Pixel Scroll 2018-01-02 The Scroll Awakens the Last Pixel

By JJ:

(1) INSPIRING THE RIGHT STUFF.  Space.com reports that American Girl’s latest entry in their doll line is an aspiring astronaut created with advice from NASA.

An 11-year-old aspiring astronaut who dreams of being the first person to go to Mars is blasting off as American Girl’s 2018 Girl of the Year.

Described as a champion of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), Luciana Vega is styled with brown eyes, medium skin and dark brown hair with a “distinctive purple streak to show off her creative side.” She comes packaged with a nebula-patterned dress and silver iridescent shoes.

American Girl will also offer a spacesuit outfit modeled after NASA’s Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) used on the International Space Station. Other accessories in the Luciana Vega collection include a blue Space Camp flight suit, a Maker Station and a Mars Habitat “loaded with science and research essentials for hours of pretend play.”

In addition to the doll and accessories, Luciana’s story is explored in a new book series authored by Erin Teagan and published by Scholastic… [and] “Blast Off to Discovery,” an educational program focused on helping third though fifth-grade students explore the wonder of space through Luciana-inspired content, including lesson plans, classroom activities, videos and a game.

(2) RECRUITING THE RIGHT STUFF.  In honor of Nichelle Nichols’ birthday on December 28, NASA engineer Bobak Ferdowsi told a story of a past encounter with her: (click on the tweet’s date/time stamp to read the whole thread)

(3) BOOK SUBMISSIONS OPEN.  Apex has announced that it is currently accepting submissions of Novels and Novellas.

Apex Book Company will be holding open novel and novella submissions from January 1st to January 31st, 2018. Anything sent outside of this time period will be deleted unread.

We will consider novellas in length of 30,000 to 40,000 words and novels in length up to 120,000 words, and are particularly looking for novels that fit within the dark sci-fi category. Dark fantasy and horror submissions are also welcome.

A literary agent is not required for submission. We may take up to three months or more to review your manuscript. Simultaneous submissions are okay. We will only accept one submission per author.

We only accept email submissions to apex.submission@gmail.com.

Additional details on the submission process can be found at the link.

(4) SHORT FICTION SUBMISSIONS OPEN.  Kaleidotrope Magazine has announced that it is currently open to submissions of Fiction, Poetry, Nonfiction, and Artwork until April 1, 2018.

Kaleidotrope tends very heavily towards the speculative – towards science fiction, fantasy, and horror – but we like an eclectic mix and are therefore interested to read compelling work that blurs these lines, falls outside of neat genre categories. Man does not live on space ships, elves, and ghostly ax murderers alone, after all. We’d suggest looking through the archives to familiarize yourself with the zine, and/or checking out other work by our past contributors, to get a sense of what we’re looking for and what we like.

In the end, what we want is interesting, sometimes unconventional work, well-written stories and poems that surprise and amuse us, shock and disturb us, that tell us things we didn’t know or reveal old truths in brand new ways. We want strange visions of distant shores, of imaginary countries and ordinary people, and work that doesn’t lose sight of entertainment and the joy of good writing.

We are also interested in publishing diverse writers. Kaleidotrope welcome writers of color and other groups, as well as work that represents the diversity of characters we want to see more of.

(5) SPOILER WARNING.  Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn has Taken a hard-line on spoilers for The Last Jedi:

The following items have been carefully curated to provide interesting non-spoilery information on the movie, but click judiciously if you haven’t seen it yet.

(6) PLUS ÇA CHANGE.  In a piece at Critical Hit, Kate Willaert engages in some cultural archaeology to find out how fans reacted to The Empire Strikes Back in 1980: [WARNING: Spoilers for The Last Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back at the link]

Today the general consensus is that Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie. It has an audience score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.8/10 on IMDb, compared to A New Hope’s 96% and 8.7/10, respectively. These user scores weren’t generated until decades after the original trilogy was released, but it’s not like fan opinion could have shifted that much, right?

Thankfully, Archive.org has a collection of Starlog, so let’s take a look at issues #39-41. What were the fans saying?

As with The Last Jedi, fan reaction was mixed to say the least. Some felt it was better than the first one, some enjoyed it but had complaints, and some were disappointed. But what’s most interesting is how specific comments or criticisms mirror those of The Last Jedi…

(7) IT’S NOT WHAT YOU WERE EXPECTING.  Star Wars: Aftermath author Chuck Wendig has some thoughts about fan expectations in relation to The Last Jedi. (The below excerpt is non-spoilery, but there are SPOILERS at the linked blog post.)

I fucking loved it.

That’s it. That’s my review. It’s mostly just a series of excitable sounds with the occasional twirling around until I’m dizzy. But I’d rather look past my gibbon-like hoots and my strange, erotic dances and see what lies within. What lurks deeper. What do I see when I enter the DARK SIDE CAVE to have the truth revealed to me?

Your Expectations Will Not Be Met

Fandom is a tricky bear to wrestle. We love a thing so deeply, we entwine ourselves within it. We thread a little bit – sometimes a lot – of our identity into the thing. And we come to believe we own that thing, and further, we join a tribe of fellow owners who all have threaded themselves into it both intellectually and emotionally. We feel excited by what this thing can bring us. We develop pet theories. We craft and conjure the path we would take if we were ever handed the keys to the Thing We Love. We become excited and obsessive, a little bit. Sometimes a lotta bit.

But here’s the thing:

Stories can never be written for the fans.

Fan service isn’t a bad thing, per se, but it is sometimes a fairly lazy thing – it’s a comfortable signal, a soft chair, it’s Norm from Cheers where everybody knows his name. It’s to say, “You’re lost here, but look, here is a familiar friend to help you through. It’s to let you know that despite all the strange flora and the eyes glowing in the dark, you’re still a known quantity in a known land. This is a safe place.” When done overmuch, fan service does more than just introduce a few friendly faces. It burns down the trees. It lights up the dark. It slides a jukebox over and slams the top of it like it’s fucking Fonzie and suddenly, the Greatest Hits begin to play, just as you love them. Maybe in an order you don’t know, but still the songs you know and you adore.

The Last Jedi will not meet your expectations.

Oh, it knows them.

It is well-aware of them, in fact, and is well-aware that you have them. And it willfully… I don’t want to say disregards them, precisely, but in a sense, it has weaponized them against you. It knows you’ve seen all the movies. It knows you know the narrative beats, the tropes, the rhyming couplets of George Lucas, and then it gently puts them all in a magician’s hat, and then it reaches into the hat, and instead of pulling them back out, it pulls out a porg.

And then the movie hits you with the porg.

Whap.

That metaphor may have gotten a little out of hand, but I think you grok me.

The Last Jedi cares very much about your expectations.

It’s just not going to meet them.

(8) IT’S A THEORY.  On Twitter, Amelia Rose explains why she thinks that the much-maligned Star Wars prequels contain a very nuanced story told very, very incompetently. (Click on the tweet’s date/time stamp to read the whole thread; there are no spoilers for The Last Jedi in the main thread, but after the “FIN” there may be some SPOILERS in commenters’ tweets.)

(9) PAYBACKS ARE SWELL.  The Hollywood Reporter says that gross revenues on the new editions of the Star Wars franchise have exceeded $4 Billion, eclipsing Disney’s price to acquire Lucasfilm.

Combined, Disney and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Stars Wars: The Force Awakens have surpassed $4.06 billion in ticket sales at the worldwide box office. While an interesting benchmark, it doesn’t, of course, account for the hundreds of millions spent to produce and market the trio of films, or the fact that Disney splits box-office grosses with theater owners. Conversely, Disney has minted additional money from lucrative ancillary revenue streams, merchandising sales and theme park attractions.

Opening in North America on Dec. 15, The Last Jedi zoomed past the $900 million mark on Thursday, finishing the day with $934.2 million globally, including $464.6 million domestically and $469.6 internationally (it doesn’t land in China until Jan. 5).

(10) EDITORIAL LICENSE.  On Facebook, Amanda Downs Champlin has taken artistic liberties with the newest character in the Star Wars franchise. [WARNING: NO SPOILERS, JUST TERMINAL CUTENESS]

(11) WITHERING HEIGHTS.  The Last Jedi has sparked widely-varying opinions on the appeal of Kylo Ren.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born January 2, 1920 – Isaac Asimov, Author and Damon Knight Grand Master of Science Fiction
  • Born January 2, 1959 – Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Editor (Tor Books)
  • Born January 2, 1973 – Lucy Davis, Actor (Etta Candy in 2017’s Wonder Woman)
  • Born January 2, 1980 – David Gyasi, Actor (Interstellar, Cloud Atlas, and The Dark Knight Rises)

(13) CAUGHT IN THE ACT.  SFF author Jason Sanford reports on a newly-revealed case of genre plagiarism:

Jake Bible, author of the Roak: Galactic Bounty Hunter series, claimed on Facebook and Twitter that Balogun Ojetade plagiarized his writing in Ojetade’s novel Scorpion Wine (Qiq, the Bounty Hunter). Bible released the image above showing extreme similarities between a section of Ojetade’s book (at left) and his own novel.

Bible said on Facebook that Ojetade’s novel “changed character names and the setting, but it is an almost word for word ripoff.”

Bible requested Amazon take down Ojetade’s novel, which it did. However, an entry for Scorpion Wine was still on Amazon as of this writing.

In a personal message Bible told me that because “bounty hunter is such a niche sub-genre that one of my readers found (the plagiarism) right away.” But Bible suggested other authors may want to examine Ojetade’s works for other possible cases of plagiarism.

(14) SHOPPING WHILE INTOXICATED.  SFF author Cherie Priest got a surprise delivery:

(15) TAKE THAT, COMCAST.  Motherboard explains how someone used wet string to get a broadband internet connection:

As the FCC prepares to the destroy the US internet by rolling back net neutrality protections, it’s no surprise that Americans are looking for alternatives to their corporate internet service providers (ISPs). These ISPs own all the cable that routes information through the internet, and trying to replace these networks with community-owned cable is a costly and challenging process.

Fortunately, a UK techie with a sense of humor may have found an alternative to expensive corporate broadband cables: some wet string.

It’s an old joke among network technicians that it’s possible to get a broadband connection with anything, even if it’s just two cans connected with some wet string. As detailed in a blog post by Adrian Kennard, who runs an ISP called Andrews & Arnold in the UK, one of his colleagues took the joke literally and actually established a broadband connection using some wet string…

Usually, broadband connections rely on wires made of a conductive substances like copper. In the case of the Andrews & Arnold technician, however, they used about 6 feet of twine soaked in salt water (better conductivity than fresh water) that was connected to alligator clips to establish the connection.

(16) DON’T LET THE CAT DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT.  Never underestimate the power of an SJW credential, especially if it’s a reader. KRLD reports that a White Settlement, Texas, City Councilman lost his showdown with the library’s beloved cat.

Elzie Clements’ final meeting as a member of the city council was Tuesday night. Clements tried to have Browser, the city’s docile grey tabby library cat, fired this past summer.

Browser got his job at the library when he was just a kitten. He was recruited from a local animal shelter as an inexpensive, effective method of pest control at the library.

In July, a city worker apparently demanded Browser’s removal after the worker was not allowed to bring a puppy to work at City Hall. Two-legged library workers were outraged, and many people who use the library often said that they were unhappy with Bowser’s dismissal.

The White Settlement City Council took up the issue of what to do with Browser, with Clements being the lone vote to get rid of the favorable feline.

Browser got a reprieve following a world-wide backlash, and reports say there were still some hard feelings among council members after the cat fight.

Councilman Clements eventually ran out of his 9-lives after he was defeated in a landslide in November’s election.

(17) NEXT WEEK, SKYNET.  Artificial learning algorithms are developing in unexpected directions:

(18) ARCHIVE THIS.  A digital museum is seeking a DMCA exemption for “abandoned Online games”, to preserve defunct gaming titles from being lost.

Every three years the US Copyright Office reviews and renews the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions at which time it considers exemptions to the law. It is currently looking at a proposal for allowing museums, libraries and archives to circumvent the DRM on abandoned online games such as FIFA World Cup, Nascar and The Sims.

The proposal was initiated by The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (The MADE). The Made is a 501c3 non-profit organization with a physical museum located in Oakland, California. The gallery claims to be “the only all-playable video game museum in the world, [and] houses over 5,300 playable games.”

The Made is concerned that certain multiplayer and single-player games that require a server to run will be lost if exemptions are not made to the DMCA. It is not looking to circumvent current games but instead is looking to preserve titles that have already been shut down by the producer – City of Heroes (and Villains) would be a good example…

Supporters of the proposal had until December 18, 2017, to submit comments or evidence to the US Copyright Office. Opponents to the request now have until February 12, 2018, to present written arguments against it. Supporters will then be allowed a rebuttal period until March 14. The USCO will make its decision soon after the final rebuttals are read.

(19) IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK, REALLY.  SFF author Catherynne M. Valente, explaining the contents of boxes of fannish detritus to her fiance as they unpack in their new home:

(20) DEEP IMPACT.  Geologists from the Birkbeck University of London have discovered mineral forms never before reported on Earth on the Isle of Skye:

Geologists exploring the Isle of Skye got more than they bargained for when examining volcanic rocks on the Scottish site, finding mineral forms from a pre-historic meteorite impact that have never before been found on Earth.

The team, including members of Birkbeck’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Dr Simon Drake, Dr Andy Beard, Professor Hilary Downes and Jergus Baca, discovered evidence of a previously unknown, 60 million-year-old meteorite impact.

They had been examining a thick layer at the base of a 60 million-year-old lava flow, which they at first thought was a volcanic flow deposit called ignimbrite. After putting it under an electron microprobe, they discovered that it, in fact, contained rare minerals from outer-space…

These mineral forms – vanadium-rich and niobium-rich osbornite – have never before been reported on Earth, only collected in space dust on a prior NASA mission.

The Isle of Skye has been well explored by geologists, and the scientists were surprised that the ejecta layer had not been identified before. The first site of discovery, Drake explained, was steep, rough and very boggy, which may have deterred previous researchers from exploring the layer.

(21) QUICK THINKING.  A DungeonMaster recounts a player’s narrow escape on his “yourplayersaidwhat” Tumblr blog:

http://sword-wielding-fallen-angel.tumblr.com/post/169171999771/yourplayersaidwhat-dm-to-our-bard-the-six

(22) HELPFUL RESOURCE.  To assist award nominators, SFF Author A. C. Wise is maintaining an aggregated list of eligibility post links, which is being updated on an ongoing basis.

(23) GALACTIC POSITIONING SYSTEM.  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has installed a new kinetic sculpture to assist spacefarers in their travels:

[Thanks to Substitute Editor of the Day JJ for pilfering all of these stories from friends, acquaintances, and randos on blogs, Facebook and Twitter. Credit for spelling and grammar goes to Copyeditor of the Day JJ. Blame for spelling and grammar mistakes goes to Scapegoat of the Day Camestros Felapton. Title credit goes to File 770 Contributing Editor of the Day JJ. Any complaints should be directed to – oh, who are we kidding? complaints will be ignored.]

2016 Saturn Awards

Saturn 1The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films announced the 2016 Saturn Award winners on June 22 in Burbank.

John Barrowman, the awards host, is shown here in a photo with Alex Kingston, on hand to pick up the award for Doctor Who’s “The Husbands of River Song,” and Buffy veteran Clare Kramer.

2016 Saturn Winners

Best Science Fiction Film: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Best Comic-to-Film Motion Picture: Ant-Man

Best Fantasy Film: Cinderella

Best Horror Film: Crimson Peak

Best Action / Adventure Film: Furious 7

Best Thriller Film: Bridge of Spies

Best Actor in a Film: Harrison Ford (Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens)

Best Actress in a Film: Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Best Supporting Actor in a Film: Adam Driver (Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens)

Best Supporting Actress in a Film: Jessica Chastain (Crimson Peak)

Best Performance by a Younger Actor: Ty Simpkins (Jurassic World)

Best Director: Ridley Scott (The Martian)

Best Writing: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt (Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens)

Best Production Design: Thomas E. Sanders (Crimson Peak)

Best Editing: Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey (Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens)

Best Music: John Williams (Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens)

Best Costume: Alexandra Byrne (Avengers: Age of Ultron)

Best Make-Up: Neal Scanlan (Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens)

Best Special Effects: Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan, Chris Corbould (Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens)

Best Independent Film Release: Room

Best International Film Release: Turbo Kid

Best Animated Film: Inside Out

Best Science Fiction Television Series: Continuum

Best Fantasy Television SeriesOutlander

Best Horror Television Series: The Walking Dead

Best Action / Thriller Television Series: Hannibal

Best Superhero Adaptation Television Series: The Flash

Best New Media Television Series: Marvel’s Daredevil

Best Television Presentation: Doctor Who: The Husbands of River Song

Best Actor on Television: Bruce Campbell (Ash vs. Evil Dead)

Best Actress on Television: Caitriona Balfe (Outlander)

Best Supporting Actor on Television: Richard Armitage (Hannibal)

Best Supporting Actress on Television: Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead)

Best Performance by a Younger Actor: Chandler Riggs (The Walking Dead)

Best Guest Star on Television: William Shatner (Haven)

Best DVD / BD Release: Burying The Ex

Best DVD / BD Classic Film Release: Miracle Mile

Best DVD / BD Collection Release: The Frank Darabont Collection

Best DVD / BD Television Series Release: The X-Files: Collector’s Set

Best DVD / BD Special Edition Release: X-Men: Days of Future Past (Rogue Cut)

Best Local Live Stage ProductionTarzan (3D Theatricals)

The Lifetime Achievement Award: Nichelle Nichols

The George Pal Memorial Award: Simon Kinberg

The President’s Award: Television’s Haven

The Spotlight Award: Better Call Saul

The Dan Curtis Legacy Award: Eric Kripke

The Special Recognition Award: Brannon Braga

The Breakthrough Performance Award: Melissa Benoist

Pixel Scroll 11/3 Ten Things I Slate About You

(1) Disney has optioned the movie rights to Ursula Vernon’s childrens book Castle Hangnail for an adaptation to be produced by Ellen DeGeneres.

DeGeneres will produce with Jeff Kleeman, her partner at A Very Good Production banner.

The book tells of a 12-year old witch who shows up at a dark castle that needs a master or be decommissioned by the bureaucratic Board of Magic and its many minions, such as a hypochondriac fish and a letter ‘Q’ averse minotaur, dispersed into the world. She projects confidence as she tackles the series of tasks laid forth by the board but underneath lie several simmering secrets, including one of her being an imposter….

DeGeneres and Kleeman are busy in the television world but Hangnail is their second notable move on the movie side and keeps their feet firmly in the fantasy field. Earlier this year the duo set up Uprooted, the novel from Temeraire author Naomi Novik, for Warner Bros.

(2) A magisterial essay by Ursula K. Le Guin at Tin House, “’Where Do You Get Your Ideas From?’”.

American critics and academics have been trying for forty years to bury one of the great works of twentieth-century fiction, The Lord of the Rings. They ignore it, they condescend to it, they stand in large groups with their backs to it, because they’re afraid of it. They’re afraid of dragons. They know if they acknowledge Tolkien they’ll have to admit that fantasy can be literature, and that therefore they’ll have to redefine what literature is.

What American critics and teachers call “literature” is still almost wholly restricted to realism. All other forms of fiction—westerns, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, romance, historical, regional, you name it—are dismissed as “genre.” Sent to the ghetto. That the ghetto is about twelve times larger than the city, and currently a great deal livelier, doesn’t bother those who live in ivory towers. Magic realism, though—that does bother them; they hear Gabriel García Márquez gnawing quietly at the foundations of the ivory tower, they hear all these crazy Indians dancing up in the attic, and they think maybe they should do something about it. Perhaps they should give that fellow who teaches the science fiction course tenure? Oh, surely not.

To say that realistic fiction is by definition superior to imaginative fiction is to imply that imitation is superior to invention. I have wondered if this unstated but widely accepted (and, incidentally, very puritanical) proposition is related to the recent popularity of the memoir and the personal essay. This has been a genuine popularity, not a matter of academic canonizing. People really do want to read memoir and personal essay, and writers want to write it. I’ve felt rather out of step. I like history and biography fine, but when family and personal memoir seems to be the most popular—the dominant narrative form—well, I have searched my soul for prejudice and found it. I prefer invention to imitation. I love novels. I love made-up stuff.

(3) “The Call of the Sad Whelkfins: The Continued Relevance of How To Suppress Women’s Writing“ by Annalee Flower Horne and Natalie Luhrs in Uncanny Magazine #7 uses Joanna Russ’ text to diagnose some critics’ responses to Ancillary Justice.

I snorted. For the past week, Natalie Luhrs and I had been discussing the book in the context of the ongoing fight for the soul of the science fiction community, most recently played out in the failed attempt to take over the Hugo Awards. In HTSWW, Russ uses an alien species called the whelk–finned Glotolog to illustrate the methods by which human cultures control women’s writing without direct censorship (4). These days, the tactics the so–called “sad puppies” use to paint themselves as the true heirs of science fiction, bravely holding the line against the invading masses, are the very same tactics Joanna Russ ascribed to the whelk–finned Glotolog in 1983…

False Categorizing of the Work She wrote it, but she isn’t really an artist, and it isn’t really art. (HTSWW)

False Categorization is, essentially, bad faith. It allows the critic to shift the focus to something else—usually something trivial in the larger context, so as to dismiss the whole. So once again, we’ll look at the pronouns in Ancillary Justice. By focusing on the pronouns, the sad whelkfins are able to dismiss the entire work as nothing more than a political screed against men, as turgid message fiction that doesn’t even tell a good story.

That’s a massive tell to anyone who has actually read the book—because while the pronouns do take some adjustment, they’re a small part of the novel’s world–building and not a major source of plot or conflict. They just are, the way there is air to breathe and skel to eat.

(4) “Updates on the Chinese Nebula Awards and the Coordinates Awards” at Amazing Stories has the full list of award winners (only two were reported here on the night of the ceremony). Since Steve Davidson is able to reproduce the titles in the original language, all the more reason to refer you there.

(5) Liu Cixin participated in “The Future of China through Chinese Science Fiction” at the University of Sydney on November 3.

(6) Crossed Genres Magazine will close after the December 2015 issue reports Locus Online.

Co-publisher Bart Lieb posted a statement:

Two primary factors led to this decision. First, one of Crossed Genres’ co-publishers, Kay Holt, has been dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for more than two years. It’s made it extremely difficult for her to help with the running of CG, leaving the lion’s share of responsibilities on the other co-publisher, Bart Leib, who’s also working a day job. Magazine co-editor Kelly Jennings, ebook coordinator Casey Seda, and our team of first readers have all been heroic in their volunteer efforts, but we’ve still been unable to keep from falling behind.

The second factor is simply that the magazine has run out of funds to continue. In April 2014 we ran a successful Kickstarter to keep CG Magazine going, but once another year had passed, roughly 90 percent of those who’d pledged to the Kickstarter chose not to renew their memberships….

(7) Today In History

  • November 3, 1956 — On this night in 1956, CBS presented the first broadcast of The Wizard of Oz.  It was a major event for which the network paid MGM a quarter of a million dollars for the rights (over $2,000,000 in today’s dollars.)
  • November 3, 1976 — Brian De Palma’s Carrie is seen for the very first time

(8) Today’s Birthday Monster

  • November 3, 1954 — Godzilla was released in Japanese theaters.

(9) Today’s Belated Birthday

  • Lovecraft’s 125th birthday (in August) was celebrated in many ways in Providence. A new plaque was installed near his birthplace at 454 Angell Street, designed, created, and installed by Gage Prentiss.

(10) Today’s Yodeling Marmot

(11) “Transparent Aluminum: IT’S REAL!” at Treehugger.

Remember Star Trek: The Voyage Home, where Scotty talks into a computer mouse and then instantly figures out keyboards and gives away the formula for transparent Aluminum? And remember Galaxy Quest, where Commander Taggart tells the Justin Long character about the ship: “IT’S REAL!”

Mash those two scenes together and you have Spinel, described by US Naval Research Laboratory scientist Dr. Jas Sanghera as “actually a mineral, it’s magnesium aluminate. The advantage is it’s so much tougher, stronger, harder than glass. It provides better protection in more hostile environments—so it can withstand sand and rain erosion.” He likes it for the same reason Scotty did, according to an NRL press release

(12) Arlan Andrews told Facebook friends that Ken Burnside has answered the Alfies.

The Wreck of the Hugo

So, today I received this 3D-printed crashed rocket ship, titled “The Wreck of the Hugo” as created by artist Charles Oines and commissioned by Ken Burnside. Others went to Kary English, Mike Resnick, and Toni Weisskopf. According to Ken Burnside, the official 2015 Hugo voting tallies showed each of us recipients as runners-up to the 2500-vote NO AWARD bloc that wrecked the Hugos this year in many categories. I gratefully accept the gifted award in the spirit in which it was given, and sincerely hope that no future Hugo nominees are ever again voted off the island in such a fashion.

(That last part resonates strangely, at least in my memory, because “I accept this award in the spirit in which it is given” was Norman Spinrad’s answer when handed the Brown Hole Award for Outstanding Professionalism in 1973. And he was right to be suspicious.)

(13) Meanwhile, the curator of the Alfies, George R.R. Martin, is already making recommendations for the Dramatic Presentation categories in “Hugo Thoughts”.

In the past, I have usually made my own Hugo recommendations only after nominations have opened. But in light of what happened last year, it seems useful to begin much sooner. To get talking about the things we like, the things we don’t like. This is especially useful in the case of the lesser known and obscure work. Drawing attention to such earlier in the process is the best way to get more fans looking at them… and unless you are aware of a work, you’re not likely to nominate it, are you? (Well, unless you’re voting a slate, and just ticking off boxes).

Let me start with the Dramatic Presentation category. Long form….

(14) Damien G. Walter does best when the target is as easy to hit as the broad side of a barn. “Gus. A Case Study In Sad Puppy Ignorance”.

Firstly, is Gus actually asking us to believe that Frankenstein : A Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the famed early feminist icon, daughter of philosopher and political activist Mary Wollstonecraft, wife of romantic poet and political radical Percy Byshe Shelley, close friend of paramilitary revolutionary Lord Byron, and author of  seven novels (many science fictional) and innumerable other stories, essays and letters, all of them revealing a life of deep engagement with political and social issues of gender, class, sexuality and more, that this same Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote Frankenstein : A Modern Prometheus (a subtitle explicitly invoking the mythical act of stealing fire from the gods as an opening rhetorical reference to the risks of scientific endeavour) as, and I quote, “the sole purpose of…macabre entertainment”? Because I would suggest, on the basis of all available evidence, including every single thing ever written about Frankenstein, that Gus is in a minority on this one. In fact, I will go so far as to say that he is utterly, absurdly and idiotically wrong.

(15) John Thiel’s responses to Steve Davidson’s queries about “trufandom” appear in “The Voices of Fandom” at Amazing Stories.

Steve’s introduction notes –

I posed a series of interview questions to members of the Fan History group on Facebook.  I thought it would be a good place to start because that group is made up entirely of Trufans.

Today, I present the first in a series of responses to those questions and I should point out that, in typical Fannish fashion, the answers are anything but monolithic.  Apparently Fans have as many different ideas about what it means to be a Fan as there are Fans, which just serves to point out how difficult it is to get a handle on this question.

(16) A video interview with Dame Diana Rigg.

Five decades since she first appeared as Emma Peel in The Avengers (1961-1969), fans of the show still approach Dame Diana Rigg to express their gratitude. Rigg joins BFI curator Dick Fiddy to reflect on the influence of Peel on real-life women and acting with Patrick Macnee and Ian Hendry.

(17) Jon Michaud reviews Michael Witwer’s Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons in The New Yorker and accuses the biographer of shielding Gygax rather than exploring more deeply the controversial topic of his religious views.

Dr. Thomas Radecki, a founding member of the National Coalition on TV Violence, said, “There is no doubt in my mind that the game Dungeons & Dragons is causing young men to kill themselves and others.” In her book “Raising PG Kids in an X-Rated Society,” Tipper Gore connected the game to satanism and the occult. All of this prompted a “60 Minutes” segment in which Gygax rejected these myriad accusations, calling them “nothing but a witch hunt.”

What was largely unknown or omitted from this brouhaha is that Gygax was an intermittently observant Jehovah’s Witness. This startling fact crops up about halfway through Witwer’s biography, when he notes that Gygax’s “controversial” game, along with his smoking and drinking, had led to a parting of the ways with the local congregation. Up until that point, the matter of Gygax’s faith had gone unmentioned in the biography, and it is barely discussed thereafter. (The book’s index does not have an entry for “Jehovah’s Witness” or “Gygax, Gary—religious beliefs.”) Given the furor that D. & D. caused, the absence of a deeper analysis of Gygax’s faith is a glaring omission. In a recent interview with Tobias Carroll, Witwer acknowledged that Gygax “was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness. He would go door-to-door and he would give out pamphlets. He was pretty outspoken about it, as a matter of fact.” The reason for almost completely excluding it from the biography, Witwer says, is that “I couldn’t find it [as] a huge driving force in his life.…I didn’t want to be too heavy-handed with that, because I’m not clear that, especially with his gaming work and even his home life, how big a factor that was on a day-to-day basis. But I do know he was practicing.”

(18) Galactic Journey visits the year 1960 where young Mike Glyer’s favorite TV series, Men Into Space, is still on the air, and there’s even a tie-in novel by Murray Leinster.

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“Men Into Space” consists of short stories following the career of Space Force officer Ed McCauley:

As a lieutenant, McCauley makes the first manned rocket flight.

As a captain, McCauley deals with an injured crewman while piloting the first space-plane.

As a major, McCauley deals with a potentially-fatal construction accident while in charge the building of the first space station.

As a colonel, McCauley deals with a murderous personnel problem while overseeing the establishment of a series of radio relays to the moon’s far side, then deals with a technical problem aboard a rocket to Venus, and another personnel problem on a Mars mission.

Lots of nuts and bolts details about ballistics, rocket fuels, radiation, the van Allen belts, and so forth.  And with each story, McCauley deals with progressively more complex human problems as he moves up in rank.

Although 7-year-old me would have loved the tie-in novel, 35 cents would have been a king’s ransom in my personal economy….

(19) Here’s a photo of the Cosmos Award presentation to Neil deGrasse Tyson at the Planetary Society 35th anniversary celebration on October 24.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (left) accepted The Planetary Society's Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science. Bill Nye (middle) was on stage as Tyson accepted the award from Nichelle Nichols (right), who is best known for playing Lt. Uhura on "Star Trek" (the original series) and who is an advocate for real-world space exploration.

Neil deGrasse Tyson (left) accepted The Planetary Society’s Cosmos Award for Outstanding Public Presentation of Science. Bill Nye (middle) was on stage as Tyson accepted the award from Nichelle Nichols (right), who is best known for playing Lt. Uhura on “Star Trek” (the original series) and who is an advocate for real-world space exploration.

Before the award was given to Tyson, Nye reminisced about meeting Tyson through the organization. Nye then showed a photo of what Tyson looked like in 1980, when he was a wrestler (Tyson wrestled in high school and college), and Tyson joked that he kicked some serious butt.

Tyson had come prepared, and showed a photo of Nye in 1980, in a “Coneheads” costume, with a silver ring around his head.

(20) The Red Bull Music Academy website has published David Keenan’s “Reality Is For People Who Can’t Handle Science Fiction”, about the influence of SF on French progressive rock from 1969 through 1985.

In 2014 I interviewed Richard Pinhas of Heldon, still one of the central punk/prog mutants to come out of the French underground. I asked him about the influence of the visionary science fiction writer Philip K. Dick on his sound and on his worldview. “Philip K. Dick was a prophet to us,” Pinhas explained. “He saw the future.”

It makes sense that a musical and cultural moment that was obsessed with the sound of tomorrow would name a sci-fi writer as its central avatar. Indeed, while the Sex Pistols spat on the British vision of the future dream as a shopping scheme, the French underground projected it off the planet altogether.

When Pinhas formed Heldon in 1974 he named the group in tribute to sci-fi writer Norman Spinrad’s 1972 novel The Iron Dream, conflating his own vision of a mutant amalgam of Hendrix-inspired psychedelic rock and cyborg-styled electronics with Spinrad’s re-writing of history.

(21) At CNN, “Art transforms travel photos with paper cutouts”:

That’s what happened when Londoner Rich McCor began adorning pictures of British landmarks with whimsical paper cutouts and posting the results online.

Originally, the 28-year-old creative agency worker intended the photos for the amusement of himself and friends.

Then he got a lesson on the impact of “viral” when Britain’s “Daily Mail” publicized some of his photos.

 

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 [Thanks to Rob Thornton, Mark-kitteh, Will R., Michael J. Walsh, JJ, Janice Gelb, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Nichelle Nichols Takes A Close Look at The Final Frontier

She did it — Nichelle Nichols rode with the SOFIA telescope to the edge of space!

The largest airborne observatory in the world is a joint project by NASA and the German Aerospace Center.

Pixel Scroll 8/2 Something Pixeled This Way Comes

It’s a party. It’s a dog party! But don’t drink the punch. That’s the advice in today’s Scroll.

(1) Well, that was brutal. HitchBOT the hitchhiking robot met its fate in Philadelphia.

The now-destroyed robot hails from Port Credit, Ontario. It completed a successful 26-day journey in 2014 in which it “traveled over 10,000 km from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Victoria, British Columbia.” Then in early 2015, hitchBOT moved onto a 10-day German adventure, followed by a three-week jaunt in the Netherlands.

Three countries. Zero incidents. But once hitchBOT made it stateside, it didn’t even make it past the Mason-Dixon line before getting the wiring kicked out of him.

Buzzfeed linked to a vlog recorded in Philly made during hitchBOT’s final hours.

This video from YouTubers BFvsGF shows them discovering hitchBOT Friday night. The researchers said the vloggers are the last known people to have seen hitchBOT.

 

(2) Nichelle Nichols may wind up the Star Trek cast member who came closest to reaching outer space, all despite her recent health setbacks.

The actress who played Lt Uhura in Star Trek is to blast off on a mission for US space agency NASA aged 82 – and three months after suffering a stroke.

Nichelle Nichols, who has been an ambassador for NASA since portraying the groundbreaking character in the 1960s, will fly on the SOFIA space telescope in September.

While the telescope – housed in a specially converted Boeing 747 – doesn’t quite go to the final frontier, it makes it as high as the stratosphere, around 50,000 above the Earth.

(3) Numerous features of Pluto and Charon are being given names from science fiction and fantasy. Kowal Crater on Pluto, just north of the right side of the heart, is not named for Mary Robinette Kowal (which would have been cool), but rather Charles T. Kowal, who discovered a new class of object in the solar system (centaur asteroids, which cross the orbits of major planets).

Showalter told BuzzFeed Charon is the first solar system body to have features named after geography and characters from both Star Wars and Star Trek. Darth Vader got a dark rimmed crater, while Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker both got lighter-rimmed craters.

Doctor Who is well-represented. Gallifrey, the home planet of the Time Lords in Doctor Who, is intersected, fittingly, by a chasm named Tardis, the Doctor’s time machine and space ship.

On the Star Trek side of things, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Lt. Uhura, Lt. Sulu, and the Vulcans all get shout-outs in Charon.

“We felt strongly as a mission team that we stood on the shoulders of giants,” Alan Stern, the principal investigator of the New Horizons mission, told BuzzFeed Science, and that they needed to “honor the missions and the engineers and scientists who figured out how to do space exploration, because we could have never pulled off New Horizons without their experience.”

(4) Some of you should plan on going to Pluto – in person! That’s Brad Torgersen’s recruiting pitch on Mad Genius Club today.

Okay, kids, wake the hell up. I know you’ve been sitting in those desks since zero-four-hundred, wondering what the hell is going on, but never forget that you volunteered to be here. Nobody is making you do this. If you want to, you can go directly out that door in the back of the room, call your mommy or your daddy to come pick you up, then go home to your comfy little beds . . . No?

Right. Good. Now, pay attention. This is your official inprocessing brief.

A few days ago, the New Horizons probe did a close fly-by of the (dwarf) planet Pluto. Did you see the news? The pictures? I know, Pluto kinda gets lost in the shuffle — what with all the politicized, hyperbolic, narrative-laden bulls*** they cram into your brains all day. If it’s not the snooze news, it’s social media — where the way you change the world is by clicking your mouse, then giving yourself a hug. Because you care so much. No, don’t bother denying it. You’re children of your era, I know that’s how the game works. Virtue-signaling. Slacktivism. Never get your hands dirty.

Well, be prepared to get some soil under your nails, boys and girls. Because Pluto is where we’re ultimately headed. And beyond. Not with robots. But with human beings.

(5) The Radchaai do not believe in coincidences, and neither does Lou Antonelli.

(6) Inside Out – How It Should Have Ended.

(7) Hugo voting has closed and here is John Scalzi’s valedictory to the Puppy movment.

It does seem to me that the all the Puppy bullshit ran down and out of steam there at the end; at a certain point there was nothing left to say, there was just the voting, and you voted or didn’t. The last bit of nonsense I saw from the Puppy environs was some of their nominees rage-quitting the Hugos and deciding to “No Award” themselves, and at least one of them saying that was the plan all along, because apparently when you have no idea what you’re doing, every outcome, no matter what it is, is a victory condition. At which point you just roll your eyes, pity the sad and meaningless sort of existence where being the turd in the punch bowl is a legitimate life goal for a presumably adult human, and move on.

Doesn’t “Floating in the punchbowl” scan about the same as “rolling on the river”? I won’t take that idea any farther…

[Thanks to Steven H Silver and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Nichelle Nichols Update

Here’s the update about Nichelle Nichols’ condition posted June 4 on her Facebook page by Zach McGinnis of Galactic Productions.

Nichelle Nichols has had both a CAT scan and an MRI today. The CAT scan came back negative and we are awaiting the results from the MRI. Currently she is awake, eating, in good spirits and able to have full conversations. Her right side has shown minor signs or mobility loss but she is not showing any signs of paralyses.

We greatly appreciate all of the love and support her fans are showing at this time.

Nichelle Nichols Recovering From Stroke

Nichelle Nichols was hospitalized June 3 after suffering a stroke. A representative for the actress told TMZ she’s awake and resting comfortably at an L.A. hospital. Doctors are conducting tests to determine the severity of the stroke.

Nichols, now 82 years old, played Star Trek’s Lt. Uhura and has been to many fan events including Gallifrey One in LA last February where a load of my friends and other fans had their photo taken with her.