Pixel Scroll 5/30/17 When A Pixel Meets A Pixel, Scrolling Through The Rye

(1) CATREON. Cat Rambo has updated her Patreon appeal video.

(2) WHERE’S WEIMER? DUFF traveler Paul Weimer has reached Hobbiton in New Zealand.

(3) OPTION. Steve Davidson announced that the Experimenter Publishing Company has formed Experimenter Media LLC to develop the Amazing Stories name.

Amazing Stories, the iconic title of the world’s first science fiction magazine and the title of a well-known Steven Spielberg helmed 1980s anthology show, has been optioned for a multi-year deal with Experimenter Media LLC, a newly minted development studio.

The title was previously optioned by NBC/Universal Television in 2015.

Experimenter Media intends to develop the show as an anthology series that will showcase top quality writing by some of the greatest Science Fiction authors in the field.

(4) SAUR PRAISE. “Several-day trips provide a good way to (try) catch(ing) up on my sf (deadtree) magazine reading,” says Daniel Dern. “The highlight for this past weekend was Richard Chedwyk’s latest ‘saur’ story, ‘The Man Who Put the Bomp,’ in F&SF, March/April 2017.

“If you’re a long(-enough) regular reader of F&SF (since 2000, based on info I’m about to cite), you’ve been enjoying these charmingly delightful ‘Saur Stories’ (including the 2004 Nebula short story “Bronte’s Egg”).

“I wouldn’t dream of spoiling your reading enjoyment with any actual details. I will say that this story answers or at least addresses some of the questions about the saurs. Although not all.”

Here’s F&SF’s “Gallery of Covers for Richard Chwedyk’s Saur Stories”

(5) GIVE ME THAT OLD TIME RELIGION. Can this job be automated? “Robot priest delivers blessings in five different languages”:

The video shows a man selecting one of five languages from a screen on BlessU-2’s chest which prompts the robot to begin reciting Bible verses while raising its arms in the air as its hands began to glow.

“We wanted people to consider if it is possible to be blessed by a machine, or if a human being is needed,” Stephan Krebs of the church responsible for the robot told The Guardian.

Krebs added the robot was not designed to “robotize our church work,” but create a new discussion around religion 500 years after Martin Luther sparked a cultural upheaval by posting his 95 theses to a church in the 16th century.

 

(6) CLASS M PLANET. It may be Earth-sized but, baby! It’s cold outside — “New potentially habitable ‘super-Earth’ orbiting star 21 light years away has just been spotted”.

Astronomers have found a new “super-Earth” circling an M-dwarf star, and it could be habitable. The dwarf star, designated as GJ 625, is around 21 light years away from our solar system and is around 1/3rd the size and mass of the Sun.

Super-Earths are a kind of exoplanet with a greater mass than the Earth, but not exceeding the mass of ice giants such as Neptune or Uranus. Although the term “super-Earth” is generally used to refer to the mass of the planetary body, scientists also use the term to describe planets that are visually larger than Earth.

(7) WHO DAT? While viewing the Paddington 2 trailer, Peter Capaldi’s face popped out at me. Whoever “Mr. Curry” is, the soon-to-be-former Doctor Who is playing him in this movie. Paddington 2 hits UK cinemas on November 10.

Featuring an all-star returning cast of Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin with Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington and Imelda Staunton as Aunt Lucy and joined by new cast members Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson.

 

(8) IMPERIAL MIDLIFE CRISIS. They say clothes make the man — but what do they make him? “I’ll take the sandtrooper in white: Meet the rebel scum making Star Wars armour sets for a living”.

“I think a lot of the older men are buying it because they’ve always wanted to look like a character from Star Wars but have never been able to afford the originals,” says Edwards. “There is that thinking if you dress up as a stormtrooper and look at yourself in the mirror, then you are transported into the world of Star Wars.”

So, where does a 30-something who wants a piece of the legend go? Not the mass market of sub-£1,000 suits that targets the fancy dresser.

No, they tap a cottage industry of British specialists — Ainsworth’s Shepperton Design Studios, Edwards’ CfO, and RS Prop Masters in the UK.

This trio is busy vacuum forming sheets of white ABS plastic using curved moulds to a 1.5mm thickness, cutting out and assembling around 30 pieces per suit, making straps, body suits, eyepieces, mics, boots and blasters. Prices run from £1,200 — around $1,550.

And in case you were wondering, there are few concessions on size or girth. The original stormtrooper was 5ft 10in and 110lbs. He remains so. The most you can expect is a little extra plastic around the overlapping at the edges if you’re a little large for a stormtrooper.

(9) TODAY’S DAY

Loomis Day

The History of Loomis Day. As with many things, the history of Loomis Day is actually the history of a man, and an event, and how they changed the world to come. Mahlon Loomis was a dentist in the 1800’s who had an idea that had nothing to do with teeth. He knew about the electrical properties of the atmosphere, and like Tesla had conceived of an idea to transmit electricity through the air to a distant location. His idea was, perhaps, off a bit. He thought to ‘charge’ a layer of the atmosphere to create an electrical conduit between two metal towers set high on mountaintops (Sound familiar?). What we find interesting about this entire process is that in the end, most if not all of Loomis’s theories on how the atmosphere worked and, indeed, how his own apparatus worked were completely wrong.

Click here for the rest of the story.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born May 30, 1908  — Mel Blanc, voice of Bugs Bunny and many, many others cartoon characters.
  • Born May 30 — Anna Feruglio Dal Dan
  • Born May 30 — Ross Chamberlain
  • Born May 30 — Paul Oldroyd
  • Born May 30 — Nancy Lebovitz

(11) LISTEN UP. Seven of Laura Resnick’s “Esther Diamond” stories are available from Graphic Audio.

(12) CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR. Dave Farland tells Writers of the Future entrants who didn’t reach the highest rungs “Why You Only Got an Honorable Mention”.

Right now on my computer, I have a story up. I’ve read the first two pages, and although I’m a little soft on the opening paragraph, the rest of the first page is quite intriguing. My reaction is, “Looks like I’ll have to read this one.” In other words, I’m looking forward to reading it. I’m hoping that it can be a grand prize winner. I’m hoping that someday I’ll be able to say, “I was the one who discovered this author.”

Why do I feel that I have to read this particular story? First off, it has an engaging idea at its core. I know that from the first page. Second, the author is writing with clarity and grace. Third, the pacing is just right. In short, there are a lot of good things happening here for a first page.

Stories that keep me reading all the way through will almost always get an Honorable Mention. That’s my way of saying, “You’re writing almost at a professional level, but this one didn’t quite do it for me.” Or better yet, “I’d really like to see more from you. Keep trying!”

There are four simple reasons why a story may not rise above Honorable Mention.

* The idea for the story isn’t particularly fresh or interesting. You may not realize it, but the basic concept of your story has probably been done before. For example, let’s say that you decide to write a story about “Zombie Sharecroppers.” Great. You might write it beautifully, and I might get through the entire tale and enjoy it. But ultimately I have to look at it and ask, “Is the basic tenet of the story fresh and original? Did the author give it a surprise twist that lifted it above similar stories?” If the answer to both of those questions is no, then it will probably not get higher than an Honorable Mention. You’ll need to come at me next time with a fresh idea….

(13) SURROUNDED BY ALIENS. In the Washington Post, Ben Guarino uses the release of Alien: Covenant to discuss what we know about parasites, concluding that the notion in the Alien franchise that “a parasite could become a hybrid of human and host organism…has some scientific merit.”– “Disgusting ‘Alien’ movie monster not as horrible as real things in nature”.

The new film, according to Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday, is “a largely turgid, often thoroughly unpleasant affair.” Savvy moviegoers certainly expect some amount of unpleasantness — that sensation being par for the course whenever egg-laying parasites are involved.

But for all the cinematic aliens’ gravid grotesquerie, there exists a world where they would simply be chumps. It is a place crawling with more deceptive, more horrible things. Welcome to Earth.

The inhabitants of our planet directly inspired “Alien” screenwriter Dan O’Bannon and director Ridley Scott. O’Bannon in part looked to horror writer H.P. Lovecraft and previous works of science fiction. But he also plumbed the depths of nature, patterning “the Alien’s life cycle on real-life parasites,” as he said in his 2003 essay “Something Perfectly Disgusting.”

(14) FINELY TUNED EAR. Can you tell which track was written by computer? “For Video Soundtracks, Computers Are The New Composers”.

Four years later, Villegas, who works at a technical college, has a side business doing product reviews on his YouTube channel. He found that adding a little music really improved his videos.

“It just adds that third dimension that is missing sometimes,” he says.

But he hit a snag. Music is expensive. Villegas would either have to pay for rights or pay a composer.

“I upload weekly,” Villegas says. “So for me to pay a composer for 52 separate custom songs … wouldn’t make sense in the return on investment for me.”

Then Villegas discovered Jukedeck, a company that creates and sells computer-generated music. Jukedeck charges as little as 99 cents a track for a small business and $21.99 for a large business.

Chip Hitchcock comments, “The human track is by Vivaldi; IMO this means the program might be able to play checkers, but it’s a long way from winning at go.”

(15) BUBBLE AND SQUEAK. Preserving the sounds of old computers: “Fossils Of Technology: ‘The Imitation Archive’ Turns Near-Extinct Machines Into Music”.

Computers are part of the everyday sounds of our times — for a while. But as each new digital device slips into inevitable obsolescence, so do their signature sounds. Composer Matt Parker thought that meant losing touch with some of our history — so, he’s has created an archive of 126 sound recordings from the historic computers of Bletchley Park, the site where British mathematicians, scientists and spies broke German’s military codes during World War II. And he’s worked those sounds into a new series of musical compositions on an album called The Imitation Archive.

(16) THE GLASS HARMONICA CEILING. “The woman who could ‘draw’ music” (but was ignored because sound engineering was man’s work).

Few people know Daphne Oram, but she helped shape the sounds, and songs, we listen to today. A pioneer of electronic music, she wrote Still Point — thought to be the world’s first composition which manipulates electronic sounds in real time — in 1949. In 1957, she set up the famous BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The same year, she began working on her Oramics machine, which turned graphical gestures into music: the user could ‘draw’ the sounds they wished to hear.

(17) RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP. Wouldn’t you know it belongs to Microsoft? “Inside the quietest place on Earth”.

If LeSalle Munroe stands still for a few moments in his “office”, something unsettling can happen — he can hear the blood rushing around his body and his eyes squelch as they move in his skull.

While many people work in places filled with the tip-tap of keyboards, the hubbub of chatter from colleagues and a constant hum of computers, Munroe is surrounded by almost total silence. His office is the quietest place on the planet.

The specially constructed chamber is hidden in the depths of Building 87 at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, where the firm’s hardware laboratories are based. Products like the Surface computers, Xbox and Hololens have all been developed here. Microsoft’s engineers built the room — known as an anechoic chamber — to help them test new equipment they were developing and in 2015 it set the official world record for silence when the background noise level inside was measured at an ear-straining -20.6 decibels.

(18) HE’S MAD, YOU KNOW. Wikipedia’s Featured Article for May 30 — “Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book”:

Harvey Kurtzman’s Jungle Book is a graphic novel by American cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman, published in 1959. Kurtzman aimed it at an adult audience, in contrast to his earlier work for adolescents in periodicals such as Mad. The social satire in the book’s four stories targets Peter Gunn-style private-detective shows, Westerns such as Gunsmoke, capitalist avarice in the publishing industry, Freudian pop psychology, and lynch-hungry yokels in the South. Kurtzman’s character Goodman Beaver makes his first appearance in one of the stories.

Kurtzman created the satirical Mad in 1952, but left its publisher EC Comics in 1956 after a dispute over financial control. After two failed attempts with similar publications, Kurtzman proposed Jungle Book as an all-original cartoon book to Ballantine Books to replace its successful series of Mad collections, which had moved to another publisher….

(19) LONDON TOWN. If you want to hear more about London Comic Con than just Flash Gordon and The Hulk throwing tantrums, read the BBC’s mini-interviews with cosplayers and creators who were there.

Comic book illustrator Karen Rubins

“I’m here to sell my comics and prints and meet people who like my work.

“I work for a comic called The Phoenix with a strip called The Shivers by Dan Hartwell, and our characters include girl heroes solving mysteries and standing up to supernatural threats.

“In the comic village here at Comic Con there’s at least 50% female artists and it’s a great space to work, it’s really inclusive and there’s loads of different comics you can discover.”

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Steve Davidson for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Series of tweets here:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Daily Mail summarized the very long MIT paper:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S DAYS

Two choices for April 22 —

EARTH DAY

Earth Day Network

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

MARCH FOR SCIENCE

March for Science

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

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

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

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

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

And

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what he had to say….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 1/30/17 There Are Studies Underway To Fluoridate Pixels. Children’s Pixels!

(1) CAPALDI MAKES IT OFFICIAL. Not unexpectedly, the Twelfth Doctor is leaving Doctor Who as new showrunner Chris Chibnall gets ready to take the reins.

“Doctor Who” star Peter Capaldi has announced he’ll step down from the role at the end of the year.

Capaldi has starred in the long-running sci-fi series as the titular Twelfth Doctor since 2013, following the departure of Matt Smith.

“One of the greatest privileges of being Doctor Who is to see the world at its best. From our brilliant crew and creative team working for the best broadcaster on the planet, to the viewers and fans whose endless creativity, generosity and inclusiveness points to a brighter future ahead,” Capaldi said in a statement. “I can’t thank everyone enough. It’s been cosmic.”

Capaldi will conclude his time as the Doctor with the 2017 Christmas special.

The actor’s departure will correspond with the exit of executive producer Steven Moffat, who previously announced his intention to leave his post.

(2) BURN OF THE DAY. J. K. Rowling knows how to deal with fantastical creatures, like frogs that tweet.

(3) DECOLONIZING SF. Strange Horizons has posted an Indigenous SF special issue.

It’s our second special of the month, and showcases fiction, poetry, and non-fiction by native and indigenous writers.

We have Drew Hayden Taylor’s story “Take Us To Your Chief” (from his collection of the same name); we have three poems apiece by poets Halee Kirkwood and Tanaya Winder; we have a round-table moderated by Rebecca Roanhorse; and of course reviews, including a double-feature look at Moana.

(4) THE HARP THAT ONCE OR TWICE. R. Graeme Cameron wrote a superlative column based on Walt Willis’ 1952 U.S. Trip report for Amazing Stories that combines his analysis with the old master’s storytelling.

Walt actually had a good time aboard ship. When asked what he did for a living he said he was a pulp fiction author going to America to pick up his earnings. The “Greenwich Village” pseudo-intellectuals on board coming back from bumming around Europe stood in awe of this creative type who actually earned money. Late in the voyage he was asked if anyone was meeting him in New York and he replied (more or less honestly) “Just a few fans.” This only increased his reputation. Sometimes fannish ploys work very well on Mundanes.

QUOTE

At last we docked, and hordes of officials swarmed on board … I had a whole stack of documents in an old Galaxy envelope and every time I came to an official I would shuffle them and deal him a hand. If I’d won I’d be allowed to go on to the next table, like a bridge tournament. I’d had some practice in this game already and at last I won the first prize, a clear view of the gangway. I found to my shocked surprise that suddenly there was absolutely nothing to stop me walking ashore. I promptly walked ashore.

Someone in a blue suit came up and shook my hand … It was Dave Kyle … Joe Gibson came along in a few seconds. After a few minutes chat the two revealed conspiratorially that Will Sykora and his henchman Calvin Thomas Beck were lurking outside to meet me. They suggested a cloak and dagger scheme by which they would go out and wait for me a couple of hundred yards outside the shed, while I strolled out by myself past Sykora and Beck, who wouldn’t recognise me.

I was thrilled. Nobody could have arranged a more fannish welcome. Not two minutes in the country and already I was up to my neck in New York fan feuds. However I temporized; I had nothing personally against Sykora … I had never been able to sort out New York fandom anyway … and I rather wanted to meet such a legendary figure. Besides, I knew Shelby had in his innocence asked Beck to meet me …

Outside, in the fresh clean smog of Hoboken … I had my first hamburger, closely followed by my second. As far as I was concerned, the food problem in America was now solved …

END QUOTE

(5) RECOMMENDATIONS. There are a bunch of sites whose Hugo picks I’m interested in hearing, and Nerds of a Feather is high on that list — “2017 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Award Longlist, Part 1: Fiction Categories”.

Given the vast number of Hugo categories, we’ve also made the decision to split the longlist up into multiple posts. Today we look at the fiction categories (Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette and Best Short Story). For fiction that is available free of charge, we’ve embedded a direct link to the story. For novels and works of short fiction that are not available for free, the embedded link redirects to a review.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 30, 1933The Lone Ranger made its radio debut.

(7) GAME WRITING. “Guest Post: On Representation in RPGs, from Monica Valentinelli” on Jim C. Hines’ blog.

Why does representation in RPGs matter? The answer is simple: players play games so they can be the hero in their own stories. The characters they choose (or build) allow players to perform heroic acts with their group, and they’re crucial to a player’s ability to have fun. There’s even a joke told about this at conventions. What’s the best way to get a player excited to talk about their game? Ask them about their beloved character!

Characters are important, and I feel it’s a game designer’s job to acknowledge different styles of play to offer a broad range for players to choose from; the other side of that coin, however, is to remember that players also possess different identities. In order to consider both in the games we make, developers, designers, writers, and artists address inclusivity through the lens of representation.

(8) MOVIN’ ON. I had forgotten that James Cameron did Aliens, but that explains why someone asked his opinion about Ridley Scott’s upcoming trilogy that begins with Alien: Covenant “James Cameron On The ‘Alien’ Franchise: ‘I Don’t Think It’s Worked Out Terribly Well. I Think We’ve Moved On’” at ScienceFiction.com.

“The franchise has kind of wandered all over the map. Ridley [Scott] did the first film, and he inspired an entire generation of filmmakers and science-fiction fans with that one movie and there have been so many films that stylistically have derived from it, including my own Aliens, which was the legitimate sequel and, I think, the proper heir to his film. I sort of did it as a fanboy. I wanted to honor his film, but also say what I needed to say. After that, I don’t take any responsibility.

I don’t think it’s worked out terribly well. I think we’ve moved on beyond it. It’s like, okay, we’ve got it, we’ve got the whole Freudian biomechanoid meme. I’ve seen it in 100 horror films since. I think both of those films stand at a certain point in time, as a reference point. But is there any validity to doing another one now? I don’t know. Maybe. Let’s see, jury’s out. Let’s see what Ridley comes up with. Let me just add to that — and don’t cut this part off, please — I will stand in line for any Ridley Scott movie, even a not-so-great one, because he is such an artist, he’s such a filmmaker. I always learn from him.

(9) CASSINI ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. Dr. Linda Spilker, Cassini Project Scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was recently interviewed by Starship Sofa, appeared on Cassini’s Ring-Grazing Orbits Facebook Live today. You can view the half-hour video recording at the link.

NASA’s Cassini Mission to Saturn Project Scientist Linda Spilker and mission planner Molly Bittner are taking questions about these exciting orbits, the closest look ever at Saturn’s moons and ring particles — what we’ve learned so far and what we can expect to see as they continue.

(10) OPEN THE PILL BAY DOORS HAL. In our future, robots as care companions: “Robots could help solve social care crisis, say academics” at the BBC.

Humanoid robots, with cultural awareness and a good bedside manner, could help solve the crisis over care for the elderly, academics say.

An international team is working on a £2m project to develop versatile robots to help look after older people in care homes or sheltered accommodation.

The robots will offer support with everyday tasks, like taking tablets, as well as offering companionship.

(11) A BLACK AND WHITE ANSWER. Opus would be proud: penguins used as models for better software: “Hungry penguins keep car code safe”.

The communal, co-ordinated action helps the penguins get the most out of a hunting expedition. Groups of birds are regularly reconfigured to match the shoals of fish and squid they find. It helps the colony as a whole optimise the amount of energy they have to expend to catch food.

“This solution has generic elements which can be abstracted and be used to solve other problems,” he said, “such as determining the integrity of software components needed to reach the high safety requirements of a modern car.”

Integrity in this sense means ensuring the software does what is intended, handles data well, and does not introduce errors or crash.

By mimicking penguin behaviour in a testing system which seeks the safest ways to arrange code instead of shoals of fish, it becomes possible to slowly zero in on the best way for that software to be structured.

(12) THE RIVALS OF 1984. The BBC has hard data on dystopia sales surge.

It Can’t Happen Here – Sinclair Lewis

Sales: As of Friday, the eighth best-selling book on Amazon. It was out of print in the UK but publishers Penguin launched a new edition following the inauguration – promoting it as the book that predicted Trump – and has so far ordered three print runs, totalling 11,000 copies, a spokeswoman said.

Plot: A charismatic demagogue, Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, runs for president on a promise to restore American greatness, dragging the country into fascism.

The Trump factor: Sales of this relatively obscure 1935 satirical novel took off when critics began claiming it was essentially the Donald Trump story. Sally Parry, of the Sinclair Lewis Society, claims there are parallels with Trump in the way that Windrip targets his message at disaffected white working class males – The League of Forgotten Men in the book – sweeping to victory on a wave of anti-immigrant, nationalistic sentiment.

But she adds: “Some of his satire is not necessarily towards Buzz Windrip, the fascist character, but towards the lazy intellectuals, the lazy liberals who say ‘well, things will go along’ and the constant refrain of ‘it can’t happen here’, this is America, we are exceptional.”

(13) MAKING LEMONADE. Someone has a plan for putting a contaminated area to use: “How solar may save Ukraine’s nuclear wasteland”.

Earlier this year Ostap Semerak, the minister for ecology and natural resources in Ukraine, announced plans to build a large-scale solar farm in Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone. “The first phase will install solar panels with a total capacity of one gigawatt,” says a ministry spokesperson. “In the future [there] are plans for capacity increase.”

A large field of 25 acres, filled with solar panels, generates approximately 5MW. To put this into perspective, the football pitch at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground is 1.75 acres and would only generate 0.35MW. So, for a solar farm to generate a gigawatt of power, it will need an area of 5,000 acres, which is nearly eight square miles. There is, fortunately, a lot of available land in the Exclusion Zone.

(14) BRUCE WAYNE’S ROOMMATE. Lego Batman explains why his movie is awesome.

Lego Batman hypes up his own upcoming Lego Batman Movie in a new behind-the-bricks featurette that breaks the fourth wall.

“Obviously after I made The Lego Movie, a monster hit $468 million worldwide, not that I’m counting of course, it seemed clear to everyone that the world needed more of me,” Will Arnett says as Lego Batman in the clip released Thursday.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve “Dr. Strangelove” Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 11/14/16 The Fen From S.C.R.O.L.L. And P.I.X.E.L.

(1) TRUTH IS STRANGER. Norman Spinrad has posted on Facebook the original English version of the afterward commissioned by the French publisher for the special 40th anniversary edition of the first French edition of Bug Jack Barron. That anniversary is now far enough in the past that Spinrad finally lost patience with the book appearing and gave the piece its freedom. Heinlein features in this afterward.

JACK BARRON & ME

by Norman Spinrad

It must have been 1969 because I had returned from London to Los Angeles and was writing for The Los Angeles Free Press, and the Charlie Manson trial was going on. We were covering it locally, it was a big national story and it came out that Robert Heinlein’s novel STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND was one of Charlie’s fave raves.

In this novel, the sympathetic lead character “discorporates” people who piss him off, always for a righteous reason of course, and Charlie Manson believed that Heinlein’s fictional justification for this likewise justified his own self-given license to do likewise.

I chanced to run into Bob Heinlein at some science fiction convention, and I just had to ask him how he felt about the widely accepted notion of his novel having inspired the Sharon Tate Murders or at least served as Charlie’s moral template for giving the marching order to his murderous posse.

He looked at me deadpan straight in the eye and hit me with a punchline that has stood me in good stead from then until. now.

“The manufacturer,” said Robert Heinlein, “takes no responsibility for the misuse of the product.”

Thus as the author of BUG JACK BARRON I thereby absolve myself of responsibility for the successful political campaign for Congress of Robert K. Dornan, the unsuccessful campaign of Pat Buchanan for the Republic Nomination for President, the march to the far reaches of the far right by the Republican Party, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation….

(2) ANCIENT BRITFANDOM. Martin Morse Wooster is enjoying Rob Hansen’s history of British fandom, THEN (recently published in book form by the redoubtable Ansible Press). Here’s his latest favorite anecdote:

This is from the memoirs of British fan Jim Linwood.  LXI con was the 1961 British national sf convention, where Kingsley Amis was GoH.

“The other famous author who made his debut at LXICon–Martin Amis.  He was 10 years old and spent most of his time running screaming throughout the corridors to the annoyance of the attendees.  A few years later, Kingdon Road fans cheered when we saw him fall to his death from the rigging of Anthony Quinn’s pirate ship in A High Wind in Jamaica — his only film performance.”

(3) DON’T TRIP ON TROPES. At Tor.com, “Charlie Jane Anders, Alyssa Cole, and Rumaan Alam on Avoiding Blind Spots When Writing Outside Your Experience”.

All agreed that tropes are an important tool for playing with genre expectations, as you can set up a particular familiar trope and then change them in a way that’s fresh and exciting for readers. Tropes “can help, can hurt,” Anders said, as they can be “a way of focusing your intentions in the story” but might also lead a writer astray by binding them to the often outdated, cliché, or downright offensive depictions of certain characters that genre. These blind spots occur when writers fall back on their knowledge of a movie for a certain character’s background rather than doing independent research into the personal histories and experiences of people other than the writer. “You should stop and educate yourself,” she said; if instead you think, in this kind of story, this always happens, “that’s death—that’s death of storytelling.”

When asked how to recognize when you’re in a blind spot, the panelists all shared their experiences and key pieces of advice:

  • Get beta readers and sensitivity readers who are familiar with the backgrounds of the characters you’re trying to write. “If you know you have a blind spot, you can even think that you’ve overcome a lot of the blind spot, but you haven’t,” Cole said. “The bottom line is, always have beta readers, but especially make sure you have beta readers from the particular group you’re writing about—if it’s not aliens or something.”
  • Have more than one sensitivity reader if possible. Cole found that in writing a suffragette novella set in 1917, with a main character from India, that two of her readers were from different regions of India and had different experiences; not necessarily contradictory, but enough that it provided more nuance to her work. And compensate them for their time!
  • “You also have to do a gut check 100 times,” Anders said—put the piece aside for a month, then return to it with a fresh perspective.
  • “It’s OK to get it wrong,” Alam said. Sometimes you can work the lack of understanding into the book by putting that perspective into the mouths of your characters; that can be just as valuable.

(4) THE POWER OF SFF. Jim C. Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj will partner in the creation of Invisible 3, a third volume of collected stories shared by authors and fans “about the importance of representation in science fiction/fantasy.”

These stories help to create understanding and connection. They expose the power of our genre both to help and to harm….

We’re looking for personal, first-hand stories between 400 and 1000 words talking about the impact of SF/F stories and what it’s like to see yourself misrepresented or erased, or relegated to the backgrounds. We’re also interested in the ways underrepresented and marginalized writers have worked to reclaim space in the genre.

Accepted works will first be published online, and then collected and published in an anthology. Contributors will receive a $10 payment.

Once author and artist payments have been covered, all additional proceeds will go to the Con or Bust program, helping people of color to attend SFF conventions.

(5) CALL FOR PAPERS. The annual Literary London conference, will be held July 13-14, 2017. Their theme is “Fantastic London: Dream, Speculation and Nightmare.” They are taking proposals for papers until February 1.

Proposals are invited for papers, comprised panels, and roundtable sessions, which consider any period or genre of literature about, set in, inspired by, or alluding to central and suburban London and its environs, from the city’s roots in pre-Roman times to its imagined futures. While the main focus of the conference will be on literary texts, we actively encourage interdisciplinary contributions relating to film, architecture, visual arts, topography and theories of urban space. Papers from postgraduate students are particularly welcome for consideration. Indicative topics and writers who might be addressed:

  • Gaslight romance, the urban gothic, London noir, steampunk & speculative poetry
  • Future catastrophes, technological dystopias, nightmares of policing & surveillance
  • Forms of fictional flight into alternate ontologies of nationhood and urban belonging
  • Architectural caprice, replication and ruin in the development of the built environment
  • Stories of financial catastrophe, uncertain inheritance and precarious fortune
  • The search for ontological wholeness in a divided, doubled or allotropic city
  • The uncanny, arabesque and magical excrescences of the urban everyday
  • Dramatizing the life of hidden underworlds, anti-worlds & allegorical environments
  • The Weird: H. P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, Lord Dusany, M. John Harrison
  • ‘Elsewheres’: Doris Lessing, William Morris, J. G. Ballard, Jean Rhys, Anthony Burgess
  • Urban Gothic: Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, Thomas De Quincey, Charles Dickens
  • Underworlds: Neil Gaiman, China Miéville, Michael Moorcock, Michèle Roberts
  • Make-believe: J. M. Barrie, Cassandra Clare, Philip Reeve, Christina Rossetti, John Clute

Please submit all proposals using the links under ‘Conference’ above. If you have any queries, please contact the conference organiser Dr Peter Jones at conference at literarylondon dot org

(6) STAGE PRAISE. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child won a London theater award.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 14, 1851 Moby Dick, by Herman Melville, was first published in the U.S. And one hundred years later, Ray Bradbury wrote the script for the movie.

(8) THE DOCTOR IS OUT. Both Peter Capaldi and new companion Pearl Mackie will leave with Moffat — “Expect ‘Doctor Who’ In 2018 To Be A “Clean Slate… A Brand New Show” says ScienceFiction.com.

Expect a lot of loose ends to be tied up in the upcoming 2017 season of ‘Doctor Who’.  After this, showrunner Steven Moffat and star Peter Capaldi will depart the hit series, which unfortunately has seen waning ratings in the past few years.  They’ve never come right out and said it, but this is possibly because of the switch-over coming at the end of the new season, but it sounds like the changes will be sweeping!

Insiders are saying that when new showrunner Chris Chibnall takes over for the 2018 season, he will be left with a “clean slate” in order to build his own “brand new show.”  Reportedly this “brand new show” won’t be 100% fresh, however.  Instead, it is reported that the BBC, which has not only been unhappy with the weaker ratings of the Capaldi era, but the sharp dip in sales of “dolls, books, DVDs and toys” are looking to return to a winning formula….

Perhaps the most startling change is that Pearl Mackie, who has yet to even debut as new Companion Bill, is also expected to depart the series along with Moffat and Capaldi.  Often, Companions are used to help transition between Doctors and in a sense serve as guides until the new Doctor gains his bearings, as was the case with Clara Oswald, who bridged the gap between Matt Smith’s version and Capaldi’s.

But reportedly Mackie only signed on for a one-year contract.  She, Capaldi and Moffat are expected to make the 2017 Christmas Special their swan song.

(9) IT’S ABOUT NOT MUCH TIME. Did you know Time Tunnel only ran one season? That’s one of MeTV’s “8  time-defying tidbits about The Time Tunnel. ABC network programmers then screwed the pooch picking the successor —

The replacement didn’t fare much better.

The Legend of Custer went on to replace The Time Tunnel on Friday nights, but the new series only lasted 17 episodes. Ironically, an episode of the sci-fi series took place during the Battle of Little Bighorn, a.k.a. Custer’s Last Stand.

custer

“Let’s make a series about a young guy with long blonde hair who doesn’t surf or play in a rock’n roll band,” said the executive, who hadn’t noticed it was the middle of the Sixties.

(10) MORE VINTAGE SF TELEVISION. Echo Ishii continues her SF Obscure series.

So for this week’s post I decided to cover the half hour, SF/action show CLEOPATRA 2525.

The year is, uh, 2525. Humanity has been driven underground because the surface is controlled by giant floating robot armchairs (That’s what it looks like anyway) called Baileys.  Two fighters Hel(Gina Torres) and Sarge (Victoria Pratt) are resistance fighters who battle the robot overlords. helped by a mysterious voice called ‘Voice’ that taps into Hel’s brain. Anyway, Sarge gets hurt and needs a kidney so they go and get one at the local buy-a-body-part depot. Thus, the meet Cleo (Jennifer Sky), a women cryo-frozen in 2001 when her breast augmentation surgery went awry and she was stored until humanity had the tools to save her life. I am not making this up.

(11) BELLS AREN’T RINGING. A Wyoming bookstore banned the use of electronic devices on the premises.

A Wyoming bookstore is aiming to remind customers that its “a place for books” by refusing to offer WiFi and banning use of electronic devices.

A sign posted at the entrance to Wind City Books in Casper informs customers that there is no public WiFi available and calls on them to keep their laptops and cellphones out of sight inside the shop.

wyoming-bookstore-bans-wifi-electronics-from-place-for-books

(12) ANALOG MONSTER.

(13) GRIND ZERO. I don’t know if it’s a good column about writing, but Dave Freer sure has a lot of insights about “Making Sausage”.

There are myriad sausage recipes. Sausage made of everything from bear to squirrel, pork to beef, turkey to fish. Even vegan. Sausages with everything from cranberries to chardonnay in them. But oddly they have two essential ingredients, in essential proportions. Stray too far from either and your sausage doesn’t work. And those are fat and salt. Not the obvious – people say it’s a bear or boar or chicken sausage. They don’t say ‘it’s a fat sausage’. “Yuck!” would be the response. And indeed yuck is appropriate if you don’t get that proportion (around 20%) right. Too much and it becomes a greasy horrible thing. By the time it cooks out the sausage meat and other ingredients taste greasy and overcooked. And too little and it is dry and tasteless. Vegan is particularly difficult because of the whole ‘fat’ thing. I gather it’s considered bad to suggest using plump ones. But I gather one can buy vegan suet.

For me, in writing, that’s the story, the action, the adventure. In some shape or form it has to be in every worthwhile read. Yes, actually you can have too much. Or too little, and vast focus on the other ingredients – be they the setting or the social justice outrage of the week – they tend to dry and un-appealing. And the salt… well those are the characters. And yes, once again there is such a thing as too much – or too bland when it is merely count the pre-expected tokens. I wait with amusement for the first orange haired villain s to appear…

(14) THE BULLET BOX. Larry Correia provides “A Handy Guide For Liberals Who Are Suddenly Interested In Gun Ownership” at Monster Hunter Nation.

That title isn’t joking. This post is aimed at my liberal readers. I’m a libertarian leaning Republican and gun expert, who thinks you are wrong about a lot of stuff, but I’m not writing this to gloat about your loss. For the record, I disliked all the presidential candidates.

Judging by your social media over the last few days many liberals have been utterly terrified that your government might turn tyrannical or that evil people will now be emboldened to hurt you. I’m going to let you in on a little thing the other half of the country is familiar with to keep those unlikely, yet catastrophic, events from happening.

And that my lefty friends, is 2nd Amendment.

Having just gone through a war against a tyrannical government, the Founders understood that governments can go bad, so they made sure to note our God given right (or we’ll say naturally occurring right, since a bunch of you are atheists) to keep and bear arms in order to defend ourselves. The 2nd Amendment isn’t about hunting or “sporting purposes”, it’s about having weapons that you can fight with. As an added bonus, being able to protect yourself from a tyrannical government means that you’re a lot better equipped to deal with any common criminal who decides to hurt you. Before I get into the details about how to enjoy your newly discovered 2nd Amendment rights, let me just say that I get you’re sad, angry, bitter, and fearful. But just like my people over the last few elections, you’ll get over it. The really hyperbolic freak outs about Literally Hitler make you sound just like the Alex Jones crowd worried that Obama was going to herd Christians into FEMA camps last time. So take a deep breath and relax. Your friends and neighbors are the same as they were last week. The vast majority weren’t voting because racism, they voted against the status quo and a really unlikable Democrat. And no, they aren’t going to round you up into cattle cars….

(15) CROTTLED PEEPS.  Daniel Dern advises, “Be sure to watch to the very end. Even better than when a character on The Good Wife said ‘A Lannister always pays his debts.’” Shared at io9 by James Whitbrook: “A Breakdown Of My Scattered, Confused Thoughts While Watching This Game of Thrones Sodastream Ad”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Jim C. Hines, Martin Morse Wooster, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cadbury Moose.]

Pixel Scroll 7/10/16 Captain Pixel Pants

(1) JIM HENLEY POOPS ON SPACE. In comments, Jim deposited this link to a report that long-duration space habitation impairs vision in 80% of astronauts. (Hey, “poops” is his word.)

In 2005, astronaut John Phillips took a break from his work on the International Space Station and looked out the window at Earth. He was about halfway through a mission that had begun in April and would end in October.

When he gazed down at the planet, the Earth was blurry. He couldn’t focus on it clearly. That was strange — his vision had always been 20/20. He wondered: Was his eyesight getting worse?

“I’m not sure if I reported that to the ground,” he said. “I think I didn’t. I thought it would be something that would just go away, and fix itself when I got to Earth.”

It didn’t go away.

During Phillips’ post-flight physical, NASA found that his vision had gone from 20/20 to 20/100 in six months.

Rigorous testing followed. Phillips got MRIs, retinal scans, neurological tests and a spinal tap. The tests showed that not only had his vision changed, but his eyes had changed as well.

The backs of his eyes had gotten flatter, pushing his retinas forward. He had choroidal folds, which are like stretch marks. His optic nerves were inflamed.

Phillips case became the first widely recognized one of a mysterious syndrome that affects 80 percent of astronauts on long-duration missions in space. The syndrome could interfere with plans for future crewed space missions, including any trips to Mars.

(2) THE TAKING-UP-SPACE PROGRAM. You might say The Traveler at Galactic Journey doesn’t see eye-to-eye with editor John W. Campbell, who spent 20 pages criticizing the space program in Analog: “[July 10, 1961] The Last Straw (Campbell’s Wrong-Headed Rant In The August 1961 Analog]“

Campbell’s argument is as follows:

1) America could have had a man in space in 1951, but America is a democracy, and its populace (hence, the government) is too stupid to understand the value of space travel.

2) The government’s efforts to put a man in space are all failures: Project Vanguard didn’t work.  Project Mercury won’t go to orbit.  Liquid-fueled rockets are pointless.

3) Ford motor company produced Project Farside, a series of solid-fueled “rock-oons,” on the cheap, so therefore, the best way to get into space…nay…the only way is to give the reins to private industry.

Campbell isn’t just wrong on every single one of these assertions.  He’s delusional.

(3) WHO DAT? The Mirror stirs up rumors in its news article “Can Matt Smith be the first Doctor Who to regenerate as himself?”

Matt Smith may be about to travel back in time to play Doctor Who again.

Show boss Steven Moffat has hinted Smith could be the first of the 12 Doctors to return to the Tardis after regenerating.

Matt, who stars as Prince Phillip in Netflix’s big-budget royal drama The Crown in November, has made no secret of his desire to return, saying last year: “They will ask me back one day, won’t they?”

Matt’s successor Peter Capaldi has been tipped to bow out after the next series, currently being filmed for release in 2017.

And Moffat, who is leaving after his sixth season next year has said Matt is “quite open about how much he misses it, and how much he wishes he hadn’t left”.

(4) OH SAY DID YOU HEAR? A piece by Carly Carioli in the July 1 Boston Globe called “Did the Star-Spangled Banner land Igor Stravinsky in Jail?” explores the issue of whether or not Stravinsky was arrested for playing a radical arrangement of the national anthem in 1944.  (He wasn’t because he substituted the traditional arrangement at the last minute.)

The sf connection is that Carioli linked to a photo of Stravinsky.  “The novelist Neil Gaiman thought it was a mug shot.  He sent the image to the blog Boing-Boing a few years ago, along with an astounding plot-point:  He claimed that Stravinsky had been arrested in Boston” for his weird arrangement.

Spoiler alert: The photo is not a mug shot, and Stravinsky was never arrested. But the real story of what happened to the composer in Boston is an incredible tale. He did compose a weird arrangement of the national anthem, and the Boston police really did ban him from performing it — sparking a national uproar and a tense showdown that played out live on the radio.

The Boston Globe has a tight paywall of five articles a month, so good luck clicking through.

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born July 10, 1923 – Earl Hamner, Jr.
  • Born July 10, 1926 – Fred Gwynne
  • Born July 10, 1929 – George Clayton Johnson
  • Born July 10, 1941  — David G. Hartwell

(6) HUGO NOVELETTES REVIEWED. Rich Horton explains how he is ranking the Hugo-nominated Novelettes on Strange at Ecbatan.

As I wrote in my first post in this series: I am not planning to reflexively rank Rabid Puppy entries below No Award. I am of course disgusted by the Rabid Puppy antics, and I feel that many worthier stories were kept off the ballot by the Rabid choices. And if a story is bad enough, it will certainly be off my ballot, with No Award the last choice. (That’s always been my approach.) But, this year in particular, many of the nominees supported by the Rabid Puppies were either unaware of that, or aware and quite clearly not happy with that. Also, I don’t want to reduce the meaningfulness of the win for those worthy winners – if they finish first and No Award is second, to my mind it to some extent delegitimizes their wins, through no fault of their own. Better to have been chosen the best with every voting on merit than voted best simply because all the other choices were automatically rejected regardless of quality.

(7) STEPHEN KING. Lisa J. Goldstein reviews Stephen King’s Hugo-nominated novelette: “Obits” at inferior4+1.

Sometimes I think that Stephen King is too skilled a writer for his own good.  No, wait, hear me out.  “Obits” is about an obituary writer who discovers that when he writes obituaries about live people, they end up dead.  It’s not an earth-shattering idea, and I’d bet that any number of writers have come up with something similar.  Other writers, though, would try to figure out where the story should go, how it should end, if it would be too predictable — and when they finished with all of that, they’d decide that the idea wouldn’t work, that it’s just not a very good concept for a story.

(8) CHIMERA CREATURES. Mary Lowd has been rescuing stuffed animals and playing mad scientist in order to resurrect them. She displays the results in a photo gallery.

The Subjects:

For this project, subjects were gathered from local dispensaries of unwanted toys.  Most of the specimens were procured from various Goodwills, but a few were found at St. Vinnie’s and Sarah’s Treasures.  Excluding a few exceptional specimens, they all cost between $1 and $2.  Even the exceptional ones cost at most $4.  In order for a specimen to be suitable, it had to be in good condition, contain nice parts, but be — shall we say — uninspiring in its totallity.  Several specimens were rejected for inclusion due to being too lovable in their original, unaltered forms.  All of the specimens selected for final inclusion in the project are pictured below in Fig. 1 – 3.

(9) WHEN LUCY LAUNCHED A THOUSAND STARSHIPS. Many writers have been fascinated to discover Lucille Ball played a role in getting Star Trek on the air. The latest retelling of the tale is “How Lucille Ball Saved Star Trek at Entertainment Weekly.

While many series were being shot at Desilu, the studio was in dire need of original programming of its own following the end of The Untouchables in 1963. Herbert Solow, hired to help locate new projects for the studio, brought two notable proposals to Desilu in 1964. One was Mission: Impossible; the other was Roddenberry’s quirky sci-fi idea. When Lucy’s longtime network CBS said no to Trek, Solow and Roddenberry took it to NBC. Science fiction was alien to the network’s schedule, but it ordered a pilot.

According to Solow in Marc Cushman’s history These Are the Voyages, Lucy initially thought Star Trek was about traveling USO performers. But her support for the show was necessary as it became clear how expensive the pilot would be. Lucy overruled her board of directors to make sure the episode was produced.

(10) STAND BY ME (BUT NOT TOO CLOSE). There is a flurry of weird news stories about Pokémon Go players getting hurt or whatnot. Here is the first of several people have sent me today: “Players in hunt for Pokemon Go monsters feel real-world pain” reports ABC’s Chicago affiliate.

Beware: “Pokemon Go,” a new smartphone game based on cute Nintendo characters like Squirtle and Pikachu, can be harmful to your health. The “augmented reality” game, which layers gameplay onto the physical world, became the top grossing app in the iPhone app store just days after its Wednesday release in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. And players have already reported wiping out in a variety of ways as they wander the real world – eyes glued to their smartphone screens – in search of digital monsters.

Mike Schultz, a 21-year-old communications graduate on Long Island, New York, took a spill on his skateboard as he stared at his phone while cruising for critters early Thursday. He cut his hand on the sidewalk after hitting a big crack, and blames himself for going too slowly. “I just wanted to be able to stop quickly if there were any Pokemons nearby to catch,” he says. “I don’t think the company is really at fault.”

(11) ACHIEVEMENT UNBURIED. One player got more than she bargained for: “Pokémon Go player finds dead body in Wyoming river while searching for a Pokestop”.

The augmented reality game, which was released last week, gets people to catch virtual monsters using the person’s location on their phone.

Nineteen-year-old Shayla Wiggins, from Wyoming, was told to find a Pokemon in a natural water source but instead found a man’s corpse.

“I was walking towards the bridge along the shore when I saw something in the water,” she told County 10 news.

“I had to take a second look and I realised it was a body.”

(12) DARWIN REWARD. Police in Darwin, Australia requested on their Facebook page that players not waltz into their station, which of course is a Pokestop in the game.

For those budding Pokemon Trainers out there using Pokemon Go – whilst the Darwin Police Station may feature as a Pokestop, please be advised that you don’t actually have to step inside in order to gain the pokeballs.

It’s also a good idea to look up, away from your phone and both ways before crossing the street. That Sandshrew isn’t going anywhere fast.

Stay safe and catch ’em all!

(13) ROBBERMON. And then there are the robbers who figured out that setting up a beacon in the game was a surefire way to attract victims.

Police in O’Fallon, Missouri are investigating a series of armed robberies believe that the robbers used the Pokemon Go smartphone app to target victims, according to a post on the department’s Facebook page. Four suspects were arrested early Sunday morning near the intersection of Highway K and Feise Road in O’Fallon after a report of an armed robbery. Police say they are suspected of multiple armed robberies in St. Louis and St. Charles counties in Missouri. A handgun was recovered.

Police believe they used the game to, “add a beacon to a pokestop to lure more players” and then used the app to locate victims.

(14) RISK ASSESSMENT. Fitting in with the week’s tragic news is this take on playing the game: “Warning: Pokemon GO is a Death Sentence if you are a Black Man”.

I spent less than 20 minutes outside. Five of those minutes were spent enjoying the game. One of those minutes I spent trying to look as pleasant and nonthreatening as possible as I walked past a somewhat visibly disturbed white woman on her way to the bus stop. I spent the other 14 minutes being distracted from the game by thoughts of the countless Black Men who have had the police called on them because they looked “suspicious” or wondering what a second amendment exercising individual might do if I walked past their window a 3rd or 4th time in search of a Jigglypuff.

When my brain started combining the complexity of being Black in America with the real world proposal of wandering and exploration that is designed into the gameplay of Pokemon GO, there was only one conclusion. I might die if I keep playing.

(15) TOY QUEST. John King Tarpinian went to a store and personally checked out several of the Hallmark collectible ornaments discussed in a post here at File 770. He says the fidelity of the recordings is “surprisingly good.”

Fidelity COMP

Though about this one he cryptically commented, “No sound but yabba dabba doo.”

Flintstones COMP

(16) MORE TOYS. ScreenRant previews Star Wars toys and figure fans can see at Comic-Con.

Folks heading to San Diego Comic-Con can also get their Star Wars fix from July 21 – 24. If you plan on attending SDCC later this month, make sure to swing by the Hasbro booth (#3213) and have your fill of some new Star Wars figures. Hasbro will also have a panel on Friday, July 22nd at noon to introduce their latest line of exclusives….

As noted above, the Darth Vader, Kanan Jarrus, and Biker Scout figures are 12? models while Rey and Hera Syndulla are just under 4? tall. Kanan and Vader also have “electronic touches” which could mean their light sabers actually glow. These figures will be on display at SDCC, but fans will have to exercise some patience because they won’t be available for purchase until fall 2016 — just in time for Christmas

(17) STAR WARS CON IN LONDON. The same ScreenRant post also links to the 3-day Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 that takes place in London from July 15 – 17. This event will see several exclusives including the premiere of the third season of Star Wars Rebels and a huge presence from Star Wars video games.

For those of us who can’t make it across the pond, some panels will be streamed, including the Rogue One panel, where we should be in for a new trailer for the spinoff film.

(18) REMEMBERING GEORGE. There will be a George Clayton Johnson Memorial Gathering at Comic-Con International in San Diego on Thursday, July 21 at 9:00 p.m.

Let’s share our memories and adventures of our pal and mentor for over 40 years. George wrote “The Man Trap” the very first Star Trek episode that aired. He also wrote 8 original Twilight Zone episodes, Oceans 11 movie and the “Logan’s Run” novel with William F. Nolan. Panel participants include David Gerrold, Craig Miller, Greg Koudoulian, Gene Henderson, Clayton Moore, Scott Smith, Jimmy Diggs and Anthony Keith

(I don’t know which Clayton Moore this is but it can’t be the one from The Lone Ranger – he passed away in 1999.)

(19) KUBRICK LOST AND FOUND. A 2015 documentary on YouTube, Stanley Kubrick: The Lost Tapes, is based on tapes that a New Yorker writer produced in 1966 for a Kubrick profile. Kubrick discusses the making of Dr. Strangelove at about 20 minutes in to this 25-minute documentary. He discusses his professional relationship with Arthur C. Clarke very briefly beginning at 22:00.

(20) ROD SERLING AND GROUCHO MARX. You Bet Your Life was retooled as Tell It To Groucho and sold to CBS for one short season in early 1962. Here’s half of one of the very few episodes available to view today, featuring Rod Serling.

(21) MORE HARLEY QUINN. The Suicide Squad international trailer dropped.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Petréa Mitchell, Dawn Incognito, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Rambo, Jim Henley, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 6/18/16 By The Pixels At My Thumbs, Something Scrolling This Way Comes

(1) MORE THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS. Fantasy-Faction ponders “Character Group Dynamics”.

One of the most important tasks of a writer is to get the reader to engage with their characters, but almost as important is how your characters engage with each other. Their interactions are what make up the narrative and drama of the book, bringing the story to life. How can your hero show off his quick wit if there’s no one around to impress, how can your villain be cruel if there’s nobody to terrorise? It’s only in concert with each other that the characters really start to shine.

There are a number of memorable partnerships and groupings throughout fiction, think of Sherlock and Watson, Han and Chewie, or the entire Fellowship of the ring. The success of these characters isn’t just down to the individual protagonists, but also to how well they work together, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

(2) NOT FLORIDA MAN, BUT IN FLORIDA. Access Atlanta has the story: “Man traveled country stealing Star Wars Legos, police say”.

The Force was not strong with this one.

A man suspected of stealing thousands of dollars worth of Star Wars Lego items from Toys R’ Us stores across the country was arrested Tuesday in Florida.

Shannon Kirkley, 35, of New Jersey, hid 12 Star Wars Lego items valued at $300 in a cardboard treasure chest, paid for the toy chest box and walked out of a Toys R Us in Wesley Chapel, Florida, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said.

(3) KRAMMPSTEIN TONIGHT. I’m sitting here finishing the scroll while across town people are attending an LA performance by Krammpstein, the Krampus-themed band.

krammpstein-PR

(4) SPY ARTIST EXHIBIT. “Spy guy: Dumbo exhibit shows range of Mad magazine cartoonist”, covered in the Brooklyn Paper.

The cartoonist behind the iconic Mad magazine comic strip “Spy vs. Spy” will unveil the full range of his illustrations, paintings, and graphic novels at the Scott Eder Gallery in Dumbo on June 16. Illustrator Peter Kuper says that the roughly 60 pieces of artwork in the “Outside the Box” exhibit represent the “cream of the crop” of his work.

“It’s sort of a walk through my brain and its many different areas,” Kuper said. “This is probably the biggest and broadest exhibition I’ve had since around 2001 — it’s definitely the biggest show I’ve had for sale.”

The retrospective will feature 26 years of Kuper’s work, including his vibrant cover illustrations for national magazine such as Newsweek and Time, the “Spy vs. Spy” comics he has drawn since 1997, and work from his dozens of graphic novels. The founder of the comics anthology “World War 3 Illustrated” will also include some “valued treasures” that have been little-seen, including three personal sketchbooks he filled with while traveling in 2010–2012, and some autobiographical work he said he should be “embarrassed to show.”

Art gallery exhibit for the Spy-Vs-Spy cartoonist is open through August 19th.

Has he been doing it since 1997? Time flies. I always identified “Spy vs. Spy” with Sergio Aragones, whose professional cartoonists guild rented the LASFS clubhouse for meetings decades ago.

(5) RACISM. Charles Stross calls it “The unspeakable truth”. (Warning for n-word.)

British people don’t like to talk about racism, much less admit that their fellow Brits—much less they, themselves—are racists. It’s far too easy to point to other bad examples in foreign lands, from Jim Crow and segregation in the Deep South to men with Hugo Boss uniforms and gas chambers in the Nazi Reich. But racism is a thing in the UK, with deep-running currents that occasionally bubble to the surface. And right now we’re getting a most unwelcome but richly deserved reminder of what it’s about.

(Text below the cut contains strong language)

British racism is subtly different from American racism, because there is no long-standing internal sub-population who are visually distinctive and the target for racist hatred. One can point to the traditional English hatred and contempt for the Irish—it’s still within living memory that boarding houses proudly displayed signs saying “no dogs or Irishmen”—but people of Irish descent aren’t visually identifiable at a distance, unlike African-Americans. So the most visible expression of racism wears a different name: the primary epithet isn’t “nigger” but “immigrant”.

(6) WALDO OBIT. Janet Waldo, the voice of Judy Jetson, died June 12 at home in Encino, California. She was 96. Her other credits included Josie in Josie and the Pussycats and Fred Flintstone’s mother-in-law in The Flintstones.

(7) BLUMBERG OBIT. The New York Times reports “Rhoda Blumberg, Whose Children’s Books Brought History to Life, Dies at 98”.

…She showed little interest in reading until she was 10, when she was beguiled by L. Frank Baum’s Oz novels….

Ms. Blumberg began writing books in the 1960s, including “First Travel Guide to the Moon” and “First Travel Guide to the Bottom of the Sea.” By the early 1970s, when her youngest child started college, she had pivoted to history, and then went on to see more than 25 books published.

See Goodreads for more about The First Travel Guide to the Moon: What to Pack, How to Go, What to See When You Get There.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 18, 1983 — Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space when the space shuttle Challenger launched on mission STS-7 from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The STS-7 crew consisted of astronauts Robert Crippen, commander, the first two-time space shuttle astronaut; Frederick H. Hauck, pilot; and three mission specialists — Ride, John M. Fabian and Norman E. Thagard.

(9) DOCTOR WHO UP FOR FIRST EMMY. Variety has its eye on “2016 Emmy Ballot Oddities: ‘Doctor Who’ in the Running, ‘Game of Thrones’ Finale Goes Down to the Wire”.

BBC America’s “Doctor Who” has been submitted for Emmy consideration for the first time ever. Now that the American cabler has come aboard as a co-producer, the venerable Brit series is finally eligible for consideration. Although it was not submitted as a drama series, star Peter Capaldi is on the lead actor ballot, showrunner Steven Moffat and director Rachel Talalay are on the writing and directing ballots for the episode “Heaven Sent” and the series is a possible nominee for costumes, production design, prosthetic makeup, and visual effects.

(10) GARRISON KEILLOR AUTOGRAPHED A ROTSLER BADGE. The New York Times ran a profile “The Garrison Keillor You Never Knew”. Andrew Porter left this comment:

I have a name badge, created by the brilliant and alas late artist William Rotsler, who used rub-off lettering to create a badge that states, “Honorary Important Person,” with the words below, “Verified by” and a blank line. When I was at an American Booksellers Association convention in the 1980s, Keillor, there promoting a book, walked by and I impulsively had him sign it.

Why do I suspect that the power of this unique artifact grows greater the nearer I am to the Twin Cities?

(11) RIPPLES IN A SPACETIME POND. Astronomers are doing the wave. “’New era of astronomy’: Gravitational waves detected for 2nd time, backing up theory of relativity”.

Scientists from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) have announced they have detected gravitational waves from a pair of colliding black holes for the second time, thus backing up the theory of general relativity.

The international collaboration LIGO, with nearly 1,000 scientists working together, made the breakthrough announcement during a media conference taking place simultaneously in Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU) and the San Diego Astronomy Association on Wednesday.

Detecting the gravitational waves from the merger of two black holes by LIGO’s detectors for the second time is highly important,” said MSU physics department professor Valery Mitrofanov, adding that this underpins gravitational wave astronomy.

 

(12) MAKING FRANK R. PAUL COVERS REAL. Bloomberg bids you “Welcome to Larry Page’s Secret Flying Car Factories”.

Three years ago, Silicon Valley developed a fleeting infatuation with a startup called Zee.Aero. The company had set up shop right next to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., which was curious, because Google tightly controls most of the land in the area. Then a reporter spotted patent filings showing Zee.Aero was working on a small, all-electric plane that could take off and land vertically—a flying car.

In the handful of news articles that ensued, all the startup would say was that it wasn’t affiliated with Google or any other technology company. Then it stopped answering media inquiries altogether. Employees say they were even given wallet-size cards with instructions on how to deflect questions from reporters. After that, the only information that trickled out came from amateur pilots, who occasionally posted pictures of a strange-looking plane taking off from a nearby airport.

Turns out, Zee.Aero doesn’t belong to Google or its holding company, Alphabet. It belongs to Larry Page, Google’s co-founder. Page has personally funded Zee.Aero since its launch in 2010 while demanding that his involvement stay hidden from the public, according to 10 people with intimate knowledge of the company. Zee.Aero, however, is just one part of Page’s plan to usher in an age of personalized air travel, free from gridlocked streets and the cramped indignities of modern flight. Like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, Page is using his personal fortune to build the future of his childhood dreams.

(13) QUESTION AUTHORITIES. Exemplore, assuming the government has something to disclose, lists “5 Possible Downsides to the UFO Disclosure”.

1. Cultural shock and disruption of the social order

Although most people have if not a conviction, at least a sneaking suspicion that there is more to the story than weather balloons or military tests, disclosing the extraterrestrial reality will still result in a great shock.

Some will have their most cherished beliefs shattered in a matter of seconds, others will feel frightened and even terrified in the most primal, overwhelming way.

The shock will be exacerbated by the realization of the UFO cover-up. People will have to come to terms with the fact that they’ve been lied to for 60+ years, if we consider the Roswell crash to be the triggering event that created the need for the cover-up.

Essential information that was meant for the entire human race was concealed for far too long. In all likelihood, there will be a public outcry against the government(s). The authorities will try to frame the disclosure in their favor, posing as the caretakers of humanity, but it will take a long time before people can trust them again.

(14) SNAPS FROM DENVER. If you’ve been looking for your daily ration of cosplay photos, ScienceFiction.com is happy to tip you this set from the Denver Comic Con.

I had never given much thought to the risks Wolverine runs when taking a selfie….

denver-comiccon-cosplay-20 COMP

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rev. Bob.]

Pixel Scroll 6/8/16 A Wrinkle in Tingle

Loot Crate

(1) GEEK SERVICE. LA Times covers “Loot Crate”, a service that sends buyers a monthly package of mystery merchandise.

In a single town, there might not be enough sci-fi and comics fans to sustain a shop. But across the world, they’ve got plenty of buying power.

The pop-culture-themed T-shirts, dolls, posters, flashlights, magnets and other nicknacks that come stuffed in the Loot Crate box are sometimes available at other online shops. But Loot Crate has separated itself by cultivating relationships with major entertainment companies.

That’s enabled Loot Crate to curate the most interesting products and land at least one big-ticket or highly sought item in every goodie box. Those one-of-a-kind offerings, such as a special “The Walking Dead” comic, often sell for many times the price of the box on EBay.

Entertainment and toy companies sometimes provide Loot Crate with merchandise at a bulk discount and view inclusion in the box as a crucial marketing tactic. Since customers worldwide receive the box around the same date, cool products can spur a blast of social media chatter about, for example, a new movie.

“It’s a virtuous circle of content, commerce and experience with incredible potential for fans and creators alike,” Bettinelli wrote on his blog last week.

(2) STARTING YOUNG. Thoughts on child rearing by Elizabeth Cady in “Raising Your Young Geek” at Black Gate.

A few weeks ago, I was playing with my daughter, who is on the brink of turning four.

“Come here you little demon,” I said.

“I’m not a demon! You’re a demon!” she shrieked before pulling an imaginary sword and shouting “WINDSCAR!!!”

Yup. I got full on Inuyasha-ed by a four year old pixie child….

(3) THAI SCORE. In Episode 10 of Eating the Fantastic Scott Edelman and Mary Turzillo share great food and great conversation at a spot in Las Vegas once dubbed “the best Thai restaurant in America” by Gourmet magazine.

Mary Turzillo and Scott Edelman

Mary Turzillo and Scott Edelman

We talked about whether there’s a Venn Diagram overlap between her horror and science fiction readership, how her Cajun Sushi Hamsters from Hell writers workshop got its name, why she won’t be self-publishing her unpublished novels, what Gene Wolfe taught her about revising her fiction, and much more.

In podcasts to come: four-time Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Linda Addison … followed by Gene O’Neill, Fran Wilde, and Cecilia Tan.

(4) GHOSTBUSTERS WHEELS. The new Ecto-1 is the perfect vehicle for delivering your loved ones to the grave, and returning them to it when they come back to haunt you.

(5) WHO SPOILAGE: BEWARE. ScienceFiction.com has a reason for asking “’Doctor Who’: Will We See Clara Return In Season 10?”.

At the Washington Awesome Con this past weekend during a panel featuring both Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman, Capaldi was asked how the Doctor would be getting along now that his companion is gone:

Capaldi: “I’m not sure how successfully Clara was able to wipe his mind. In fact I just did a … I was about to tell you something I can’t tell you.”

Coleman: “I just noticed that. Good save. Good save. It’s something to look forward to.”

Trying to salvage his almost faux paux as well as give a little tease to the attendees, Capaldi added:

“I just shot something… Clara was still there.”

Here’s the video that inspired the article.

(6) WHO’S GOT THE MOST DOE? David Klaus recommends Bjorn Munson’s blog Crisis of Infinite Star Treks: “This man has done an excellent job of detailing all the issues involved in the CBS/Paramount v. Axanar lawsuit, along with timelines.” Munson’s latest post, 22nd in a series, is “Axanar Lawsuit: The Counterclaim and the Road Ahead”.

You’ll see we’re coming up to June 8th where additional defendants, known as “Does” will have to be named or be dropped from the lawsuit (this amounts to a card the Plaintiffs have to play or lose).

There is much speculation about which Does will be named and what their defense lawyers will do. We’ll also know what CBS/Paramount thinks of the counterclaim above by Monday, June 13th.

I’ll save further speculation and observations for others or when I get more information. For now, I mainly wanted to write this post for friends and fellow filmmakers who wanted to know the Axanar lawsuit timeline and how nigh impossible it will be for Axanar to win the case should it go to trial.

I know they’re not going to admit that. That’s playing a card they don’t have to. But they’re going to settle. It’s just a question of when.

(7) RECOVERING AT HOME. Unfortunately, George R.R. Martin came home from Balticon 50 with the con crud. Best wishes for a quick rebound.

I am back home again in Santa Fe, after two weeks on the road in Baltimore and New York City.

Great trip… but I seem to have brought the plague home with me.

Some kind of con crud was going around at Balticon. My assistant Jo was stricken with it, as was my friend Lezli Robyn, though in both cases it did not manifest until after the con. Coughing, fever, headache, congestion, more coughing.

I got it too, albeit a milder case. And then my assistant Lenore was stricken. (So far Parris has been spared, knock wood).

(8) ASK YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT ELROND. Hampus Eckerman sent the link to a HowStuffWorks quiz

Can you spot the prescription drug names among Elf names from J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium? Test your Elven race IQ.

I scored very badly….

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 8, 1949 — George Orwell’s novel of a dystopian future, Nineteen Eighty-four, is published. The novel’s all-seeing leader, known as “Big Brother,” becomes a universal symbol for intrusive government and oppressive bureaucracy.
  • June 8, 1984 Ghostbusters was released.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • June 8, 1910 – John W. Campbell, Jr.

(11) NO OCTARINE. Remember the petition to honor the late Terry Pratchett by giving element 117 the name Octarine — “the color of magic” from Pratchett’s fiction? Well, they didn’t. From SF Site News we get the link to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry announcement:

octarine

Following earlier reports that the claims for discovery of these elements have been fulfilled [1, 2], the discoverers have been invited to propose names and the following are now disclosed for public review:

  • Nihonium and symbol Nh, for the element 113,
  • Moscovium and symbol Mc, for the element 115,
  • Tennessine and symbol Ts, for the element 117, and
  • Oganesson and symbol Og, for the element 118.

(12) CALLING YOU. Alexandra Erin is offering prizes: “De-Gendering Stories: A Challenge”

I’d love to see more writers exploring this kind of writing, so here we come to my challenge: write a story of any length with at least two characters and no references to their gender.

There are many ways to do this, none of them wrong. You can simply avoid using personal pronouns in the narration, as most of the stories I referenced above do. You can use a gender neutral pronoun. You can write it in first or second person, allowing one of the characters to be referred to by gender-neutral pronouns such as I/me or you. The lack of gender can be part of the story (agender characters, distant characters communicating via text, a character whose identity is obscured and unknown) or it can be incidental. It can be a short vignette or dialogue, it can be a classic story with a beginning, middle, and end. It can be a story where the lack of gender is the point, or it can be a story where it’s incidental.

If you undertake this challenge and you post your story somewhere (your blog, Tumblr, a fic archive), please send a link to it to my email address blueauthor (Where? At…) alexandraerin (Neither Wakko nor Yakko, but Dot) com, with the subject heading “Gender Free Writing Challenge”. On August 1st, I’ll post a round-up of links to the stories I have received by that point.

To encourage participation, let’s make it interesting. I will award prizes of $25, $15, and $10 to the story I enjoy the most, second most, and third most, respectively. Depending on how many responses I receive, judging and award of the prizes may not happen until later in the month. As English is the only language in which I am a skilled enough reader to judge stories, I can only provide prizes to stories that are in English or have an English translation. I know there are languages in which the challenge portion of this challenge is trivial, but to be considered for the prize, the English version must also be gender neutral.

(13) OUT OF MY MIND. M.P. Xavier Dalke reviews John Brunner’s 1967 short story collection Out of My Mind at Potpourri of Science Fiction Literature.

Out of My Mind, thankfully, doesn’t contain any of the chaff; nor does it, however, show any great ambition or artistry that Brunner later exhibited along the lines of Stand on Zanzibar (1968) or The Sheep Look Up (1972). The best stories in this collection, comparatively, soar far above such dreck as “No Other Gods But Me” (1966). At the same time, they have an aura of whim exuded by the author—many of them aren’t serious in nature, yet are cleverly based on the kernel of an idea that Brunner ran with. This doesn’t always translate well as it feels just like that: this is my seed of my idea (which may be good or bad, depending on the reader) and this is the roughly textured chaff that surrounds it (sometimes good, sometimes bad, too).

(14) ALL THE BIRDS. Camestros Felapton brings us “Review: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders”.

When we first meet Patricia Delfine she is a young child and her story slips very quickly from realism into fairy-tale with talking birds and unnecessarily cruel parents and sibling. It is unclear what is reality and what is simply the work of an over-active imagination but Charlie Jane Anders’s first novel doesn’t stop to discuss this. Instead she leaves the reader with a choice – to take Patricia’s story at face value (talking birds and magical trees amid the petty tyrannies of school and childhood) or to reject it just as her peers and the adults around her reject it.

Which takes us to Laurence. Anders presents us with a choice here as well, but rather than fairy tales Laurence’s apparent escape into fantasy is via science-fiction. He has built himself a two-second time machine and is using broken up bits of old games consoles to create a super-computer. …

Read the review for the verdict.

(15) ALL FELAPTON ALL THE TIME. Do we need File 770 when there are so many Felapton gems to reblog? “A Special Commission for Brian Z (based on an original idea by Dave F.)” – such artistry, Van Gogh would slice off his other ear from sheer envy.

I couldn’t manage a direct pastiche of John Harris’s covers but why not just have a cover based on the core idea of an army of tea drinking, AI-controlled zombie ancillary walruses?

(16) AFTERLIFE AUTOGRAPH SESSION. Paul Davids will read from his new hardcover about Forrest J Ackerman’s posthumous, paranormal adventures An Atheist in Heaven: the Ultimate Evidence of Life After Death? at Mystery & Imagination Bookshop in Glendale on June 11 from 2-4 p.m. (The book is co-authored by Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D.) Davids says, “Forry friends, living or dead, please come!!”

Paul Davids ad5 556 KB

 

Davids other works will be available, too, DVDs of The Life After Death Project and The Sci-Fi Boys.

Cover artist L.J. Dopp will be signing the hardcover and his prints, and reading from his upcoming, satiric fantasy-genre comic book, Tales of The Donald: The Billion-Dollar Time Machine.

Mystery & Imagination is at 238 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale, CA 91203.

(17) COLLECTIBLE COMICS RULE. And mothers world-wide tossed them out…. “High-value comic books are outperforming traditional investments” reports Yahoo! Finance.

Gocompare.com collected information on comic books to determine those that have appreciated the most in price since 2008 compared to the S&P 500’s performance. The top performer was DC’s Batman Adventures #12, first published in 1993. The original cost of the issue was $1.25, and in the last eight years, it has appreciated in price to $800, making a 26,567% return.

“We saw it really take off in terms of rising in value on news that a Suicide Squad spin-off might be in the cards. Then it really rocketed when the producer signed up in 2014, and it was confirmed. That particular comic features Harley Quinn, who we know is going to be one of the main characters in Suicide Squad,” said Nilsson. Suicide Squad will be released in August.

(18) BUSINESS IS BOOMING. Future War Stories lists the Top 10 Critical Elements of Good Military Sci-Fi.

1. An Convincing Enemy

In the real-world, wars and conflicts are fought between groups that have their own philosophies, society, culture, strategies, and point-of-view on the conflict. Rarely, are the parties involved in armed conflict irregular and loosely aligned..even street gangs, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS have their own interior culture and strategies. However, the same cannot be said of the “enemies” seen in science fiction. At times, they are paper-thin antagonists and merely targets for our heroes to shoot at. Creators will forge their protagonist and their side of the conflict in lavish loving detail, but nearly ignore the antagonist side of the conflict. In works like Enemy Mind, Footfall, ROBOTECH, HALO, Killzone, and even Star Trek we see well-developed antagonist to an conflict with the audience seeing more as a fully formed part of the work’s interior universe. This only adds layers to your military sci-fi, making it more memorable and enduring.

However, we have works like Destiny, GI Joe, Armor, Starship Troopers, Edge of Tomorrow, and Oblivion; where we see that the story is mostly centered around the protagonist(s) and their side of the conflict. While Destiny answered some of the questions over the Darkness, the Fallen, the Vex, the Hive, and the space turtle Cabal via Gilmore Cards, they lack any real substance in the actual game besides being targets. And this lack of development leads to a less convincing setting for our military sci-fi universe and for the audience.

There are times, when the story is more about the “good” guys of the story than the enemy, like my book Endangered Species, but I still developed the enemy enough via my characters experiences with them, like the crew of the Nostromo in ALIEN. There has to be a careful balancing act in those kinds of stories. This can also be applied to stories and settings where the enemy is largely unknown for plot and dramatic purposes, like Space: Above and Beyond, ALIENS, and Predator. These types of stories allow the audience a sense of good mystery and wonder about the antagonists, allowing for the work to endure in the minds of the audience. This is the way I felt about the Xenomorphs, the Yautja (Predators), the Skinnies from SST, and the Chigs; I wanted to know more about them and that was compelling, making these enemies more convincing to the fictional universe. Also, an convincing enemy can say more about your protagonist and our fictional universe than you original thought.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, David K.M. Klaus, Andrew Porter, and Hampus Eckerman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

New Doctor Who Companion Revealed

Actress Pearl Mackie plays Doctor Who’s new companion, named Bill.

BBC One has posted a 9 things article about the actress, which include —

Pearl Mackie is an amazing young talent from Brixton, South London and has most recently performed in the National Theatre’s West End production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.

We all know the Doctor likes a dance, so Pearl’s moves may come in handy… She’s skilled in Ballet, Jazz, Period Dance and Tap!

Pearl honed her craft at Bristol’s Old Vic Theatre School, the same school Samantha Bond trained at, aka Mrs Wormwood in Doctor Who spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Her debut with the Doctor is shown in this two-minute clip.

Pixel Scroll 3/13/16 We’re Off To See The Pixel, The Wonderful Pixel Of Scroll

(1) DAYLIGHT STEALING TIME. Disney’s Alice Through The Looking Glass trailer investigates a time crime.

(2) TAKING INVENTORY. Bill Roper had some insights about being a convention dealer while doing “That Taxes Thing”.

One of the distressing things about doing the taxes for Dodeka is seeing:

– How many different titles we carry.

– And how many of them appear to have sold one or fewer copies in 2015.

Some of these are the result of having bought out Juanita’s inventory when she retired and having acquired various CDs that had been sitting in her inventory for too long. A few of them are the result of my own ordering errors.

The problem is that the boxes are large and heavy and the table is very full. But if you don’t take the CDs out to the cons with you, you can’t sell them…

Filk is an extremely regional business. And given that we’re in the eighth-or-so year of a sucky economy, I certainly understand people’s reluctance to take a flyer on something that they aren’t familiar with.

(3) BATMOBILE REPLICA MAKER LOSES. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a Ninth Circuit decision in favor of DC Comics, which had sued Mark Towle over his unlicensed replicas of the 1966 and 1989 Batmobiles, sold for about $90,000 each. So DC wins.

According to Robot 6:

Towle argued that the U.S. Copyright Act doesn’t protect “useful articles,” defined as objects that have “an intrinsic utilitarian function” (for example, clothing, household appliances or, in this case, automobile functions); in short, that the Batmobile’s design is merely functional.

However, a federal judge didn’t buy that argument… Towle appealed that decision, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals wasn’t any more sympathetic, finding in September that, “the Batmobile is almost always bat-like in appearance, with a bat-themed front end, bat wings extending from the top or back of the car, exaggerated fenders, a curved windshield, and bat emblems on the vehicle. This bat-like appearance has been a consistent theme throughout the comic books, television series, and motion picture, even though the precise nature of the bat-like characteristics have changed from time to time.”

In his petition to the high court, Towle insisted that the U.S. Copyright Office states outright that automobiles aren’t copyrightable, and that the Ninth Circuit simply created an arbitrary exception. He also argued that there have been “dozens” of Batmobiles in DC comic books over the decades that “vary dramatically in appearance and style” — so much so that the vehicle doesn’t have the “consistent, widely-identifiable, physical attributes” required to be considered a “character.”

(4) SFL SURVIVOR. Andrew Liptak retells “The Adventures of the LA Science Fantasy Society” at Kirkus Reviews.

When he [Forry Ackerman] set off on his own, he founded the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. While every other Science Fiction League chapter closed—as well as many of the other fan groups—the LASFS survives to the present day, the longest running science fiction club in the world.

In the coming decades, the club became an important focal point for the growing science-fiction community. It counted some of the genre’s biggest writers as its members: when Ray Bradbury’s family moved from Arizona to Los Angles, the young storyteller quickly found the group. “A turning point in his life came in early September 1937,” Sam Moskowitz recounted in his early history Seekers of Tomorrow: Masters of Modern Science Fiction, “when poring through the books and magazines in Shep’s Shop, a Los Angeles book store that catered to science-fiction readers, he received an invitation from a member to visit the Los Angeles Chapter of the Science Fiction League.” Through the league, Bradbury quickly got his start as a writer, publishing “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma” in the club’s fanzine, Imagination!

LASFS is not quite the lone survivor of the Science Fiction League – there is also the Philadelphia Science Fiction SocietyFancyclopedia 3 has more SFL history.

(5) ON WINGS OF STONE. You must keep an eye on these winged predators. BBC tells “How to survive a Weeping Angels attack!”

The Weeping Angels are scary. Really scary. They possess a natural and unique defence mechanism: they’re quantum locked. This means that they can only move when no other living creature is looking at them. These lonely assassins also have the ability to send other beings into the past, feeding on the potential time energy of what would have been the rest of their victims’ lives.

But how do you survive a Weeping Angel attack? Well, here’s our guaranteed, foolproof 4-step guide…

(6) TOP DRAWER. Peter Capaldi proves to have a flair for sketching his predecessors as Doctor Who.

(7) COINAGE. A horrible, fannish pun in March 12’s Brevity cartoon.

(8) MARIE WILLIAMS OBIT. New Zealand fan Marie Williams died of cancer February 27. She was a member of the board of Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ), and their announcement said, “She was a valued member and we will miss her thoughtful insights and interesting comments.”

(9) TOMLINSON OBIT. E-mail pioneer Ray Tomlinson died March 5 at the age of 74. The New York Times report gave a brief history of his development.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mr. Tomlinson was working at the research and development company Bolt, Beranek & Newman on projects for ARPANET, a forerunner of the Internet created for the Defense Department. At the time, the company had developed a messaging program, called SNDMSG, that allowed multiple users of a time-share computer to send messages to one another.

But it was a closed messaging system, limited to users of a single computer.

Mr. Tomlinson, filching codes from a file-transfer program he had created called CYPNET, modified SNDMSG so that messages could be sent from one host computer to another throughout the ARPANET system.

To do this, he needed a symbol to separate a user name from a destination address. And so the plump little @ sign came into use, chosen because it did not appear in user names and did not have any meaning in the TENEX paging program used on time-sharing computers.

The BBC’s Dave Lee wrote “Ray Tomlinson’s e-mail is flawed, but never bettered”.

He is widely regarded as the inventor of email, and is credited with putting the now iconic “@” sign in the addresses of the revolutionary system.

He could never have imagined the multitude of ways email would come to be used, abused and confused.

Just think – right now, someone, somewhere is writing an email she should probably reconsider. Count to 10, my friend. Sleep on it.

Another is sending an email containing brutal, heartbreaking words that, really, should be said in person… if only he had the nerve.

And of course, a Nigerian prince is considering how best to ask for my help in spending his fortune.

Chip Hitchcock says, “AFAICT, nobody saw person-to-person email coming; computers were for talking to central data, as in ‘A Logic Named Joe’ or even The Shockwave Rider. The closest I can think of to discussing the effects of mass cheap point-to-point communication is the side comment on cell-phone etiquette in the opening scene of Tunnel in the Sky. Can anyone provide another example?”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 13, 1981 – Joe Dante’s The Howling premieres in North America.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 13, 1911 – L. Ron Hubbard

(12) HUGO NOMINATORS: NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER. Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens reappears after a five-month hiatus, because it’s “Hugo Season!”

The annual SFF self-loathing theme weeks are here again — I feel (as I feel every year) like a total loser for not having read enough new science fiction and fantasy to make informed nominations for the Hugo award. I haven’t read Seveneves, haven’t seen Ant-Man, haven’t had the time for Jessica Jones, haven’t waded through a lot of short fiction.

Damn damn damn.

Then again, you’re always going to feel that way, no matter what. And it’s not football (which means “soccer”, in case you’re American), so whining doesn’t help.

(13) BINARY BEAUTY. “Google’s AI Is Now Reigning Go Champion of the World”. Motherboard has the story.

On Saturday afternoon in Seoul, AlphaGo, the Go-playing artificial intelligence created by Google’s DeepMind, beat 18-time Go world champion Lee Sedol for its third straight win in a five game series.

The win was a historic one for artificial intelligence research, a field where AI’s mastery of this 2,500 year old game was long considered a holy grail of sorts for AI researchers. This win was particularly notable because the match included situations called ko fights which hadn’t arisen in the previous two games. Prior to AlphaGo’s win, other Go experts had speculated that ko situations could prove to be stumbling blocks for the DeepMind program as they had been in the past for other Go computer programs.

“When you watch really great Go players play, it is like a thing of beauty,” said Google co-founder Sergey Brin, himself a self-proclaimed adamant Go player in grad school, after the match. “So I’m very excited that we’ve been able to instill that level of beauty inside a computer. I’m really honored to be here in the company of Lee Sedol, such an incredible player, as well as the DeepMind team who’ve been working so hard on the beauty of a computer.”

(14) PC OR BS? Ethan Mills of Examined Worlds asks “Has Political Correctness Run Amok? Does It Even Exist?”

… I’m tempted to call this “A Prolegomena to Any Future Discourse about Political Correctness.”….

  1. Is political correctness a cut-and-dried free speech issue?  Why is it that many examples of the “political correctness has run amok” narrative involve cases where one group exercises its freedom to speak against ideas or to decide what speech they want to support in their space?  Is this really a threat to free speech in general if it’s limited to a particular space?  Is there a right to tell people what speech to support in their space? Does political correctness threaten free speech in a more fundamental way by making people feel uncomfortable to say certain things at all?  How do we decide what counts as a threat to free speech in general?  Are there some things that just shouldn’t be said in certain contexts?  Should all speech be allowed in all contexts?  If not, how do we decide when it’s permissible to limit speech?  Is there a difference between limiting speech and simply asking people not to say certain things?
  2. What is the difference between political correctness and politeness or basic respect?  Is there a difference?  What happens if what one person calls political correctness another person calls being polite, civil, or respecting the humanity of others?  How do we settle these disputes?  Is it possible that this whole issue is really just based on the feeling that people don’t like being told what to say?  Is it possible or desirable to change that feeling and thus shift the whole narrative on this issue?

(15) PI TIME. Are you getting into MIT? Then expect notification from BB-8. “MIT parodies ‘Star Wars’ for ‘decision day’ announcement”.

The video ultimately reveals that “decision day” for the class of 2020 will take place on March 14, which is also known as “Pi Day”, as 3.14 represents the first 3 digits of pi.

Hopeful applicants will be able to learn whether or not they’ve been accepted to MIT by logging onto the admissions website starting at 6:28 p.m. on Pi Day. This time represents another reference to pi as 6.28 is known as “Tau” or two times pi.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 3/7/16 Burning Down the Scroll

(1) MILLION WORDS (IN) MARCH. Up and Coming: Stories by the 2016 Campbell-Eligible Authors, curated by SL Huang and Kurt Hunt, is available as a free download at Bad Menagerie until March 31.

This anthology includes 120 authors—who contributed 230 works totaling approximately 1.1 MILLION words of fiction. These pieces all originally appeared in 2014, 2015, or 2016 from writers who are new professionals to the science fiction and fantasy field, and they represent a breathtaking range of work from the next generation of speculative storytelling.

All of these authors are eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2016. We hope you’ll use this anthology as a guide in nominating for that award as well as a way of exploring many vibrant new voices in the genre.

(2) MANLY SF. And then, if you run out of things to read, the North Carolina Speculative Fiction Foundation has announced the preliminary eligibility list of 116 titles for the 2016 Manly Wade Wellman Award for North Carolina Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Or you could just look at all the pretty cover art in the “2016 Manly Wade Wellman Award cover gallery” at Bull Spec.

(3) ALPINE PARABLES. An overview of “The Swiss Science Fiction” at Europa SF.

„Swiss science fiction? Never heard of it !

Yet for a long time, the Swiss SF has engaged in speculative fiction game.”

(4) TOO SOON TO REGENERATE? Radio Times has the scoop — “Peter Capaldi: ‘I’ve been asked to stay on in Doctor Who after Steven Moffat leaves’”.

Now, RadioTimes.com can reveal that the BBC has asked Capaldi to stay on as the Doctor after Moffat’s departure — but the actor himself isn’t sure whether he’ll take up their offer.

“I’ve been asked to stay on,” Capaldi told RadioTimes.com, “but it’s such a long time before I have to make that decision.

“Steven’s been absolutely wonderful, so I love working with him. Chris is fantastic, and I think he’s a hugely talented guy.

“I don’t know where the show’s gonna go then. I don’t know. I have to make up my mind, and I haven’t yet.”

(5) ASTRONAUT SHRINKS. Scott Kelly had reportedly grown taller while at the International Space Station, but he’s back to normal now.

US astronaut Scott Kelly said Friday he is battling fatigue and super-sensitive skin, but is back to his normal height after nearly a year in space.

Kelly’s 340-day mission — spent testing the effects of long-term spaceflight ahead of a future mission to Mars, along with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko — wrapped up early Wednesday when they landed in frigid Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz spacecraft.

One of the effects of spending such a long time in the absence of gravity was that Kelly’s spine expanded temporarily, making him grow 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters), only to shrink as he returned to Earth.

His twin brother, Mark Kelly, said they were the same height again by the time they hugged in Houston early Thursday.

According to John Charles, human research program associate manager for international science at NASA, any height gain “probably went away very quickly because it is a function of fluid accumulation in the discs between the bones in the spinal column.”

(6) AUTHOR’S PERSPECTIVE. Rose Lemberg provides “Notes on trans themes in ‘Cloth…’”

Grandmother-na-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds” is a Nebula nominee. As such, it is getting a lot of attention.

I usually let my stories stand on their own. When this story came out, I had written brief story notes focusing on Kimi’s autism in the context of the Khana culture. Even that felt too much for me. I want readers to get what they need from my work, without my external authorial influence.

But as this story is getting more attention, I’d like to write some notes about the trans aspects of this story…..

Many of us are pressured by families. Especially trans people. Especially trans people (and queer people) who are from non-white and/or non-Anglo-Western cultural backgrounds, and/or who are immigrants. Many trans people I know have strained relationships with their families, and many had to cut ties with their families or were disowned.

This story came from that place, a place of deep hurt in me, and in many of my trans friends. It came from a place of wanting to imagine healing.

It also came from a place of wanting to center a trans character who comes out later in life. For many trans and queer people, coming out later in life is very fraught. Coming out is always fraught. Coming out later in life, when one’s identity is supposed to be firmly established, is terrifyingly difficult. This is my perspective. I am in my late thirties. There’s not enough trans representation in SFF; there’s never enough representation of queer and trans elders specifically. I write queer and trans elders and older people a lot.

(7) DEVIL IN THE DETAILS. The historianship of Camestros Felapton is on display in “Unpicking a Pupspiracy: Part 1”.

I’m currently near to finishing an update to the Puppy Kerfuffle timeline. The update includes Sp4 stuff as well as some extra bits around the 2013 SFWA controversies.

One issue I thought I hadn’t looked at what was a key piece of Puppy mythology: basically that their enemies are being tipped off by Hugo administrators to enable shenanigans of a vague and never entirely explained nature. A key proponent of this Pupspiracy theory is Mad Genius Dave Freer. In particular this piece from mid April 2015 http://madgeniusclub.com/2015/04/13/nostradumbass-and-madame-bugblatterfatski/

Freer’s piece has two pupspiracies in it; one from Sad Puppies 2 and one from Sad Puppies 3. I’m going to look at the first here and the second in Part 2. However, both use a particular odd kind of fallacious reasoning that we’ve seen Dave use before. It is a sort of a fallacy of significance testing mixed with a false dichotomy and not understanding how probability works.

(8) CLASS IN SESSION. “’You can teach craft but you can’t teach talent.’ The most useless creative writing cliché?” asks Juliet McKenna.

So let’s not get snobbish about the value of craft. Without a good carpenter’s skills, you’d be using splintery planks to board up that hole in your house instead of coming and going through a well-made and secure front door. Let’s definitely not accept any implication that writing craft is merely a toolkit of basic skills which a writer only needs to get to grips with once. I learn new twists and subtleties about different aspects of writing with every piece I write and frequently from what I read. Every writer I know says the same.

Now, about this notion that you cannot teach hopeful writers to have ideas, to have an imagination. The thing is, I’ve never, ever met an aspiring author who didn’t have an imagination. Surely that’s a prerequisite for being a keen reader, never mind for taking up a pen or keyboard to create original fiction? Would-be writers are never short on inspiration.

(9) DONE TWEETING. Joe Vasicek comes to bury, not praise, a social media platform in “#RIPTwitter”.

All of this probably sounds like a tempest in a teapot if you aren’t on Twitter. And yeah, it kind of is. In the last two weeks, I’ve learned that life is generally better without Twitter than it is with it. No more getting sucked into vapid tit-for-tat arguments in 140-character chunks. No more passive-aggressive blocking by people who are allergic to rational, intelligent debate. No more having to worry about being an obvious target for perpetually-offended SJW types who, in their constant efforts to outdo each other with their SJW virtue signaling, can spark an internet lynch mob faster than a California wildfire.

The one big thing that I miss about Twitter is the rapid way that news disseminates through the network. I can’t tell you how many major news stories I heard about through Twitter first—often while they were still unfolding. But if the #RIPTwitter controversy demonstrates anything, it’s that Twitter now has both the means and the motive to suppress major news stories that contradict the established political narrative. That puts them somewhere around Pravda as a current events platform.

Am I going to delete my account the same way that I deleted my Facebook account? Probably not. I deleted my Facebook account because of privacy concerns and Facebook’s data mining. With Twitter, it’s more of an issue with the platform itself. I don’t need to delete my account to sign off and stop using it.

(10) OR YOU CAN ENGAGE. When Steven A. Saus’ call for submissions to an anthology was criticized, here’s how he responded — “Just Wait Until Twitter Comes For You: Addressing and Fixing Unintended Privilege and Bigotry”

TL;DR: When a social justice criticism was brought to us, we acknowledged the mistake, engaged with those criticizing, and fixed the problem instead of doubling down or protesting that wasn’t what we meant. It worked to resolve the problem and helped us clarify the message we meant to send….

So why have I written a thousand words or so about it?

Partially to acknowledge the mistake honestly, and to note how it was fixed.

Partially to demonstrate that there are people in publishing that will listen to your concerns, and that voicing them honestly may effect real change.

Mostly it’s for those people who warned me about Twitter coming for me. It’s for those people who get angry or scared because they’re afraid they’ll use the “wrong” term. It’s for those people who think the right thing to do is to double-down about what they intended and just saw things get worse.

Because they told me that listening to and engaging others would not be useful.

And they were wrong. You can act like a bigot and never mean to. Privelege can be invisible to you – but still lead you to cause real, unintended harm.

I’m here to tell you that if you’re willing to really listen, if you’re willing to put your ego to the side, to forget what you meant and focus on what was heard, if you’re willing to acknowledge the damage you did and willing to try to fix it…

…then you only have to fear making yourself a better person.

(11) ADVANCE NARRATIVE. io9’s Katherine Trendacosta gets a head start on disliking the next Potterverse offering in “JK Rowling Tackles the Magical History of America in New Harry Potter Stories”.

The idea that Salem cast a long shadow over American wizarding history is one that drives me crazy, by the way. First of all, there was a whole thing in the third Harry Potter book about witch burning being pointless because of the Flame-Freezing Charm. But thanks for showing people screaming in fire in the video anyway! Second of all, not to get all “America, fuck yeah!” on people, but please let’s not have the a whole story about the amazing British man saving America from its provincial extremists. Third of all, skin-walkers are a Native American myth, so let’s hope the white British lady approaches that with some delicacy.

 

(12) WORKING FOR A LIVING. Mindy Klasky adds to the alphabet for writers in “J is for Job” at Book View Café.

Other aspects of “job culture” bleed over into the life of a successful writer.

For example, writers maintain professional courtesy for other writers. They don’t savage other writers without good reason. (And even then, they make their attacks in the open, instead of lurking “backstage” in corners of the Internet where their victims can’t follow.) This doesn’t mean, of course, that all writers always must agree with all other writers at all times. Rather, disagreements should be handled with respect and professionalism.

Even more importantly, writers maintain professional courtesy for readers, especially reviewers. It’s impossible to publish a book and get 100% positive reviews. Some reviewers—brace yourself; this is shocking—get things wrong. They might not understand the fine points of the book an author wrote. They might mistake facts. They might have completely, 100% unreasonable opinions.

But the professional writer never engages reviewers. That interaction is never going to work in the author’s favor. The author might be considered a prima donna. He might attract much more negative attention than he ever would have received solely from the negative review. Even if the reviewer is completely absurd, engaging solely in ad hominem attacks, the writer is better off letting the absurdity speak for itself. The cost of interaction (especially including the time to engage) are just too high.

(13) RECURSIVE FILES. Camestros Felapton knows the thing fans are most interested in is…themselves.

I predict his graph of File 770 comment topics, “Trolling With Pie Charts”, will get about a zillion hits.

(14) THEY STUCK AROUND. The Washington Post’s “Speaking of Science” feature reports “Lizards trapped in amber for 100 million years may be some of the oldest of their kind”.

F2_large

Tree resin can be bad news for a tiny animal: The sticky tree sap can stop small creatures in their tracks, freezing them forever in time. But that’s good news for scientists. If you’ve ever seen “Jurassic Park,” you have some idea of how great tree resin is at preserving finicky soft tissues. The hardened amber can keep specimens remarkably intact for millions of years.

Now, scientists have examined a flight of lizards locked away in the stuff about 100 million years ago. Among the specimens is a tiny young lizard that could be the oldest chameleon ever found — a staggering 78 million years older than the previous record breaker. One of the geckos may be the most complete fossil of its kind and age. These and 10 other fossilized lizards are described in a paper published Friday in Science Advances.

(15) THE TATTOOINE BRASS. The Throne Room march from the original Star Wars movie as performed by a mariachi band!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Andrew Porter, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]