(1) CONSUMER COMPLAINT. io9’s Germain Lussier reveals, “Rey Is Missing From New Star Wars Monopoly, And This Is Becoming a Real Problem”.
The problems of female characters being under-represented in geek merchandise is real. But when it’s a secondary character like Gamora or Black Widow, at least toy companies have an excuse. When the girl is not just the star of the movie, but of the whole franchise, that’s another story.
That character, of course, is Rey, the main character of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the latest problem has to do with Hasbro’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens Monopoly. In the game, the four playable characters are Luke Skywalker, Finn, Darth Vader and Kylo Ren. No Rey.
(2) REWRITING CULTURE. Laurie Penny’s New Statesman post “What to do when you’re not the hero anymore”, while not about marketing oversights, covers some reasons why they should be taken seriously.
Capitalism is just a story. Religion is just a story. Patriarchy and white supremacy are just stories. They are the great organising myths that define our societies and determine our futures, and I believe – I hope – that a great rewriting is slowly, surely underway. We can only become what we can imagine, and right now our imagination is being stretched in new ways. We’re learning, as a culture, that heroes aren’t always white guys, that life and love and villainy and victory might look a little different depending on who’s telling it. That’s a good thing. It’s not easy – but nobody ever said that changing the world was going to be easy.
I learned that from Harry Potter.
(3) GATES KEEPERS. Bill Gates says “The Best Books I Read in 2015” included Randall Munroe’s bestseller —
Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words, by Randall Munroe. The brain behind XKCD explains various subjects—from how smartphones work to what the U.S. Constitution says—using only the 1,000 most common words in the English language and blueprint-style diagrams. It is a brilliant concept, because if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t really understand it. Munroe, who worked on robotics at NASA, is an ideal person to take it on. The book is filled with helpful explanations and drawings of everything from a dishwasher to a nuclear power plant. And Munroe’s jokes are laugh-out-loud funny. This is a wonderful guide for curious minds.
(4) PHILISTINE TASTE. Cracked delivers “6 Great Novels that Were Hated in Their Time”. Number one on the list – The Lord of the Rings.
The New Republic described the book and its characters as “anemic, and lacking in fiber” which was apparently a real burn back then in the pre-Cheerios days.
(5) TEA TIME. Ann Leckie talks about “Special Teas”.
I am cleaning and organizing my tea cupboard because SHUT UP I DON’T HAVE A NOVEL TO WRITE YOU HAVE A NOVEL TO WRITE that’s why. Also, it had gotten to be quite a disorganized mess and I wasn’t sure what I still had. (Yes, the cats are up next, just gotta remember where I stowed the dust buster.)
Anyway. I came across a sad reminder of Specialteas.com. They were an online tea seller, and they had an East Frisian Broken Blend that was my go-to super nice and chewy for putting milk in tea, and they had a lovely, very grapefruity earl grey.
(6) SHE BLINKED. A video of Ursula K. Le Guin celebrating Christmas Eve at the Farm.
(7) OPEN FOR SUBMISSONS. Apex Magazine has reopened for short fiction submissions. Poetry submissions will remained closed at this time. Apex Magazine’s submission guidelines and the link to its online submissions form can be found here.
(8) COVER WEBSITE TO CLOSE. Terry Gibbons’ site Visco – the visual catalogue of science fiction cover art will go away when its domain name expires February 9, unless someone else wants to take over hosting responsibilities. He posted thousands of images online before moving on to other projects in 2005 – and for the moment, they can still be seen there.
I have tried to find time to do something about Visco at intervals since then but matters came to a head when I got a new Windows 10 computer recently and realised that I no longer have the technology to maintain it. It was developed on a Windows 95 platform – remember that? – using Internet Explorer 3 and such and I guess it is a miracle that it is still accessible at all. But none of the software I used to build it now works on my current machine, so I cannot develop it further even if I had the time.
I could leave Visco sitting there indefinitely, or until advancing technology renders it unusable, but it costs a certain amount of money to run and, more to the point, it is a constant reminder of past glories. So I have decided to let it go to that place in cyberspace where once-loved web sites go to die.
(9) READING RODDENBERRY’S DATA. Joe Otterson at Yahoo! News tells how “’Star Trek’ Creator Gene Roddenberry’s Lost Data Recovered From 200 Floppy Disks”.
Although Roddenberry died in 1991, it wasn’t until much later that his estate discovered nearly 200 5.25-inch floppy disks. One of his custom-built computers had long since been auctioned and the remaining device was no longer functional.
But these were no ordinary floppies. The custom-built computers had also used custom-built operating systems and special word processing software that prevented any modern method of reading what was on the disks.
After receiving the computer and the specially formatted floppies, DriveSavers engineers worked to develop a method of extracting the data.
(10) SIDEBAR TO AXANAR. Kane Lynch’s article in comics form, “Final Frontiers: Star Trek fans take to the Internet to film their own episodes of the original series”, is based on an interview with someone who’s worked on both New Voyages and Star Trek Continues.
(11) BENFORD ON NEW HORIZONS. Click to read Gregory Benford’s contribution to Edge’s roundup “2016: What Do You Consider The Most Interesting Recent [Scientific] News? What Makes It Important?”
The most long-range portentous event of 2015 was NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft arrowing by Pluto, snapping clean views of the planet and its waltzing moon system. It carries an ounce of Clyde Tombaugh’s ashes, commemorating his discovery of Pluto in 1930. Tombaugh would have loved seeing the colorful contrasts of this remarkable globe, far out into the dark of near-interstellar space. Pluto is now a sharply-seen world, with much to teach us.
As the spacecraft zooms near an iceteroid on New Year’s Day, 2019, it will show us the first member of the chilly realm beyond, where primordial objects quite different from the wildly eccentric Pluto also dwell. These will show us what sort of matter made up the early disk that clumped into planets like ours—a sort of family tree of worlds. But that’s just an appetizer….
(12) PU 238. The Washington Post reports the U.S. has resumed making plutonium-238, in “This is the fuel NASA needs to make it to the edge of the solar system – and beyond”.
Just in time for the new year, researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have unveiled the fruits of a different kind of energy research: For the first time in nearly three decades, they’ve produced a special fuel that scientists hope will power the future exploration of deep space.
The fuel, known as plutonium-238, is a radioactive isotope of plutonium that’s been used in several types of NASA missions to date, including the New Horizons mission, which reached Pluto earlier in 2015. While spacecraft can typically use solar energy to power themselves if they stick relatively close to Earth, missions that travel farther out in the solar system — where the sun’s radiation becomes more faint — require fuel to keep themselves moving.
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS
- Born January 4, 1785 – Jacob Grimm, the older of the two Grimm brothers. Wilhelm was born the following year.
Tales in the Grimm brothers’ collection include “Hansel and Gretel,” “Snow White,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Rapunzel,” and “Rumpelstiltskin.” The brothers developed the tales by listening to storytellers and attempting to reproduce their words and techniques as faithfully as possible. Their methods helped establish the scientific approach to the documentation of folklore. The collection became a worldwide classic.
- Born January 4, 1643 – Sir Isaac Newton. Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me…
(14) ZSIGMOND OBIT. Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who won an Oscar for his achievements in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and worked on a long list of major productions, died January 1 at the age of 85.
His genre credits included The Time Travelers (1964) directed by Ib Melchior, The Monitors (1969) based on Keith Laumer’s novel, Real Genius (1985), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), and The Mists of Avalon TV miniseries based on Marion Zimmer Bradley’s novel.
(15) THE YEAR IN COMPLAINTS. The Book Smugglers continue Smugglivus 2015 with “The Airing of Grievances”. (I’m getting a migraine from looking at those GIFS, and I don’t get migraines, just saying…)
SOMEONE IS (ALWAYS) WRONG ON THE INTERNET – PART II: THE SFF EDITION
Speaking of awards: Another BIG thing in SFF fandom happened when the World Fantasy award announced that it would be remodeling its award statuette, which had been a bust of the late HP Lovecraft’s face. (Lovecraft, if you did not know, was an openly venomous racist in his personal opinions and in his writings–both fiction and nonfiction.) This news–from one of the most prestigious international awards for Fantasy and speculative fiction, no less!–was a long time coming, and many of us within the SFF community celebrated this move… but there were people who were SUPER upset. Because, you know, by not using Lovecraft’s face on the award, we were all like ERASING HIM FROM HISTORY FOREVER LIKE MAGIC. Or something.
(16) MORE FEEDBACK. After what others have written about reconciliation this past week, the Mad Genius Club’s Dave Freer sounds practically mellow.
…To the other side this is life or death important. The clique of Trufen who pushed their favorites (and they’re a small, interconnected socio-politically homogenous group of the same people, over and over) have some short term motives in doing exactly what they did last year and the years before. Long term, for anyone with an intellect above gerbil there is a strong motive for the Trufen in general to get rid of that clique and to reach some kind of accommodation with the Sad Puppies. But that clique are powerful and nasty and regard WorldCon and the Hugos as theirs. They have no interest in a future that they do not control completely.
I don’t see the foresight or commitment to take any of the painful (to them) steps they’d have to take to give the Sad or Rabid Puppies a motive for reconciliation, to get them to sharing motives like going to WorldCon. As a writer I simply don’t see characters of sufficient strength or integrity who have the vision or the following to take those steps.
Besides this an election year, both sides will be heated and angry.
We all love sf.
But the motives for our actions are very different.
I am glad I don’t have to write a happy ending for this one. It’d take a clever author to do it convincingly.
(17) RECONCILIATION. Don’t be misled by the placement — I doubt Freer or Gerrold are commenting about each other, just about the same topic. David Gerrold wrote today on Facebook:
…I know that some people have talked about reconciliation — and that’s a good thing. But other people have pointed out why reconciliation is impossible, because for them, the past is still unresolved. I understand that — but rehearsing the past does not take you into the future, it just gets you more of the past.
The only conversation I would be interested in having is not about who’s right and who’s wrong, who should be blamed, and who needs to crawl naked over broken glass to apologize.
No. What a colossal waste of time.
The only conversation worth having is about what you want to build and how you want to get there — stick to the issues and leave the personalities out of this…
(18) PRE CGI. It’s like seeing a star with and without makeup. Bright Side has large format color photos comparing the scenes in “17 favorite movies before and after visual effects”.
(19) GET YOUR RED HOT FOMAX. Charles Rector heartily endorses his fanzine Fomax #7 [PDF file] hosted at eFanzines. Among other things, it has 8 movie reviews and a fair number of LOC’s.
[Thanks to Eli, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]