Pixel Scroll 3/22/18 And The Pixels Were All Kept Equal By Hatchet, Ax And Saw

(1) TECH IMPROVED, ETHICS STAYED THE SAME. The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne Jr., in “Yes, we should be outraged about Facebook” analyzes The 480, a 1964 near-future sf novel by Eugene Burdick (co-author of Fail-Safe) in which “people who work with slide rules and calculating machines which can remember an almost infinite bits of information” have divided the U.S. into 480 demographic groups in order to manipulate them into supporting a dark-horse Republican presidential candidate.  Dionne brings up this novel in the context of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal and notes that Burdick based his novel on efforts by Simulatrics Corp. to support the Kennedy campaign in 1960.

(2) INVOLUNTARY EXPERIMENT. The Guardian says Kim Stanley Robinson told them — “Empty half the Earth of its humans. It’s the only way to save the planet”.

Cities are part of the system we’ve invented to keep people alive on Earth. People tend to like cities, and have been congregating in them ever since the invention of agriculture, 10,000 or so years ago. That’s why we call it civilisation. This origin story underlines how agriculture made cities possible, by providing enough food to feed a settled crowd on a regular basis. Cities can’t work without farms, nor without watersheds that provide their water. So as central as cities are to modern civilisation, they are only one aspect of a system.

There are nearly eight billion humans alive on the planet now, and that’s a big number: more than twice as many as were alive 50 years ago. It’s an accidental experiment with enormous stakes, as it isn’t clear that the Earth’s biosphere can supply that many people’s needs – or absorb that many wastes and poisons – on a renewable and sustainable basis over the long haul. We’ll only find out by trying it.

Right now we are not succeeding. The Global Footprint Network estimates that we use up our annual supply of renewable resources by August every year, after which we are cutting into non-renewable supplies – in effect stealing from future generations. Eating the seed corn, they used to call it. At the same time we’re pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rate that is changing the climate in dangerous ways and will certainly damage agriculture.

(3) TOLKIEN AND LEWIS AT WAR. As reported here in December, a five-part documentary film series A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War about “the transformative friendship between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien forged amid the trauma of war,” is in production. A new trailer has been posted. The film’s release date is set for November 11, 2018, to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I.

The documentary film series, “A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War,” explores how the experience of two world wars shaped the lives and literary imagination of two internationally famous authors and friends, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Based on Joseph Loconte’s New York Times bestseller, the film examines how Tolkien’s combat experience during the First World War—at the Battle of the Somme—launched him on his literary quest. The film reveals how the conflict reinforced Lewis’s youthful atheism—he was injured in combat—but also stirred his spiritual longings. The film traces the careers of both men at Oxford University, and their deepening friendship as they discover a mutual love of medieval, romantic literature. Facing the threat of another world war, Tolkien and Lewis reach back into their earlier experience of war as they compose their epic works of fantasy, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia.

 

(4) HOWARD AWARD. The eligibility list for the 2018 Robert E, Howard Foundation Awards has been posted.

This is full list of eligible candidates for the 2018 REH Foundation Awards. Legacy Circle Members will select the top three nominees in each category from this preliminary ballot. From those final nominees all Premium REHF members will vote for the winners. The awards will be given out at a special ceremony at Howard Days in Cross Plains on June 8.

(5) APOLLO STILLS PUT IN MOTION. Mark Hepworth sent a link to these “Very cool Apollo gifs” at Medium “I looked through all 14,227 Apollo photos… and made GIFs.”

A few days ago Jared Kinsler compiled an excellent selection of the photos of the Apollo missions, which you should check out here…

(6) DINO LUST. They look like horns, but in reality they were babe magnets: “Triceratops may have had horns to attract mates”.

Dinosaurs like the Triceratops may have had horns and frills to attract a mate, a new study suggests.

Ceratopsian, or horned dinosaurs, were previously thought to have developed this ornamentation to distinguish between different species.

This has now been ruled out in a study published in a Royal Society journal.

Instead, the aggressive-looking armour may actually have evolved to signal an animal’s suitability as a partner, known as socio-sexual selection.

“Individuals are advertising their quality or genetic make-up,” explained Andrew Knapp, lead author of the research reported in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“We see that in peacocks too, with their tail feathers.”

(7) SF OBSCURE. Echo Ishii’s search through TV history leads to “Hard Time on Planet Earth”.

Hard Time on Planet Earth was an American series broadcast for 13 episodes in 1989 starring Martin Kove. An elite alien military officer is sentenced to earth as his penalty for rebellion. He is given human form-much weaker than his older form-and sent to Earth to improve his violent behavior. (Or maybe curb his violent instincts or learn about goodness, it all gets a bit murky.) Anyway, he’s banished to Earth with an AI system called Control to monitor him. He’s given the name Jesse. Control  is a giant, floating mechanical eye. Jesse has to help people in need to get back into the Ruling Council’s favor.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY CAPTAIN

  • Born March 22, 1931 – William Shatner

(9) HE’S FEELING BETTER. An ad was gaining clicks by falsely reporting Shatner’s death, and the actor teed off on Facebook: “William Shatner Rails at Facebook After Being Told That He’s Dead”.

“Hey @facebook isn’t this your messenger app? What’s up with you allowing this Acocet Retail Sales ad to pass your muster? Thought you were doing something about this?” Shatner wrote.

A Facebook employee later responded with the assurance that the ad and the page had been removed from Facebook. Still, news of Shatner’s demise couldn’t come at a worse time for the actor, as he is expected to turn 87 on Thursday.

It also couldn’t come at a worse time for Facebook, which has been reeling recently over news that 50 million Facebook users unknowingly had their information lifted by data firm Cambridge Analytica.

(10) MEMEWHILE. Elsewhere on the internet, #AddShatnerToAnything was the order of the day. For example…

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian tuned into Broomhilda just as she was about to take gas.

(12) CONS AS PUBLIC UTILITY. Will Shetterly considered himself to have nothing in common with Jon Del Arroz apart from also having been banned from a convention. Well, now that Shetterly has cast shade on Jim C. Hines’ post about JDA’s track record of harassment, in “Two privileges of attending science fiction conventions, and a little about Jon Del Arroz’s law suit”, they have that in common, too. However, this passage struck me as the most interesting part of the post:

Before conventions began banning people, the fundamental privilege of attending science conventions wasn’t discussed because, by capitalist standards, the privilege was fair: anyone who had money could go, and anyone who didn’t, well, capitalist fairness is never about people who don’t have money.

But now that conventions have begun banning people, it’s time to acknowledge the second privilege. Though the genre has grown enormously, it’s still a small community at the top. If you hope to become a professional, it can be enormously helpful to attend WorldCon, the World Fantasy Convention, and literary conventions like ReaderCon, WisCon, and Fourth Street Fantasy. Once your career has begun, you need to be able to attend the Nebulas Awards too. Obviously, only the very privileged can go to most of those conventions regularly, but anyone who wants to make a career in this field should, every year, pick one from from Column A (WorldCon, World Fantasy, Nebula Awards), one from Column B (ReaderCon, WisCon, Fourth Street Fantasy), and one from Column C (local convention, regional convention, major commercial convention like DragonCon).

Being banned from any convention is an enormous blow to a writer’s ability to be a writer, and especially to a new writer’s ability to last in the field. It keeps you from meeting fellow professionals and getting useful tips, and it keeps you from making new fans.

(13) HIMTOO. Shetterly’s post prompted this recollection from Bruce Arthurs:

(14) BRANDED. The logical companion volume to Gene Wolfe’s The Death of Doctor Island and Other Stories and Other Stories, eh John?

(15) NEVER TOO LATE. Kim Wilde is making a comeback, with added science fiction: “Kim Wilde says aliens inspired her pop comeback”.

As a keen sci-fi fan (Arrival and ET are her favourite films), Wilde is fully embracing the theme of her new album – from the sleeve’s terrific B-movie artwork, to the stage show for her upcoming tour.

“I’ve got this little wardrobe set up, of fantastic capes and cloaks,” says the singer, who previously bought her outfits at jumble sales.

“We’re going to go a bit sci-fi and we’re going to a bit glam rock. It’ll be sexy and fun and something to put a big smile on people’s faces. I’m really excited about it.”

(16) A CLOCKWORK COD. Do Asimov’s Laws apply here? “Researchers create robotic fish that can swim underwater on its own”.

Observing fish in their natural ocean habitats goes a long way toward understanding their behaviors and interactions with the surrounding environment. But doing so isn’t easy. Using underwater vehicles to get a look at these species is one option, but they often come with a slew of limitations. Some are loud and use propellers or jet-propulsion that disturb fish and their surroundings. And many are designed in a way that doesn’t allow them to blend in with the marine environment. Controlling such vehicles is also a challenge and in many cases, they have to be tethered to a boat. But researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have come up with a potential solution — a soft robot that can swim on its own underwater.

(17) SEE FOOD. Apparently no fish were harmed in the making of this food? “3D-printed sushi looks like the perfect 8-bit meal” at Cnet.

At this year’s SXSW, Japanese technology company Open Meals revealed its Pixel Food Printer, which 3D-prints edible sushi, and other food, that looks like it was meant for a retro video game.

The pixelated food, including sushi and burgers, is printed first by using the Food Base digital platform that stores data on the exact flavor, shape, texture, color and nutrients of foods.

Then the actual Pixel Food Printer uses a robotic arm that prints out small pixel cubes made of edible gel with the corresponding flavors, colors and nutrients of the type of food being printed out.

(17) SEA PLASTIC. Printing seafood may be necessary at this rate: “Plastic patch in Pacific Ocean growing rapidly, study shows”.

Predictions suggest a build-up of about 80,000 tonnes of plastic in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” between California and Hawaii.

This figure is up to sixteen times higher than previously reported, say international researchers.

One trawl in the centre of the patch had the highest concentration of plastic ever recorded.

“Plastic concentration is increasing – I think the situation is getting worse,” said Laurent Lebreton of The Ocean Cleanup Foundation in Delft, Netherlands, which led the study.

“This really highlights the urgency to take action in stopping the in-flow of plastic into the ocean and also taking measures to clean up the existing mess.”

Waste accumulates in five ocean areas, the largest being the patch located between Hawaii and California.

(18) KGB. Ellen Datlow shared her photos taken at Fantastic Fiction at KGB on March 21.

Despite our blizzard, people did indeed show up for our reading. They were rewarded by hearing wonderful work by Kelly Robson and Chandler Klang Smith.

(19) SCI-FI SAVES DOG. David Gerrold’s “Jasmine and Friends Book Sale” at GoFundMe is raising money to pay a vet bill and assist a couple of friends. Donate to it and you get some of David’s books.

Our little Jasmine is sixteen years old. She specializes in naps and laps. A few weeks ago, she stopped eating and appeared to be in serious decline.

The vet determined that she had developed a serious abscess in her mouth and needed immediate surgery before she weakened further. She ended up having seven teeth extracted as well.

The good news is that she survived the operation, her mouth is healing, and she’s eating again. She’s out of pain and she’s acting like her old self.

The bad news is that the vet bill was high. Very high. We thought we’d be able to cover it, but despite the vet helping us with a payment plan, we’re still falling short.

Add to that, we have a couple friends who could use a serious financial infusion. Several people on Facebook asked if they could help, so we decided to do it this way.

We’re holding a book sale.

Any donation at all will get you a link to download a set of three stories: “The Bag Lady,” “The Great Milo,” and “Chester” (which was inspired by Jasmine’s best buddy of fifteen years.)

Any donation of $20 or more gets you a link to download a copy of “Jacob”, my vampire novel, plus all the previous.

Any donation of $40 or more gets you a link to download a copy of “thirteen, fourteen, fifteen o’clock” plus all the previous.

Any donation of $60 or more gets you a link to download a copy of “Entanglements and Terrors” (my short story collection) plus all the previous.

Any donation of $80 or more gets you a link to download a copy of “A Promise O f Stars” (another short story collection) plus all the previous.

Any donation of $100 or more gets you all of the above, plus a copy of the Megapack, a flash drive with a half million words of stories, scripts, and stuff. (You’ll have to include a shipping address.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Meredith, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dann.]

Pixel Scroll 3/16/18 My Very Educated Mother Just Scrolled Us Nine Pixels

The Management regrets that a long day necessitates a short Scroll.

(1) PERFECT PITCH. Seanan McGuire’s Twitter sonnet is linked here too late to influence your Hugo nominations, yet you might enjoy it anyway. Jump on the thread here —

(2) SPEAKER TO KERMIT. Muppet Guys Talking is available today – see it for $9.97. (There’s probably some reason for that nice round coff number.)

Five of the original Muppet performers/innovators come together to discuss the creation of their iconic characters under the visionary leadership of Jim Henson.

(3) REBUTTAL. Will Shetterly airs his full and complete responses to File 770 comments in his own post: “Writers at File 770 validate my concern about the Fourth Street ban”.

For the record, I omitted the emails about planning the seminar before I was kicked off it, I omitted the emails we shared once it was settled that I’d be doing a panel at the convention, and out of consideration for Alex Haist, I omitted some insulting notes that she incompetently or maliciously left on the copy of the letter she sent me to answer my four questions. If there’s anything I left out that seems pertinent, I invite anyone from the Board to share it with the assurance that I have no intention of suing anyone.

(4) CANTINA SCENE. Io9 asks “Can You Name Every Alien in This All-Encompassing Scifi Cantina?” Artists Vance Kelly and Kevin M. Wilson have created a cantina scene filled with characters from different sf works, prints of which go on sale 21 March at the Hero Complex Gallery in LA. See the image at the link,

(5) HAVE YE SEEN THE GREAT WHITE SATELLITE? Thar she blows!: “Big harpoon is ‘solution to space junk'”.

Airbus is testing a big harpoon to snare rogue or redundant satellites and pull them out of the sky.

The 1m-long projectile would be attached, through a strong tether, to a chase spacecraft.

Once the target was captured and under control, the chase vehicle would then drag its prey down into the atmosphere to burn to destruction.

(6) KIRBY ADAPTATION. The BBC says “Ava DuVernay ‘to direct superhero film'”.

Ava DuVernay, director of Selma and A Wrinkle in Time, is in talks to direct a superhero film based on DC Comics characters, according to reports.

DuVernay, whose other films include the Oscar-nominated documentary 13th, has been linked to The New Gods, based on a comic book created by Jack Kirby.

DuVernay seemed to confirm the news by posting a photo of Kirby on Twitter.

The New Gods would be the second major superhero film directed by a woman, after Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman.

(7) JEOPARDY! TONIGHT. Andrew Porter says “In the category African-American Literature, the answer and the photo shown was: ‘This author of Kindred and Xenogenesis combined African-American literature with science fiction themes.’

“No one got the question: ‘Who is Octavia Butler?’”

(8) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. 2CELLOS, “Game of Thrones.”

And JJ assures me, “If you’ve never seen these guys before, they do an absolutely hilarious version of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck.”

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 3/15/18 Yon Pixel Has A Lean And Hungry Look

(1) LUCAS MUSEUM. NBC Los Angeles was there for Wednesday’s ceremony: “George Lucas’ $1 Billion Museum Breaks Ground in Exposition Park”.

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts in Exposition Park is beginning to take shape in Los Angeles’ Exposition Park area.

Filmmaker George Lucas and wife Mellody Hobson were at a groundbreaking Wednesday for the $1 billion museum. The museum will house works by painters such as Edgar Degas, Winslow Homer and Pierre-Auguste Renoir; illustrations, comic art and photography by artists such as Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and N.C. Wyeth; as well as storyboards, props and other items from popular films. It will be a “barrier-free museum” where “artificial divisions between `high’ art and `popular’ art are absent,” according to the museum’s website.

“It will be beautiful. It will be 11 acres of new parkland here,” Hobson said. “Everyone always wonders why we are doing so much to make this building stand out. George said, ‘I want an iconic building. I want a child to look at this building and say I want to see what is inside of that building.’ The building itself is a piece of art that will be in this park that we’re creating for this entire community and the world.”

The museum plans to feature a five-story building with 300,000 square feet of floor area for a cafe and restaurant, theaters, office space, lecture halls, a library, classrooms, exhibition space and landscaped open space.

Lucas told a CBS News interviewer:

Movies, including the “Star Wars” series, will be featured in exhibits showing what it takes to make a film, from set designs to character and costume sketches. There will be film storyboards and comic art. But the museum will also display paintings by Renoir, N.C. Wyeth, Winslow Homer, Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell – all from Lucas’ private collection.

“I think more people will come in for Rockwell than will come in for ‘Star Wars,'” Lucas said.

“Norman Rockwell can tell a whole story in one picture,” Lucas said.

“When were you captivated by Rockwell?” Blackstone asked.

“When I was 8 years old… I wanted to be an illustrator. I wanted to be able to do that,” Lucas said. “I wanted to be able to do pictures that have a message that appeals to a lot of people.”

Art that tells a story inspired him to tell stories. That narrative art is what Lucas will share in his museum.

(2) ANNIHILATION. Camestros Felapton has eyeballed the evidence and delivered his verdict: “Review: Annihilation (movie 2018 – Netflix)”.

The film (which had a very limited cinema release in the US and then a Netflix release internationally) is a different creature than the book. Events have been changed, plot elements removed, characters adjusted and the structure of the story altered. All of which seems to have been a good idea. The film carries the same sense of paranoia and wonder as the book and the same theme of people trying to cope when confronted with the incomprehensible. However, it has been remade into its own thing – a story with its own structure and characters that shares DNA with the book but which follows its own course.

(3) HELP WANTED. Journey Planet wants contributors for a Star Wars theme issue —

Regular Editors Chris Garcia and James Bacon, joined by Will Frank, have set out to create an issue of Journey Planet dedicated to the legendary Star Wars Universe. The issue, set for a May 4th release, will look at the films, the universe, the fans, the books, the comics, the toys, the Irish Connection and the meaning of the greatest of all science fiction franchises!

We want to hear from you if you are interested in contributing. We have an instant fanzine and are soliciting pieces, from short pieces on the first time you saw the films, about your massive collection of Star Wars figures (Mint-on-Card, of course)

We already have a beautiful cover by Sarah Wilkinson.

Please contact — journeyplanet@gmail.com

Tell us what you’d like to write about. Then content submission Deadline is April 17th

And may the Force be with you!

 

(4) HAL/ALEXA. So how is this invention supposed to parallel the workings of HAL-9000 – by preventing people from getting back into their homes? The Verge tells us “This replica of HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey comes with Amazon’s Alexa built in”.

HAL-9000, the malevolent supercomputer at the heart of Stanley Kubrick’s classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, is an icon of science fiction cinema. So much so, that if you ask any one of the virtual assistants to “Open the pod bay doors,” they’ll dutifully parrot HAL’s lines from the movie back at you. Now, Master Replicas Group wants to take that step a bit further, turning HAL into a virtual assistant that can control your home.

The company name might be familiar to prop and costume fans: the original Master Replicas produced a range of high-quality props from franchises like Star Wars and Star Trek before going out of business a decade ago. If you’ve seen someone swinging around a lightsaber, there’s a good chance it’s one of Master Replicas’ props, or based off of their models. The new company is made up of several former employees, who are getting back into the prop replica business with a new range of products, including an interactive replica of HAL.

This isn’t the first time that someone’s thought about putting HAL into your home’s smart devices: a couple of years ago, fan prop-maker GoldenArmor made its own version that allows someone to mount it over their Nest thermostat. MRG’s prop goes a bit beyond that. It recently obtained the license from Warner Bros. to create an exact replica of the iconic computer, and while most prop replicas are static recreations of a movie or film prop, this version is designed to be interactive, using Amazon’s smart assistant, Alexa.

A humorous video simulating “If HAL9000 was Amazon.com’s Alexa” has already gone viral —

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 15, 1956 Forbidden Planet premiered.
  • March 15, 1967 Frankenstein Created Woman stitched together a story for the theaters.
  • March 15, 1972 Slaughterhouse Five was first released theatrically.

(6) IS IT VINTAGE? Mark Kelly considers the sequel to Dandelion Wine in “Ray Bradbury: FAREWELL SUMMER”.

RB provides an afterword to this book, also, in which he explains where this book came from. In the mid 1950s (several years after the successes of THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and THE ILLUSTRATED MAN)  he submitted a manuscript to his publisher, Doubleday, for the book that became DW. But that original manuscript was too long and his editor suggested cutting it. RB quotes his reply (p210 in FS): “ ‘Why don’t we published the first 90,000 words as a novel and keep the second part for some future year when you feel it is ready to be published.’ At the time, I called the full, primitive version The Blue Remembered Hills. The original title for what would become Dandelion Wine was Summer, Morning, Summer Night. Even all those years ago, I had a title ready for this unborn book: Farewell Summer.”

With DANDELION WINE such an entrenched classic, it’s difficult to imagine how the content of FAREWELL SUMMER could have been incorporated into it. That would have been a completely different book. As it came to be, DW has a perfect story arc, across one summer in the life of a 12-year-old. Yet even as a leftover, on its own, FS is a quite different, a rather oddly amazing and moving, book.

(7) WHEATON MEETS SHATNER. In this video, Wil Wheaton acts out meeting William Bleeping Shatner when ST:TNG was in its second season.

The filming of Star Trek 5 happened only a few doors away from Star Trek The Next Generation, Giving Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) the chance to meet his idol William Shatner, it didn’t go as well as he had hoped…

 

(8) LAST-MINUTE CAMPAIGNING. We’re annually snowed under by award eligibility posts, but it’s strange to see them still arriving with less than 24 hours left to nominate, when voters no longer have time to read/listen to the person’s recommended body of work.

Lawrence Schoen urges consideration of his Eating Authors blog:

Every Monday morning*, since June of 2011, I’ve put out a blog post featuring authors and their most memorable meals. That’s more than 350 stories of incredible food, amazing dinning companions, astonishing circumstances, and remarkable settings.

And Crystal Huff points to a year’s worth of tweets:

(9) POOP HAPPENS. From Pitchfork we learn: “Neil Young Writing a Sci-Fi Novel Called Canary”.

Neil Young recently sat down with Rolling Stone’s Patrick Doyle to discuss his role in the upcoming film Paradox. In the midst of the interview, he opened up about the sci-fi novel he’s been writing. It’s called Canary, and Young said it focused on a power company employee who gets caught exposing the corruption at his workplace. “He discovers the solar company he works for is a hoax,” he explained. “And they’re not really using solar. They’re using this shit—the guy who’s doing this has come up with a way to make bad fuel, the bad energy, this really ugly terrible stuff, and he’s figured out a way to genetically create these animals that shit that gives the energy to make the [fuel]. So he’s created this new species. But the species escapes. So it’s a fuckin’ mess. It’s a long story.”

Young said he already has a New York agent on board with the project, but didn’t share a possible publication date. He also got candid when it came to the topic of retirement tours. “When I retire, people will know, because I’ll be dead,” he said. “I’m not gonna say, ‘I’m not coming back.’ What kind of bullshit is that? I could go out and play if I felt like it, but I don’t feel like it.”

(10) SHETTERLY. Are Will Shetterly’s and Jon Del Arroz’ situations alike? JDA evidently thinks so.

(11) YO HO NO. Fraser Sherman is teed off: “Books are too expensive, so it’s okay to pirate them. Oh, really?”

I have no sympathy for this crap. In the many years I did the struggling-writer shtick, I saw lots of books I couldn’t afford. I didn’t steal copies. I wouldn’t do it if I were still struggling. If it was a paper copy, would they shoplift it from Barnes & Noble if they thought it was overpriced? Or how about a restaurant — if the service takes too long (the “they don’t release it fast enough” argument), does that mean they’re entitled to steal food from the salad bar? Soft drinks cost a fraction of what they sell for, does that make it okay to steal them? Or movie tickets — lord knows those are outrageously priced, but does that justify sneaking in without paying?

(12) THE JEOPARDY BEAT. Rich Lynch says tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! included this answer:

A contestant got it right.

(13) GOT OBSIDIAN? “Changing environment influenced human evolution”: a site in Kenya is “the earliest known example of such long distance [25-95km] transport, and possibly of trade.”

Early humans were in the area for about 700,000 years, making large hand axes from nearby stone, explained Dr Potts.

“[Technologically], things changed very slowly, if at all, over hundreds of thousands of years,” he said.

Then, roughly 500,000 years ago, something did change.

A period of tectonic upheaval and erratic climate conditions swept across the region, and there is a 180,000 year interruption in the geological record due to erosion.

It was not only the landscape that altered, but also the plant and animal life in the region – transforming the resources available to our early ancestors….

(14) STORAGE WARS. That stuff sure looked familiar…. “Police: Marvel fan spotted his $1.4M collection for sale online”.

Police in California said two men were arrested on burglary charges after a man discovered his $1.4 million collection of Marvel super hero memorabilia for sale online.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office said the Rancho Cucamonga Police Department responded Feb. 22 to a storage facility where a man discovered his collection of Marvel collectibles had been stolen after he was made aware that some of his items were listed for sale online.

(15) LATE NIGHT NERDS. Joel Zakem spotted this TV highlight: “Steven Colbert talks to Paul Giamatti about Science Fiction and used book stores during the first 5 minutes of this interview from yesterday’s Late Show. It’s probably the only time you will hear Henry Kuttner and Avram Davidson mentioned on late night TV.” — “Paul Giamatti And Stephen Are Science Fiction Nerds”

‘Billions’ star Paul Giamatti gets some gifts or reading assignments from Stephen, depending on how you look at them.

 

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

Shetterly Banned by 4th Street Fantasy Convention

Will Shetterly reports he has been banned from Minneapolis’ annual 4th Street Fantasy Convention.

In 2017, a 4th Street board member recruited Shetterly to help with a writing workshop, however, after seeing the info appear on the con’s website, 4th Street’s Safety Coordinator raised concerns. The board overruled the selection and Shetterly was dropped. Shetterly exchanged emails with people to find out what those concerns were and why the decision was made. Today he published that correspondence because the board has notified him he is banned from 4th Street Fantasy, due to his having raised the spectre of legal action when dropped from the 2017 workshop, and also for his public criticism of the convention.

Shetterly quotes the board’s notice about the ban in section three of his post “Positively Fourth Street, or On being banned for … vague reasons about nearly indescribable things?”

  1. I was done with 4th Street, but 4th Street was not done with me

After deciding I was done with Fourth Street, I rarely thought about it. When I did, I remembered it like Minneapolis’s Uptown neighborhood, a place that was fun that has been gentrified. It never occurred to me that Fourth Street was not done with me, but the convention is like a lover I ghosted—she felt obliged to tell me the relationship is over. On March 8, I woke to find this email:

Dear Will:

On April 27, 2017, as part of an email conversation regarding your removal from a programming item at the 2017 4th Street Fantasy Convention, you wrote “Someone has suggested this decision to imply I’m unsafe in public might be actionable.”

We cannot disregard this implied threat of legal action, particularly combined with your lengthy and detailed public criticism of the convention on multiple platforms. Despite your reassurance in correspondence dated April 30, 2017 that “I just want to reassure everyone that Emma and I have less than zero intention of suing anyone”, the Board of Directors has decided that we are unwilling to open ourselves to liability through further association with you.

We are therefore banning you from Fourth Street Fantasy.

We would like to resolve this privately. These are the practical steps we have taken:

• As stated above, you are banned from Fourth Street Fantasy. You will not be allowed to register for the convention or attend convention events. Please do not come to the Doubletree Hotel during the weekend of the convention.

Thank you for your service as a founder, programming participant, and long-time attendee. We wish you well in your further writing career.

Sincerely Yours,

The Fourth Street Fantasy Board of Directors

Brad Roberts
Scott Lynch
Alex Haist
Arkady Martine
Max Gladstone

Shetterly says he was “done with 4th Street” already (partly for the reasons covered last year in “Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat”, which Shetterly commented on extensively.) However, he believes a public statement is needed to clear the air, lest people assume he has been banned for the kind of behavior that has gotten other men banned from conventions.

Soon afterward, I realized these things:

1. The only substance in the Board’s letter is the fact that I’m banned because they’re concerned I might sue them for implying I’m unsafe. Their logic is odd. If I was the sort of person who liked using the law, banning me would make me more likely to sue them. By banning me, they are giving me the only reason I might have to sue them—in earlier times, no one would have been banned for polite disagreement, so people will quite reasonably assume there must be more to the charge.

2. Their letter says I criticize the convention without citing examples because there are none. I’ve always supported the convention. I’ve only criticized its current administrators who speak as if they are the convention—L’Etat, c’est moi is the motto of all petty people who fail to see they are only caretakers.

3. The letter says the Board “would like to resolve this privately”, but a ban means nothing if no one knows about it, the idea that five members of this community could keep anything private is hilarious, and there’s nothing offered to resolve: the Board isn’t dangling any hope of rescinding the ban if I promise to keep from criticizing them in the future. Their “privately” may mean they want to keep the story in the realm of gossip instead of making a press release, but the game of telephone began the moment a Board member told a friend I’d been banned or answered an inquiry about whether I’ll be at this year’s 4th Street.

So the Board has given me three choices:

  1. Do nothing, thereby validating the implication that I’m banned for the same reason other men in our community have been banned.
  2. Sue the Board to make them admit that the implications of their ban are false.
  3. Make the historical record public so people may draw their own conclusions.

Shetterly says he has chosen the last option, thus his post.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth for the story.]

Steven Brust’s Fourth Street Fantasy Remarks Generate Heat

Steve Brust opened last weekend’s Fourth Street Fantasy convention in Minneapolis with a short speech that used the term “safe space” to make an impact – and succeeded, for better or worse. He upset a number of hearers and ignited a controversy that has played out on Facebook and several blogs in the past two days.

Steven Brust posted his text: “My opening remarks at Fourth Street Fantasy Convention”

Fourth Street Fantasy Convention is not a safe space. On the contrary, it is a very unsafe space. Of course, it ought to be safe in the sense of everyone feeling physically safe, and in the sense that there should be no unwanted harassment, and it should be free of personal attacks of any kind. But other than that, it is not safe.

Your beliefs about writing, and my beliefs about writing, and what is good, and how to make it good, should be sufficiently challenged to make us uncomfortable.

The interaction of art and politics is getting more and more in our faces. Whether this is good or bad is beside the point (although I think it’s good); it reflects changing social conditions, intensification of conflicts. Anyone who thinks art is independent of social conditions is as hopelessly muddled as someone who thinks there is a direct, simplistic 1:1 correspondence between them.

The result of this is that political understanding, unexamined assumptions, agendas, are very much present in the art we create and thus in the discussions of that art.

If no one feels unsafe, or unthreatened during these discussions, we’re doing them wrong. The same is true in discussing technique, because technique, content, form, attitude toward the creation and role of art, and understanding of society, are all interconnected, and in challenging one, we are liable to find ourselves challenging another….

Scott Lynch delivered the Fourth Street Fantasy board’s closing statement, which was perceived to be, in part, a response to Brust:

We, the board of the 4th Street Fantasy Convention exist to facilitate energetic and even challenging conversation. We want to provide spaces to do so, in both a moderated and unmoderated fashion. At 4th Street, the conversation is intended to spread from our shared spaces to more private spaces where attendees may consent to discuss, discourse, blather or argue about anything on any terms they desire.

We do not prescribe a mindset or an approach for attending 4th Street. We do not demand that anyone be made to endure anything against their will. We want to provide a space in which everyone feels welcome, and everyone respects the welcome we desire to extend. What we do here can be hard, it can be frightening, it can be exhausting. We want to support you in doing it. We want you to know that we take your needs, your comfort, and your sense of safety very seriously. As a friend of the convention said this weekend, “It is difficult to be bold in front of strangers when you don’t feel fundamentally welcome.” We are here to listen to you, we are here to have your backs, and we are doing our damnedest to kindle that fundamental sense of welcome, to sustain it, and to make it grow, in this year and every year to come.

Lydy Nickerson articulated her negative response to Brust’s opening speech in “The Rules: A Memo for Every Man in My Life”. (Click to see the complete post. There are substantial comments there, too.)

At Fourth Street Fantasy Convention, this year, Steven Brust, from the dais, delivered a speech about safety and free speech that made me so angry I had to leave the room. Since then, various people have talked about the issues of safety, harassment, and free speech, often as a response to that situation, but sometimes as a continuation of other conversations. I have some very specific issues with the things Steven said, but I don’t want to write about them at this moment. Instead, I want to address something that comes up over and over in these conversations, and always from men. “What are the rules?” “How can I know how to behave if you won’t clarify what you want?”

Dear men, please do not ask me to provide to you something that I have never had. I cannot provide you the rules. I do not know what they are, and I never have. I have spent my entire life, my personal, professional, educational, social, and romantic life, navigating the complexities of human interaction without rules. There has never been a point at which my exact decibel level was approved, the exact number of square inches of skin I can expose has been acceptable, a precise hairstyle I could wear that would clearly communicate who and what I was. I have spent my entire life being judged by a set of shifting rules.

I have spent my entire life being lied to about what those rules were. If I talk too softly, no one listens, but if I speak more loudly, I am bitchy and dismissed. If I am clear and logical, I am mocked for inadequately mimicking maleness, but if I am emotional, I am mocked for being too feminine and not worth paying attention to. There is no level of dress that does not open me up to either being a prude or a slut.

The penalties for transgressing these ever-shifting “rules” vary. Sometimes, it’s just being unpersoned. Sometimes it is getting a bad job-performance review. Sometimes, it’s unwanted and uncomfortable conversations. Always, at the back of my mind, has been the knowledge that if I girl wrong at the wrong guy, I might be physically assaulted. And if that were to happen, my entire girl-ness would then be on trial. What was I wearing? What did I say? How did I say it? Was it my fault? Oh, yes, some percentage of the population will assert, it was totally my fault. Because I didn’t follow a rule that, you know, doesn’t actually apply all the time, isn’t written down, is entirely contextual, and nobody every told me in the first place.

Rules are a luxury that I have never had. The only way rules have ever applied to me is as a stick to beat me with. They are a shifting landscape of horror. I don’t know if all-male spaces have clear, comfortable rules that everybody knows and the penalties are clear. I rather doubt it, but I don’t know. What I do know is that to be a woman in this culture is to be constantly moving through a space where expectations are variable, and are rigidly enforced on a whim, and can dramatically affect my life.

When we talk about harassment, safety, and safe spaces, stop asking me for rules. You never gave me any, and so I have none to give you. All I can offer you is this shifting, difficult, dangerous, ambiguous space that I live in. If you want to be an ally, if, indeed, you want to be my friend, you must learn to inhabit this uncomfortable space with me. You must accept that there aren’t clear rules where you can know that you are right….

Will Shetterly defended Brust’s use of language: “Ideology makes you confuse the literal and the metaphorical–a bit about the 4th Street Kerfuffle”.

The people who’re upset by Steve’s talk are unable to see that his opening lines are metaphorical:

Fourth Street Fantasy Convention is not a safe space. On the contrary, it is a very unsafe space.

And they’re unable to see that his third line is literal:

Of course, it ought to be safe in the sense of everyone feeling physically safe, and in the sense that there should be no unwanted harassment, and it should be free of personal attacks of any kind.

If you think about his statement logically, there’s no reason to interpret the first two lines as saying he wants 4th Street to be a place that’s physically unsafe, and there’s every reason to think his third line means exactly what it says. But humans aren’t logical. To people who think of safe spaces as sacred spaces, any questioning of the idea is taboo. At least one of Steve’s critics insists they do understand metaphor. But if that’s true, why are they upset?

Steve Brust wrote a follow-up on his blog, the end of which reads:

Evidently I was wrong. And, while one can always blame the reader for failing to understand, when enough readers get it wrong, one begins to side-eye the writer.

So let me state clearly and for the record I do not support that kind of atmosphere, I do not want that kind of convention, and I deeply apologize for any pain or fear that was caused by anyone thinking I did mean that.  My fault, not yours.

ETA: It’s worth pointing out that it isn’t just a matter of reading, but that this was a speech, not presented as text, and a speech that, moreover, I deliberately opened with a shocker.  This makes more reasonable the number of people who went past the “physically safe” and “no harassment” parts.  Again, my bad.

Bull Aces Surgery;
Lynch’s Tip Jar Explodes

Emma Bull told Livejournal readers today she emerged from her August 8 thyroidectomy in fine shape –

Out of the hospital and home on the couch, complete with cats. The surgery went well and my recovery likewise, except – A WHOLE DAY WITH (almost) NO COFFEE! I almost died. Okay, no, I didn’t, but the caffeine withdrawal headache was a drag. Will [Shetterly] banished it this morning with a triple latte brought to my hospital bed.

And within 48 hours after Scott Lynch declared he would help with Emma Bull’s and Steven Brust’s imminent medical expenses by giving them 2/3 of readers’ donations to his free online serial, Queen of the Iron Sands,  more than $3,000 had been stuffed in his tip jar.

Now that he’s able to help as he wanted to, Lynch also will be busy delivering the string of incentives offered if donations reached certain milestones — among them a promise to write the story one of his characters hypothetically submitted to Astounding during the Golden Age of SF:

$3000 In Chapter 2 of Queen of the Iron Sands, Violet mentions some of the short story titles in her own brief bibilography. One of them, as recorded in her letter from John W. Campbell, is “Cold Windings of the Murthalump.” Hit three grand and I’ll actually write this… in Violet’s authorial voice, as though it had been written by her around 1948-49, for publication in Astounding Science Fiction. The particularly fun thing about this is I currently have no idea what the hell the title refers to.

Lynch has set the bar pretty high. (For a stunt like this, why do otherwise?) The 1948-1949 period brackets the famous ”predicted” issue of November 1949 with Robert Heinlein’s “Gulf” and an installment of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, plus the first appearances of other classics like E. E. Smith’s Children of the Lens, a couple of H. Beam Piper’s “Paratime” stories, a “Null-A” story by A. E. Van Vogt, Judith Merrill’s “Only A Mother”, Wilmar H. Shiras’ “In Hiding”, Jack Williamson’s “Seetee Shock”, and Hal Clement’s “Needle.”

If Lynch pulls this off he deserves another wave of donations – and then, of course, he’ll be able to help even more.