Pixel Scroll 5/26/17 Hey Mr. Tatooine Man, Use The Force For Me

(1) PHOENIX COMICON SUSPECT NAMED. Phoenix’s 12News, in “Phoenix Comicon suspect said things would get bloody, according to court papers”, reports the suspect’s name is Mathew Sterling.

The man Phoenix police arrested Thursday for carrying four loaded guns inside the Phoenix Convention Center during Phoenix Comicon has been booked for attempted murder and several more charges. A judge set his bond at $1 million on Friday.

Police said 31-year-old Mathew Sterling made threats to harm a performer at the event. Police also believe he intended to attack officers as well.

According to court documents, Phoenix police received a call from the Hawthorne Police Department in California. Hawthorne police said a witness reported reading Facebook messages from Sterling who was posting pictures of Phoenix officers and threatening to shoot them.

Sterling resisted when approached by police at Phoenix Comicon and even ripped off an officer’s police patch on his uniform, according to court paperwork. He was eventually overpowered and taken into custody.

Police say Sterling was armed with a shotgun and three handguns that were all fully loaded. He was also carrying a combat knife, pepper spray and throwing stars. Police said he was wearing body armor.

Signs posted throughout the Phoenix Convention Center prohibit these kind of items at the event. Sterling avoided the stations where prop weapons are secured and marked, according to court records.

He later told police in an interview that he believed the signs and law prohibiting weapons at the venue did not apply to him, according to court paperwork.

Court documents show Sterling admitted to carrying the weapons into the venue and told police he was the Punisher — a popular Marvel comic book character. Sterling said if he deemed the officers to be what he called “Aphrodite officers” or “bad” officers, he would shoot them. He said these types of officers can hide behind kind faces and police badges.

According to court documents, Sterling purchased a four-day pass to the event and told police he believed with the person dead, the person’s wife and child would be happy.

Sterling appeared in court for his initial appearance Friday. He did not say a word and is being held on a $1 million bond.

Sterling was also booked for three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, wearing body armor during the commission of a felony, resisting arrest and carrying a weapon in a prohibited place.

After yesterday’s incident, Phoenix Comicon Director Matthew Solberg announced radical changes to attendee screening at the entrances to the event.

In light of recent events, Phoenix Comicon, in cooperation with the Phoenix Convention Center and the Phoenix Police Department, will be implementing enhanced screening to ensure the safety of all our attendees. This screening includes three dedicated access points, no longer allowing costume props within our convention or the Convention Center, and other methods as determined in conjunction with the Convention Center and Phoenix Police Department. We anticipate some delays as you are entering the building and we encourage you to carry as little as possible to make the process easier. …Costume props will no longer be allowed on-site. All costume props should be left at home, in your car, or in your hotel room. This includes costume props for staff, crew, costuming groups, panelists, and participants in the masquerade ball…. Convention staff is also trying to bring some relief to those stuck in line.

(2) CHEESECAKE UPDATE. The crowdfunding appeal to raise $500K for charity as an inducement for Neil Gaiman to do a reading of the Cheesecake Factory menu, reported in May 22’s Scroll, has raised $59,017 in the first four days.

(3) ENOUGH ABOUT YOU. Felicity Harley is catching heat for her narcissistic “interview” with N.K. Jemisin, “Science Fiction Author Felicity Harley talks to Hugo Award Winning Author NK Jemisin” (links to Internet Archive), where Harley spends half the time talking about herself.

…Jemisin says that she writes not to educate or convey her political views but to entertain. I questioned her on her social and political views, and since her books are speculative, I wouldn’t say she deliberately addresses these head on. Rather I think she tends to use allegory and metaphor to introduce them into her stories.

I’m a different kind of writer — I come out of a strong background of political and social activism. For instance, my current book deals specifically with corporate plutocrats and how they are exacerbating climate change, and also some of the moral and ethical dilemmas that we face as we develop highly intelligent, human forms of artificial intelligence. I’m also more of a hard core science writer — I have a three or four page glossary of scientific terms at the back of my book. I’m like an Andy Weir if you like, who I’ll be chatting with later on in this series.

I would say however, after reading her work, that Jemisin is by far the superior artist of the two of us. She writes from her colorful imagination and her Jungian dreams, weaving her political ideas like subtle silver threads throughout her narrative….

Jemisin let loose a hail of tweets about the interview and how it will reshape her policy for dealing with interview requests henceforth. (Her complete comments are available at Storify.)

(4) NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME POSTER. Tommy Lee Edwards tells The Verge: “What went wrong with the Spider-Man Homecoming poster: a veteran film artist explains”.

Not long after a pair of excellent new trailers for Spider-Man: Homecoming landed online, Sony and Marvel unveiled a poster for the film, showcasing nearly everyone in the principal cast. It is, to say the least, crowded. Peter Parker, Tony Stark, and the Vulture appear twice; poor Marisa Tomei is a tiny floating head at the bottom right; and the background features fireworks, lasers, the Manhattan skyline and the Washington Monument.

It didn’t take long for fans and critics to roast the poster on Twitter…

(5) A SHORE THING. Scott Edelman invites everyone to gobble glass noodles with the legendary William F. Nolan in Episode 38 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Welcome to the permanently moored Queen Mary, which sailed the seas from 1936 to 1967, but which is now a retired ocean liner turned hotel in Long Beach, California — and last month the home of the second annual StokerCon. My guest for this episode snuck away with me from the con for some peace and quiet in my room — and to share take-out food delivered from nearby Thai Silk….

 

William F. Nolan. Photo by Scott Edelman.

We discussed how Ray Bradbury helped him sell his first short story in 1954, the way a slush pile sale to Playboy convinced him to abandon a successful career as a commercial artist, why his Twilight Zone episode was never filmed, the difference between the real truth and Charles Beaumont’s “greater truth,” why he only acted in only one movie (and got punched by William Shatner), how Stan Freberg pranked diners aboard the Queen Mary and made them think the ship was sinking, which novel he thinks is his best (and it’s not Logan’s Run), and more.

(6) OXYGEN. On behalf of writers everywhere, Dawn Witzke pleads for your Amazon reviews: “Review the KISS Way”.

Imagine walking blindfolded into a room. You tell a story and at the end there is silence.

Feeling a bit worried? Well, that is what it’s like for authors.

We know you have our books. We know some of you have even read them. But, without reviews, it’s like that silent room.

Don’t write reviews because:

“I would, but I don’t know what to say.”

“I don’t like doing reviews, it takes so much time.”

“I didn’t like the book. I don’t want to be mean.”

I’ll admit it, I have said those things before.

However, writers depend on reviews. Reviews not only lets the author know how they’re doing their job, it helps others decide whether to buy the book or move along to another book….

(7) SUSTAINABLE SPACE. Authors argue a new vision for economically-viable space stations: “Towards an Economically Viable roadmap to large scale space colonization”.

Al Globus and Joe Strout have an analysis that space settlements in low (~500 km) Earth equatorial orbits may not require any radiation shielding at all. This is based on a careful analysis of requirements and extensive simulation of radiation effects. This radically reduces system mass and has profound implications for space settlement, as extraterrestrial mining and manufacturing are no longer on the critical path to the first settlements, although they will be essential in later stages. It also means the first settlements can evolve from space stations, hotels, and retirement communities in relatively small steps.

(8) TEMPORARY GRAFITTI. Last night stfnal creatures were illuminated on the outside of the Sydney Opera House. Here are two examples — more on Twitter.

(9) SPIT TAKE. Another unexpected consequence of tech (or maybe it was to be expected, given lawyers): Ancestry.com‘s license-in-perpetuity. The BBC has the story: “The company’s terms and conditions have stated that users grant the company a “perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide, sublicensable, transferable license’ to their DNA data, for purposes including ‘personalised products and services'”

A leading genealogy service, Ancestry.com, has denied exploiting users’ DNA following criticism of its terms and conditions.

The US company’s DNA testing service has included a right to grant Ancestry a “perpetual” licence to use customers’ genetic material.

A New York data protection lawyer spotted the clause and published a blog warning about privacy implications.

Ancestry told BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours its terms were being changed.

Headquartered in Utah, Ancestry is among the world’s largest for-profit genealogy firms, with a DNA testing service available in more than 30 countries.

The company, which uses customers’ saliva samples to predict their genetic ethnicity and find new family connections, claims to have more than 4 million DNA profiles in its database.

Ancestry also stores the profiles forever, unless users ask for them to be destroyed.

The company’s terms and conditions have stated that users grant the company a “perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide, sublicensable, transferable license” to their DNA data, for purposes including “personalised products and services”.

In a statement to You and Yours, an Ancestry spokesperson said the company “never takes ownership of a customer’s data” and would “remove the perpetuity clause”.

(10) STACEY BERG PROFILE. Here is Carl Slaughter’s overview of Stacey Berg.

ECHO HUNTER 367 SERIES
by Stacey Berg
Harper Voyager Impulse

DISSENSION

For four hundred years, the Church has led the remnants of humanity as they struggle for survival in the last inhabited city. Echo Hunter 367 is exactly what the Church created her to be: loyal, obedient, lethal. A clone who shouldn’t care about anything but her duty. Who shouldn’t be able to.

When rebellious citizens challenge the Church’s authority, it is Echo’s duty to hunt them down before civil war can tumble the city back into the dark. But Echo hides a deadly secret: doubt. And when Echo’s mission leads her to Lia, a rebel leader who has a secret of her own, Echo is forced to face that doubt. For Lia holds the key to the city’s survival, and Echo must choose between the woman she loves and the purpose she was born to fulfill.

REGENERATION

Protected by the Church for four hundred years, the people of the City are the last of humanity — or so they thought. Echo Hunter 367, made to be faithful to the Church and its Saint at all costs, embarks on what she’s sure is a suicide mission into the harsh desert beyond the City. Then, at the end of all hope, she stumbles on a miracle: another enclave of survivors, a lush, peaceful sanctuary completely opposite of anything Echo has ever known.

But the Preserve has dark secrets of its own, and uncovering them may cost Echo more than just her life. She fears her discoveries will trigger a final, disastrous war. But if Echo can stop the Church and Preservers from destroying each other, she might have a chance to achieve her most impossible dream — saving the woman she loves.

PRAISE FOR REGENERATION

  • Echo Hunter 367 may be a clone and callous killer, but she’s one with true heart and soul. Regeneration is a thrilling conclusion to Berg’s dystopia duology.” — Beth Cato, author of The Clockwork Dagger series
  • “Regeneration by Stacey Berg is a paean to resistance, hope, and love, a Canticle for Leibowitz that passes the Bechdel Test and then some. This post-apocalyptic clash of values and technology demonstrates beautifully that physical bravery can only take you so far; real change only happens when we have the courage to listen.” – Nicola Griffith, author of Hild

STACEY BERG BIO

Stacey Berg is a medical researcher who writes speculative fiction. Her work as a physician-scientist provides the inspiration for many of her stories. She lives in Houston and is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas. When she’s not writing, she practices kung fu and runs half marathons.

(11) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Lela E. Buis ponders “Why Are Literary Awards so Popular?”

A recent article by Deborah Cohen cites James English The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value. According to English, the number of literary awards has more than doubled in the UK since 1988 and tripled in the US since 1976. Not all these are for SFF, of course. Some of them are big competitions for national recognition and some are only small prizes for local authors. Still, there’s been that explosion. So why are awards so popular?

The answer appears to be economics, which is the answer to a lot of questions about human behavior, i.e. there’s money tied up in the awards process. First of all, many of the prizes charge an entry fee, which means it’s a money-making proposition for the organization offering the award. The Newbery is free. The Pulitzer charges $50. But other smaller contests often have higher fees. The Florida Authors and Publishers Association, for example, charges $75 for members and $85 for non-members to enter their contest. These small organizations tend to cater to independent publishers and authors who hope to gain some of the advantages a literary award can offer, meaning you can add “prize-winning author” to your bio.

(12) DIETARY LAWS OF THE AMAZONS. Speaking of following the money, here’s another entry in the Wonder Woman nutrition sweepstakes.

(13) GREATCOATS. At Fantasy Literature, Bill Capossere does a mock dialog involving Sebastien De Castell and his characters as a salute to “Tyrant’s Throne: A near-perfect close to a great series”.

De Castell turned to Kest. “How would you rate our chances?”

Kest rifled through the manuscript. “We’ll get four and five-star reviews and show up on a dozen Best of the Year lists, after which you’ll get one, no two, major nominations. People will be very sad it’s over and will repeatedly beg you for more. Falcio will appear on five or six €˜Best Characters in a Series’ lists, which won’t do much for his humility, I hate to say.”

“I’ll have you know I have the best humility of anyone.”

“My point exactly. I’ll get a Top 10 mention on a list of Best Swordsperson in a fantasy work, but poor Brasti will almost certainly be forgotten, unless someone makes a list of €˜Characters Who You Only Remember as €˜That Other Guy.’”

Brasti glanced up from polishing his bow.

Falcio raised a finger before Brasti could speak. “Please tell me that isn’t a euphemism. I really€”“

De Castell interrupted. “Don’t break perspective, Falcio. And yes, we all hope it isn’t a euphemism.” …

(14) HISTORY OF FINLAND. Here’s an artistic byproduct of DNA-community research: “Genomes tell their story in a stamp celebrating the 100th anniversary of Finland”.

This year, in Finland, we are celebrating the first one hundred years as an independent country. Our history books tell many details of the past decades that have shaped the present day Finland. With modern technology we can complement the written history by another readable source that has literally travelled with our ancestors throughout millenia. This readable source is, of course, the human genome that we are studying at the Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland (FIMM) of University of Helsinki. A figure of our population genetic analysis based on the FINRISK study of the National Institute for Health and Welfare ended up in a special stamp designed by Pekka Piippo to celebrate Finland’s 100th anniversary. It is a bit fancy stamp with a price tag of 10 euros and you can see our contribution in it only in UV-light!

(15) HONORING THOSE WHO DIED IN WW2. Robert Kennedy suggests that as we begin Memorial Day Weekend in the U.S. we increase our appreciation of the cost of war by viewing The Fallen.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Robert Kennedy, Mark-kitteh, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 5/25/17 Eight Pixels High And Scrolling For Touchdown

(1) FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY. Today’s the day. Aaron Couch of The Hollywood Reporter, in “‘Star Wars’: Unsung Heroes Finally Share Their Stories”, looks at the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, focusing on all the special effects people who made Star Wars great and how no one was sure at the time that the film would be a hit.

Well, not “no one.” There were all the people who had bought 20th Century-Fox stock in the months before it opened and boosted its price before I saw a screening and had that idea myself. I remember talking with somebody who managed a portfolio for the Hughes Aircraft pension plan who said I’d already missed the bargain. Somebody expected it to be a hit.

Star Wars went to San Diego Comic-Con in 1976, and people weren’t all that excited.

To lure an audience to a panel about an unknown property, the Star Wars promotional team employed star power from Marvel Comics, bringing writer Roy Thomas and artist Howard Chaykin to talk about their Star Wars comic book adaptation. Marketing head Charles Lippincott spent time at a table chatting with people and selling posters … which unfortunately for them, few people kept.

“I think they were $1.75 and that poster now is still available on the collector’s market — and it’s one of the two most expensive posters you can buy on the collector market because people didn’t keep them,” recalls Craig Miller, who worked as a publicity assistant. “It sells for two or three thousand dollars now.”

Yes, Miller does have one in his personal collection. (Saving pays off!)

(2) SHOULD HAVE QUIT WHILE HE WAS AHEAD. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber argues “Why Star Wars should have stopped at just one film”. Try not to hurt yourself laughing.

…A New Hope would be a lot more intriguing today if every other episode had been left to our imaginations –to playground games, to pub discussions, to self-published fan fiction. Instead, the episodes which did come along answered its questions, solved its mysteries, filled in its blanks and narrowed its mythical scope to the prosaic tussles within one dysfunctional family. The prequels demystified the iconic villain of A New Hope by showing him as a grumpy brat, while the most recent sequel, The Force Awakens, devalued its victory by showing us how ultimately pointless it was: not only did evil prevail, but two of the heroes (Han Solo and Princess Leia) had a son who grew up to be a genocidal, patricidal maniac….

(3) PHOENIX COMICON. Police may have averted a serious incident at a Phoenix convention — “Armed man arrested at Phoenix Comicon after struggling with police”.

A man armed with multiple guns at Phoenix Comicon is now in police custody.

Police say the 30-year-old Valley man was taken into custody Thursday afternoon for allegedly threatening to cause harm to Phoenix officers.

According to officials, the man was taking pictures of officers and was found at Comicon with three handguns and one shotgun. He also had knives and ammunition.

Police say the man was inside the Phoenix Convention Center and struggled with officers before he was detained.

(4) THE DOCTOR AFFECTED BY LATEST U.K. INCIDENT. Radio Times says “Doctor Who episode edited for Saturday airing following Manchester bombing”.

This week’s episode of BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who will have a section of dialogue removed as a mark of respect to victims of Monday night’s terrorist attack in Manchester, RadioTimes.com understands.

The excerpt in question from upcoming story The Pyramid at the End of the World made passing references to terrorism as part of a more general discussion of threats to Earth, but the BBC has decided that as a matter of sensitivity it should be removed.

(5) MOTHERBOARD LOSES A PIONEERING MEMBER. In November, Debbie Notkin resigned from the Tiptree Award committee to free her energy for other causes. This month she posted a farewell message.

Last November, after the disastrous U.S. election results, I resigned from the Tiptree Award motherboard. I have been involved with the award from immediately following Pat Murphy and Karen Joy Fowler’s creation of it more than a quarter of a century ago.

I remain deeply committed to the goals and work of the Tiptree Award. When I was trying to make this difficult decision, several people pointed out to me that the work of supporting transgressive artists is resistance, and I agree wholeheartedly. I just feel personally that it’s time for me to put my energy into other kinds of resistance and response.

(6) STAND BY TO FROTH. James Davis Nicoll fires his latest canon — “Twenty Core Speculative Fiction Works About Science and Scientists Every True SF Fan Should Have On Their Shelves”.

As with the previous core lists, here are twenty Speculative Fiction Works about Science and Scientists chosen entirely on the basis of merit and significance to the field [1]. No implication is intended that these are the only twenty books you should consider.

(7) GRAND TURK, WE HAVE A PROBLEM. The Traveler at Galactic Journey is fifteen years too early to see Star Wars but don’t think he lacks for excitement –he’s been watching TV coverage of Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter’s drama-laden mission. “[May 24, 1962] Adrift in Two Oceans (The Flight of Aurora 7)”.

Fun, to be sure, but at the end of the third orbit, Carpenter was in a pickle. Almost out of fuel, the ship misaligned thanks to a balky thruster, and the window for firing his retrorockets sliver-thin, the astronaut fired his braking thrusters a few seconds late. For half an hour, first in the shuddering initial reentry, and then in the chest crushing crashing through the atmosphere, culminating in the gentle sway beneath parachutes before splashdown in the Atlantic, Carpenter had no idea where he would end up.

Neither did the recovery fleet. In fact, Carpenter landed some 250 miles away from where he was supposed to. This did not bother the philosophical spaceman, who spent the next hours relaxing on his inflatable raft, sitting in pleasant companionship with a little black fish nearby. When the boats of the U.S.S. Intrepid finally arrived, hours later, Carpenter was completely calm. In fact, like a good guest, he offered them some of his food.

(8) HALO EFFECT. Mentioning The Saint in Roger Moore’s obituary reminded Cat Eldridge of a passage in Kage Baker’s 2007 review of “Otto Penzler’s The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps”.

It’s easy to grumble about Leslie White’s “The City of Hell!,” a wildly improbable fascist-cop fantasy, but at least the prose is lean and passionate. On the other hand, here is Leslie Charteris, clearly being paid by the word in “The Invisible Millionaire.” After 35 pages of coy overdescription and endless adoring references to the Saint’s perfect features, your correspondent was ready to go out and bitch-slap Roger Moore. And was it really necessary to include an entire badly-written novel (“The Crimes of Richmond City”) by Frederick Nebel? He may have been one of the seminal pulp writers, but surely a short story from him would have satisfied honor….

(9) MORE WHEATON COOLNESS. You can expect to find Wil Wheaton on Mystery Science Theatre 3000 before too long.

I have a small part on the first episode of MST3K’s first revival episode. Erin Gray and I get to deliver all the exposition about Jonah’s backstory. It’s pretty great, and this was a freaking dream come true for me.

(10) TODAY’S DAYS

  • Geek Pride Day

The idea for dedicating a day to celebrating geekiness originated in Spain in 2006 when Spanish blogger German Martinez, who chose the day to coincide with the 1977 release of Star Wars. Geek Pride Day spread rapidly across the internet and, soon after, the world, drawing attention from mainstream media as well.One of the events organized to celebrate this day was in Madrid when 300 geeks played a game of a human Pacman together. A list of the basic rights and responsibilities of geeks was also written up. The rights include “The right to not like football or any other sport” and “The right to not be ‘in-style’”, and the responsibilities include “Attend every geeky movie on opening night and buy every geeky book before anyone else.”

  • Towel Day

A tribute to Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Towel Day sees fans of the author and the book carrying towels with them to work, to school and as part of their daily activities.

The most important thing that you need to remember in order to celebrate is DON’T PANIC; no matter what the day throws at you, draw comfort from the knowledge that you’re armed with your trusty towel.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 25, 1977 — Star Wars was released in theaters. (You may have caught a few hints about this earlier in the Scroll….)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 25, 1944 –Frank Oz, of Muppets fame.

(13) DON’T FORGET TO WRITE. Great series of tweets about entering the writing profession by Nick Mamatas (via John Scalzi). It starts here —

(14) TALLYING REPRESENTATION. “GLAAD on LGBTQ representation in film: ‘It is not getting better’”The Verge has the story.

GLAAD released its annual report on LGBTQ representation in film today, and the numbers are bleak. They’ve barely increased since 2015, and when broken out into more specific demographics, they often got worse.

Overall, representation of lesbian, gay, transgender, or queer characters was slightly higher in 2016 than 2015. GLAAD reports that 18.4 percent of the industry’s top 125 films included a LGBTQ character. However, gay men still make up a whopping 83 percent of these characters, and of the 70 LGBTQ characters that GLAAD identified (up from 47 the year before), 14 of them were back-up dancers in one musical number in The Lonely Island’s summer comedy Popstar.

Racial diversity in films with LGBTQ representation decreased in 2016, with characters played by people of color down to 20 percent from 25.5 percent in 2015 and 32.1 percent in 2014.

Here is the link to the report itself — “2017 GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index”.

The GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index (SRI) maps the quantity, quality and diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people in films released by the seven major motion picture studios during the 2016 calendar year. GLAAD researched films released by 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Studios and Warner Brothers, as well as films released by four subsidiaries of these major studios. The report is intended to serve as a road map toward increasing fair, accurate and inclusive LGBTQ representation in film.

(15) PUBLICITY. Meanwhile, the gender disparity in publishing industry PR is measured by Breaking the Glass Slipper’s article “Gender parity in publisher PR”.

Results at a glance

Statistically, Orbit came in as the worst for gender disparity. Every single newsletter I opened was skewed in favour of their male authors. Men were mentioned over three times more often and also featured over three times more often.

Then you have a sliding scale. Rebellion’s parity was generally poor, as was Hodder, Gollancz and Voyager’s –though I received far fewer newsletters from them. Angry Robot achieved near parity between April –October 16, but for unknown reasons, the remainder of the year wasn’t as equal.

Tor.com was the only publisher who regularly featured more women than men, but this was almost solely as authors of articles and short stories published online.

These graphs only record the frequency of simple mentions. Another avenue of interest might be to follow the PR level of books once they’re published compared to the build-up beforehand. Some titles drop off the radar entirely, while others go from strength to strength. If that were tracked, I wonder whether this trend would continue?

(16) SPACE JAM. Dan Tepfer is a pianist and composer whose new album, Eleven Cages, is due out next Friday. He also maintains a keen interest in science — especially astrophysics, the subject of his undergraduate degree. WBGO asked him to elaborate on some recent findings in a faraway solar system, and he came back with this absorbing lesson in the music of planetary orbits: “Dan Tepfer, Pianist and Science Enthusiast, Walks Us Through the Music of the Cosmos “.

Watching the video below made me happy. It brings together two of the things I love most, astrophysics and music. It’s very unusual to find these two subjects talked about seriously in the same sentence, and even rarer when they are able, as in this video, to complement and illuminate each other. Watch as the orbits of planets around a distant star are expressed in sound:

 

I’m a jazz musician, but I studied astrophysics for my bachelor’s and have always loved science, so it feels natural to me that these two worlds belong together. Thinking about natural processes and mathematics has informed my composing for a long time. And while many artists remain math-adverse, there’s a small but significant number of musicians who think along similar lines. (Composer and saxophonist Steve Coleman, whom I heard at the Village Vanguard last week, is an inspiration to many in this regard, and has used orbital ratios in his work.)

So, what’s going on in this video? How, in the first place, were these orbits figured out? It’s only in the past 25 years that we’ve been able to detect planets in orbit around stars other than our own. This is mainly done indirectly, by (for example) measuring faint dips in a star’s brightness as planets pass in front of it….

(17) WINGING IT IN THERE. Perhaps Devenski should also yell ‘Dracarys!’ when he throws his fastball. MLB.com’s Cut4 reports “The Astros have a perfect ‘Game of Thrones’ bobblehead planned for Chris ‘Dragon’ Devenski”.

(18) WHERE PAPER IS KING. Not that you’ve never been to a bookstore before, but if you want a peek at what Amazon is doing in the Big Apple, Recode takes you “Inside Amazon’s first New York City bookstore”.

Inside, it’s brightly lit with a subtle warmth. And the first table, right inside the door, shows the kind of data-informed curation that Amazon seems to be aiming for: “Highly Rated” books, rated 4.8 stars and above — on Amazon’s website, of course.

Amazon uses its data throughout the store, including up-to-date star reviews on title cards for each book, as well as for other curation.

Here’s my favorite example: An endcap called “Page Turners,” consisting of books that Kindle readers finish in three days or less. Clever.

(19) NAME IN THE NEWS. Chinese sf writer Hao Jingfang’s new celebrity as the winner of a 2016 Hugo has already gained her an automobile endorsement.

Narrator: In the face of the unfamiliar and the unknown, there are a group of people who are fearless to march. To go beyond all the achievements. To imagine. To open up a new world. You are the first ones to create history when others are hesitating. Every owner of Audi is igniting the fire for change.

Ma Long is the first male Full Grand Slam winner in table tennis.
Hao Jingfang is the first female writer to win the Hugo Awards for Best Novelette.
Cheng Congfu is the first Chinese racing driver to compete in 24 Hours of Le Mans.

 

Of course, she is not the first women to win the Best Novelette category — that was Joan D. Vinge in 1978. Nor is even unusual for women to win the category — they’ve now done so four of the past five years. But it’s great to see another sf writer in commercials.

And is there something about novelette writers that attracts ad agencies? Don’t forget that Harlan Ellison had won three Best Novelette Hugos by the time they hired him to plug the 1988 Geo Metro.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, ULTRAGOTHA, Chip Hitchcock, Early Grey Editing, Brandy Wood, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, and Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Phoenix Comicon Apologizes For Survey

Once at a Worldcon a panelist was fielding questions from the audience about a Boston bid. After insisting experience would keep them from repeating the mistakes of the past, he promised with a smile: “We will make only brand new mistakes that no one has ever made before.”

It’s not easy for a convention to make a mistake no one has ever made before. The Phoenix Comicon made a new one recently and attracted considerable criticism.

The Phoenix Comicon let Connor Leshner, a psychology and sociology major at Arizona State University, and a con volunteer, send a message to the convention’s email list asking fans to participate in an online survey.

A fan who took the survey described some of the questions as personal and intrusive, in “Phoenix Comicon’s Latest Survey Making Folks Feel Uncomfortable” at Geek Life:

Admittedly, I did blush when the question came across my screen and can now see why so many of my peers chatted it up on Facebook. Some readers even reached out to me to write about this survey because it was so out of the blue and asked so many intimate questions. However not all of the questions were about romantic or sexual relationships, some of them asked about your personal feelings regarding the fandom we know and love.

One example:

And another:

On March 3, Phoenix Comicon convention director Matthew Solberg responded to the report with an apology.

I made a mistake. I apologize for the survey sent yesterday and if you were upset, offended, or put off by it. I was trying to help a former long-time volunteer who is an ASU student with a research project. To my understanding, it is one of the first studies into cosplay behavior as it impacts social and romantic relationships. I rushed the decision without fully thinking through its implications and I rushed sending the webmail, as is evident by forgetting to remove the templates.

It was never, and will never be, my intent to subject minors to explicit material or to offend anyone.

While I still want to offer help to our friends and supporters whenever possible, I realize this was the wrong way to do it. I hope that you can forgive my mistake and trust that my intentions were not as they appeared.

I want to assure you that your email address was not distributed or sold to any third-party and no personal information was released. I will be much more careful in the future.

I’d like to say this was me trying to do a good deed that sadly backfired.