(1) DRAGON AWARDS. July 20 is the deadline to nominate for Dragon Con’s Dragon Awards. If you’re ever going to do it now would be a good time…. If you’re not, no hurry!
(2) “JUST WEAR CLOTHES, HONEY.” That’s the advice I got the time I called Arthur Bryant’s ribs place to ask if they had a dress code. I follow the same advice when I go to the Hugos.
I've seen the full range of fashion onstage at the Hugos. The bottom line: Be you. Some will be in formal wear. Some in jeans. Some in cosplay. This is a night to celebrate you and your work, not the clothes. Looking forward to seeing you there!
— John Picacio (@JohnPicacio) July 19, 2018
(3) TOR TAKES LIBRARIANS BY SURPRISE. And not in a good way: “Tor Scales Back Library E-book Lending as Part of Test” – Publishers Weekly has the story.
After years of relatively little change in the library e-book market, there has finally been some movement—unfortunately, librarians say, it is movement in the wrong direction. Leading Sci-Fi publisher Tor Books, a division of Macmillan, has announced that, beginning with July 2018 titles, newly released e-books, will be no longer be available to libraries for lending until four months after their retail on sale date.
In a statement to libraries through their vendors, Macmillan officials said the new embargo was part of “a test program” (although an “open ended” test, the release states) to assess the impact of library e-book lending on retail sales. But the statement goes on to say that the publisher’s “current analysis on eLending indicates that it is having a direct and adverse impact on retail eBook sales,” and that Tor will work with library vendors to “develop ongoing terms that will best support Tor’s authors, their agents, and Tor’s channel partners.”
…On July 19, American Library Association president Loida Garcia-Febo issued the following statement:
“The American Library Association and our members have worked diligently to increase access to and exposure for the widest range of e-books and authors. Over years, ALA made great strides in working with publishers and distributors to better serve readers with increasingly robust digital collections. We remain committed to a vibrant and accessible reading ecosystem for all.
I am dismayed now to see Tor bring forward a tired and unproven claim of library lending adversely affecting sales. This move undermines our shared commitment to readers and writers—particularly with no advance notice or discussion with libraries. In fact, Macmillan references its involvement with the Panorama Project, which is a large-scale, data-driven research project focused on understanding the impact of library holdings on book discovery, author brand development, and sales. For this reason, this change by Tor—literally on the heels of Panorama’s launch—is particularly unexpected and unwelcome.
“The ALA calls for Macmillan to move just as quickly to reverse its course and immediately lift the embargo while the Panorama Project does its work.”
(4) BIG REBOOTS TO FILL. Somebody thought this would be a good idea: “‘In Search Of’: Zachary Quinto Follows in Leonard Nimoy’s Footsteps… Again”.
We’re all very used to revivals and reboots these days but with the return of iconic sci-fi/mystery series In Search Of , one big reason to celebrate (besides its launch on the History Channel) is that actor Zachary Quinto is a part of this project.
Quinto, who first became known to TV fans for his role as the villainous Sylar on the original run of NBC’s Heroes, leapt to greater heights of fame in 2009 when he took over the role of the most famous Vulcan in the galaxy, Spock, in the updated Star Trek big-screen franchise. Of course, Spock was first played by Leonard Nimoy in the 1960s television series and, yes, Nimoy later hosted In Search Of.
(5) DROPPED IN POTTER’S FIELD. There’s an open question about why this happened: “London erects 25-foot Jeff Goldblum statue to commemorate ‘Jurassic Park’s 25th anniversary”.
They were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should build a 25-foot replica of Jeff Goldblum.
Londoners and tourists alike were puzzled Wednesday morning to find a statue of Goldblum, his shirt unbuttoned in a recreation of his famous “Jurassic Park” pose, staring seductively at them from the banks of the River Thames near Tower Bridge.
25ft Jeff Goldblum statue pops up in London to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Jurassic Park, which was June 11th, a month ago. Also none of the movie was filmed in London nor is Jeff Goldblum a native of the English capital. So let's just bask in its nonsensical glory. pic.twitter.com/TKQKozleMn
— Adam Ricard (@Adam1021) July 18, 2018
(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
- Born July 19 – Benedict Cumberbatch, 42. Some of his sort-of genre and definitely genre roles include Stephen Hawking in Hawking, The Hobbit films as a certain cranky dragon, Star Trek into Darkness, Doctor Strange, Sherlock, and possibly my fav role potentially by him as the voice of the title character in the forthcoming animated The Grinch film.
- Born July 19 – Jared Padalecki, 36. Best known for his role as Sam Winchester on Supernatural, and not surprisingly, Supernatural: The Animation.
(7) COMICS SECTION.
- What lure you use depends on what you’re trying to catch — In The Bleachers.
- In Tank McNamara we find that greenskeepers can be fans, too.
(8) OKAY. Mad Genius Club columnist Kate Paulk makes everything as clear as she usually does in “Eschew Claytons Diversity”.
…Take the Mad Geniuses. We’re Odds. We don’t fit in. But every last one of us fails to fit in in a different way than every other one of us….
(9) UNDER NEWTON’S TREE. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is getting to dislike F&SF’s 1963 incarnation almost as much as he loathes Analog — “[July 18, 1963] Several bad apples (August Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.
I’ve discussed recently how this appears to be a revival period for science fiction what with two new magazines having been launched and the paperback industry on the rise. I’ve also noted that, with the advent of Avram Davidson at the helm of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the editorial course of that digest has…changed. That venerable outlet has definitely doubled down on its commitment to the esoteric and the literary.
Has Davidson determined that success relies on making his magazine as distinct from all the others as possible? Or do I have things backwards? Perhaps the profusion of new magazines is a reaction to F&SF’s new tack, sticking more closely to the mainstream of our genre.
All I can tell you is that the latest edition ain’t that great, though, to be fair, a lot of that is due to the absolutely awful Heinlein dross that fills half of the August 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction. See for yourself…
“Heinlein dross” turns out to be code for an installment of the novel Glory Road.
(10) SPACE SAILS. [Item by Mike Kennedy] An exploratory project at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville AL is examining metamaterials as the basis for a solar sail for CubeSat propulsion. The Near-Earth Asteroid Scout (NEA Scout) is being developed by Marshall and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a candidate secondary payload to launch with EM-1 the first uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System.
NEA Scout would be a robotic mission to fly by an NEA and return data “from an asteroid representative of NEAs that may one day be human destinations.” The asteroid chosen will depend on the launch date; the current target is 1991 VG. Though this is still only a candidate mission (and thus may never happen), NASA explains the mission like this:
Catching a ride on EM-1, NEA Scout will deploy from SLS after the Orion spacecraft is separated from the upper stage. Once it reaches the lunar vicinity, it will perform imaging for instrument calibration. Cold gas will provide the initial propulsive maneuvers, but the NEA Scout’s hallmark solar sail will leverage the CubeSat’s continual solar exposure for efficient transit to the target asteroid during an approximate two-year cruise.
Once it reaches its destination, NEA Scout will capture a series of low (50 cm/pixels) and high resolution (10 cm/pixels) images to determine global shape, spin rate, pole position, regional morphology, regolith properties, spectral class, and for local environment characterization.
A Popular Science article looks a little closer at the use of metamaterials for the sail, talking with Dr. Grover Swartzlander (Rochester Institute of Technology) who is the lead for the project.
The metamaterial Swartzlander is proposing would have several advantages over the reflective materials of the past. Swartzlander’s sails would have lower heat absorption rates due to their diffractive nature which would scatter solar rays, and the ability to re-use what Swartzlander told NASA was “the abundant untapped momentum of solar photons” to fly through the cosmos.
Swartzlander is leading an exploratory study through NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program. With nine months and $125,000, his research team will work on a NASA satellite called the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, or NEA Scout for short. A robotic reconnaissance mission, NEA Scout is a CubeSat meant to explore asteroids. NEA Scout would be NASA’s first craft to be powered by sails.
(11) THEY SWORE A MIGHTY OATH. No “Second Variety”? “AI Innovators Take Pledge Against Autonomous Killer Weapons”.
The Terminator‘s killer robots may seem like a thing of science fiction. But leading scientists and tech innovators have signaled that such autonomous killers could materialize in the real world in frighteningly real ways.
During the annual International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Stockholm on Wednesday, some of the world’s top scientific minds came together to sign a pledge that calls for “laws against lethal autonomous weapons.”
“… we the undersigned agree that the decision to take a human life should never be delegated to a machine,” the pledge says. It goes on to say, “… we will neither participate in nor support the development, manufacture, trade, or use of lethal autonomous weapons.”
The moniker “autonomous weapons” doesn’t draw the same fear or wonder as a killer robot, but weapons that can function without human oversight are a real concern.
(12) NOT THE SIZE OF A PLANET. No one will ever be wondering this about sff fans. Gizmodo’s article “Did Neanderthals Go Extinct Because of the Size of Their Brains?” follows up a paper in Scientific Reports and a theory that Homo neanderthalensis may have gone extinct because their brains — though larger than that of Homo sapiens — had a cerebellum that was proportionately underdeveloped relative to H. sapiens.
Indeed, though scientists have many Neanderthal skulls to work with, none of them contain actual brains, making it difficult to know what the inside of their heads actually looked like. The next best option, therefore, is to look at their fossilized skulls and try to figure out the shape, size, and orientation of the Neanderthal brain.
To do this, Ogihara’s team created virtual three-dimensional “casts” of brains using data derived from the skulls of four Neanderthals and four early modern humans (the skulls used in the study dated from between 135,000 and 32,000 years ago). This allowed the researchers to reconstruct and visualize the 3D structure of the brain’s grey and white matter regions, along with the cerebrospinal fluid regions. Then, using a large dataset from the Human Connectome Project, specifically MRI brain scans taken of more than 1,180 individuals, the researchers modeled the “average” human brain to provide a kind of baseline for the study and allow for the comparative analysis.
Using this method, the researchers uncovered “significant” differences in brain morphology. Even though Neanderthals had larger skulls, and thus larger brain volume overall, H. sapiens had a proportionately larger cerebellum, the part of brain involved in higher levels of thinking and action. Modern humans also featured a smaller occipital region in the cerebrum, which is tied to vision. Looking at these differences, the researchers inferred such abilities as cognitive flexibility (i.e. learning, adaptability, and out-of-the-box thinking), attention, language processing, and short-term and long-term memory. Homo sapiens, the researchers concluded, had better cognitive and social abilities than Neanderthals, and a greater capacity for long-term memory and language processing.
(13) FORTNITE. Brian Feldman, in “The Most Important Video Game on the Planet” in New York Magazine, looks at how Fortnite. since its introduction in July 2017, “has risen to become the most important video game currently in existence…obsessed over by rappers and athletes, hotly debated in high school cafeterias, and played by 125 million people.”
Since it launched in July of last year, Fortnite has risen to become the most important video game currently in existence. The 100-player, last-man-standing video-game shooter is obsessed over by rappers and athletes, hotly debated in high-school cafeterias, and played by 125 million people. All this, not because of a major technical or graphical breakthrough, or for a groundbreaking work of narrative depth, but for, essentially, a simple, endlessly playable cartoon. On a colorful island peppered with abandoned houses, towns, soccer fields, food trucks, and missile silos, players don colorful costumes, drop out of a floating school bus, and begin constructing ramshackle forts that look like they’ve popped straight out of a storybook, before blowing each other to smithereens.
(14) TITANS. Official trailer —
TITANS follows young heroes from across the DC Universe as they come of age and find belonging in a gritty take on the classic Teen Titans franchise.
[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Lee, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Dann, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kendall.]