Pixel Scroll 4/3/17 The Dread Pixel Roberts

(1) MARKET FOR DIVERSITY? ICv2’s interview with Marvel’s VP of Sales David Gabriel spawned a controversial discussion about retailer or customer resistance to female characters (As you can see from the following excerpt, Gabriel has subsequently tried to walk back some of his comments.)

Part of it, but I think also it seemed like tastes changed, because stuff you had been doing in the past wasn’t working the same way.  Did you perceive that or are we misreading that?

No, I think so.  I don’t know if those customers with the tastes that had been around for three years really supporting nearly anything that we would try, anything that we would attempt, any of the new characters we brought up, either they weren’t shopping in that time period, or maybe like you said their tastes have changed. There was definitely a sort of nose-turning at the things that we had been doing successfully for the past three years, no longer viable.  We saw that, and that’s what we had to react to.  Yes, it’s all of that.

Now the million-dollar question.  Why did those tastes change?

I don’t know if that’s a question for me.  I think that’s a better question for retailers who are seeing all publishers.  What we heard was that people didn’t want any more diversity.  They didn’t want female characters out there.  That’s what we heard, whether we believe that or not.  I don’t know that that’s really true, but that’s what we saw in sales. We saw the sales of any character that was diverse, any character that was new, our female characters, anything that was not a core Marvel character, people were turning their nose up against.  That was difficult for us because we had a lot of fresh, new, exciting ideas that we were trying to get out and nothing new really worked.

[Note:  Marvel’s David Gabriel reached out to correct the statement above:  “Discussed candidly by some of the retailers at the summit, we heard that some were not happy with the false abandonment of the core Marvel heroes and, contrary to what some said about characters “not working,” the sticking factor and popularity for a majority of these new titles and characters like Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, The Mighty Thor, Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Moon Girl, continue to prove that our fans and retailers ARE excited about these new heroes. And let me be clear, our new heroes are not going anywhere! We are proud and excited to keep introducing unique characters that reflect new voices and new experiences into the Marvel Universe and pair them with our iconic heroes.

“We have also been hearing from stores that welcome and champion our new characters and titles and want more!  They’ve invigorated their own customer base and helped them grow their stores because of it.  So we’re getting both sides of the story and the only upcoming change we’re making is to ensure we don’t lose focus of our core heroes.”]

(2) RISE OF YA COMICS. Discussion about the Gabriel interview led Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson to do a wide-ranging commentary on the contemporary comics market, “So About That Whole Thing”. This excerpt is the last half:

STUFF THAT IS ENTIRELY AVOIDABLE:

  1. This is a personal opinion, but IMO launching a legacy character by killing off or humiliating the original character sets the legacy character up for failure. Who wants a legacy if the legacy is shitty?
  2. Diversity as a form of performative guilt doesn’t work. Let’s scrap the word diversity entirely and replace it with authenticity and realism. This is not a new world. This is *the world.*
  3. Never try to be the next whoever. Be the first and only you. People smell BS a mile away.
  4. The direct market and the book market have diverged. Never the twain shall meet. We need to accept this and move on, and market accordingly.
  5. Not for nothing, but there is a direct correlation between the quote unquote “diverse” Big 2 properties that have done well (Luke Cage, Black Panther, Ms Marvel, Batgirl) and properties that have A STRONG SENSE OF PLACE. It’s not “diversity” that draws those elusive untapped audiences, it’s *particularity.* This is a vital distinction nobody seems to make. This goes back to authenticity and realism.

AND FINALLY

On a practical level, this is not really a story about “diversity” at all. It’s a story about the rise of YA comics. If you look at it that way, the things that sell and don’t sell (AND THE MARKETS THEY SELL IN VS THE MARKETS THEY DON’T SELL IN) start to make a different kind of sense.

(3) BOMB HATCHES. Variety’s weekend box office report says “’Boss Baby’ Tops ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘Ghost in the Shell’ Bombs”.

The animated comedy bottled up a leading $49 million from 3,773 locations, edging out Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” a box office juggernaut that’s dominated the multiplexes since debuting three weeks ago. “Beauty and the Beast” added another $48 million to its mammoth $395.5 million domestic haul. The weekend’s other new release, Paramount’s “Ghost in the Shell,” bombed, taking in a demoralizing $19 million.

(4) GOFUNDME SIGNAL BOOST. “The 17-year-old son of a woman in my writing group has been diagnosed with an osteosarcoma in his right shoulder,” writes Nick Tchan, a Writers of the Future winner and Aurealis nominated author. “It’s an aggressive and rare form of bone cancer. At the very least, he’s going to have an extensive regime of chemotheraphy and a bone replaced in his right arm.

“Both he and his single mother are keen speculative fiction fans and writers. I’m putting together a GoFundMe to help pay for the time she’ll have to take off work as well as the other costs that tend to accumulate. Any funds left over from cost-of-living and treatment expenses I’m hoping to put towards something like Dragon Dictate so that he can write even if they have to amputate his arm.”

The GoFundMe link is — “LachlanB’s Recovery Fund”

We are the friends of Lachlan, a 17 year old Australian student and aspiring speculative fiction writer who has been struck by cancer. Lachlan is a compassionate, creative, bright young man who embraces life to the fullest.  A few weeks ago, he was enjoying his first week of university, planning a 3rd anniversary surprise for his girlfriend Sarah, organising his Dungeons and Dragons mates for their bi-monthly weekend session, and starting edits on the first draft of his YA fantasy novel. Cancer has interrupted his short and long-term plans. His first two weeks of university were spent undergoing a series of medical tests and consultations. Fifteen minutes into his 3rd anniversary date, he became unwell and had to go to Emergency.  He has now been diagnosed with osteosarcoma (an aggressive, painful bone cancer), and been forced to defer his university studies in order to receive the treatment he urgently needs.

The fundraiser has incentives, such as books from Grimdark magazine or John Joseph Adams’ Seeds of Change anthology, as well as print editions of Alliterate magazine.

(5) A CONVIVIAL EPISODE. Scott Edelman interviews Sunny Moraine at Washington DC’s Convivial restaurant in Episode 33 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Sunny Moraine

We discussed the best writing advice she’s heard, how being named the most promising author of 2013 messed with her mind, her favorite Ray Bradbury story (which is one of her all-time favorite stories period), why she writes Walking Dead fan fiction, the contradictions of writing a breakout book, how she decided her trilogies were meant to be trilogies, and more. (She refused, however, to tell me for whom the bell actually tolls or why birds suddenly appear every time you’re near.) Plus—I reveal how Tim Burton prevented me from eating a perfect sticky toffee pudding!

Edelman recently launched a Patreon in the hope that he’ll someday be able to afford to do episodes more frequently. He says, “Biweekly will never be enough to capture all the amazing creators out there!”

(6) PLEASE SAY THAT AGAIN. Astronomers have discovered three more Fast Radio Bursts:

FRBs have baffled scientists ever since the first one was discovered in archived data in 2007. The longstanding mystery of their origin, which is further compounded by the fact that only about two dozen such events have ever been detected, has spawned a plethora of scientific (and some that sound not so scientific) theories, including the occasional speculation that aliens are responsible for them.

For some reason, FRBs never seem to repeat, and, as a result, most theories about the origin of these mysterious pulses involve invoking cataclysmic incidents that destroy their source, for instance, a star exploding in a supernova, or a neutron star collapsing into a black hole.

This changed in 2012 when the first and only known repeating burst, named FRB 121102, was discovered by scientists at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. And, in January, over four years and several recurring bursts of this FRB later, astronomers were able to directly trace the mysterious burst to its point of origin, a dwarf galaxy 3 billion light-years from Earth.

So far, this is the only FRB whose source has been pinpointed — although even that hasn’t brought scientists any closer to understanding what birthed it.

(7) HOLLYWOOD ACCOUNTING. In a BBC video, Disney animators explain why characters have only three fingers.

Chip Hitchcock adds, “The answer’s obvious but there are some interesting bits about drawing animation scattered through the clip.”

(8) SINGLE-CELL. If E.T. phones anyone, Neil deGrasse Tyson doubts the call will be for him: “The Future of Science: What Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson Thinks About Aliens, Elon Musk and Traveling”

Neil deGrasse Tyson has no plans to meet advanced life on Earth or other planets anytime soon. The famous astrophysicist told fans this weekend he won’t be traveling to Mars via private space exploration and he doubts humans will make contact with complex organisms—that is, alien life— within his lifetime.

Tyson’s remarks came up during an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit Sunday where he promised to divulge his views on “life, the universe and everything.” Asked by one commentator whether “we will ever make contact with complex organisms within the next 50yrs?”, Tyson was not encouraging.

“I think they (we) might all be too far away from one another in space and possibly time. By complex, I’m presuming you mean life other than single-celled organisms. Life with legs, arms, thoughts, etc. It’s all about our capacity to travel interstellar distances. And that’s surely not happening in the next 50 years. Not the rate things are going today,” he wrote back.

(9) BACK TO THE FUTURE. Making the rounds of film festivals, Fight for Space recalls, “In the 1960s and 70s, the Space Race inspired a generation to pursue careers in science and technology, and then it all ended. Fight for Space looks at why.”

“FIGHT FOR SPACE” is a documentary film that asks, why haven’t we gone back to the Moon, or sent humans to Mars? Weren’t we supposed to be there in the 80s? What lead to the decline of NASA’s budget and why is it stuck in low earth orbit?

Filmed over the course of 4 years, Fight for Space is the product of thousands of Kickstarter supporters who believed that the exploration of space is worth fighting for. Over 60 interviews were conducted with astronauts, politicians, educators, historians, scientists, former NASA officials, commercial space entrepreneurs, and many other experts in the space community. It is a film like no other that tackles issues no other documentary has touched, featuring newly restored 35mm and 16mm footage from the National Archives NASA collection.

 

(10) APRIL 1 LEFTOVERS. Never realized that you’d need firmer biceps when your jetpack finally arrives. “Real-life ‘Iron Man’ flying suit built by British inventor” says a British Marine has invented and flown a turbine powered suit.

A British inventor has built his very own jet-propelled ‘Iron Man’ suit, which he says can carry him at several hundred miles per hour, thousands of feet in the air.

The suit, designed by entrepreneur Richard Browning, allows the pilot to vertically take off and fly using the human body to control flight. Browning has recently founded Gravity, a technology start-up, which has filed patents for the human propulsion technology that could re-imagine manned flight.

 

(11) LAST TO KNOW. Dave Freer tells a painful story about the announced mass market paperback edition that never happened.

I want to start by apologizing to readers here: at the end of February I said here that CHANGELING’S ISLAND was now available in mass market paperback, and provided a link. Some 96 people clicked through that, and I assume some of those good folk ordered the book. If you were one of them: I must ask you please to check your credit cards.

If you have been charged for it: you have been the victim of a fraud in which I had no part other than advertising my book in good faith. I was sent the proofs of the mmpb on the 9th of December and returned them – giving up a rather lucrative little casual job to do my bit, to have them back in time. Baen advertised the book on its website, Amazon listed it on its website. As this near non-effort appears to be the only form of publicity I actually get, I did my best, and kind folk on Facebook gave me nearly 200 likes and over 40 shares. I had some shares on Twitter, and the release of the mmpb was up on Instapundit, as well as on several other blogs besides this.

Prior experience – TOM — says this could produce around two thousand sales. I’m a minor author, and I’m very grateful for that support, be it ten or ten thousand. There’s always a few new people, and reaching new readers is vital. Mass Market Paperbacks are great as tryouts, as they’re quite cheap, and given that CHANGELING’S ISLAND seems to have been a hit with readers across a broad spectrum, I hoped I’d get more readers.

Unfortunately… the mass market paperback of the book does NOT exist. It was cancelled back in early fall of last year. That, of course is their decision, which they’re perfectly entitled to make. However, they didn’t tell me – or, it seems anyone else.  The formatting, the proofs, the listing on Baen.com still went ahead. Simon and Schuster, who distribute for Baen, put the book up on Amazon – and presumably other venues. Well, possibly….

(12) WRIGHT ON RELIGION IN SFF. Angelo Stagnaro interviews John C. Wright for the National Catholic Register. The views will be familiar to readers of his blog.

  1. What do you think is the place of such elements in science fiction?

Hmm. Good question. Science fiction is by and large based on a naturalistic view of the universe. When penning adventures about space princesses being rescued from space pirates by space marines, religion does not come up, except as local background and local color, in which case, the role of religion is to provide the radioactive altar to the Snake God of Mars to which our shapely by half-clad space princess is chained, that our stalwart hero can fight the monster.

Now, any story of any form can be used as a parable or as an example of a religious truth: indeed, my latest six-book trilogy is actually about faith, although it is portrayed in figures as being about a man’s love for his bride.

Fantasy stories, on the other hand, once any element of magic or the supernatural is introduced either declare for the Church or declare for witchcraft, depending on whether or not occultism is glamorized.

Note that I speak of occultism, not magic itself. Merlin the magician is a figure from King Arthur tales, of which no more obviously Christian stories can be found, outside of Dante and Milton, but no portrayal in olden days of Merlin glamorized the occult. Again, the way characters like Gandalf in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, Coriakin in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, or Harry Potter, even those they are called wizards, are clearly portrayed either as commanding a divine power, or, in Potter’s case, controlling what is basically an alternate technology or psychic force. There is no bargaining with unclean spirits, no rituals, not even a pack of tarot cards. These are like the witches in Halloween decorations, who fly brooms and wave magic wands, and nothing like the real practices of real wiccans, neopagans or other fools who call themselves witches.

Fools, because, as I did when I challenged God, they meddle with forces of which they have no understanding. I meddled with bright forces, and was spared. They meddle with dark, and they think they can escape the price….

Fantasy stories generally are hostile to Christianity, some intentionally and some negligently. The negligent hostility springs from the commonplace American desire for syncretism, that is, for all religions to be equal. Even some fairly Christian-themed fantasy stories yield weakmindedly to this temptation, as in Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising or A Wrinkle in Time is a science fantasy novel by American writer Madeleine L’Engle, where the forces of light are portrayed as ones where Christ is merely one teacher among many, each equally as bright and good, but makes no special nor exclusive claim. Or tales where the crucifix will drive back a vampire, but so will any other sign or symbol of any religion, from Asatru to Zoroastrianism, because all religions are equal, dontchaknow.

(13) ANCIENT VIDEOGAME HISTORY. It may be a long way for some but, for Nigel, Tipperary was once a short commute.

(14) WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH THE TICK. Carl Slaughter explains:

Like superheroes in the “The Spirit” movie and the “Ax Cop” animated series, The Tick is a superhero that requires a special appreciation.  Amazon is bringing “The Tick” to the small screen again in 2017.  Unlike Netflix, which greenlights an entire series, Amazon commissions a pilot, posts it for a month, and gives the thumbs up/down based on fan reaction and news coverage.  The pilot for the Amazon reboot was released in 2016.  Here is a documentary on the history of The Tick.

 

(15) BLASTS FROM THE PAST. Secret Screening also asks if you remember Eerie Indiana?  Remember Goosebumps?

(16) NOT A CAREER MOVE. Is it true? Why Dick Grayson Doesn’t Want to Become Batman, and Why Bruce Wayne Agrees.

[Thanks to Nigel, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Nick Tchan, Carl Slaughter, mlex, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]

Pixel Scroll 1/14/17 On A Cold And Gray Trisolarian Morning, A Baby Scroll Was Filed

(1) EYE EYE AYE. From r/Star Wars on Reddit: “Noticed this Mon Calamari who can’t find his monitor while re-watching Return of the Jedi” generated a vast set of amusing comments, half developing the joke, half creating headcanon to explain away the joke.

  • Fun fact: predators evolve to have eyes that are close together and face forward to improve depth perception and acuity in a narrow arc, whereas prey have eyes farther apart so that they have better peripheral coverage to spot threats. Apparently Mon Calamari are not natural predators, hence their keen ability to spot traps.
  • No the guy sitting just moved his desk to the right, you can see him snickering when the guy turn around and doesn’t see the monitor where it usually is.
  • He’s blind and on the wall is written in brail: “more to the right.” These ship are made like that; with brail instructions everywhere because if the percentage of mon-calamari individuals who devellop blindness in their late 30’s. Apparently this happens after they successfully mated the first time.
  • Simple: He has an eye on each side of his head. He can see the screen from that angle. He was actually looking at two things at once.

(2) INELIGIBILITY POST. Ruthless Culture’s Jonathan McCalmont, who thinks award eligibility posts are a bane, says: “Don’t Vote For Me”.

What this means in practice is that every year begins with an ungainly scramble for visibility as hundreds of aspiring authors try to get out their personal votes. These visibility campaigns may start on a bashful and self-deprecating note but the pitch soon rises, growing steadily more grasping and unpleasant until finally reaching the level of demented screaming in the run-up to the annual distribution of fish heads known as the Hugo Awards, at which point the voices collapse either into silence or disgruntled muttering before beginning afresh the following December.

The cycle begins in earnest with the opening of the Hugo nominations period but the year’s first tangible chunk of ego-boo is usually the shortlist for the awards handed out by the British Science Fiction Association. For reasons that doubtless made sense to someone at the time, the process for generating BSFA award shortlists has now changed meaning that people are now expected to nominate for a longlist as well as a shortlist. My piece on the history of the New Weird has made it onto the non-fiction longlist and while I am grateful to everyone who took the time to nominate my piece, I would be even more grateful if it progressed no further as I have decided to decline any and all future award nominations.

(3) A DEAD IDEA COMES BACK. Somebody thinks they’ve got a workable personal jetpack.

“Jetpacks will be part of future cities,” Peter Coker, vice-president of innovation at KuangChi Science, Martin Aircraft Company’s major Chinese shareholder.

“I see it as being the Uber of the sky.”

Martin Aircraft Company, based in New Zealand, already has a working prototype that can fly at 2,800ft (850m) at 45km/h (27mph) for 28 minutes.

And Mr Coker says commuters will be able to hail an unmanned jetpack via a smartphone app.

He admits there will be “regulatory hurdles” to overcome and, if the airways become packed with jetpacks, a need for “automatic collision avoidance”.

(4) WHO’S ON FIRST? If you want to know the firms controlled by the Big 5 Publishers, this searchable graph will show you.

(5) DUTTON OBIT. What a great bookstore he had. “Dave Dutton, the landmark L.A. bookstore owner, dies at 79”. The North Hollywood location – only a couple of miles from the old LASFS Clubhouse – was gloriously stuffed with interesting books.

But he would never stray far from Dutton’s Books, a Los Angeles landmark with its overflowing shelves, hard-to-find titles and customers wondrously thumbing through their options. A “cultural museum,” Dutton once called the bookstore.

Dutton died Friday at his home in Valley Village, roughly a decade after he and his wife packed up the last 50,000 books and closed up the North Hollywood shop for the final time. Dutton was 79 and suffered from Parkinson’s disease.

…When Dutton and his wife packed up the North Hollywood shop, loading the remaining books into a 30-foot truck, Dutton reflected on the virtues of being an old-school bookseller in a market dominated by the Internet.

“The book business used to be a place where idealists and dreamers of a better world who perhaps didn’t like business, didn’t admire the business tactics generally necessary to survive, could find a happy compromise.”

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 14, 1954 — Marilyn Monroe married Joe DiMaggio. (Honestly, no sff connection that I could think of. But a big blip on the pop culture screen.)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • Born January 14, 1943 — Astronaut Shannon Lucid

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born January 14, 1874 Thornton Burgess, author of Old Mother West Wind, whose array of anthropomorphics included a Peter Rabbit (intentionally using the same name as Beatrix Potter’s character). He wrote about animals and nature in his newspaper column, Bedtime Stories, and by the time he retired, had penned more than 170 books and 15,000 stories for the daily newspaper column.
  • Born January 14, 1924 – Guy Williams, who played Zorro and Professor John Robinson.

(9) ANOTHER VISIT TO THE SEVENTIES. Another tweet from 70s Sci-Fi Art.

(10) WHAT MAKES THIS DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER GIBBONS? The name. BBC reports ”’Star Wars gibbon’ is new primate species”.

A gibbon living in the tropical forests of south west China is a new species of primate, scientists have concluded.

The animal has been studied for some time, but new research confirms it is different from all other gibbons.

It has been named the Skywalker hoolock gibbon – partly because the Chinese characters of its scientific name mean “Heaven’s movement” but also because the scientists are fans of Star Wars.

The study is published in the American Journal of Primatology.

(11) TWIN TITANS. I don’t doubt the misleading innuendo “Power Couples” gets more clicks, though it detracts from homage intended by the publication.

The Jewish Women’s Archive’s “Power Couples” project showcases pairs of extraordinary Jewish women from many different disciplines, matching an early female trailblazer with a modern woman at the top of her game. This project highlights the lives and accomplishments of important pioneers in various fields and the next generation of leaders and innovators, demonstrating the impact of women in the arts, sciences, fashion, athletics, business, and activism….

Fantasy Authors: Jane Yolen and Rachel Swirsky

In 2010, a Jewish Review of Books article asserting that Jewish authors don’t write fantasy precipitated an Internet uproar. Commentators named hundreds of Jewish authors who write about magic, mythical creatures, quests, and adventures—two of whom are Jane Yolen and Rachel Swirsky. Yolen has written almost 300 fantasy and fairytale-inspired books, and was recently named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, an award honoring lifetime achievement. Swirsky has written more than 70 short stories and has twice won the prestigious Nebula Award. Both women expand the definition of the fantasy genre and use their work to espouse themes of social justice….

Actress-Scientists: Hedy Lamarr and Mayim Bialik

You probably wouldn’t expect that we could have multiple entries in a category for actress/scientist. After all, we tend to think of people as being either/or. If you’re a scientist or inventor, you must be mono-focused, introverted, anti-social. If you’re an actor or celebrity, stereotypes suggest that you’re gorgeous but flighty, lacking intelligence or substance. Despite our knowledge that most women are multi-talented multitaskers, we insist on fitting them into narrow categories, denying their complexity. Hedy Lamarr and Mayim Bialik challenge us to rethink our limiting assumptions and to recognize the creative range of women’s abilities.

(12) PRESUMPTIVE GUILT. It’s not quite a “have you stopped beating your wife” gotcha — Disney did already use Fisher’s digital image in Rogue One. In The Guardian, “Disney deny negotiating with Carrie Fisher’s estate for rights to her digital image”.

Disney have denied they are negotiating with Carrie Fisher’s estate for the rights to use the actor’s digital image in future Star Wars film, according to industry sources.

The BBC’s Newsnight programme had reported that, “with what might be regarded as unseemly haste, Star Wars studio Disney had opened with the actor’s estate over her continued appearance in the franchise.”

But in a statement the Walt Disney Company said: “Disney is not in conversations with the estate of Carrie Fisher at this time and any reports to the contrary are false.”

Fisher’s likeness as the young Princess Leia in the original 1977 Star Wars was digitally rendered and appeared in the final frames of prequel Rogue One – along with Peter Cushing’s. As filming occurred prior to Fisher’s death, her permission was presumably obtained. However, reports have emerged of discussions between the makers of Episodes VIII and IX, as Leia had been expected to play a significant part in both films. Apart from the technical challenge, a number of ethical considerations emerged in the wake of Cushing’s “resurrection” in Rogue One, 22 years after his death.

The BBC’s use of the words “continuing appearance” suggested the film-makers were considering using Fisher’s digital image in future films, although there are also other ancillary uses, such as video games.

(13) WHERE LIGHTSPEED SEEMS SLOW. Ty Franck answers questions about the existence of the internet in The Expanse.

Q: Why call them ‘hand terminals?’

A: Because they are not phones. In the universe of The Expanse, we are living in the true internet of things. Nearly every object more complex than a hair brush is a smart or semi-smart device connected to the network around it. The hand terminal is barely a device, on its own. It has little or no memory or processing power. It is literally just a dumb terminal to give the user access to the network and to the various devices around them. It is a portable UI for operating other things. Which is why when the networks go down, the hand terminals become bricks. You can’t even play that game of angry birds classic you downloaded with your google store coupon.

(14) YOU CAN’T STOP IT, YOU CAN ONLY WATCH IT HAPPEN. Something for you to put on your calendar – “In 2022 we’ll be able to watch an 1,800-year old star collision”.

Before their collision the two stars were too dim to be seen without the aid of an extremely powerful telescope but astronomers expect the collision to increase the brightness of the pair ten thousand fold, making it one of the brightest stars in the heaven for a time. The explosion, known as a Red Nova, will then dissipate and the star will remain visible as a single bright, but duller, dot.

The prediction is based on a study of the two stars, which are orbiting each other in ever decreasing circles and appear to be on course for a collision. Assuming they are correct, it would be the first time such an event was predicted by scientists.

(15) BITE YE. The Santa Clarita Diet, for people with good taste… and people who taste good. Drew Barrymore teases a series coming to Netflix in February. There’s also a gag website: http://santaclaritadiet.com/

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Gregory N. Hullender, John King Tarpinian, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester, with an assist from Bonnie McDaniel.]

Why There Are No Jetpacks in Our Future

For all you fans who are obsessed with this troubling question, Bill Willingham explains why we’ll never have the jetpack future portrayed on pulp magazine covers:

Here’s the thing: we want more safety now than we did then. We expect it. Hell, we demand it…. The problem with jetpacks and flying cars is that they aren’t already 100% safe to all potential users. They don’t get, and never will get, the time to develop and perfect that we’ve given our airplanes and ground cars. We have our jetpacks and flying cars and we simply aren’t going to use them….

In his Known Space series of novels and stories, the vastly talented and industrious science fiction author Larry Niven created a race of aliens called the Pierson’s Puppeteers. …They are a species of genetic and cultural cowards. More than anything else they are motivated by the desire, by the all-encompassing need, to be safe….

I’m afraid that’s who we’ve chosen to become… We had our chance at a jetpack future but turned them down.

Better find my unbreakable mirror and count my heads….

[Thanks to David Klaus for the link.]

Did You Blink and Miss the Future?

Whether your vision of the future dates back to Frank R. Paul’s covers for Amazing Stories, or the 1964 World’s Fair, it takes only a simple look out the window to see those dreams didn’t come true. However, CNN’s article “Why our ‘amazing’ science fiction future fizzled” is much more entertaining than most articles that begin with this pedestrian comparison. Author John Blake reminds everyone how many of these technical marvels were actually invented and why not using them as envisioned has been a good thing:

The jet pack, though, has never really taken off, Wilson says. The problem is its practical application. While a rocket belt could propel a screaming human to 60 mph in seconds, its fuel lasted for only about half a minute, “which led to more screaming,” Wilson says.

The military couldn’t find a useful application for it either. A soldier with a jet pack might look cool, but he’s an easy target. Nor could a jet pack be of use to ordinary people who wanted to avoid rush-hour traffic, Wilson says. Jet-packing hordes could transform the skies into an aerial demolition derby, with air rage and drunk drivers turned into wobbly human torpedoes.

Royal Gorge, Not Steve Canyon

David Klaus spotted this report of a jet pack pilot flying across a vast Colorado canyon:

A daredevil wearing a jet pack has flown across a 1,500-foot-wide canyon in southern Colorado. The sponsoring Go Fast Sports & Beverage says Eric Scott took 21 seconds to cross the Royal Gorge at 75 mph on Monday. It says he didn’t use a parachute while flying across the 1,100-foot-deep canyon.

David thinks “It sounds like something Homer Simpson would do, resulting in him bouncing and smashing down the canyon wall, but no, somebody really has done it, and safely. Maybe a few of us will commute with jetpacks at that. Me? I just want to do like Commando Cody did in Radar Men from the Moon and fly over the Valley from Studio City to Granada Hills.”

New Jetpack Startup

Martin Jetpack

Whether the Martin Jetpack even deserves the name is controversial:

The fact that the device reached no more than 6 ft. of altitude during its various test runs at Oshkosh could indicate that it’s not achieving true flight, but a limited amount of lift, due to a phenomenon called “ground effect.” Spinning blades can create a cushion of air below a vehicle, which is how hovercrafts glide across the water.

That, and other abuse is being heaped on the startup by its competitors, in a Popular Mechanics article.

David Klaus forwarded the link along with his own comments:

More breathy coverage of the fledgling commercial jetpack industry. I remember Linda Bushyager once saying about the NASFiC, “It was an idea whose time should never have come.” Whether that applies here, further deponent sayeth not. Best comment I ever saw about jetpacks: comic book scene in which the Atom stares, jaw-dropped, as the villain escapes and says, “Wow. Jetpack Hitler. Reality has jumped the shark.”