Pixel Scroll 11/2 Unstable Molecules: For Starship Captains Who Shift Shape, And Get Overly Personal With Hedgehogs and Fondue Pots

(1) Jon Zeigler has posted his “100 Year Starship Symposium 2015” report at Sharrukin’s Palace.

Executive summary: I was quite impressed by the whole endeavor. It’s a fairly small technical conference, but it’s attracting serious academics and scientists, and it has a distinctive focus on cultural and social issues as well as science and technology. I can recommend it for science fiction writers, especially those of us who are interested in doing work in the “hard” end of the field.

As with all technical conferences, I found myself wanting to be in several places at once. There are always more technical tracks going on that any one person can possibly take in.

A set of three one-hour “classes” was held first thing on Friday morning. I sat in on a presentation by Bobby Farlice-Rubio, from the Fairfield Museum and Planetarium in Connecticut. The title was Neighborhood Watch: An Advanced Look at our Space Neighborhood, and it served as a summary of recent discoveries in planetary science. I follow interplanetary exploration closely, so I didn’t hear much that was completely new, but there were a few details I hadn’t heard before.

One item in particular stuck with me. Apparently the New Horizons spacecraft that just made a flyby of Pluto contained a small canister of human remains – a pinch of the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto in 1930. That makes Mr. Tombaugh the one human being thus far whose remains are destined for interstellar space. Don’t know if there’s a whole story in that, but it’s a very evocative image.

(2) Although he hasn’t gotten as close to Pluto as Clyde Tombaugh, the Guardian proclaims David A. Hardy “The space artist who saw Pluto before Nasa”.

In 1950, a 14-year-old boy found an astronomy book at his local library. As he pored over it, a light bulb lit up over his head. “It inspired me, really, to do it myself,” says that boy, David A Hardy, 65 years on. Not to become an astronaut, but to draw outer space with incredible military accuracy. Today, he is the world’s oldest living space artist. He’s 79 and he lives in the suburbs of Birmingham, churning out visions of the universe while his wife makes him cups of tea.

Chances are, if you’ve read books by Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, the covers were painted by Hardy. He worked with Sir Patrick Moore for over half a century. He has created spaceships descending upon Big Ben for Doctor Who and the Daleks. His art has been the backdrop for Pink Floyd gigs, and he counts the Rolling Stones and Queen among his collectors.

Hardy’s work is part of a new exhibition called Visions of Space at the Wells & Mendip Museum, Somerset, from November 7-21. David A Hardy speaks on November 6 at 7:30pm.

(3) A website now documents the “Aliens, Androids & Unicorns” exhibition at the University of Otago (New Zealand) held March to May 2015, that highlighted sf&f collection of the late Harold Terrence Salive (1939-2012). The exhibition contained (amongst others) his almost complete run of Astounding Stories, numerous works by Van Vogt, Delany, C.J Cherryh, Jack L. Chalker, Poul Anderson, and Piers Anthony. Salive’s Collection was donated to Special Collections in March 2013 by his wife Rachel.

(4) To avoid spoilers, the release of the Star Wars: The Force Awaken tie-in novel has been delayed.

Walt Disney Co. is so determined to maintain the secrecy surrounding its hotly anticipated “Star Wars” movie that it asked its publishing partner to delay the release of a hardcover book tied to the film and forgo a potential holiday sales bonanza.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the franchise’s first new installment in a decade, will hit theaters Dec. 17. But the print edition of the novel, which will be published by Penguin Random House’sDel Rey imprint, won’t be released until Jan. 5, after the lucrative holiday gift-giving season has ended.

The unusual delay reflects Disney’s fears that printed copies of the book, which would have to start rolling off presses long before they hit store shelves, could be purloined by people who want to spill plot details online. The e- book will be released Dec. 18, since it is easier to control digital files before they go on sale.

(5) “Amazon opens its first real bookstore – at U-Village” in Seattle.

Bookstore owners often think of Amazon.com as the enemy.

Now it’s becoming one of them.

At 9:30 Tuesday morning, the online retail giant will open its first-ever brick-and-mortar retail store in its 20-year life, in University Village.

The store, called Amazon Books, looks a lot like bookstores that populate malls across the country. Its wood shelves are stocked with 5,000 to 6,000 titles, best-sellers as well as Amazon.com customer favorites.

(6) “Holy Crap, They Are Officially Making a New Star Trek TV Series” reports io9.

Multiple outlets are reporting that Alex Kurtzman, co-writer of 2009’s Star Trek and its sequel Star Trek Into Darkness, will executive produce a new Star Trek show through CBS Television Studios.

The show will premiere in January 2017 with a preview episode on CBS and then, in the U.S., move exclusively to the CBS video on-demand and streaming service, CBS All Access. It’ll be the first developed specifically for the CBS streaming service.

Quoting the CBS press release —

The brand-new “Star Trek” will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966.

(7) Far more surprising – incredible, really — is Fox’s decision to reboot Greatest American Hero. Deadline reports —

In a preemptive buy, Fox has given a pilot production commitment to Greatest American Hero, a single-camera comedy inspired by Steven J. Cannell’s 1981 cult classic. It hails from Dope writer-director Rick Famuyiwa, Phil Lord & Chris Miller–  the directing duo behind the successful feature franchise based on another ’80s TV series by Cannell, 21 Jump Street — and Cannell’s daughter, television director Tawnia McKiernan. 20th Century Fox TV, where Lord and Miller are under an overall deal, is the studio.

Written and to be directed by Famuyiwa, Greatest American Hero is the story of what happens when great power is not met with great responsibility. An ordinary man, completely content with being average, wakes up with a superpower suit he never asked for and has to deal with the complications it brings his life.

Via SF Site News.

(8) Today’s Birthday Manned Space Mission

  • November 2, 2000 — The first crew docked at the International Space Station. Commander William Shepherd and Flight Engineers Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko spent 141 days in space. Since Expedition 1, there has been a continuous human presence aboard the space station for 5,478 days and counting.

(9) Nate Hoffhelder responds to John Scalzi’s post about kids not reading the classics in “Culture and Relatability Are Why people Don’t Read Classic SF, Not Age” at The Digital Reader.

While all the points he made are correct, I don’t think he gets at the root cause of the shift in reading tastes.

I have trouble accepting the point that commercial availability driving demand because when I was growing up (in the 1990s) I frequented used book stores just to get those older books. I also combed through the library stacks for those three-, four-, and five-decade-old books because I liked the authors and wanted to read them. (In fact, there were a few early Heinleins that I didn’t find for the first time until the early aughts, and I still read them when I found them.)

Instead, I have to agree with the several commenters who argue that culture in the older books and the relatability of the characters have a greater impact.

(10) Harper Voyager’s open call for submissions runs November 2-6.

In this time of flux and accelerated evolution in the field of genre publishing, the editorial leaders of Harper Voyager Books are delighted to announce an exciting venture that will offer talented aspiring writers the chance to join the same science fiction and fantasy imprint that publishes such visionary authors as Richard Kadrey, Chuck Wendig, Raymond E. Feist, and many, many more.

For the first time since 2012, Harper Voyager is offering writers the chance to submit full, un-agented manuscripts for a limited five-day period. The publisher is seeking new authors with fresh voices, strong storytelling abilities, original ideas and compelling storylines. In this Open Call, Harper Voyager will be seeking out novels written in the Urban Fantasy and Military Sci-Fi genres. Submission guidelines and key information can be found at www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com.

The submission portal, www.harpervoyagersubmissions.com, will be open from noon ET on the 2nd to noon ET of the 6th of November 2015. The manuscripts will then be read, and all submissions will receive a letter notifying them of whether or not their submission is being offered publication on the Voyager list. As with every Harper Voyager project, the author will be paired with an editor, publicist, and marketing team in order to develop the manuscript and promotional efforts before and during publication.

The submissions and digital publications are spearheaded by Executive Editor David Pomerico.  He notes that: “The last time we had an open call, we had over 4,500 submissions, and were able to add 10 new voices to our growing list. We know, though, that writers are always eager to connect with editors here, and we’re excited to offer them an opportunity to do exactly that. These are two sub-genres we are finding a lot of readers for—especially in the digital space—and I’m looking forward to finding some great new projects.”

(11) Thomas Rossiter declares that “My Hugo Must Be Acknowledged” at Pelican Magazine, though it never is made evident why the headline refers to “my Hugo.”

This controversy led to the largest number of votes ever received by the awards committee (just over five thousand). Not one of the Puppies’ nominees received an award. Many of the categories were resolved with “No Award” where there was no alternative to a Puppy-approved candidate.

The Puppies have on numerous occasions stated that their goal is to make the Hugos as democratic as possible, so their anger now that their nominees have lost seems hypocritical to say the least.

(12) A review in the October Audiofile praises the audiobook edition of Francis Hamit’s novel The Queen of Washington.

Narrator Melanie Mason finds a wonderful Southern accent for Rose Greenhow that adds a great deal to the atmosphere of this novel. David Wilson Brown uses a variety of tones and accents–Southern and Northern, as well as French and Spanish–for the various male characters. Together, the two narrators provide tension and a theatrical atmosphere to the story. Rose, a rich nineteenth-century player in Washington, D.C., society is a spy, first for the Confederacy and later for British and French intelligence in the 1850s and ’60s. The many plot twists of this historical novel make for an engaging performance by two smooth narrators.

Says Hamit: “I could not be more pleased for my narration team, who worked very hard on this and are the real stars. I do call this ‘alternative history’ so it fits (barely) within the genre.”

(13) A Princess of the Chameln by Cherry Wilder ($5.99, ISBN 978-1-5040-2697-0) is going to be published as an e-book for the first time, on November 17, by Mashup Press, distributed by Open Road Integrated Media on all major retailers’ web sites. It will be available as a print on demand trade paperback a month later. The sequels Yorath the Wolf and The Summer’s King, which together with A Princess of the Chameln comprise the Rulers of Hylor trilogy, will be published at three month intervals.

It has been a while since this book has been available—two decades, in fact, since the Baen Books paperback edition, which reprinted the original hardcover edition ofA Princess of the Chameln.

Princess of the Chameln cover final COMP

A Princess . . . is the story of Aidris, the heir to the double-throne of Hylor. When her crown is usurped by pretenders and she must flee for her life, she must fend for herself, exiled in a world of enemies, forced to fight to survive as she seeks allies friendly to her cause. In the richly developed fantasy world of Hylor and the realms within it that vie for ascendance, Cherry Wilder deftly balances politics and warfare with the subtly nuanced, memorable characters whose lives play out in this uniquely powerful novel.

Jim Frenkel of Mashup Press predicts, “If you are familiar with A Princess of the Chameln or the trilogy—you already know that they are Cherry Wilder’s great epic high-fantasy adventure. If you don’t know these books, I think you’ll have a great surprise in store. Cherry Wilder died in 2003, but her great works live on, and we’re all thrilled to be able to bring these books to a new generation of fantasy readers.”

Stack of Old Books

(14) Free Special Speaker Event presented by the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society on Saturday November 21, 2:30 p.m. at the Palms-Rancho Park Library in Los Angeles, CA.

Spec fic then and now

(15) Steven Moffat told Variety to expect Doctor Who to be around for years to come:

You are credited with taking “Doctor Who” to a new level. What do you think allowed this format to be rebooted so brilliantly?

“Doctor Who” is the all-time perfectly evolved television show. It’s a television predator designed to survive any environment because you can replace absolutely everybody. Most shows you can’t do that with. For example, once Benedict Cumberbatch gives up “Sherlock,” what are we going to do? We are going to stop, that’s what we are going to do. Most shows have a built-in mortality. But here is a show that sheds us all like scales; a show that can make you feel everything except indispensable. It will carry on forever, because you can replace every part of it…

In terms of longevity of the show, I think you’ve said it could go five more years?

It is definitely going to last five more years, I’ve seen the business plan. It’s not going anywhere. And I think we can go past that. It’s television’s own legend. It will just keep going.

(16) Last Friday, Chuck Yeager stopped by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum to say hello to his Bell X-1, the airplane in which he broke the sound barrier 68 years ago on October 14, 1947.

ChuckYeager COMP

[Thanks to Wendy Gale, Roger Tener’s Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol, Gregory Benford, Will R., Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/30 The Stainless Steel Hedgehog Has A Harsh Mistress, Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That

(1) Larry Smith is out of the hospital reports Marcia Kelly Illingworth on Facebook.

Please forgive the lack of recent updates. As they say, no news is good news. Larry is back out of the hospital, and appears to be doing well. He was finally able to attend a convention last weekend, and held up remarkably well. At this point, he is hoping to make all of his November commitments. Clearly, he is not exactly on top of his game, and has had to make some adjustments to his activity level and routine, but he is improving.

Larry and Sally asked me to try to convey the enormous gratitude they feel to everyone who has come to their aid through this very trying time. I say *try* to convey, because there just are not enough words to adequately express how thankful and humbled they feel. And let me just add my thanks as well. These are some very special people, and my heart swells when I see this wonderful family that we call fandom come together to help them like you have.

They are currently still trying to find a replacement van. The one they had was a 15 passenger model, with a long wheelbase and extra suspension to handle the weight of the books. They have found a couple of possibilities (of course, none local), so they hope to find one soon. Give yourselves a much – deserved pat on the back for making this possible for them. Please share this update on any list or social media that you have available to you

(2) David Langford proudly displayed his “Sausage Maker To Fandom” badge ribbon in the new issue of Ansible.  It was given to him at LonCon 3.

(3) Thursday night’s Late Show with Stephen Colbert had Seth MacFarlane and Neil DeGrasse Tyson as guests. Stephen is convinced that star KIC 8462852 is evidence of the alien life predicted in one of his favorite books. In the final interview segment, Colbert goes off on a seriously detailed Ringworld rant, including crediting Larry Niven.

“Just because you don’t understand what you’re lookin’ at doesn’t mean it’s alien,” countered Tyson…

In this YouTube clip, the Ringworld bit starts just after the 1:50 mark.

(4) CNN reports “Orbiting bacteria: Space Station may need some tidying up”.

The next time NASA picks an astronaut to live in the International Space Station, it might want to send Mr. Clean. That’s because scientists using a kind of high-tech white glove test found something in the space dust there.

The astronauts are not alone, it turns out. They share tight quarters with some previously undetected, opportunistic bacterial pathogens.

Nothing unusual here. The Sasquan guest of honor left his hotel room in the same condition as every other fan at this year’s Worldcon. A generous tip ordinarily covers these things. In this case, two or three million dollars should do it…

(5) Grantland, ESPN’s pop culture site founded by Bill Simmons, is shutting down. I’ll miss genre-themed coverage like Brian Phillips’ ”50 Scenes That Do Not Appear in the Fox ‘X-Files’ Revival”.

  1. It does not, at any point, transpire that Assistant FBI Director Walter Skinner joins Kickstarter to seek funding for his “elegantly bound novelization” of Infocom’s Leather Goddesses of Phobos.
  2. The word “copyleft” — that doesn’t get thrown around a lot.
  3. Jonathan, who is not making churros, does not tell Scully that “it’s about the cinnamon” and then gasp, “I’ve said too much,” and then get shot in the head by a sniper from Venus.

(6) Charle Jane Anders acknowledges “The Difference Between a Great Story and a Shitty Story Is Often Really Tiny” at io9.

To some extent this is a “Devil in the details” thing: It’s the little details that will trip you up. Small inconsistencies can make your world feel flimsy. But, too, tiny character moments and little bits of emotional resonance, in between the big incidents, can do a ton to make people buy stock in your world and its people.

The difference between a shitty story and a great story is often just one of clarity, also. A great story sets up its premises early on, then builds on them and deepens them, until finally you reach some kind of crisis. Going back to the topic of movies, I’ve been amazed by how many movies I’ve seen lately where the first 20 or 30 minutes are compelling and fascinating (the “first act”) and then what follows is a dull morass. It’s like the “building and deepening” part of the recipe just got thrown out.

(7) That lunar rover that went to the junkyard?

“Although Mr. Clueless opted to dispose of the moonlander for scrap, not so the junkyard owner!” reports David Doering.

Motherboard has an interview with the anonymous buyer.

Tuesday, we told the sad story of a prototype NASA lunar rover that was sold by an Alabaman to a scrap yard. That is true, but there’s a twist: A heroic scrap dealer has saved the buggy, which appears to be in good condition.

The scrap dealer spoke to Motherboard on the condition of anonymity because he says he wants to speak to his lawyer about his next steps, but he did send me the recent photo of the buggy above to confirm it’s in his possession. The rover matches a historical NASA image we believed to be the rover in question. It also matches the description given by NASA in its investigatory documents.

“The man who originally bought it, from my understanding, he bought it at an auction. He was a road conditioner [in Alabama],” the junkyard owner told me. “I can’t confirm this is true, but he bought it at a NASA auction many years ago. NASA just discarded a lot of that stuff back then. When it was brought to my scrap facility, I set it aside because I knew what it was. The unit does exist today. It is not scrapped. I have that unit in storage.”

“I’ve done quite a lot of research on the unit and it’s an artifact that needs to be saved,” he added.

David Doering says, “Sure looks like an easy cut-and-dried Kickstarter campaign to buy the rover!”

(8) Speaking of space exploring antiques, NASA needs a programmer fluent in 60-year-old computer programming languages to keep the Voyager 1 and 2 crafts going. The new hire has to know FORTRAN and assembly languages.

(9) Although written before the revised WFC 2015 harassment policy came out, Alasdsair Stuart’s post on the issue remains revelant for making points like these:

In the last two years I’ve been part of a team asked to deal with a single incident. I saw my colleagues treat the individual who had been harassed with compassion, patience and respect. I saw them be given the space they needed to collect themselves and make decisions rather than be pressured into a choice they might later regret. I have rarely been prouder of the teams of volunteers I’ve worked with over the last few years than I was on that day.

And that’s why the mealy mouthed legal tapdance WFC’15 was throwing up wasn’t just bullshit, it was and still is actively harmful. This event, that proudly lays claim to being the definitive convention for industry professionals, was not bothering to do something that events with a tenth its status and a hundredth its reach have baked into their procedures. The obvious defense here is of course the tiny size of the community and ‘we’ choosing to deal with it ‘in house’.

That’s not even in the same time zone as ‘good enough’.

No one on Earth WANTS to have a harassment policy. Even in building one you’re forced to imagine the absolute worst of the people around you, and in doing so, work out how to minimize the damage they may cause. These people have to, by definition, include your friends and colleagues. It’s an inherently cautious, inherently cynical piece of work that codifies the worst potential human behaviour and how to deal with it. No one wants that, least of all members of a community that likes to pay lip service to inclusion and diversity. But we all need it precisely because of that inclusion and diversity.

(10) John Holyoke reviews Stephen King’s new short story collection Bazaar of Bad Dreams in the Bangor Daily News.

bazaar of bad dreams cover COMP

For loyal King fans who devour anything the author produces, these collections are tiny desserts: sweet morsels that can be consumed rapidly, without guilt. Like some? Fine. Love ’em all? Better. Hate a few? Oh, well — move on. Take a bite out of another.

For those who are new to King and unsure whether they’ll like what they find, “The Bazaar of Bad Dreams” provides a tasty sampler that, like his other short story collections, showcases the master’s array of talents.

King said a year ago that he was confident he could still “write stories that are sleep-with-the-lights-on scary.” And he can. (Try his novel “Revival” on for size, if you’re in doubt.)

But “The Bazaar of Bad Dreams” is a collection of a different flavor and seems to reflect the maturing — and aging — of a writer who likely has left far more tales in his rear view mirror then he has remaining in front of his headlights. Recurring themes this time around include aging, dealing with aging and death itself.

And while that isn’t surprising in itself — there’s often a hefty helping of dying going on in a King book or story — the tone is different, almost melancholy at times, as characters face their mortality and battle with questions like the age-old unanswerable: What’s next?

(11) Lisa Morton, Horror Writers Association president, tells the true, highly commercial origins of today’s Halloween holiday.

The next time somebody tries to tell you that Halloween is a ghoulish tradition that goes back to Druid priests practicing pagan rituals, tell them that companies like Hershey, Coors and Dennison had a lot more to do with the modern Halloween we revere than the Celts from 2,000 years ago.

And that’s a good thing, because these companies have largely created the holiday we now love.

While it is likely that Halloween owes much of its macabre character to the Irish Celtic harvest celebration, Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”), there’s no proof whatsoever to suggest that the Celts dressed in costumes, begged candy from neighbors or staged elaborate haunted scares (although they probably did hold major feasts complete with alcohol).

(12) The Horror Writers Association website has a fine array of posts about the holiday by its members. Today’s entry is “Halloween Haunts: Souled” by Tonya Hurley.

We almost drove past it until I noticed the line snaking around the side of the nondescript-looking Dutch Colonial house on the canal. It hardly looked like the scene of any crime let alone that crime — The Amityville Horror. “112 Ocean Avenue.  That’s it!” I shouted with half excitement and equal parts guilt. The latest family to own the house was moving out and this was hyped as a yard sale guaranteed to top them all.  Shoppers and rubberneckers from miles around gathered to land a piece of horror history, joking with each other, retelling tall tales, mixing myths with fact about the house and the crime like a demonic game of telephone as they waited. A quick walk through the home yielded little contents owned by the DeFeo family, the original owners, who were famously murdered there…

(13) Amy Wallace has updated her Wired article “Sci-Fi’s Hugo Awards and the Battle for Pop Culture’s Soul”.

It is August 2015, and things are looking up for Team Humanity. Or are they? A record 11,700-plus people have bought memberships to the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention in Spokane, Washington, where the Hugo winners are soon to be announced. A record number have also forked over dues of at least $40 in time to be allowed to vote, and almost 6,000 cast ballots, 65 percent more than ever before.

But are the new voters Puppies? Or are they, in the words of Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin, “gathering to defend the integrity of the Hugos”? Just before 8 pm on August 22, in a vast auditorium packed with “trufans” dressed in wizard garb, corsets, chain mail, and the like, one question is on most attendee’s minds: Will the Puppies prevail?

The evening begins with an appearance by a fan cosplaying as the Grim Reaper, and that turns out to be an omen for the Puppies. By evening’s end, not a single Puppy-endorsed candidate takes home a rocket. In the five categories that had only Puppy-provided nominees on the ballot—Best Novella, Best Short Story, Best Related Work, and Best Editors for Short and Long Form—voters choose “No Award.”

Earlier, Beale explained to me that his plan was a “Xanatos gambit”—“that’s where you set it up so that no matter what your enemy does, he loses and you win.” No surprise then, that in an email he sends after the awards ceremony, Beale is crowing. “The scorched-earth strategy being pursued by the SJWs in science fiction is evidence that we hold the initiative and we are winning,” he writes. The number of major categories in which no awards are given “demon­strates the extent to which science fiction has been politi­cized and degraded by their far left politics.”

Quotes from pro writers only – Kloos, Bellet, Correia, Torgersen, Vox Day, George R.R. Martin, N.K. Jemisin.

Zero quotes from fans, who merely run and vote for the awards. Yet Brad R. Torgersen is outraged that still another pro, Sarah A. Hoyt, wasn’t interviewed.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh,Tom Galloway, David K.M. Klaus, Martin Morse Wooster, David Doering, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Nebula Awards in Photos

Winners and accepters at Nebula Awards ceremony: (L to R) Steven Gould, Nancy Kress, (?), (?), Ursula Vernon, Larry Niven, Stanley Schmidt, (?), (?), (?)

Winners and accepters at Nebula Awards ceremony: (L to R) Steven Gould, Nancy Kress, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Scott Edelman, Ursula Vernon, Larry Niven, Stanley Schmidt, Usman T Malik, Sam J Miller, and Matthew Kressel. Photo by Ernest Lilley.

This collective shot of winners and accepters of SFWA awards was taken by Ernest Lilley after the Nebula Awards ceremony on June 6. I could use a hand (several hands!) identifying all the people in the photo. [Thanks to everyone for helping to fill in the caption.]

Kathi Overton also gave permission to repost her photos of the ceremony.

Nancy Kress accepts Nebula for "Yesterdays Kin." Photo by Kathi Overton.

Nancy Kress accepts Nebula for “Yesterdays Kin.” Jody Lyn Nye stands at right. Photo by Kathi Overton.

Larry Niven accepts SFWA's Damon Knight Grand Master Award. Photo by Kathi Overton.

Larry Niven accepts SFWA’s Damon Knight Grand Master Award. Photo by Kathi Overton.

Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette)  receives her Nebula nominee certificate at a pre-banquet ceremony. Photo by Kathi Overton.

Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) receives her Nebula nominee certificate from SFWA President Steven Gould at a pre-banquet ceremony. Photo by Kathi Overton.

Stanley Schmidt accepts the Solstice Award. Photo by Kathi Overton.

Stanley Schmidt accepts the Solstice Award. Photo by Kathi Overton.

Event Coordinator Steven H Silver at the podium. Photo by Kathi Overton.

SFWA President-elect Cat Rambo, Event Coordinator Steven H Silver at the podium, Kate Baker, and SFWA President Steven Gould. (And Nick Offerman’s loaner guitar.) Photo by Kathi Overton.

SFWA Grand Masters Larry Niven, Joe Haldeman and Connie Willis. Photo by Kathi Overton.

SFWA Grand Masters Larry Niven, Joe Haldeman and Connie Willis. Photo by Kathi Overton.

Niven Aboo

By John Hertz: Larry Niven’s birthday was at the end of April. He threw a party in mid-May, which alas I couldn’t attend. The invitation said “No gifts”. I cheated by sending this 5-7-5-7-7-syllable acrostic.

Laughter, poetry
Appear together in life
Realistically;
Reap the divine comedy
You bring forth with open hands.

I more or less managed to make the middle line pivot, i.e. end the first two and begin the last two. The bottom line alludes to the tenth Oxherding Picture of Ch‘an (or if you prefer the Japanese, Zen) Buddhism. The ox stands for Enlightenment. In the first picture a man searches for the ox. In the next five he sees tracks, glimpses the ox, catches it, tames it, and rides it home. In the seventh there is no ox, the man is alone; the eighth is an empty circle, both ox and self have been transcended. Eight hundred years ago the Chinese master K‘uo-an Shih-yüan (Kakuan Shien to Japanese), realizing this was not the end, added Returning to the Source, followed by Entering the Marketplace with Giving Hands.

In the May Galaxy’s Edge Niven has a fine new Draco Tavern story (he pronounces it to rhyme with wacko, not shako; but don’t feel too bad, the hat for Jerry Pournelle’s costume as a colonel of 1st Hussars, King’s German Legion, built by a local Regency fan, is a busby), tuckerizing a friend of mine. After years of interstellar travelers visiting Rick Schumann the human’s place, making him and Earth rich, he says “Remember when we used to do our own research?”

Niven is among the most comical and most poetic of our authors. Escape from Hell by him and Pournelle is brilliant. You might not notice if you’re one of those folks who think Dante wrote The Divine Comedy to punish his enemies and reward his friends. I just re-read World of Ptavvs which is superb. Good s-f of even a few decades ago – now that we can say such a thing – can be more interesting than when first published. Some of us who read File 770 know the only fan to play a thrint in an s-f convention Masquerade.

Niven is a Scots-Irish name, so Niven aboo!

A Better Bowl

Gregory Benford discusses the science behind two novels written with Larry Niven, Bowl of Heaven and Shipstar, in “Building the Bowl of Heaven” on Paul Gilster’s Centauri Dreams blog.

Physicist Leonid Shkadov first described in 1987 a stellar propulsion system made by putting an enormous mirror in a static, fixed position near a star. To stay there it had to balance gravitational attraction towards and light pressure away from the star, exactly—or else it would either fall into or away from the star. Since the radiation pressure of the star would be asymmetrical, i.e. more radiation is being emitted in one direction as compared to another, the excess radiation pressure acts as net thrust, so tiny that the Sun would, after a million years, have speed of 20 m/s, and have moved 0.03 light years—far less than its orbital speed around the galaxy, ~100 km/sec.

Surely we can do better, I thought back in the early 2000s. So I mentioned some ideas to Larry Niven, and eventually we wrote two novels about a different sort of stellar thruster — Bowl of Heaven and Shipstar.

Being shown how two masters of hard science fiction worked out a rationale for this spacecraft might be the modern equivalent of Leonardo Da Vinci opening his sketchbook and saying, “Here’s the latest thing I’ve been working on….”

Benford, Niven Signing Shipstar 4/12

Gregory Benford and Larry Niven will sign Shipstar, sequel to their first collaborative novel Bowl of Heaven, at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego on Saturday, April 12 beginning at 2:00 p.m.  Address: 7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., Ste. 302, San Diego.

“Drinks with Vinge after, too!” adds Greg.

Drinks with Vinge! One of the boons of a life spent as a hard sf writer, where vintage is its own reward!

Black Hole Emergency

We long ago surrendered our dreams of Bradbury’s rainy Venus and Burroughs’ canal-riven Mars to the advances of science. Is the same thing on the verge of happening to science fiction’s tales involving black holes?

Alert SFWA – Condition Red!

Black holes have been appearing in sf stories for a long time. A conversation with Stephen Hawking decades ago led Larry Niven to write a story involving quantum black holes, 1975 Hugo winner “The Borderland of Sol.”

But on his 70th birthday this month, Hawking said he regards his idea that information was destroyed by black holes as his “biggest blunder.”

Also, Hawking’s unpublished work “Information Preservation and Weather Forecasting for Black Holes” (available from the arXiv preprint service) reportedly declares that “there are no black holes.”

Hawking’s basic theory already supposed black holes are not immortal, because they leak particles via “Hawking radiation” over time. Lately he has been at work trying to reconcile what two competing theories that explain basics about the universe have to say about black holes. Discovery.com phrases the effort this way —

It all boils down to a conflict between two fundamental ideas in physics that control the very fabric of our Universe; the clash of Einstein’s general relativity and quantum dynamics. And it just so happens that the extreme environment in and around a black hole makes for the perfect “fight club” for the two theories to duke it out.

Black holes have not been read out of the cosmology, but their behavior may be less absolute than Hawking originally argued.

Niven, Pournelle at San Diego Comic Fest

Some of the people who put together the San Diego Comic Fest, being held this weekend, October 4-6, are Comic-Con co-founders or past committee members who wanted to create an event more limited in scale. Their con is not affiliated with Comic-Con International.

Their GoH, Larry Niven, also isn’t an obvious choice to launch a comics-themed weekend although he’s done work in the medium, including a Green Lantern story.

But they sure know how to show him off to good effect. Here’s one example –

The Draco Tavern Enjoy Comic Fest’s creation of The Draco Tavern, based on a series of short stories about Earth’s only multispecies bar that were written by our 2013 Guest of Honor, Larry Niven. Fresh from her great success in recreating the look of Café Frankenstein for the first Fest, Wendy All will be directing the design of The Draco Tavern, which will feature an array of reasonably-priced and delicious food, coffee, and other beverages.

And they’ve also convinced Jerry Pournelle to participate on the program. As he explained on Chaos Manor

Precisely why I am involved is a long story: I don’t usually go to comic related conventions, and I don’t recall doing anything for comics that ever got published.

Periodically I try to work on an episode for Chrissie Claus, a not very widely circulated comic I happen to like a lot, but even with the help of Marv Wolfman on fundamentals of writing for comics I find it’s not easy for me. I sort of wish I had started a few years ago when I could work really intensely for a couple of days on something. In any event nothing has ever come of this other than that I continue to like Chrissie when she infrequently appears in a new edition.

However, a long time ago in the earlier days of my science fiction career, my son Alex, then at UC San Diego, fell in with a group of science fiction fans who were involved in starting ComicCon, and I was invited as one of the guests in an early rendition of ComicCon before it became so large.I had a great time, but about the only other guest I met who had read anything of mine was Adam West. I didn’t know Marv Wolfman then. Anyway, as a Result I got a “Gold Card” which entitled me to attend any future ComicCon, but it wasn’t really my cup of tea. Recently some of the fans involved in putting on the first ComicCon decided they wanted a comic convention limited in size. They got Larry Niven as GOH, and remembered that I’d been part of the early ComicCon, and somehow I ended up agreeing to come although I can’t remember doing it. I’m sure I’ll have a great time. I may even meet a fellow Chrissie Claus fan.

The con also features Comics Fan Guest of Honor Richard Kyle, once owner of a well-known bookstore, and Science Fiction Fan Guests of Honor John and Bjo Trimble. More guests and program participants listed here.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Last Meeting of Two Literary Lions

Bradbury and Pohl with the Red Planet. Photo by Terry Pace.

Bradbury and Pohl with the Red Planet. Photo by Terry Pace.

Frederik Pohl and Ray Bradbury met for the first time at the 1939 Worldcon when they were both teenagers. The last time they saw each other was at the 2008 Eaton Conference, as Pohl wrote in his Bradbury obituary

I saw Ray last a couple of years ago, when he and I were joint guests for the science-fiction program at UC-Riverside. He was feisty as ever, rather startlingly denouncing current science fiction as trash or worse — though it turned out that what he meant to be denouncing wasn’t print science fiction, but only the current crop of sf films. I would have liked to go into that in more detail, and to ask if he included the film Avatar. But time didn’t permit, and now I never can.

Fred Pohl, Larry Niven and Ray Bradbury at the 2008 Eaton Conference. Photo by Terry Pace.

Fred Pohl, Larry Niven and Ray Bradbury at the 2008 Eaton Conference. Photo by Terry Pace.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]