Planet Stamps – And Pluto Too

Pluto Explored

The first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the Pluto—Explored! and Views of Our Planets Forever stamps took place on May 31 before a crowd of 500 at the World Stamp Show-NY 2016.

The Pluto—Explored! souvenir sheet contains two stamp designs, an artist’s rendering of the New Horizons spacecraft, and the spacecraft’s image of Pluto taken at its closest approach.

Honoring Pluto with its own stamp helps skate around sentimental attachments to the former ninth planet, now reclassified, which might have prevented some fans from enjoying the Views of Our Planets stamp set, with just eight planets…. *sniff*

Views of Our Planets

Pixel Scroll 4/21/16 Pixel Like It’s 1999

(1) NEW DOCTOR WHO COMPANION. ScreenRant reports the “Doctor Who Season 10 Companion To Be Revealed This Weekend” – in the middle of the BBC One Match of the Day Live soccer broadcast.

[A] new companion has now been cast, the big reveal of exactly who that companion is, will be made this Saturday, April 23rd, on BBC1.

The announcement will be made during half-time of the soccer match between Everton and Manchester United, at approximately 6pm GMT. The news will be posted on all Doctor Who social media sites as it’s announced, enabling viewers across the world to all find out who has been cast at the same time.

 

(2) VIRTUOUS SIGNALING. Rob Boffard at Medium says “You can talk to the International Space Station right now. Here’s how to do it”.  Do you have what it takes?

Of all the things that shouldn’t be possible but are, talking to the International Space Station ranks right up there with Steph Curry’s basketball skills and the existence of Donald Trump.

Think about it. How weird is it that NASA can put a $150bn space station into orbit, which can then be contacted by anybody on Earth? Even you? It’s one of those things that gives you pause?—?the kind of thing you’re vaguely certain is against the law, somewhere.

It’s not something you’re going to be doing tonight?—?not unless you have the relevant equipment already to hand. It takes a little bit of work. But it’s entirely possible, even for those of us who aren’t geeks….

(3) BLOWN AWAY. James Bacon highly recommends The Great British Graphic Novel Comic art exhibition at the Cartoon Museum on the Forbidden Planet blog.

This is a phenomenal experience, it exceeded my expectations and I was blown away by the calibre of the artwork on display. The Cartoon Museum has amassed the finest examples of comic art, an incredible mix of exemplary work, providing a beautiful tapestry of the history and breadth of the greatest works from Britain for public consideration….

Soon I was looking at lovely pieces, starting with Hogarths ‘A Harlots Progress’ from 1732, ‘The Bottle’ from 1847 by George Cruikshank, ‘Ally Sopers; A Moral Lesson’ from 1873, Ronald Searle’s Capsulyssese from 1955, written by Richard Osborne. All giving one a real sense of history, showing that illustrated stories are nothing new in Britain.

Then as I rounded a corner I saw a grouping of Commando Comics placed next to a full colour cover of Charley’s War, and four pages of this seminal work of the First World War. Undoubtedly Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun’s masterpiece is indeed a crucial addition here, but I had a feeling of true appreciation of the comic form when I saw this colour cover and four original pages lined up. Juxtaposed with this was My Life in Pieces, The Falklands War by Will Kevans from 2014. Original art, cover and concept sketch made for a great grouping….

(4) CHABON AND HASBRO? Birth.Movies.Death almost cannot be believed this time — “Michael Chabon And Brian K. Vaughan To Make Hasbro Cinematic Universe Worth Taking Seriously”. Is there a way to get G.I. Joe taken seriously?

Last December, word came out that Hasbro was going to try their hand a making a cinematic universe based on their various toy properties, namely G.I. Joe, Micronauts, Visionaries, M.A.S.K. and ROM. I was a little flip about it.

But now Hasbro, lead by Akiva Goldsman, has assembled its writers room and it’s no laughing matter. The big stars of the list are The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’s Michael Chabon (who also worked on Spider-Man 2), Brian K. Vaughan, who you should know from comics like Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, Saga, Runaways and a bunch of other impressive titles, and Nicole Perlman, co-writer of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel.

(5) SPACE MARINES. If you remember Space: Above and Beyond, you may be ready for the Space: Above and Beyond 20th Anniversary celebration on Saturday, August 6 at the Marriott Burbank Airport Hotel.

In 1996, Fox Studios produced the TV series: Space: Above And Beyond (aka S:AAB). The show had Drama, action, mystery and followed the lives of a diverse group of U.S. Marine Space Aviators while fighting against a powerful alien force on the ground, in the air and in outer space. It was part Top Gun, part James Cameron’s Aliens, and all exciting!

This short lived show (1995 to 1996), which fell victim to scheduling conflicts like Joss Whedon’s Firefly, is considered one of the best of Military Science Fiction series to air and is deserving of a convention of its own….

VIP tickets and Premium tickets are both on sale NOW at early-bird prices, and general admission tickets will go on sale starting May 1st.

(6) BEFORE THEY WERE BOTTLED. Syfy may order a pilot for David S. Goyer’s Superman prequel series Krypton.

The series, set two generations before the destruction of Superman’s titular home planet, would tell the story of the man of steel’s grandfather as he fights to restore the family honor of the House of El after it has been shamed.

The pilot will be produced by Warner Horizon Television. Goyer — who penned the screenplays for “Batman Begins,” “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” — will write the pilot with Ian Goldberg. He will executive produce through his company Phantom Four with Damian Kindler, who will serve as showrunner. Colm McCarthy is set to direct the pilot.

(7) KIT WEST OBIT. British special effects artist Kit West (1936 – 17 April 2016), known for his work in Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi, died April 17.

(8) BOND FILM EDITOR HAMILTON OBIT. From the BBC:

Guy Hamilton, who directed four James Bond films, has died aged 93.

Former 007 actor Sir Roger Moore tweeted that he was “incredibly, incredibly saddened to hear the wonderful director Guy Hamilton has gone to the great cutting room in the sky. 2016 is horrid”.

Hamilton directed Sir Roger in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun.

He also directed Sir Sean Connery in Goldfinger and Diamonds are Forever.

…Speaking about his style of directing he said he wanted value for money.

“In the making of Bond films we are some of the meanest toughest film makers. If we spend a million dollars it had better be up there on the screen.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 21, 1997 — Ashes of  Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry, journeyed into space.

(10) CAN YOU SAY “CANONICALIZATION”? Will Frank discusses “The Duties of the Hugo Administrative Team” in a MidAmeriCon II blog post.

Once nominations close at the end of March, we go through the data and process it. There are a few steps to this, the biggest one being canonicalization. We review the data to make sure that votes for, for example, “The Three-Body Problem” and “The 3-Body Problem” and “Three Body Problem” and “ The There Body Problem ” —which would all appear separately in our database—are all set up to be recognized as nominations for the same book. And if you think that’s bad, imagine what it’s like when episodes of television get nominated in Best Dramatic Presentation, where there are series title, episode title, and season and episode number, and a thousand different ways to put those together…

Once that’s done, we have our preliminary finalists. That’s when we start reaching out to nominees, letting them know they’ve been nominated, and a bit about the awards. That can be surprisingly difficult if we don’t know people’s email addresses. Sometimes, they’re public…but fairly often they’re not. There’s a certain amount of Googling, guessing, or asking people with impressive Rolodexes just to figure out a valid email address sometimes.

(11) SELECTIVE QUOTE OF THE DAY. Kate Paulk says Sad Puppies have a future, in “Miscellany” at Mad Genius Club.

In other news, this of the Puppy-related kind, I’ve heard rumors from several sources (but nothing official, alas) that more than 4000 Hugo nomination ballots were cast. I’ve also heard there are some saying that Sad Puppies 4 is a nonentity, that it’s run out of steam, it’s dead, pining for the fjords, gone to a better place… (erm, sorry?). Well, no.

Sad Puppies 4 is waiting to hear who the nominees (*ahem*. The Hugo Site says they aren’t being called nominees any more. They’re ‘finalists’ from a shortlist. Whatever) are before congratulating them for their recognition, whoever they are, and starting the next round of campaigning to boost involvement in the Hugos process.

(12) CAT PITCHER. He’s mad as a wet you-know-what! “Timothy Under Attack by SJW Warrior Feminist Filers” at Camestros Felapton.

A certain “website” which I shall not name because I shall not provide it with anymore publicity because I am sure nobody but a tiny number of far left Bernie Sanders supporters in a gated community ever read, as they sip champagne frappucinos in their la-di-da literati bookclub but whose name rhymes with smileearnestbevinbeventy, has SELECTIVELY QUOTED ME in a truly monstrous way to suggest that I am nothing but a poo-poo head! The calumny! The outrage!

(13) A MULTIPLE-CHUS PANEL. This program idea was dropped in the MidAmeriCon II suggestion box….

(14) IN FACT IT’S COLD AS HELL. Science Alert reports “An abandoned probe just discovered something weird about the atmosphere of Venus”.

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Venus Express probe spent eight years collecting information on Venus before plunging down to the surface and out of range back in November 2014. But now we finally have the last batch of data it transmitted back to Earth before going offline, and there are some big surprises in all those recordings.

Turns out, the polar atmosphere of Venus is a whole lot colder and a lot less dense than we previously thought, and these regions are dominated by strong atmospheric waves that have never been measured on Venus before.

Maddie Stone from Gizmodo reports that the Venus Express probe found polar areas of Venus to have an average temperature of -157 degrees Celsius, which is colder than any spot on Earth, and about 70 degrees lower than was previously thought.

This is rather surprising, considering Venus’s position as the hottest planet in the Solar System overall.

Not only is Venus much closer to the Sun than we are, it also has a thick, dense cloud layer that traps heat. However, Venus Express also found that the planet’s atmosphere was 22 to 40 percent less dense than expected at the polar regions.

(15) FAMOUS FURNITURE. Heritage Auctions now calls it “The Chair Heard ‘Round the World”.

The online and print publicity pieces for J. K. Rowling’s chair reached over 90 countries, plus all 50 states and all news aggregator sites. It saw total media coverage nationwide, with special interest in New York, Silicon Valley, and major cities in the Midwest, as well as the nation’s capital. The chair also garnered attention with 4,428 mainstream media hits, a number that is still rapidly growing. Print media circulated to 291.7+ million, while 15.6+ billion unique viewers visited websites carrying the article.

(16) THE TRUTH MAY NOT BE OUT THERE. Rachel Swirsky conducts a “Silly Interview with Effie Seiberg, Liar”. (Effie needs an introduction Camestros Felapton’s cat.)

4) Wait, how do I know you aren’t sneakily telling the truth?

The answer to question 3 is a lie.

5) All right, I’ll let it go. Just know that I’m aware that at any point you could be LYING. So. You studied philosophy and logic. Do you use that in your fiction?

Absolutely! There’s a long tradition of slipping philosophy into speculative fiction, especially since they’re both about exploring ideas and taking them to their logical conclusions. Some of my favorites are Italo Calvino’s “All at One Point” and Asimov’s “The Last Question” for metaphysical cosmology, Ken Liu’s “Mono No Aware” for ethics, and Roald Dahl’s “William and Mary” for epistemology, and the movies Labyrinth and Monty Python’s Holy Grail for classic logic. Also the entire Discworld series for all the philosophy ever.

(17) FARE LADY. Ann Leckie wrote about her GoH stint at Japan’s Hal-Con, including a special souvenir —

I don’t tend to take a lot of pictures, unless I’m explicitly doing research on something and think I need pics for future reference, but I did take one or two of the view out my hotel window in Numazu:… And one of some lovely fish-shaped cakes a reader gave me as a gift:…

Okay, those aren’t really cakes. The two in the middle are pancakes with bean paste inside, and the top and bottom ones are a kind of wafer-cookie sandwich, also filled with bean paste. Still. Close enough….

And I learned from her post that when cooked a coelacanth, like every other exotic creature, reportedly “tastes like chicken.”

(18) RUN A LINE THROUGH IT. “SFWA Contracts Committee Alert” at the SFWA Blog.

The SFWA Contracts Committee believes there are serious problems for writers with the non-compete and option clauses in many science fiction and fantasy publishers’ contracts. The non-compete language in these contracts often overreaches and limits authors’ career options in unacceptable ways. Writers may choose to bring out a range of books from different publishers — science fiction from one publisher and fantasy from another publisher, for example — and may have to do so in order to earn anything like a living wage.  The problem becomes even worse for hybrid authors who self-publish works in parallel with their traditional publications. Several contracts that we have seen include overlapping restrictions that could keep the author from publishing another book for more than a year….

Our recommendations:

Any limitation on the author’s ability to write new works at any time is unacceptable and should be deleted.

“Competing work” should be defined in the contract as clearly and narrowly as possible, and preferably limited to a work in the same series (whether one is planned or not). The burden should be on the publisher to prove that another work published elsewhere by the author would reduce their sales.

(19) THRONES RETROSPECTIVE. BBC devoted a long post to Game of Thrones at 20: How the saga became a TV hit”.

Still, HBO wavered over whether to make a fantasy show that would be so drastically different from their trademark series, which tended toward the grittily realistic. And even after HBO tentatively signed on, Benioff and Weiss’s original pilot episode had to be completely reshot before the show finally debuted in 2011 – another six years after the producers had first acquired the rights from Martin. But there was hope from another perspective: the rise of prestige television had paralleled the rise of cult fandoms. The passionate online exchanges among fans of books like Martin’s made them desirable targets for marketing. Suddenly, HBO had proof that a Game of Thrones series would have an intensely engaged audience from the start, and the network’s marketers knew exactly how to reach those fans – right on those websites and message boards where they gathered to discuss the minutiae of the books. If the network got particularly lucky, those fans would become ambassadors to a wider audience.

Chip Hitchcock sent the link together with these comments, “They do mention the proper title at one point, although it seems a lost cause generally. OTOH, the night before my cruise got to Dubrovnik two weeks ago, the tour manager specifically called out A Song of Ice and Fire — so some people actually know the original collective.”

(20) HEAD OF THE CLASS. Entertainment Weekly explains what went down.

On Wednesday’s episode of The Late Late Show With James Corden, host James Corden and some high-wattage Game of Thrones cast members spoofed House of Black and White’s Hall of Faces (a prominent part of the show’s season 6 marketing campaign), with a segment imagining what an obnoxious disembodied head might do to the larger group.

The sketch featured recent guests Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Alfie Allen, and Iwan Rheon…

 

 [Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Rachel Swirsky, Will R., Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the Top Level Poster. On his head be it!]

The Morning and the Evening Star

By James H. Burns: If prognostication holds sway, come a future Chanukah or Christmas, or Thanksgiving (of course), some folks might be cooking a turkey in the acidic atmosphere of VENUS…

A NASA research group is suggesting a manned mission to our sister planet.

But Venus is actually closer to Earth than Mars, and experts say a manned mission there isn’t unreasonable. Venus is one of the least hospitable places in the solar system. Its close proximity to the sun makes its surface unimaginably hot — 462 degrees Celsius. And its lower atmosphere is a highly pressurized oven of noxious gases.

And it turns out the idea of DIRIGIBLE-homes in the Venusian atmosphere has been gaining ground at the Atlantic CityLab:

Why worry about building a colony on Mars when instead you could float one high above the surface of Venus? Science fiction writer Charles Stross recently revived the idea of building a Venutian colony when he suggested, cheekily, that billionaires ought to be compelled to donate to massive humanity-improving projects. He suggested two: a Manhattan Project-like focus on developing commercial nuclear fusion, or the construction of a floating city on Venus.

There is much discussion of these potential “floating cities,” and other fascinating extra-terran possibilities, at the intriguing website, Selenian Boondocks (see its Venus category), already an abode for many scientists and science fiction writers.

Transit of Venus on June 5

A Transit of Venus, one of the rarest astronomical events, will take place June 5 as the disk of the planet Venus passes like a moving sunspot across the face of the Sun.

Venus transits occur eight years apart, then don’t repeat again for another century. The last transit before 2004 took place in 1882. The next will be in 2117.

Observations of these events helped 18th-century scientists learn about the solar system. Venus transits provided astronomers with data that eventually led to a very close estimate of the distance between the earth and the sun.

British astronomer Edmund Halley observed a transit of Mercury in 1677 and in 1716 published his ideas for using such events to measure the distance from the Earth to the Sun, known as the Astronomical Unit. By then he had determined it was more useful to study a transit of Venus, with two people at different latitudes measuring the shift in the planet’s position, its parallax.

In 1761, France and Britain sent expeditions across the world time the exact moment when Venus and the Sun initially touch. Unexpectedly, these observations were hampered by the appearance of a bright ring around Venus as the planet entered and exited the solar disk, blurring the precise lines of contact with the Sun. This led Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov to speculate that the glow around Venus meant it had an atmosphere.

Captain James Cook stopped in Tahiti to observe the next transit of Venus in 1769 while on a voyage to circumnavigate the Earth.

Data from both transits allowed 18th-century scientists to calculate the Astronomical Unit within one percent of the 93,000,000 mile distance determined using modern technology.

On June 5, the transit begins at 22:00 UT. The Exploratorium’s webcast will have a telescope feed plus audio commentary every 30 minutes. The duration of the program will be about six-and-a-half hours, beginning at 22:00 UT (noon in Hawaii) on June 5. First contact is at nine minutes past the hour.

[Liberally drawn from The Exploratorium website.]