Pixel Scroll 11/20/16 Your Pixels Too Small To Scroll With God

(1) FOR SOME VALUES OF CHIANG. Abigail Nussbaum gives Arrival a thorough analysis at Asking the Wrong Questions. Spoilers, naturally.

It’s been about four years since the movie adaptation of Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” was announced, and during that period, every time I heard a piece of news about the film’s progress, there was always one question paramount in my mind: how?  How could you possibly take Chiang’s story, a trippy, challenging piece of writing whose ultimate conclusion needs to be carefully laid out for even the most attentive and game reader, and translate it into a mainstream movie, in a medium that isn’t normally permitted to spell out its themes and ideas the way written fiction is?  For me personally, there was an element of protectiveness to this wondering.  “Story of Your Life,” which I first read in my late teens, was an eye-opener for me.  In its focus on the “soft” science of linguistics, in its willingness to use relatively abstruse concepts from both linguistics and physics to build its premise, and in its foregrounding of a thoroughly unsentimental mother-daughter relationship, it expanded my ideas of what science fiction was capable of.  I couldn’t bear the thought of someone turning it into yet another alien invasion story.

And, to be fair to director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Eric Heisserer, that is not what Arrival is.  In fact, by the standards of Hollywood and what it tends to make of science fiction, Arrival is a remarkably thought-provoking and meditative movie, and its message of understanding and cooperation feels particularly relevant in our present moment.  But as regards to my question, how could Villeneuve and Heisserer take the implications of Chiang’s story and put them on screen, the answer is: they didn’t.  And in fact, it seems quite obvious that this was a deliberate choice.

(2) THE UR-TEXT. Ethan Mills goes back to the book in “Interrogating Ideas: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang”  at Examined Worlds.

Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others includes several excellent stories/novelettes/novellas (including “Story of Your Life,” which is the basis for the film Arrival).  In addition to the good ones, a few more are okay, and there’s one I didn’t care for.

Ted Chiang is the opposite of prolific, having only published about a dozen works of short fiction in the last 25 years, but he’s one of the best when it comes to using science fiction and fantasy to interrogate ideas.  There are nice little notes on each story in the back of the book in which Chiang tells you which ideas inspired the stories (sometimes it’s surprising).  It’s no wonder his work is a top pick for Eric Schwitzgebel’s list of philosophers’ favorite science fiction.

Here’s a bit on each work in this collection…

(3) NEBULA AWARD RECOMMENDATIONS. Lots of time to go, but who’s leading SFWA’s Nebula Award Recommendations novel category right now?

With nine recommendations each, Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky and Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Blades ae at the head of the list.

(4) B&N BEST SFF. The B&N Sci-Fi &Fantasy Blog is at work on its own list of “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2016”. The Anders book features there, too.

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders Former io9.com editor Charlie Jane Ander’s debut speculative novel is a story of love and friendship, hope and despair, science and magic, and the end of the world. A girl who can do magic falls for a boy who only believes in science, and together, they must figure out how to save our dying planet—assuming, of course, the planet even wants our help. Childhood friends Patricia and Laurance lose touch with one another as they grow up, their differing paths sending one of them to a secret school for magicians and the other to the best engineering programs on offer. Years later, they meet again, with the fate of the world at stake, and the forces of science and magic edging toward all-out war. Read our review.

(5) EUROPEAN WRITER OBITS. Europa SF reports two European authors have died:

  • French SF Writer Andre Ruellan (7 August 1922-15 November 2016)
  • Italian SF Writer Massimo Mongai (3 November 1950-1 November 2016)

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 20, 2007 The Wizard of Oz Munchkins received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

(7) WARRIORS WHO DON’T IMPRESS. Cracked ranks “9 Supposed Action Stars Who Clearly Couldn’t Fight”.

The funniest lines are about #7 –

Fred Williamson

People started calling Fred Williamson “The Hammer” during his professional football career, and when you think about how many gigantic men were trying to get that same nickname to stick, you’ll realize that this achievement is the closest thing a person can get to a Nobel Prize in Badassery. This is a man who has crippled dozens of offensive linemen and starred in three movies that have the N-word right in their titles. And yet despite how terrifying that is to me, I’m still choosing to say that a Fred Williamson fight scene looks like two people with cerebral palsy feeding each other.

There are several reasons for these bad action sequences. First of all, he had to hold back so much to not kill his co-stars. If he wanted, Fred Williamson could kick your ass so hard that nine months after you die, your wife would give birth to his foot.

However, it is our own Captain Kirk who head the list at #1 —

William Shatner

You knew the whole time there was no other choice for the top spot. Bill Shatner invented entirely new ways to look ridiculous while punching, and he did it all at one-quarter speed. He threw judo chops so slowly against space monsters that he was already on T.J. Hooker by the time they connected. They say the Gorn still roams the Vasquez Rocks, waiting for his cue to duck….

(8) FUNNY BUZZNESS. Vincent Price’s daughter spoke on fear, love and The Fly at the  Vincent Price Art Museum at East LA College.

Victoria Price also stressed that humor is an excellent weapon against fear, and says one of the reasons her dad was popular for so long was that there was always a little humor in his horror work that “provided a release. And there is a way that laughing at fear, breaks its mesmerism. It’s hard right now to see that, but I do promise that laughter is an important part of our healing.”

And so, for fans of the original “The Fly,” she says, watch the absurd ending.

“My dad told me, that last scene they could not film. He said they all thought this is the most ridiculous thing, a fly talking, and they had to shoot it so many times. And they’re doubled over almost peeing their pants. So watch the last scene, and you will see that they are all just barely holding it together.”

(9) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. Motherboard tells why “NASA’s New Satellite Is Going to Be a Game Changer for Weather Forecasts”.

The satellite will assist meteorologists by providing atmospheric measurements and a stream of high-definition images taken every 5 minutes over the Western Hemisphere with the ability to simultaneously zoom in on specific areas. From this data, GOES-R will help experts observe and predict severe weather events—thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash floods, fog, etc.—and detect hazards like forest fires, dust storms, and volcanic eruptions. It will also be used for search and rescue, oceanography, and climate monitoring.

GOES-R is the 17th GOES spacecraft and is part of the $11 billion system upgrade. What makes the new satellite unique is that it is far more advanced—and five times faster—than the current system. The spacecraft is equipped with a high-resolution camera designed to see in 16 wavelengths, offering images with four time better resolution. In comparison, the satellite’s predecessor can only see in five wavelengths.

(10) BEAUTY JOINS HAN AND THE BEAST. StarWars.com announced that Emilia Clarke has joined the Han Solo stand-alone film.

Emilia Clarke is heading to a galaxy far, far away — and she’s going to meet Han and Chewie.

StarWars.com is excited to announce that Clarke, known for her stirring portrayal of Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, will join the upcoming untitled Han Solo Star Wars movie. Clarke’s role will round out a dynamic cast of characters that Han and Chewie will encounter on their adventures.

Clarke joins Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover — previously cast as Han Solo and Lando Calrissian, respectively — in the highly-anticipated film, which is set prior to the original Star Wars trilogy.

(11) LATER ARRIVAL. It won’t look like the movies – which probably surprises no one. “An Astrolinguist Explains How to Talk to Aliens” at Motherboard.

“I am so envious of Louise Banks because she gets to have a face to face with ET,” Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) International president Douglas Vakoch told Motherboard. “But in the scenarios that SETI and METI folks deal with there’s no possibility of that. Our idea of a snappy exchange with extraterrestrials is a decade—and that only works if the nearest star is populated.”

(12) AND THE ROCK YOU RODE IN ON. NASA is going, but can ESA get its complementary mission funded? “Why ESA Scientists Really Want to Crash a Satellite into an Asteroid”.

NASA will be launching a probe called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which will arrive at the asteroid (called 65803 Didymos) in late 2022 and then directly proceed to crash into the asteroid’s moon at 6 km/s (or about 13,400 mph). This impact would then be monitored by ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) spacecraft, which will have placed itself into orbit around the binary asteroid four months in advance of DART’s arrival.

The mission is designed so that NASA can go ahead with its DART portion of the mission whether or not ESA is able to get AIM funded, but for scientists around the world, not funding AIM would be a huge missed opportunity for planetary science and defense.

“If ESA doesn’t do AIM, DART can still go,” said Michel. “But it’s just half the mission. You wouldn’t get the initial conditions or outcomes in detail, but at least you are able to complete DART to test the capacity to autonomously guide a projectile to a very small target.”

[Thanks to JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

41 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/20/16 Your Pixels Too Small To Scroll With God

  1. Hmm. For new posts my rss reader (feedly) is still picking it up. For new comments, my email subscriptions are still working as well (just received from the 11/14 thread)

  2. Back from Helsinki. It is really the twin of Stockholm, same architecture, same feeling. I think I’ll go there a few days before just to check out some nice places I got pointed out. Also, it is possible to take daytrips fo Estonia.

  3. Also, it is possible to take daytrips fo Estonia.

    Is that for people who want to visit Estonia for the sake of having been there or is there something particularity nifty in daytrip range that people must see?

  4. @Hampus @Iphinome Yeah, assuming I can get to go to Worldcon in Helsinki (which has become dicier as of late), a day trip to another country, like, say, Tallinn or St. Petersburg, is definitely part of the appeal of the adventure. Tallinn would be mainly for bragging rights (unless someone can tell me what I’d want o see there. St. Petersburg for be for the Hermitage.

    And…sixth.

  5. The last “new post” email notification I received (and the last File770 notification of any kind) was for the Kenya Barris Serling Award post on Friday.

  6. Filers thoughts on All the Birds in the Sky? I’m getting a popular-with-writers-and-bloggers impression but that doesn’t necessarily translate into something that I end up enjoying.

  7. 9) NASA put GoesR the Gozarian in orbit!? Does Venkman know about this? Is anyone keeping an eye on Weaver and Moranis?

    Its going to track the weather? ‘snort’. More like make it….

  8. Rob_Matic, All the Birds in the Sky stuck me as… uneven. There was some beautifully-written imagery in there, but all told the story didn’t actually stick with me. I read it about six months ago and I honestly couldn’t tell you, now, what it was about in any great detail. (But I could still describe some of the imagery, so there’s that…) I realize that this is probably not a very helpful review for you, but it’s what I’ve got.

  9. @Cassy B/rob_matic

    I think uneven is fair. It’s a very promising book, in that it’s very ambitious in how it tries to blend genres, and it’s probably inevitable that it would fail to some extent. I did enjoy it and find it very readable.

  10. Iphinome:

    “Is that for people who want to visit Estonia for the sake of having been there or is there something particularity nifty in daytrip range that people must see?”

    Finnish and swedish people go there to buy cheap alcohol. 🙂 Haven’t been there myself, but my father has been there many times and think Tallinn is a very nice city to walk around in. They do have the guest house where the Devil celebrated his wedding, so I guess that is something.

    It takes between 1.5 and 2.5 hours each way and price is around 15 to 30 dollars per way, all depending on which ferry.

    Thing is, citiziens of EU and US do not need a VISA to visit Estonia. You do to visit St. Petersburg and it is a bit of a hassle (at least I thought so).

  11. All the Birds in the Sky just didn’t hold my attention. I gave up about halfway through. My roommate really liked it, though.

  12. And for those that are into pilgrimage, Stalker was mostly filmed 20 miles outside Tallinn.

  13. @7 – thanks for linking this. The fight technique descriptions were laugh out loud funny.

    Tallinn is a well preserved medieval walled city. You can easily do a walking tour from where the ferry from Helsinki docks. Dubrovnik is the closest comparison that I know of (prior to the last Balkan war).

    Finished Taken (Alex Verus Book 3) which was OK. Jim Butcher does this sort of book better.

    Also finished Treachery’s Tools by Modesitt. If you liked any of the Imager books you will like this.

    Benedict Jacka

  14. Thanks Airboy and Hampus.

    Estonia does sound “easier” than St. Petersburg. Current political climate might make Tallinn an easier row to hoe, too, come August. We’ll see where my camera and I wind up. I flirted with a visit to a Swedish National Park post-con, but my would-be native guide has a wedding and can’t go with me after all.

  15. For me, the big attraction in Tallinn is the extremely well-preserved medieval city center. This may not be a draw for everyone, but if it’s your sort of thing, it’s fabulous. (Mind you, the one time I took the ferry over from Helsinki to Tallinn for a brief visit, the primary purpose was for a wedding reception at the Olde Hansa restaurant. So not the typical tourist.)

  16. “I flirted with a visit to a Swedish National Park post-con, but my would-be native guide has a wedding and can’t go with me after all.”

    Any specific one? I can help with stuff in Sweden, how to get there and so on. Tyresta National Park is the closest one to Stockholm, I have walked around a bit in it and there are detailed routes on the net. But I have absolutely no knowledge about birds and stuff.

    More info about it here:
    http://www.sverigesnationalparker.se/en/choose-park—list/tyresta-national-park/

    I do have camping gear to lend if you are into that stuff.

  17. For St. Petersburg, I think the easiest way is the train which takes 3.5 hours. Is around 100-130 dollar per direction. Only five trains a day per direction.

  18. @hampus The National Park we were thinking of is Abisko, way up in Northern Sweden. So., yeah, without Mikaela, that might be a trip a tad too ambitious for me.

  19. St. Petersburg – Be careful about visa requirements. When we went there on a cruise you could only go on official tours through the ship or official tours booked in advance. I’m not sure what the status is now, but I would double-check visa issues before planning to go.

    Helsinki has a wonderful outdoor park that has farm and rural buildings from throughout Finland. You can see a lot of the historical architecture from the entire country in one park.

  20. One more thing, be sure your ATM card has a chip. Without a chip card you cannot get cash from a Finnish ATM.

  21. rob_matic on November 21, 2016 at 4:57 am said:

    Filers thoughts on All the Birds in the Sky? I’m getting a popular-with-writers-and-bloggers impression but that doesn’t necessarily translate into something that I end up enjoying.

    I enjoyed it but it is definitely an odd book. Overtly a clash between a fantasy perspective and a science-fictional one. It has nothing plot-wise in common with Little,Big but that was the book it reminded me most of.

  22. Dann, just curious; when you (I assume) check the ticky-box you type “c4c” — mind telling me what that means? It has me intrigued. “Check For …?” Something else?

  23. Cassy B: “c4c” — mind telling me what that means?

    It means “comment for comment” (as in “tick the box to receive notifications”). It’s what they use on the Puppy blog sites.

  24. Thanks, Dann and JJ. It’s nice to have one’s curiosity satisfied! (Says the Elephant’s Child, with [her] ‘satiable curtiosity)

  25. I clicked both boxes and resubscribed, but I am still not receiving new post notifications. I’m getting the new comment notifications just fine, though.

    *shrug*

  26. Echoing what airboy and Heather Rose Jones said, Tallinn is a well preserved medieval city and quite typical of the cities of the Hanseatic League dotted along the coasts of Northern Europe. Nature and landscape in the three Baltic countries are also quite lovely, though I’m more familiar with Lithuania and particularly Latvia, where I spent two weeks as a teenager on a school exchange program.

    Other points to consider: Estonia is a member of the European Union, hence no visa requirement for Americans (unless your upcoming president really annoys the EU, which is of course a possibility), and a member of the Eurozone, hence fewer exchange rate hassles.

  27. @Airboy

    Oddly enough, I too have just finished reading Benedict Jacka’s Taken. Like many of my books I picked it up second hand (my town is replete with charity shops), and hadn’t read the preceding volumes or anything else by this author.

    I agree with you that it isn’t up to the quality of (in my estimation, the not quite top-drawer) Jim Butcher (who provides a cover puff): it reads as if pitched at a sub-adult audience (not in itself necessarily a drawback), seemed to suffer from too much blatant infodump, and left the impression that its world and society (a fictionalised London with magic wielders) lacked background depth.

  28. re Birds: I think Anders is still learning how to hold together a novel-length story (even allowing for it being some time-scattered episodes leading to the biggest section). But it isn’t predictable; anyone who tossed it thinking “Oh, another woo-woo save-the-earth story” might want to retry. Or might not — I’m retired and so have more reading time than most Filers.

  29. I remember liking All the Birds in the Sky, but now I couldn’t explain why. It was well-written, compelling, and a good read, but the details of the book have slipped from memory.

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