Pixel Scroll 4/22/17 Get Out Of There At Once! The Pixels Are Coming From Inside The Scroll!

(1) CON REPORT. Outer Places went to Steve Wozniak’s comic con — “The SVCC Tech Showcase Was Filled With Robots and Supercars”.

Second only to the Woz himself, the night’s biggest show-stealer was SoftBank Robotics‘ Pepper the Robot. The machine is designed to be able to accurately perceive emotions, and is currently being marketed as a personal assistant in Japan. Tonight, Pepper mostly just rolled up to people and requested they take a selfie with them – that may sound like a waste of Pepper’s talents, but any robot who can perceive emotions would eventually realize that humans enjoy doing really silly things. So before the robots take over, we’ll take selfies with them.

(2) CAPTAIN KIRK. Of course, that may be underestimating William Shatner who was at SVCC yesterday, too — “William Shatner delights fans at Silicon Valley Comic Con” . Watch the KGO news video at the link.

From “Star Wars” to “Star Trek” and everything in between, the second annual Silicon Valley Comic Con did not disappoint on its opening night. In addition to costumes and cosplay fans were treated to an evening with Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.

(3) SOMEBODY’S WRONG ON THE INTERNET! The Fargo/Hugo Award identification continues to outrun the correction – as per usual in social media. But I’m impressed how many people know what a Hugo is. By comparison, it’ll be a cold day in Fargo Hell before the masses think they recognize a Dragon Award being used as a murder weapon on TV – take that, Puppies!

Series of tweets here:

(4) SCIENCE’S SIBLING RIVALRY. Star Trek, Arrival, linguistics, and “soft” science versus “hard” science: “Uhura Was a Comms Officer: Why Linguistics Matter”.

In Arrival, Louise Banks melds xenolinguistics, language documentation and underlying pattern recognition—even within the film, however, her specialty is derided as “not real” science by her male (theoretical physicist) counterpart Ian Donnelly. After quoting from a book on linguistics Banks wrote, Ian says flatly that she’s wrong:

“Well, the cornerstone of civilization isn’t language. It’s science.”

This is a succinct rendition of how language study tends to be viewed by those outside of it: that the scientific study of language isn’t science. This also, of course, ties into other things (such as sexism and whatnot, plus trying to use dialogue as characterization in media) but detailing such factors is beyond the scope of this article; suffice it to say, Arrival tries to detail the work of documenting and recognizing patterns of a completely unfamiliar system.

(5) WELCOME TO MARS, NOW DROP DEAD. Daily Mail, which enjoys such a reputation around here, warns “Visitors to Mars Will Die in Under 68 Days”..

…One of the most important conclusions of the research is that neither crops nor oxygen generated for the inhabitants will be sufficient to support life for long. A fatal fire is also a major risk.

The Daily Mail summarized the very long MIT paper:

Mars One is an ambitious plan by a Dutch entrepreneur to send people to Mars next decade and start building a colony there. The proposal has received fierce criticism for its lack of realistic goals, and now one study has dealt the team a crushing blow – by saying the colonists will begin dying in 68 days. Low air pressure, habitats at risk of explosion and a lack of spare parts are among the potentially fatal dangers that apparently await anyone who makes the inaugural trip.

(6) LEND A RESEARCHER A HAND. Zack Weinberg asks for your help. I ran this past a friend whose computer and network knowledge I respect and he agreed it looked bona fide – but as always, exercise your own wisdom about participating. This demo is part of a research study conducted by Zachary Weinberg, Nicolas Christin, and Vyas Sekar of Carnegie Mellon University. And as he says at the end, “’I particularly want Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and South America.”

I’m doing a research project related to online censorship, which you can help with, by visiting https://research.owlfolio.org/active-geo/ in any reasonably recent version of Firefox, Chrome, or IE. (You must have JavaScript enabled. It doesn’t work in Safari, which unfortunately means you cannot use an iDevice.) Press the Start button on the map, wait for it to finish, and then click the “Tell me more” button (which appears when it’s done) and read the text and follow the instructions. It is especially helpful if you do this on a computer physically located somewhere other than Europe and North America.

The experiment is testing “active geolocation”, which is when you try to figure out where a computer physically is by measuring how long it takes a packet of information to go round-trip between one computer and other computers in known locations. This has been studied carefully within Europe and the continental USA, but much less so elsewhere.

This is relevant to Internet censorship because, in order to measure Internet censorship, you need access to a computer within the sub-network run by a censorious country or organization. Commercial VPN services are one way to do this. Unfortunately, the countries that are most aggressive about censoring the Internet are also countries where it is difficult and expensive to host servers. I suspect that several commercial VPN providers’ claims of widespread server hosting are false: they are placing servers in countries where it is easy to do business, and then adding false entries to commonly-used geolocation databases. If whatsmyip and the like tell their users that the VPN server is in the right country, that’s good enough to make a sale…

I have run these measurements myself on many VPN servers, but I don’t know how accurate they are, and the accuracy varies depending on the true location. By visiting this page, running all the way through a measurement, and then telling me honestly where your computer really is, you provide me with data that I can use to calibrate the VPN measurements. Again, data from places other than Europe and North America is especially helpful: I particularly want Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and South America.

(7) CHARLES VESS. Coming this fall, an art book by the master — “Charles Vess Has An Original Art Edition of The Book of Ballads”.

From Neil Gaiman’s retelling of “The False Knight on the Road”, to Jeff Smith’s “The Galtee Farmer”, and Jane Yolen’s “King Henry” – Charles Vess’ The Book of Ballads brought new visions of the classic folktales from the brightest New York Times bestsellers, award winners, and masters of science fiction and fantasy together with stunning art from Charles Vess. With this new The Boo of Ballads Art Edition, get ready to experience the stories anew!

Hits comic stores September 13, 2017 and bookstores on November 10, 2017.

(8) SQUEE DOWN UNDER Ryan K. Lindsay is an excited Aurealis Award winner.

(9) TODAY’S DAYS

Two choices for April 22 —

EARTH DAY

Earth Day Network

The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the landmark Clean Air ActClean Water ActEndangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed. Twenty years later, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage.

MARCH FOR SCIENCE

March for Science

The March for Science is the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments.

(10) MARCHER FOR SCIENCE. Given what a lot of you think about the Daily Mail, why wouldn’t most their coverage of the March for Science in London revolve around Doctor Who’s Peter Capaldi? Except that you think it’s a good thing, don’t you. Fess up!

Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi joined physicists, astronomers and biologists at the March for Science as protesters paraded past London’s most celebrated research institutions.

Leading figures used the occasion to warn Britain’s impending divorce from the continent could compromise their work by stifling collaboration with overseas colleagues.

Organisers claimed 12,000 people joined the London event, as hundreds of similar protests took place around the globe, from Australia to the US.

Somebody needs to say it: What’s Doctor Who but a show that glorifies fake science and boasts a stunning lack of internal consistency? Yes, I love it, too, but let’s not get confused about what happens every episode….

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 22, 1953 – Sci-fi horror movie Invaders From Mars was released on this date.
  • April 22, 1978 — The Blues Brothers make their world premiere on Saturday Night Live.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • April 22, 1894:  Legendary film heavy Rondo Hatton is born in Hagerstown, MD. (Which makes me wonder, did he ever meet Harry Warner, Jr.?)

(13) SEE THE AUTHORS. Here are Ellen Datlow’s photos from the April 19’s Fantastic Readings at KGB with Laura Anne Gilman and Seth Dickinson.

(14) HEAR THE AUTHORS. At the next Fantastic Fiction at KGB on May 17, hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present E.C. Myers and Sam J. Miller.

E.C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts and raised by a single mother and a public library in Yonkers, New York. He has published four novels, and short stories in various magazines and anthologies, including Space & Time Magazine, Hidden Youth: Speculative Stories of Marginalized Children, and Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy. His first novel, Fair Coin, won the 2012 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult SF and Fantasy, and YALSA selected The Silence of Six as one of its “Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers” in 2016. His next book will be DoubleThink, a collection of stories related to The Silence of Six from and he continues to write for ReMade, a science fiction series from Serial Box Publishing.

And

Sam J. Miller’s short stories have appeared in publications such as Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and Lightspeed, along with multiple “year’s best” anthologies. His debut novel The Art of Starving, forthcoming from HarperTeen, was called “Funny, haunting, beautiful, relentless and powerful… a classic in the making” by Book Riot. His second novel, The Breaks, will be published by Ecco Press in 2018. He graduated from the Clarion UCSD Science Fiction & Fantasy Workshop in 2012. A finalist for multiple Nebula Awards along with the World Fantasy and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards, he won the 2013 Shirley Jackson Award for his short story “57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides.”

May 17th, 7 p.m. at KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

(15) GO AROUND AGAIN. The … individual … pushing circular runways backs up his ideas: “Circular runways: Engineer defends his proposal”

Last month we published a video arguing the case for circular runways at airports, as part of a series called World Hacks. It took off and went viral.

The video has had more than 36 million views on Facebook and generated heated debate on social media – including within the aviation community. Many people are sceptical about the concept.

So we decided to hand-pick some of the top concerns and put them straight to the man proposing the idea: Dutch engineer Henk Hesselink.

This is what he had to say….

Chip Hitchcock remarks, “I like how he casually dismisses increased landing speeds (ignoring their effects on tires) and doesn’t even discuss how difficult it would be to build several miles of surface with a uniform concavity or to refit several thousand airplanes with an autopilot sophisticated enough to handle such a landing — or how much harder aborting safely would be if the autopilot failed.”

(16) GET YOUR TISSUES READY. Nerdist has photos — “Little Jyn Erso Cosplayer Delivers Death Star Plans to Leia at STAR WARS Celebration”.

Harley and her dad made the data cards as a fun activity for the convention. Harley loves interacting with other people, and they thought this was a fitting tribute to their love of Star Wars and Fisher. As Harley ran into Leia cosplayers of all variety of ensemble, she handed over the Death Star plans. I don’t know how many Leia cosplayers were moved to tears by this act, but I’d wager it wasn’t a small number.

(17) KAMIKASSINI. Cassini sets up for final plunge: “Cassini probe heads towards Saturn ‘grand finale'”.

In the years that it has been studying the Saturnian system, the probe has flown by the haze-shrouded world on 126 occasions – each time getting a kick that bends it towards a new region of interest.

And on Saturday, Cassini pulled on the gravitational “elastic band” one last time, to shift from an orbit that grazes the outer edge of Saturn’s main ring system to a flight path that skims the inner edge and puts it less than 3,000km above the planet’s cloud tops.

The probe will make the first of these gap runs next Wednesday, repeating the dive every six and a half days through to its death plunge, scheduled to occur at about 10:45 GMT on 15 September.

The probe is scheduled for deliberate destruction to avoid any risk of it hitting and contaminating a Saturnian moon.

(18) APOLLO 13. Now there’s a documentary about “The unsung heroes who prevented the Apollo 13 disaster”.

Two days into what should have been a mission to the Moon, disaster struck Apollo 13. A new film explores the drama – and astronaut Jim Lovell recounts the incredible efforts to bring the crew back….

These tanks, in the spacecraft service module, were Liebergot’s responsibility. They held oxygen and hydrogen, which was converted to electricity and water in three fuel cells – powering the capsule and providing the astronauts with drinking water. The routine instruction to turn on stirring fans was to make sure the liquid in the fuel vessels was properly mixed, to ensure the gauges gave accurate readings.

Swigert flicks the switches for the fans. Two minutes later, there is a bang and the master alarm sounds.

On the ground, Liebergot is beginning the last hour of his eight-hour shift and is the first to see something has gone wrong. “The data went crazy, there was a lot of commotion in the room,” he says. “We didn’t know what we were seeing.”

That eight-hour shift would eventually end three days later.

“Houston, we’ve had a problem here,” Lovell tells mission control. “It looks to me, looking out the hatch, that we are venting something. We are venting something out into space.”

Chip Hitchcock opines, “To go with a documentary about the rescue, which I can see starting another round of does-this-qualify-for-the-DP-Hugo — provided it gets enough attention. (Released 5 weeks ago, but I don’t recall it showing in Boston at all; did anyone else see it before it went to Amazon video?)

(19) BACK IN THE STEM. “Why Russia is so good at encouraging women into tech” — Chip Hitchcock introduces this with a lemony comment: “Makes an interesting contrast to the recent proposal to decriminalize wifebeating; I wonder whether their rightward political shift will affect this.”

According to Unesco, 29% of people in scientific research worldwide are women, compared with 41% in Russia. In the UK, about 4% of inventors are women, whereas the figure is 15% in Russia.

Russian girls view Stem far more positively, with their interest starting earlier and lasting longer, says Julian Lambertin, managing director at KRC Research, the firm that oversaw the Microsoft interviews.

(20) PUB SIGN. Catching up on the news from 2011 — “Sizewell: Unique pub sign scoops top award” in the East Anglian Daily Times.

His unique creation features three variations on the vulcan theme – the Roman god, the delta-winged jet aircraft and the TV character Mr Spock.

Mr Fisk, who has been at the pub since 1997, decided to create a new sign after the old one was hit by a lorry around 18 months ago.

(21) HOLD EVERYTHING. In “Love in Public” on Vimeo, Noah Malone explains what happens to relationships when talking club sandwiches give gratuitous advice.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Zack Weinberg, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 4/21/17 Pass The Pixel On The Left Hand Side

(1) MYSTERY SOLVED. Yesterday’s Scroll reported the episode of Fargo where someone picked up a rocket-shaped trophy as a weapon, which several people identified (incorrectly) as a Hugo. Today Movie Pilot ran a story about the episode’s Easter eggs and repeated the Hugo Award identification – illustrated with photos for comparison — in item #5.

When the sheriff drives back to her step-dad’s house to get the statue he’d made for her son, Nathan, she discovers the door ajar and the place a mess. Before heading up the stairs to investigate, she grabs something that looks very much like a Hugo Award, in case she needs to defend herself.

A Hugo trophy is awarded to the best sci-fi and fantasy writer of the year, meaning Ennis Stussy might have at one point won the award. Could he have been a witness to the alien encounter all the way back in 1979, inspiring him to write sci-fi?

The Fargo award is not a physical Hugo (whatever may be intended). Movie Pilot’s comparative Hugo photo is, and I was vain enough to hope it was one of mine (several have been photographed for archival purposes). After searching I found they used Michael Benveniste’s photo of a 1987 Hugo, and I definitely did not win in Brighton (although I won the year before and after), and the 1990 Worldcon bid I chaired was also annihilated in the voting…..

Whose Hugo is it? The plaque in the photo is hard to make out, but the phrase “edited by” is there, which narrows it the Hugo for Best Semiprozine or Best Fanzine, and there being an initial in the middle of the person’s name, it must be the 1987 Hugo given to Locus, edited by Charles N. Brown.

(2) NOTICING A TREND. JJ says at some point “Hugo award” entered the popular lexicon as “that’s some far-fetched confabulation you’ve got going on there.”

(3) ROAD WARRIOR. John Scalzi did a LA Times Q&A in which he shared “10 things you don’t know about authors on book tour”

  1. You have to be “on”

When people show up to your event, they expect to be entertained — yes, even at an author event, when technically all you’re doing is reading from your book and maybe answering some questions. As the author, you have to be up and appear happy and be glad people showed up, and you have to do that from the moment you enter the event space to the moment you get in a car to go back to the hotel, which can be several hours. It’s tiring even for extroverts and, well, most authors aren’t extroverts. Being “on” for several hours a day, several days in a row, is one of the hardest things you’ll ask an introverted author used to working alone to do. And speaking of work …

(4) IF I HAD A HAMMER. An advance ruling from @AskTSA.

(5) A VISIT FROM THE TARDIS. The Register claims “Doctor Who-inspired proxy transmogrifies politically sensitive web to avoid gov censorship” – a headline almost as badly in need of deciphering as HIX NIX STIX PIX.

Computer boffins in Canada are working on anti-censorship software called Slitheen that disguises disallowed web content as government-sanctioned pablum. They intend for it to be used in countries where network connections get scrutinized for forbidden thought.

Slitheen – named after Doctor Who aliens capable of mimicking humans to avoid detection – could thus make reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights look like a lengthy refresher course in North Korean juche ideology or a politically acceptable celebration of cats.

In a presentation last October, Cecylia Bocovich, a University of Waterloo PhD student developing the technology in conjunction with computer science professor Ian Goldberg, said that governments in countries such as China, Iran, and Pakistan have used a variety of techniques to censor internet access, including filtering by IP address, filtering by hostname, protocol-specific throttling, URL keyword filtering, active probing, and application layer deep packet inspection.

(6) NAFF WINNER. Fe Waters has been voted the 2017 National Australian Fan Fund (NAFF) delegate and will attend Natcon at Continuum in Melbourne in June.

Waters got into fandom in 1990, started attending Swancon in 1995, and after being inspired by the kids’ programming at AussieCon IV took on organizing the Family Programme for Swancon 2011–2013. For her Family Programme work she was awarded the Mumfan (Marge Hughes) Award in 2013. In 2016 she was the Fan Guest of Honour at Swancon.

The National Australian Fan Fund (NAFF) was founded in 2001 to assist fans to travel across Australia to attend the Australian National Convention (Natcon).

(7) NEIL GAIMAN, BOX CHECKER. Superversive SF’s Anthony M, who liked Neil Gaiman’s 17th-century vision of the Marvel universe — Marvel: 1602 (published in 2012) – nevertheless was displeased by its revelation of a gay character: “Marvel: 1602” and the Wet Fish Slap.

….Or even, if you are really, really incapable of not virtue signaling, if it’s truly so very important to you that people know you’re Totally Not Homophobic, why on earth would you have this character tell Cyclops he’s gay?

It was stupid, it was pointless, and it was insulting that Gaiman decided to make his story worse in order to tell the world that he was Totally Cool With Being Gay. It was a way of telling the reader that he cared less about them than about making himself look good to the right people….

(7-1/2) SEVEN DEADLY WORDS. Paul Weimer watched Mazes and Monsters for his Skiffy and Fanty podcast. You can listen to what he thought about it here, but wear your asbestos earbuds because Paul warned, “That episode is most definitely not safe for work, because I ranted rather hard, and with language not suitable for children….”

(8) AROUND THE SUBWAY IN 25 HOURS. “50 Years Ago, a Computer Pioneer Got a New York Subway Race Rolling” is a fascinating article about a Vernian proposition, and may even involve a couple of fans from M.I.T. in supporting roles, if those named (Mitchell, Anderson) are the same people.

A six-man party (Mr. Samson, George Mitchell, Andy Jennings, Jeff Dwork, Dave Anderson and Dick Gruen) began at 6:30 a.m. from the Pacific Street station in Brooklyn. But when they finally pulled into the platform at Pelham Bay Park after a little more than 25 hours and 57 minutes, reporters confronted them with an unexpected question: How come they hadn’t done as well as Geoffrey Arnold had?

They had never heard of Mr. Arnold, but apparently in 1963 he completed his version of the circuit faster (variously reported as 24 or 25 hours and 56 minutes). Worse, he was from Harvard.

“I decided to take it on a little more seriously,” Mr. Samson recalled.

With his competitive juices fired up, he got serious. He collaborated with Mr. Arnold on official rules and prepared for a full-fledged computer-driven record-breaking attempt with 15 volunteers on April 19, 1967.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 21, 1989 — Mary Lambert’s Stephen King adaptation Pet Cemetery opens

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CITY

  • April 21, 753 BC – Rome is founded.

(11) SAD ANNIVERSARY. An interview by his local paper — “Pine Mountain author Michael Bishop to release book of short stories” – notes it’s been 10 years since his son was killed is a mass shooting at Virginia Tech.

Q: What led you to write “Other Arms Reach Out to Me: Georgia Stories” as a collection?

A: First, this book gathers almost (but not quite) all my mainstream stories set in Georgia or featuring characters from Georgia in foreign settings (see “Andalusia Triptych, 1962” and “Baby Love”) in a single volume. So, in that regard, it represents the culmination of a career-long project that I did not fully realize that I had embarked upon, but that I did always have in the back of my mind as an important project.

You will notice that “Other Arms” opens with a hommage to and an affectionate parody of the short fiction of Georgia’s own Flannery O’Connor (called “The Road Leads Back”) and that it concludes with a controversially satirical take on gun politics in Georgia set in an alternate time line (“Rattlesnakes and Men”).

I might add that this last story grows out of our lifelong desire to see the United States adopt sensible nationwide gun legislation that mandates background checks in every setting. We also are advocates for the banning of sales to private citizens of military-style weapons, high-capacity magazines, and certain excessive kinds of body-maiming ammunition without extremely good reasons for them to own such armament, which is totally unnecessary for protecting one’s home and hunting.

(12) MERGE WITH TV. The Into The Unknown exhibit at The Barbican in London runs June 3 to September 1. Visitors will be able to “Step Into A Black Mirror Episode”.

Walking into a Black Mirror.

Is that something you can see yourself doing?

Because if so, we have some good news for you: as part of their new show exploring the history of sci-fi, Into The Unknown, The Barbican are going to turn their huge Silk Screen entrance hall into an immersive take on the oh-so-gloriously bleak episode 15 Million Merits.

Quite how they’re doing this is still under wraps, but we do know that moments from the episode will be re-edited, mashed-up, and displayed on huge six-foot video installations surrounding you. We’re assuming that there will also be exercise bikes….

(13) ALWAYS NEWS TO SOMEONE. How did I miss this Klingon parody of Psy’s “Gangnam Style” at the height of the craze in 2012?

(14) WOZ SPEAKS. Steve Wozniak’s convention starts today. CNET made it the occasion for an interview — “Woz on Comic Con, iPhones and the Galaxy S8”.

Wozniak, commonly known as “Woz,” sat down with CNET a week before the second annual Silicon Valley Comic Con to talk about the geek conference he helped start in San Jose, California; what superhero he’d like to be; what features he’d like to see in the next iPhone; and why he’s excited to get his Galaxy S8.

Even though California already has a Comic Con — the massive event in San Diego — Wozniak said there’s plenty of room for more. “We’re going to have a big announcement at the end of this one,” he said. “We’re different and better, and we don’t want to be linked in with just being another.”

Last year marked the first time Silicon Valley hosted its own Comic Con, and this year it expands into areas like virtual reality and a science fair. The show kicks off Friday and ends Sunday.

“We’ll have the popular culture side of Comic Con, but we’ll mix in a lot of the science and technology that’s local here in Silicon Valley,” he said. “It seems like [tech and geek culture are] made for each other in a lot of ways.”

(15) THE TRUTH WILL BE OUT THERE AGAIN. Another season of X-Files is on the way says ScienceFiction.com.

You can’t keep a good TV series down – well, unless you’re Fox with ‘Firefly,’ I guess.  But hey, maybe Fox feels some remorse over this too-soon axing, so they are making up for it by giving 1990s hit sci-fi/conspiracy show ‘The X-Files‘ another go!

Originally, ‘The X-Files’ ran from 1993-2002 on TV, with two theatrical films in the mix as well.  Off the air but never truly forgotten, the show reached a sort of “cult status,” enough so that Fox made the call to bring the show back for a limited 6-episode revival in early 2016.  Based on the success of that experiment, Fox has rewarded series creator Chris Carter with a 10-episode order for this new season to debut either this Fall or early 2018 on the network.

(16) CELL DIVISION. A news item on Vox, “The new Oprah movie about Henrietta Lacks reopens a big scientific debate”, reminds Cat Eldridge of an sf novel: “There’s a scene in Mona Lisa Overdrive where Gibson hints strongly that one of the characters is a runaway cancer that’s contained within a number of shipping containers…”

This practice went on for decades without much controversy — until the bestselling book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot came along in 2010. The story sparked a debate among the public, researchers, and bioethicists about whether this practice is ethical — and whether the benefits to science truly outweigh the potential harms to individuals whose donations may come back to haunt them.

On Saturday, a new HBO movie starring Oprah based on the book will surely reignite that debate. The movie strongly suggests the practice of using anonymous tissues in research can be nefarious and deeply disturbing for families — while at the same time great for science. And so the research community is bracing for a backlash once again….

(17) WORKING. “Analogue Loaders” by Rafael Vangelis explains what would happen if real-life objects had to “load” the way computers do when we boot them up.

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Mark-kitteh, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Clack.]

Pixel Scroll 4/20/17 How Many Books Must A Pixel Scroll Down Before You Can Call Him A Fan?

(1) WORD SCULPTOR. Steve Barnes tells about his day’s writing and shares a chunk of his draft (read it at the link).

Shhhhh. I’m working on the Niven/Pournelle/Barnes collaboration today, before switching over to the pilot script. My current style of working is laying out rough text and “wireframe” and then polishing with endless drafts, embracing hacking and slashing. First drafts are like dragging a block of marble up from the quarry. Subsequent drafts are chipping away everything that doesn’t resemble an elephant. Then finally…the polishing. I’m still chipping. If I write enough, eventually a crumb of something emotional and valid will peek through, and polishing it is like….hmmm…like striking a spark. Then carefully adding tender and fanning a flame, letting that flame spread through the rest of the book. It might be ugly at first, but it’s warm. Or better, HOT. I thought I’d share the first tiny fragment from the book, which I’ve referred to as “The Cthulhu War” but might actually be called “Starborn and Godsons”.

(2) A SONG OF FLOUR AND FIRE. Camestros Felapton’s cat writes GRRM a letter – “Dear Mister Martin from Timothy T Cat”.

Dear Mister Martin,

Or can I call you George or Are-Are? You may remember me from my previous letters what I wrote you – specifically my lengthy inquiry as to whether Sue Perkins was a Stark or a Lannister or what? Camestros has since explained that I have been habitually confusing the BBC’s  ‘Great British Bake Off” with HBO’s “Games of Thrones”. This revelation has certainly cleared up many a query I had about where the story was going. Although I am still puzzled by the distinction between baking powder and baking soda – don’t worry! I understand a great writer like yourself has to have his secrets, so I’ll wait to find that out in the final episode…

That out of the way, Timothy launches into his business proposition….

(3) CULINARY PLEONASM. More restaurant hate from Jay Rayner in The Guardian — “I am sick of half-hearted desserts. Bring me a proper pudding”.

Oh sure, restaurants appear to offer desserts. But where once it would have been a list of tarts and mille-feuille, of savarins and delices, of things requiring proper pastry work, now there are just unstable creamy things on a plate. It’s an endless parade of panna cottas and half-arsed mousses. The kitchen will throw on a bit of granola or a fragment of meringue to make it look like a dessert, but that doesn’t alter the fact. It’s not. It’s a squirt from an udder, set to a wobble courtesy of a boiled down cow’s foot. It’s a failure of ambition

(4) WHO WAS THAT MASKED PERSON? Young People Read Old SFF is back, and this time James Davis Nicoll has assigned the panel James Tiptree Jr.’s “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” Evidently James let them discover some things for themselves.

Lisa: …Once I figured out what was going on, I enjoyed the story – pieces of information were revealed throughout, and the story continued twisting and turning until I finally figured out what the story was about – a future world without men. We got to hear about worlds without men in When It Changed, A Rose for Ecclesiastes, to an extent, in the dolphin story (except the women were smart dolphins). As with A Rose for Ecclesiastes, this is a man-free story written by a man. Does the author’s gender change how the manless women carry on?

After finishing the story (which seemed to have a lot more contempt for men than most men would have), I googled “Does James Tiptree Hate Women?” The results of my google search provided me with the final twist I experienced in reading Houston, Houston. This twist was twisty enough that it made me laugh out loud at my computer in surprise. It turns out that James Tiptree is actually a pseudonym for Alice Bradley Sheldon – who is, in fact, female. Well of course she was.

(5) NAME THAT BOOK. Stump the Bookseller is a site for people who vaguely remember novels that appeared when they were kids. If you look at it you will see that most of the half-remembered books are YA sf and fantasy. Here’s their most recent request. Do you recognize it? Four people agreed on the answer in comments.

There was a book that I read in the early 1970s about a girl (A) whose family took in another girl (B), I can’t remember why. Girl B turned out to have powers that she used against Girl A. I remember two scenes. Girl A was going to the prom or a big dance with her boyfriend and was going to make her own dress. Girl B made Girl A buy a pattern and color for a dress that was unbecoming to Girl A. Also, Girl B made Girl A sick right before the dance so Girl B went with Girl A’s boyfriend. I don’t remember how Girl A got rid of Girl B, but the book ends with Girl A saying whenever she reads a story in the newspaper about a wife dying, or an accident with 3 people where the woman dies, that she wonders if it is Girl B is still out there up to her old tricks.

(6) BE FREE. Teacher and author Tracy Townsend writes a series of tweets about a little-considered benefit of free online fiction. It begins here:

(7) MOMENT OF TRUTH. In “10 Questions with Hugo Award Winner Laura J. Mixon” interviewer Ryan Schneider mostly asks about her writing, and her new book Glass Houses, but he does throw a couple of curveballs –

5.Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?

Outside, dammit! sayeth the engineer. The writer in me shrugs; whatever—I’m in it for the fun and glory and adventure. Just be consistent with that punctuation stuff and use it to tell a great story, and I’m yours.

6.What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?

Pro. I’ll fight you.

(8) BEEN HERE, DONE THAT. Here are four NASA astronauts who believed in alien visitation. Leroy Gordon Cooper was one of them.

But even before he underwent the life-changing experience of becoming the first man to sleep in space, he claimed to have seen UFOs flying over Germany in 1951.

The spaceman also said he saw flying saucers spying on a secret air base where experimental American aircraft were being tested.

“I believe that these extraterrestrial vehicles and their crews are visiting this planet from other planets, which are a little more technically advanced than we are on Earth,” he told the UN in 1984.

“We may first have to show them that we have learned how to resolve our problems by peaceful means rather than warfare, before we are accepted as fully qualified universal team members.

“Their acceptance will have tremendous possibilities of advancing our world in all areas.”

(9) KUMMING OBIT. Waldemar Kumming (1924-2017) died on April 5, age 92, according to Wolf von Witting. He was best known as the editor of Munich Roundup, a photo-filled zine about European fanac. He won a European SF Award for his services to fandom in 1984, and the Big Heart Award in 2005.

(10) MITCHELL OBIT. SF Site News reports Vicki Mitchell Gustafson, who wrote as V.E. Mitchell died on April 13, six days before her 67th birthday. Vicki was the widow of art historian Jon Gustafson, who died 12 years earlier, to the day. (Jon was a columnist for my old fanzine, Scientifriction.)

(11) IF YOU’RE LUCKY. Five days left to enter the Wrongthink Sci-Fi Giveaway being run at Robert Kroese’s BadNovelist site.

The Wrongthink Sci-Fi Giveaway is about showcasing authors who have been marginalized by the gatekeepers of the sci-fi publishing industry for the sin of not complying with progressive social justice dogma. From Sarah Hoyt, who was accused of racism and ”internalized misogyny” for her association with the Sad Puppies campaign to reform the Hugo Awards, to Nick Cole, who lost a publishing contract for daring to write a story about an artificially intelligent computer who is troubled by abortion, these authors have faced smear campaigns, boycotts and blacklisting for failing to toe the progressive line.

Just for entering, you’ll get:

Brother, Frank by Michael Bunker
The Red King by Nick Cole
Darkship Thieves by Sarah A. Hoyt
The Yanthus Prime Job by Robert Kroese
The Darkness by W.J. Lundy
Nethereal by Brian Niemeier
Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson

Three lucky winners will also receive:

Wick by Michael Bunker
Ctrl+Alt+Revolt by Nick Cole
Darkship Revenge by Sarah A. Hoyt
Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese
The Shadows by W.J. Lundy
Souldancer by Brian Niemeier
Better to Beg Forgiveness by Michael Z. Williamson

Books will be provided as downloadable files, in both ebook and mobi (Kindle) formats.

(12) I, THE JURY. Aurealis Awards judge Elizabeth Fitzgerald tells what it was like.

The problem with my reckoning was that there was an embedded assumption that the award books would arrive at a regular pace. I really should have known better. The award opened for entries mid June and books trickled in until the first small rush arrived at the end of September. However, most of the entries arrived en masse in December.

To complicate matters, I suffered a bout of eye strain in November and continued to struggle with it through December. In the end, I recovered thanks to some eye drops and the inclusion of frequent breaks in my schedule. I made up for lost time by averaging a book a day throughout January and February. I didn’t watch any TV or do much of anything other than read. Now, you know I love reading, but two months and more of that started to get a bit much, even for me.

It improved my reading skills, though. I got faster. I found that 20 pages was usually long enough to judge the quality of the writing. I did a lot of skimming. And I got more comfortable with not finishing books. Prior to being a judge, I could count the number of books I’d DNFed on one hand.

I got to know my postman and the delivery guys very well. Books would show up randomly on my doorstep. It was like Christmas. And then, when it was actually Christmas, all the Aurealis books made a good disguise. My sweetheart busted me with the copy of Ninefox Gambit I’d ordered as his Christmas present. So, I told him it was another book for judging and let him take a look at it before putting it in the pile of judging books. I quietly snuck it out a couple of weeks later and wrapped it up.

(13) BOUTIQUE SERIES. Not that anybody uses the word “boutique” anymore. Recode tells why “Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’ couldn’t be made into a TV show until TV changed”.

…The CEO of Starz, Chris Albrecht, previously oversaw the rise of prestige TV as CEO of HBO, including “The Sopranos,” “Deadwood” and “The Wire.”

Shows like those proved that TV didn’t have to be made for the biggest audience possible.

“When you make something like ‘American Gods,’ you go, ‘This is not going to be to everybody’s taste,’” Gaiman said. “But you’re also not going to make it more to anybody’s taste by making it less like the thing that it is. You just kind of have to lean into it.”

Later entries in the prestige TV genre, like Netflix’s “House of Cards” and Amazon’s “Transparent,” changed how people watch TV, making it normal to binge an entire show in one sitting. Gaiman noted that cheapskates who don’t yet have Starz could wait until the end of the eight-episode season, sign up for a free trial and binge away.

(14) JORDAN TV. Variety reports Sony Pictures is at work on a Wheel of Time series.

The long-gestating “Wheel of Time” TV series adaptation is moving forward with Sony Pictures Television.

The series will be based on the high fantasy novels written by Robert Jordan, the pen name of James O. Rigney Jr. There are 14 novels in total, beginning with “The Eye of the World” in 1990 and concluding with “A Memory of Light,” which was finished by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan’s death in 2007. They follow the quest to find the Dragon Reborn, who it is said will help unite forces to combat The Dark One.

Sony will produce along with Red Eagle Entertainment and Radar Pictures. Rafe Judkins is attached to write and executive produce. Judkins previously worked on shows such as ABC’s “Agents of SHIELD,” the Netflix series “Hemlock Grove,” and the NBC series “Chuck.” Red Eagle partners Rick Selvage and Larry Mondragon will executive produce along with Radar’s Ted Field and Mike Weber. Darren Lemke will also executive produce, with Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal serving as consulting producer.

(15) SFF GEOGRAPHY. Here are “11 Famous Movie Locations You Can Actually Visit” from Harry Potter, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and more.

3 / 11

The Martian

Another earthly landscape stands in for an alien one in this 2015 Matt Damon film. Wadi Rum, or “The Valley of the Moon,” in Jordan is a close match for the red planet. The region also makes a cameo in Red Planet, Last Days on Mars, Lawrence of Arabia and Prometheus.

(16) WHACKS MUSEUM. Medieval peasants had their own ways of discouraging zombies.

Where else to learn about medieval zombies than in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports‘ latest study, (and everyone’s favorite new beach read), “A multidisciplinary study of a burnt and mutilated assemblage of human remains from a deserted Mediaeval village in England.” What a title.

If the click-baity title wasn’t evidence enough, it’s a pretty macabre read, leavened with just the right touch of osteology, radiometric dating, and strontium isotope analyses. But the upshot is that some villagers in the 11th to 13th centuries who lived near modern-day Wharram Percy in northern Yorkshire were apparently scared of zombies. So they made sure the dead would stay dead with some extra handiwork, deliberately mutilating the bodies after death.

(17) DRAMATIC PRESENTATION. Apparently this episode of Fargo featured Gloria (Carrie Coon) picking up a rocket trophy to use as a weapon. Several people thought it was a Hugo. (The linked article describes the episode, however, it doesn’t mention the trophy.)

It’s not a Hugo or an International Fantasy Award. No Hugo ever had that shape, or was designed with that kind of gap between the fins and the base. It’s an interesting puzzle. These days you can order a lot of different 3-D rocket awards online, maybe it’s one of those.

(18) SPEAKING OF. A striptease during language lessons?

….A leading adult entertainment webcam platform, unveiled “Language Lessons,” the first adult language-learning service that combines beautiful cam models with the latest translation technologies to make learning a foreign language fun and sensual. Now, in addition to camming with their favorite model in a private chatroom, fans can engage in casual conversation with them, learning an assortment of languages including Spanish, French, Romanian and English.

Daniel Dern commented – “(Obviously) (to me, a grey/white hair), I immediately thought of this classic sf story (rot13’d here to give Filers a chance to see if they can guess)…”

“Naq Znqyl Grnpu,” ol Yyblq Ovttyr, We.

Diplomat John Quincy Adams said the best way to learn a foreign language was with the help of a mistress – though he made clear he had only availed himself of the second or third best ways.

(19) MORE MARVEL. The official trailer for “Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger,” coming to Freeform in 2018.

[Thanks to Wolf von Witting, Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day JohanP, who’s probably in the wind by now.]

Now You Know the Rest of the Story

News services throughout the world reported that a Thai fireman turned superhero when he dressed up as comic-book character Spider-Man to coax a frightened eight-year-old autistic boy from a third-story ledge.

The Hugos being so much in the news this week, the last line of the Associated Press story really caught my eye:

Somchai said he keeps the Spider-Man costume and an outfit of Japanese television character Ultraman at the station in order to liven up school fire drills.

So when the chips were down, Ultraman got left in the locker and Spider-Man saved the day. When an Ultraman statuette decorated the Nippon 2007 Hugo base I laughed about a hypothetical New York Worldcon following suit with a Spider-Man base. Now who knows, if Somtow Sucharitkul held a Thai Worldcon they might really do it.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

First and Last Hugos?

Were the Hugo Awards meant to begin and end with the presentation of Jack McKnight’s handmade rockets at the Philadelpha Worldcon of 1953?

That’s the view expressed in a comment on the official Hugo website:

Because the awards presented in 1953 were initially conceived as one-off awards…

However, Michael J. Walsh points out that the 1953 Worldcon’s announcement of the award in its third progress report describes it as “the First Annual Science Fiction Achievement Awards” — not first and last…

When I redraft the official site’s Hugo history I will have to deal with this question.

Esther Cole, chair of the San Francisco committee which failed to reprise the Hugos in 1954, said on a panel in 1993 that she believed they were one-off awards, making the discussion yet another of those faanish theological controversies. We can wonder why she believed that. However, I’m not aware that anyone has shown she didn’t believe that.

Sometimes I wonder if the 1954 committee, having heard how Jack McKnight missed the Worldcon to finish the trophies, found no one would touch the project with a 10-foot-pole. But I haven’t found any evidence to support my speculation.

Snapshots 14

Five developments of interest to fans.

(1) If you habla Español, Roberto De Antuñano’s Ultralinea science fiction podcast may be for you. Roberto is the Entertainment editor for MSN Mexico (www.prodigy.msn.com), and he’s been a sci-fi fan since the golden age of 12. “Ultralìnea” takes its name from the Spanish version of Dan Simmon’s “Fatline.” The first podcast discussed Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series. The latest argues whether Star Wars is science fiction or not – a familiar ploy that is just as successful in translation, judging by Roberto’s claim that the podcast has exceeded 200,000 downloads. (If the Crotchety Old Fan hasn’t already tried that one, I guarantee he will before next week.)

(2) Orbit is offering dollar e-books to readers on a rotating basis. The dollar titles are available at onedollarorbit.com. The January book is Brent Weeks’ epic fantasy, The Way of Shadows. Next month they’ll be offering Iain M. Banks’ Use of Weapons.

Kirk makes gunpowder(3) Using the gunpowder formula from the Star Trek episode “Arena”, a blogger takes the makings past TSA inspectors who have apparently never seen the episode. Her only trouble comes from inspectors who want to confiscate her dangerous bamboo flutes.

(4) I’d hate to be J.K. Rowling, hearing that my productivity determines whether British booksellers have jobs. As the Guardian sees it:

Not just one era came to an end this year, but two – and as a result publishers and booksellers will have to do without the main life-supporting drugs they’ve recently relied on.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard (currently number two, but after only 10 days on sale) looks likely to be JK Rowling ‘s last magical offering for some time, ending a series of roughly biennial mega-sellers that began with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire smashing records in 2000.

The Economist(5) Robert Sawyer pointed out on his blog that, in November, The Economist’s “World in 2009” issue included a “Calendar for 2009” whose first entry for August reads “Montreal hosts the World Science Fiction Convention, where an author’s fantasy can lead to a Hugo Award.”

[Thanks to David Klaus, Andrew Porter and John Mansfield for some of the items included in this post.]

Hugo Hunting Season Begins

The 2009 Worldcon committee is now accepting nominations for the Hugo Awards from eligible voters.

The public announcement rather unfortunately lumps the Hugo and Prix Aurora Awards together:

The nomination period for both the Hugo and the Prix Aurora Awards is now open. All Canadian residents and citizens may nominate for the Canvention/Prix Aurora Awards while all members of both Denvention 3 and Anticipation may nominate for the Hugo Awards.

Lee Kuruganti Wins Hugo Base Design Contest

(Denvention 3 Press Release) Lee Kuruganti has won Denvention 3’s competition to design the 2008 Hugo Award statue base.

Lee Kuruganti is a professional, digital artist based in Colorado. Her fantastic art has been published by Baen, Static Movement Online, Withersin, Spacesuits and Sixguns, the Lorelei Signal and Sorcerous Signals. She created the poster for the recent film Extinction. Kuruganti reports that “One of my favorite moments was being selected as an artist for an international mural project for Olympic Games Seoul.”

Kuruganti was a semi-finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future Contest. She’s also done several solo shows, and has exhibited in many galleries.

Click to read the rest of Denvention 3’s press release

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