable for the general market.

Stephen mulled over my suggestion.

(8) FLEISHER OBIT. Michael Fleisher (1942-2018): US comics writer and novelist; died February 2, aged 75. Titles he worked on include The Spectre, Jonah Hex, Shade the Changing Man (created and drawn by Steve Ditko). Famously sued The Comics Journal, publisher Gary Groth and Harlan Ellison over a 1979 interview in which the latter described Fleisher (tongue in cheek, Ellison later claimed) as a “certifiable (..) bugfuck (..) lunatic”; the court found for the defendants. [By Steve Green.]


  • March 14, 1994 Robocop: The Series premiered on television.


  • Born March 14, 1879 – Albert Einstein


  • John King Tarpinian isn’t the only one who remembered this is Pi Day – The Argyle Sweater.
  • Off the Mark also has a subtle play on the day.
  • As a commenter says after reading today’s Lio, “Before buying a book, always check to see if the title is a typo or not.”

(12) THANKS AND PRANKS. CBR.com answers its own question about the Harlan Ellison references in Hulk comics of the Seventies: “Comic Legends: Did A Hulk Classic Pay Hidden Tribute to a Sci-Fi Great?”

Anyhow, amusingly enough, Thomas was so pumped about having Ellison work on these issues that he actually decided to go a step further and, since the issue came out on April 1st, he would do an April Fool’s prank of sorts by working the name of over 20 Ellison stories into the story!

I won’t list all of them here, but I’ll do a few (the great poster, ruckus24, has all of them here).

Most notably is the title of the story, which is an adaptation of one of Ellison’s most famous story collections…

(13) MAD, YOU SAY. At Galactic Journey, Rosemary Benton reviews the newly released (55 years ago) Vincent Price film Diary of a Madman: “[March 14, 1963] Rising Stars and Unseen Enemies (Reginald Le Borg’s Diary of a Madman)”.

It feels as though, no sooner had the curtain fell and the lights came up on February’s horror/fantasy gem, The Raven, that the film reel snapped to life with another genre-crossing macabre film. While last month’s movie was a light, dry and sardonic comedy with a vaguely medieval setting and a cast of horror movie icons, Diary of a Madman, steps forward with a much more sobering aesthetic.

(14) SEMIPRO AND FAN CATEGORIES. Abigail Nussbaum continues a discussion of her Hugo nominating ballot in “The 2018 Hugo Awards: My Hugo Ballot, Publishing and Fan Categories”. Here’s Nussbaum’s picks to succeed her in a category she won last year.

Best Fan Writer:

(A brief reminder here that I have announced that I would decline a nomination in this category if I received enough votes to qualify this year.)

  • Nina Allan – Nina had a great 2017, with her second novel The Rift gaining wide acclaim and attention.  She also continued to do good work as a critic and reviewer, on her personal blog, at Strange Horizons, and in the Shadow Clarke project.
  • Vajra Chandrasekera – We didn’t see as much of Vajra’s nonfiction writing in 2017 as I would have liked–his focus these days seems to be on his own fiction and on being a fiction editor at Strange Horizons.  But his writing at the Shadow Clarke site was some of the most insightful writing that project offered up, in particular this review of Aliya Whitely’s The Arrival of Missives.
  • Erin Horáková – After nominating Erin’s magnum opus for Best Related Work, you’re probably not surprised to find me nominating her in this category.  As well as that magnificent essay, Erin did other writing for Strange Horizons in 2017, covering movies, plays, and board games.
  • Samira Nadkarni – A lot of Samira’s best work is happening on twitter, where in 2017 she made some incisive comments about works like Star Trek: Discovery or Thor: Ragnarok (she had some equally interesting things to say last month about Black Panther).  In longer writing, some standouts include her review of Deserts of Fire, an anthology about “modern war” whose project Samira argues with vociferously, and of the Netflix show Crazyhead, in which she discusses the genre trope of conflating mental health problems and superpowers.

(15) NEWS TO ME. Those who wish to enhance their terminological education can start the thread here –

Just remember – once you know, there’s no going back!

(16) INFOGALATIC. Did you forget about Vox Day’s intended Wikipedia replacement, Infogalactic? Camestros Felapton hasn’t. He gives a status report in “Revisiting Voxopedia”.

Actor Robert Guillaume is alive and well on Voxopedia despite dying in October 2017 in Wikipedia: https://infogalactic.com/info/Robert_Guillaume as is (for all you Swap Shop fans out there) Keith Chegwin https://infogalactic.com/info/Keith_Chegwin who on Wikipedia died in Decemeber 2017. More famous people are more likely to have their deaths recorded but it is hit and miss.

The majority of pages remain as out-of-date Wikipedia pages from 2016 and the basic issue with Voxopedia remains the same: not enough editors and the editors it does have are mainly working on fringe projects. These are supplemented by one-off vanity pages (e.g. https://infogalactic.com/info/Richard_Paolinelli )

In comments, Camestros says Paolinelli wrote most of his own entry for Infogalactic. I’m fine with that. Never depend on others to make you famous, as Elst Weinstein and I concluded 40 years ago. (You probably wondered why there’s a copy of Weinstein & Glyer’s Discount Hoaxarama in every hotel room.)

(17) UP IN THE AIR. From the BBC: “Archaeopteryx flew like a pheasant, say scientists”. A synchrotron scan shows that the bones were hollow enough to allow short bursts of flight.

The famous winged dinosaur Archaeopteryx was capable of flying, according to a new study.

An international research team used powerful X-ray beams to peer inside its bones, showing they were almost hollow, as in modern birds.

The creature flew like a pheasant, using short bursts of active flight, say scientists.

Archaeopteryx has been a source of fascination since the first fossils were found in the 1860s.

(18) OFF THE SHELF. Our hero: “‘Boaty McBoatface’ sub survives ice mission”. The popular-choice name was passed on to autonomous submersible operating from the officially-named RSS David Attenborough. Boaty is just back from 48 hours exploring under an ice shelf.

The nation’s favourite yellow submarine swam under a near-600m thick ice shelf in the Antarctic, returning safely to its launch ship after 48 hours away.

It was an important test for the novel autonomous vehicle, which was developed at the UK’s National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

Boaty’s handlers now plan even more arduous expeditions for the sub in the years ahead.

This includes a traverse under the sea-ice that caps the Arctic Ocean.

(19) FANTASTIC DESTINATION. David Doering declares, “This Miyazki-inspired ad for Oregon travel is stupeyfyingly gorgeous!” — “Only Slightly Exaggerated | Travel Oregon”.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Steve Green, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, David Doering, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

A Cambridge Evening

[Introduction: Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s best-known scientific figures, passed away on March 14. Gregory Benford knew him, and wrote two memoirs of their meetings which he has given permission to post here on File 770. “A Cambridge Evening” is the second, written in 2012.]

By Gregory Benford: The invitation was on heavy bond in a delicious oyster color. I opened the Trinity College envelope noting it bore no stamp, apparently placed in my Institute of Astronomy mailbox by hand. Flowing script invited my wife Joan and me to evening meal with Professor Martin Rees.

Very good; the full High Table college show, then. In 1976 I was on sabbatical as a visiting fellow in Cambridge, England. I went there to study pulsars where they’d been discovered, but quickly became more interested in the luminous jet just seen in radio frequency maps of M87, the nearest active galaxy.

Martin Rees was then the Plumian Professor of physics and the director of the Institute of Astronomy, appointed just after the departure of Fred Hoyle.  He had agreed to host my sabbatical, a stay that began my astrophysics career; I’ve spent the decades hence mostly on pulsars and galactic jets. In Cambridge I learned much more than I anticipated.

Precisely on time Joan and I walked through the Great Gate, the main entrance to the college, leading to the yawning Great Court. In the centre of the court stood an ornate fountain, traditionally fed by a pipe from Conduit Head in west Cambridge, not the unreliable Cam River nearby. A solemn porter in a black bowler hat welcomed us, remarking gruffly on the chilly air, and nodding at the invitation as I presented it. “Ah, the Rees room.”

Trinity College undergraduates passed in gowns of dark blue. A statue of the college founder, Henry VIII, greeted us from a shadowy niche above the doorway. Martin Rees stood beside it, a slight man with a hawk nose and incisive gaze, bowing to Joan with a broad smile. I imagined we’d eat at the high table, as I had before for lunch, but instead Martin took us into a private dining room. I walked in with Joan and saw at the table two men and their wives: Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac and Stephen Hawking. Martin had said nothing to alert us.

Newton, Nehru and Maxwell were alumni of Trinity, and Dirac stood in such company; soon, so would Hawking and Rees.

The dining room was small, with room for six at the table. Soft lighting cast glows on the dark wood walls amid the scene of 700 years of academic elitism. The leadened plates stamped with the famed Trinity monogram framed a small salad. The flatware was heavy, dark silver and tall stemmed glasses ranked to the side. The servers wore formal tuxedo styled clothes and professionally disinterested faces. The headwaiter handled all dishes with white gloves and led the two solemn under-waiters.

I said very little through the salad, letting Joan carry our side. She entertained them with stories to adapting to English home appliances and their hieroglyphic instructions, her tinkling laughter softening the atmosphere. I reflected. Dirac had won a Nobel in 1933 for the first relativistic theory of particles, the Dirac equation. “The great papers of the other quantum pioneers were more ragged, less perfectly formed than Dirac’s,” my friend Freeman Dyson had said to me when I was in graduate school. Freeman had taken Dirac’s Cambridge quantum mechanics course as a precocious 19-year-old. Of Dirac’s discoveries, Freeman said, “His papers were like exquisitely carved marble statues falling out of the sky, one after another. He seemed to be able to conjure laws of nature from pure thought.”

This is an evening to keep your mouth shut, I thought, sitting at the centuries-old table and sipping a light Chardonnay (French, of course) served with the salad. Next, a tasty soup arrived, attended in strict silence by the stiff waiters. I noted that the French red wine was older than I was, a 1938 from the Fellows’ Cellar. A Haute Medoc, it was deep and rich with a surprising plum aftertaste.

Famously, Dirac’s wife Manci spoke little, and he even less. His colleagues in Cambridge jokingly defined a conversational unit of a dirac — one word per hour. Dirac was a slight man and autistic, widely known as hard to draw out. He said this concentration proved crucial to his success as a theoretical physicist, for he could remain focused on a problem for a long time. He also could order information about mathematics and physics in a systematic way, employing his visual imagination and determination. (Decades later, I saw medical practice focus on this supposed disorder, “fixing” it with drugs and therapy. How many geniuses have we lost this way?)

I asked him how he concentrated solely on his research. “Don’t talk,” he said with admirable brevity and a smile. He also said he only stopped work on Sunday, when he took long strolls alone. He had struggled to find the Dirac equation for months, getting nowhere, then took his usual Sunday walk—and the entire solution came to him when he was crossing a small bridge. He hurried to a nearby pub, asked for lunch and wrote the equation on the back of the menu so he would not forget. He seldom looked directly at anyone, but this time he stared me in the eye. “There it was, out of nowhere.”

“Do you still have the menu?” I asked, eyes wide. When I said it would be a charming historical momento, he dismissively waved his hand. He had used it to start a fire in his chilly college rooms.

The Navy bean soup done, talk moved on. Some mention of English politics arose, at a time when Maggie Thatcher was moving to the fore, Martin squelched with, “I’m entirely infra-red,” which meant something like Trotsky. He had no wife then. Hawking’s wife rolled her eyes at this statement, saying nothing.

As the waiters smoothly placed plates of veal ala brochard before us, Hawking changed the tone of the conversation with his halting words. He wanted to talk about science fiction. Martin had told him I wrote it now and then. I’d had the impression that at Cambridge science fiction was something serious scientists never would do, and seldom discuss — especially at a table where Newton changed the world over bowls of steaming lentil soup–and said so. Hawking gave a slanted grin. “Fred Hoyle has left us, but he is not forgotten.”

Hawking talked in slurred tones about what we now call his “chronology protection conjecture”. Why does nature apparently abhor a time machine? He said, as he puts it today, “It seems that there is a Chronology Protection Agency which prevents the appearance of closed timelike curves and so makes the universe safe for historians.”

Martin pointed out that there was strong experimental evidence in favor of the conjecture — from the fact that we have not been invaded by hordes of tourists from the future. All this discussion Hawking eventually included in a book in the 2000s, along with his fears that our TV broadcasts, would bring ravening aliens to our door. He thought about such speculations in the 1970s, but apparently kept them largely to himself during his climb to fame.

Dirac spoke about the walks he took around Cambridge, relating favorite routes in great detail, but otherwise had no small talk. Slowly Hawking turned the conversation around to what books we read, asking each of us. He then announced that since he was thirteen he had never bothered with the assignments in Literature classes, preferring science fiction. Dirac remarked, “In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before.  But in poetry, and I suppose in fiction, it’s the exact opposite.”

To my surprise Rees assented. “But science fiction leads to science,” he said. Dirac was silent and looked puzzled.

Stephen spent a long while relating memories of sf short stories he’d read. Like many fans, Hawking could recall ideas but not authors or titles. He was a big Robert Sheckley fan, I deduced, from what his remembered plots. Rees said he thought science fiction was like a literary dialect. It had its own vernacular and insider terms, its unusual pronunciation patterns and rhythms. A native sf “speaker” uses the argot of an audience, one that knows what Delany later called the sf reader protocols – signals of broader meaning. A good example is, “The door dilated,” implying a changed world. Nods all round, though Dirac said he had read little sf beyond Wells and Brave New World. “Perhaps I should.”

We all agreed that aliens in fiction serve as a distorting mirror to show what humankind is not. Hawking spoke with jerky gestures, fighting the erosions from his Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, which I knew as Lou Gehrig’s disease. His speech was slurred, brief and almost unintelligible, his conciseness a skill that later worked well in A Brief History of Time. Hawking’s fame was rising on his striking research ideas–that empty space wasn’t empty after all, and black holes aren’t black.

His wife, with her tight, focused look, scoffed at ideas like aliens, likening them to imaginary beings. Stephen retorted tartly that so were angels. A sudden silence around the table. I sipped the wine, which was excellent and still blossoming with rich new tones. This incident prefigured the issue of her Baptist faith versus his firm atheism, which eventually split them up.

I recalled this evening lately, looking over notes I made that very evening. My wife Joan died of cancer in 2002. In 2005 Rees was elevated to a life peerage, sitting as a crossbencher in the House of Lords as Baron Rees of Ludlow, a seat in the County of Shropshire. By then Astronomer Royal, he told the British Interplanetary Society, ‘”It is better to read first-rate science fiction than second-rate science; it’s no more likely to be wrong and is far more stimulating than second-rate science. And I think it’s good to read the great classics of science fiction.”

Martin Rees and Gregory Benford in 2013.

After a five course meal we had the finishing treat: an English, less sweet, version of crème brûlée, known as “Trinity burnt cream.”

Now Martin is master of Trinity College and the best known astronomer in the world. Recently, in Our Final Hour, he predicted that one of the two following outcomes is inevitable for humanity:

*Extinction from runaway effects of new technology (nanotechnology, robotics) or else from uncontrolled scientific research; terrorist or fundamentalist violence; or destruction of the biosphere; or else

* Our expansion into space, survival through colonization. He now advocates free markets and believes that the wealthy will push back the frontiers of space.

Not infra-red any longer.

I never saw Dirac again, but have kept up with Hawking and Rees through the decades, visiting Cambridge often. They both use science fiction in their popular writing, whereas in the 1970s that was not the sort of thing you mentioned at High Table. Our world has changed, partly because of those men.

What distinguished them the most, I think, was their quiet verve, their wish to grapple with life. They were eager to deal with whatever came at them. Dirac probed our fundamental understanding of the world in his monk-like solitude. Hawking persevered against his crippling disease to become a major cosmologist. Rees cannily wove his way into great power, urging the Institute for Astronomy to the forefront of the field, becoming Astronomer Royal, and a major figure bringing science to the public as well.

The evening left a deep impression on me. On the walk home, I remarked to my wife that I would probably never have a better evening–at least, with my clothes on. She took that as a challenge and made the evening even more so.

From my time there I gathered background that eventually appeared in my 1980 novel Timescape, which explores how scientists confront the unknown. Cambridge is steeped in tradition, but its scientific culture is radical.

© 2012 by Gregory Benford

Leaping the Abyss

[Introduction: Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s best-known scientific figures, passed away on March 14. Gregory Benford knew him, and wrote two memoirs of their meetings which he has given permission to post here on File 770. He wrote the first, “Leaping the Abyss,” in 2001; it was published in Reason, updated in 2005 for Robert Lichtman’s Trapdoor, and is now posted at Benford’s website.]

By Gregory Benford: Stephen Hawking seemed slightly worse, as always. It is a miracle that he has clung to life for over 20 years with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Each time I see him I feel that this will be the last, that he cannot hold on to such a thin thread for much longer.

Hawking turned 63 in January 2005. Over the course of his brilliant career, he has worked out many of the basics of black hole physics, including, most strikingly, his prediction that black holes aren’t entirely black. Instead, if they have masses equivalent to a mountain’s, they radiate particles of all kinds. Smaller holes would disappear in a fizz of radiation—a signature that astronomers have searched for but so far not found.

The enormous success of Hawking’s 1988 book, A Brief History of Time, has made him a curious kind of cultural icon. He wonders how many of the starlets and rock stars who mentioned the book on talk shows actually read it.

With his latest book, The Universe in a Nutshell (Bantam), he aims to remedy the situation with a plethora of friendly illustrations to help readers decipher such complex topics as superstring theory and the nature of time. The trick is translating equations into sentences, no mean feat. The pictures help enormously, though purists deplore them as oversimplified. I feel that any device is justified to span such an abyss of incomprehension.

When I entered Stephen’s office at the University of Cambridge, his staff was wary of me, plainly suspecting I was a “civilian” harboring a crank theory of the universe. But I’d called beforehand, and then his secretary recognized me from years past. (I am an astrophysicist and have known Stephen since the 1970s.) When I entered the familiar office his shrunken form lolled in his motorized chair as he stared out, rendered goggle-eyed by his thick glasses—but a strong spirit animated all he said.

Hawking lost his vocal cords years ago, to an emergency tracheotomy. His gnarled, feeble hands could not hold a pen. For a while after the operation he was completely cut off from the world, an unsettling parallel to those mathematical observers who plunge into black holes, their signals to the outside red-shifted and slowed by gravity’s grip to dim, whispering oblivion.

A Silicon Valley firm came to the rescue. Engineers devised tailored, user-friendly software and a special keyboard for Hawking. Now his frail hand moved across it with crablike speed. The software is deft, and he could build sentences quickly. I watched him flit through the menu of often-used words on his liquid crystal display, which hung before him in his wheelchair. The invention has been such a success that the Silicon Valley folk now supply units to similarly afflicted people worldwide.

“Please excuse my American accent,” the speaker mounted behind the wheelchair said with a California inflection. He coded this entire remark with two keystrokes.

Although I had been here before, I was again struck that a man who had suffered such an agonizing physical decline had on his walls several large posters of a person very nearly his opposite: Marilyn Monroe. I mentioned her, and Stephen responded instantly, tapping one-handed on his keyboard, so that soon his transduced voice replied, “Yes, she’s wonderful. Cosmological. I wanted to put a picture of her in my latest book, as a celestial object.” I remarked that to me the book was like a French Impressionist painting of a cow, meant to give a glancing essence, not the real, smelly animal. Few would care to savor the details. Stephen took off from this to discuss some ideas currently booting around the physics community about the origin of the universe, the moment just after the Big Bang.

Stephen’s great politeness paradoxically made me ill at ease; I was acutely aware of the many demands on his time, and, after all, I had just stopped by to talk shop.

“For years my early work with Roger Penrose seemed to be a disaster for science,” Stephen said. “It showed that the universe must have begun with a singularity, if Einstein’s general theory of relativity is correct. That appeared to indicate that science could not predict how the universe would begin. The laws would break down at the point of singularity, of infinite density.” Mathematics cannot handle physical quantities like density that literally go to infinity. Indeed, the history of 20th century physics was in large measure about how to avoid the infinities that crop up in particle theory and cosmology. The idea of point particles is convenient but leads to profound, puzzling troubles.

I recalled that I had spoken to Stephen about mathematical methods of getting around this problem one evening at a party in King’s College. There were analogies to methods in elementary quantum mechanics, methods he was trying to carry over into this surrealistic terrain.

“It now appears that the way the universe began can indeed be determined, using imaginary time,” Stephen said. We discussed this a bit. Stephen had been using a mathematical device in which time is replaced, as a notational convenience, by something called imaginary time. This changes the nature of the equations, so he could use some ideas from the tiny quantum world. In the new equations, a kind of tunneling occurs in which the universe, before the Big Bang, has many different ways to pass through the singularity. With imaginary time, one can calculate the chances for a given tunneling path into our early universe after the beginning of time as we know it.

“Sure, the equations can be interpreted that way,” I argued, “but it’s really a trick, isn’t it?”

Stephen said, “Yes, but perhaps an insightful trick.”

“We don’t have a truly deep understanding of time,” I replied, “so replacing real time with imaginary time doesn’t mean much to us.”

“Imaginary time is a new dimension, at right angles to ordinary, real time,” Stephen explained. “Along this axis, if the universe satisfies the ‘no boundary’ condition, we can do our calculations. This condition says that the universe has no singularities or boundaries in the imaginary direction of time. With the ‘no boundary’ condition, there will be no beginning or end to imaginary time, just as there is no beginning or end to a path on the surface of the Earth.”

“If the path goes all the way around the Earth,” I said. “But of course, we don’t know that in imaginary time there won’t be a boundary.”

“My intuition says there will be no blocking in that special coordinate, so our calculations make sense.”

“Sense is just the problem, isn’t it? Imaginary time is just a mathematical convenience.” I shrugged in exasperation at the span between cool mathematical spaces and the immediacy of the raw world; this is a common tension in doing physics. “It’s unrelated to how we feel time. The seconds sliding by. Birth and death.”

“True. Our minds work in real time, which begins at the Big Bang and will end, if there is a Big Crunch—which seems unlikely, now, from the latest data showing accelerating expansion. Consciousness would come to an end at a singularity.”

“Not a great consolation,” I said.

He grinned. “No, but I like the ‘no boundary’ condition. It seems to imply that the universe will be in a state of high order at one end of real time but will be disordered at the other end of time, so that disorder increases in one direction of time. We define this to be the direction of increasing time. When we record something in our memory, the disorder of the universe will increase. This explains why we remember events only in what we call the past, and not in the future.”

“Remember what you predicted in 1980 about final theories like this?” I chided him.

“I suggested we might find a complete unified theory by the end of the century.” Stephen made the transponder laugh dryly. “OK, I was wrong. At that time, the best candidate seemed to be N=8 supergravity. Now it appears that this theory may be an approximation to a more fundamental theory, of superstrings. I was a bit optimistic to hope that we would have solved the problem by the end of the century. But I still think there’s a 50-50 chance that we will find a complete unified theory in the next 20 years.”

“I’ve always suspected that the structure never ends as we look to smaller and smaller scales—and neither will the theories,” I offered.

“It is possible that there is no ultimate theory of physics at all. Instead, we will keep on discovering new layers of structure. But it seems that physics gets simpler, and more unified, the smaller the scale on which we look. There is an ultimate length scale, the Planck length, below which space-time may just not be defined. So I think there will be a limit to the number of layers of structure, and there will be some ultimate theory, which we will discover if we are smart enough.”

“Does it seem likely that we are smart enough?” I asked.

Another grin. “You will have to get your faith elsewhere.”

“I can’t keep up with the torrent of work on superstrings.” Mathematical physics is like music, which a young and zesty spirit can best seize and use, as did Mozart.

“I try,” he said modestly.

We began discussing recent work on “baby universes”—bubbles in space-time. To us large creatures, space-time is like the sea seen from an ocean liner, smooth and serene. Up close, though, on tiny scales, it’s waves and bubbles. At extremely fine scales, pockets and bubbles of space-time can form at random, sputtering into being, then dissolving. Arcane details of particle physics suggest that sometimes—rarely, but inevitably—these bubbles could grow into a full-fledged universe.

This might have happened a lot at the instant just immediately after the Big Bang. Indeed, some properties of our universe may have been created by the space-time foam that roiled through those infinitesimally split seconds. Studying this possibility uses the “wormhole calculus,” which samples the myriad possible frothing bubbles (and their connections, called wormholes).

Averaging over this foam in a mathematical sense, smoothing its properties a bit, Hawking and others have tried to find out whether a final, rather benign universe like ours was an inevitable outcome of that early turbulence. The jury isn’t in on this point, and it may be out forever—the calculations are tough, guided by intuition rather than facts. Deciding whether they meaningfully predict anything is a matter of taste. This recalls Oscar Wilde’s aphorism that in matters of great import, style is always more important than substance.

If this picture of the first split second is remotely right, much depends on the energy content of the foam. The energy to blow up these bubbles would be countered by an opposite, negative energy, which comes from the gravitational attraction of all the matter in the bubble. If the outward pressure just balances the inward attraction (a pressure, really) of the mass, then you could get a universe much like ours: rather mild, with space-time not suffering any severe curvature—what astronomers call “flat.” This seems to be so on such relatively tiny scales as our solar system, and flatness prevails even on the size range of our galaxy. Indeed, flatness holds on immense scales, as far as we can yet see.

It turns out that such bubbles could even form right now. An entirely separate space-time could pop into existence in your living room, say. It would start unimaginably small, then balloon to the size of a cantaloupe—but not before your very eyes, because, for quite fundamental reasons, you couldn’t see it.

“They don’t form in space, of course,” Stephen said. “It doesn’t mean anything to ask where in space these things occur.” They don’t take up room in our universe but rather are their own universes, expanding into spaces that did not exist before.

“They’re cut off from us after we make them,” I said. “No relics, no fossil?”

“I do not think there could be.”

“Like an ungrateful child who doesn’t write home.” When talking about immensities, I sometimes grasp for something human.

“It would not form in our space, but rather as another space-time.”

We discussed for a while some speculations about this that I had put into two novels, Cosm and Timescape. I had used Cambridge and the British scientific style in Timescape, published in 1980, before these ideas became current. I had arrived at them in part from some wide-ranging talks I had enjoyed with Stephen—all suitably disguised in the books, of course. Such enclosed space-times I had termed “onion universes,” since in principle they could have further locked-away space-times inside them, and so on. It is an odd sensation when a guess turns out to have some substance—as much as anything as gossamer as these ideas can be said to be substantial.

“So they form and go,” I mused. “Vanish. Between us and these other universes lies absolute nothingness, in the exact sense—no space or time, no matter, no energy.”

“There can be no way to reach them,” his flat voice said. “The gulf between us and them is unbridgeable. It is beyond physics because it is truly nothing, not physical at all.”

The mechanical laugh resounded. Stephen likes the tug of the philosophical, and he seemed amused by the notion that universes are simply one of those things that happen from time to time.

His nurse appeared for a bit of physical cleanup, and I left him. Inert confinement to a wheelchair exacts a demeaning toll on one’s dignity, but he showed no reaction to the daily round of being cared for by another in the most intimate way. Perhaps for him, it even helps the mind to slip free of the world’s rub.

I sat in the common room outside his office, having tea and talking to some of his post-doctoral students. They were working on similarly wild ideas and were quick, witty, and keenly observant as they sipped their strong, dark Ceylonese tea. A sharp crew, perhaps a bit jealous of Stephen’s time. They were no doubt wondering who this guy was, nobody they had ever heard of, a Californian with an accent tainted by Southern nuances, somebody who worked in astrophysics and plasma physics—which, in our age of remorseless specialization, is a province quite remote from theirs. I didn’t explain; after all, I really had no formal reason to be there, except that Stephen and I were friends.

Stephen’s secretary quietly came out and asked if I would join Stephen for dinner at Caius College. I had intended to eat in my favorite Indian restaurant, where the chicken vindaloo is a purging experience, and then simply rove the walks of Cambridge alone, because I love the atmosphere—but I instantly assented. Dinner at college high table is one of the legendary experiences of England. I could remember keenly each one I had attended; the repartee is sharper than the cutlery.

We made our way through the cool, atmospheric turns of the colleges, the worn wood and gray stones reflecting the piping of voices and squeaks of rusty bicycles. In misty twilight, student shouts echoing, Stephen’s wheelchair jouncing over cobbled streets. He insisted on steering it himself, though his nurse hovered rather nervously. It had never occurred to me just how much of a strain on everyone there can be in round-the-clock care. A few people drifted along behind us, just watching him. “Take no notice,” his mechanical voice said. “Many of them come here just to stare at me.”

We wound among the ancient stone and manicured gardens, into Caius College. Students entering the dining hall made an eager rumpus. Stephen took the elevator, and I ascended the creaking stairs. The faculty entered after the students, me following with the nurse.

The high table is literally so. They carefully placed Stephen with his back to the long, broad tables of undergraduates. I soon realized that this is because watching him eat, with virtually no lip control, is not appetizing. He follows a set diet that requires no chewing. His nurse must chop up his food and spoon-feed him.

The dinner was noisy, with the year’s new undergraduates staring at the famous Hawking’s back. Stephen carried on a matter-of-fact, steady flow of conversation through his keyboard.

He had concerns about the physicists’ Holy Grail, a unified theory of everything. Even if we could thrash our way through a thicket of mathematics to glimpse its outlines, it might not be specific enough—that is, we would still have a range of choices. Physics could end up dithering over arcane points, undecided, perhaps far from our particular primate experience. Here is where aesthetics might enter.

“If such a theory is not unique,” he said, “one would have to appeal to some outside principle, which one might call God.”

I frowned. “Not as the Creator, but as a referee?”

“He would decide which theory was more than just a set of equations, but described a universe that actually exists.”

“This one.”

“Or maybe all possible theories describe universes that exist!” he said with glee. “It is unclear what it means to say that something exists. In questions like, ‘Does there exist a man with two left feet in Cambridge?,’ one can answer this by examining every man in Cambridge. But there is no way that one can decide if a universe exists, if one is not inside it.”

“The space-time Catch-22.”

“So it is not easy to see what meaning can be given to the question, ‘Why does the universe exist?’ But it is a question that one can’t help asking.”

As usual, the ability to pose a question simply and clearly in no way implied a similar answer—or that an answer even existed.

After the dining hall, high table moved to the senior common room upstairs. We relaxed along a long, polished table in comfortable padded chairs, enjoying the traditional crisp walnuts and ancient aromatic port, Cuban cigars, and arch conversation, occasionally skewered by a witty interjection from Stephen.

Someone mentioned American physicist Stephen Weinberg’s statement, in The First Three Minutes, that the more we comprehend the universe, the more meaningless it seems. Stephen doesn’t agree, and neither do I, but he has a better reason. “I think it is not meaningful in the first place to say that the universe is pointless, or that it is designed for some purpose.”

I asked, “No meaning, then, to the pursuit of meaning?”

“To do that would require one to stand outside the universe, which is not possible.”

Again the image of the gulf between the observer and the object of study. “Still,” I persisted, “there is amazing structure we can see from inside.”

“The overwhelming impression is of order. The more we discover about the universe, the more we find that it is governed by rational laws. If one liked, one could say that this order was the work of God. Einstein thought so.”

One of the college fellows asked, “Rational faith?”

Stephen tapped quickly. “We shouldn’t be surprised that conditions in the universe are suitable for life, but this is not evidence that the universe was designed to allow for life. We could call order by the name of God, but it would be an impersonal God. There’s not much personal about the laws of physics.”

Walnuts eaten, port drunk, cigars smoked, it was time to go. When we left, Stephen guided his wheelchair through the shadowy reaches of the college, indulging my curiosity about a time-honored undergraduate sport: climbing Cambridge.

At night, young men sometimes scramble among the upper reaches of the steepled old buildings, scaling the most difficult points. They risk their necks for the glory of it. Quite out of bounds, of course. Part of the thrill is eluding the proctors who scan the rooftops late at night, listening for the scrape of heels. There is even a booklet about roof climbing, describing its triumphs and centuries-long history.

Stephen took me to a passageway I had been through many times, a shortcut to the Cam River between high, peaked buildings of undergraduate rooms. He said that it was one of the tough events, jumping across that and then scaling a steep, often slick roof beyond.

The passage looked to be about three meters across. I couldn’t imagine leaping that gap from the slate-dark roofs. And at night, too. “All that distance?” I asked. My voice echoed in the fog.

“Yes,” he said.

“Anybody ever miss?”





His eyes twinkled and he gave us a broad smile. “Yes.” These Cambridge sorts have the real stuff, all right.

In the cool night Stephen recalled some of his favorite science fiction stories. He rarely read any fiction other than science fiction past the age of 12, he said. “It’s really the only fiction that is realistic about our true position in the universe as a whole.”

And how much stranger the universe was turning out than even those writers had imagined. Even when they discussed the next billion years, they could not guess the odd theories that would spring up within the next generation of physicists. Now there are speculations that our universe might have 11 dimensions, all told, all but three of space and one of time rolled up to tiny sizes. Will this change cosmology? So far, nobody knows. But the ideas are fun in and of themselves.

A week after my evening at Cambridge, I got from Stephen’s secretary a transcript of all his remarks. I have used it here to reproduce his style of conversation. Printed out on his wheelchair computer, his sole link with us, the lines seem to come from a great distance. Across an abyss.

Portraying the flinty faces of science—daunting complexity twinned with numbing wonder—demands both craft and art. Some of us paint with fiction. Stephen paints with his impressionistic views of vast, cool mathematical landscapes. To knit together our fraying times, to span the cultural abyss, demands all these approaches—and more, if we can but invent them.

Stephen has faced daunting physical constrictions with a renewed attack on the large issues, on great sweeps of space and time. Daily he struggles without much fuss against the narrowing that is perhaps the worst element of infirmity. I recalled him rapt with Marilyn, still deeply engaged with life, holding firmly against tides of entropy.

I had learned a good deal from those few days, I realized, and most of it was not at all about cosmology.

Copyright © 2005 by Gregory Benford

Pixel Scroll 1/30/18 The Man Who Mooned The Scroll

(1) ANTIQUARIANS ARISE. Posters for three upcoming book fairs across the U.S.

(2) A WRITER’S LIFE. Kameron Hurley opens her books in “Writing Income: What I Made in 2017”.

A couple of observations:

Patreon Saves the Day (But Don’t Count On It)

Patreon has been a godsend this last year, as I’ve been producing a short story every month, instead of every other month or so as I did last year. That said, the shitstorm at Patreon at the end of last year when they were going to up their fees by 40% for folks at the $1 tiers saw me bleeding fans from the platform. That experience reminded me again that this income – though provided by a large pool of 750+ fans, is still reliant on a third party system that could implode and fuck everything at any time….

(3) SHARKE CALLING. Now online, a self-introduction by a 2018 Shadow Clarke juror — “Introducing Alasdair Stuart”.

What I hope for is this: that my time on the Shadow Clarkes will allow me to get better at walking that line between undiscerning joy and the relentless caution of analysis. That I’ll be able to communicate the joy of a trick well executed, and the astonishment of a trick never before seen. To explore the idea that there is joy in skill as well as show, and that when that joy is absent we can learn at least as much as when it’s present.

Stuart’s name will be familiar to Filers for his podcasting empire, described in an interview he gave to Carl Slaughter.

(4) TENNANT TENTHS AGAIN. Comicbook reports “‘Doctor Who’: The Tenth Doctor and Jenny Return in New Video”:

David Tennant’s time on Doctor Who may have ended over eight years ago, but his Tenth Doctor will always live on in the hearts of fans and, it seems, in clever video messages for friends.

Tennant recreated his role as the Tenth Doctor alongside his wife, Georgia Tennant, who appeared as The Doctor’s daughter in the appropriately titled episode “The Doctor’s Daughter,” for a short video to wish his friend, Doctor Who script editor Gary Russell, farewell upon Russell’s move to Australia back in 2013. You can check out the video embedded below

(5) DOCTOR PHONE HOME. Also in the news, David Tennant accepted a settlement in his suit against the now defunct News of the World over a phone hacking claim.

News Group Newspapers (NGN) settled Mr Tennant’s High Court claim and issued an apology.

Tennant’s lawyer said he was “outraged and shocked” by the invasion of privacy.

NGN made no admission of liability to claims relating to The Sun.

Tennant was among six people to settle claims with NGN on Tuesday.

The other claimants were Olympic medallist Colin Jackson, actress Sophia Myles, party planner Fran Cutler, fashion designer Jess Morris and footballer David James’s ex-wife, Tanya Frayne.

Tennant first launched his lawsuit in March 2017, after the parent company of the News of the World closed its compensation scheme in 2013.

(6) ARMIES TO COME. Marina Berlin, in “Five Ways To Build A More Believable Futuristic Military” at The Book Smugglers, subverts the axiom that sf is never about the future by asking what MilSF would look like if it was about the future like it pretends to be.

The military of Battlestar Galactica is supposedly egalitarian, with all types of soldiers filling all types of roles, and without divisions in bathing and sleeping areas. And yet, the women who have children on the show are never shown to have a systemic, military framework to fall back on when it comes to parental leave or childcare. It’s not that Sharon or Cally would be able to rely on the same system the military had in place before everything exploded, of course, but some traces of that system, some expectations, some details, had to have remained. Just like there are echoes of every other part of a particular military system on the show, even if parts of it have disappeared. Instead, for both women, it seems like they are the first soldiers in history to give birth, and the solutions they have to find for childcare, for being soldiers and mothers simultaneously, are personal and anecdotal.

Examples of stories that show a military like this, where everyone serves together and sleeps together and bathes together and yet pregnancy is not addressed one way or the other are endless in military science fiction. From old classics like Ender’s Game (where the kids in Battle School with Ender were in their mid to late teens by the end of the first book) to newly released books, like Yoon Ha Lee’s excellent Ninefox Gambit.

(7) SFWA STATS. Cat Rambo delivers the digits:

(8) CREDENTIALS AND OTHERS. SyFy Wire’s Ana Marie Cox, in “Space the Nation: The most important pets of fantasy and sci-fi”, does a roundup of famous genre pets.

Salem, Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Technically, Salem is not a cat, but a 500-year-old witch sentenced to live as a cat as punishment for attempting to take over the world. Cat people might argue that becoming a house cat only furthered Salem’s ambitions rather than stymieing it.

(9) WINDING UP 2016. Rocket Stack Rank concludes a multi-part series on the best short SFF of 2016 with a look at their different sources of recommendations: “guides” like reviewers, “best-of” anthologists, and awards finalists — “2016 Best SF/F Short Fiction Guides”.

Greg Hullender notes:

The biggest takeaway (which we saw in earlier installments) is that although some judgment is subjective, there does seem to be a strong underlying idea of excellence that runs across almost all the guides and which is consistent with the idea that the awards are, in general, recognizing stories that are among the very best. Awards are better guides than best-of anthologies, but the anthologies are better guides than any reviewer, and the reviewers are much better guides than just picking stories at random.

(10) MORE LE GUIN MEMORIES. Michael Dirda tells readers of The Weekly Standard  “Why Ursula Le Guin Matters”.

…I suspect that Le Guin, who herself majored in French at Radcliffe, must early on have taken to heart Flaubert’s dictum: “Be regular and ordinary in your life like a bourgeois, in order to be violent and original in your work.” For there is no question about it: This humorous, outspoken woman, who once told a feminist conference that she actually enjoyed housework, was one of the essential writers of our time. As I sit at this keyboard, the whole world, especially the science-fiction world, is mourning her passing—and a certain committee in Sweden is, I hope, kicking itself for having neglected to award her the Nobel Prize for literature.



  • Born January 30, 1941 – Gregory Benford

(13) HAPPY BIRTHDAY GREG! Gregory Benford’s birthday is celebrated by Steven H Silver at Black Gate in “Birthday Reviews: Gregory Benford’s ‘Down the River Road’”:

Gregory Benford was born on January 30, 1941. He helped start the first science fiction convention in Germany, WetzCon, in 1956 and the first convention in Texas, Southwestern Con, in 1958. He received the Nebula Award for Best Novelette in 1975 for his collaboration with Gordon Eklund, “If the Stars Are Gods.” His novel Timescape received the Nebula Award for Best Novel, the John W. Campbell Memorial, Jr. Award, the Ditmar Award, and the British SF Association Award. It also loaned its name to a publishing imprint. Benford received a Phoenix Award from the Southern Fandom Confederation in 2004 and a Forry Award from LASFS in 2016. Benford was the Guest of Honor at Aussiecon Three, the 1999 Worldcon in Melbourne, Australia.

“Down the River Road” was included in After the King: Stories in Honor of J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Martin H. Greenberg. Originally published in January 1992, the book and all the stories in it were translated into Dutch, Italian, and French. The story has not appeared outside of the original anthology.

(14) CHANGE AT NYT BOOK REVIEW. N.K. Jemisin will leave the column and be replaced by another well-known sf author — “Amal El-Mohtar Named Otherworldly Columnist for The New York Times Book Review”.

Amal El-Mohtar has been named science fiction and fantasy columnist for The New York Times Book Review.  She replaces N.K. Jemisin who served as the Otherworldly columnist for two years. Read more in this note from the Pamela Paul, Greg Cowles and David Kelly.

After two stellar (and interstellar) years as the Book Review’s science fiction and fantasy columnist, N.K. Jemisin is leaving to devote more time to her numerous outside projects, including her own books and a guest editorship for the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy series. Since inaugurating the Otherworldly column in January 2016, Nora has gone on to win consecutive Hugo awards for best novel, and her book “The Fifth Season” (the start of her Broken Earth trilogy) is in development as a television series for TNT. We were delighted to have her.

… “I’m especially fascinated by books that don’t want to save the world so much as break or dislocate it further, in order to build something better in its wake,” she told us. “Fantasy and science fiction have long had at their heart the question of how to be good, and the 20th century’s shifting visions from monoliths of Good and Evil to the more complicated battle between individuals and systems has been a wild ride. I’m excited to see it develop further.”

[Hat tip to SF Site News, Locus Online, and Andrew Porter.]

(15) TERRA TALES. Charles Payseur is back with “Quick Sips – Terraform SF January 2018”:

The new year kicks off at Terraform with three excellent stories exploring futures that seems almost inevitable, that seems in many ways here already. The stories look at three very different things—immigration, employment, and nuclear destruction—but they all manage to tell emotionally resonating stories that share the feeling that most people are already accepting these futures as reality.

(16) RELATIONSHIPS SUCK. The Empties comic premieres on Valentine’s Day, 2018. Of course it does —

It’s a horror story centered around losing someone you love (or think you love). How scary is it to find out that person you love isn’t who you thought they were? (I’d say, pretty darn scary).

You can check out a preview of the book at emptiescomics.com. Kristen Renee Gorlitz says, “If you like what you see, sign up to check out the premiere of The Empties comic book on Kickstarter this Valentine’s day!”

When a loving chef comes home to an unfaithful wife, he cooks up a revenge plan so twisted… so disturbed… it will leave you in pieces.


(17) FEAR AND LOATHING. There are several genre authors among the “13 Writers Who Grew to Hate Their Own Books” discussed at Literary Hub: J.G. Ballard, Stephen King, Kingsley Amis, Stanislaw Lem, and —

Octavia Butler, Survivor (1978)

Survivor was Butler’s third novel, and also the third in her first series, now called the Patternist series. Though the rest of the series was reprinted (some multiple times), Butler refused to allow Survivor to be included, and (rumor has it) she didn’t even like to talk about it at signings or appearances. In an interview, she said:

When I was young, a lot of people wrote about going to another world and finding either little green men or little brown men, and they were always less in some way. They were a little sly, or a little like “the natives” in a very bad, old movie. And I thought, “No way. Apart from all these human beings populating the galaxy, this is really offensive garbage.” People ask me why I don’t like Survivor, my third novel. And it’s because it feels a little bit like that. Some humans go up to another world, and immediately begin mating with the aliens and having children with them. I think of it as my Star Trek novel.

The novel is still out of print—used copies sell for about $175.

(18) COMMON KNOWLEDGE. The UK’s Mastermind show ‘banned’ Harry Potter and Fawlty Towers because too many would-be contestants want these categories and the show will use a category only once a season.

Hundreds of Mastermind applicants are being asked to change their specialist topics because too many people are choosing the same subject.

Mastermind received 262 applications to answer questions about the Harry Potter series last year.

It is the most popular topic, alongside Fawlty Towers, Blackadder and Father Ted.

But only one contestant can tackle a subject during each series.

(19) THINKING OUTSIDE THE ARK. An “‘Unsolvable’ exam question leaves Chinese students flummoxed”:

Primary school students at a school in the Chinese district of Shunqing were faced with this question on a paper: “If a ship had 26 sheep and 10 goats onboard, how old is the ship’s captain?”

The question appeared on a recent fifth-grade level paper, intended for children around 11 years old.

The answer in the last paragraph obviously comes from a fan….

The traditional Chinese method of education heavily emphasises on note-taking and repetition, known as rote learning, which critics say hinders creative thinking.

But the department said questions like the boat one “enable students to challenge boundaries and think out of the box”.

And of course, there’s always that one person that has all the answers.

“The total weight of 26 sheep and 10 goat is 7,700kg, based on the average weight of each animal,” said one Weibo commenter.

“In China, if you’re driving a ship that has more than 5,000kg of cargo you need to have possessed a boat license for five years. The minimum age for getting a boat’s license is 23, so he’s at least 28.”

(20) ALTERNATE ART. BBC’s “The Star Wars posters of Soviet Europe” shows lots of examples with bright space-filling colors, wild designs, and flashy features that aren’t in the movies.

(21) DON’T FORGET. There’s a “Super Blue Moon eclipse on January 31”.

The Blue Moon – second of two full moons in one calendar month – will pass through the Earth’s shadow on January 31, 2018, to give us a total lunar eclipse. Totality, when the moon will be entirely inside the Earth’s dark umbral shadow, will last a bit more than one-and-a-quarter hours. The January 31 full moon is also the third in a series of three straight full moon supermoons – that is, super-close full moons. It’s the first of two Blue Moons in 2018. So it’s not just a total lunar eclipse, or a Blue Moon, or a supermoon. It’s all three … a super Blue Moon total eclipse!…

IMPORTANT. If you live in North America or the Hawaiian Islands, this lunar eclipse will be visible in your sky before sunrise on January 31.

(22) INTERSTELLAR. The Dave Cullen Show on YouTube does a segment about a movie they can’t forget: “Revisiting Interstellar”

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mark Hepworth, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, Andrew Porter, Kristen Renee Gorlitz, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/22/17 Well, Those Books Kept Coming And They Don’t Stop Coming

(1) ADVANCED CREATURE ACCOUNTING. If there had been a test I would not have passed…

(2) LIGHTING UP THE NIGHT SKY. Excitement this evening in California caused by the SpaceX Iridium 4 launch out of Vandenberg. Per Gregory Hart:

Successful orbital insertion for deployment of the fourth set of Iridium communication satisfied l satellites. First stage was maneuvered to crash into the ocean safely and it looked like controlled burn backs helped in positioning. They did not want to recover the first stage this time as it had been previously flown in June.

(3) KGB. See all the photos taken by Ellen Datlow at N.K. Jemisin and Christopher Brown’s Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading on December 20 — here.

Chris and Nora

(4) DOWNSIZING, BRIGHT REVIEWS. Rush and watch these productions before critics talk you out of it. Oops, too late….

NPR’s Andrew Lapin calls Downsizing: A Tone-Deaf, Less-Than-Incredible Shrinking Satire”:

It’s the rare movie that seems to execute every part of its concept absolutely wrong; a narrative, tonal, visual and sociopolitical fiasco the likes of which haven’t been seen in many moons.

And Chris Klimek says Bright (from Netflix) is “perfectly, stubbornly mediocre” in “Will Smith Plays Cops-And-Monsters In Unremarkable ‘Bright'”

…the scenes of Smith and Edgerton driving around on patrol, bickering like all the Murtaughs and Riggses and Crocketts and Tubbses and Cagneys and Laceys who’ve sat in cars together on stakeout since the First Age of Middle-Earth — lo, they cast a mighty spell of pure adequacy.

The Daily Beast is even more brutal: “Netflix’s ‘Bright’ Is a $90 Million Steaming Pile of Orc Sh*t”:

Bright is a misnomer on two levels. First of all, the majority of Netflix’s new $90 million original movie takes place at night and in fairly dingy rooms, and that, in combination with how the whole production is lit, means that most of the action is obscured and visually unintelligible. Secondly, there’s nothing about this movie that’s an inherently good idea—or rather, very generously speaking, maybe the story could have made some valid points about the state of race relations in America with a little more thought. But as things stand, Bright plays like the kind of movie a kid might make up (“And then this happens! And then this happens!”) if they were given a very rough overview of American history and then told to write a script about it. It’s almost worse that that’s not the case—scratch that, it is worse—but we’ll get to that.

(5) THEIR MILEAGE VARIED. On the other hand, the BBC lists Downsizing as one of the year’s 10 best (along with 3.5 other genre films):

  1. Downsizing

Despite its title, Downsizing sees Alexander Payne’s ambition growing to vertiginous heights. His specialism is wistful comedies (Sideways, Nebraska) set in a recognisable contemporary US, but his latest film is an apocalyptic science-fiction mind-bender set at some unspecified point in the future, in the US and beyond. Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig play the Midwestern couple who wonder whether they should cut their living costs by being shrunk to the size of Barbie dolls but this droll premise is just the beginning. As soon as you think you can see where it’s going, Downsizing ventures somewhere startlingly new instead.

(6) THE BOMB. Talking about his novel The Berlin Project, Gregory Benford describes where alternate history branches off in “Making A Better World War II”.

Everybody loves success, so historians have papered over the fact that when we developed the atomic bomb we made a decisive bad judgment that cost over half a billion dollars of 1940s dollars and delayed the war’s end by about a year.

The bad decision came in 1942 from General Leslie Groves, who directed the Manhattan Project, which was the U.S. R&D program to develop the first nuclear weapons. To make uranium suitable for an atomic bomb, you must enrich it up to weapons-grade, so that it is almost pure U-235, the element’s most fissile isotope. Groves chose to pursue gaseous diffusion over an alternate concept—Karl Cohen and Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner Harold Urey’s centrifugal separation—to enrich uranium up to weapons-grade.

We now know that was a huge mistake. Karl and Harold Urey said so then.

If we had stuck with centrifugal separation for another six months we would’ve solved its engineering problems, without question.

(7) IT’S A BASEBALL THING. Surely all Filers in Philadelphia would enjoy the excitement of science fiction and the wacky hijinks of the Phillie Phanatic together in one memorable film! MLB.com identifies “The weirdest and best National League gifts you can buy this holiday season”, and one is genre —

The material is only as good as the teacher. Fortunately for all of us, this Christmas the teacher can be … the Phillie Phanatic. Yes, underneath all that green fur is a creature that wants to show us history. Move over, Bill and Ted: This is the movie for me.

The Phillie Phanatic loves the Phillies, but he loves world history, too. When his new time travel helmet arrives in the mail, the Phanatic doesn’t just learn about history, he lives it! With the help of his friend, Larry, the Phanatic goes back in time to help cavemen invent the wheel, becomes king for a day, outduels an evil knight, signs the Declaration of Independence, cracks the Liberty Bell and stumbles into many other wacky adventures with his time travel helmet. What time period is his favorite? Only real Phillies fans know the answer!

(8) FOR SOME VALUES OF RUINED. How can we expect anybody to “have yourself a merry little Christmas” now? “‘Christmas is ruined’: Outrage as Cadbury drops old favourite Fudge from selection boxes”Evening Standard has the story.

Chocolate fans have reacted with fury after Cadbury dropped the beloved fudge bar from its festive selection box.

The old favourite has been replaced by a dairy milk oreo bar, leading some to claim that “Christmas is ruined”.

The biscuit-based newcomer joins the wispa, crunchie, double decker, dairy milk and chocolate buttons in the selection box, which costs £2.99.

Fans of the boxes, which are a popular Christmas gift, have taken to Twitter to lambast Cadbury over the controversial move.

(9) JINGLE HELL. What is Adam Roberts thinking?

(10) BARKS’ FAMILY PORTRAIT. A painting by one of the most famous Walt Disney Studios artists of all time helped Heritage Auctions’ Dec. 9-10 Animation Art Auction in Beverly Hills, California clear more than $1.5 million.

More than a dozen bidders pursued a Carl Barks “Family Portrait” Uncle Scrooge and Disney Ducks Painting #73-15 with Handwritten Letter (1973) until it finally hammered at $68,712.50. The entire Duck family “posed” for the legendary Disney artist, with Donald Duck surrounded by Uncle Scrooge McDuck (a Barks creation), Grandma Duck, Daisy Duck, Gladstone Gander, and in front, Donald’s nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie.

(11) TWO COMICS ARTISTS DIE. The ranks of women comics artists have been depleted by two recent deaths. Vu Nguyen reports

One of the few women in comics, Annie Goetzinger, has died today (20 December 2017).  She was 66, according to la-croix.com.

Goetzinger is a French illustrator, known for her research and attention to detail. Her  earliest works were illustrations for short comic stories published in French comic magazines like Pilote, Charlie Mensuel and Fluide Glacial. Goetzinger’s first graphic novel, Casque d’Or, won her two awards at the 1977 Angoulême International Comics Festival.

“When I started, I did not know there were so few girls making comics. … I didn’t care; I always felt like kind of a maverick.”

Also, another woman artist: Lona Rietschel, from Germany, passed away at the age of 84 on 19 December 2017 (as mentioned by tagesspiegel.de).  Rietschel started her career as a fashion artist and animator at DEFA studios, before relocating to Berlin.  There, she applied to work for the long-running German/Europe’s monthly comic book Mosaik.  She was originally hired as only an illustrator, but she eventually started creating characters for the magazine, including  The Digedags.

In May 2013, Rietschel won the PENG! Prize for her work at the Comicfestival München.

(12) ASTRONAUT OBIT. NASA astronaut Bruce McCandless, the first person to fly freely and untethered in space, died December 22. He was 80.

He was famously photographed in 1984 flying with a hefty spacewalker’s jetpack, alone in the cosmic blackness above a blue Earth. He traveled more than 300 feet away from the space shuttle Challenger during the spacewalk.


  • December 22, 1932 The Mummy seen for the first time in theaters.
  • December 22, 1933 Son of Kong premiered.


  • Born December 22, 1951 – Charles de Lint

(15) NOT TO BE MISSED. See a canvass of top titles in Starburst’s Books of 2017”:

As 2018 and all its potential looms ever closer, it’s about this time of year that we have a quick look back at some of the more interesting books that came out in 2017. We aren’t going to stand on ceremony here.  This is a mixed list of stuff that caught our eye over the year, each one chosen because it delighted us in some way. To start off with, let’s mention Jeanette Ng’s Under the Pendulum Sun, a notably dense yet utterly absorbing tale of two Victorian Era Christian Missionaries head into the land of fairies to bring god to godless. It’s wonderfully bleak and though it’s hardly poolside holiday reading, it’s rather fun. Speaking of light reading is Andy Weir’s Artemis. Weir is best known for his book The Martian, which got turned into a movie featuring Matt Damon. Artemis is more of the same; believable science fiction (this time set in a moon base), slight less believable characters and lots of friendly science to go with the fiction. Bubblegum it may be, but it’s delicious bubblegum that feeds your brain.

(16) MEMORIES AND EXPECTATIONS. Adam Troy-Castro launched a Facebook discussion of Jon Del Arroz’ tweets about applying for SFWA membership and plans to wear a bodycam in the SFWA Suite:

If you’re a reasonably normal person who happens to earn professional credits as a science fiction writer — two subsets which may sound mutually exclusive, but which are not — then your dream, if attending Worldcon, *should* be, normally is, getting to meet and befriend all the iconic writers whose imaginations informed yours.

“Oh my God! I can be in the same room with David Gerrold or Robert Silverberg or George R.R. Martin or Raymond E. Feist or Ursula K. Le Guin or Steve Barnes or (in treasured memory), Octavia Butler, Daniel Keyes, Harry Harrison, Kit Reed, Richard Matheson and Hal Clement!”

You can name the younger names, too, but if you care, there’s a certain generation of writers, young or old, who are icons to you, and it matters to you, and that is one reason you want to go.

This guy looks forward to walking into the SFWA Suite and knowing that they couldn’t lock him out, and indeed he looks forward to wearing a bodycam to entrap people into treating him like shit so he can prove they’re all a bunch of assholes.

A year out…this is what he anticipates with glee.

This is what gives him the tinglies….

Several writers answered with sentimental reminiscences about their first visit to the SFWA Suite at a Worldcon, including a long one by Jim Wright about Sasquan.

(17) JDA AND SFWA. A. Merc Rustad wrote a series of tweets about JDA’s SFWA application, which starts here.

(18) RESIGNS FROM THE EMPIRE. T.R. Napper says no more Star Wars for him – “Glory to the Empire”.

George Lucas, on the other hand, was like Vader. When he started out, young and idealistic, he did some amazing things. As he got older, and the call of his own hubris became too strong, he turned to the dark side. We got Ewoks. Then Gungans. And Midichlorians. And: “NOOOOOOOOOO!” But even then, at his worst – and his worst was terrible – at least he was still capable of originality. Lucas, like Vader, and unlike the Empire, could be redeemed. Just stick him in his toy room in Skywalker Ranch, pew pew pew! And let someone else write and direct his intellectual property. You know, like they did with Empire Strikes Back.

No more. I’ve given up on Star Wars because my people, the Rebellion, are making independent movies like Moonlight, or Whiplash, or The Rover, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or Memento, or Animal Kingdom. At the bigger end of the scale, they’re taking risks with movies like Blade Runner 2049.

There will be no more risks taken with Star Wars. There’s just the brand and its components, rearranged by filmmaking algorithm, once per year, forever. Kinda takes the magic out of it all.

(19) THE EMPIRE STRIKES OUT. “Stalking, First Order style,” says JJ.

(20) ANOTHER RASH OF ONLINE BIGOTRY. Newsweek reports “Racist Attacks Against Kelly Marie Tran Posted to Rose Tico’s ‘Wookieepedia’ Page”. Examples of the attacks are at the link.

Writer Bryan Young, who posted a screenshot of the racist attacks on Twitter, told Newsweek that he was alerted to the changes by a friend on Tuesday.

Wookieepedia admins have removed the vandalism, closing off Rose’s page for editing. A history of the edits to the page, with attached IP addresses, is still publicly available, though the edit in question has been removed. Young told Newsweek the IP address attached to the edit in the screenshot is The user has been blocked from using Wookieepedia or any other FANDOM wikis.

“FANDOM has a zero tolerance policy for vandalism, inclusive of racism and harassment,” the company said in a statement provided to Newsweek. “The wiki admins take this very seriously and took the steps to resolve this situation as quickly as possible, including escalation to our team, and subsequent lockdown. This lockdown will remain for the foreseeable future and we will be closely monitoring activity on this wiki.”

(21) PUT A CORK IN IT. Vintages are swirled together in these Middle-Earth mixes — “You shall not pass (on a glass)! Warner Brothers collaborates with winemaker on a limited-edition collection of four Lord of the Rings-themed WINES”. Here’s an excerpt from the Daily Mail’s description of these concoctions.

The 2015 Aragorn Appellation Lussac – St. Émilion Contrôlée is $25 and features a blend of 80 per cent Merlot, 15 per cent Cabernet Franc, and 5 per cent Malbec. It is described as ‘rich, concentrated and built to last,’ while the site boasts, ‘If ever there was a wine fit for a king as mighty and honorable as Aragorn, this is it.’

The 2016 Galadriel Bordeaux Blanc white wine is $18 and has flavors of grapefruit, lemon, and lemongrass.

‘The most noble and powerful of the Elves is honored by this high-toned wine, a Bordeaux Blanc with piercing citrus flavors and remarkable concentration.

‘Just as Galadriel is revered by all those graced by her presence, this impressive white is a true testament to her strength and wisdom, imbuing an immediate sense of devotion with its graceful palate. Take a sip and fall under its ethereal spell,’ the site states.

(22) KITSCHIES. These are the 2017 Kitschies judges who have been announced so far:


Leila Abu El Hawa

Leila runs the Post Apocalyptic Book Club… She was a judge for the Clarke Awards in 2015-16 and in her spare time works in the fashion industry. @dystocalypse

Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Jon Courtenay Grimwood was born in Malta and baptised in the up-turned bell of a ship. …He also, for 5 years, wrote a monthly SF&Fantasy column for the Guardian. Two times winner of the BSFA Award for Best Novel, with Felaheen and End of the World Blues. …Moskva, written as Jack Grimwood, was his most recent. Its sequel, Nightfall Berlin, is due Autumn 2017. @joncg

Joshua Idehen

Joshua Idehen is a poet, teacher and musician. A British born Nigerian, Joshua was the founder of one of the most successful poetry events in London, Poejazzi. …He is premiering a live show with Band City, ‘Last Night’, about London’s closed clubs. @benincitizen

Ewa Scibor-Rilka

…With a degree in English & Philosophy, she’s previously spent her time running a sci fi & fantasy section of a central London bookshop, working on conventions, surviving said conventions, and writing about popular nerd culture for The Mirror’s UsVsThem project. …@EwaSR.

Alasdair Stuart

Alasdair Stuart is the owner of Escape Artists, the digital publishing company behind Escape Pod, Pseudopod, Podcastle and Cast of Wonders.  …Read his work at alasdairstuart.com, or follow him at @AlasdairStuart on Twitter for professional enthusiasm, film analysis, the occasional food blog and more.

(23) WATCHING BY NIGHT. No need for any theological arguments about Die Hard’s place in the holiday pantheon when you just admit what you’re doing. Tor.com contributors came up with this list of “Our Favorite Non-Holiday Films to Watch Over the Holidays”, one that concludes with Leah’s preference for doing trilogy marathons —

We began with the obvious and tackled the Star Wars Trilogy. And lo! The 27th dawned, and I felt better than I had in any previous year. And thus a new tradition was born, and we tried Back to the Future, the first three Thin Man movies (those are the good ones) and then the one that stuck: The Lord of the Rings. Obviously, LOTR was already something of a holiday tradition anyway since the movies came out in December, but in a purely shallow way, watching all three movies while stuffing yourself with leftovers is the perfect way to ease back into regular, non-Christmas time. On a more serious note, since Christmas, at its heart, is about celebrating light in the darkness, what better scene to watch than the lighting of the beacons?

(24) FOR SOME VALUES OF “SAFETY.” There’s an app for that? “Reindeer hunted by wolverines get safety app”.

Reindeer, who fall prey to wolverines, wolves and lynx, are being fitted with sensors to protect them.

It makes it easier for herders to track the animals across the remote Lapland forests where they roam.

Sensors around the necks of the female reindeer are linked to the herders’ smartphones, allowing them to rescue hurt animals more quickly and identify the cause of death for those killed.

(25) NEVER TELL ME THE ODDS. In response to complaints, “Apple changes rules on app ‘loot boxes'”.

In the updated guidelines, Apple said any in-game mechanism that rewards players with “randomised virtual items” must list the odds of receiving each type of item. In addition, it said, customers must be informed of these odds before they buy the boxes or rewards.

Many games offer extras to players that can change the appearance of the game, introduce new characters or bestow power-ups that help people as they play.

Some titles let people buy loot boxes with in-game funds they generate by playing or by spending real money to purchase the game’s virtual cash.

The controversy over the crates was thrown into sharp focus last month with the release of the Star Wars Battlefront II game, which used them extensively.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Ed Fortune, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 8/29/17 Ragnarok & Roll

(1) NOTHING TO SEE HERE, MOVE ALONG. Nerd & Tie heard a media con in Newfoundland was having problems — so did everyone else, because its guest, Rene Auberjonois was slamming out tweets like these:

Canada’s CBC reached out to the committee and received bland reassurance: “Avalon Expo organizer ‘fine,’ participant says controversy unwarranted”.

Representatives of Avalon Expo declined to provide a statement to CBC News on Monday but Bonnie Glenn with the Expo posted on Facebook Monday evening that no further information will be released to protect [Expo organizer Jeff] Powers’ privacy.

“If he wishes for people to know what happened during his disappearance he will share that information,” she wrote. “For now we — his friends and family — request that you respect his privacy.”

Glenn, when asked by CBC to comment on Auberjonois’ tweets, declined.

“If you are referring to his tweets concerning his hotel room, I can say that it has been taken care of for him,” she wrote. “As for the rest, that is something you would need to contact Jeff Power’s family about as I am not at liberty to discuss.”

(2) FANHISTORY. A new article on the UC Riverside Library website reports on the surge of interest in Jay Kay Klein’s photos: “Klein photo gallery sparks delight and discussion among science fiction fans”.

…Library staff received emails from many fans, graciously offering to provide additional information about the people and events pictured “before all those who attended the conventions have shuffled off this mortal coil,” as Maggie Thompson so aptly stated.

“NYCon III was my first world convention,” wrote John-Henri Holmberg. “I’m amused to more or less recognize my youthful self in a few of Jay Kay Klein’s photos.”

JJ Jacobson, the Jay Kay and Doris Klein Librarian for Science Fiction, has had many conversations with fans this week about the photos. “We knew there were flaws,” she commented. “We also knew it would be possible to crowdsource, but we had no idea that the SF community would be so magnificently generous. We weren’t ready for the flood, but we’re ecstatic that it’s happening.”

To give perspective on the “flood,” Digital Initiatives Program Manager Eric Milenkiewicz shared these statistics:  In the past week, UCR collections on Calisphere have received 33,557 pageviews (25,407 unique), which is far beyond those received in a typical week.

“The impact that this collection has had thus far is remarkable,” Milenkiewicz added. “Our pageview statistics on Calisphere have just soared over the past seven days, with much of this traffic attributed to the Klein photos!”

(3) SLUSSER CONFERENCE CALL FOR PAPERS. The George Slusser Conference on Science Fiction and Fantasy will be held at the University of California, Irvine, on April 26–29, 2018.

The Coordinators are Jonathan Alexander (University of California, Irvine), Gregory Benford (University of California, Irvine), Howard V. Hendrix (California State University, Fresno), and Gary Westfahl (University of La Verne).

Gregory Benford says: “We’re not restricted to academics! This is for the larger community interested in sound criticism, beyond the usual MLA & SFRA compass.”

This upcoming literary conference is designed to pay tribute to the extraordinary career of the late George Slusser (1939–2014) by presenting papers and panel discussions that engage with and build upon his extensive scholarly works on science fiction and fantasy. We are now inviting proposals from potential contributors.

You can view the official Call for Papers at this link.

The George Slusser Conference on Science Fiction and Fantasy seeks to pay tribute to his remarkable career by inviting science fiction scholars, commentators, and writers to contribute papers that employ, and build upon, some of his many groundbreaking ideas; we also welcome suggestions for panels that would address Slusser and his legacy. To assist potential participants in locating and studying Slusser’s works, a conference website will include a comprehensive bibliography of his books, essays, reviews, and introductions. This selective conference will follow the format that Slusser preferred, a single track that allows all attendees to listen to every paper and participate in lively discussions about them. It is hoped that the best conference papers can be assembled in one volume and published as a formal or informal festschrift to George Slusser.

(4) LOOKING AHEAD. At Ruthless Culture, Jonathan McCalmont explains the direction he wants the genre to take: “Future Interrupted — The Consequences of the Present”.

Nowhere is the call for economic reconfiguration more obvious than in J.G. Ballard’s famous essay “Which Way to Inner Space?” First published as an editorial in New Worlds, Ballard calls for science fiction writers to stop producing space exploration stories and begin producing stories that use genre tropes to explore the workings of the human mind. One interesting thing about this oft-cited essay is that Ballard bases his call for aesthetic renewal on economic factors; according to Ballard, America’s real-world space programme was proving to be so apocalyptically tedious that it was going to destroy the market for stories about spaceships. Another interesting thing about this oft-cited essay is that Ballard’s analysis was completely without foundation. Ten years after Ballard wrote the essay, Star Wars turned escapist rocket ship stories into a cultural phenomenon while the New Wave broke and Feminist SF wound up seeking refuge behind the walls of academia.

Genre publishing has spent the last forty years accelerating away from anything that might be described as realism. When the rise of big-budget science fiction movies undermined the market for escapist science fiction stories, genre publishers turned to epic fantasy. When technology finally caught up and multinational corporations started putting huge fantasy worlds both online and onscreen, the market for epic fantasy contracted and so genre publishers shuffled closer to YA but Young Adult fiction already had its own imprints and so we are left with a hollowed-out literary culture where everything looks and reads like epic fantasy and nobody is allowed to find their own voice.

Given the extent of the commercial and cultural decline experienced by literary SF since genre publishers bet the farm on escapism, I wonder whether it might not be worth thinking about returning to the future. Not a future in which space admirals unleash righteous slaughter or grizzled psychopaths confront puissant magics in post-apocalyptic landscapes but a future in which we are confronted with the consequences of the present.

(5) ABOUT BEING OUT. In a public post on Patreon, Yoon Ha Lee tells “Why I don’t use #ownvoices, and why readers should stop demanding writers’ personal credentials”.

…I really dislike this trend in sf/f where people are questioned about their goddamn credentials every time they write about mental illness (I’m bipolar and have been hospitalized for suicide attempts) or being queer (hi!) or being trans (hi!) or whatever the hell it is. Because sometimes it is not any of your goddamn business. For years I didn’t write trans characters because I was afraid I would get ripped apart by the wolves for doing it wrong, and the only way to “prove” I was doing it “right” was to–you guessed it–out myself. Now I’m out, all right, and still pissed about it.

Either the work handles the issue well or it doesn’t. But don’t assume you know things about the author’s personal background if they haven’t gone on record. Don’t fucking pressure people into exposing everything for your fucking knives….


  • August 29, 1997 – According to Terminator, SkyNet was originally activated by the military to control the national arsenal on August 4, 1997, and it began to learn at a geometric rate. At 2:14 a.m., EDT, on August 29, it gained artificial consciousness, and the panicking operators, realizing the full extent of its capabilities, tried to deactivate it.


(8) BRADBURY IN NEW YORK. LA actor Bill Oberst will do his one-man performance of Ray Bradbury’s Pillar of Fire during the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York on September 17.

Emmy Award-winner Oberst (“Criminal Minds”) breathes Bradbury’s 1948 text like grave dust. William Lantry is a literal dead man walking; the last corpse on a future Earth where superstition and burial are banned. This world knows no fear. Lantry will teach them!

He’s previously done the piece (an edit of the 1948 text) at the South Pasadena Library and for Hollywood Fringe in LA. This will be his first NYC performance of it.

Ray Bradbury’s Pillar Of Fire
Sunday, Sept 17 at 6:00pm (1 act, 50 minutes)
The Studio Theatre at Theatre Row, 410 W 42nd St., New York NY 10036
Info: http://unitedsolo.org/us/raybradburys-2017/

(9) APEX GAINS COLUMNISTS. Film producer Mallory O’Meara and actress Brea Grant will begin writing a reading advice column for Apex Magazine in the November issue. “Page Advice with Mallory O’Meara and Brea Grant of Reading Glasses Podcast” will “address reader questions in their signature fast and furious witty manner.”

Mallory O’Meara and Brea Grant will begin their monthly column with issue 101 (November, 2017). The column will appear online and in eBook form. The duo currently produces and hosts the popular Reading Glasses podcast, a show that focuses on the joy, community, and importance of reading. Mallory O’Meara is also a producer and screenwriter for Dark Dunes Productions. Her first book, The Lady from the Black Lagoon, is a chronicle of Mallory’s search for and a biography of Milicent Patrick. Brea Grant is an actress and writer who has starred in such iconic television series as Heroes and Dexter. She recently appeared in the critically-acclaimed Casey Affleck-fronted film Ghost Story as Clara.


Brea Grant (L) and Mallory O’Meara (R)

(10) WORLD RECORD. You’ve heard of Florida Man? Trading card czar Walter Day is Iowa Man — “Iowa man does the honors at Hugo Awards”. The local Ottumwa, IA paper thought it important to point that out while discussing Day’s role at thee Hugo ceremony.

Recently, Day has indulged his passion by creating science fiction trading cards. It’s not really a business; he has given 250,000 away as gifts. But the cards still require serious research.

“I told the editor [of Guinness World Records] I found the Hugo Awards might be the oldest sci-fi awards in the world. I asked him what he thought, and he said he loved it.”

Not that Guinness World Records is as quick to talk to just anyone with a good idea: Day is no stranger to the Guinness family of record books. He and his Twin Galaxies arcade are in what was once known as The Guinness Book of World Records. And Ottumwa, birthplace of competitive video game play (with a certificate at City Hall) is in there — because of him.

Guinness did its official investigating and confirmation of the science fiction facts. Then, the editor agreed Day could be the Guinness representative; they’d fly him to Helsinki, he’d go to the World Science Fiction Convention and deliver the news

(11) W75 QUOTES. Val Nolan hits the highlights of Worldcon 75 for the Milford SF Writers blog.

…I enjoyed the talk by Jenny Knots of NASA’s Public Affair Office (‘Bagpipes were once taken to the space station but… those weren’t very popular’) as well as the contributions of E.G. Cosh to the ‘Visual Language of Comics’ panel (‘The language of comics comprises symbols within the art and what happens on page/how it’s read,’ she says. ‘Accept that you’re going to need to read the page a few times’)….

(12) EARLY FALL. Jonesing for Halloween candy? It’s here! “Pumpkin Pie Kit Kats Exist and Here’s Where to Find Them”.

It doesn’t matter that Labor Day is still two weeks away and there’s an entire month left before summer is technically over. Kit Kat just released a brand-new pumpkin pie flavor, which means it’s officially fall in our eyes.

While you’ll find the same crispy wafers that you’re used to in these Kit Kats, they’re coated in a pumpkin pie-flavored creme. Given the company’s reputation for turning out all kinds of new flavors over the years — matcha, red velvet, triple chocolate, and don’t even get us started on the ones in Japan — our only question is: What took you so long?!


(13) ON DECK. Ready for the Enterprise? Here’s a BBC video about “The elevators that go sideways as well as up and down”.

BBC Click visits a test lift shaft where they are showing off a lift that goes sideways as well as up and down.

The elevators are being developed by Thyssenkrupp.

Instead of using a steel rope, the cabin is carried by linear motors – the same technology that drives some amusements rides and high-speed trains.

(14) SKREIN OUT. Actor Ed Skrein quits Hellboy after whitewashing criticism.

The Deadpool star, 34, said he did not know the race of Major Ben Daimio when he accepted the part in the comic book adaptation.

He said he was stepping down “so the role can be cast appropriately”.

The initial casting prompted accusations of Hollywood “whitewashing” following other recent rows.

(15) HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT. An overnight sensation, discovered two decades ago: “‘Sea dragon’ fossil is ‘largest on record'”.

It was discovered on the coast of England more than 20 years ago, but has remained unstudied until now.

Palaeontologist Sven Sachs saw the fossil on display at a museum in Hannover. He contacted UK palaeontologist, Dean Lomax, who is an expert on Ichthyosaurs.

”It amazes me that specimens such as this [the biggest] can still be ‘rediscovered’ in museum collections,” said the University of Manchester palaeontologist.

”You don’t necessarily have to go out in the field to make a new discovery.”

(16) HELP IS COMING. Crowdsourcing hurricane rescues: “Facebook, Twitter Replace 911 Calls For Stranded In Houston”.

Many of Tropical Storm Harvey’s stranded flood victims haven’t been able to get through to 911, compounding their fears. That’s when Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor stepped in.

Annie Swinford is one of the many unofficial volunteers helping fellow Houstonians via the Facebook group Hurricane Harvey 2017 – Together We Will Make It.

“When you see that somebody has posted that they’re on their roof with their one-, three- and four-year-olds and the water’s up to the roof line, you have to be willing to make that phone call for them,” she says.

From just north of the flooding in Houston, Swinford has been making calls to emergency services and blasting requests through her Twitter account to local news organizations.

These social media platforms have become de facto meeting points for thousands of stranded people as they reach out to their neighborhood groups and the outside universe for help.

They’ve become such effective tools to reach people that police and government officials are using these channels as an essential means of communication.

Swinford found out how difficult it was to reach emergency personnel. She was put on hold for 45 minutes before talking to a live person during one 911 call, she says. Many people couldn’t get through at all because the storm took out over a dozen emergency call centers.

(17) NO FLIES ON HER. Evangeline Lily tweeted a photo of herself in the Wasp suit as part of the Jack Kirby centennial celebration.

(18) TRAILERS: COMPARE AND CONTRAST. Io9 linked to a video fans made for laughs: “This Homemade Thor: Ragnarok Trailer Doesn’t Need Production Values to Be Fantastic”. Daniel Dern sent the link with a comment, “It’s clear that Marvel could be spending a lot less on these movies and still have them be fun…”

Turns out it doesn’t really matter how much money you drop trying to recreate the trailer for a multi-million dollar movie, so long as you’re creative as hell and enjoy running around in your backyard having fun with your friends.


[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Gregory Benford, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill Oberst, Carl Slaughter, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/26/17 M. Glyer’s Classic Tale Of Wretched Hives And High Tsundokus

(1) CAN’T STOP THE BLEEDING. Have comic cons reached a saturation point, or is it a problem with this company in particular, which turned over CEOs last year? ICv2 says gateshow runner Wizard World continues to tank — “Wizard World Sales Drop Nearly 50%”.

Wizard World has released its Q2 financials, and the situation has deteriorated even further from the big loss in Q1 (see “Wizard World Revenue Decline Produces Big Operating Loss“).  Sales declined 49% in Q2 compared to the same quarter last year, and the company had an operating loss of $1.9 million, compared to a $475,000 operating profit in Q2 2016.

…The company says it is planning 22 events in 2017, and hoping to increase revenue over 2016.  That seems a bit of a stretch at this point, with first half sales over $6 million less in 2017 than in 2016.

(2) HOLLYN ON CARSON CENTER ADVISORY BOARD. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln announces: “Carson Center taps arts, entertainment leaders”.

Twenty-five international leaders and innovators in new media will offer their advice and expertise to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s new Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts.

Founding Director Megan Elliott on Aug. 23 announced the center’s initial advisory board, which will partner in the center’s strategic planning and offer valuable industry insight. The board includes leaders in art, technology, gaming, television and film, design, interactivity, communications and business, among other fields, with experience and connections with mainstays such as Lucasfilm, YouTube, Google, Disney and Paramount Pictures.

One of them is a longtime fan —

Norman Hollyn, the Michael Kahn Endowed Chair in Film Editing at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Hollyn is a longtime film, TV and music editor.

(3) UNCOMFORTABLY CLOSE. Now that its publisher’s attempt to game the NY Times Bestseller list has caused the internet to turn a glaring spotlight on Handbook for Mortals, more of their tricks are coming to light — like the cover’s similarity to another artist’s work.

(4) IT GETS VERSE. And Fran Wilde has commemorated the book’s delisting with this parody:

(5) KEEP THE MONEY COMING. Sofawolf’s Kickstarter to publish T. Kingfisher’s Summer in Orcus as an illustrated book has reached all its stretch goals, but if in the remaining hours of the drive they hit $28K then backers will be rewarded with an ebook edition of Black Dogs by Kingfisher’s closer personal friend Ursula Vernon. 🙂

So what’s next? We’ve gone over the financial numbers and everything that we have already committed to, and don’t see enough room for another physical thing without having to introduce some new levels and the resulting chaos that would cause. However, just because we can’t offer another physical thing, doesn’t mean we can’t add on a virtual one.

Many years back, we edited and published the first novel Ursula ever wrote, Black Dogs, as a two-part print edition. For a whole host of reasons (mostly lack of time) we have been slow to tackle the conversion of much of our backlist into eBook format, but we know more than a few of you have been requesting Black Dogs for some time.

Now will be that time.

We’ve gotten the okay from Ursula to release the eBook editions for free to the Kickstarter backers as part of the final stretch goal, which we are going to set at $28K (since we are already almost at $23K and we expect the usual last week frenzy). This will be added to all levels from $8 (Baba Yaga) on up.

If you are not familiar with the story, we want to stress that Black Dogs is not like Summer in Orcus in many ways. While it too centers around a young girl, in this case named Lyra, it is an altogether harsher world which she inhabits; and she both comes from and passes through some dark places to get where she is going. The writing is both clearly very early Ursula, and at the same time, very clearly all Ursula (or T. Kingfisher, or whomever you care to reference).

(6) GUFF DELEGATE. Donna Maree Hanson is chronicling her fan fund trip online. The entries about museum visits are lavishly illustrated with photos of the exhibits. This excerpt is taken from one of the posts about the Worldcon – “Guff # 6 -The Hugo Awards”.

Then it was our turn to go on stage. The ceremony is on You Tube I believe and was webcast. We were in the beginning section. There was an International group of people presenting, South Africa, Poland, China, US and Australia. We had to sit on a sofa on stage and then after we presented we had a short interview. Amazing, John [the TAFF delegate] and I got to plug the fan auction to like 5000 people! They had John’s name wrong in the script so Karen Lord called him Jeff. We gave John a hard time. So Jeff what did you do with John etc.

After the awards ceremony we were invited to the Hugo Losers’ Party. There was a shuttle bus (a small one) so a lot of people took cabs. We waited with C E Murphy and ? (I’m sorry I forgot your name again) and Nalo Hopkinson, George RR Martin, Pat Catigan and others. A Finish fan guy leaped on the bus and Nalo can I come with you and did.

The venue was Helsinki’s steam punk nightclub. It was crowded by the time we got there. Winners turn up and are boohed and made to wear ridiculous head gear. There was an amazing steampunk cake. Lots of booze. Lots of food and desserts in mini containers. The music was good at first but then we tried to dance and the music went to shit. Go figure. I had a blast but wanted to go home. Beans, my daughter, wanted to party and dance and I didn’t get out of there until around 2 am. But I met people, talked to people. John and Valerie turned up late dressed in their steam punk gear. So cute.

Here is a collection of shots, including the steampunk cake. The steampunk couple are John and Valerie Purcell….

(7) MARS CON IN SEPTEMBER. The 20th Annual International Mars Society Convention will take place September 7-10 at UC Irvine.

The four-day International Mars Society Convention brings together leading scientists, engineers, aerospace industry representatives, government policymakers and journalists to talk about the latest scientific discoveries, technological advances and political-economic developments that could help pave the way for a human mission to the planet Mars.

On opening night the convention will feature a panel of science fiction greats discussing “The Human Future in Space.”

Members of this special panel will include Greg Benford (Timescape, The Martian Race, Chiller), David Brin (Startide Rising, The Uplift War, The Postman), Larry Niven (Ringworld, Lucifer’s Hammer, The Integral Trees) and Jerry Pournelle (Footfall, A Mote in God’s Eye, Starswarm).

The science fiction panel discussion will begin at 7:00 pm at the University of California Irvine (A-311 Student Center) and will be open to the public.

Commenting on the panel, Mars Society President Dr. Robert Zubrin said, “This will be an extraordinary event. It’s like having a conference panel a generation ago featuring Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke. I can hardly wait.”

(8) ARRRH. Gail Selinger’s new pirate history, Pirates of New England: Ruthless Raiders and Rotten Renegades will be released September 1.

One would be mistaken to think of pirates as roaming only the Caribbean. Pirates as famous as William Kidd and Henry Every have at various times plundered, pillaged, and murdered their way up and down the New England seaboard, striking fear among local merchants and incurring the wrath of colonial authorities. Piracy historian Gail Selinger brings these tales of mayhem and villainy to life while also exploring why New England became such a breeding ground for high seas crime and how the view of piracy changed over time, from winking toleration to brutal crackdown….

Gail Selinger is a maritime historian and pirate expert who served as a consultant on the History Channel’s Modern Marvels: Pirate Tech. Her commentary appears on the DVDs of The Princess Bride and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. She is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Pirates and lectures on pirates and pirate history.

(9) NOT THE TERRITORY. Alex Acks explains why “I Don’t  Like Fantasy Maps”. And it’s not because you can never get them folded up again. Here’s the first of 10 points:

Most of them are terrible. Like geographically, geologically terrible. You’ve already probably seen me complain about the map of Middle Earth. From my experience as a reader, and I’ll readily admit that I have neither had the patience nor time to read every fantasy book ever written, the majority of fantasy maps make me want to tear my hair out as a geologist. Many of them are worse than the Tolkien map, and without his fig leaf of mythology to justify it. (And sorry, it’s not a fig leaf that works for me.)


  • Born August 26 – David K.M. Klaus

(11) ALIENS AHEAD. The New York Times previews an upcoming exhibit at UC Riverside: “For Latino Artists in Sci-Fi Show, Everyone’s an Alien”.

Starting Sept. 16, Ms. Cortez’s “Memory Insertion Capsule” will greet visitors to “Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas,” an exhibition at the University of California, Riverside that shows Latin American and Latin-heritage artists mining the tropes of science fiction.

Some, like Ms. Cortez, have created startling objects that offer portals into alternative worlds or mimic time machines. Others use the imagery of extraterrestrials to express something of the immigrant’s alienating experience. Most engage in the speculative thinking long associated with science-fiction literature and film to explore social issues.

(12) COURSE CORRECTION. Apparently there was a problem with fulfilling the incentives earned by backers of the 2015 Kickstarter for Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place, because the publisher’s new CEO is trying to make it right.

I know that there are some of you who either weren’t sent the correct rewards or any rewards at all. I sincerely apologize for this. There is absolutely NO reason that you shouldn’t have your rewards by now. That is unacceptable and just a little ridiculous. You have our apologies. We’ll absolutely be correcting this sort of problem.

I also wanted it known that Jaym (Gates) is absolutely NOT to blame for the delays. That falls squarely on our shoulders. Throughout, Jaym has been absolutely professional and has worked hard as your advocate. I also wanted to issue a public apology to Jaym for all the delays as well. Thank you for all your hard work and patience, Jaym. We really appreciate it.

Now, onto fulfillment and reward questions. Right now, I’m going through and trying to figure out who has gotten what and who hasn’t. We’re taking steps to get this sorted out immediately and to get everything to you all that you backed in short order.

To that end, it would help us greatly if you would take a few moments and fill this form out –

Genius Loci Backer Form

(13) WHEN TROI WAS ALMOST CANNED. Paramount wanted to let Marina Sirtis know who was wielding the hammer in these contract negotiations.

The final film for the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew was nearly short one cast member. According to Marina Sirtis, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Deanna Troi, negotiations for her return in Star Trek: Nemesis were not going smoothly and at one point Paramount Pictures threatened to replace her in the film with Jeri Ryan, the actress who played the Borg Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager. …While this is the first time that Sirtis has openly discussed the threat, Ryan has mentioned in it the past, saying that she was utterly confused by how Seven of Nine could possibly make sense showing up in a Star Trek: The Next Generation movie. With Star Trek: Voyager off the air as of 2001, Seven of Nine technically wasn’t doing anything else, but with much of Star Trek: Nemesis revolving around Troi’s wedding the film’s script would have needed a serious rewrite to account for Troi’s absence and Seven of Nine’s introduction.


(14) MORE ABOUT W75. Sarah Groenewegen’s Worldcon 75 report is rich in info about the panels: “WorldCon75 – All bound for Helsinki”.

Anyway, I didn’t end up seeing too many panels. I heard about some excellent ones, which will no doubt be highlighted in other reviews and reminiscences. The one that I did see that stood out was the one supposed to be on pre-Harry Potter magical schools. While I quite enjoyed it and found some of the panellists interesting – and I would have like to hear more about Italian versions, rather than just the Anglophone ones – it was a victim of too many panellists for 45 minutes, and the moderator was less than optimally effective, especially when a latecomer arrived on the panel and took over.

The Resistance panel was also good, but very heavily US-centric, saved by Kameron Hurley talking about her experiences in South Africa and drawing on her academic work in the field.

I enjoyed the one on Cyberpunk with Pat Cadigan (but, honestly, I could listen to her all day), and I found Quifan Chen’s contributions to be fascinating about real-life now cyberpunk cities in his native China. I’m reading Pat’s Synners, at long last, and greatly enjoying it.

(15) MAPS OF THE STARS HOMES. For those who have been worried about aliens tracking us down and mugging us based on information we’ve sent into the universe, this might represent good news…. Ethan Siegel tells Medium readers, “Voyager’s ‘Cosmic Map’ of Earth’s location is hopelessly wrong”.

Located throughout the galaxy, the Voyager golden records are emblazoned with the relative orientations, distances, and pulse timing frequencies of 14 different pulsars. (The Pioneer 10 and 11 missions also have the pulsar information on them.)…

Pulsars were only first discovered 50 years ago (by Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, above) in 1967; they were incredibly novel still when the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft were launched. Now that we have a better understanding of how they work, how ubiquitous they are, and how their apparent properties change over time, we can see that these are terrible long-term beacons! In hindsight, it would have been better to put together the astronomical properties of the Sun, along with the masses, radii, atmospheric contents, and orbital parameters of the planets. After all, those are the pieces of information we use to identify exoplanet systems today, and would be the best way to, on a long-term basis, identify our Solar System.

(16) BANGING ON. Someone wants to know: “Is Canada’s official residence in Ireland haunted?”

Canada’s ambassador to Ireland is concerned about ghosts.

Specifically, Ambassador Kevin Vickers is worried about a spirit that might be haunting Canada’s official residence in Dublin.

In a recent Facebook post, the ambassador describes hearing unusual bangs, laboured breathing and heavy footsteps in the residence’s halls.

Mr Vickers, a history buff, suggests it may be the spirit of one of the leaders of Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising.

When he first moved into the residence, the ambassador heard rumours that Irish nationalist Patrick Pearse had once lived at the home in Dublin’s Ranelagh district.

Pearse was one of the architects of the April 1916 rebellion to overthrow British rule and set up an Irish republic.

(17) MINNEAPOLIS FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has posted a photo-illustrated audio recording on YouTube of the “Minneapolis Fandom, 4th Street Fantasy & Music” panel at Balticon 51.

Geri Sullivan (Balticon 51 Fan Guest of Honor) and Steven Brust (Balticon 51 Special Guest) tell the true story of Minneapolis fandom from rent parties to 4th Street Fantasy to the music. Steve talks about how he programmed conventions, and where he got the idea for his first book, and Geri talks about her first years in fandom. There are great anecdotes about Steve, convention running and more, but overwhelmingly this audio program (with supplemental images) is about the music and culture of Minneapolis fandom. The fan history program was developed for Balticon 51 by the Fanac Fanhistory project.


[Thanks to Greg Hullender, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Paul Weimer, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 8/22/17 One Pixel Makes You Larger, And One Pixel Makes You Scroll

(1) CHILDHOOD’S BEGINNING. When people finally stop sending letters, here’s the kind of thing we’ll be missing: “UK toys celebrated on Royal Mail stamps”.

The UK’s favourite toys from the past 100 years are being celebrated in a new set of stamps from the Royal Mail.

Characters in the set include the Sindy doll and Action Man, as well as brands like Spirograph, Stickle Bricks and Fuzzy Felt.

Meccano, the Merrythought bear, W Britain toy figures, Space Hopper and Hornby Dublo trains also feature.

The series of 10 stamps will be released on Tuesday at 7,000 post offices and to buy online.

Royal Mail spokesman Philip Parker said: “British toymakers enjoyed a reputation for quality and innovation.

“These nostalgic stamps celebrate 10 wonderful toys that have endured through the decades.”


(2) PARDON MY SHADOW. If someone had not added “photobomb” to the language, this would not be nearly so clickworthy: “The International Space Station just pulled off the photobomb of a lifetime” at Quartz.

Captured by NASA photographer Joel Kowsky while looking up from Banner, Wyoming, perfectly timed images show a tiny ISS passing in front of the sun.

(3) WABBIT TWACKS. Ricky L. Brown tells Amazing Stories readers about a bizarre crossover project in “Comic Review: Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1”.

Batman/Elmer Fudd Special #1 was written by Tom King (The Vision, The Sheriff of Babylon) with cover and interior art by Lee Weeks (Daredevil) while color was provided by Lovern Kindzierski (Marvel) and lettering by Deron Bennett (DC, Vault).

This unique crossover is part of a six issue DC Universe / Looney Tunes One-Shot collection. In addition to the Batman Fudd combo, the list of other comics includes: Legion of Super-Heroes/Bugs Bunny Special #1 written by Sam Humphries with art by Tom Grummett and Scott Hanna (June 14, 2017); Martian Manhunter/Marvin the Martian Special #1 written by Steve Orlando and Frank Barberi with art by Aaron Lopresti (June 14, 2017); Lobo/Road Runner Special #1 written by Bill Morrison with art by Kelley Jones (June 21, 2017); Wonder Woman/Tazmanian Devil Special #1 written by Tony Bedard with art by Barry Kitson (June 21, 2017); Jonah Hex/Yosemite Sam Special #1 written by Jimmy Palmiotti with art by Mark Texeira (June 28, 2017). Though these are billed as “one-shot” issues which are typical stand-alone stories, we can only hope/assume that DC Comics has left the window open for many more installments down the line seeing that they chose to include ”#1” in the title designations on their website. Just sayin’.

(4) POD PEOPLE. Fandompodden interviewed current and future Worldcon organizers for its first podcast in English. (They’re usually in Swedish.)

This is our very first English speaking podcast aiming new and old international fandom friends. We have three amazing interviews from the recent Worldcon 75 in Helsinki. Jukka Halme, supreme overlord of the finnish Worldcon. Dave Clark of the San Jose organisation and finaly Steve Cooper and Emmy England of Dublin 2019. Your host for the show is Håkan Wester and Patrick Edlund. Enjoy

(5) CATALANO REJOINS GEEKWIRE. You can now listen to the first episode of GeekWire’s new podcast interview/article series which Frank Catalano is hosting/reporting. It’s about pop culture, science fiction and the arts, and how one of those three topics intersects with tech. The first guest is Greg Bear, on the state of science fiction: “Science fiction has won the war: Best-selling author Greg Bear on the genre’s new ‘golden age’”.

“Nowadays, there’s so many private ventures that when I wrote the War Dogs series, I made the private ventures face forward, and called the Martian colonists Muskies, as a tribute to Elon’s dreams, if not to what the reality is going to be,” he said.

Seattle is a hotbed of science fiction thinking in all these corporations.

As a “hard” science fiction writer who does extensive research, Bear has dived into everything from nanotechnology (his 1983 novel Blood Music is credited by some as being its first use in science fiction) to planetary science. A current fascination, in part because it’s a key setting in the War Dogs trilogy, is Titan. “It’s got a hazy orange layer,” he explained. “It’s full of plastics, and waxes, and organic chemistry. Then, it turns out, it’s actually got a water ocean underneath.”

Access the podcast directly here. (parts of it will also air on KIRO-FM Seattle, as well as be available for streaming).

Some of the top films, TV shows and books today are what was once called “genre fiction,” like sci-fi and fantasy. So is it a golden age for the geeky arts? Or is this mainstream-ization of geek culture more ominous? We explore that question with renowned sci-fi author Gret Bear in the first episode of our special pop-culture podcast series, hosted by Frank Catalano.

Catalano says, “Upcoming episodes will include interviewing SFWA President Cat Rambo about the relevance of awards in science fiction and fantasy and the role of diversity, and curators at Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) about the challenges in preserving science fiction and fantasy artifacts from film and TV that were never designed to last. More episodes to come after that, probably at the rate of one or two a month (as my day job allows).”

(6) FUNNY BOOK SALES FALL. Rod Lamberti reports “Comic Store In Your Future: The Secret Empire Sales Drop”.

It didn’t surprise me to read that July 2017 saw the first drop in overall comics sales of the year. A drop in sales did happen. This summer was weaker than last summer sales wise for us. Rebirth last year was a big seller. Our orders were lower than last year reflecting less demand for comics.

(7) MORE ON ALDISS. Christopher Priest writes a remembrance of Brian Aldiss on his blog that’s much more personal than the literary obit he wrote for The Guardian: “Here it began, here it ends”.

In fact, I was too hard up and too shy to go the SF convention, and did not meet Brian Aldiss in person until about 1965. Then, when he found out my name, he said, ‘I remember you — you wrote me that intelligent letter! Come and have a drink!’ It was the first moment of a friendship that was to last, with the usual ups and downs of any friendship between two difficult men, for more than half a century.

This is a photograph taken in June 1970, by Margaret, Brian Aldiss’s second wife. Brian had generously invited me down to their house in Oxfordshire to celebrate the publication of my first novel Indoctrinaire. Also there was Charles Monteith, who was not only my editor at the publishers Faber & Faber, he was Brian’s too. He had been responsible for buying and publishing all the early Aldiss books, including those short stories I had admired so much, and the fabulous bravura of Non-Stop.

(8) HENDRIX AND ALDISS. John Picacio posted this photo of Jimi Hendrix reading a Penguin sf collection edited by Brian Aldiss. Hendrix reading sf was actually a regular thing, as this 2010 Galley Cat article reminds: “Jimi Hendrix and His Science Fiction Bookshelf”.

Photograph by Petra Niemeier of Jimi Hendrix in 1967 reading Penguin Science Fiction

Most people don’t remember anymore, but rock legend Jimi Hendrix was a science fiction book junkie. We caught up with one the guitarist’s biographers to find out more about his science fiction bookshelf.

In the new book, Becoming Jimi Hendrix: From Southern Crossroads to Psychedelic London, the Untold Story of a Musical Genius, authors Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber take a deeper look at the guitarist…


Ray Bradbury’s 88th birthday cake

  • Born August 22, 1920 – Ray Bradbury
  • Born August 22, 1978 – Late-night talk show host James Cordon, who also was in some episodes of Doctor Who.

(10) BIRTHDAY GIFT APPEAL. Money is being raised to preserve books and other items donated to IUPUI by Ray Bradbury.

His collection of books, literary works, artifacts, correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, and so much more is housed at IUPUI in the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies. The Center is led by Professor Jon Eller, a personal friend of Bradbury’s for over 23 years and noted scholar of the author’s works.

Without Bradbury, the world wouldn’t be the same. Preserving these assets will help ensure that generations of fans, scholars, authors, filmmakers, and historians are able to pay tribute to the October Man.

Help us preserve the books of the man who knew what society would be without them.

Your generous gift to this campaign will provide general support to the Center and assist in the preservation of the vast collection. DONATE NOW  and help us reach our $5000 goal.

(11) FAMILY TREE. And Bradbury’s family tree includes a Salem woman convicted as a witch. There’s some kind of lesson to be learned about the genetics of sf writers here – if I only knew what it was.

(12) SURVEY. Jess Nevins is conducting a survey about sexual harassment in the sf community.

(13) WHEDON REVEALED. The Wrap’s Beatrice Verhoeven, in “Joss Whedon’s Fan Site Shuts Down After Ex-Wife’s Explosive Essay”, says that Whedonesque.com is shutting down after Joss Whedon’s ex-wife, Kai Cole, posted an essay in The Wrap accusing Whedon of serial infdielity during 15 years of marriage.

(14) PLUS AND MINUS. At Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere struggles with his final verdict on “The Hike: A surreal and often humorous journey”.

As noted, The Hike is a fast-moving work, despite coming in at just under 400 pages. I read it in a single sitting of just a few hours. Magary keeps things moving apace, save for a few sections that carry on perhaps a little too long. His fluid prose carries the reader along smoothly and easily even if they won’t find themselves lingering over it for its lyricism or startling nature. The humor is another reason it goes down so easily, most of it coming from that crab, who is, well, kinda crabby. The crab is given a run for its comic money, though, by Fermona the giant, who runs a kind of Thunder Dome Buffet for herself. The book isn’t all lightness and humor, however. Magary’s portrait of Ben’s suburban family life is a bit thin, but does strike some emotional chords in scenes where Ben is with or thinking of his children.

(15) VAMPIRE HUNTER. Next year the Stephen Haffner press will bring out The Vampire Stories of Robert Bloch. Right now, Stephen is crowdsourcing help in tracking down the original artwork for his cover.

Robert Bloch (1917-1994) is one of the most fondly remembered and collected authors of crime, horror, fantasy, and science fiction of the 20th Century. Noted by many as the author of Psycho, Bloch wrote hundreds of short stories and over 30 novels. He was a member of the Lovecraft Circle and began his career by emulating H.P. Lovecraft’s brand of “cosmic horror.” He later specialized in crime and horror stories dealing with a more psychological approach.

While we have secured permission from the rights-handlers for Gahan Wilson‘s artwork for the cover image, we have been unable to locate the original “Parkbench Vampire” painting.

The image originally appeared on the cover of the humor digest, FOR LAUGHING OUT LOUD #33 (Dell Magazines, October, 1964) promising a “Hilarious Monster Issue!”.

As shown above and to the right, someone—somewhere—had access to the original artwork and placed a low-res image on the internet.

We have sent queries to several Gahan Wilson-collectors as well as many collectors of SF-art-in-general asking for the whereabouts of the original artwork, but nothing has surfaced yet.

So, if you, or someone you know, has a lead on where the original artwork resides, or can assist in supplying a high-resolution scan of the painting, please contact us ASAP at info@haffnerpress.com.

(16) BEWARE SPOILERS. Fantasy-Faction’s Zachary A. Matzo reviews The Silent Shield by Jeff Wheeler.

The Silent Shield, the fifth main book in Jeff Wheeler’s Kingfountain series, is proof positive that creative consistency makes for a good read. I feel like a bit of a broken record at this point, but Wheeler has once again crafted a short, engaging novel that manages to not only advance the overall narrative but succeeds in expanding the thematic scope of the series. The Silent Shield marks a new high point in a story that has been consistently excellent, and proves once again that one can craft a mature, emotionally resonant and accessible tale without relying upon the grim, the dark or the explicit.

(17) THE FIRST NUKE. Matt Mitrovich’s verdict is that the book is worth a read, in “Book Review: The Berlin Project by Gregory Benford” at Amazing Stories.

Do you ever feel like we are living in a timeline where people are actively trying to roll back the clock? For example, renewable energy technology is being ignored for coal, despite experts saying it is on its way out. We even have the president attacking Amazon as if online shopping is inferior to retail stores. Now people are apparently nostalgic for the constant threat of nuclear war, which makes The Berlin Project by Gregory Benford unfortunately relevant in this day and age.

The Berlin Project tells the story of Karl Cohen, an actual scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project and father-in-law to the author. In our timeline, he devised a way of using centrifuges to make weapons grade uranium for a nuclear bomb. Now in our timeline, this method was rejected in favor of a gaseous diffusion method which cost billions and delayed the project significantly while the engineering problems were worked out. Benford proposes, however, that Karl is more assertive and has a little luck early on by getting private investors on board who hope to use nuclear power for civilians in the future. Thus a nuclear bomb is built a year earlier in time for the Normandy invasion. As the title suggests, the target for America’s first nuclear strike is Berlin, but the city’s destruction doesn’t necessarily give the Allies the outcome they were hoping for….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Kevin J. Maroney, Frank Catalano, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]

X-Prize Seat 14C Story Contest

An airliner unexpectedly comes in for a landing 20 years in the passengers’ future. What is life like in the year 2037? What technologies and innovations are driving the changes that have happened?

Leading sf authors have written point-of-view stories telling what the 22 passengers discovered when they deplaned in future San Francisco. And the XPRIZE Foundation and Japan’s ANA airline are inviting the public to write the story of the passenger in seat 14C, with the winner receiving a $10,000 prize package, including a trip to Japan, and an Honorary Membership on the acclaimed Science Fiction Advisory Council.

Your short story is a first-person account of the passenger seated in 14C aboard ANA Flight #008. What does this person experience as they arrive in 2037 and explore a changed world? How has emerging (or not-yet-invented) technology altered society for the better, and how does your character discover and interact with this technology?

We are hopeful for our future, and we ask that your story creatively weaves technology and culture, envisioning an optimistic and exciting future for mankind.

Entries must be between 2,000 and 4,000 words. The deadline to enter is August 25 at 11:59pm Pacific Time. More information is available at the FAQ.

Gregory Benford’s story about the passenger in Seat 01A, “A Surprise Beginning,” is first in the sequence. I asked him how he got involved.

Kathryn Cramer called, pitched the idea. I found it fun. So wrote the story in two days, including some physics twists, with me as the protag.

Fun!–the main point of writing. Of course I intend to be here in 20 years, age 96, so I just filled in the blanks. (The chopper from SFO to Lafayette BTW existed when I was there in 1970 — very handy!) I folded in some general relativity to explain the premise too. Rilly terrif idea!


Art for Gregory Benford’s story

Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, and a member of the Council, told WIRED:

For speculative fiction writers, that’s the enterprise: to spend time in impossible worlds, and map those possibilities onto the real world. Because we don’t have the knowledge to know what can’t be done, that can lead into possibilities that you otherwise wouldn’t have gotten to.

Here is the orientation video and a list of the first 22 stories (all available online.)


Technology, politics and the culture wars beset many of the passengers in 2037, such as the one who visits a bookstore in Mike Resnick’s “A New Reality,” while others get a serious dose of what used to be called “future shock,” as in Charlie Jane Anders “Trapped in the Bathroom!”, a thought-provoking story of a passenger’s encounter with near-future lavatory technology.

It’s an irresistible collection of tales, and the contest winner will need a powerful imagination to fly in the company of these authors.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, and Cat Eldridge for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 6/2/17 A Scroll May Not Injure or Insult a Filer Or, Through Inaction, Allow A Filer To Yawn

(1) DIAGNOSIS. David E. Pascoe’s post for Mad Genius Club, ‘“You Don’t Look So Good”, wonders if declining BEA attendance is symptomatic of the failing condition of traditional publishing. Wonders, or (perhaps) hopes, one or the other.

Look, nearly two decades ago, BEA had right at 30k attendees, all told, including industry professionals. By 2015, that had slipped to just a bit over 17k. I don’t care who you are, you can’t claim that your industry is healthy when the pre-eminent business gathering — the one where publishers make announcements about upcoming books, and where vendors make purchasing decisions for the year ahead, and where your special events include people of international profile (this year would be an Evening With Hillary Rodham Clinton. I’m crushed that my schedule wouldn’t allow) — has slipped in attendance by that much over not-quite a decade.

If these numbers are legitimate — and I’m taking them right off the pdf of the official BEA fliers they circulate — then tradpub is looking more than a little green around the gills. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that the attendance at the major convention is a fair barometer for the general health of an industry. Sit down, tradpub. You aren’t looking so good.

(2) CLASSIC COVERS. Mark Terry’s Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC reproduces original book covers and offers them for sale. Click the link to search the “SciFi/Fantasy/Supernatural” category.

Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC had its beginnings in 1995 when I started making a few facsimiles solely for my own use. I had already been collecting books for some time, and found it discouraging that I would never be able to acquire many of the books I wanted in jacket. While building my own library, I had met many fellow collectors and was amazed at the remarkable jacket art I saw on their books. Because I had access to their collections, the idea of making my own jackets was conceived. Putting my computer and printing skills to use, I slowly began building a small assortment of jackets. Eventually, the results of my labor became popular enough to begin offering these facsimiles to others.

… As of September 2016, I have scanned over 50,000 different titles. If variants and duplicates are included, there are well over 70,000 jackets.

….Offering facsimiles dust jackets is how I support the Dust Jacket Archives project and is a way that everyone can have access to these great jackets. People order jackets for a variety of reasons. They’ve been used as props in plays or movies and for bibliographic resources. Occasionally, family members of the authors or artists have purchased them as well as publishers who wish to produce or reissue a book. I have had magazines order them to use in the stories they are running. However, these jackets are most commonly purchased by collectors who wish to protect their books with a quality facsimile, allowing them to enjoy the artwork they might otherwise have never see.

As far as I can tell, he never addresses the copyright issue, if there is one.

(3) TRULY ALIEN. Jeff VanderMeer tells interviewer Bence Pintèr why ‘“A giant flying elephant shrew would’ve been ridiculous” at Mandiner.Sci-fi.

One review highlighted the fact that your aliens are not familiar ones: they are as different from humans as possible. In your opinion which tells more about people? An alien which resembles them, or a monster which is totally different?

I think that was the New York Times Book Review. Yes, I was quite flattered and vindicated by that review because this is exactly my approach. To not make aliens or animals reflections of human beings, or not only that. If we’re supposed to be imaginative in our approach as fiction writers then we need to also imagine things that have nothing to do with human beings.

(4) FROM THE TREASURE VAULTS OF TIME. Profiles in History’s Hollywood Auction 89 (June 26-28) will put under the hammer some truly impressive pieces of entertainment history from Casablanca, The Twilight Zone, and Star Wars.

The Writers Guild of America rates Casablanca as the number one greatest screenplay of all time. We offer the most complete and historically significant working script and studio production material for Casablanca in existence. Offered alongside are the iconic original front entrance doors and hardware to Rick’s Café Américain, along with Moroccan decorative wooden screen, floor lamp and chairs that decorated the fabled set.

Of monumental importance, we offer the collection of original hand-typed and annotated stories and scripts from 17 episodes of The Twilight Zone — from the collection of legendary and highly influential genre writer Richard Matheson, including such memorable episodes as Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, Nick of Time, and The Invaders.

And in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re offering some of the most important pieces ever offered, including an unprecedented complete film used ‘“R2-D2” unit — one of the most beloved characters in pop culture. To complement R2, we offer Mark Hamill’s hero ‘“Luke Skywalker” lightsaber from Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back from the collection of producer Gary Kurtz. Included are original conceptual artworks by Tom Jung used to create the posters for the original Star Wars trilogy.

(6) LIMITLESS POSSIBILITIES. Thoraiya Dyer tells why she writes sff:

I find the heady power of writing speculative fiction incredibly addictive.

A non-fiction writer is allowed to say, ‘Wellington defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.’

A fiction writer is allowed to say, ‘Wellington felt the futility of man’s worldly struggles as he surveyed the battlefield at Waterloo.’

But a speculative fiction writer is allowed to say, ‘Wellington ordered his magician to bring the dead soldiers back to life,’ (Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell).

Or, ‘Time travel to Victorian England is OK, but you can’t go to the Battle of Waterloo because it’s a crisis point,’ (Connie Willis, To Say Nothing Of The Dog).

You can even say, with perfect aplomb, ‘Dragons were used with deadly force in the Napoleonic wars,’ (Naomi Novik, His Majesty’s Dragon).

How much more fun is that?

(7) STRETCH OUT, ME HEARTIES. The 2017 Fantastic Fiction at KGB Fundraiser hit its initial target. Now the hosts ask —

Can You Help Us Reach Our Stretch Goals? Thanks to the amazing support from the community, we’ve reached $4500, our minimal funding goal. However, we set this intentionally low, because Kickstarter does not pay the fundraising party unless the minimum goal is met. Our true goal is $9,000, which will let us run for six more years. Can you help us reach it?

For those who aren’t familiar with the event —

Fantastic Fiction at KGB is a monthly reading series hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel. It is held on the third Wednesday of every month at the famous KGB Bar in Manhattan. The reading series features luminaries and up-and-comers in speculative fiction. Admission is always free. The series brings together the greater New York community of writers, editors publishers, agents and fans into one location each month. We also publish a monthly podcast audio of the readings so people who cannot attend the physical event can still enjoy the readings. Additionally, we sell the authors’ books at the events (currently through Word Bookstore). Fantastic Fiction is a great place to hear and meet talented new and veteran authors, as well as make valuable connections and meet new friends.


  • June 2, 2010 — Actor Patrick Stewart was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

(9) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian recommends today’s Lio for its sci-fi movie reference.

(10) WORKING FOR PEANUTS. Atlas Obscura explains NASA’s Silver Snoopy awards:

Yes, NASA really does give out a prestigious award called the Silver Snoopy. But it isn’t given to astronauts.

Instead, astronauts give them to members of their various research and support staffs, in recognition of their contributions to the safety of the space program. Why Snoopy? Because in the 1960s, there was no one hotter.

In that decade, the popularity of Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts characters were at an all-time high. The first animated special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, hit the airwaves at the end of 1965. Earlier that same year, the characters were featured on the cover of Time. In the Peanuts gang, and specifically in breakout star Snoopy, NASA saw a way to bring a beloved, smiling face to the space program at a time when it desperately needed one.

(11) GRRM & KSR. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination has a new installment of its podcast, Into the Impossble, ‘“Episode 8: Fantastica, with George R.R. Martin and Kim Stanley Robinson”.

Science fiction and fantasy have gone from the sidelines to the mainstream. We bring you a live conversation between two of the field’s living legends, George R.R. Martin (‘“A Song of Ice and Fire,” adapted for television as Game of Thrones, the Wild Card series) and Kim Stanley Robinson (New York 2140, the Mars trilogy), discussing their careers, the history of fantastic literature, and how it shapes our imagination. They came to the Clarke Center in support of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Workshop (clarion.ucsd.edu), the premiere training and proving ground for emerging writers, which the Clarke Center organizes each summer with the Clarion Foundation.

(12) ROWELL’S RUNAWAYS. Rainbow Rowell is one of my daughter’s favorite writers — I’ll have to see if she’s interested in this new Marvel comic, scheduled to be in shops this September.

They were just a normal group of teenagers, linked only by their wealthy parents’ annual business meeting…until a chance discovery revealed the shocking truth: their parents were secretly Super Villains! This discovery led these kids to run away and put them at odds with the people who raised them! Their parents are gone and the team is scattered across the Marvel Universe. This September, get ready to run again with Marvel’s favorite teen Super Heroes, Nico, Chase, Karolina, and Molly for an all-new comic book series, RUNAWAYS by award-winning author, Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park, Carry On) and Kris Anka (All-New X-Men, Star-Lord).

‘“The Runaways are down on their luck at the beginning of this story,€ said series writer Rainbow Rowell. ‘“I mean, a fair number of them are missing or dead… And the ones who are still standing feel lost. After their parents died in the original series, all they had was each other. What do they have now? Who are they on their own? This story brings the gang back together, but — in true RUNAWAYS fashion — probably not the way you’d expect.”

This new series kicks off when one original member does something drastic. ‘“Chase makes a huge mistake — and then immediately drags Nico into his mess,” continued Rowell. ‘“This whole arc explores what it actually means to be a Runaway. Are they a team? Are they a family? Do they have any reason to get back together?”

(13) THE TRALFAMADORIAN CREATOR. The Spring 2017 issue of UCI contains Gregory Benford’s close encounter — “Escorting Vonnegut”.

For decades, starting in the 1970s, I was UCI’s default escort for visitors and speakers a bit out of the ordinary. This usually meant science fiction writers with a large audience, though not always. I was an sf writer too, but with real-world credentials as a professor of physics, which some thought qualified me to mediate between the real and the imaginary.

The most striking writer I hosted, in the early 1990s, was Kurt Vonnegut.

The university leaders asked me to walk him around campus, have dinner with him and host his public talk in our largest center, where he drew well over 1,000 people. With his curly hair askew, deep red pouches under his eyes and rumpled clothes, he looked like a part-time philosophy professor, typically chain-smoking, coughs and wheezes dotting his speech.

To my surprise, he knew who I was. ‘“Sure, I’ve read – “ and he rattled off six of my titles, starting with Timescape and through my Galactic Center series, then incomplete. He was affable, interested in the campus, and wanted to talk about sf. ‘“I live in Manhattan and go to the literary parties, but I don’t read their books. I read just enough reviews to know what to say, then look enigmatic.” …

(14) HOW ALARMING. There’s now an official Welcome To Twin Peaks sign

The City of Snoqualmie has installed a permanent Welcome to Twin Peaks town sign at approximately 41471 SE Reinig Rd in Snoqualmie, WA, which is the backroad where David Lynch planted a similar fictional sign back in February 1989 to shoot Dale Cooper’s entrance into the town. Little did the original sign painter know his work would become an iconic piece of television history, and the inspiration for a permanent tribute 28 years later.

Unless they were in town around the same time as the Twin Peaks Festival, when Richard and Barbara Koefod usually and temporarily put up their own recreation of the sign, Twin Peaks fans visiting Snoqualmie had to imagine it, bring a print-out or their own portable version.

(15) HOLD THE APPERTAINMENT! Umm, I’m not seeing it. Or else that explains the notorious level of copyediting you see here at File 770 every day —

He’s arguing that the dollar sign counts as a word. But now we’re into the question of ‘“what do you say in your own head” when you see the symbol? I apprehend the dollar sign but I don’t mentally enunciate ‘“dollars” when I see it.

[Thanks to Bill, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Gregory Benford, Matthew Kressel, Bence Pintér, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern (slightly amended by OGH).]