Pixel Scroll 9/30 Bite Cycles

(1) Product placement. Would you like to guess what product is featured in The Martian?

Aston Martin, Omega, and Burberry will be among the brands proud to be associated with Spectre, the latest James Bond movie when it opens next month. But with product placement and promotional tie-ins now generating big bucks for movie-makers, brands eager to share a piece of the big-screen action now extend well beyond the usual suspects.

For proof, look no further than The Martian, the new sci-fi action adventure starring Matt Damon, which opens in the UK later this week complete with… an official potato. Though even this is not the most surprising in a recent series of increasingly bizarre promotional couplings.

…The end result is a promotional campaign for which the film studio used its connections with NASA to provide Albert Bartlett customers with an all-expenses-paid family trip to the Kennedy Space Center as a competition prize in a Martian-themed promotional campaign.

“They wanted exposure. They also knew that, while the film will have big appeal with single blokes, they needed a way to open it up to a wider, family audience,” Marcantonio explains. “Which means it makes sense at a number of different levels. Unlike when soft drinks companies tie up with just about any family movie they can find to reach kids, this tie-up is anything but spurious.”

Indeed. And for a more mundane reason, too. Because like the planet Mars, Albert Bartlett’s best-selling potato – the Rooster – is … red.

(2) Not all of the marketing has been a success.

Remember what I said the other day about not betting against David Gerrold when science fiction cinema is on the line?

His new Facebook post concerns The Martian.

So, here’s my review of The Martian…which I was supposed to see tonight.

The studio’s public relations department is run by idiots.

If you arrange a screening, and if you make passes available to hundreds of fans — warning them ahead of time that you have overbooked and nobody is guaranteed a seat is not an excuse. It’s a cop-out.

You don’t turn away a hundred or more people at the door and shrug it off and say, “Sorry.”

What you do is you say, “Let’s make it up to these people who came all this way and waited all this time.” You go to the management of the theater and say, “We want to schedule a second screening after the first one concludes so that no one goes home disappointed.” That not only gives you good PR with the audience but it helps generate good word-of-mouth three days before the film opens.

The movie might be good. I expect it will be. But the PR people just pissed off at least a hundred fans who waited two hours or longer in line. Not good. Just not good.

(3) Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson, who did get into a screening, wrote this review:

Having already read and enjoyed Weir’s excellent adventure, I was pleasantly surprised with the effective presentation of the novel on screen. Seeing beautiful Martian vistas, punctuated by mountainous terrain in variegated hues of orange, made it seem as if humans were already living there. The use of high-altitude and digitally accurate perspectives of the Martian surface pulled at my heart strings. And I loved that Andy Weir developed a relationship with NASA after publishing the novel, leading the push to involve the space program directly with Scott. The resulting emphasis on science provides an enjoyable balance between the film’s considerable entertainment value and its educational, inspirational, and technological references.

(4) A New Yorker cartoon contains the greatest proof yet of life on Mars….

(5) However, when Rush Limbaugh claims he’s unconvinced NASA found water on Mars, it’s not comedy, it’s tragedy.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: There’s so much fraud. Snerdly came in today ‘what’s this NASA news, this NASA news is all exciting.’ I said yeah they found flowing water up there. ‘No kidding! Wow! Wow!’ Snerdly said ‘flowing water!?’ I said ‘why does that excite you? What, are you going there next week? What’s the big deal about flowing water on Mars?’ ‘I don’t know man but it’s just it’s just wow!’ I said ‘you know what, when they start selling iPhones on Mars, that’s when it’ll matter to me.’ I said ‘what do you think they’re gonna do with this news?’ I said ‘look at the temperature data, that has been reported by NASA, has been made up, it’s fraudulent for however many years, there isn’t any warming, there hasn’t been for 18.5 years. And yet, they’re lying about it. They’re just making up the amount of ice in the North and South Poles, they’re making up the temperatures, they’re lying and making up false charts and so forth. So what’s to stop them from making up something that happened on Mars that will help advance their left-wing agenda on this planet?’ And Snerdly paused ‘oh oh yeah you’re right.’ You know, when I play golf with excellent golfers, I ask them ‘does it ever get boring playing well? Does it ever get boring hitting shot after shot where you want to hit it?’ And they all look at me and smile and say ‘never.’ Well folks, it never gets boring being right either. Like I am. But it doesn’t mean it is any less frustrating.

(6) GeekTyrant says this is the 10-foot inflatable Jabba the Hutt you’re looking for.


Here’s something that’s sure to piss off your neighbors: a ten-foot long, six-foot tall inflatable Jabba the Hutt, perfect for decorating your front lawn or as the centerpiece for that Star Wars-themed party you might be planning. You can bring it with you to wait in line for The Force Awakens, use it as a Home Alone-style distraction to make potential robbers think a large alien lives in your home…the possibilities are too numerous to entertain in one sitting.

“I say put a Santa hat on him and put him in the front yard,” is John King Tarpinian’s advice.

Or give him his own radio show.

From ThinkGeek for $169.99.

(7) Elizabeth Bear lets readers in on the drafting process…

(8) Rights to Heinlein’s “The Man Who Sold The Moon” have been acquired by Allen Bain’s firm Bainframe. It will be developed for television.

More details on Deadline.com:

Bain (Two Men In Town, Revenge Of The Green Dragons) founded Bainframe to tell stories that have “the power to inspire people to dream of a better tomorrow.” This is the shingle’s second rights buy, following Octavia E. Butler’s Dawn. 

…The Man Who Sold The Moon tells the tale of Delos D. Harriman, a businessman possessed by a dream to take humanity off-Earth. As a young entrepreneur, he starts a private space company to colonize the moon and create the home he never had. He is driven to the brink while single-handedly ushering the entire human race to its next evolutionary step.

“This story is inspiring because the private space race is happening now and will become a reality within a decade. This is not some far flung science fiction yarn. It is something we are going to experience in our lifetime,” says Bain. The timing coincides with yesterday’s announcement by NASA of strong evidence there is flowing water on Mars. “The Man Who Sold the Moon allows us to imagine how the space race will play out, but at its core it’s really a gripping portrait of a complex character with an impossible dream.”

Bain notes that Harriman’s journey is reminiscent of the current crop of space pioneers like Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic), Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin) and Elon Musk (SpaceX) who has credited Heinlein as an inspiration.

(9) WisCon posted a report in June about the results of the first con run under its new anti-abuse policy.

This year was the first convention where we had a formal procedure in place for what to do when individuals attending WisCon violate the code of conduct described in our anti-harassment policy. The policy is intended to be flexible to allow for different situations, but its basic idea is that if somebody reports a harassing behavior to Safety, the person responsible can be issued a warning and asked to do something differently (such as staying away from a place or person). If warnings aren’t attended to or harassing behavior escalates, the policy describes a few more options, including –– in the worst case scenario, which we hope to avoid –– that Safety and Chairs in consultation with available Anti-Abuse Team members can make a collective at-con decision to ban someone from WisCon.

Now that the convention is over, Safety has handed off their at-con reports to the full Anti-Abuse Team, which is reviewing reports that are still open post-con and evaluating how well the policy performed on- site. Here’s how things looked in our first year:

  • 11 issues relating to the anti-harassment policy were reported to Safety.
  • 4 attendees were issued warnings for harassing behaviors.
  • 1 disruptive non-member was escorted off the premises by hotel staff.
  • 1 person was banned, after several warnings, in response to reports both from multiple departments and from the hotel –– some relating to patterns of behavior going back several years.

(10) Curbed has a report on a film adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s High Rise coming to film festivals.

The novel begins with a truly surreal opening line—”later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog”—and the story explores a societal breakdown similar to of-the-moment entertainment franchises such as The Walking Dead. But in J.G. Ballard’s 1975 High-Rise, the subject of a new film adaptation starting to make the festival rounds this month, the enemy isn’t some virus or the undead. The residents of a new London high-rise slowly regress and devolve into tribal infighting not due to some outside force altering their environment, but because of the environment itself. The tower becomes a character in the story, written as a symbol of the meticulous (and ultimately very fragile) class systems built up by society.

(11) Wired has interviewed David J. Peterson about his new book in “How To Invent A Language, From The Guy Who Made Dothraki”.

Some Conlangers Want to Keep Their Hobby Arcane

Peterson recognizes there are “definitely some negative aspects” to the growth in conlang popularity. He cites linguistic pioneer J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord Of The Rings as an example of the community’s instinct toward self-protection. “There were some people who reacted negatively [when LOTR was published] because they knew conlang would start to get more attention, and they didn’t want that,” he says. Until recently, the community has been a supportive niche for people with a very specific interest. But as television shows and films with created languages continue to pop up in more places, it’s no longer as heavily guarded.

His Book Aims to Codify Conlang Knowledge For Posterity

Constructed languages have existed for centuries, but the advent of the internet brought with it the listserv that created a true community of peers. Since then, the community has grown hugely—but as the internet has changed, a new generation of conlangers on various social networks has become more spread out and unaware of each other. “I’ve met dozens of conlangers on Tumblr, all new, all young, who have no idea that each other exist,” he says, “because they’re with the mass kind of shouting into the wind.” None of them know about the old conlang listserv, and now it’s an antiquated form of digital communication, so “they don’t want to bother with that.” Peterson worries about redundancies that would arise from the lack of connection. “They’re inheriting a kingdom they really don’t know the history of, and know nothing about,” he says. They’re reinventing every single wheel we already perfected.” The Art Of Language Invention is a way of bridging the gap between the old and new conlangers by becoming a codex of sorts, preserving knowledge of constructed language much in the same way ancient languages have been preserved throughout history.

[Thanks to Mark sans surname, Andrew Porter, Ansible Links, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 9/17 Second pixel to the left and straight on till Worldcon

(1) Curbed LA is not alone in thinking “The New Look of the Petersen Automotive Museum is Really Really Bad”.

petersen automotive museum

Shawn Crosby hit the nail on the head – “It looks as if the Petersen had skinned Disney Concert Hall Buffalo Bill style and is wearing its bloody outsides like a dress.”

(2) A critical headline also provides the first clue that Io9’s Germain Lussier is down on another project — “The Latest Stephen King Book To Become a Fatally Disappointing TV Show Is…”

The Mist is about how a group of citizens react when—you guessed it—a mysterious mist takes over their town, filled with horrible monsters. Both the movie and novella mostly take place in a isolated supermarket but the TV show will only use that as inspiration, and will have a larger scope.

(3) Anne and Wil Wheaton are hosting “Fancy Dinner: Burgers, Beer, and a Book” on October 20 from 6:30-9 p.m. at Crossings restaurant in South Pasadena. Admission is $100 per person. Click on the link for menu and other details.

At the end of the evening, you will get your own, autographed, advance copy of our book “A Guide To Being A Dog by Seamus Wheaton.” Proceeds from this event will be donated by Crossings to the Pasadena Humane Society to support our participation in the Wiggle Waggle Walk.

(4) This is a good example of what people look to SFWA for — Jennifer Brozek discusses “How Do You Ask For A Blurb?” on the SFWA Blog.

How do you ask for these blurbs without making a nuisance of yourself? You do your research. Many professional authors have “blurb and review” policies in place on their websites, mostly out of self-defense. An author can read only so many books when they are not writing or doing their own story research. Some of these policies may be “No. I will not blurb your book.” Some of them may be “Talk to my agent.” Whatever the posted blurb policy is… follow it. That’s the polite and correct thing to do.

If you have an agent, you can talk to them about talking to the agent of the author you’d like a blurb from. Your agent should have a decent handle on who can be approached and who should be avoided. If you don’t have an agent, you need to do things the old fashioned way: ask.

(5) Steve Davidson harkens back to his Crotchety Old Fan days with “The Things Robert Heinlein Taught Me” at Amazing Stories

What this little episode did remind me of is the fact that, in many ways, Bob served as a surrogate grandfather for me.  Both of mine passed before I’d been on this planet five years, and as anyone who has read Time Enough For Love can tell you, a rascally, unrepentant and self-assured grandfather is a must have in the proper development of the creatures we euphemistically call little boys.

And of course it then occurred to me that there were quite a few humorous (and not so humorous) lessons to be had from all of Heinlein’s books and, lacking the kind of social restraint that would undoubtedly have been passed on to me by a real-life grandfather, I have decided to share some of them with you.

(6) “The Cold Publishing Equations: Books Sold + Marketability + Love” is Kameron Hurley’s latest autobiographical post based on her royalty statements.

Being above average is important, because being average sucks —

The average book sells 3000 copies in its lifetime (Publishers Weekly, 2006).

Yes. It’s not missing a zero.

Take a breath and read that again.

But wait, there’s more!

The average traditionally published book which sells  3,000 in its entire lifetime in print only sells about 250-300 copies its first year.

But I’m going indie! you say. My odds are better!

No, grasshopper. Your odds are worse.

(7) Wallpaper Direct has a fun infographic about Doctor Who villains through time.

The role of The Doctor has been assumed by 12 respected actors, each bringing their own quirks and characteristics to the programme. Along with his Mark I Type 40 TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), the time travelling rogue has blasted his way across space, but not without gaining some enemies in the process.

From the Daleks to the Cybermen, we take a look at the most notable enemies from the Dr. Who franchise.

And they’d be thrilled to see you some wall covering from their Dr. Who Wall Mural collection.


Officially licensed wallpaper murals based on the latest BBC series with Doctor Who starring Matt Smith as the Time Lord – from the company Black Dog Murals. The mural is easy to hang – paste the wall product and each is supplied in a box, with full hanging instructions. Please read the hanging instructions carefully. The mural is supplied in pre-cut lengths. The lengths are sometimes reverse rolled due to the manufacturing process. If you are in any doubt regarding direction of pattern please refer to website.

(8) Steve Davidson is back with another installment of what’s eligible for the Retro Hugos that will be voted on by next year’s Worldcon members – Part 4 – Media, specifically, the Long Form category.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, is well served in 1940.  Not necessarily because there were a lot of worthy films, but only in comparison to Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, which has to settle for serial episodes and cartoons.  Television shows were still almost a decade away.

However, when it comes to film there are a few interesting contenders, and, fortunately, the vast majority of eligible works are known and viewable, thanks largely to the Internet Archive, Youtube and copyright law.

I’m looking forward to short form, where there should be a trove of radio shows and phonograph records, too.

(9) Steven H Silver saw this today on Jeopardy!

Category:  “E” Readers

Daily Double Answer: This novel by Sinclair Lewis caused and uproar for its satiric indictment of fundamentalist religion

Question from returning champ: What is Ender’s Game?

Lost $2000.

(10) Francis Hamit’s new book Security Matters: Essays On Industrial Security is available in a Kindle edition from Amazon. Says Francis:

It’s hard reality actually from the security industry; the experiences that inform some of my fiction.  There are some dramatic moments and instances recounted and the writing is some of my best. If it were a poetry book you’d at least look at the sample.

The volume is edited by Leigh Strother-Vien and Gavin Claypool.

A collection of “Security Counterpoint” columns that originally appeared in Security Technology & Design Magazine between 1993 and 2001 about problems and concerns that are still relevant today. Francis Hamit spent 21 years in that industry in operational, sales and consulting positions.

(11) A tough day for the let’s-you-and-him-fight crowd – because John Scalzi begins “How Many Books You Should Write In a Year” with this preamble:

Folks have pointed me toward this Huffington Post piece, begging self-published authors not to write four books a year, because the author (Lorraine Devon Wilke) maintains that no mere human can write four books a year and have them be any good. This has apparently earned her the wrath of a number of people, including writer Larry Correia, who snarks apart the piece here and whose position is that a) the premise of the article is crap, and b) authors should get paid, and if four books a year gets you paid, then rock on with your bad self. I suspect people may be wanting to have me comment on the piece so I can take punches at either or both Wilke or Correia, and are waiting, popcorn at ready.

If so, you may be disappointed. With regard to Correia’s piece, Larry and I disagree on a number of issues unrelated to writing craft, but we align fairly well here, and to the extent that I’m accurately condensing his points here, we don’t really disagree.

(12) “Here’s how the first humans will live on Mars –and why traveling the 140 million miles to get there will be the easy part” – despite the headline, it’s not a story about The Martian. It’s a pointer to an eye-grabbing infographic based on TED speaker and technologist Stephen Petranek’s book on How We’ll Live on Mars.

[Thanks to Mark, Francis Hamit, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]

Dragon Con Sets Attendance Record

The 2015 Dragon Con drew over 70,000, crushing the record of 62,000 set a year ago, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Charities also benefitted from fan support at Dragon Con.

One of the positives from that assemblage of humanity (and other unidentifiable creatures) is that the con raised more than $100,000 for the Lymphoma Research Foundation, this year’s designated charity.

Final figures are not in yet for those donations, nor for the Robert A. Heinlein “Pay It Forward” Blood Drive, which collected 3,292 units from 3,893 donors in 2014.

[Thanks to Don Cook for the story.]

Heinlein Bio Preview Online

William H. Patterson Jr. launches the next installment of his biography in 1948 with a quote from the Dean on the occasion of his wedding —

“I cried at the altar, and Ginny cried when we got outside, and all in all, it was quite kosher,” begins Robert A. Heinlein, Vol. 2: The Man Who Learned Better.

A generous preview of Patterson’s opus is now available at Google Books and Amazon.com, among other places. The book is due out June 3.

Heinlein Bio Draws Closer

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better by William Patterson, Jr. is scheduled for publication June 2014.

Advance copies are already in the hands of people it’s hoped will write a nice blurb. You lucky dogs!

It’s available for preorder from Amazon now. (I’d link Tor or Macmillan, too, if their sites were taking preorders.)

Heinlein Bio Another Step Closer

The second volume of William H. Patterson Jr.’s biography of Robert Heinlein has been sent to typesetting, the author told his blog readers today, November 11.

The publishing experience has not proven to be as collegial as he’d like —

I didn’t have a chance to post here about receiving the copyedit — it was quite sudden (I do not understand why, since this biography has been 13 years so far in production, and they’ve had the complete ms. since 2006, the publishers still feel they have to conduct the production process by ambush), and I had to work at it very concentratedly.

Patterson also covers some of the editing decisions in detail, a topic I find interesting and if you do too, click through.

Sign White House Petition
for SF Author Stamps

Heinlein forever StampA petition urging the Obama administration to proceed with a set of commemorative postage stamps honoring sf writers – and to make the group much larger and more diverse – has been launched by Chris Barkley on the 106th anniversary of Robert A. Heinlein’s birth.

A five-stamp set had been announced by the USPS Commemorative Panel program in February with a July 2013 release date but Linn’s Stamp News reported in April the issue is indefinitely postponed. The report also named the writers who had been selected to be on the stamps: Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein and Frank Herbert.

The petition contains 60 names and requests that  they appear on a series of stamps over the next several years, “in groups of six, ten or twelve individuals.”

You can sign Barkley’s petition at Change.org. His goal is to get 100,000 signatures by August 6.

The supporting statement says:

1) The USPS was going to honor just five authors until this past April of 2013, all of them male. This would be a gross misrepresentation of the effect women have had in this field of literature.

2) The general public needs to be made aware of the wide range of people who have affected American AND world culture over the past three generations. Without these creative artists, it’s hard to imagine how anyone could have been influenced to create Star Trek, Star Wars, medical techniques, modern computers and software, communication satellites or the world wide web.

The writers and artists recommended in the petition for this honor are:

Robert E. Howard (1906 – 1936)
H.P. Lovecraft (1890 –1937)
Henry Kuttner (1915 – 1958)
Cyril.M. Kornbluth (1923 – 1958)
Frank R. Paul (1884 – 1963)
E.E. “Doc” Smith, (1890 – 1965)
Paul A. Linebarger (Cordwainer Smith) (1913 – 1966)
Hugo Gernsback (1884 – 1967)
Virgil Finlay 1914 – 1971)
John W. Campbell, Jr. (1910 – 1971)
Will F. Jenkins (Murray Leinster) (1896 – 1975)
James Blish (1921 – 1975)
Edmond Hamilton (1904 – 1977)
Leigh Brackett (1915 – 1978)
Philip K. Dick (1928 – 1982)
Theodore Sturgeon (1918 – 1985)
Jack Gaughan, (1930 – 1985)
Frank Herbert (1920 -1986)
Judy-Lynn Del Rey (1943 –1986)
Chesley Bonestell (1888 – 1986)
Catherine L. Moore (1911 – 1987)
Terry Carr (1937 – 1987)
Alice Sheldon (James Tiptree, Jr.) (1915 – 1987)
Alfred Bester (1913 – 1987)
Clifford D. Simak (1904 – 1988)
Robert A. Heinlein (1907 – 1988)
Ed Emshwiller (1925 – 1990)
Donald Wollheim (1914 – 1990)
Isaac Asimov (1920- 1992)
Fritz Leiber (1910 – 1992)
Lester del Rey (1915 – 1993)
Robert Bloch (1917 – 1994)
Ian Ballantine (1916 –1995)
Roger Zelazny (1937 – 1995)
H.L. Gold (1914 –1996)
Richard M. Powers (1921 – 1996)
Judith Merril (1923 – 1997)
Marion Zimmer Bradley (1930 – 1999)
L. Sprague De Camp (1907 – 2000)
Gordon R. Dickson (1923 – 2001)
Poul Anderson (1926 – 2 001)
Damon Knight (1922 – 2002)
Harry Clement Stubbs (Hal Clement) 1922 – 2003)
Frank Kelly Freas (1922 – 2005)
Alice (Andre) Norton (1912 – 2005)
Octavia Butler (1947 – 2006)
James Baen, (1943- 2006)
Jack Williamson (1908 – 2006)
John Berkey 1932 – 2008)
Dean Ellis, 1920-2009
John Schoenherr (1935 – 2010)
Frank Frazetta (1928 – 2010)
Gene Szafran (1941 – 2011)
Joanna Russ (1937 – 2011)
Anne McCaffrey (1926 – 2011)
Leo Dillon (1933 – 2012)
Ray Bradbury (1920 – 2012)
Harry Harrison (1925 – 2012)
Jack Vance (1916 – 2013)
Richard Matheson (1926 – 2013)

[Thanks to Chris Barkley for the story.]

Update 07/08/2013: Corrected two misspellings noted in comments. 

Ellison’s Trademarks

Harlan Ellison registered his name as a trademark in 2001. I learned this yesterday and it made me wonder if that was a regular thing among science fiction writers. My search on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website shows it is not.

Heinlein and Asimov, the two Americans in science fiction’s Big Three, were trademarked posthumously, Heinlein by the trustees of the Heinlein Prize in 2011, and Asimov by his estate in 2000. Asimov’s marks, registered for use in connection with science products, science toys, and educational materials and services have since been abandoned.

Beyond them, I found nothing. I tested several other writers’ names, picked for their marketing savvy (if this was a good idea, surely they’d have done it) or commercial success or historical significance. There is no record of a trademark application for the names of John Scalzi, George R. R. Martin, Robert Silverberg, Mike Resnick, Connie Willis, Orson Scott Card, John W. Campbell, Gardner Dozois, or even Philip K. Dick. So this is not something everybody does.

But during the past decade or so Ellison, through his Kilimanjaro Corporation, trademarked his name and several other properties (some now lapsed) — Working Without A Net (2000, cancelled), Edgeworks Abbey (2001, live), Edgeworks (2002, cancelled), and Dangerous Visions (2006, live).

Working Without a Net by Harlan Ellison first appeared as a book Ivanova was reading in an episode of Babylon 5. Ellison later gave the title to a weekly series of commentaries he did for Galaxy Online in 2000. Finally, in 2008, Ellison told a radio audience he has signed with a “major publisher” to write his memoirs, tentatively called Working Without a Net.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Moon-Based Supercomputer Proposed

The old chums would have titled this paper: “Let’s Put a Dinkum Thinkum on Luna.”

Earth’s Deep Space Network of giant antennas used to gather data and talk to spacecraft is already overloaded, and the demand for bandwidth will only go up. Ouliang Chang, a grad student from my alma mater, USC, recently presented his solution at a space conference (Wired.com, “Why We Need a Supercomputer on the Moon.”) —

The plan is to bury a massive machine in a deep dark crater, on the side of the moon that’s facing away from Earth and all of its electromagnetic chatter. Nuclear-powered, it would process data for space missions and slingshot Earth’s Deep Space Network into a brand new moon-centric era.

Factoring in the cost of launching components into space, he estimates the project would cost between $10-$20 billion.

That’s before we start hiring the specialists. Keep an eye open for this classified ad:

Wanted: one-armed computer tech to spend his time explaining which jokes are funny…

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

Read Like a Pirate Week

No sooner have we finished celebrating “Talk Like a Pirate Day,” that beloved, fake internet holiday, than we’re commanded to turn our enthusiasm to the observance of Banned Books Week.

“Aarggh!” being what most students groan when assigned to read any 19th-century novel, there’s a certain logic in the timing.

Yet in all honesty the week is less a demonstration of freedom than another excuse for people to engage in the kind of smug self-congratulation the Internet thrives on.

So many posts about Banned Books Week are written with the insouciant naughtiness appropriate to 60-year-olds who are now invited to pretend they got away with something by reading Huckleberry Finn in the fourth grade.

Then there are the inevitable lists of books that have been banned someplace, sometime. Because we’re talking about censorship they must all be honored for the stripes they wear no matter what we might say about them in any other context.

Consider Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein’s novel prized by 1960s youth for much the same reason they read The Harrad Experiment. When challenged for its adult themes in Mercedes, TX in 2003, the book was actually retained. However, parents were subsequently given more control over what their child was assigned to read in class.

When’s the last time you reread Stranger? I did, not too long ago. Reading Stranger is a punishment in its own right, the passage of 50 years having rendered the novel unreadable in a way that has not touched Starship Troopers.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]