Pixel Scroll 10/24/16 I’m Free. I’m Free, And Waiting For Scroll To Pixel Me

(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 GrassRaising 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.]

158 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/24/16 I’m Free. I’m Free, And Waiting For Scroll To Pixel Me

  1. RE: Post scarcity society in science fiction. I forgot to mention “Voyage from Yesteryear” by James P. Hogan. Which wikipedia claims was influenced by “And then There Were None” by Eric Frank Russell, which I remember reading. “MYOB” stands out in my memory….

  2. howloon: (Also, why was there a presidential election in 2055, anyway?)

    Shouldn’t there always be a presidential election in a year with a second fifth?

  3. @techgrrl1972: I don’t think it has been a central point in Clinton’s campaign, but \any/ campaign that is talking about supporting education is talking about the issue of surviving in a changing economy. (As usual, there’s a story somewhere in SF about this. Asimov pre-hiatus had a short about people given instant learning, then finding they were stuck with obsolete versions they couldn’t replace; one character, semi-deliberately characterized as “feeble-minded” because the treatment didn’t work, solved this by rediscovering studying. cf his “The Feeling of Power”, in which someone rediscovers how to do arithmetic without a calculator.) Democrats have handled this clumsily in the past — cf Dukakis getting mocked for suggesting that people go into raising specialty vegetables — and it’s disappointing that Clinton’s campaign hasn’t done more to show what could be done for the technologically/economically obsolesced, but the ideas aren’t completely missing. (One thing Trump hasn’t bothered mentioning with his tariff plans and Clinton has dared touch: how much the current US standard of living depends on the sort of cheap imports that fill the shelves of Walmart etc.)

  4. @Chip Hitchcock

    Asimov pre-hiatus had a short about people given instant learning, then finding they were stuck with obsolete versions they couldn’t replace;

    I think you’re talking about the novella, Profession, by Isaac Asimov. I thought it was a great story, although I think you missed the point a little. George was a truly creative person, and such people cannot be “taped” like normal folks. Instead, the government supports them, and they’re the source of all new ideas.

  5. My memory of the Asimov story matches Greg’s.

    I read it in high school, at the dawn of the 80s, and even then it struck me that women existed as either trophies for the winners or consolation prizes for the losers. It was just a given that no women participated in the professional world.

  6. Just an FYI: The 2016 Recommended SF/F Page permalinked in the File770 blog header was automatically closed for comments after 6 months. Mike has now reopened that thread for further commenting, so keep those recommendations coming!

  7. “Waah! Waah! I’m not allowed to behave offensively any more! I’m being expected to show respect to other people! They never made me do this when I was a child, why should I have to start now?!!!” 🙄

  8. What @JJ said. But if we call it political correctness and repression of free speech, then maybe it’ll hide how it’s really all about fighting back against a society that is starting to demand manners from all, instead of just some.

  9. @JJ
    Even though it was a different subject, I’m always made to think of a certain Pratchett book in these cases…

    That’s what we’ve come to. When Reacher Gilt talks about freedom he means his, not anyone else’s

  10. Bill: If the Tufts University Police Department are in fact investigating certain Halloween costumes, it is repression of free speech.

    Ah, Bill, every time I see your name in front of a post, I wonder which foot you are going to stick in it now. It’s so nice of you never to disappoint me.

    That letter is, as Cheryl says, evidence of a society that is starting to demand respectful behavior and manners from all, instead of just some. It’s “repression of asshole behavior and abusive behavior”.

    The fact that you consider it “repression of free speech” says a very great deal about you (not that you haven’t said it numerous times, numerous ways already, so it’s hardly a surprise). 🙄

  11. NC State had a rule against handing out pamphlets overturned recently because of free speech concerns so at least state backed schools have to worry about it. I guess privates one can do whatever they want though.

    Leaving that aside, it does seem like “free speech” is coming to mean “freedom to speak the party line” which is great I guess as long as you control the party.

  12. @Ultragotha: Cora’s used to reading/decoding the foreign language of English. So she probably treats Freerese as another, even more foreign language. You and I are hampered by trying to read it as English.

    @howloon: Golly, you’re right. It’s all description and subordinate clauses, with no subject.

    @Wombat: Once in a while, there’s something good in a slush pile. Or at least entertaining, like “Eye of Argon”. Not so here.

    Considering how many truly offensive (usually, but not always, racist) Halloween costumes pop up at colleges, I’m glad one has decided to keep an eye on it rather than just going “whoops, those darn kids!” afterwards. And considering how much aberrant behavior goes on, ditto having the counselors available. Because gropey frat boys don’t get less gropey when they’re drunk and wearing a mask, for example.
    /Signed, A woman who went to college.
    PS Counselors might also help the overgrown babies who are upset that they have to think about other people’s feelings and try being polite. I know it’s hard, but millions of us have managed this without professional help.

    I’d like to see a universal basic income. I bet it’d lead to a big drop in crime and an increase in public health. If people knew they’d have enough money to eat and pay rent, maybe they’d be able to retrain for other jobs. Or move, say, from Appalachia to the strip-mine places, or the metal mines, or stay there and grow organic veggies in the fresh air.

    @Bruce Baugh: Yes.

  13. @lurkertype
    Coincidentally, my first experience with Dave Freer (and the whole MGC in fact, because I’d dared to disagree with something Sarah Hoyt said) was him showing up at my blog to write a 2000 word comment to tell me that I was stupid and unable to understand proper English due to being a dirty and uneducated foreigner. And this from Mr. “Can’t even write a proper sentence.”

  14. @Cora: Puppy projection. It’s what they’re best at (Or second best at, after whining).

  15. That was before in early 2014, when the puppies were still “Larry Correia really desperately wants a Hugo”.

  16. Does anyone else remember such a story? Title and author?

    Frederick Pohl, “The Midas Plague”.

    Also, there’s a similar basic idea in “Waste Not, Want” by Dave Dryfoos (1954). It’s not as memorable as the Pohl, but, seeing as I remembered it, I guess it’s not entirely forgettable.

  17. Cora: [Dave Freer] showing up at my blog to write a 2000 word comment to tell me that I was stupid and unable to understand proper English due to being a dirty and uneducated foreigner

    Freer The King Of Incomprehensible Argle-Bargle had the temerity to say that to you? 😆

  18. @JJ — The only part I consider to be “repression of free speech” is the police response. Tufts, being a private university, can do whatever else they want (although I think much of it is overreaction; the proper response to a guy wearing a stupidly offensive costume is to say, “Dude, you’re being an asshole” and get on with your life).

    I’ll ask this seriously — do you think a knock on the door from a guy with a gun is a proper response to a Halloween costume that someone finds offensive?

  19. Pete Burns from Dead or Alive is gone at the age of 57.

    Dammit. And that’s far too young, too.

    The DJ played a little bit of “You Spin Me Round” at the 80s/horror themed roller disco Friday (he’d cut off songs early but at least he’d play enough to sing along to before seguing to something else). A lot of skaters tried, with varying levels of success, to spin right round at the appropriate moment. Of course.

  20. @Bill – If the Tufts University Police Department are in fact investigating certain Halloween costumes, it is repression of free speech.

    There is no police investigation. There is the potential that a consequence of violating the policy would be a referral to the campus cops. There is no mention of what actions would result in that. Maybe something that deserves it, even by your standards.

    But, hey, your narrative is far more alarmist, so free speech! which, oh, is not the same as consequence free speech, trumps the growing clamor for good manners even from the privileged. Or not.

  21. Bill: I’ll ask this seriously — do you think a knock on the door from a guy with a gun is a proper response to a Halloween costume that someone finds offensive?

    I’ll ask this seriously — do you honestly think a knock on the door from a guy with a gun is the response that’s going to happen for a Halloween costume that someone finds offensive but not threatening?

    I don’t. I think Tufts has more sense than that. What they have done with this statement is give themselves the ability to choose from a very wide range of responses, depending on the complaint, the severity of what’s being complained about, and the subsequent reaction of the person about whom the complaint is made. I think that is a very wise move.

    And you know, you as a white guy telling women and minorities what the “proper” response is to anything, is so far beyond the pale that I’m just sitting here shaking my head at your utter obliviousness. 🙄

  22. Cora: [Dave Freer] showing up at my blog to write a 2000 word comment to tell me that I was stupid and unable to understand proper English due to being a dirty and uneducated foreigner

    You know, you can’t buy precious moments like that. They have to be made by the heart.

    I think it’s obvious that Damien Walter is at fault here. He has gone too long without paying attention to Dave Freer, who is therefore reduced to blogging about that two-month old article, it seems. Come on, Damien–NOTICE HIM.

  23. Freer:Damien::Teddy:Scalzi. (Yes, I took the SAT long ago.) All those silly little man crushes, ignored.

    @JJ: There’s free speech and freeze peach. They sound a lot alike, but SWM and the right love the latter, because it involves no bad consequences for them.

  24. @Bill – from your link

    “The range of response for students whose actions make others in our community feel threatened or unsafe, or who direct conduct towards others that is offensive or discriminatory includes OEO and/or TUPD investigation…

    Feel free to read your own cited article properly before getting all outraged and clutching your pearls.

  25. I think it’s obvious that Damien Walter is at fault here. He has gone too long without paying attention to Dave Freer, who is therefore reduced to blogging about that two-month old article, it seems. Come on, Damien–NOTICE HIM.

    “Senpai, notice meeeee!”

  26. @snowcrash

    The range of response for students whose actions make others in our community feel threatened or unsafe, or who direct conduct towards others that is offensive or discriminatory includes OEO and/or TUPD investigation

    Feel free to read the quoted article properly before denying that police investigation is the response to an offensive costume.

  27. Maybe the Tufts police could start carrying a scream meter. With today’s high-level integration, they could probably build it into a multipurpose device along with an irony meter and a gaydar.

  28. Bill: I have read the article, the complaint form linked in the article, and the Tufts University annual security report.

    When Tufts’ president refers to a “range” of response, that means the response will be one of the things mentioned, not in every case what you think is the most ominous one. You’re indulging in extreme imagery.

    Here’s the form the university president linked to (https://cm.maxient.com/reportingform.php?TuftsUniv&layout_id=2). And this is the introductory statement on the form.

    Members of the community who have been the targets of, or who witness, bias, intolerance, discrimination, and/or hate may use this online form to make the University aware of these incidents. (Please note, however, that reports submitted using this form must be reviewed by the Administrative Contact Team before being officially categorized and included in the list of “Reported Incidents of Bias” made available to Tufts’ community members. Please also note that using this reporting form does not constitute the filling of a judicial complaint. If you would like to file an official complaint, please state this in the report you submit here, and the appropriate staff member will reach out to you. You may also file an official complaint by contacting the Dean of Student Affairs Office at 617-627-3158 or the Office of Equal Opportunity at 617-627-3298.)

    And when Tufts’ president said there was a range one end of that range is the campus’ OEO, which is not armed —

    TUFTS’ OFFICE OF EQUAL OPPORTUNITY (OEO) OEO is responsible for making inquiries into sexual misconduct, stalking, and dating or domestic violence on behalf of the university and for acting as an independent fact-finding body for Tufts. OEO is also responsible for the investigations under the university-wide Sexual Misconduct Adjudication Process (SMAP) applicable to allegations of sexual misconduct, sexual assault, stalking, and dating or domestic violence that apply to students, as well as the process applicable to employees and third parties. OEO does not have the authority to take disciplinary action but shares its findings with the appropriate administrators who will determine what action, if any, should be taken in response to OEO findings. OEO also facilitates training and educational events to address campus concerns about or resulting from sexual misconduct, stalking, and dating or domestic violence. In addition, the sexual misconduct prevention specialist (SMPS) is also available to conduct educational trainings such as healthy relationship trainings; bystander intervention; and other sexual misconduct, sexual assault, stalking, and dating or domestic violence prevention; and risk prevention trainings. Tufts offers a number of training, educational, and awareness programs each year, many that are overseen by OEO.

  29. I’m trying to figure out what possible costume would justify a “range of responses” which explicitly includes calling the cops. Help me out here. How exactly could I dress offensively which would require the police to come knock knock knocking on my door?

    That incredibly crappily written paragraph from the relevant university official managed to conflate two things: Sexual assault and offensive costumes. One of those justifies a range of responses including calling the cops. The other doesn’t. (I realize I shouldn’t assume university administrators can write competent prose.)

  30. John A Arkansawyer: I’m trying to figure out what possible costume would justify a “range of responses” which explicitly includes calling the cops. Help me out here. How exactly could I dress offensively which would require the police to come knock knock knocking on my door?

    If you went trick-or-treating dressed as Michelangelo’s statue of David, don’t you think that would be handled by the cops?

    I’m surprised people are having a hard time thinking of examples.

  31. @Mike Glyer: That was the only thing I could think of–actual nudity. I can’t think of anything else…well, possibly carrying weapons. Since nudity is actually illegal, I didn’t name it. I’m pretty sure the campus police already have a policy about nudity. They also probably have a policy about carrying weapons. So let me rephrase:

    What possible costume which is not already illegal on campus could require a range of responses which includes calling the police?

  32. A better question might be, “What possible costume, and in what context used, could require…?”

    And there are probably better people to answer it than uninvolved people on the privileged end of the spectrum for whom the whole question is merely an abstract discussion.

  33. John A Arkansawyer: What possible costume which is not already illegal on campus could require a range of responses which includes calling the police?

    Have fun with that discussion, but it is irrelevant to the Tufts case.

  34. @ John A Arkansawyer

    I have a pretty broad imagination. If, for example, a group of white students decided to do a group “costume” that represented KKK members and a blackface-costumed member with a noose around his neck, I could image that this might constitute something a university would want to take official notice of.

  35. Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little: And there are probably better people to answer it than uninvolved people on the privileged end of the spectrum for whom the whole question is merely an abstract discussion.

    That reads like “shut up” to me. You may not have considered that abstract discussions of rules and/or law enforcement issues are a commonplace in a democracy.

  36. now look … I’m not trying to start a fight or anything … but as a straight white male, is there any issue on which I’m allowed to express a contrary opinion? I think I understand the whole white male privilege thing and I try hard to support equality for everyone. But I often feel as if my voice, because of that privilege, doesn’t count .. and that the discounting of my opinion often feels like little but retribution …. i.e. “you’ve had it your way for so long, how does it feel to be on the other side?”

    isn’t that a little sad?

    since I suspect that the first reaction many will have to this post is “oh boohoo poor you” .. you might check to see if you’re making my point …

  37. @Heather Rose Jones:

    If, for example, a group of white students decided to do a group “costume” that represented KKK members and a blackface-costumed member with a noose around his neck, I could image that this might constitute something a university would want to take official notice of.

    You betcha! If it were my call, they’d be expelled so fast it’d make your head spin. I just don’t believe that requires the police to accomplish.

    @Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little: I’ve been hauled off by campus cops while I was involved in free speech activities often enough that I don’t feel particularly abstract about it.

  38. clif: You’re the one who’s in sole charge of speaking your conscience.

    People who wait for permission are abandoning that responsibility, because who’s going to give it to them?

  39. @Heather Rose Jones, @ John A Arkansawyer

    I have a pretty broad imagination. If, for example, a group of white students decided to do a group “costume” that represented KKK members and a blackface-costumed member with a noose around his neck, I could image that this might constitute something a university would want to take official notice of.

    Yep. Especially in some places — like, for example, where I am in NE Texas, where a number of white hate groups, including multiple Ku Klux Klan groups, are active, as tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center and where, among other things, during my 20 years, I have had about five white students tell me (in the privacy of my own office, not in class at least, that they were members of the Klan, or their friends and family were–I am of course sitting there going why the fuck are you telling me this). When the statewide History Day Contest for high school students was held here, there was not a year that went by that at least one group presentation wasn’t glorifying/celebrating the KKK (one year, with the representation of a lynching and with fake blood spatter).

    My African-American students (and my university has done a good job of redressing its racist past–a past in which one president, Gee, extended segregation well past the date it was ended by federal mandate, a process well documented in our university archives) have told me stories over the years about what they have faced. Three of them had a family member killed in such a way (I won’t go into details, but if you know anything about the history of lynching, you can fill them in for yourself–if you don’t, feel free to Google–there’s lots of historical evidence, given the tendency of whites to photograph their torture and murder, make postcards, put it in the newspaper, make it a family celebration/picnic day) that it was clearly a hate crime–and white police never investigated.

    So, yes, I can see circumstances under which I would call our campus police if I saw a group dressed in certain ways at this university, or the city police if it was in town.

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