Pixel Scroll 2/9/18 Pixel, Pixel, Scrolling Bright, On The Servers Through The Night

(1) THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE. Evil Mad Scientist has released downloadable “Evil Mad Scientist Valentines: 2018”.

This year’s set features parallel lines, friction, and activation energy:

What could be more romantic than telling someone that the second derivative of your potential energy is at its minimum when you’re around them?

Evil Mad Scientist has been doing this for awhile:

You can download the full set here, which includes all 36 designs from all six years (a 1.6 MB PDF document).

(2) WHERE APES HAVE GONE BEFORE. There will be a “50 Years of Planet of the Apes Exhibit and Film Retrospective” at the University of Southern California in LA through May 13.

The USC School of Cinematic Arts has partnered with 20th Century Fox Film to host an exclusive exhibit and retrospective celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Planet of the Apes franchise titled 50 Years of Planet of the Apes.

A vast collection of props, costumes, photos, posters and artwork from across all iterations of the longstanding franchise will be on display in the Hugh Hefner Exhibition Hall at USC this spring. The exhibit will be available to visit as a work-in-progress from January 26th – February 8th and all final displays will be open from February 9th through May 13th, 2018. A series of panels and screenings will complement the exhibit, including all feature films from the Planet of the Apes universe.

The exhibit is in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the 1968 release of the first Planet of the Apes film, the original installment of the still expanding franchise that now includes four sequels, a TV series, an animated series, comic books, merchandise, and 20th Century Fox Film’s highly successful prequel film series Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and War for the Planet of the Apes.

There is a schedule of associated film screenings at the link.

(3) ROOSTING. Watch the two Falcon Heavy boosters come booming back to Earth in this video at digg: “Seriously Cool Amateur Footage Of The Simultaneous Falcon Heavy Booster Landing”.

(4) ROASTING. Falcon Heavy’s third booster didn’t make it home intact: “SpaceX confirms it lost the center core of the Falcon Heavy”.

What’s more, it landed the two flanking boosters in perfect synchronized formation. But the fate of the core booster was unclear; now it appears that the center booster, which was supposed to land on a drone ship, was lost.

Elon Musk said on a conference call with reporters that the launch “seems to have gone as well as one could have hoped with the exception of center core. The center core obviously didn’t land on the drone ship” and he said that “we’re looking at the issue.” Musk says that the core ran out of propellant, which kept the core from being able to slow down as much as it needed for landing. Because of that, the core apparently hit the water at 300MPH, and it was about 100 meters from the ship. “It was enough to take out two thrusters and shower the deck with shrapnel,” Musk said. That should be worth seeing on video: “We have the video,” Musk confirmed, “it sounds like some pretty fun footage… if the cameras didn’t get blown up as well.”

(5) SFWA AUCTION. Steven H Silver tells about a SFWA fundraiser:

Did you miss our charity auctions in December? Good news! SFWA will be auctioning off five new items every month on Ebay. Available items in February include an autographed uncorrected proof copy of Fevre Dream by George RR Martin, uncorrected proof  13th Annual Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (signed by Ellen Datlow), and a rare signed copy of This Island Earth by Raymond F. Jones.

The bidding began on February 5th and will run through February 12: Ebay.com/usr/sfwa65

All auction proceeds will be earmarked for the SFWA Givers Fund which is used to disperse grants to deserving applicants, along with bolstering the existing Emergency Medical (EMF) and Legal Funds.

For more information about our funds and what they support, please visit sfwa.org/donate. If you have items you would like to donate for future SFWA Charity Auction fundraisers, please contact Steven H Silver at steven.silver@sfwa.org for more information.

Use this search to find items.

(6) BOSKONE PROGRAM. Look forward to the panels and participants discussing “Black Science Fiction at Boskone”, February 16-18 in Boston.

This year Boskone features a program with a strong selection of panels and discussions dedicated to black science fiction authors, publishers, and fans. Our program includes everything from black publishers and Afrofuturism to works by authors such as Octavia Butler, science panels that include the future of medicine, writing discussions that tackle young adult fiction, and much, much more!

Here’s a quick list of some of our program items with an emphasis on black science fiction and the authors who will be joining us from across the country. For the full set of program items, view the Boskone 55 program….

(7) VOLCANO IN TOWSON. Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast visits with Norman Prentiss to sample the volcano shrimp at a Chinese restaurant in Towson, MD.

And who is this episode’s guest? Why, it’s Norman Prentiss, who won the 2010 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Long Fiction for Invisible Fences, and the 2009 Stoker for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction for “In the Porches of My Ears.” His powerful, personal fiction has been reprinted in both Best Horror of the Year and The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and his poetry has appeared in Writer Online, Southern Poetry Review, and A Sea of Alone: Poems for Alfred Hitchcock.

 

Norman Prentiss

We discussed the day he wowed the other kids on his school playground by reading them Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the movies a Catholic Church newsletter’s warnings made him want to see even more, the supernatural superhero comic that led to a lawsuit against Harlan Ellison, the upside and (surprising) downside of having won a $35,000 college writing prize, how the freebies he got at a Horrorfind convention goosed him to start writing fiction again, why he wrote the last part of his novel Odd Adventures with Your Other Father first, how he’s been able to collaborate with other authors without killing them, what can be taught about writing and what can only be learned, why he ended up writing horror instead of science fiction, and much, much more.

(8) WONDER ANNUAL POWERS, ACTIVATE! Rich Horton announced the contents of
The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2018 Edition so Jason went to work at Featured Futures and finished his “Collated Contents of the Big Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, with Links!)”

Last year, I collated and linked to the webzine stories picked by Clarke, Dozois, Horton, and Strahan for their annuals. This year, I’ve collated all the selections. (I’ve also noted whether I’ve read them and, if so, whether they got an honorable mention, a recommendation, or were recommendations which made my Web’s Best Science Fiction or Web’s Best Fantasy.)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born February 9, 1960 – Laura Frankos

(10) FRANKOS. Steven H Silver celebrated Frankos at Black Gate with “Birthday Reviews: Laura Frankos’s ‘A Late Symmer Night’s Battle’”.

… When a follow-up attack of reremice occur, the fairies must question what they are fighting for and what makes a race worthwhile. While Frankos could have told the story with tremendous amounts of gravitas, the venue for its publication was looking for more lighthearted fare and she managed to deliver, sprinkling her tale with wonderful puns….

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY UNIVERSE. The BBC has the snapshot: “Marvel Cinematic Universe celebrates its 10th birthday with an epic cast photo”.

Over the past decade Marvel has brought us 18 films, starting with Iron Man in 2008 and including Thor, The Avengers and Captain America.

The class photo of 76 actors appeared on Twitter on Thursday.

It includes major players in the films like Robert Downey Jr, Vin Diesel, Scarlett Johansson and Letitia Wright.

The picture was shortly followed by a behind the scenes video.

It begins with Thor’s Chris Hemsworth saying: “It was sort of like being at the Academy Awards or something, every person had been in one or all of my favourite films.”

 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy asks, “Is Gumby genre? Perhaps so…” — The Flying McCoys.
  • And Mike learned from  Basic Instructions, “If you wish to be an evil Emperor, do not waste time taunting your nemesis. Especially in falsetto.”
  • Cath found another cat/book/humor connection in today’s Breaking Cat News.
  • Cath also knows I need proofreading advice —

(13) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. Is the work of comic book colorists inherently apolitical?

(14) MORE ON ACKERMAN. Adam-Troy Castro heard about Forrest J Ackerman’s behavior in 1997:

Yes, I knew about Forry Ackerman twenty years ago.

I was part of the committee that gave him the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award. I need you to know that I was outvoted. We were giving two awards that year and the Ackerman partisans were given what they wanted in order for those who were against the citation to be given what they wanted. Even so, the hell that went on behind the scenes was intense and lasted for months after the official announcement was made. But yes, one of the things that came up during the hellish brouhaha that followed was that he had, quote, “a house full of child pornography.”

The months of invective that went on, back and forth, behind the scenes, amounted to the worst period of my writing career….

(15) WET WORK. Beneath the waters of the Gulf: “Long-Buried Ice Age Forest Offers Climate Change Clues”.

Scientists say it’s a remarkable discovery.

“The underwater forest is like the Garden of Eden underwater,” says Christine DeLong, a paleo-climatologist at Louisiana State University. She says tests date the forest to be between 50,000 and 70,000 years old.

“It’s a huge deal,” DeLong says. “Because here we have this like perfectly preserved time capsule of an ice age forest.”

(16) LIGHTEN UP. Thanks to French scientists and a NASA probe, “Secrets of solar flares are unlocked”.

Flares can occur on their own, or be accompanied by powerful eruptions of plasma (charged gas) from the Sun.

If charged particles from these eruptions reach Earth, they can create havoc with infrastructure, such as satellite systems and power grids.

Now, researchers in France say the interaction of distinct magnetic structures controls these outbursts from our star.

Generally speaking, solar eruptions are caused by a sudden, violent rearrangement of the Sun’s magnetic field.

At a deeper level, the process is controlled by two types of structures that form in the magnetic field of the Sun: ropes and cages.

The rope is confined within the magnetic cage. If the cage is strong, it can contain the rope’s contortions, but when the cage is weak, an eruption can take place.

(17) WATER SIGN. Sydney has a unique solution to trucks trying to get into tunnels they’re too tall for: a water wall as a screen for a giant projected STOP sign. (Video at the link.) “That will stop them in their tracks! Virtual barrier made from curtain of water halts lorries from driving through too small tunnels”.

They had tried flashing signs, neon signs and staggered signs.

But when lorry drivers continued to keep on driving their over-sized trucks though low tunnels, Australian authorities took the extreme measure of warning drivers with water signs.

Drivers are greeted with a curtain of water falling from the entrance of tunnels with a huge ‘stop’ sign projected on to them….

Laservision said that the Sydney Harbour Tunnel has experienced more than 10,000 incidents of vehicles hitting the structure since it opened.

The damage caused by too large vehicles crashing into the overhead of the tunnel affected up to 12,000 motorists at peak time, the company said.

There’s also this TV clip of the sign in action –

And the manufacturer’s writeup: “Activated 8 times in 8 weeks, with 100% success!”

(18) BUGEYED. “What Scientists Learned From Putting 3-D Glasses on Praying Mantises”: The Atlantic has the story.

One might assume that any animal with two forward-facing eyes would automatically have stereopsis, but that’s not true. It’s a sophisticated skill that requires a lot of processing power and a complex network of neurons—one that not every animal can afford to build. Indeed, after stereopsis was first confirmed in humans in 1838, it took 132 years for scientists to show that other species had the same ability. Macaque monkeys were the first confirmed member of the stereopsis club, but they were soon joined by cats, horses, sheep, owls, falcons, toads—and praying mantises. In the 1980s, Samuel Rossel placed prisms in front of these insects to show that they do triangulate the images from both eyes to catch their prey.

When Jenny Read, from Newcastle University, first read about this, she was amazed. How could an insect pull off such a complicated trick with a brain that contains just 1 million neurons? (For comparison, our brains have 100,000 times that number.) To find out, she and Nityananda set up their mantis 3-D cinemas….

They presented the insects with screens full of black and white dots, with a slightly different pattern projected to each eye. Against these backgrounds, a small circle of dots—a target—would slowly spiral inward from the outside. “It’s meant to be like a little beetle moving against a background,” says Read.

By tweaking the dots, the team could change how far away this target would appear to the watching mantises. And they found that the insects would start to attack the target when it seemed to get within striking distance. Clearly, the insects have stereopsis.

But their stereopsis is not our stereopsis. We use brightness as a cue to align and compare the images that are perceived by our two eyes. Scientists can confirm this by presenting one eye with an image that’s a negative of the other—that has black dots where the other has white ones, and vice versa. “For us, that’s incredibly disruptive. We really can’t match up the images anymore, so our stereopsis falls apart,” says Read. “But the mantises are completely unfazed.” Brightness clearly doesn’t matter to them.

(19) THUMBRUNNERS. I’m not sure “parts is parts” when they’re human — “Special Report: U.S. body brokers supply world with torsos, limbs and heads”.

Demand for body parts from America — torsos, knees and heads — is high in countries where religious traditions or laws prohibit the dissection of the dead. Unlike many developed nations, the United States largely does not regulate the sale of donated body parts, allowing entrepreneurs such as MedCure to expand exports rapidly during the last decade.

No other nation has an industry that can provide as convenient and reliable a supply of body parts.

(Larry Niven once said he preferred Alexei Panshin’s “thumbrunners,” but having been beaten to the term, he’d come up with his alternative, “organleggers.”)

(20) SPACE MOUNTAIN. You get a glimpse inside the illusion created by a popular Disneyland attraction in this Orange County Register piece: “Space Mountain fan gets the roller coaster’s 87-year-old designer to ride it one last time at Disneyland”

How fast do you think you’re traveling when you’re in the rockets on Space Mountain?

Think of the speed of a car on the freeway. Is Space Mountain faster than that? Slower? Is it 100 miles per hour, like Bill Watkins has heard people telling each other?

Watkins contemplated the speed question for years in the early- to mid-1970s. He built his first Space Mountain at Walt Disney World in Florida. But it was bigger – a 300-ft. circle on two tracks. When the Disneyland Space Mountain opened in 1977, Watkins had completed what he always saw as a giant math problem.

Space Mountain is a gravity coaster. Unlike the Matterhorn, which relies on thrusters to help move its vehicles forward, Space Mountain simply starts up and goes down. Technically, it’s 75 seconds of free fall.

At its maximum speed (which can vary slightly depending on the combined weight of the riders) the car you’re riding in Space Mountain is traveling about 40 feet per second.

That’s 27.27 miles per hour.

That seems really slow.

But Watkins somehow made it just right. More than 250 million people have ridden Space Mountain since it opened. And while it’s unclear if it’s the best – Disneyland’s public relations department would only say that Space Mountain is, according to guests, “a top 10 attraction” – how many are better?

It is certainly arguable that Bill Watkins created the most popular roller coaster of all time.

“I seldom meet anyone who hasn’t ridden it,” he said.

(21) BEST PRO ARTIST RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank’s  “2018 Professional Artists” page is designed —

To help people make nominations for the 2018 Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist, we have set up a “lightbox” system to let fans quickly flip through the works of over 113 artists listed below and to set aside the ones they particularly liked.

Greg Hullender says —

This is aimed at helping people pick artists to nominate, based on covers for magazines and for books containing original novels or anthologies. We don’t have pictures for reprints.

Where possible, we have links to the artists’ portfolios, so readers can get a broader idea of any particular artist’s work. To simplify that a bit, for eligible artists who had just a few works published in 2017 we’ve padded their list of pictures with their art from earlier years. (They’re marked by date for the benefit of those who only want to see works published in 2017.)

(22) ROBOTECH RETURNS. Titan Comics will publish a new graphic novel based on the classic Robotech saga.

A mysterious ship crashes on a remote island… 10 years later, the ship’s ‘Robotechnology’ has helped humanity advance its own tech. But danger looms from the skies and an epic adventure is set to begin…

The world-famous, fan-favorite animated epic returns to comics with a classic transforming-jetfighters-versus-giant-aliens adventure! Written by Brian Wood (Star Wars, Briggs Land, X-Men), with art from Marco Turini (Assassin’s Creed) and colorist Marco Lesko! Return to the fan-favorite Macross Saga that began the classic Robotech franchise, as hotshot Veritech pilot Roy Fokker and skilled rookie Rick Hunter are pulled into an intergalactic war when the Earth is invaded by the insidious Zentraedi! Whether you’ve seen the classic cartoon to the point you can quote every episode, or whether you’ve never experienced Robotech before, this graphic novel collection is for you!

 

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cath, Andrew Porter, Will R., David K.M. Klaus, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day evilrooster.]

Pixel Scroll 2/7/18 In Space Nobody Can Hear Your Red Tesla’s GPS Scream “Recalculating!”

(1) ABIGAIL NUSSBAUM. Last year’s Best Fan Writer Hugo winner announced that she won’t accept a nomination this year.

Third, this is something that I was pretty sure I wanted to do last August, but I gave myself some time to consider it, and now I’m certain: I’d like it known that if I were to receive a nomination in the Best Fan Writer category for the 2018 Hugos, I would respectfully decline the nomination.

I’ve debated with myself about whether and how to make this announcement.  Not, to be very clear, because I’m uncertain about not wanting to be a nominee again.  Without sounding like I’m complaining–since it all turned out so wonderfully in the end–being a prospective and then actual Hugo nominee is one of the most stressful experiences I’ve ever had.  It certainly didn’t help that the period during which I became a viable candidate coincided so perfectly with the various puppies’ campaign against the awards, so that on top of the regular pressures of will I be nominated/will I win, I spent a lot of my time wondering whether my nomination would be scuttled by a fascist terror campaign (which is, in fact, what happened in 2015 and 2016).  By the time 2017 rolled around, I had been on the Hugo merry-go-round for four years, and it was pretty hard for me to enjoy the convention or the lead-up to the awards from wondering whether this was finally going to be my year.

So while I may one day want to be nominated for the Hugo again (and maybe in another category too, if I’m eligible), I have no interest in going through the whole rigmarole again so soon, and especially when you consider that there are several other great potential nominees whose crack at the Hugo was scuttled by puppy interference.  It seems like absolutely the right thing to stand back.

(2) GEORGE R.R. MARTIN. Martin, in his Hugo eligibility post, asks people not to nominate A Song of Ice and Fire for Best Series — but feel free to nominate “The Sons of the Dragon” for novella. (Following this excerpt, he has more to say about the Best Series category itself.)

The only writing I had published in 2017 was “The Sons of the Dragon,” which was published in THE BOOK OF SWORDS, Gardner Dozois’s massive anthology of original sword & sorcery stories. Like “The Rogue Prince” and “The Princess and the Queen” before it, “Sons” is more of my (fake) history of the Targaryen kings of Westeros. By length, it is a novella… but it’s not a traditional narrative. By design, it reads like history, not fiction; but since the history is entirely imaginative, it’s still fiction, even if dressed up as (fake) non-fiction.

It has been pointed out to me that the publication of “The Sons of the Dragon” makes the entirety of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE eligible to be nominated as Best Series. I suppose that’s so. All I can say to that is: please don’t. If you like fake history and enjoyed “The Sons of the Dragon,” by all means nominate the story as a novella… but it’s really not part of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, and sneaking in the entire series by means of a technicality seems wrong to me.

(3) TRADEOFFS. I was interested to see Abigail Nussbaum and I had the identical thought about this piece of news.

(4) FULLER BRUSH-OFF MAN. Two showrunners have left the building: “Apple’s ‘Amazing Stories’ revival loses showrunner Bryan Fuller”.

Apple has yet to launch any of the original shows funded by its $1 billion war chest, but it’s already losing part of its production team. Hollywood Reporter has learned that showrunner Bryan Fuller (of Star Trek and American Gods fame) has left Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories revival for the tech giant. The departure was “amicable,” according to sources, and stemmed from creative differences. Reportedly, Fuller wanted to make a Black Mirror-style show that wasn’t what Apple intended.

Fuller wasn’t new to the Amazing Stories continuation. He’d been around since 2015, when the series was attached to NBC and Spielberg wasn’t involved. He’s had some relatively short stints lately: he was booted from American Gods after the production company wanted to reduce the per-episode fee, and left Star Trek: Discovery over cost and casting issues with CBS.

The Hollywood Reporter source story has added this update:

Hart Hanson, who had partnered with Bryan Fuller on Amazing Stories, has also exited the anthology as Apple and producers Universal Television are now searching for a showrunner.

(5) HOOKED. K.M. Alexander argues “Your Fave is Problematic—That’s Okay”.

My favorite character from A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin’s fantasy epic, is Jaime Lannister, the heir to the Lannister family, Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, and an all-around terrible person. No, really. There are forum threads dedicated to his awfulness, and I don’t disagree with anything they say. He is awful; that’s not up for debate. But I don’t care; I still like him. There is something about his wit, his tenacity, his strange sense of honor, and his odd drive to do right by his family that draws me in as a reader. He’s my favorite.

In his Banquet Speech, William Faulkner observes good writing as “the human heart in conflict with itself.” I adore that line. As a character, Jamie embodies that for me. There is so much to loathe but a lot to like. It makes him complicated, and it makes him human. However, in some circles, my statement draws ire. How can I enjoy reading about someone so terrible? After all, he is someone who symbolizes the opposite of many values I hold dear. To those people, it doesn’t make sense; it feels two-faced and hypocritical.

These voices are nothing new. I remember hearing them as a kid from conservatives, and I’ve heard them as an adult from progressives. Recently they’ve become particularly pronounced on social media, shouting down and hunting those who dare explore life through the lens of problematic fiction. Over the last few years, I’ve seen several authors attacked—on social media, within articles, in reviews, and on blogs. Fans have gone after them for the problematic circumstances, events, and behavior of characters within their novels. It’s not surprising; it’s an extension of the same attitude we have seen play out in the social sphere. In addition to holding real-life humans accountable, fandom is now trying to hold fiction accountable….

(6) SIGNING OFF. The Geek Feminism Blog says they are “Bringing the blog to a close”. No specific reason given, but they did take a look back —

Alex Bayley and a bunch of their peers — myself included — started posting on this blog in 2009. We coalesced around feminist issues in scifi/fantasy fandom, open culture projects like Wikipedia, gaming, the sciences, the tech industry and open source software development, Internet culture, and so on. Alex gave a talk at Open Source Bridge 2014 about our history to that point, and our meta tag has some further background on what we were up to over those years.

(7) NEXT IN THE JURY BOX. A new Shadow Clarke juror greets the readers: “Introducing Samira Nadkarni”.

More than anything else, community as a space for discussion and critique forces an awareness of frameworks. A friend, Shabnam, once took a lot of time to point out to me that my excitement about a book that I believed destabilised gender and problematised caste in Indian contexts was, in fact, written to privilege the upper caste cis gaze. Her emphatic point at the time was that if someone mentions a gender and caste dystopia, I should look at whose interests are being played to, and that if the book couldn’t decenter the very idea of cis and caste-based constructs of gender, then this book was not innovative in its destabilisation at all. While this was applied to a specific book series, it was an excellent lesson to take away, learn from, and cross apply to future criticism: the fact that stepping away from standard representation itself is not enough until we think about who it privileges and what it says.

These are big questions for me, and I think also big questions more generally, about how inclusion can be kindness and violence all at once, and how navigating that critically can be fraught. For me in particular, I have strong feelings about postcolonial SFF writing in general (and this is primarily what I read in my spare time), and this also forces me to recognise how this is playing to a different set of privilege systems locally that can continue to foster violent hierarchies, or aren’t being dealt with or made visible enough yet. It’s complicated and I’m honestly not equipped to do it alone.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 7, 1940 — Walt Disney’s vision of Pinocchio debuted.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cath spotted a comic that perfectly fits out recent “Cats Sleep on SFF” theme in Georgia Dunn’s Breaking Cat News from 2016.

(10) SUPER BOWL BET. Here’s how the Boston Public Library paid off after losing its Super Bowl bet.

(11) FREE READS. Asimov’s has made four Locus-recommended stories available as free reads.

Congratulations to the authors of our stories on the Locus Recommended Reading List. We’ve posted the tales here for your enjoyment. If you’re voting in the Locus Poll and you haven’t read the stories or you’d like to refresh your memory please take a look at them now.

BEST NOVELETTE

The Discrete Charm of the Turing Machine, Greg Egan – Nov/Dec 2017
Wind Will Rove, Sarah Pinsker – Sept/Oct 2017

BEST SHORT STORY

Persephone of the Crows, Karen Joy Fowler – May/June 2017

An Evening with Severyn Grimes, Rich Larson – July/August 2017
Confessions of a Con Girl, Nick Wolven – Nov/Dec 2017

(12) BOARD MEETING. “Superdense wood is lightweight, but strong as steel” – Daniel Dern saw the story and asked, “How many existing sf/f ref’s does this conjure up? The first that comes to (my) mind is Howard Chaykin’s Ironwolf comic books… possibly also from Sean McMullen’s Moonworlds Saga, e.g. Voyage of the Shadowmoon.”

View the video

Newly fabricated superstrong lumber gives a whole new meaning to “hardwood.”

This ultracompact wood, described in the Feb. 8 Nature, is created by boiling a wood block in a water-based solution of sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfite. The chemicals partially strip the wood of substances called lignin and hemicellulose, which help give wood its structure and rigidity. Then the block gets squeezed between metal plates heated to 100° Celsius at a pressure of 5 megapascals — about 50 times the pressure of sea-level atmosphere. That squashes the gaps between the cell walls in the wood, shrinking the block to about 20 percent its original thickness and making it three times denser.

Researchers found that the densified wood could withstand being stretched or pulled 11.5 times harder than its natural counterpart without breaking. That makes it about as strong as steel, even though it’s more lightweight. Stainless steel pellets fired from an air gun and moving at 30 meters per second easily busted through a typical wooden plank, but got lodged in a stack of densified wood sheets with the same total thickness.

(13) ASIMOV LAUNCHED. From The Verge I Iearned — “The Falcon Heavy test flight included a copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels”.

SpaceX has just successfully launched its new Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time, and just before launch, the company revealed on its live stream that inside the rather unique cargo of a Tesla Roadster, the company had placed an “Arch” storage system containing Isaac Asimov’s Foundation book series.

An Arch is a “5D, laser optical quartz storage device” that is meant to be able to survive even in the harsh conditions of space, built by the Arch Mission Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to preserve libraries of human knowledge for interstellar travel (and to protect information in the event of calamity to Earth itself). It’s a goal that the group says was inspired by Asimov’s novels, which see mankind working to write an “Encyclopedia Galactica” to protect mankind against a coming dark age.

(14) IT’S OFFICIAL. Netflix has released Marvel’s Jessica Jones – Season 2 Official Trailer.

Jessica Jones is back as New York City’s tough-as-nails private investigator. Although this time, the case is even more personal than ever before. Fueled by a myriad of questions and lies, she will do whatever it takes to uncover the truth.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Todd Dashoff, Mark Hepworth, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Cath, Kevin Mangan, Will R., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/26/17 Tyme Scrollfari, Inc. Scrollfaris Tu Any Pixel En The Fyle

(1) OFF THE TOP OF HER HEAD. In “Nattering Social Justice Cook: Celebrating Rainbow Hair”, Cat Rambo delves into the history and symbolism of the hairstyle.

A common adjective in many of the more conservative, alt-right, and other theater-of-outrage rants I’ve seen in the past couple of years is “rainbow-haired,” never in a positive sense. It’s usually paired with some form of “social justice warrior,” and often accompanied by an emotional catch-phrase or verbiage like “feels” or “drinking the tears.” There’s a lot of interesting stuff built into that particular fixation. So let’s dig around to find what’s contained in the phrase and its use in this pejorative sense….

Rainbow hair is grounded in a counter-cultural movement. It celebrates individuality and a certain DIY spirit (there is no shame in going to the salon for it, but I find it much more fun to do my own). It celebrates one’s appearance, draws the eye rather than shrinking away from it. It is something beautiful that those who don’t fit inside normal standards of beauty can have. It is playful, joyful, delightful at times.

Very recently it has spread like wildfire, and many of the people adopting it are millennials. This gives the anti-rainbow hair sentiment a double-whammy, providing an “oh these kids nowadays” moment while slamming anyone older for acting overly young. (Which implies that’s a bad thing, which isn’t a notion I agree with).

Here’s something that I think often makes conservative minds bristle: it confuses gender norms. In traditional thinking, men aren’t supposed to care about or celebrate their appearance in the way women are. But rainbow hair appears all over the gender spectrum. Pull in the strand of meaning associated with gay pride, and the objectionability quotient increases.

There’s a reason alt-right and other manifestations of conservative trollish rhetoric so often focuses on appearance, on fat-shaming or fuckability or even how a new Ken-doll wears their hair. It’s a reversion to the schoolyard insult, the way insecure children will be cruel to others in order to try to build their internal self-worth, a behavior many, but sadly not all, outgrow. Worthy of an essay in itself is the fact that it’s also behavior advantageous to advertisers: anxious consumers who want to fit in are willing to spend money in the effort.

(2) TURNOVER AT MAD. ComicsBeat knows the name of the next bullgoose loony: “Dept. of Funny Business: Bill Morrison is named new Executive Editor of Mad Magazine” .

Ending a suspenseful watch that lasted a few months, the white smoke has finally risen from DC Entertainment, signaling the election of a new pope of humor: Bill Morrison will be the new executive editor of Mad Magazine when it moves westward later this year.

…Well, every irreplaceable person seems irreplaceable until you find someone who will do the job differently but as well, and so it is with Morrison, an animation and comic veteran who has worked with the Bongo Comics line of Simpson Comics and many other hilarious things for years. He’s a great cartoonist himself and knows the score up and down and inside out.

(3) DORTMUND DOCKET. Detailed panel notes are the highlight of Tomas Cronholm’s report about “U-Con, Eurocon 2017”.

This was a fairly small Eurocon, with 375 attending members. The venue was some kind of school, with a big hall suitable for the main programme and some smaller rooms, a bar and a dealers’ area. Perfect for the size of the convention. Here are some reports from the programme items

(4) SPACE RELIC CONSERVATION. The Apollo XI spacecraft goes on the road: “Moonwalkers’ Apollo 11 Capsule Gets Needed Primping For Its Star Turn On Earth”

Until recently, the capsule sat in the main lobby of the National Air and Space Museum, where it had been since the museum opened in 1976. Conservator Lisa Young says that occasionally workers would open up its Plexiglas case to look it over or put in new lighting.

“But it never really went under a full examination or investigative analysis as to all of the certain materials on there, how stable they are,” says Young, who is working on the spacecraft now in a restoration hangar at the Smithsonian’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., outside of Washington, D.C.

“Our big job as conservators right now is to figure out, if we are going to put it back on display permanently, what could be happening to it in 50 years,” says Young, who wants to prevent future deterioration.

(5) SKYFULL. SpaceX non-fiction double feature: “SpaceX completes launch and landing double bill”

Late on Friday, [SpaceX] used one of its refurbished Falcon 9 vehicles to put up a Bulgarian satellite from Florida.

Then on Sunday, SpaceX lofted another 10 spacecraft for telecommunications company Iridium. This time, the rocket flew out of California.

Both missions saw the Falcon first-stages come back to Earth under control to drone ships that had been positioned out on the ocean.

(6) AUTHORIAL PALETTE. There’s an overview of Ben Blatt’s research in this PRI article: “A journalist uses statistics to uncover authors’ ‘cinnamon words'”.

In the book, Blatt refers to these patterns as an author’s “stylistic fingerprint.” In one line of inquiry, he dusts for prints by calculating famous authors’ favorite words — the terms they use “at an extreme ratio” compared to other writers. He calls them “cinnamon words,” after an anecdote about the novelist Ray Bradbury.

“The motivation for looking at this was, I had read this book that just asked authors their favorite words, and Ray Bradbury said, ‘My favorite word is cinnamon because it reminds me of my grandmother’s pantry,’” Blatt says.

Sure enough, Bradbury’s fans can find the word cinnamon sprinkled throughout his writing, from descriptions of dusty roads and red-brown hills to the dark Egyptian tomb that “breathed out a sick exhalation of paprika, cinnamon and powdered camel dung.”

“So, he’s using it all the time,” Blatt says. “And building on that, I wanted to look at hundreds of other authors to see, were there other similar words that were jumping out of a writer’s inner voice.”

(7) FLUXBUN WARNING. The new PhotonFlux bar in Wellington, New Zealand will celebrate World UFO Day on July 2.

Years in the making Anton and Nina imaged what the future would be like. Will it be a post-apocalyptic survival or, a future where everybody wears the same thing and live in peace with robots in a bubble city.

Either way we want to take photos of it, gather evidence and travel there.

Photonflux is the place where possible future will be planned, discussed and changed.

The headquarters offers the revolutionary fluxbun, a fried dough filled with various flavours in a casual setting. For World UFO Day your filling will be in the hands of our creative chef.

However if you do not wish to be pleasantly surprised you can pick from our menu.

Chris Barlow gave it a thumbs up review on Google Plus.

One of a kind, a sci-fi themed bar in Wellington! Like stepping into another dimension – as you enter you’re immediately surrounded by eye-popping visuals straight out of the film set. Delicious “Flux buns” are teleported care of the in-house “galactic food truck”, complemented by an eclectic range of tap beer. A must see in Wellington.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking once hosted a reception for time travelers — but only advertised the event after it had ended. [Source: Huffington Post.]

(9) TODAY’S ANNIVERSARY BOOK

(10) LATE ADOPTER. In honor of the anniversary, John Scalzi tells how he found his way to Platform 9-3/4: “Harry Potter and the Initially Dismissive But Ultimately Appreciative Fan”.

But as it turns out neither Harry Potter nor J.K. Rowling were done with me. First, of course, it turned out that Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley (and Rowling) weren’t Tears for Fears; they were the Beatles. And like the Beatles they weren’t just popular. They materially changed common culture — for a start, because they also changed the industry that they came out of, and the work of everyone in their field, who either responded to them or were influenced by them. Now, one may, like me, decide a phenomenon like that isn’t for you, but when literally(!) the world is changing to deal with and make room for that phenomenon, you still have to acknowledge that it’s there and work with it, or at least around it. Particularly when and if, like me, it comes out of the fields (in this case publishing and writing) you hope to be in, and in my case were eventually part of.

Second, I found another way in to Rowling’s wizarding world: through the movies, which were for me in a way that I, from that snippet of the second book, assumed the books were not. In retrospect this is not at all surprising — I was a professional film critic for several years, and I’ve written two books on film, and, as anyone who has ever read my novels can tell you, the storytelling structure of film is a huge influence on my storytelling in prose. My professional and creative interest in film helped that version of Harry Potter’s story speak to me.

(11) CIRCULAR REASONING SQUAD. In a post densely filled with animated GIFs, Sarah A. Hoyt responds to her critics on the right and what they had to say about her recent Sad Puppies-themed post for Mad Genius Club.

I did not feel guilty about a) not turning over Sad Puppies to someone else. Sad Puppies was Larry’s, then Brad’s, then Kate’s, and is now mine and next year will be mostly Amanda’s. We were in it from the beginning, and we have decided long ago that it would stay within the cabal, because none of us — all of us public figures to a degree or another — can afford to have something associated with our name taken down a crazy road without us having control over it. b) Not putting up a list for the Hugos — I was never going to put up a list. And I feel queasy about encouraging people to vote for an award that has been so thoroughly tainted. c) Not putting up a list for the Dragon. The Dragon is bigger than any of us. Some small names got in last year, but they were just because it was the first time. Right now I’m not big enough for the dragons, and I doubt any who covet it are either. d) I thought it was time to get out from between the fight of the Volksdeutshe expatriate and the guardians of chorfdom…

And she addresses specific criticisms about her latest Mad Genius Club post by saying she doesn’t understand why they’re down on her.

So, imagine my surprise when my post immediately attracted two commenters yelling at me for… well… actually I have no idea because most of it makes no sense. You guys can see the comments yourselves. There’s something about me looking down on people who don’t use the right oyster fork. You guys know my background and my question on this is… there’s a FORK? FOR OYSTERS? Why?

The other one apparently had something about me slandering other puppy-descended movements, which frankly… was news to me. First slander doesn’t mean what they think it means. Second, I’m fairly sure to slander them I’d have to mention them, and I don’t recall I have, except for Superversive, for whose anthology, Forbidden thoughts I wrote a short story. (It was as a press of that name needs to make it a rather more on-the-nose anthology than I’d have made it, but the point is I wasn’t the editor, the stories weren’t mine to choose, and it would be a funny world if my aesthetics were the only ones that counted, right? So, saying they have different tastes from me doesn’t count as a slander, right? particularly when I still wrote for them. Either that or I don’t know what slander means. Maybe I slandered them BY writing for them? I’m SOOOOOOO confused.)

(12) UNFRIENDLY FIRE. In addition to the comments there, Hoyt’s Mad Genius Club post about Sad Puppies also attracted some large bore artillery fire from Russell Newquist, “This Is What A Complete Leadership Failure Looks Like”, for the inactivity of SP5 in general, and her chastising Declan Finn for trying to jumpstart it last January.

Sarah Hoyt’s leadership of the Sad Puppies V campaign is a classic case study in leadership failure. If you ever want the absolute pitch perfect example of what not to do in a leadership position, look no further. This tale has everything: incompetence, insanity, bullying, harassment, technical difficulties, lack of vision, and just plain bitchiness. If I tried to create an example of bad leadership from scratch, I couldn’t make one this complete. If she were trying to destroy the Sad Puppies campaign and help the other side, she couldn’t have done a better job of it.

This, my friends, is a tail of abject, utter fail.

Sad Puppies V (SPV from here out) failed in literally every conceivable way, so this may take a bit. Bear with me….

(13) POLITICAL AUTOPSY. I spotted the Hoyt and Newquist links above in Camestros Felapton’s post “Sad Popcorn” where he tries to make sense of it all. If that’s possible.

(14) D&D HISTORY. Cecilia D’Anastasio tells Kotaku readers “Dungeons & Dragons Wouldn’t Be What It Is Today Without These Women”, though her very first illustration seems strangely out of synch with the rest of her case:

Almost every copy of the first Dungeons & Dragons adventure written by a woman is buried in a landfill in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

Those copies, published in 1980, were the masterwork of a game designer named Jean Wells, who worked for D&D’s first publisher, TSR. Wells designed Palace of the Silver Princess to her tastes, and with no regard for TSR’s mandate to make the game more kid-friendly. At one point in the module, players encounter a beautiful young woman hanging from the ceiling, naked, by her own hair. “Nine ugly men can be seen poking their swords lightly into her flesh, all the while taunting her in an unknown language,” the module reads. In-game, this scene turns out to be a simple magical illusion—but the accompanying illustration included in the module that TSR shipped to hobby shops nationally was not.

“A little bit of bondage here, a little torture there, worked its way into the Palace of the Silver Princess module,” Stephen Sullivan, a close friend of Wells and the adventure’s editor, told me. After it was properly reviewed—post-production—TSR’s executives went ballistic. Seventy-two hours after Palace of the Silver Princess was released, it was retracted.

“It was what Jean wanted it to be,” Sullivan said of the module. (Wells passed away in 2012.) “It was her baby. And for another place and another time, it probably would have been just perfect,” Sullivan said. Those retracted modules, now dubbed the “orange versions,” are buried somewhere under Lake Geneva’s flat, Midwestern landscape. It was soon rewritten by D&D designer Tom Moldvay and redistributed with Wells’ name relegated to the second credit.

(15) TOP NOVELS. Edmonton’s Hugo Award Book Club has been burning the midnight oil: here’s their discussion of two more nominees.

Second-Book Syndrome

Perhaps the book suffers from being the second in a trilogy. As such, it can’t have the originality and vigor of a first book and also can’t have as epic a conclusion as a third book.

Jemisin’s strength as a writer and deft social commentary make this a worthwhile read. Questions of race, class and gender are explored thoughtfully and with nuance. The characters speak with their own voices, and grow.

Alabaster’s slow decline as he tries to pass along knowledge to Essun, and Essun’s growing control of her magic could have been nothing more than a Hero’s Journey ™ like that of Obi-Wan and Luke. But Jemisin’s more nuanced character building elevates this relationship to something more touching and poignant.  Again, she raises the readers’ expectations as they progress through the book.

 The End Is Nigh Again

One of the recurring themes in “big” science fiction is the impending end of the world. In Death’s End, the end of the world is nigh on no fewer than six occasions, only to be averted suddenly through deux et machina each time.  The frequency of these calamities within the book, and how precipitously they are forgotten devalues them, and left our book group struggling to care.

The character of Cheng Xin is one of the weakest parts of the book, as none of us were really able to understand her motivations or her personality. She’s faced with conflict after conflict throughout the book, and presented with a wide variety of moral dilemmas, but through it all she remains a cypher.

In the previous two books the author wrote from several points of view other than the main character.

Death’s End focuses almost solely on Cheng Xin, with just a brief portion from Tianming’s perspective. This leaves other interesting characters — like Luo Ji and Wade — on the sidelines. The omission of their perspectives is a missed opportunity that points to the lack of depth in the book.

(16) HUGO QUIP. No reviews in this post this post by Camestros Felapton, but there’s a lively bon mot:

Best Series – the category that somehow manages to combine elements of both the protestant work ethic and Catholic guilt in one package.

(17) DARK TOWER. A new featurette from The Dark Tower – The Legacy of the Gunslinger.

There are other worlds than these. Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, the ambitious and expansive story from one of the world’s most celebrated authors, makes its launch to the big screen. The last Gunslinger, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), has been locked in an eternal battle with Walter O’Dim, also known as the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), determined to prevent him from toppling the Dark Tower, which holds the universe together. With the fate of the worlds at stake, good and evil will collide in the ultimate battle as only Roland can defend the Tower from the Man in Black.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Greg Hullender, Nigel, Cat Rambo, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 5/4/17 Her Pixels Scrolled Up Forever

(1) SUN GOES POSTAL. Daniel Dern, who has an eye for science fictional and related kinds of cool postage stamps, points to plans for this year’s “Total Eclipse of the Sun to be commemorated on a Forever Stamp”.  On June 20, the US Postal Service will issue a pair of stamps capable of a unique special effect:

In the first U.S. stamp application of thermochromic ink, the Total Solar Eclipse stamps will reveal a second image. Using the body heat of your thumb or fingers and rubbing the eclipse image will reveal an underlying image of the Moon (Espenak also took the photograph of the Full Moon). The image reverts back to the eclipse once it cools.

Thermochromic inks are vulnerable to UV light and should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible to preserve this special effect. To help ensure longevity, the Postal Service will be offering a special envelope to hold and protect the stamp pane for a nominal fee.

The back of the stamp pane [ a sheet, looks like of 8 stamps] provides a map of the August 21 eclipse path and times it may appear in some locations.

Tens of millions of people in the United States hope to view this rare event, which has not been seen on the U.S. mainland since 1979. The eclipse will travel a narrow path across the entire country for the first time since 1918. The path will run west to east from Oregon to South Carolina and will include portions of 14 states.

The June 20, 1:30 p.m. MT First-Day-of-Issue ceremony will take place at the Art Museum of the University of Wyoming (UW) in Laramie. The University is celebrating the summer solstice on June 20. Prior to the event, visitors are encouraged to arrive at 11:30 a.m. to witness a unique architectural feature where a single beam of sunlight shines on a silver dollar embedded in the floor, which occurs at noon on the summer solstice in the UW Art Museum’s Rotunda Gallery.

(2) BEAM UP MY MAIL. Dern says the eclipse stamp promises to be as cool as Canada’s “Star Trek – Transporter” stamp series, which he was able to get while there last summer.

A tribute to the high-tech world of Star Trek, this stamp uses lenticular printing, a method that makes images appear in motion when viewed from different angles. A homage to the show’s most famous technology – the transporter – and one of its most popular episodes, “The City on the Edge of Forever,” they bring the beloved series to the “miniature screen.”

Stamp designer Kosta Tsetsekas, of Vancouver-based Signals Design Group, saw lenticular as an opportunity to recognize the show’s futuristic vision and the special effects that brought it to life.

“I felt that lenticular, developed in the 1940s, had a bit of a low-tech feel that really mirrored the TV special effects used in the original Star Trek series. Thanks to newer technology, it is now possible to show a lot more motion.”

The set also includes one of Spock and Kirk passing through the Guardian of Forever in the “City on the Edge of Forever” episode.

(3) TAKE NOTE. SCORE: A Film Music Documentary features interviews with nearly 60 composers, directors, orchestrators, studio musicians, producers, recording artists, studio executives, In theaters June 26.

This documentary brings Hollywood’s premier composers together to give viewers a privileged look inside the musical challenges and creative secrecy of the world’s most widely known music genre: the film score.

CAST: Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, John Williams, Trent Reznor, James Cameron, Randy Newman, Quincy Jones, Junkie XL, Howard Shore, Alexandre Desplat, Steve Jablonsky, Brian Tyler

 

(4) HOW RUDE. At McSweeney’s, Kaya York gives examples of what it would look like “If People Talked About Other Things the Way They Talked About Gender Identity”. Here are two:

Subatomic particles: “Now they’re saying they discovered ‘tetraquarks’ and ‘pentaquarks’. How many combinations of quarks are there? I can’t even keep up these days. What ever happened to just talking about good old atoms?”

Cats: “A Manx is not a cat. Cats are defined as having tails. Maybe it’s a koala.”

(5) SFFH JOURNAL. Download Fantastika Journal issue 1 free. Dozens of articles and reviews, including an editorial by John Clute.

From their website:

“Fantastika” – a term appropriated from a range of Slavonic languages by John Clute – embraces the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror, but can also include alternative histories, gothic, steampunk, young adult dystopian fiction, or any other radically imaginative narrative space. The goal of Fantastika Journal and its annual conference is to bring together academics and independent researchers who share an interest in this diverse range of fields with the aim of opening up new dialogues, productive controversies and collaborations. We invite articles examining all mediums and disciplines which concern the Fantastika genres.

(6) GAME OF VAULTS. When you’ve got a license to print money, you buy more printing presses. Entertainment Weekly reports: “Game of Thrones forever: HBO developing 4 different spinoffs”.

HBO is doubling down — no, quadrupling down — on its epic quest to replace Game of Thrones.

The pay TV network is determined to find a way to continue the most popular series in the company’s history and has taken the highly unusual step of developing four different ideas from different writers. The move represents a potentially massive expansion of the popular fantasy universe created by author George R.R. Martin. If greenlit, the eventual show or shows would also mark the first time HBO has ever made a follow-up series to one of its hits….

The prequel or spinoff development battle royale is a bit like how Disney handles their Marvel and Star Wars brands rather than how a TV network tends to deal with a retiring series (Thrones is expected to conclude with its eighth-and-final season next year.) But GoT is no ordinary show — it’s an international blockbuster that delivers major revenue for HBO via subscriptions (last season averaged 23.3 million viewers in the U.S. alone), home video and merchandise licensing. Plus, there’s all those Emmys to consider (GoT set records for the most Emmys ever won in the prime-time ceremony).

(7) ANOTHER NIMOY HEARD FROM. Julie Nimoy has made a movie about her dad, too, Remembering Leonard Nimoy.

Leonard Nimoy grew up in Boston’s old West End, before urban renewal razed much of the once-ethnic neighborhood. As a kid, the future actor was mesmerized by “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” the 1939 film based on Victor Hugo’s novel.

“I remember being touched by the humanity trapped inside the Hunchback,” Nimoy says in a voice-over in “Remembering Leonard Nimoy,” a new hourlong documentary that premieres at 9?p.m. Thursday on WGBH 2. For Nimoy, Charles Laughton’s portrayal of Quasimodo was entirely relatable: “That alienation was something I learned in Boston.”

Nimoy was many things — a fine art photographer, a philanthropist, a great-grandfather, the director of “Three Men and a Baby.” But he was known universally — and we do mean universally — as Spock from “Star Trek,” the half-human, all-logic officer in the long-running science fiction franchise. After Nimoy died in early 2015, an asteroid between Jupiter and Mars was named after him.

“Remembering Leonard Nimoy” shares the same orbit as “For the Love of Spock,” the recent feature-length documentary directed by Nimoy’s son, Adam. The newer film is produced and directed by Adam’s sister Julie and her husband, David Knight. Adam Nimoy appears on-camera (as he does in his own film) and gets an adviser’s credit, so there was evidently no familial dispute about telling the famous father’s story.

(8) GORDON OBIT. Actor Don Gordon (1926-2017) died April 24. He worked a lot – seems there was hardly a series in the Fifties or Sixties he wasn’t cast in at some point. His genre roles include appearances on Space Patrol, The Twilight Zone (two episodes – “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross”: (1964) and “The Four of US Are Dying” (1960)), The Outer Limits, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Wild, Wild West, The Invaders, The Bionic Woman, The Powers of Matthew Star, Knight Rider and movies including The Final Conflict, The Beast Within, and The Exorcist III.

(9) DALBY OBIT. Editor, scholar and bookseller Richard Dalby (1949-2017) passed away May 4 at the age of 68.

He edited a succession of well-chosen and pioneering anthologies, including the Virago volumes of women’s ghost stories, the Mammoth Books of ghost stories, the Jamesian collection Ghosts & Scholars (with Rosemary Pardoe) and several popular books of Christmas ghost stories and thrillers. Other noted volumes include The Sorceress in Stained-Glass (1971), Dracula’s Brood (1989) and Tales of Witchcraft (1991), all highly respected and now much sought-after.

(10) TODAY’S DAY

Star Wars Day

“May the Fourth be with you” was first used by Margaret Thatcher’s political party to congratulate her on her election on May 4th, 1979, and the saying quickly caught on. However, the first celebration of May 4th took place much later, at the Toronto Underground Cinema in 2001. This first official Star Wars Day’s festivities included a costume contest and a movie marathon. Fans’ favorite parodies of the franchise were also enjoyed, as were some of the most popular mash-ups and remixes. Since then, Star Wars Day has gained popularity and is celebrated by Star Wars Fans worldwide.

(11) EXCEPT IN WISCONSIN. The school district has announced a “no costume” policy going forward: “Wisconsin High School Evacuated After Student Arrives in Stormtrooper Costume for Star Wars Day”

A student celebrating Star Wars Day prompted the brief evacuation of a Wisconsin high school on Thursday morning because they were wearing a Stormtrooper costume, officials said, describing it as a mix-up.

Capt. Jody Crocker, of Wisconsin’s Ashwaubenon Department of Public Safety, tells PEOPLE it happened this way:

Someone driving adjacent to Ashwaubenon High School saw a masked person entering with a large duffel bag and what appeared to to be a bullet-proof vest — but what was actually a costume of a Stormtrooper, a fictional soldier in the Star Wars franchise….

The school was evacuated for about an hour and the students were safely returned, Crocker says.

(12) DARTH WELCOME HERE. Ironically, a Tennessee hospital is perfectly fine having Darth Vader on the premises. But then, he’s not in costume. That’s just his name.

Meanwhile, ABC News chose May the Fourth to reveal Darth Vader is a 39-year-old man living in Tennessee, United States. Darthvader Williamson, that is….

Ms Knowles explained that she compromised with Darthvader’s dad, who wanted to use the full title Lord Darth Vader. She agreed to the shorter version because she “hadn’t seen the movie” and “didn’t know the character”.

Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment, “I’d say someone who names their boy after a major villain is more than a ‘serious geek’, even if it’s not naming him Sue.”

(13) PIXEL POWER. Satellites go where no man has gone before: counting albatrosses on inaccessible island steeps. The BBC tells how in “Albatrosses counted from space”.

The US government has only recently permitted such keen resolution to be distributed outside of the military and intelligence sectors.

WorldView-3 can see the nesting birds as they sit on eggs to incubate them or as they guard newly hatched chicks.

With a body length of over a metre, the adult albatrosses only show up as two or three pixels, but their white plumage makes them stand out against the surrounding vegetation. The BAS team literally counts the dots.

(14) INTERNET ABOVE THE SKY. Deployment will begin in two years — “Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to send the first of its 4,425 super-fast internet satellites into space in 2019”.

“SpaceX intends to launch the system onboard our Falcon 9 rocket, leveraging significant launch cost savings afforded by the first stage reusability now demonstrated with the vehicle,” the executive said.

The 4,425 satellites will operate in 83 orbital planes at altitudes ranging from 1,110 KM to 1,325 KM.

SpaceX argues that the U.S. lags behind other developed nations in broadband speed and price competitiveness, while many rural areas are not serviced by traditional internet providers. The company’s satellites will provide a “mesh network” in space that will be able to deliver high broadband speeds without the need for cables.

(15) FIFTIES SF NOVEL TO STAGE. London’s Br\dge Theatre lists among its future projects a production of The Black Cloud, a new play by Sam Holcroft, from the 1957 novel by Fred Hoyle. “One of the greatest works of science fiction ever written,” according to Richard Dawkins.

The New York Times reports

The London Theater Company is a new commercial venture by Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr, who previously ran the National Theater in London together; Mr. Hytner was director, overseeing artistic programming, while Mr. Starr served as executive director.

The company’s first season will take place in the new Bridge Theater, the name of which was also announced on Wednesday. The 900-seat venue, on the south side of the Thames, near Tower Bridge, is the first commercial theater of its scale to be built in London in 80 years, according to the company.

(16) SUPERNATURAL AFTERLIFE. Teresa Wickersham covered an on-stage interview with Jim Beaver for SciFi4Me.com “Planet Comicon 2017: Idjits, Death and No Bobby in Season 12 of SUPERNATURAL”.

Jim said that he just looks at the script and guesses how to play it. Usually someone will tell him if he gets it wrong. Writers create and the actor visually and orally interprets what they have created. Ninety-nine percent of what you love is the writer. “I’m happy to be here and take his (Kripke’s) money.”

Jim Beaver’s favorite episode is “Weekend at Bobby’s”, which was Jensen Ackles’ first directing experience. He said Jensen did a fine job. It was exhausting, being on screen ninety percent of the time. He said that you wouldn’t be an actor if you didn’t want to have people pay attention to you. “Look at me.” It’s not about the art at first. Probably only “Daniel Day Lewis is playing Rousseau in his kindergarten.”

One of the audience members said his sister cried when he died. “You should have seen my accountant.”

(17) HELP WANTED. Now’s your chance to get paid for something you’re already doing for free – reading horrible content on Facebook. The Guardian has the story — “Facebook is hiring moderators. But is the job too gruesome to handle?”

Ever wanted to work for Facebook? Mark Zuckerberg has just announced 3,000 new jobs. The catch? You’ll have to review objectionable content on the platform, which has recently hosted live-streamed footage of murder, suicide and rape.

In his announcement, Zuckerberg revealed that the company already has 4,500 people around the world working in its “community operations team” and that the new hires help improve the review process, which has come under fire for both inappropriately censoring content and failing to remove extreme content quickly enough. Just last week the company left footage of a Thai man killing his 11-month-old daughter on Facebook Live on the platform for a whole day.

Instead of scrutinizing content before it’s uploaded, Facebook relies on users of the social network to report inappropriate content. Moderators then review reported posts – hundreds every shift – and remove them if they fall foul of Facebook’s community standards. Facebook does not allow nudity (including female, but not male, nipples), hate speech or glorified violence.

I looked around and didn’t find these jobs being offered yet.

(18) EXTRA SENSE. Blindsight in the real world:

It ranks among the most curious phenomena in cognitive neuroscience. A handful of people in the world have “blindsight”: they are blind, but their non-conscious brain can still sense their surroundings.

Milina Cunning, from Wishaw in Scotland, lost her sight in her 20s, and later realised she had this blindsight ability. She has been studied extensively by researchers.

“If I was to throw a ping pong ball at Milina’s head, she would probably raise her arm and duck out of the way, even before she had any awareness of it,” says Jody Culham, a scientist who has scanned Cunning’s brain.

(19) SAY MR. SANDMAN. Neil Gaiman converses in his sleep: “Neil Gaiman On Returning To ‘Sandman,’ Talking In His Sleep And The Power Of Comics”

On creating a dysfunctional family for Sandman and his siblings (also known as “The Endless”)

A lot of it went back to when I started writing Sandman. Back in 1987 I began to write it. I was thinking that there really just weren’t any comics out there with families in [them] — and I love family dynamics. I love the way that families work or don’t work, I love the ways families behave, I love the way that families interact, and it seemed like that would be a really fun kind of thing to put in.

When I came over to America to do signings, people would say to me, “We love the Endless; we love Sandman and his family, they’re a wonderful dysfunctional family.” It wasn’t a phrase I had ever heard before, and I said, “Hang, on. Explain to me, what is a dysfunctional family?” And people would explain, and after a while, I realized that what Americans called a “dysfunctional family” is what we in England call “a family,” having never encountered any of these functional ones.

(20) FIRST PAST THE POLE. Racing molecules: “Microscopic Cars Square Off In Big Race”

This car race involved years of training, feats of engineering, high-profile sponsorships, competitors from around the world and a racetrack made of gold.

But the high-octane competition, described as a cross between physics and motor-sports, is invisible to the naked eye. In fact, the track itself is only a fraction of the width of a human hair, and the cars themselves are each comprised of a single molecule.

The Nanocar Race, which happened over the weekend at Le centre national de la recherché scientific in Toulouse, France, was billed as the “first-ever race of molecule-cars.”

(21) ALL FROCKED UP. The next Marvel TV series is off to a rough start: “‘Marvel’s Inhumans’ Costumes Draw Jeers: ‘Discount Halloween Store,’ ‘Walmart’”.

Entertainment Weekly released a first look at “Marvel’s Inhumans,” the studio’s latest foray into television, and it’s not going over so well.

The interview with showrunner Scott Buck doesn’t reveal much more than what we already knew about the show, but it does provide the first official picture of the group known as the Inhuman Royal Family, which will star in ABC’s eight-episode show.

The show follows the family, which features — from left to right — Gorgon (Eme Ikwuakor), Karnak (Ken Leung), Black Bolt (Anson Mount), Medusa (Serinda Swan), Crystal (Isabelle Cornish), and Maximus (Iwan Rheon). Each are Inhumans, or superpowered humans descended from aliens and possess sometimes catastrophic abilities.

The main criticism of the photo on the internet, which you can check out above, seems to focus on the costumes, which look cheap. Some people compared them to things you’d find in a Halloween store or a Hot Topic.

(22) JUST PUCKER UP. Atlas Obscura celebrates a working relic of history — the “Pneumatic System of the New York Public Library”

Put into operation in New York in 1897 by the American Pneumatic Service Company, the 27-mile system connected 22 post offices in Manhattan and the General Post office in Brooklyn. The pipes ran between 4 to 12 feet underground, and in some places the tubes ran along the subway tunnels of the 4, 5 and 6 lines. At the height of its operation it carried around 95,000 letters a day, or 1/3 of all the mail being routed throughout New York city….

But there is one wonderful New York location where the pneumatic tubes have proven quicker and more nimble then their modern-day electronic substitutes; the stacks of the NY Humanities and Social Sciences library. When one hands their paper slip to the librarian, they slip it into a small pneumatic tube and send it flying down past seven floors of books deep underground. The request is received, the book located, and it is sent up on an ever-turning oval ferris wheel of books.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, rcade, JJ, Cat Eldridge, David K.M.Klaus, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Daniel Dern, stuckinhistory, John King Tarpinian, and Chris Rose for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob.]

Eight Pieces of Science

By Carl Slaughter:

(1) 3-D printer robot constructs building. “MIT researchers create a robot that can 3-D-print a building in hours”.

The future of construction just got a little bit more real. Researchers at MIT have created a mobile robot that can 3-D-print an entire building in a matter of hours — a technology that could be used in disaster zones, on inhospitable planets or even in our proverbial backyards.

Though the platform described in the journal Science Robotics is still in early stages, it could offer a revolutionary tool for the construction industry and inspire more architects to rethink the relationship of buildings to people and the environment.

(2) Time travel is “mathematically possible.”  It’s all in the curve. “Building a real-life TARDIS is mathematically possible, say physicists”.

Tippett and colleague David Tsang from the University of Maryland have used Einstein’s theory of general relativity to come up with their mathematical model for time travel. They claim that the division of space into three dimensions, with time in a separate dimension by itself, is incorrect. Their model instead conceptualizes space-time as a continuum, whereby different directions are connected within the curved fabric of the universe.

Tippett reminds us that time is curved in the same way that space is: “The time direction of the space-time surface also shows curvature. There is evidence showing the closer to a black hole we get, time moves slower. My model of a time machine uses the curved space-time — to bend time into a circle for the passengers, not in a straight line. That circle takes us back in time.”

(3) NASA is running out of spacesuits.  (This better be a hoax.) “NASA Is Running Out of Space Suits”.

NASA seems to be running out of space suits for astronauts, according to a new report by the space agency‘s auditor, NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG)…..

(4) Mystery excuse. Elon Musk we know, but what’s the National Reconnaissance Office? “SpaceX delays launch of secretive satellite for U.S. Intelligence agency”.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has pushed back its launch of a mysterious satellite for the U.S. intelligence community because of a sensor issue.

(5) “Our laser beam is better than your laser beam.” “Straight Out of ‘Star Wars’: This ‘Death Star’ Laser Actually Works”.

 If it has a beam and if it can destroy an enemy spaceship, it’s a laser.  And a laser is a laser is a laser.  But it seems there’s always one more laser that operates differently than the others.  “Yes, but our laser uses energy transmission.”  “Yes, but our laser uses directed energy.”  “Yes, but our laser uses X-rays.”  “Yes, but our laser is more destructive than your laser.”  “Yes, but out laser is portable.”  And now, “Yes, but out laser uses convergence.”  If your laser can destroy a terrorist bomb without detonating the bomb, then you’ve got something.  Me, I’ll settle for a laser in a doctor’s office if it can eliminate the mole on my face so I don’t cut it open when I shave.

(6) Why Living On The Starship Enterprise Would Actually Be Awful.

(7) Scientist celebrities. “‘Genius’ director Ron Howard reveals why he’s on a mission to turn scientists into celebrities”.

Ron Howard’s new television series “Genius” continues the filmmaker’s decades-long love affair with science.

“Look at what Silicon Valley has meant to our economy and our ongoing influence around the world. … What we don’t want to do is cede that position to other countries, other nations, other cultures,” Howard told Business Insider.

Howard was born in 1954, was around for the first moon landings, the rise of personal computing, and the advent of the internet — but he’s also seen the missed opportunities.

“We could have had the [Large] Hadron Collider. But 15 years ago we decided not to fund that. So I’ve always lamented the fact that we didn’t stay in that pole position on that front of exploration,” he said.

(8) Fortune magazine interviews Bill Nye. “‘Science Guy’ Bill Nye’s New Mission”.

How big a danger is fake science and science denial?
Science denial is a big concern right now. Carl Sagan wrote about this 40 years ago—that if you had a society that is increasingly dependent on technology and you have fewer and fewer people who know how it all works, that’s a formula for a disaster. If we have people who refuse to get vaccinated, they become petri dishes for mutating germs. Soon we are going to have 9 or 10 billion people in the world, and those people are going to have to eat, they are going to have to get along, and they all are going to want clean water. And that depends on science—depends on technology that’s derived from science. So if you have people who don’t accept the process by which we create all this wonderful stuff, you’re going to have trouble.

Pixel Scroll 3/30/17 Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Scroll

(1) WAX TREK. The Orange County Register’s Keith Sharon should get a Pulitzer Prize for the first line of his article “$80,000 later, why this trio gave up their ‘Star Trek’ wax figures, Enterprise replica”:

Mr. Spock’s head cooled in a wooden crate for 10 years before someone noticed something was wrong.

Equally good is the rest of the article — about the fate of the wax Star Trek crew since the defunct Movieland Wax Museum sold its exhibits in 2006.

Steve and Lori had 24 hours to decide whether they wanted to pay about $40,000 for Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Uhura, Dr. McCoy, Chekov and Scott. Or they could buy just one, or just a few.

They went to Don Jose’s restaurant and had margaritas over dinner. They knew other people wanted to buy the individuals in the crew. One guy wanted to put Spock in a bar. Another guy wanted to put Captain Kirk in his house. So they decided to buy them all, to keep the crew together. They made it their mission to save the crew of the Enterprise.

“Let’s protect them,” Steve told Lori.

“We took them home and put them in our dining room,” Lori said.

That’s when it got weird. Steve couldn’t stand the life-like eyes looking at him all the time.

“We put paper bags over their heads,” Steve said.

 

Steve Greenthal puts on the head of his Captain Kirk wax figure at the Fullerton Airport before donating them to the Hollywood Sci-Fi Museum on Saturday, March 25, 2017. The figures were purchased when the Movieland Wax Museum went out of business. (Photo by Nick Agro, Orange County Register/SCNG)

(2) NOT ENOUGH HAMMER. Ursula K. Le Guin reviews Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology for The Guardian and finds it very well-written but wanting in some ways:

Gaiman plays down the extreme strangeness of some of the material and defuses its bleakness by a degree of self-satire. There is a good deal of humour in the stories, the kind most children like – seeing a braggart take a pratfall, watching the cunning little fellow outwit the big dumb bully. Gaiman handles this splendidly. Yet I wonder if he tries too hard to tame something intractably feral, to domesticate a troll.

… What finally left me feeling dissatisfied is, paradoxically, the pleasant, ingratiating way in which he tells it. These gods are not only mortal, they’re a bit banal. They talk a great deal, in a conversational tone that descends sometimes to smart-ass repartee. This chattiness will be familiar to an audience accustomed to animated film and graphic narrative, which have grown heavy with dialogue, and in which disrespect is generally treated as a virtue. But it trivialises, and I felt sometimes that this vigorous, robust, good-natured version of the mythos gives us everything but the very essence of it, the heart.

(3) FROM BUFFY TO BATGIRL. Joss Whedon is in talks to do a Batgirl movie says The Hollywood Reporter.

Whedon is in negotiations to write, direct and produce a Batgirl stand-alone movie for Warner Bros., adding another heroine to the studio’s DC cinematic universe.

Warner Bros. Pictures president Toby Emmerich will oversee the project, along with Jon Berg and Geoff Johns….

Batgirl will be the second female superhero stand-alone in Warner Bros. DCU (Wonder Woman will hit theaters on June 2). Whedon has long been credited as a pioneering voice for female-focused genre fare, having created the hit TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer two decades ago.

(4) DIETZ ESTATE SALE. Over 300 sf/f collectible books and other items from Frank Dietz’ are for sale on eBay. Dietz passed away in 2013.

He was chairman of the first 14 Lunacons, and was Fan Guest of Honor at the 2007 Lunacon. His activities as “Station Luna,” an effort to record the proceedings of many World SF Conventions, continued for many years. He recorded events at the 1951 Worldcon in New Orleans.

(5) WOTF IN TOWN. Ron Collins reports on Day 2 of the annual Writers of the Future Workshop.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Andrew Peery told me during a break after the opening session. He meant it in a good way. Peery, from North Carolina, is the 4th quarter first prize winner. The group had just walked through the Author Services Hall of Writers and been given a presentation of past judges throughout the contest’s history. People here have asked me how things have changed in the 18 years since my last visit. One thing that’s different is that the list of judges has gotten a little longer and a little more prominent. It’s very cool to think about.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the purpose of the workshop.

“Our goal in this workshop is to help you train yourself to be a professional writer,” Dave Farland said in his opening remarks. He and Tim [Powers] then covered several topics, focusing on things like how to develop writerly habits, how stories are structured, and how to create and use suspense. And that was just before lunch. Along the way the two of them did a little brotherly bickering about the speed with this things should be done. “If you’re here, we already know you’re good,” Dave said. “But now we want to help you think about producing that good work more quickly.” Tim, followed that up with: “My first drafts take forever and are never any good.” Then he explained why that was just fine by him. I’ve seen that before, but, yeah, it holds up on second viewing! It’s always great to see how creativity is different for two such high-caliber artists.

Other authors have written about Day 1 and Day 3.

(6) EGYPT IN SF. Tim Powers was recently interviewed by Rachel Connor and described his preparation.

Rachel: I was first introduced to your work when I read The Anubis Gates, a historical fiction with time-travel, Victorian corruption and ancient Egyptian folklore. Can you tell us a little about your approach to historical fiction? What is it about a certain period of time that intrigues you?

Tim: A novel for me generally starts with something I stumble across in recreational non-fiction reading. I’ll notice some peculiarity — like Edison working on a phone to talk to dead people with, or Albert Einstein going to a séance — and I’ll start to wonder if a story might not be built around what I’m reading.

If I come across another oddity or two — like Edison’s last breath being preserved in a test tube in a museum in Michigan, or Einstein turning out to have had a secret daughter who disappears from history in 1902 — I’ll decide that this isn’t recreational reading after all, but research for a book.

For The Anubis Gates, it was a note in one of Lord Byron’s letters. He said that several people had recognized him in London at a particular date in 1810, when at that time he was in fact in Turkey, very sick with a fever.

I wondered how he might have a doppelganger, and started reading all about Byron, and his doctor in Turkey, and London at the time, looking for clues

(7) EVERY JOT AND TITTLE. Tom Easton and Michael Burstein’s collaborative short story Sofer Pete” has been published in Nature

The visitors were crowded against one wall of bookcases, facing a large table on which was stretched a long piece of parchment. An inkwell filled with black ink sat off to the side. A hand holding a traditional goose-quill pen moved over the parchment, leaving rows of Hebrew characters behind it more quickly than a human hand ever could.

Because the hand did not belong to a human. The gleaming metal hand belonged to a humanoid robot seated on the other side of the table. Its name was Pete.

(8) THANKS DAD! Most people know Joe Hill’s father is Stephen King. Here’s what happened when young Joe turned to him for advice….

(9) “EVERY WINDOW’S A SEAT”. How much will people pay to be in space for a few minutes? “Jeff Bezos just revealed a mock-up of the spacecraft his rocket company will use to take tourists into space”.

Each launch will rocket a handful of wealthy tourists more than 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth on a roughly 11-minute trip.

Near the top of a high arc, the rocket will detach from the space capsule, which will fall toward the ground, granting passengers about four minutes of weightlessness and letting them take in an incredible view of the fringes of our planet’s outer atmosphere.

(10) GHOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST. The BBC says the animated Ghost in the Shell was good, but the live-action is better.

The Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell isn’t just one of the most acclaimed science-fiction cartoons ever made, it’s one of the most acclaimed science-fiction films, full stop. Conceptually and visually breathtaking, Mamoru Oshii’s cyberpunk detective flick bridged the gap between analogue blockbusters and digital ones, between Blade Runner and The Terminator, with their cyborgs and androids, and The Matrix and Avatar, with their body-swaps and virtual realities. The makers of The Matrix, in particular, were happy to acknowledge that they were following in Oshii’s future-noir footsteps.

The question is, then, is it worth bothering with a belated live-action version? Considering that the cartoon is now a cult classic, and that several other films have taken its innovations and run with them, can a mega-budget Hollywood remake have anything of its own to offer? The answer to both questions is a definite yes.

(11) RELAUNCH. First reuse of a SpaceX recoverable boosterNPR reports:

SpaceX launched a communications satellite from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida using a rocket stage that has already been to space and back. SpaceX is betting that this kind of recycling will lower its costs and revolutionize space flight.

(12) NOT FIVE? At the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog, Corinna Lawson shares the four rules that tell her “How to Know When It’s Okay to Read a Series out of Order”.

  1. When the character arcs are resolved by book’s end

In Sins of Empire, there are three leads, and all set out on emotional journeys that are fully resolved by book’s end.

Meanwhile, ASoIaF readers are still waiting to see what happens via-à-vis Jamie Lannister’s redemption arc, whether the Khaleesi will ever seize her birthright, if Tyrion’s suffering will amount to anything, or if Jon Snow will ever stop flailing about and realize who and what he is.

In Bujold’s The Warrior’s Apprentice, a young man who dreams of being a soldier finds more than he bargained for, and, at the end, his journey has a resolution, despite a fair dozen books that follow.

But Bishop’s Others, series, well, readers have been waiting for four books to see what happens with Simon and Meg, and though their patience is rewarded, it took four other books to get there.

(13) REVIEW HAIKU. Aaron Pound begins with a 17-syllable plot summary, then goes on to tell why he loved Kelly Sue DeConnick’s graphic story Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1: The Shrike.

Full review: I must confess that I obtained this book almost solely because it was written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, and at this point I am pretty much willing to at least take a look at anything she writes. Pretty Deadly not only met the high expectations I have for work from DeConnick, it exceeded them. This is, quite bluntly, mythic storytelling that manages to be both epic in scale and simultaneously intensely personal. Told via a combination of tight and brilliant writing from DeConnick and stunningly beautiful and evocative artwork from Emma Rios, this story presents a violent and visceral enigma shrouded in mystery wrapped up in magic, gunfights, and swordplay.

(14) THREE SHALL BE THE NUMBER THOU SHALT COUNT. This is a public service announcement from N.K. Jemisin.

(15) KORSHAK COLLECTION. An exhibit from “The Korshak Collection: Illustrations of Imaginative Literature” will be on display April 10-May 16 at the Albin O Kuhn Library and Gallery on the University of Maryland Baltimore County campus. The collection, now owned by Stephen Korshak, was started by his father Erle Korshak, past Worldcon chair and founder of the imprint Shasta Publishers, and has its own impressive website.

Truly a vision of the fantastic, this exhibition is an amazing exploration of both illustrative art and the evolution of the visual landscape of science fiction and fantasy literature. Featuring work by both American and European artists and spanning more than a century, these vivid illustrations bring to life adventures, beings, and worlds conjured in novels such as Don Quixote, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Tarzan, and pulp magazines including Amazing Stories, Weird Tales, Fantastic Adventures, and Wonder Stories. Accomplishing far more than simply guiding readers in their explorations of new and sometimes bizarre realms, the range and impact of these illustrations is far-reaching.

The exhibition will also include books, pulp magazines, and other items drawn from UMBC’s Rosenfeld Collection, revealing how the illustrations in the Korshak Collection were meant to appear when encountered as artifacts of material culture.

(16) BEYOND ORWELL. The 2084 Kickstarter has funded. The collection —

features 11 stories from leading science fiction writers who were all asked the same question – what will our world look like 67 years from now? The anthology features new and exclusive stories from:

Jeff Noon, Christopher Priest, James Smythe, Lavie Tidhar, Aliya Whiteley, David Hutchinson, Cassandra Khaw, Desirina Boskovich, Anne Charnock, Ian Hocking, and Oliver Langmead.

(17) BOOKS WERE SOLD. This is John Scalzi’s executive summary of The Collapsing Empire’s first week:

So, in sum: Top selling science fiction hardcover in the US, second-best-selling audio book in the US, my highest debut on the USA Today bestseller list, and a TV deal.

That’s a pretty good week, y’all.

Fuller details at the post.

(18) JURY CALL. The Shadow Clarke Jury continues to review its Clarke Award picks.

I put this novel on my shadow shortlist after reading the opening chapters on Amazon, because I was fascinated by the premise: the seemingly inexplicable overnight irruption of masses of full-grown trees into our familiar world. I said, when I explained my choices, that I was intrigued because it reminded me somewhat of John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, in which the world is transformed, first by meteors, which cause mass blindness, and then by the apparently coordinated escape of the triffids, seizing the opportunities afforded by this new blindness. I was curious to see how much The Trees might be in conversation with Triffids more than half a century on.

De Abaitua wrote one of the most complex and difficult novels from 2015, If Then, and I still find myself wondering about it at random times. I was so taken by that strange novel about an algorithmic society in decay—a novel that feels so uneven on the surface, yet so complete in substance—I couldn’t articulate my thoughts well enough to write a decent review. Since then, The Destructives has been on my “most anticipateds” list. Placed on a Clarke award shortlist only once before, for The Red Men in 2008, de Abaitua was unaccountably left off the list for If Then in 2016. The Destructives is the latest piece in this abstract thematic series and, given its scope, it seems primed to make up for last year’s Clarke snub.

Any work of fiction is a formal exercise in the controlled release and withholding of information. What is withheld and for how long is a key element in how we read the work and even how we classify it. To give an obvious example, in a detective story in the classical mode it is essential that the identity of the killer is withheld until the last page, the structure of the novel is therefore dictated by the need to steadily release information that leads towards this conclusion without actually pre-empting it. How successful the novel is depends upon the skill with which this information is managed. If too much is given away so that readers can guess whodunnit too early, the work is adjudged a failure; similarly, if too little is revealed so that the denouement comes out of the blue, it is seen as a cheat and again the work fails.

In a recent article for the Guardian, ‘How to build a feminist utopia’, Naomi Alderman briefly sets out some pragmatic measures for helping pave the way to a world in which genitals, hormones and gender identification don’t matter because ‘everyone gets to be both vulnerable and tough, aggressive and nurturing, effortlessly confident and inclusively consensus-building, compassionate and dominant’. Among suggestions such as trying to establish equal parenting as the norm and teaching boys to be able to express their emotions, she also proposes teaching every girl self-defence at school from the age of five to sixteen. In effect, this is what happens in The Power when it becomes apparent that a generation of teenage girls across the world have developed the capacity to emit electric shocks. The only difference is that this doesn’t just allow the girls to defend themselves against male violence but instead enables them to become the aggressors.

(19) STATUARY GRIPE. Copied to Twitter, a grumpy letter to the editor from a “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” type about a proposed Terry Pratchett statue.

(20) TV IS COMING. HBO’s latest series promo, Game of Thrones Season 7: Long Walk.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, rcade, Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, David K.M.Klaus, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 12/23 Baby it scrolls outside

(1) YULE LOVE IT. Camestros Felapton sends holiday greetings to the Filers in his video “The Christmas Tree.”

(2) SCHWARTZ YES. “Mel Brooks’ ‘Spaceballs’ sequel is a go – ‘The Schwartz Awakens’ posters spoof ‘The Force Awakens’” at Inquisitr.

The Spaceballs movie was notorious at spoofing the Star Wars franchise, and is at it again. With The Force Awakens having been released, it would make sense to spoof it. According to The Nerdist and to long time comedic genius Mel Brooks, it’s going to become a reality.

And there are posters:

(3) SCHWARTZ NO. Some doubt the Schwartz will really be with us, however — “Spaceballs 2 Hoping For 2016 Shoot” at Yahoo! News.

But there are also a few solid reasons why it’s still far from certain though. Mainly that ‘Spaceballs’ only grossed $38.1 million from its $22.7 million budget back in 1987, while as both John Candy and Joan Rivers have sadly died since its release and Moranis has retired, it would be a big ask to replicate the camaraderie of the original.

(4) GEOMETRIC LOGIC. John Scalzi has reasons — “How I Am Able to Forgive the Absolutely Appalling Science in the Most Recent (and Indeed Every) Star Wars Film” at Whatever.

As explained by me to my wife as we drove home last night from The Force Awakens:

Me: See, the reason the bad science in Star Wars films doesn’t really bother me is because the movies tell you right up front that they’re based on legends, right?…

(5) STICKS THE LANDING. “Elon Musk’s SpaceX Completes Historic Rocket Landing” at the Wall Street Journal. The story is behind a paywall. (Via Jerry Pournelle.)

Space Exploration Technology Corp. executed an impressive return to flight Monday by flawlessly launching an upgraded variant of its Falcon 9 rocket and then maneuvering a big part back to earth for a pinpoint, precedent-setting landing.

SpaceX, as the closely held Southern California company is known, achieved the dual goals in the wake of a high-profile launch explosion six months ago, which put all Falcon 9 flights on hold and prompted a broad reassessment of the booster’s design and inspection procedures.

After a trouble-free countdown and liftoff of the roughly 230-foot-tall booster from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, SpaceX delivered 11 commercial satellites into low-earth orbit, completing Orbcomm Inc. ’s planned constellation.

But the most daunting—and closely watched—portion of the mission occurred more than eight minutes after blastoff, once the spent first stage plummeted toward earth, used its thrusters to steadily slow and then touched down vertically—surrounded by a huge plume of exhaust—on a landing area in the same iconic space complex.

The gentle landing, after several failed attempts to return an identical section of the booster to a barge, marked the first time any large rocket has managed a controlled recovery after delivering a payload into orbit.

(6) GINGERBREAD FAN. “Star Wars, Doctor Who and Star Trek gingerbread to geek up your holidays” from CNET.

One of my favorite geeky gingerbread creations has to be the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. It’s considered the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, but when you re-create it with gingerbread it quickly becomes the tastiest ship that can make the Kessel Run to my stomach in less than 12 parsecs.

 

gingerbread TARDIS

(7) TEA WRECKS. Ann Leckie is trying out Yak Butter Tea.

But. When I discovered that I could buy actual Instant Yak Butter Tea, I knew I’d have to get some and try it. I mean, I don’t have the same tea-research needs that I used to, before I finished the Ancillary Trilogy, but I’m generally attracted to foods and drinks I’ve never tried before.

(8) Today In History

  • December 23, 1823 — A Visit From St. Nicholas, attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, first published.

(9) THE COUNTESS. Stephen Wolfram tries “Untangling the Tale of Ada Lovelace” at Backchannel.

Ada Lovelace was born 200 years ago this month. To some she is a great hero in the history of computing; to others an overestimated minor figure. I’ve been curious for a long time what the real story is. And in preparation for her bicentennial, I decided to try to solve what for me has always been the “mystery of Ada.”

It was much harder than I expected. Historians disagree. The personalities in the story are hard to read. The technology is difficult to understand. The whole story is entwined with the customs of 19th-century British high society. And there’s a surprising amount of misinformation and misinterpretation out there.

But after quite a bit of research?—?including going to see many original documents?—?I feel like I’ve finally gotten to know Ada Lovelace, and gotten a grasp on her story. In some ways it’s an ennobling and inspiring story; in some ways it’s frustrating and tragic.

(10) LIST OF BEST COULD BE BETTER. The Guardian has published “Best books of 2015 – part one”. Not very much sf&f in the opening stanza. Two notable mentions — Patrick Ness plugs The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, and Sara Taylor lists The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

(11) NORTH SMUGGLES. Meanwhile, at The Book Smugglers, Claire North contributes “A Comic-Store Romance”.

You all know the place. The walls are lined with posters. Originals from 1980s B-movies, tentacled monsters from the deep. Signed pictures of space-wandering heroines and time-travelling adventurers. Shelves of action figures, some DVDs – the odd blockbuster, but more manga, obscure tales of zombie spacemen and daft vampire romps.

Then there’s the books, classic, revered titles, then the comics.

And then, there’s the people….

  • A man, black leather jacket, crucifix, star of David and Wiccan pentagram slung round his neck; owns all the works of Alan Moore, including unwrapped editions kept sacred, and the more crinkled editions which as a child he read, naughty, under the blankets of the bed, eyes wide and mind reeling as the world was changed forever….

(12) ON THE BALL. “Relive all the costumed shenanigans of 2015 with the 8 best mascot moments of the year” at Major League Basball’s Cut 4. Martin Morse Wooster says, “I sent you the post from Major League Baseball because of the Phillie Phanatic dancing with the Star Wars cast.” The other sf/f selections involve a dancing dino, and astronauts slipping on a banana peel.

(13) SET YOUR DVR. The Defiant Ones (1958) will air on Turner Classic Movies this Tuesday the  29th at 12:00 midnight Eastern, Lon Chaney as Big Sam, starring with Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier, his last role for director Stanley Kramer.

(14) MILD SPOILER ALERT. “Neil DeGrasse Tyson Fact-Checked The New ‘Star Wars’ Movie – And fans were quick to accuse him of ruining the fun” reports Huffington Post.

(15) NO IDEA IF IT NEEDS A SPOILER ALERT. I’m not reading reviews yet because I still haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t tell you whether Abigail Nussbaum’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens”  needs a warning label.

(16) HELP IS ON THE WAY. Tasmin Silver asks “What Is Your Quick Sand and How Do You Get Out?” at Magical Words.

WE ALL GET STUCK…even the authors you look up to. So don’t ever think less of yourself for hitting the ball into the sand trap. You’ll find your way out and the next story you do, you’ll be a better writer because of it. Whatever you do, don’t quit. Sure, you might have to put it aside for awhile to clear your head…but do go back, trust me, it makes a big difference in your confidence as a writer to go back.

(17) FORTY-NINER. The 49th California International Antiquarian Book Fair takes place February 12-14, 2016 in Pasadena, CA.

Come to the California International Antiquarian Book Fair and take part in an incredible opportunity to browse and buy books from over 200 booksellers from around the world.

“Even if you are not a collector, if you have ever read a book, it’s a place to go to find out what you haven’t read, or just what you haven’t seen or didn’t know exists.” – Tony Bill, Actor, Director, Producer, Book Collector

(18) GEEKY TRUTHS. Eric Christensen reviews Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths by Ryan Britt at Fantasy Faction.

I know that if I say Luke Skywalker Can’t Read has something for every species of sci-fi and fantasy nerd, that this implies a sort of lowest-common-denominator writing. But that is not the case here. I mean that he covers so many topics that a glance at the table of contents is enough to hook just about any reader. For example, Britt writes about why we shouldn’t get upset about rapid-fire reboots of superheroes, why Tolkien was just as big a revisionist as George Lucas (although maybe better at it), why the Back to the Future movies are built on fake nostalgia and paradoxes (why is Biff Tannen’s family tree missing every other generation?), or why Sherlock Holmes lives at the heart of pop culture. And of course there is the eponymous essay that argues that everyone in the Star Wars world is functionally illiterate (which does put lines about “hokey religions and ancient weapons” in a very new light).

(19) MATHEMATICAL PROOF. These are all YA but not all sf/f – “Top Ten of 2015: Book Boyfriends” at Dark Faerie Tales. Anyway, a Top 10 has two fifths, so it must belong in the Scroll.

  1. John from The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

I was instantly drawn to John’s goodness and kind heart. He is an amazing healer but he is totally humble about it.  Then to top it, he is tall, dark, and handsome! What’s not to love???

(20) DOUBLE DOWN ON FIVE. Pornokitsch has its own way of scoring two fifths — “Five for 2015: 5 Great Games of the Year”.

Destiny: The Taken King

This odd hybrid of first-person sci-fi shooter and ‘massively multiplayer online’ game had a bumpy first year. People expected greatness from developer Bungie – the people behind the beloved Halo series of games – but Destiny’s initial release was met with a chorus of ‘meh’.  It wasn’t a bad game, but it was hampered by a damp squib of a main storyline and a shallowness of content. The latter was an especially big problem: Destiny was designed as a game to be lived in, a game to return to time and time again. If there wasn’t enough to do, enough material to keep people occupied, then it could hardly be considered a success on its own terms. Two small expansions helped patch things up, but it wasn’t until this year’s grand new phase of content, released effectively as its own game, that Destiny finally hit its stride.

(21) WIKI WAG. Mark Lawrence asks “Is Grimdark a thing?” but how can he say no when he is one of its leading exponents?

I was impressed to discover that there’s a definition (of sorts) of Grimdark on Wikipedia … and I’m on it!

Cited on the page with me as examples (presumably prime) of Grimdark authors are Joe Abercrombie and Richard K Morgan, neither of whom I’ve read, and George RR Martin, who I have read.

The key ingredients of Grimdark appear to be:

Nihilism, Violence, Darkness, Dystopian, Moral ambiguity / Lack of moral certainty

Now, I can’t claim an overview – I haven’t even read two thirds of my fellow examples! But if I constitute one of the four pillars of the alleged sub-genre (even as the least and last) then it might be instructive to see how these key ingredients apply to my work….

[Thanks to Will R., Amy Sterling Casil, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome.]

Pixel Scroll 9/11 ETA: The Scrollers Support Me in Email

(1) James H. Burns recalls the effects of 9/11 on Broadway in “Delphinus, in the Northern Sky” (posted in 2012).

It’s eleven years later, and we’re still here. Still able to perform, or write, or otherwise create, or, also wonderful, to be able to embrace those passions.

I was just thinking of the guts it took for the actors who resumed their places on the stage so soon after that day in September.

Remember the courage it took, for some of us, just to walk down the street. And these folks were resuming one of the toughest challenges, in the arts.

(2) Melbourne has a website that maps every one of its city trees. Citizens can report a particular tree’s condition and get the city to attend to it. The website has a button “Email this tree,” short for “Email the city about this tree.”

Except, as fans will do, many take the label literally, and email the tree about life, the universe, and everything.

People around the world have been e-mailing trees in Melbourne to confess their love.

As part of the Urban Forest Strategy — implemented to combat the steady decline of trees following a 13 year drought — the city assigned all of the Melbourne’s 77000 trees individual emails.

The idea was residents could use these emails to report trees that had been vandalised or were in a severe state of decline.

Only, people decided to make another use for the email and began writing love letters to their favourite trees….

Weeping Myrtle, Tree ID 1494392

Hello Weeping Myrtle,

I’m sitting inside near you and I noticed on the urban tree map you don’t have many friends nearby. I think that’s sad so I want you to know I’m thinking of you.

I also want to thank you for providing oxygen for us to breath in the hustle and bustle of the city.

Best Regards,

N …

Variegated Elm, Tree ID 1033102

Dear Elm, I was delighted to find you alive and flourishing, because a lot of your family used to live in the UK, but they all caught a terrible infection and died.

Do be very careful, and if you notice any unfamiliar insects e-mail an arboriculturist at once.

I miss your characteristic silhouettes and beautifully shaped branches — used to be one of the glories of the English landscape — more than I can say.

Melbourne must be a beautiful city.

Sincere good wishes

D

The Urban Forest Strategy will see 3000 new trees planted in Melbourne each year and since its implementation in 2012, 12000 new trees have been added to the city’s urban landscape.

(3) Step inside Crew Dragon, SpaceX’s next-generation spacecraft designed to carry humans to the International Space Station and other destinations.

(4) Major league baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates welcomed back devoted Batman fan A.J. Burnett by sending up the Bat-Signal.

(5) Need a little adventure in your life? Tor.com is seeking an in-house publicity coordinator.

This person will work with publicity and editorial departments and contacts throughout all of genre publishing, developing plans for comprehensive book coverage on Tor.com and assisting with publisher and author outreach. They will also be responsible for encouraging and moderating conversation between readers on the site and on social media.

This is a full-time position working in our New York office. Ideally, we are looking for a candidate with at least 2 years of publishing experience, who is outgoing, extremely organized, and detail-oriented. Applicants should be both highly enthusiastic and knowledgeable about science fiction and fantasy across a range of media….

(6) Did I forget to mention – issue 24 of Hugo-winning fanzine Journey Planet, the Richard III theme issue, is available online. This issue contains a series of articles by Steven H Silver, Joan Szechtman, Chuck Serface,  K.A. Laity,  Ruth Pe Palileo and  Pixie P.as welll as pieces by editors James Bacon and Chris Garcia. The cover, some interior and technical art work was provided by Autun Purser, a full-time deep sea ecologist, who has created a series of travel posters, advertising travel to destinations from unusual fiction – the “Fantastic Travel Destinations.”

Bosworth_JP _cover_issue24 COMP

(7) Kevin Standlee shares several examples that show why Hugo Administrators aren’t activists.

  1. 1989 and A Brief History of Time (Scroll down and click “further detail” for a bit more information.) In 1989, Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time had sufficient nominations to make the final ballot. The Administrator ruled it ineligible, as the definition of Best Non-Fiction Book (the title of the category now known as Best Related Work) at that time said that the book had to be about “science fiction, fantasy, or fandom,” and thus the Administrator ruled that science books weren’t eligible. This decision was controversial. There were attempted changes to the WSFS Constitution that year that were eventually rejected, IMO mainly because nobody could agree on a consistent proposal. It took several years of argument, but eventually the 1996 WSFS Business Meeting passed (and the 1997 meeting ratified) the change of the category from “Best Non-Fiction Book” to “Best Related Book,” thus:

Any work whose subject is related to the field of science fiction, fantasy, or fandom, appearing for the first time in book form during the previous calendar year, and which is either non-fiction or, if fictional, is noteworthy primarily for aspects other than the fictional text.

Note that ABHOT would have been eligible under this wording.

(8) Naturellement !

(9) These Black Mouse Printing Titanium Steel His and Hers Band Couple Rings are cute as the dickens and go for only $59.

Black Mouse rings

(10) Cat Valente in a comment on Jay Maynard’s award proposal at Black Gate

…Because it’s simply not right to say a good story has no message. Story and message are not separable, hostile camps demanding loyalty only to one or the other. A good story has themes. A good story is about something. A good story is not only about things that happen one after the other, but about why they happen, and how, and to whom, and how all those things interconnect. And all that can happen WITH ray guns and explosions and buxom princesses. It happens literally all the time. One does not kick the other out of bed for eating crackers.

The author always, ALWAYS, communicates their own culture and experience through their fiction. There is no writing without that cultural electricity animating it. It’s not good or bad. It just is. We cannot help it, we are human. To say that Ancillary Justice is message fiction and undeserving but Time Enough for Love is not is to say that some of those communicated experiences are good and should be promulgated and some are worthless and should be cast aside. And I don’t think there’s anything in the world that should be cast aside and never written about.

However, no one, not even the terrible, no good, very bad SJWs, has ever said that the best stories are ones where the “message” overrides the good story. Everyone wants a good story. Everyone wants to sink into a novel and get totally wrapped up in the tale. There is no need to split into camps on this topic because there is literally no argument. Everyone wants the same thing.

The difference lies in the fact that for some people, a story that communicates an experience that they are unfamiliar with, whether a gendered one, or racial, or sexual, or even literary, jars them out of the story and makes it harder to get wrapped up in it. I can even use my powers of empathy to understand that, because it jars me out of a story when I come across a message about how shitty and/or unnecessary women are, because I am a woman and I like to not feel like I am shitty and unnecessary. But unfortunately, for some people, me just writing a story that draws on my life experience IS political, because my experience isn’t theirs, and the central presence of women in a story is, for them, a political act….

(11) Ruth A. Johnston, author of Re-Modeling the Mind: Personality in Balance, was interviewed by L. Jagi Lamplighter at Superversive SF about her interpretation of the Hugo kerfuffle. It’s part of a series – later installments will apply her theory to characters in John C. Wright’s Night Land stories, and “If You Were A Dinosaur, My Love” as well as the larger Hugo/culture war picture.

Part One:  What Forces Drive the SciFi Culture Wars?

Q: In the Afterword to your new book, you suggest that ideas about personality might help us understand “culture wars” by showing how the sides just see the world differently.  What do you mean by “personality-based worldviews”? 

A: The thesis of Re-Modeling the Mind is that our brains can’t process all of the information that comes at us constantly, so each brain organizes itself around more limited options, depending on the neural strengths it already has. When we talk about “personality” we mean these limitations and abilities, which are usually clearly visible when we watch each other. We know ourselves this way, too. We know there are things we simply can’t take in, or if we can take in the facts, we can’t manage them to make decisions. There are things we pay close attention to, and other things we just can’t be bothered with. Personality is this very real neural patterning that filters the world so that it’s manageable.

But this means that our personalities also limit and even blind us to things other people can perceive and manage. We’re all in the same physical world, in the sense that we agree on where the objects are, so that we can avoid running into them. But at a more complex level, we really don’t all live in the same world. Our personalities can have such root-level different views of the world that we can barely have conversations. This is what I’d call a personality-based worldview.

I’m not a science-fiction reader, and I’d never heard of the Hugos until this year. But watching the ferocity of the battles made me feel convinced that at least some of this culture war is provoked by a clash of personality-based worldviews. In other words, probably the leaders and many supporters of each faction share some personality traits so that they all “live” in a similar world. In each faction’s “world,” its values are not only sensible but the only possible ones. Or if not the only possible ones, the only morally right or safe ones. This is why it’s so hard to have a conversation. It’s self-evident to each faction that its values are right, and the arguments offered by the other faction hold no water in their worldview. A lot of people on both sides feel that if So and So wins a prize, moral right or wrong will be rewarded.

(12) David Gerrold on Facebook is working out his own communication theory to explain “the recent squabble in SF fandom.”

…We now live in a world of self-organizing subcultures. Some of them are positive — organizing around the desire to address various challenges. Some of the clusters are negative, organizing around cult-like behaviors. Some are in the business of disseminating valuable information — some are in the business of misinformation and propaganda.

There’s a psychological phenomenon about new media — we give it gravitas. The first decade of any medium is the decade of education and assimilation. ie. We have to learn how to filter the information, we have to learn how to recognize that it is not an access to truth, merely one more way to be massaged. Example: The 1938 Orson Wells “War of the World” broadcast and panic. That happened while radio was still in its infancy for most listeners.

The internet is experiencing a prolonged childhood — most of us are still somewhere on the learning curve. We still trust too much of what we’re seeing on our computer screens, because we haven’t learned how to distrust it yet.

That’s the context in which we’re all operating. We’re being assaulted by an avalanche of data — we have to figure out how to mine it for actual information.

We have built the kind of technology that gives every person on the planet access to vast libraries of information and the ability to communicate with people all over the globe. But even if we’ve built a global village, we haven’t yet learned how to live in it. We’ve brought our prejudices and our beliefs and our parochial world-views.

Here, on this continent, we’ve built a cultural monomyth that carries within it the seeds of our own destruction — the mythic hero. We believe in John Wayne, the strong man who comes to rescue us. It’s a variation on the Christ myth. Or Superman. Or Batman. We’re incapable of being responsible, we need a daddy figure to sort things out for us. (The savage deconstruction of this monomyth is a movie called “High Noon.” It’s worth a look.)

Belief in superheros is an adolescent fantasy — it’s a way of abnegating personal responsibility. Whatever is wrong with the world, the Justice League, the Avengers, SHIELD will fix it.

The counterpoint is that whatever is wrong with the world — it’s not us. It’s THRUSH or SPECTRE or HYDRA or some other unnamed conspiracy. It’s always a conspiracy. …

(13) Steve Davidson has an advanced scouting report on next year’s Retro Hugos, which will be voted by members of MidAmeriCon II for eligible work from 1940.

But when it comes to the editor’s categories, we’re going to be restricted to one, that for Short Form.

Of course Campbell is the natural choice here, but take a minute to consider everyone who is eligible:

Mary Gnaedinger – Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Fantastic Novels (reprints)

Raymond A. Palmer – Amazing Stories, Amazing Stories Quarterly (reprint), Fantastic Adventures

Mort Weisinger – Captain Future, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories

Frederik Pohl – Astonishing, Super Science Stories

F. Orlin Tremaine – Comet

Charles D. Hornig – Future Fiction, Science Fiction, Science Fiction Quarterly

Martin Goodman – Marvel Tales/Marvel Stories

Malcolm Reiss  -Planet Stories

John W. Campbell Jr. – Astounding Science Fiction, Unknown

Farnsworth Wright – Weird Tales

None of the other editors had anything approaching the budget that Campbell had, yet Pohl, Hornig and Weisinger managed to put together some very fine issues from time to time (often relying on friends for copy at cut-rates), while Malcolm Reiss practically gave birth to the sword and planet sub-genre (not to mention introducing us all to Leigh Brackett!) with Planet Stories and several of the other magazines had a material impact on the field – if only by keeping certain authors and artists barely fed.

[Thanks to Mark (wait, not that one, the other one), L. Jagi Lamplighter, Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian. Title credit to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

What Nice Rockets Don’t Do

A bright explosion on the Falcon 9 landing platform illustrates the Guardian’s skeptical reaction to Elon Musk’s tenderly-phrased description of the event:

Private spaceflight company SpaceX has released new pictures of its Falcon 9 rocket attempting to land on a floating platform in the Gulf of Mexico before undergoing what its chief executive, Elon Musk, euphemistically referred to as “RUD” – that’s “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly”.

In other words, it blew up.

I’m reminded of Bob Shaw’s line about a company trying to market submarines that took “unplanned depth excursions.” Which is to say, they sank.

Want To Be A Martian?

Elon Musk, founder of the commercial spaceflight company SpaceX, promoted his idea for colonizing Mars with 80,000 people who’ll each pay $500,000 for the trip at the Royal Aeronautical Society on November 16.

Musk’s colonization program would begin with a small pioneering group who would fly to Mars aboard a huge reusable rocket powered by liquid oxygen and methane:

Accompanying the founders of the new Mars colony would be large amounts of equipment, including machines to produce fertilizer, methane and oxygen from Mars’ atmospheric nitrogen and carbon dioxide and the planet’s subsurface water ice.

The Red Planet pioneers would also take construction materials to build transparent domes, which when pressurized with Mars’ atmospheric CO2 could grow Earth crops in Martian soil. As the Mars colony became more self sufficient, the big rocket would start to transport more people and fewer supplies and equipment.

The element in this story that really caught my eye is that the pioneers are being asked to pay their way. Not because it’s a novel idea: a lot of sf stories use that premise. And it’s a commonsense principle of commercial space development – get the users to pay. However, having grown up in the first generation of space exploration, which was all done by national governments, it’s as if I feel a sense of socialistic entitlement, and that it’s somehow offensive that anyone willing to colonize the Red Planet won’t be getting a free ride.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]