We Can Do This Thing

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1286; January 31, 2017)  Today is National Gorilla-Suit Day (Don Martin Bounces Back, 1963).

I’ve just come to the passage in Scott Kelly’s Endurance (2017) where his twin brother Mark announces sending a gorilla suit to Scott at the International Space Station.

“Of course you need a gorilla suit,” Mark says (p. 219, in the large-print edition, which is what I could get).

Its launching rocket explodes, but – this is ahead of where I am in the book – another is sent, upon arrival captured with a robot arm (p. 498) by Kjell (pronounced “chell”) Lindgren, who also while at the Station 22 Jul – 11 Dec 15 was a long-distance Guest of Honor of Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, presenting the Hugo Award for Best Novel by video.

Indeed Scott Kelly gorillas up, as he puts it (p. 529), of which a video got onto the Internet 23 Feb 16.

Trigger Snowflake and the Conference

By Ingvar: “Trigger, darling?”

Sheriff Snowflake looked up from his desk, at Mrs Coraline Snowflake, his beloved life.

“Yes, dearest?”

“I’ve been invited to join the board of the System Literature Conference.”

“You have? That’s marvellous news. SysLiCon is truly the biggest event in poetry and other fine written art.”

“But I am a wife now, how could it possibly be correct for me to participate?”

“Beloved Coraline, you are indeed a wife, and it is therefore no longer proper that you own and run a business. But SysLiCon is a charity and volunteer organisation. And thus entirely proper.”

“Well, they’re planning on holding the next conference over in Ytterbium Valley, so it would be quite close, as well.”

“That’s excellent news. Would you like me to talk to Sheriff Scrogginski about possibly helping him out with public order during the event?”

“Would you? That would be lovely.”

“I will despatch a message this evening, that’s early enough. Was there anything else?”

“No, dearest husband. And thank you, for being such an understanding and gentle husband.”

Trigger let his eyes wander back down to the paperwork. While Fort Corallium was, on the whole, a quiet settlement, it seemed that the day-to-day life of half a thousand people still managed to generate more forms in a week than Trigger could easily file away in half a morning per week. Sometimes, growth comes with pain.

#

“Welcome, all. This is the third meeting of the board for this upcoming SysLiCon.”, John De Viance lifted his chair’s mallet. “I wish to, on behalf of the entire board, extend a warm welcome to Mrs Coraline Snowflake, hopefully well known to all of you, by name and reputation if nothing else. Any other remarks before we start?”

Thirty seconds of quick glances being exchanged in silence. John took a deep breath, “No pre-meeting business, good. Hereby I declare the third SysLiCon board meeting open.”

The mallet landed on a small leather pad, with a satisfying thunk.

“First item, where are we with the venue? Pete?”

Pete Gentle grunted quietly, “Spoke to Ytterbium Valley Lodge, there’s been a delay with the extension. But everything is still on track to be finished three weeks before we open our doors. That means we won’t have final floor plans until about then, rather than the three months we were hoping for. Still, on track.”

“Good, good. Next, Erica,  membership?”

Erica shuffled the papers in front of her, then looked at the top one.

“We have 764 signed-up attending members. They have all acknowledged our Code of Conduct, as simple as it is. Looking at the names, I recognise five to ten known Sulphur artists, but as they’ve all agreed to the CoC, I feel we don’t need to do anything. We’ve also received a supporting membership from Rick ven Fleerbo, which I guess most of you have heard of. I think that’s about it from the membership division.”

Pete nodded, “good, good. And, finally, from the security division. Urbel?”

Urbel Scrogginski took a deep breath, then slowly exhaled.

“Well, these Sulphur artists, I am not so sure about. They’ve caused some problems over in Fort  Corallium. But, I guess, as long as they behave, they’re as welcome as anyone. We could probably do with some more level heads during the event, though. So I would ask the board to allow me to inquire of Mrs Snowflake, if it would be possible to have Trigger Snowflake available for the conference?”

The entire board looked at Coraline. She fidgeted, not used to being under such obvious scrutiny. “If it is the wish of the board, I will certainly ask my dear husband if he can find the time.”

#

It was a fine morning, the dust haze at an all-record low, as the doors to SysLiCon opened. A long queue of raucous novelists, poets, song-writers and others who express themselves through textual forms started snaking through the wide double doors, up to the reception, where they were duly signed in.

Standing just inside the doors, to either side of the queue, were Trigger Snowflake, on the left, and Urbel Scrogginski, to the right. The attendees walked past them, both Trigger and Urbel scanning them for signs of problems.

About an hour later, the queue had dwindled to nothing, and the two lawmen nodded to each other, walking separate ways to give the halls a quick once-over.

Half an hour later, they met back at the security office. Urbel sat down, looking at Trigger.

“Did you see anything, Trigger? Far as I could see, it was quiet.”

Trigger looked at the other empty chair in the office, sighed quietly, then walked over and took a seat.

“Saw? Well, I did see Slem ven Pocketry, who represented ven Fleerbo at Luna, ix months ago. Problem? Don’t think so, he’s signed off on the conduct code, hasn’t he? So it should all be well. Might behoove us to keep an eye on him, but unobtrusively, of course.”

Urbel scratched his chin.

“He one of those Sulphur poets?”

“Don’t know, actually. I suspect he runs with the Sulphur crowd, otherwise I can’t see why he represented ven Fleerbo. And he’s Venusian, of course. Most Sulphur artists are, although I can’t right say how many of the Venusian artists run in Sulphur circuits.”

“Well, we should make sure one of us is in this office throughout the conference, this is one of those touchy matters I would prefer is handled by a full lawman, rather than a deputy.”

“As you say, Urbel, as you say. Touchy things, literary conferences.”

“Especially SysLiCon, we’ve so far had a perfect record, and I would really prefer nothing happens on my shift.”

As the days of SysLiCon passed, this was as exciting as the security office managed to get. There was one instance of a member being over-inebriated and gently escorted back to his room, and one misunderstanding that was quickly straightened out, stemming from a dialectal difference, where one person expressed admiration for another’s work, with words that were insulting in the recipient’s dialect.

#

With SysLiCon over, and his beloved Coraline fêted and celebrated for he stellar contribution on the committee, Trigger relaxed back in his comfortable office. All of a sudden, Coraline burst down the stairs, waving a magazine of some sort in the air.

“Trigger, darling, have you seen this?”, she said in an obviously distressed voice.

Trigger looked at his wife, “No, beloved, I have not. But if you give it to me, I can read it now.”

She handed the magazine over, opened to a page head-lined “Why I Will Not Go To SysLiCon Again”.

Why I Will Not Go To SysLiCon Again

By @SlemVenPocketry

This past week, I attended SysLiCon, a literature conference that I have for a long time considered my “home conference”. And I will never go back. When I started going to SysLiCon, it was a warm and welcoming event, where everyone was treated well and everyone respected one and each other. There were even displays of extreme gratitude and respect, once in a while. But over the eleven years I have been attending, I have noticed that SysLiCon have slipped further and further into Social Justice and Safe Space worship. No longer are Sulphur artists welcomed with open arms, instead they’re only catering for non-Sulphur poets, writers, song-writers and others.

They have even instated a so-called Code of Conduct, that require and mandate certain behaviours. It is disgraceful. I no longer feel welcome in such a stifling environment, coddling people and demanding that the conference is a “Safe Space”.

I had heard that this trend so common in the literature circles had finally caught up with SysLiCon, but being that I have so many fond memories of chats, talks, panels, workshops, and, yes, excellent food at previous SysLiCons, I did not believe what I had been told. But, this year, as I was about to demonstrate thankfulness and respect, having earlier had an excellent half lobster, some asparagus and some delicious Sauce Bearnaise, something quite suitable for the level of respect I felt, I was told, in no uncertain words, by a known hater of Sulphur artists. I was told that showing my respect would be against the Code of Conduct, by no one else but Trigger Snowflake, who abused the court system to have my dear friend and Sulphur colleague Rick ven Fleerbo legally required to stay on Venus! Yes, this is clearly an injustice and an obvious sign that the Safe Space mentality has finally conquered SysLiCon!

From now on, I will only attend literary conferences where Sulphur artists can feel free to show gratitude and respect, in our own manner!

Annoyed,

Slem ven Pocketry

#

Trigger looked at the article. Then he looked at Coraline. Then he looked back at the article. After a while, he sighed.

“Beloved Coraline, nothing in this article seems to bear any resemblance to what I saw in the security office. None of our deputies reported any interaction with ven Pocketry, and trust me, we made it very clear that any incident involving a Sulphur artist should be reported. I will confer with Urbel, I suspect we’ll have a written report from our end for the Board, within a few days.”

Later that day, Trigger knocked on the door of the Sheriff’s office in Ytterbium Valley. A few moments later, the door opened and Urbel Scroggisnki looked, with quite a surprised face, at Trigger.

“Sheriff Snowflake, what brings you to Ytterbium Valley? I take it from your serious face that his is not a simple social visit?”

“I wish, Urbel, I wish. No, I am here on a SysLiCon matter. We need to get all the deputies in, one by one, and compile a report for the Board, in regards to this.”, Trigger handed the magazine over, opened to ven Pocketry’s article.

A few minutes later, Urbel nodded.

“Yes, I think you’re right. If you step in, I will start making calls.”

A considerable number of hours later, with much paperwork, the final report for the board was completed. In essence it read “We have read the SysLiCon report by Slem ven Pocketry. While we cannot comment on his state of mind, we can with confidence say that none of the people in the security division interacted with him in any manner, especially none that corresponds to anything in his report”.

And with that, the wrapping-up of the latest SysLiCon could continue unhindered.

Into the Spider-Verse

By John Hertz: 

     Sheem made one of us;

     Punning Robinson, for two;

     I can’t forget Tub;

     Descent had Niven and Barnes.

     Really, this is a marvel.


Acrostic (read down the first letters of each line) in unrhymed lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables, something like Japanese tanka.  Sheem, The Witches of Karres ch. 7 (J. Schmitz,1966); Robinson, e.g. Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon (1977); Tubby Tompkins, see Icons of the American Comic Book v. 1 p. 453 (R. Duncan & M.Smith, 2013); The Descent of Anansi (L. Niven & S. Barnes, 1982); marvel, e.g. Amazing Fantasy 15 (August 1962).

SFF Collectibles on the Market

The gift-giving season is upon us and John King Tarpinian has spotted all kinds of things you can buy for your sff-loving friends — provided your bank balance has enough zeroes in it. (Well, and also starts with a number that isn’t a zero….)

Very rare Superman ”muscle tunic” worn by Christopher Reeve during filming of ”Superman: The Movie”, the very first film of the beloved Christopher Reeve franchise, released in 1978. Tunic used in the flight scenes features two stitched holes on the sides, used to attach the flying harness. Four snaps at top are for attaching the cape. Signature blue tunic is made complete with Superman’s large emblematic gold and red ”S” sewn onto the front. The original ”Bermans & Nathans / 40 Camden St. / London N.W. 1” tag is still intact on the tunic’s inner back collar, next to the zipper, with the label reading in type: ”CHRISTOPHER REEVE / 12312 WITH MUSCLES / SUPERMAN”. Made of special nylon fabric, used for its stretch and ability to retain its original shape. Without being stretched, tunic measures 18” across the chest and 29” long. A few small holes, otherwise in near fine condition. With Prop Store COA.

Price $100,000

Presentation Stainless Steel Pocket Watch Given by Actress Zoe Saldana to Select Members of the Cast And Crew On the Film Production Team of the James Cameron Film Avatar. 1 1/4” x 1 1/2”, Presentation stainless steel quartz pocket watch given as a thank you gift by actress Zoe Saldana to select members of the cast and crew on the production team of the James Cameron film Avatar. With “NA’VI NATION” engraved on the interior of the hinged case covering, signifying the tribal unity of the Na’vi, the native people living on Pandora, the distant world where Avatar is set….

Price: $315

Original autograph poem signed by Lewis Carroll, dedicated to the sister of an ”Alice” who died in infancy. Carroll composes the tender poem inside a presentation copy of ”Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (London: MacMillan and Co., 1874), inscribed on the half-title page in Carroll’s signature purple ink, ”Presented to Jessie Howard Clark, in remembrance of her sister Alice, by the Author / July 15, 1875”. Young Jessie lived in Australia which served as the basis for the poem, alongside the themes of death and the connected experience of childhood across the world. The poem is additionally constructed so that the letters of the first words of each line form the recipient’s name, ”Jessie Howard Clark”. Written on the page opposite the table of contents, poem reads in full…

Price: $50,000

Neil Armstrong signed photo, showing fellow Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin descending onto the lunar surface. This less common NASA photo is signed “Neil Armstrong” without an inscription, in blue ink on the white moon. Matte photo measures 10″ x 8″. Near fine condition. With Steve Zarelli Space Authentication COA.

Price: $15,000

An Array of Scroll Title Ideas

By Steve Davidson: When asked to define what Pixel Scroll was all about, famed SF author Damon Knight said:

“Pixel Scroll means what we point to when we say ‘Pixel Scroll’.”

Brian Aldiss, no slouch in the quote department, had this to say:

“Pixel Scroll is the search for a definition of man and his status in the universe”

Dr. Asimov, from his rapidly crumbling throne, echoes Aldiss:

“Pixel Scroll is concerned with the impact of scientific advance upon human beings.”

Ray Bradbury, not to be outdone said:

“Pixel Scroll is really sociological studies of the future”

John Brunner, decidedly jaded opines that –

“Pixel Scroll is par excellence the literature of the open mind.”

Lester Del Rey:

“Pixel Scroll is the myth-making principle of human nature today.”

Frank Herbert:

“Pixel Scroll represents the modern heresy”

Hamilton Sci-Fi Music Parodies

By Daniel P. Dern: In addition to this one listed in a recent Scroll —

  • Luke the Son of Anakin (Star Wars + Hamilton Parody)

— there’s no shortage of other Hamilton-ized f&sf musical numbers, like

  • “(I Am Not Throwing Away) My Spock”

(Which has a surprising amount of plot detailing from a 2009 Star Trek movie.)

  • “THE DOCTOR” Hamilton Style Song Parody (Doctor Who: A Gallifreyan
    Musical)

(And while we’re momentarily on a Doctor Who tangent, there’s also this Dr Who/Rocky Horror “Let’s Do The Time Warp Again.” Lots of great cosplay and dancing!)

  • Harry Potter/Hamilton Parodies: 10 Dual Commandments

(Which is a number from the Fairly Potter Musical.)

SYFY Wire introduces the next one in its post “Thanos won’t throw away his snap in new Hamilton parody mash-up”.

Check out Thanos singing his own version of “My Shot,” which was originally sung from the point of view of Hamilton. In this version, Thanos is once again trying to justify his plan to eliminate half the population.

Not only do we finally see Thanos rapping (which you know you wanted), but we also get to hear the inner monologue he had throughout the events of Infinity War. Who knew he actually had Hamilton stuck in his head just like the rest of us?

  • “Thanilton” (animated) “Not Throwing Away My Snap”

There are other Avenger/Hamiltons, like —

  • (Weird Al’s) The Hamilton Polka – The Avengers (Al’s song, Avengers video footage)

And —

Plus this one which I believe was previously in a scroll:

And lastly, a somewhat disappointing “Green Eggs & Hamilton”

A Sesame Street-style SFF Alphabet Song

[[Editor’s Note: I wanted more people to see Peer’s song, left in comments, and got his permission to run it as a front-page post.]]

Peer: If there is Sesame Street, there should be an alphabet song:

A is for Atreides, the house that rules in Dune
B is for books, because, well, obviously
C is for The City and also for the City
D is for Death Star, a well named piece of prop
E is for Endor, a planet known for pelts
F is for Frodo, the one who drops the ring
G is for GlaDos, a computer that went mad
H is for Hal, which is another one
I is for If you were a dinosaur my love, just to annoy the Pups
J is for Jemisin who scored the biggest hattrick
K is for Klaatu, who’s not a pokemon
L is for Lensmen, although maybe not
M is for Montag, a fireman burns books
N is for Neuromancer, where the internet has no trolls
O is for Oceania, who was always at war with Eastasia
P is for Pern, because Dragons can be SF too
Q is for Q, because why the hell not?
R is for Riverworld an underused concept
S is for Slartibartfast, the inventor of fjords
T is for Thursday, the women who died a lot
U is fot Uthacalthing, the TImbrimi ambassador
V is for Vimes, who cherishes his boots
W is for the Warden, because the moon IS a harsh mistress
X is for the variable you try to add to Venus
Y is for Yulsman, just so I can mention Elander Morning
Z is for Zanzibar, where you would try to stand on

Hallmark’s 2018 Sci-Fi Ornaments

One of the (pardon my use of the word) hallmarks of advancing age is remembering when Christmas merchandise wasn’t rolled out for sale until after some ever-shifting holiday (Thanksgiving? Halloween? Labor Day?) Well, forget that! In 2018, they ran the sneak peek of 2018 Keepsake Ornaments two days before the Fourth of July!

And what have they got in mind for sci-fi fans this year?

Star Wars™ The Force Is Strong Tree Skirt With Light  as photographed reminds me of a wading pool. And priced at $99.99, it really should do year-round duty.

An owner of that tree skirt will need this on the other end of their tree — Star Wars™ Death Star Tree Topper. (Six inches in diameter!)

And they’ll want to replace Frosty the Snowman with Star Wars: Return of the Jedi™ A Rebellious Rescue Ornament With Light and Sound.

The thing I like about BB-8 is that, unlike most Keepsakes, it’s the right shape for an ornament – Star Wars TM BB-8 Personalized Ornament.

But I’m a little uncomfortable about the bodiless C3PO…. Star Wars™ C-3PO™ Ornament With Light and Sound.

Marvel has its own ideas about celebrating trees — Marvel Avengers: Infinity War Groot and Rocket Ornament.

I have other friends for whom Halloween is the biggest holiday of the year. They’ll be needing this set of ornaments to make a proper Halloween tree — Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas The Many Faces of Jack Skellington 25th Anniversary Porcelain Ornaments, Set of 9.

And for a little variety: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas Jack vs. the One-Armed Bandit Metal Ornament.

For those who think Ares is the reason for the season, there’s the “Wonder Woman™ Ornament”.

From Themyscira to your tree, Wonder Woman is ready to defend justice and promote peace in the name of all that is good. Proudly display this Christmas tree ornament that features the timeless heroine with her shield at the ready, a pose that recalls her advance into “No Man’s Land” on the frontlines of World War I and an epic battle against Ares, the God of War.

Then, depending on how badly you want to be reminded of the Justice League movie, there’s a line of merchandise that includes the Mini Justice League™ The Flash™ Ornament.

I had not previously associated “The Naked Time” episode of Star Trek with the holidays, but I guess I will from now on: Star Trek™ “The Naked Time” Ornament With Sound. No, the line in the sound track is not, “Duck, you sucker!”

I actually like the look of 2001: A Space Odyssey™ HAL 9000 50th Anniversary Ornament With Light and Sound. Unfortunately, HAL 9000’s idea of a Christmas carol is “Daisy,” sung at the clock-winding-down pace which accompanied the computer’s demise in the movie.

The latest result in machine intelligence, the HAL 9000—thought to be the most reliable computer ever made and incapable of error—served as the brain and central nervous system for the Discovery One ship’s ill-fated mission to Jupiter. Fans of “2001: A Space Odyssey” will want to bring home this special Christmas ornament that celebrates 50 years of the science-fiction masterpiece. Press the button to see the ornament light up as HAL says several memorable phrases.

With so many Harry Potter movies released toward the end of the year, there is a kind of resonance with the holiday. Harry Potter™ First Impressions Ornament With Sound. makes sure the association is not too pleasant. The sound track is Snape quizzing Harry about a bunch of things he doesn’t know and belittling his fame.

Don’t get the impression that Hallmark’s line of movie-themed ornaments is uniformly hostile to traditional ways of celebrating Christmas – far from true! Press the button on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation™ A Fun, Old-Fashioned Family Christmas Ornament With Sound and Light – and (right after the electric sizzle) comes a choir belting out Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”!

Nothing is going to get in the way of Clark Griswold’s fun, old-fashioned family Christmas! Fans of the hilarious holiday movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” can press the button on this Christmas tree ornament to relive the moment Clark’s big exterior decorating display finally comes to life. The ornament captures the image featured on the original movie poster with “Sparky” wrapped in a string of lights teetering on the roof of his house. Lights on the roofline illuminate when the button is pressed.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

A Peep for You

By John Hertz:  Possibly because I’m recovering from Westercon LXXI, I’ll take a leaf from Lloyd Penney’s book and show you a letter I wrote to someone else.

– o O o –

Dear Mr. Quachri,

Thank you for Dr. Gregory Benford’s “Physics Tomorrow” in the March-April Analog.

It’s a tour de force.

Having it in your magazine is a particular achievement.  Perhaps no one could have produced it as well as he.  It may also be a distillate or essence of your spirit – I mean the spirit of Analog.  Those last four words, I realize, could be thought an unfortunate metaphor.  In their defense I had better not offer any notions of my own, but I might be allowed to quote Dr. Clarke, who said “The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”

Dr. Benford knows, as many of us your readers may, that Physics Today has been, since 1948 – a little younger than Analog – a magazine of the American Institute of Physics, indeed its flagship publication.  His piece is in every other way I can see – manner and detail, illustrations, timely allusion to the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics (pertaining to which I recommend Dr. Michael Smith’s 2017 memoir To Catch a Black Hole, focussing, if I may venture that, on his own part), worthiness to follow The Berlin Project (pertaining to which I recommend Norman Spinrad’s review in the May-June issue of your companion magazine Asimov’s) – so perfect as to be not only good science fiction, but good comedy.  Jack Benny, had he worked in our field, could hardly have reached higher.

– o O o –

I wonder if I’ll ever learn whether my addressee recognizes this isn’t the first time I’ve brought in Mr. Benny.