(1) KEEP ON FIBBING. Diana Pharaoh Francis says according to “Writer Club Rules: Truth is No Excuse” in a post at Book View Café.
That’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, that truth is no excuse for fiction. I’ve had students who want to fictionalize a real story and then have found themselves floundering because true things are often too unbelievable to work in fiction. Fiction needs to make sense. It needs to be plausible. Reality doesn’t. That’s why the saying, Stranger Than Fiction.
(2) SACRED QUESTER. In “Is This Economist Too Far Ahead of His Time?” in the October 16 Chronicle of Higher Education, David Wescott profiles Robin Hanson about The Age of Em, including where Hanson gets his wild ideas, how Hanson hopes to write sf someday, and how fans accost him with ideas about “transcension and living in blocks of computronium.”
Hanson considers himself something of an exception to that rule and has described his mission as a “sacred quest, to understand everything, and to save the world.” He argues that academics are primarily devoted to signaling their own importance, and not necessarily to the pursuit of intellectual progress. “We lie about why we go to prestigious colleges as students, we lie about why we fund research, we lie about why we do research … we lie about lots of things,” he says. “We are so tempted to bullshit and give the most noble reason for why we do things.”
For academics who do actually care about intellectual progress more than “prestige, promotions, salaries, funding, lots of students, and roaring crowds,” Hanson says, there is a lot of freedom.
For him it’s the freedom to study things like immortality, aliens, and what to do if you suspect you are living in a computer simulation. “There are important silly subjects,” he says. And while most academics shy away from silly, “silly doesn’t equal unimportant.”
(3) GHOSTBUSTER. Fox News reports “Bill Murray honored as he accepts Mark Twain prize for humor” in a ceremony at the Kennedy Center on Sunday night.
There were plenty of laughs at Murray’s expense in evening that took on the tone of a gentle roast. Jimmy Kimmel, Aziz Ansari, Sigourney Weaver and Steve Martin were among those who ribbed Murray for being aloof, unpredictable and difficult to reach — and somehow still lovable.
“I think you and I are about as close as two people can be, considering that one of them is you,” Martin said in a video tribute.
(4) TEPPER OBIT. Shari S. Tepper (1929-2016) died October 22 reports Locus Online. The author of over 40 novels, Tepper received a lifetime achievement award from the World Fantasy Convention just last year.
John Scalzi paid tribute at Whatever:
Also a bit depressing: That Tepper, while well-regarded, is as far as I can tell generally not considered in the top rank of SF/F writers, which is a fact I find completely flummoxing. Her novel Grass has the sort of epic worldbuilding and moral drive that ranks it, in my opinion, with works like Dune and Perdido Street Station and the Earthsea series; the (very) loose sequel to Grass, Raising the Stones, is in many ways even better, and the fact that Stones is currently out of print is a thing I find all sorts of appalling.
(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS
- Born October 24, 1893 — Film producer-director Merian Cooper (the original “King Kong”).
- Born October 24, 1915 — Bob Kane, creator of Batman.
(6) FREER’S SCAPEGOAT OF THE WEEK. Remember when Dave Freer used to teach about writing in his column at Mad Genius Club? Me neither.
Here am I, in the esteemed company of such luminaries in my field as Larry Correia and John C Wright, as winners of the Wally Award, an honor I will treasure – because it isn’t every day I find myself lumped with authors that I try to learn from and imitate, and I hear some terribly tragic news.
There’s no doubt that being singled out by none other than Damien Walter of ‘The Grauniad’, a newspaper whose reputation for unbiased journalism is only rivaled by Pravda, legendary for its typos and grammos (hence Grauniad, rather than The Guardian), and with research and factual quality which is mentioned in the same breath as News of the World and Beano (although they cannot seriously compete with Beano in the opinion of most people of an IQ above ‘sheep, dim (Merino)’) and whose sf/fantasy correspondent’s effect on the sales and livelihoods of sf and fantasy authors has been equated with file 770. The last comparison I feel unfair, because despite Damien’s tiny readership his attempts to harm my career and ability to make a living, he actually had some effect on my sales, with his hatred of my unread work improving sales for me. It is for this reason I find the news that the floundering ‘Grauniad’ (the Venezuela of mainstream print media, which is running out of other people’s money) seems to have dispensed with his services, so sad.
(7) CLOSE CALLS. The BBC interviews Megan Bruck Syal about avoiding extinction by asteroid.
Sixty-five million years ago, a catastrophic impact forever changed the environmental landscape of Earth – and there was no way to see it coming.
This Earth-bound asteroid – or maybe several – changed the course of millions of years of evolution, altered the composition of our atmosphere – and the geology of Central America for good measure.
To prevent a similar event, we need to be prepared. Megan Bruck Syal, postdoctoral researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, works on the Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment (Aida) – which, for the first time, will test how effective a kinetic impact mission would be in altering the course of an Earth-bound asteroid.
“It’s not a matter of if an asteroid will impact again, but when,” says Bruck Syal. “Planetary defence began to be an issue when more and more near-Earth asteroids began to be discovered.”
She warns of close calls, like the Chelyabinsk meteorite – which in 2013 made international headlines when it left hundreds of people injured and damaged thousands of buildings in Russia. “It really captured the world’s attention because no one saw it coming. And it was pretty small yet it still did a lot of damage for its size.”
(8) BLABBY MCBLABFACE. Apparently, if you want to know what’s happening in season 7 of Game of Thrones, it would not be too hard to find out — “MAJOR SPOILERS: The Entire Plot of ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7 May Have Been Leaked on Reddit”.
A brave Redditor named awayforthelads dumped what appears to be the entire plot of Season 7 onto the Freefolk subreddit. The subreddit has a long history of being the go-to place for Thrones leaks and last season was incredibly reliable at thoroughly spoiling almost every detail of Season 6.
As further proof of authenticity, awayforthelads has deleted his account, presumably to evade the wrath of HBO.
And actress Nathalie Emmanuel, who plays Daenerys Targaryen’s beautiful handmaiden Missandei, appears also to have confirmed the authenticity of the leak on Twitter:
(9) COSPAIN. Apparently it’s not a favorite holiday for some: “University of Florida offers counseling for students offended by Halloween costumes”.
Halloween can be scary, but it can also be… offensive?
The University of Florida wants students to know that counseling is available for students hoping to work past any offense taken from Halloween costumes.
“Some Halloween costumes reinforce stereotypes of particular races, genders, cultures, or religions. Regardless of intent, these costumes can perpetuate negative stereotypes, causing harm and offense to groups of people,” the school administration wrote in a blog post. “If you are troubled by an incident that does occur, please know that there are many resources available.”
(10) THE ETHICS OF ASTRONOMICAL ART. NPR feature: “Out of This World: How Artists Imagine Planets Yet Unseen”. There’s a brief shout-out to Bonestell, but the artists interviewed aren’t likely to be known to fans.
“It’s tricky with computer graphics,” says Ray Villard, news director for the Space Telescope Science Institute. “You can make stuff in such extraordinary detail, people might think it’s real. People might think we’ve actually seen these features — canyons, all kinds of lakes and rivers.”
“The point of these illustrations is to create excitement, to grab the general public’s attention. But there is a danger that many people sometimes do mistake some of these illustrations for real photos,” agrees Luis Calçada, an artist with the European Southern Observatory’s education and public outreach department.
“Many, many astronomers actually do see this danger on this kind of illustration,” he says, “because it might create false images on people’s minds.”
(11) FIRE WHEN READY. NPR reports on experiments planned for the ISS, including deliberately starting a fire in the cargo ship in “Gotcha: Space Station Grabs Onto NASA’s 5,100-Pound Cargo Craft”.
Astronauts used the International Space Station’s robotic arm to grapple the Cygnus cargo spacecraft early Sunday morning, starting the process of bringing more than 5,100 pounds of supplies and research equipment aboard. The cargo’s experiments include one thing astronauts normally avoid: fire.
“The new experiments include studies on fire in space, the effect of lighting on sleep and daily rhythms, collection of health-related data, and a new way to measure neutrons,” NASA says.
[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]