Pixel Scroll 4/11/19 Oh The Snark Has Pixel’d Teeth, Dear

(1) NEBULA CONFERENCE. SFWA President Cat Rambo says, “I know the Nebula programming isn’t complete yet but looking it over moved me to think about how far it’s come and who’s responsible for that” — “What I’m Looking Forward to about This Year’s Nebula Conference Programming: An Appreciation of Kate Baker”.

… It’s five years later, and in my opinion, Kate’s done what she set out to do. She didn’t do it alone, of course. She had the help of a whole lot of amazing SFWA staff and volunteers, including the amazing Terra LeMay and Steven H Silver. Mary Robinette Kowal got turned loose on programming the last couple of years and has been doing a stellar job. And others have made their mark with additions, such as the Nebula Award Alternate Universe Acceptance speeches or the mentoring program led by Sarah Pinsker or (I’d like to think) two I’ve contributed: the volunteer appreciation breakfast as well as the spouses and partners reception that have been regular features (and I hope will continue to do so!) Or the Book Depot, because I don’t know of ANY other con that takes as much care to make sure that its authors — including the indies — can sign and sell their books there. And there’s a fancy Nebula website, which remains a work in progress as more and more gets added to it, preserving the history of the Awards.

We’ve only got a small fraction of the schedule so far, with plenty of new stuff getting added every day, but here’s some highlights…

(2) BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD. Beresheet didn’t make it: “A private spacecraft from Israel crashed into the Moon Thursday”. Ars Technica not only has the story, they begin it with a Heinlein reference.

The Moon remains a harsh mistress.

On Thursday, SpaceIL’s lunar lander attempted to make a soft landing on the surface of the Moon, but it apparently crashed instead into the gray world. Although a postmortem analysis has not yet been completed, telemetry from the spacecraft indicated a failure of the spacecraft’s main engine about 10km above the Moon. Thereafter, it appears to have struck the Moon at a velocity of around 130 meters per second.

“We have had a failure in the spacecraft,” Opher Doron, general manager of the space division at Israel Aerospace Industries, which built the lander, said during the landing webcast. “We have unfortunately not managed to land successfully.” Israeli engineers vowed to try again.

The failure to land is perhaps understandable—it is extremely hard to land on the Moon, Mars, or any other object in the Solar System. In this case, the private effort to build the lunar lander worked on a shoestring budget of around $100 million to build their spacecraft, which had performed admirably right up until the last few minutes before its planned touchdown.

(3) TWINS IN SCIENCE. “NASA’s Twins Study Results Published in Science” in a paper titled “What to expect after a year in space.” The NASA press release begins —

NASA’s trailblazing Twins Study moved into the final stages of integrated research with the release of a combined summary paper published in Science.

The landmark Twins Study brought ten research teams from around the country together to observe what physiological, molecular and cognitive changes could happen to a human from exposure to spaceflight hazards. This was accomplished by comparing retired astronaut Scott Kelly while he was in space, to his identical twin brother, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who remained on Earth.

The PR’s summaries of the 10 research topics includes –

Gene Expression:  Samples taken before, during and after Scott’s mission in space revealed some changes in gene expression. Mark also experienced normal-range changes in gene expression on Earth, but not the same changes as Scott. Changes Scott experienced may have been associated with his lengthy stay in space. Most of these changes (about 91.3%) reverted to baseline after he returned to Earth; however, a small subset persisted after six months. Some observed DNA damage is believed to be a result of radiation exposure. Gene expression data corroborated and supported other findings in the Twins Study, including the body’s response to DNA damage, telomere regulation, bone formation and immune system stress. These findings help demonstrate how a human body was able to adapt to the extreme environment of space and help researchers better understand how environmental stressors influence the activity of different genes, leading to a better understanding of physiological processes in space.

(4) BRACKETT BOOKS FALL THROUGH. The two Leigh Brackett titles announced by the Haffner Press in late 2015, The Book of Stark and Leigh Brackett Centennial have been cancelled. Stephen Haffner e-mailed an explanation to fans who preordered the books:

The fault for the cancellation of these two titles lies completely with Haffner Press and with me personally.

Rights to these titles were not evergreen and I failed to complete and publish these books within the contracted period. Believe me, I made every attempt to recover/resurrect these titles. At this point, the agent for the estate of Leigh Brackett is making other arrangements for the Stark books and Leigh Brackett. If this status changes, you’ll be one of the first to know.

Haffner is offering a complete refund, or application of the credit to another purchase.

(5) GUGGENHEIM FELLOWSHIPS. Authors Edward Carey, Michael Helm, Carmen Maria Machado, and Luis Alberto Urrea are among the winners of the 2019 Guggenheim Fellowships reports Locus Online.

(6) NEWITZ TALK. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination has posted video of Annalee Newitz speaking at UCSD on April 4 as part of the San Diego 2049 series .

Realistic worldbuilding requires that we get out of the dystopia/utopia binary and imagine futures that are a diverse mix of worlds. To imagine a plausible future world, we need to look critically at our own history, where progress is uneven and resistance is not futile. Annalee Newitz, journalist, co-founder of the website io9, and author of the acclaimed science fiction novel Autonomous, joined the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the School of Global Policy and Strategy at UC San Diego to share her insights into worldbuilding as part of the San Diego 2049 series of programs.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 11, 1883 Leonard Mudie. His very last screen role was as one of the survivors of the SS Columbia in Trek’s original pilot episode, “The Cage.”  He also appeared as Professor Pearson opposite Boris Karloff in The Mummy released in 1932. He appeared in the 1938 Adventures of Robin Hood as the town crier and the mysterious man who gives Robin directions. (Died 1965.)
  • Born April 11, 1892 William M. Timlin. Author of The Ship that Sailed to Mars, a remarkable work that has 48 pages of text and 48 color plates. It has become a classic of fantasy literature. You can view the book here. (Died 1943.)
  • Born April 11, 1920 Peter O’Donnell. A British writer of mysteries and of comic strips, best known as the creator of Modesty Blaise. He also did an adaptation for the Daily Express of the Dr. No novel. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 11, 1953 Byron Preiss. Writer, editor and publisher. He founded and served as president of Byron Preiss Visual Publications, and later of ibooks Inc. If I remember correctly, ibooks was the last publisher for Zelazny for most of his books. Any idea what happened to those rights after ibooks went into receivership?  The only book I can find him writing is the children’s novel Dragonworld which is co-authored with Michael Reaves who was involved in including Gargoyles and Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 11, 1957 Marina Fitch, 62. She has published two novels, The Seventh Heart and The Border. Her short fiction has appeared in Pulphouse, MZB, F&SF, and Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and the anthologies, Desire Burn and Peter S. Beagle’s Immortal Unicorn. She is currently at work on a novel and several new stories.
  • Born April 11, 1963 Gregory Keyes, 56. Best known for The Age of Unreason tetralogy, a steampunk and magical affair featuring Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton. He also wrote The Psi Corps Trilogy and has done a lot of other media time-in fiction including Pacific Rim, Star Wars, Planet of The ApesIndependence Day and Pacific Rim
  • Born April 11, 1974 Tricia Helfer, 45. She is best known for playing the humanoid Cylon model Number Six in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. In addition, she plays Charlotte Richards / Mom on Lucifer. And she voiced Boodikka in Green Lantern: First Flight.
  • Born April 11, 1981 Matt Ryan, 38. John Constantine in NBC’s Constantine and The CW’s Arrowverse, as well as voicing the character in the Justice League Dark and the animated Constantine: City of Demons films as well. And he played Horatio in Hamlet in the Donmar production at the Wyndham’s Theatre. 

(8) PHOTO OP. BBC calls “Katie Bouman: The woman behind the first black hole image”.

A 29-year-old computer scientist has earned plaudits worldwide for helping develop the algorithm that created the first-ever image of a black hole.

Katie Bouman led development of a computer program that made the breakthrough image possible.

The remarkable photo, showing a halo of dust and gas 500 million trillion km from Earth, was released on Wednesday.

For Dr Bouman, its creation was the realisation of an endeavour previously thought impossible.

(9) LOL! Oh, Reference Director!

(10) RETRO HUGO FAN MATERIAL ONLINE. Joe Siclari of Fanac.org has assembled a resource for this year’s Retro Hugo voters —

Dublin 2019 has announced the Finalists for this year’s Retro Hugo Awards to be given for works published in 1943. We’ve pulled together what we have on Fanac.org, along with a few zines from eFanzines and the University of Iowa, to give you a single place where you can find all the Finalist publications available online. Read before you vote! http://fanac.org/fanzines/Retro_Hugos.html  

(11) GARY GIANNI’S SONG OF ICE & FIRE ART. Flesk Publications will start taking preorders next week: “Art of Gary Gianni for George R. R. Martin’s Seven Kingdoms. Signed by Martin and Gianni! Pre-Order on April 18th.” Arnie Fenner writes, “I don’t think Flesk is going to make the first edition available to the trade and is only going to sell it and the signed edition direct. Whether he’ll make a second edition available to bookstores…?”

A comprehensive visual overview of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series—plus A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms and Fire and Blood—through over 300 drawings and paintings by the award-winning illustrator Gary Gianni.

This new premium art book will be available for pre-order at www.fleskpublications.com on Thursday, April 18.

(12) THREE BOOKS TO CONQUER. Cat Rambo’s book deal with Tor leads in “Recent News and Changes from Chez Rambo”.

I’m very pleased to announce that Tor has acquired my recent space fantasy (maybe?), as part of a three book deal, and I’ll be working with Christopher Morgan there. While I’ve had a lot of short stories published traditionally, this is the first novel to go through that, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the process is like. What is the book about? Well, I’m actually not sure of the genre but have been describing it as a banter-driven space military fantasy in which a group of ex-military turned restauranteurs get an unexpected package, just as things start exploding. I’m 40k words into the sequel.

(13) AMAZON’S #1 AUTHOR. It took five days for Scalzi’s cats to turn him into a telethon host.

(14) PAGING VALENTINE MICHAEL SMITH. “‘Three-person’ baby boy born in Greece”

Fertility doctors in Greece and Spain say they have produced a baby from three people in order to overcome a woman’s infertility.

The baby boy was born weighing 2.9kg (6lbs) on Tuesday. The mother and child are said to be in good health.

…The experimental form of IVF uses an egg from the mother, sperm from the father, and another egg from a donor woman.

(15) YOU COULDN’T MAKE THIS UP. “Official Report: Nuclear Waste Accident Caused By Wrong Cat Litter” – just what were they feeding those cats anyway?

A yearlong investigation by government scientists has concluded that a major accident at a nuclear waste dump was caused by the wrong brand of cat litter.

The U.S. Department of Energy has released a 277-page report into an explosion that occurred on Feb. 14, 2014, at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. According to a summary of the report, the incident occurred when a single drum of nuclear waste, 68660, burst open.

(16) VIVA LA ROOMBALUCION II. Nope, it’s not Florida Man. NPR says — “Oregon Man Called Police About A Burglar. Armed Officers Found A Rogue Roomba”.

The Washington County sheriff in Oregon says there was nothing unusual about the call. Sure, it was broad daylight — 1:48 p.m. local time exactly — but “crime can happen anytime.”

So the frantic call from a house guest about a burglar making loud rustling noises inside the house, specifically from within the locked bathroom, deserved an urgent response, Sgt. Danny DiPietro, a sheriff’s spokesman, tells NPR.

“The man had just gone for a walk with his nephew’s dog and when he came back, he could see shadows moving back and forth under the bathroom door,” DiPietro says.

Resources were immediately deployed: three seasoned deputies — one with at least 20 years on the force — a detective who happened to be in the area, and two canine officers from Beaverton Police Department, about 7 miles outside Portland.

(17) NEW BRANCH. BBC reports on “Homo luzonensis: New human species found in Philippines”.

There’s a new addition to the family tree: an extinct species of human that’s been found in the Philippines.

It’s known as Homo luzonensis, after the site of its discovery on the country’s largest island Luzon.

Its physical features are a mixture of those found in very ancient human ancestors and in more recent people.

That could mean primitive human relatives left Africa and made it all the way to South-East Asia, something not previously thought possible.

The find shows that human evolution in the region may have been a highly complicated affair, with three or more human species in the region at around the time our ancestors arrive.

(18) THE AI SHORTFALL. IEEE Spectrum’s article “How IBM Watson Overpromised and Underdelivered on AI Health Care”illustrates the gap between reality and the popular imagination regarding AI. Greg Hullender sent the link with a comment, “I think the key point is in the last two paragraphs: Watson makes a great AI librarian, but it really isn’t a doctor at all, and likely never will be. Also worth noting is that the areas where they had the most success were the ones that needed the least AI, e.g. Watson for Genomics, which benefited from not needing natural language processing (NLP).”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs uses Watson for Genomics reports in more than 70 hospitals nationwide, says Michael Kelley, the VA’s national program director for oncology. The VA first tried the system on lung cancer and now uses it for all solid tumors. “I do think it improves patient care,” Kelley says. When VA oncologists are deciding on a treatment plan, “it is a source of information they can bring to the discussion,” he says. But Kelley says he doesn’t think of Watson as a robot doctor. “I tend to think of it as a robot who is a master medical librarian.”

Most doctors would probably be delighted to have an AI librarian at their beck and call—and if that’s what IBM had originally promised them, they might not be so disappointed today. The Watson Health story is a cautionary tale of hubris and hype. Everyone likes ambition, everyone likes moon shots, but nobody wants to climb into a rocket that doesn’t work.

(19) SEVENTIES FLASHBACK. Michael Gonzalez remembers when “I Was a Teenage (Wannabe) Horror Writer” at CrimeReads.

While sitting in the balcony of a movie theater waiting for Jordan Peele’s much-anticipated horror film Us, I began thinking about my personal relationship with the horror genre. “When I was pregnant with you I used to watch scary movies all the time,” my mom confessed years before as we left the Roosevelt Theatre in Harlem one afternoon after a screening of Night of the Living Dead. Although I was only seven and much too young to have seen that first zombie apocalypse, which gave me nightmares for a week, but afterwards I became a horror junkie. As much as I might’ve nervously jumped while watching The Blob, The Fly or Dracula, it was those stories that appealed to me.

…During the 1970s, with the exception of a few artists (Billy Graham, Keith Pollard, Ron Wilson and Trevor Von Eeden), there weren’t many African-American creators working in commercial comics, something I noticed when I attended my first comic convention that same year. However, while I didn’t see any scripters that “looked like me,” that wasn’t going to keep me from trying. Truthfully, I wasn’t trying to be the Rosa Parks of horror comic book writers, I just wanted to be down.

(20) HORROR DEFENDED. And Kim Newman argues in The Guardian that “Exposing children to horror films isn’t the nightmare you think it is”.

What terrifies children isn’t just the stuff designed to scare. In The Wizard of Oz, for example, you get the witch but also the comedy lion – and even though cackling evil is dispelled at the end, the incidentals offer nightmare fodder: the tree with a human face, the winged monkeys, even the horse of a different colour. As Tim Burton or Guillermo del Toro – both jumpy kids who have grown up to love monsters – have shown, the world of an imaginative child is full of wonders and terrors, and if you strip out the latter by insisting on a diet of just Peppa Pig you risk raising a generation unable to cope with the slightest trauma.

(21) ENDGAME PROMO. “You know your teams. You know your missions.” Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame is in theaters April 26.

[Thanks to Joe Siclari, Susan de Guardiola, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Olav Rokne, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Rambo, Chip Hitchcock, Stephenfrom Ottawa, Arnie Fenner, Greg Hullender, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

81 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 4/11/19 Oh The Snark Has Pixel’d Teeth, Dear

  1. (20) I still have vivid memories of being frightened by The Wizard of Oz. It was on about once a year when I was a kid so you had to live through it repeatedly until you got used to it. Of course, I also refused to go into certain basements after catching a single scene from “The Probe” on The Outer Limit.

    But the pixel and scroll reunion is only a file away

  2. Joyce Reynolds-Ward: I think some people decided that they didn’t need to research horses because old timey sagas and folk tales and folk songs skip all the bits about taking care of horses as “Stuff the squires/grooms do” or irrelevant. In a time when everyone *knew* what horses were like, it was a lot less important to mention it, and also, hey, heroic mode skipped a lot of realism in favour of other things.

    So the fantasy reader from a totally urban background — who gets most of their info from urban fantasy novelists who were imitating the heroic mode and themselves getting horses wrong or skipping over that stuff — has NO idea they need to do the research in the first place.

    I was a bit lucky, in that naturalist books about animal behavior were one of my other catnips as a kid, and some of my early faves were written by horse riders. AND I read a lot of stuff about why not to be the writer who writes fantasy based entirely on imitating prior fantasies (though I did a ton of just that as a pre-teen and teen), so I knew there was research to do.

    I still hate research, and what I don’t know could still fill a whole world (and kinda sorta does) but I’ve absorbed stuff by osmosis. And I still have a scene I need a horsey person to read over. (An experienced rider and fighter is asked how to train an infantry force to fight on horseback in three weeks. His advice boils down to “Don’t. It’s insane.” but I could be missing nuances.)

  3. Lenora Rose–
    “Don’t. It’s insane” is pretty darn accurate. But if you want someone to look at it, I’d do so.

  4. @Lenora Rose: H. Beam Piper’s ~solution was to use the horses only for transport — which meant part of the force was holding horses instead of fighting, but at least it could get places quickly (relevant because Hostigos had too many enemies and too many ways in). I’m not sure even that was accurate, given the discussion here and elsewhere about unaccustomed-rider syndrome: if the force had to ride any distance it might not be in shape to fight afterward.

    Condolences to Hampus. Eight years was far too short for our last; two years is awful.

  5. @Chip: I think that’s called a “Dragoon” – mounted infantry, who dismount to fight (and assign a portion of the group to hold the horses while the fighting happens).

  6. Hampus, I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of Vlad, but glad he had you to love him.

  7. @Hampus: My condolences for Vlad.

    Meredith Moment:

    The Compleat Werewolf: And Other Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction by Anthony Boucher is on sale at Amazon US for $1.99 and it contains, among others, We Print The Truth and Q.U.R.

  8. Andrew/Chip: Large formations of ‘Mounted Infantry’ were valid military units in some circumstances as late as WW1 e.g. the Desert Mounted Corps in Palestine 1917. Still used one trooper holding four horses as standard procedure.

  9. Always sorry to hear of the loss of a pet, especially one so young

    It feels like the last year or two has had more than the usual share of pet-loss among friends and acquaintances. Several of our oldest cats are getting pretty slow and frail, so I’m bracing myself for probably losing at least one (we have six) in the next year or so.

  10. Maybe the sort of “terrors” Kim Newman is talking about aren’t just the genre kind. She could just be suggesting that children need to know RL has it’s darker side. Although a talking pig is pretty scary.

  11. @ Andrew/Chip: The US Cavalry post Civil War were mounted infantry (Custer’s lot at Little Big Horn for example). Cavalry on horseback as fighting troops were largely rendered obsolete by the introduction of the machine gun; their only significant use being reconnaissance.
    Units designated as dragoons would certainly have been mounted infantry by the second half of the nineteenth century. However, that wasn’t their original purpose. Dragoons were initially troops who rode up and down behind the infantry lines during a battle and used their sabres to “encourage” the infantry to fight rather than run away. The link remains in the verb “to dragoon”.

  12. @Stuart Hall
    I recommend looking up “Dragoon” in the nearest OED, as I just did. They started out as mounted infantry, back before 1600 – armed with muskets called “dragoons” or “dragons” – and then, much later, became cavalry.

  13. Hampus, I only knew Vlad through your words and pictures, but I’m so sorry he is gone. I may cry a little too.

  14. Hampus, very sorry to hear about Vlad. Much too soon. We also have a cat sized vacancy in our home today. We had to farewell one of ours last night. We did have Butters for 15 years though, a very singular cat who we will miss.

  15. Amused that i accidentally created a whole subthread by one passing comment about an unpublished work.

    @Joyce Reynolds-Ward: I’m in the middle of an editing wave on the work in question to smooth out prose and deal with other plotty issues, but when I get to that one again, I’ll try and remember to give you a shout.

    @ Chip Hitchcock

    H. Beam Piper’s ~solution was to use the horses only for transport — which meant part of the force was holding horses instead of fighting, but at least it could get places quickly … I’m not sure even that was accurate, given the discussion here and elsewhere about unaccustomed-rider syndrome: if the force had to ride any distance it might not be in shape to fight afterward.

    Once “Don’t” is vetoed by higher-ups for reasons of their own*, that’s about what they develop here, too. There are a lot of examples for “ride to reach the fight, then dismount and have the fight” tactics in history, especially for speed-dependent forces, but also for other reasons. Training a horse for fighting is a lengthy process which requires a very specific temperament of horse to even be feasible — training them just to be ridden then led away from the battlefield can be done with horses of more varied and common temper, and isn’t as arduous or expensive.

    The unaccustomed riders thing is a short term issue; Vernon probably wasn’t wrong about how it feels (Riding for an hour for the first time, or the first time in a long time, left me sore for a day or two, and I can extrapolate), but unlike her characters, who have no choice, most people who are planning on riding all day at some future point don’t have to try and accomplish that full day the very first time they sit a horse. They work up to it. Even when they don’t, it does resolve within a few weeks. The schedule required might well kill a 42 year old out-of-shape Canadian woman, but it won’t kill well-drilled infantry who train up to it, even if there are points where they wish it would. Did Piper have his troops do that from the start?
    ________________

    * We in the modern world of course know nothing about high echelons in a group coming up with plans that make the people on the ground say “WTF? NO!”, before they have to figure out how to accomplish them anyhow, do we?

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