(1) TECH IMPROVED, ETHICS STAYED THE SAME. The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne Jr., in “Yes, we should be outraged about Facebook” analyzes The 480, a 1964 near-future sf novel by Eugene Burdick (co-author of Fail-Safe) in which “people who work with slide rules and calculating machines which can remember an almost infinite bits of information” have divided the U.S. into 480 demographic groups in order to manipulate them into supporting a dark-horse Republican presidential candidate. Dionne brings up this novel in the context of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal and notes that Burdick based his novel on efforts by Simulatrics Corp. to support the Kennedy campaign in 1960.
(2) INVOLUNTARY EXPERIMENT. The Guardian says Kim Stanley Robinson told them — “Empty half the Earth of its humans. It’s the only way to save the planet”.
Cities are part of the system we’ve invented to keep people alive on Earth. People tend to like cities, and have been congregating in them ever since the invention of agriculture, 10,000 or so years ago. That’s why we call it civilisation. This origin story underlines how agriculture made cities possible, by providing enough food to feed a settled crowd on a regular basis. Cities can’t work without farms, nor without watersheds that provide their water. So as central as cities are to modern civilisation, they are only one aspect of a system.
There are nearly eight billion humans alive on the planet now, and that’s a big number: more than twice as many as were alive 50 years ago. It’s an accidental experiment with enormous stakes, as it isn’t clear that the Earth’s biosphere can supply that many people’s needs – or absorb that many wastes and poisons – on a renewable and sustainable basis over the long haul. We’ll only find out by trying it.
Right now we are not succeeding. The Global Footprint Network estimates that we use up our annual supply of renewable resources by August every year, after which we are cutting into non-renewable supplies – in effect stealing from future generations. Eating the seed corn, they used to call it. At the same time we’re pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rate that is changing the climate in dangerous ways and will certainly damage agriculture.
(3) TOLKIEN AND LEWIS AT WAR. As reported here in December, a five-part documentary film series A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War about “the transformative friendship between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien forged amid the trauma of war,” is in production. A new trailer has been posted. The film’s release date is set for November 11, 2018, to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I.
The documentary film series, “A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War,” explores how the experience of two world wars shaped the lives and literary imagination of two internationally famous authors and friends, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Based on Joseph Loconte’s New York Times bestseller, the film examines how Tolkien’s combat experience during the First World War—at the Battle of the Somme—launched him on his literary quest. The film reveals how the conflict reinforced Lewis’s youthful atheism—he was injured in combat—but also stirred his spiritual longings. The film traces the careers of both men at Oxford University, and their deepening friendship as they discover a mutual love of medieval, romantic literature. Facing the threat of another world war, Tolkien and Lewis reach back into their earlier experience of war as they compose their epic works of fantasy, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.
(4) HOWARD AWARD. The eligibility list for the 2018 Robert E, Howard Foundation Awards has been posted.
This is full list of eligible candidates for the 2018 REH Foundation Awards. Legacy Circle Members will select the top three nominees in each category from this preliminary ballot. From those final nominees all Premium REHF members will vote for the winners. The awards will be given out at a special ceremony at Howard Days in Cross Plains on June 8.
(5) APOLLO STILLS PUT IN MOTION. Mark Hepworth sent a link to these “Very cool Apollo gifs” at Medium — “I looked through all 14,227 Apollo photos… and made GIFs.”
(6) DINO LUST. They look like horns, but in reality they were babe magnets: “Triceratops may have had horns to attract mates”.
Dinosaurs like the Triceratops may have had horns and frills to attract a mate, a new study suggests.
Ceratopsian, or horned dinosaurs, were previously thought to have developed this ornamentation to distinguish between different species.
This has now been ruled out in a study published in a Royal Society journal.
Instead, the aggressive-looking armour may actually have evolved to signal an animal’s suitability as a partner, known as socio-sexual selection.
“Individuals are advertising their quality or genetic make-up,” explained Andrew Knapp, lead author of the research reported in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
“We see that in peacocks too, with their tail feathers.”
(7) SF OBSCURE. Echo Ishii’s search through TV history leads to “Hard Time on Planet Earth”.
Hard Time on Planet Earth was an American series broadcast for 13 episodes in 1989 starring Martin Kove. An elite alien military officer is sentenced to earth as his penalty for rebellion. He is given human form-much weaker than his older form-and sent to Earth to improve his violent behavior. (Or maybe curb his violent instincts or learn about goodness, it all gets a bit murky.) Anyway, he’s banished to Earth with an AI system called Control to monitor him. He’s given the name Jesse. Control is a giant, floating mechanical eye. Jesse has to help people in need to get back into the Ruling Council’s favor.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CAPTAIN
- Born March 22, 1931 – William Shatner
(9) HE’S FEELING BETTER. An ad was gaining clicks by falsely reporting Shatner’s death, and the actor teed off on Facebook: “William Shatner Rails at Facebook After Being Told That He’s Dead”.
“Hey @facebook isn’t this your messenger app? What’s up with you allowing this Acocet Retail Sales ad to pass your muster? Thought you were doing something about this?” Shatner wrote.
A Facebook employee later responded with the assurance that the ad and the page had been removed from Facebook. Still, news of Shatner’s demise couldn’t come at a worse time for the actor, as he is expected to turn 87 on Thursday.
It also couldn’t come at a worse time for Facebook, which has been reeling recently over news that 50 million Facebook users unknowingly had their information lifted by data firm Cambridge Analytica.
(10) MEMEWHILE. Elsewhere on the internet, #AddShatnerToAnything was the order of the day. For example…
— Meanwhile in Canada (@MeanwhileinCana) March 22, 2018
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- John King Tarpinian tuned into Broomhilda just as she was about to take gas.
(12) CONS AS PUBLIC UTILITY. Will Shetterly considered himself to have nothing in common with Jon Del Arroz apart from also having been banned from a convention. Well, now that Shetterly has cast shade on Jim C. Hines’ post about JDA’s track record of harassment, in “Two privileges of attending science fiction conventions, and a little about Jon Del Arroz’s law suit”, they have that in common, too. However, this passage struck me as the most interesting part of the post:
Before conventions began banning people, the fundamental privilege of attending science conventions wasn’t discussed because, by capitalist standards, the privilege was fair: anyone who had money could go, and anyone who didn’t, well, capitalist fairness is never about people who don’t have money.
But now that conventions have begun banning people, it’s time to acknowledge the second privilege. Though the genre has grown enormously, it’s still a small community at the top. If you hope to become a professional, it can be enormously helpful to attend WorldCon, the World Fantasy Convention, and literary conventions like ReaderCon, WisCon, and Fourth Street Fantasy. Once your career has begun, you need to be able to attend the Nebulas Awards too. Obviously, only the very privileged can go to most of those conventions regularly, but anyone who wants to make a career in this field should, every year, pick one from from Column A (WorldCon, World Fantasy, Nebula Awards), one from Column B (ReaderCon, WisCon, Fourth Street Fantasy), and one from Column C (local convention, regional convention, major commercial convention like DragonCon).
Being banned from any convention is an enormous blow to a writer’s ability to be a writer, and especially to a new writer’s ability to last in the field. It keeps you from meeting fellow professionals and getting useful tips, and it keeps you from making new fans.
(13) HIMTOO. Shetterly’s post prompted this recollection from Bruce Arthurs:
Not "banned" from 1978 Worldcon, but I wasn't allowed to enter the registration area for my membership packet. I just had Hilde pick it up and bring it out to me. (I'd called out people, in print, for their reprehensible behavior, especially the forced firing of Rusty Hevelin.)
— Bruce Arthurs (@BruceArthursAZ) March 22, 2018
(14) BRANDED. The logical companion volume to Gene Wolfe’s The Death of Doctor Island and Other Stories and Other Stories, eh John?
I want to write a novel titled "Collected Short Stories" just to mess with everyone.
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) March 22, 2018
(15) NEVER TOO LATE. Kim Wilde is making a comeback, with added science fiction: “Kim Wilde says aliens inspired her pop comeback”.
As a keen sci-fi fan (Arrival and ET are her favourite films), Wilde is fully embracing the theme of her new album – from the sleeve’s terrific B-movie artwork, to the stage show for her upcoming tour.
“I’ve got this little wardrobe set up, of fantastic capes and cloaks,” says the singer, who previously bought her outfits at jumble sales.
“We’re going to go a bit sci-fi and we’re going to a bit glam rock. It’ll be sexy and fun and something to put a big smile on people’s faces. I’m really excited about it.”
(16) A CLOCKWORK COD. Do Asimov’s Laws apply here? “Researchers create robotic fish that can swim underwater on its own”.
Observing fish in their natural ocean habitats goes a long way toward understanding their behaviors and interactions with the surrounding environment. But doing so isn’t easy. Using underwater vehicles to get a look at these species is one option, but they often come with a slew of limitations. Some are loud and use propellers or jet-propulsion that disturb fish and their surroundings. And many are designed in a way that doesn’t allow them to blend in with the marine environment. Controlling such vehicles is also a challenge and in many cases, they have to be tethered to a boat. But researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have come up with a potential solution — a soft robot that can swim on its own underwater.
(17) SEE FOOD. Apparently no fish were harmed in the making of this food? “3D-printed sushi looks like the perfect 8-bit meal” at Cnet.
At this year’s SXSW, Japanese technology company Open Meals revealed its Pixel Food Printer, which 3D-prints edible sushi, and other food, that looks like it was meant for a retro video game.
The pixelated food, including sushi and burgers, is printed first by using the Food Base digital platform that stores data on the exact flavor, shape, texture, color and nutrients of foods.
Then the actual Pixel Food Printer uses a robotic arm that prints out small pixel cubes made of edible gel with the corresponding flavors, colors and nutrients of the type of food being printed out.
(17) SEA PLASTIC. Printing seafood may be necessary at this rate: “Plastic patch in Pacific Ocean growing rapidly, study shows”.
Predictions suggest a build-up of about 80,000 tonnes of plastic in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” between California and Hawaii.
This figure is up to sixteen times higher than previously reported, say international researchers.
One trawl in the centre of the patch had the highest concentration of plastic ever recorded.
“Plastic concentration is increasing – I think the situation is getting worse,” said Laurent Lebreton of The Ocean Cleanup Foundation in Delft, Netherlands, which led the study.
“This really highlights the urgency to take action in stopping the in-flow of plastic into the ocean and also taking measures to clean up the existing mess.”
Waste accumulates in five ocean areas, the largest being the patch located between Hawaii and California.
(18) KGB. Ellen Datlow shared her photos taken at Fantastic Fiction at KGB on March 21.
Despite our blizzard, people did indeed show up for our reading. They were rewarded by hearing wonderful work by Kelly Robson and Chandler Klang Smith.
(19) SCI-FI SAVES DOG. David Gerrold’s “Jasmine and Friends Book Sale” at GoFundMe is raising money to pay a vet bill and assist a couple of friends. Donate to it and you get some of David’s books.
Our little Jasmine is sixteen years old. She specializes in naps and laps. A few weeks ago, she stopped eating and appeared to be in serious decline.
The vet determined that she had developed a serious abscess in her mouth and needed immediate surgery before she weakened further. She ended up having seven teeth extracted as well.
The good news is that she survived the operation, her mouth is healing, and she’s eating again. She’s out of pain and she’s acting like her old self.
The bad news is that the vet bill was high. Very high. We thought we’d be able to cover it, but despite the vet helping us with a payment plan, we’re still falling short.
Add to that, we have a couple friends who could use a serious financial infusion. Several people on Facebook asked if they could help, so we decided to do it this way.
We’re holding a book sale.
Any donation at all will get you a link to download a set of three stories: “The Bag Lady,” “The Great Milo,” and “Chester” (which was inspired by Jasmine’s best buddy of fifteen years.)
Any donation of $20 or more gets you a link to download a copy of “Jacob”, my vampire novel, plus all the previous.
Any donation of $40 or more gets you a link to download a copy of “thirteen, fourteen, fifteen o’clock” plus all the previous.
Any donation of $60 or more gets you a link to download a copy of “Entanglements and Terrors” (my short story collection) plus all the previous.
Any donation of $80 or more gets you a link to download a copy of “A Promise O f Stars” (another short story collection) plus all the previous.
Any donation of $100 or more gets you all of the above, plus a copy of the Megapack, a flash drive with a half million words of stories, scripts, and stuff. (You’ll have to include a shipping address.)
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Meredith, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dann.]