(1) FLORIDA FAN. How’s the reopening going in Florida? Take a wild guess. “Florida attempted a small pop culture event last weekend and it went exactly as you would expect. Because Florida”. Tom Croom went there —
… On Sunday, June 15th, a group called Florida Toy Shows Expos decided to go ahead with their planned event called the “Orlando Area Toy Collectors Summer Pop-Up Show” in Apopka, Florida located just northwest of Orlando. This marked Florida’s first “geek event” since mid-March.
The event started at 9:00 AM, but I didn’t pull up until around 11:00 AM to see it firsthand. I came armed with a face mask, hand sanitizer, and a healthy dose of common sense. The photo I took outside at the entrance showed about 40% people were wearing masks.
… There was no apparent capacity limit. No one was managing the number of people inside. Just crowds of attendees on top of each other and, as you can see in the photos, only about 20% of them are wearing masks. I did a rough count while walking around and saw that there were over three hundred people in the event’s one and only room…
And to make things perfect, someone was handing out flyers for a forthcoming event featuring the fabulous Vic Mignogna!
(2) ILK GET THEIR DAY IN COURT. Whether they want it or not. “Vox Day’s ‘Replatforming’ Backfires” – Camestros Felapton analyzes the court documents.
Vox Day has managed to have a large number of his supporters legally doxxed in court documents with the help of his even less competent side-kick former comedian Owen Benjamin. A case filed in the Superior Court of California by crowdfunding tech company Patreon, cites seventy-two people whom they are suing due to a ‘lawfare’ campaign instigated by Day and Benjamin. I’m not linking directly to the court documents but the case “PATREON, INC. VS. PAUL MICHAEL AYURE ET AL” (Case Number: CGC20584586) can be found online via the Superior Court of California’s page https://www.sfsuperiorcourt.org/
The case connects with Day’s struggles with crowdfunding (see past coverage from me here and here) but specifically connects to Owen Benjamin (see past coverage from me here and here) who was kicked off Patreon last year according to the court documents…
… Instead, it seems the individuals may end up liable for Patreon’s court costs. According to Day this is Patreon “playing dirty” (warning: link to his blog [Internet Archive link here Instead.])…
(3) UP ABOVE THE WORLD. The New York Times suggests: “Stick a Starry Night Sky on Your Ceiling”. Once upon a time I lived where there were stars on the ceiling. How many lifetimes ago was that?
First, think about what you hope to see.
Some people get overwhelmed by the astronomically gargantuan number of stars they’ve been told are visible from earth. With 170 billion galaxies, spanning 45.7 billion light years, there are roughly a septillion stars in the observable universe (that’s the number one followed by 24 zeros). The Milky Way alone has more than 400 billion stars.
These are numbers none of us can even begin to conceptualize. But don’t be daunted: There are ways to narrow down what you’d like to look at from home to make this experience more accessible.
If you’ve ever been to a planetarium, perhaps you remember seeing a vibrant representation of a night sky from the perspective of where you were sitting in that moment. If the presenter then spun the sky to take you into the past or into the future, you know how exciting it can be to see the sky from the point of view of someone who lived on a different continent in a different time in history.
To that end, NASA has a website where you can plug in your birthday and immediately receive a picture of what the Hubble telescope captured on that day, along with an in-depth description (search “Hubble Birthday”). Another free site, In-The-Sky.org, has a Planetarium section that can give you an image of the constellations as they appeared from any location on any day and time in history. These resources will help you imagine what kind of sky you’d like to recreate indoors.
(4) ODYSSEY Q&A. “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer E.C. Ambrose”.
Author and Odyssey graduate E.C. Ambrose will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. She writes knowledge-inspired adventure fiction including The Dark Apostle series about medieval surgery, The Singer’s Legacy fantasy series (as Elaine Isaak), and the Bone Guard international thrillers (as E. Chris Ambrose).
… You’re known for being tough on your characters. What advice do you have for writers to make things harder on their characters and raise the stakes?
I often custom-make conflicts to push the buttons of a particular character. What will make this person really uncomfortable? What, based on their own fears/hopes/background/goal, would be the worst thing to happen to them? Part of it comes down to, “Why is this the right protagonist to confront this conflict?” Specificity is key. I’m also looking for collisions between internal and external conflicts—getting the character into a position where they must choose between two priorities or values, both of which they believe they can’t compromise. To that end, I brainstorm large and small conflicts on several levels: internal, personal, interpersonal, local, regional, societal, national, epic, existential. Then I interweave them through my outlining process.
(5) IT TAKES A VILLAGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the June 12 Financial Times, Kristina Foster reviews Dark, a German sf series with its first three seasons on Netflix and set in the fictional town of Winden.
Dark’s art direction, which takes a German autumn and cranks up the dreariness in full caliginous despair, reflects the moral decay that has fallen over Winden. Like Twin Peaks and Stranger Things, Dark leans heavily on the potential for horror and unease in the small town. Rumour and intrigue bubble over into violence, and there’s a marked disconnect between private and public appearance, But this self-contained ‘nowhere’ place, where inhabitants dream of leaving but rarely never do and where nothing ever seems to change, is also the perfect setting to which to explore the circularity of time. In this way Dark balances its outlandish transtemporal plot with more realistic portrayals of human flaws…
…Netflix’s first German-language series has an enormous entertainment value. With its underground passages, secret horological societies, suspicious priests and menacing forests, it exudes an unmistakeable Gothic gloom, perfect for nights at home with the lights off.
(6) IN THE SPIRIT. Josh Gad’s Reunited Apart summoned the 1984 Ghostbusters crew. SYFY Wire sets the frame: “Ghostbusters Cast And Crew Remember Harold Ramis, Stay Puft Marshallow Man During Virtual Reunion”.
…”I sure miss him [Harold Ramis],” said director Ivan Reitman, also a part of the virtual reunion. “I keep thinking of him as sort of a brother figure. I ended up working with him about five times, and he’s really missed.”
“He was an incredible writing collaborator,” added Aykroyd, who penned the screenplay with Ramis. “He was not a believer in ghosts … He was very well educated in myth and mystique and [he was] such a great writing partner because the references were there in an intelligent way and harnessed for laughter. A brilliant man, a brilliant collaborator. I miss him, too, obviously.”
(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
- June 1991 — Ian McDonald’s King of Morning, Queen of Day was first published. It would win the Philip K. Dick Award for best original science fiction paperback published in the U.S. in 1992, and it would win the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire Award for its French translation in the same year. It had but one physical printing in English in paperback but was printed in French and German hardcopy editions. It’s currently available at all the usual digital suspects. (CE)
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born June 15, 1397 – Paolo Uccello. Painter and mathematician, pioneer in visual perspective; see Vasari’s Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects. Look at Ucello’s work used centuries later on our covers here and here and here and here and here. (Died 1475; birthdate an educated guess) [JH]
- Born June 15, 1910 – Hugh Walters. Two dozen SF novels 1957-1981 written for juveniles i.e. ages about 11-16, most about a UNEXA (United Nations Exploration Agency) under which Earthlings went around planets of the Solar System. The author troubled to get the science right. Outside this pen name he was a member of the British Interplanetary Society and the British Astronomical HAssociation, a businessman, a local magistrate. (Died 1993) [JH]
- Born June 15, 1910 — Harold Lawlor. April 1942 saw “The Eternal Priestess” published in Fantastic Adventures, his first sale. His first story for Weird Tales was “Specter in the Steel,” May 1943. Over the next decade, twenty-nine stories by him would appear in Weird Tales. “Mayaya’s Little Green Men” in Weird Tales, November 1946 is of interest as it’s considered the earliest genre appearance of that phrase. (Died 1992.) (CE)
- Born June 15, 1930 — Victor Lundin. He’s best remembered as appearing in Robinson Crusoe on Mars as Friday, and for having been the first Klingon seen on Star Trek, specifically a Klingon Lt. in “Errand of Mercy”. Remarkably his entire tv career save two appearances was in genre series, to wit Time Tunnel, Get Smart, Batman (three times, twice each as Octopus and Chief Standing Pat), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Babylon 5. (Died 2013.) (CE)
- Born June 15, 1935 – Ellie Frazetta. Wife, business manager, and in every sense partner of graphic artist Frank Frazetta. An appreciation of her is here. (Died 2009) [JH]
- Born June 15, 1940 – Michael Barrier. Founder of Funnyworld magazine. Historian of cartoons and animation. Carl Barks and the Art of the Comic Book. With Martin Williams, A Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics. Hollywood Cartoons (rev. 2003). Audio commentaries on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, with interviews and like that. The Animated Man (Walt Disney). Funnybooks. [JH]
- Born June 15, 1941 — Neal Adams, 79. Comic book artist who worked for both DC and Marvel. Among his achievements was the creation with writer Dennis O’Neil of Ra’s al Ghul. I’m a DC fan so I can’t speak for his work on Marvel but he did amazing work on Deadman, Batman, Green Lantern and Green Arrow. All of this work is now available on the DC Universe app. It should be noted he was instrumental in the lobbying efforts that resulted in Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster receiving long overdue credit and financial remuneration from DC. (CE)
- Born June 15, 1960 — Sabrina Vourvoulias, 60. Thai-born author, an American citizen from birth brought up in Guatemala, but here since her teens. Her novel, Ink, deals with immigrants who are tattooed with biometric implants that are used to keep track of them no matter where they are. I’m assuming that the “Skin in the Game” story which appeared first on Tor.com is set in the future. Fair guess that “The Ways of Walls and Words” which also appeared on Tor.com is also set there. The Readercon 25 panel she was on, “East, West and Everything Between: A Roundtable on Latin@ Speculative Fiction” is available for free on iBooks. (CE)
- Born June 15, 1962 – Jane Routley. Six novels, nine shorter stories. Lived in Denmark, in Germany, now back in Australia. Two Aurealis Awards for fantasy. Nice review in 21 May 20 Publishers Weekly of Shadow in the Empire of Light, scheduled for release during CoNZealand. I’d provoke a storm of comment if I said she appears to have misused the word melded in a title, so I’d better not. [JH]
- Born June 15, 1963 — Mark Morris, 57. English author known for his horror novels, although he has also written several novels based on Doctor Who and Torchwood. Given his horror background, these tend to be darker than many similar novels are, I recommend Forever Autumn and Bay of the Dead if you like a good chill. (CE)
- Born June 15, 1966 – Rob Alexander. Twenty covers, as many interiors. Here is a cover drawn for Pohl’s Stopping at Slowyear. Here is a cover for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Here is a frontispiece drawn for Resnick’s Pink Elephants and Hairy Toads. Here is a cover for Deep Magic (RA interviewed in this issue). Art book, Welcome to My Worlds. His Website shows playmats for Magic, the Gathering, and other recent work. [JH]
- Born June 15, 1973 — Neil Patrick Harris, 47. His first genre role was not Carl Jenkins in Starships Troopers, but rather Billy Johnson in Purple People Eater, an SF comedy best forgotten I suspect. Post-Starship Troopers, I’ve got him voicing Barry Allen / The Flash in Justice League: The New Frontier and Dick Grayson / Nightwing in Batman: Under the Red Hood. He also voiced Peter Parker and her superhero alias in Spider-Man: The New Animated Series. Finally, he’s currently Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events which he also produces. (CE)
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Nothing to do with Bradbury. It’s just Bizarro remembering an old toy.
(10) LOVE LETTERS. “I Long to Read More in the Book of You: Moomins Creator Tove Jansson’s Tender and Passionate Letters to the Love of Her Life” by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings.
… The tender delirium of their early love and the magmatic core of their lifelong devotion emanate from the pages of Letters from Tove (public library) — the altogether wonderful collection of Jansson’s correspondence with friends, family, and other artists, spanning her meditations on the creative process, her exuberant cherishment of the natural world and of what is best in human beings, her unfaltering love for Tooti. What emerges, above all, is the radiant warmth of her personhood — this person of such uncommon imagination, warmhearted humor, and stubborn buoyancy of spirit, always so thoroughly herself, who as a young woman had declared to her mother: “I’ve got to become free myself if I’m to be free in my painting.”
(11) PAGING STAN ROBINSON. “Mars: Green glow detected on the Red Planet”.
Scientists have identified a green light in the atmosphere of Mars.
A similar glow is sometimes seen by astronauts on the space station when they look to the Earth’s limb.
The glow comes from oxygen atoms when they’re excited by sunlight.
The phenomenon has long been predicted to occur on other planets, but the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) – a joint European-Russian satellite at Mars – is the first to make the observation beyond Earth.
“It’s a nice result,” said Dr Manish Patel from the UK’s Open University.
“You’d never plan a mission to go look for this kind of thing. Today, we have to be very clear about the science we’re going to do before we get to Mars. But having got there, we thought, ‘well, let’s have a look’. And it worked.”
(12) STEEP ORBIT? “‘Space race’ hots up with first Shetland rocket launch”. (A story like this, there must be a pony in there somewhere.)
Scotland’s “space race” has seen the first test rocket being fired from Shetland.
The Shetland islands are one of three proposed locations bidding to launch commercial satellites into space.
Edinburgh-based Skyrora launched its Skylark Nano rocket from the Fethaland peninsula at North Roe over the weekend.
The 6.5ft (2m) rocket successfully reached an altitude of about 20,000ft (6,100m).
(13) GETTING WARM. “Solar Orbiter: Europe’s Sun mission makes first close pass”.
Europe’s Solar Orbiter (SolO) probe makes its first close pass of the Sun on Monday, tracking by at a distance of just over 77 million km.
SolO was launched in February and is on a mission to understand what drives our star’s dynamic behaviour.
The close pass, known as a perihelion, puts the probe between the orbits of Venus and Mercury.
In the coming years, SolO will go nearer still, closing to within 43 million km of the Sun on occasions.
As it stands today, only five other missions have dived deeper into the inner Solar System: Mariner 10, Helios 1 & 2, Messenger, and Parker Solar Probe.
(14) GIVING IT A HEARING. Mogsy gets into a popular entry in the 2019 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off competition in “Audiobook Review: Under Ordshaw by Phil Williams” at BiblioSanctum.
…The story wastes no time plunging readers into the action. In fact, it makes Pax all the more sympathetic because in many ways we can understand the confusion and overload of information she must feel. The details and explanations come at us hard and fast, and the pacing hardly slows which is something I can appreciate when it comes to UF, though it does make for slippery transitions. At the beginning, it’s especially imperative to pay attention to everything and stay on top of things, lest you get left behind and become lost. Despite my best efforts, even I found myself floundering in some places, wondering if the narration had skipped over an important detail or if I might have blanked out momentarily and missed something….
(15) MUG IMPROVEMENT. Maybe CSI was onto something. “New Algorithm Is A Lot Like The “Enhance!” Feature In “CSI”” at Futurism.
Researchers at Duke University have developed an algorithm that can upsample a detailed computer-generated portrait of a human face from a heavily pixelated version. It’s strikingly similar to the much-memed “Enhance!” tool from TV crime dramas like “CSI,” which can seemingly pull information out of thin air.
The researchers’ AI, dubbed PULSE (Self-Supervised Photo Upsampling via Latent Space Exploration of Generative Models), can generate photorealistic images of faces that are 64 times the resolution of the source image. For instance, a heavily pixelated 16×16-pixel image of a face can be converted into a 1024 x 1024 pixel image….
To be clear, the researchers didn’t just turn made-up technology from “CSI” into reality. The tool is only capable of generating new realistic faces, using the pixelated source as a guide — not definitively piece together what the original face actually looked like. Still, the results can be eerily similar to the input image — even if it probably wouldn’t be admissible in a court of law….
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]