Pixel Scroll 12/28 The Android Who Was Cyber-Monday

(1) VITA BREVIS. Arnie Fenner’s tribute at Muddy Colors to artists and cartoonists who passed in 2015 is excellent.

(2) DOCTOR STRANGE. “First Look at Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange” at Yahoo! Movies.

The first official glimpse of Benedict Cumberbatch as Marvel hero Doctor Strange graces the new cover of Entertainment Weekly, and the biggest revelation is that he probably isn’t spending much time in the makeup chair. The actor sports facial hair and a cloak that will be familiar to comic-book fans, as well as Strange’s powerful amulet, the Eye of Agamotto.

(3) DARTH ZIPPO. “Watch This Homemade, Gas-Powered Lightsaber Destroy Things” at Popular Science.

The entire thing was built and modified from existing components, using a replica Skywalker lightsaber shell, a section from a turkey marinade injector, and several 3D printed parts to make it all work together. The result is a finished product by a Youtube craftsman that is neither as clumsy or random as a blaster.

 

(4) PALMER AND SHAVER. “When Good Science Fiction Fans Go Bad” is a companion article to Wired’s “Geeks Guide To The Galaxy” podcast which interviewed Ray Palmer’s biographer and learned about the Shaver Mystery.

Author Fred Nadis relates the strange story of Palmer in his recent biography The Man From Mars, which describes how Hugo Gernsback, founder of the first pulp science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, helped inspire his readers to create a better future.

“He saw [science fiction] in very practical terms of shaping the future,” Nadis says in Episode 182 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “Almost a visionary experience of imagining the future and new technologies and what they could do, but he also felt like we had to spread this faith.”

If you’re interested in comparing viewpoints, here’s a link to the post I wrote about fandom’s response to Richard Shaver.

(5) WRITING NEUROMANCER. William Gibson’s 2014 piece for The Guardian, “How I wrote Neuromancer” was news to me, and perhaps will be to you.

On the basis of a few more Omni sales, I was approached by the late Terry Carr, an established SF anthologist. Terry had, once previously, commissioned a limited series of first novels for Ace Books – his Ace SF Specials. Now he was doing it again, and would I care to write one? Of course, I said, in that moment utterly and indescribably terrified, something I remained for the next 18 months or so, when, well out of my one-year contract, I turned in the manuscript.

I was late because I had so very little idea of how to write a novel, but assumed that this might well be my first and last shot at doing so. Whatever else might happen, I doubted anyone would ever again offer me money up front for an unwritten novel. This was to be a paperback original, for a very modest advance. My fantasy of success, then, was that my book, once it had been met with the hostile or indifferent stares I expected, would go out of print. Then, yellowing fragrantly on the SF shelves of secondhand book shops, it might voyage forward, up the time-stream, into some vaguely distant era in which a tiny coterie of esoterics, in London perhaps, or Paris, would seize upon it, however languidly, as perhaps a somewhat good late echo of Bester, Delany or another of the writers I’d pasted, as it were, on the inside of my authorial windshield. And that, I assured myself, sweating metaphorical bullets daily in front of my Hermes 2000 manual portable, would almost certainly be that.

(6) INTERNET TAR. Ursula K. Le Guin tells readers at Book View Café she never said it:

The vapid statement “the creative adult is the child who survived” is currently being attributed to me by something called Aiga

https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/design-quote-creative-adult-is-child-who-survived-ursula-le-guin/

…Meelis pointed out this sentence in the 1974 essay “Why Are Americans Afraid of Dragons?” (reprinted in the collection The Language of the Night):

I believe that maturity is not an outgrowing, but a growing up: that an adult is not a dead child, but a child who survived.

Nothing about “creativity” whatever. I just said a grown-up is somebody who lived through childhood — a child who survived….

It is high time that this sentence, “The creative adult is the child who has survived,” be attributed to its originator, Prof. Julian F. Fleron.

If he did not originate it, and wishes to be freed from the onus of supposedly having done so, that’s up to him or to those who wish to preserve his good name. I just wish, oh how I wish! that he hadn’t stuck me with the damn thing.

(7) SCHOEN. Lawrence M. Schoen is interviewed by Sara Stamey at Book View Café.

Can you tell us about your small press, Paper Golem, which aims to introduce readers to fresh new authors? Any advice for those interested in setting up a small press?

More than a decade ago, one of my graduate students lured me away from academia to come work for him in the private sector as the Director of Research at the medical center where he was CEO. The result was fewer work hours and more money. I mention this because it meant that I was in a position to start a small press, going into the venture not with an eye toward making a fortune (stop laughing!) but rather the more modest goal of breaking even and using the press to “pay it forward.”

(8) STRAUB SELLS HOUSE. “Horror Author’s Not-Scary UWS Townhouse Sells for $7M” reports NY Curbed.

Despite the nature of author Peter Straub‘s work—he’s a horror author known for Ghost Story, The Throat, and his collaborations with Stephen King—his former Upper West Side townhouse is very much not terrifying. The gorgeous home, located on West 85th Street, was built in the 1880s and has some of its original details, including a stained-glass panel over the staircase and six fireplaces. It went on the market back in April, but unsurprisingly went quickly; according to StreetEasy, it sold at the beginning of the month, for slightly under its original $7.8 million asking price. (h/t 6sqft) Coincidentally, Straub’s daughter Emma, an author herself, recently sold her equally gorgeous townhouse in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.

Andrew Porter commented, “This is very disturbing news. I’ve known Straub for decades. He recently decided not to attend the World Fantasy Convention, held the beginning of November in Saratoga Springs NY, because of health concerns. I wonder if the effort of climbing up and down all those stairs finally got to be too much for him.”

(9) COINCIDENCE. Hundreds of readers “liked” the mainstream political graphic David Gerrold posted on Facebook but it seems an ill-considered choice by someone who recently hoped to convince people an asterisk had another meaning than ASSH*LE.

(10) MYTHBUSTER. Sarah A. Hoyt’s discussion of “The Myths of Collapse” is a good antidote to misinterpretations of history that are fairly common in the backstory of created worlds, however, it is also intended as political advice, and while fairly mild as such YMMV.

1 Myth one — collapse creates a tabula rasa, upon which a completely different society can be built.  Honestly, I think this comes from the teachings on the collapse of Rome and the truly execrable way the middle ages are taught.

First of all, once you poke closer, Rome only sort of collapsed.  Depending on the place you lived in, your life might not have changed much between the end of the empire and the next few centuries.  I come from a place where it’s more like Rome got a name change and went underground. In both the good and the bad, Portugal is still Rome, just Rome as you’d expect after 19 centuries of history or so.

Second the society that was rebuilt wasn’t brand new and tabula rasa but partook both of the empire and the incredible complexity of what happened during collapse.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

In 1894, Antoine Lumiere, the father of Auguste (1862-1954) and Louis (1864-1948), saw a demonstration of Edison’s Kinetoscope. The elder Lumiere was impressed, but reportedly told his sons, who ran a successful photographic plate factory in Lyon, France, that they could come up with something better. Louis Lumiere’s Cinematographe, which was patented in 1895, was a combination movie camera and projector that could display moving images on a screen for an audience. The Cinematographe was also smaller, lighter and used less film than Edison’s technology.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 28, 1922 — Stan Lee

(13) SF-LOVERS. “Scientists on their favourite science fiction”:

We invited scientists to highlight their favourite science fiction novel or film and tell us what it was that captivated their imagination – and, for some, how it started their career….

Matthew Browne, social scientist, CQUniversity

Consider PhlebasIain M. Banks

I love a lot of science fiction, but Iain M. Banks’ classic space-opera Consider Phlebas is a special favourite.

Banks describes the “Culture”, a diverse, anarchic, utopian and galaxy-spanning post-scarcity society. The Culture is a hybrid of enhanced and altered humanoids and artificial intelligences, which range from rather dull to almost godlike in their capabilities….

Perhaps the best thing about Consider Phlebas (apart from the wonderfully irreverent ship names the Minds give themselves) is the fact that a story from this conflict is told from the perspective of an Indiran agent, who despises the Culture and everything it stands for.

My own take on the book is as an ode to progressive technological humanism, and the astute reader will find many parallels to contemporary political and cultural issues.

(14) THE CLIPULARITY. The December 28 Washington Post has a lengthy article by Joel Achenbach about whether robots will kill us all once AI becomes smarter than people. He references Isaac Asimov and Vernor Vinge and discusses the nightmare scenario developed by Nick Bostrom about whether a machine programmed to make something (like paper clips) Goes Amok and starts ransacking the world for resources to make paper clips, destroying everything that gets in its way.

People will tell you that even Stephen Hawking is worried about it. And Bill Gates. And that Elon Musk gave $10 million for research on how to keep machine intelligence under control. All that is true.

How this came about is as much a story about media relations as it is about technological change. The machines are not on the verge of taking over. This is a topic rife with speculation and perhaps a whiff of hysteria.

But the discussion reflects a broader truth: We live in an age in which machine intelligence has become a part of daily life. Computers fly planes and soon will drive cars. Computer algorithms anticipate our needs and decide which advertisements to show us. Machines create news stories without human intervention. Machines can recognize your face in a crowd.

New technologies — including genetic engineering and nanotechnology — are cascading upon one another and converging. We don’t know how this will play out. But some of the most serious thinkers on Earth worry about potential hazards — and wonder whether we remain fully in control of our inventions.

(15) BAEN AUTHOR JOHN SCALZI. John Scalzi explains why his next novel won’t be out until 2017 in “Very Important News About My 2016 Novel Release (and Other Fiction Plans)” but makes it up to everyone by highlighting several pieces of short fiction that will be in our hands next year including….

* A short story called “On the Wall” which I co-wrote with my pal Dave Klecha, which is part of the Black Tide Rising anthology, co-edited by John Ringo, for Baen. Yes, that John Ringo and that Baen. Pick your jaws up off the floor, people. I’ve made no bones about liking Baen as a publisher, and I’ve noted for a while that John Ringo and I get on pretty well despite our various differences and occasional snark. Also, it was a ton of fun to write in his universe and with Dave. The BTR anthology comes out June 7th.

This news was broken in August but may have been overlooked by fans occupied by another subject at the time….

Black Tide Rising’s announced contributors are John Ringo, Eric Flint, John Scalzi, Dave Klecha, Sarah Hoyt, Jody Lynn Nye, Michael Z. Williamson, and Kacey Ezell.

(16) WRITER DISARMAMENT TALKS STALL. “George R.R. Martin and Christmas Puppies” is Joe Vasicek’s response to the recent overture.

Now, I don’t disagree with Mr. Martin’s sentiment. I too would like to see reconciliation and de-escalation of the ugliness that we saw from both sides in 2015. And to be fair, Mr. Martin does give a positive characterization of what’s going on right now with Sad Puppies 4. That’s a good first step.

The trouble is, you don’t achieve reconciliation by shouting at the other side to lay down their guns first. You achieve it by hearing and acknowledging their grievances. You might not agree that those grievances need to be rectified, which is fine—that’s what negotiations are for—but you do have to make an effort to listen to the other side. And it’s clear enough that Mr. Martin is not listening.

The core of the Sad Puppies movement is a rejection of elitism….

(17) OUT OF DARKNESS. Were reports that Mark Lawrence is a Grimdark author premature? In Suvudu’s “’Beyond Redemption’ Author Michael R. Fletcher: ‘NO SUCH THING AS GRIMDARK’”, Lawrence says he meant “Aardvark”….

Does anyone actually set out to write grimdark?

I certainly didn’t. I thought Beyond Redemption was fantasy, and maybe dark fantasy if you wanted to label it further. But then I live under a rock.

So I reached out to a few of the authors who have been accused of defiling reality with their overly dark writings.

All quotes are exact and unedited.

Mark Lawrence (Author of The Broken Empire series, and the Red Queen’s War series): “aardvark.”

Other quotes follow, from Django Weler, Teresa Frohock, Scott Oden, Anthony Ryan, Tim Marquitz, and Marc Turner.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Will R., and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Shaver Photos No Longer Mystery, Now Art

For Amazing Stories editor Ray Palmer the Shaver Mystery was a way to keep the cash register ringing in the mid-1940s, while many fans felt it threatened to trigger a backlash against the marginally-respectable science fiction field. Nick Redfern capsulized the stories for Mysterious Galaxy:

The Shaver Mystery had its origins at the height of the Second World War. It was a relatively normal day in 1943 when Palmer was opening the daily delivery of mail that regularly poured into the offices of Amazing Stories, and came across one particular missive penned by a certain Richard Shaver. And weird barely begins to describe it. Shaver wrote that he, personally, had uncovered a sensational and terrifying secret: in our distant past a race of ancient, highly-evolved entities lived right under our very feet. Massive caverns, huge caves, and near-endless tunnels, were the dark, damp places they called home.

At least, that is, before they decided to exit the Earth and headed away to a whole new, light-years away world on the other side of the galaxy. But, when these particular entities said their final goodbyes to our planet, they left behind them something truly sinister and abominable: their diseased offspring, which were said to be called the Deros.

Many fans were offended that these stories were represented to be based in reality, others worried that their growing cultic popularity would taint them by association. Harry Warner recalled in All Our Yesterdays

Fans were already in insurrection against the Shaver stories by the summer of 1945, both because they were so sensationally publicized that they threatened to come to public attention as examples of the finest science fiction, and because of the insinuations that they were dramatically presented fragments of a great truth. Tom Gardner cited the scientific absurdity of the elders moving to a larger, denser planet when they sought a new residence because of an increase in their size. He found the voices and imaginary events in early Shaveriana too similar to schizophrenic phenomena to make good reading. “From just a publicity stunt, this hoax is rapidly becoming psychopathic,” he wrote in Fantasy Commentator. “Were public opinion to crystallize against the Lemuria-Mu bunk in Amazing Stories, it might spread to a denunciation of the better fantasy publications as well. And a blanket ban of this entire segment of the pulp field would not be out of the question.”

By the time I became active in fandom in the early 1970s the Shaver Mystery was a little-discussed toxic memory – briefly given fresh currency among the readers of Donn Brazier’s Title, because Donn would stoke discussion by reaching out to exiled sf figures such as Richard Shaver and Frederick Wertham (author of the anti-comics study Seduction of the Innocents), whose controversies were fresh meat for many of Donn’s readers (like me) who had just been in fandom a few years. 

Now, with the passage of time, Shaver has transmuted from threat to trivia answer to historically significant photographic artist. One of his photos is currently part of an exhibition in New York. According to the article at Hyperallergic.com, “The Sci-Fi Writer Who Used Photography to Search for Ancient Aliens” —

Near the end of his life in 1975, Shaver was living in Arkansas and wandering the terrain with an eye for “rock books.” These stones he believed to be tablets with information on the people of Atlantis that came before our current humanity, and he sliced them open to reveal their secrets, which he captured in photographs. One of these photos is currently part of the Morgan Library and Museum’s A Collective Invention: Photographs at Play that opened last month. This is the Morgan’s first exhibition organized by the museum’s new photography department and includes 80 works that connect in some way, with Shaver’s curious capture of a rock positioned quietly in a corner accompanied by his written explanation of the extraordinary origins in which he so fiercely believed.

A Collective Invention: Photographs at Play is on view at the Morgan Library & Museum (225 Madison Avenue, Midtown East, Manhattan) through May 18.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh for the story.]