(1) TEXAS STYLE. The Austin Chronicle pays tribute to the local sf community then and now — “Writing Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror in Austin”. (Very nice group picture there, too.)
“When I moved to Austin in 1998,” says Christopher Brown, who presents his dystopian debut novel, Tropic of Kansas, at BookPeople this Friday, “it was partly because I could tell that there was a rich fantastic-literature community here, a community of both readers and writers.”
Indeed there was, and had been for years. Brown’s arrival coincided with the 20th anniversary of ArmadilloCon, the homegrown annual sci-fi convention that was not just a celebration of the more fantastic genres of literature and one hell of a fannish good time, but somewhere aspiring writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror could meet and polish their craft via workshops led by their fellow writers from the local scene. In the days of ArmadilloCon’s founding, such writers included Bruce Sterling, Howard Waldrop, Steven Utley, Lisa Tuttle, Tom Reamy, and their beloved mentor, University of Texas anthropology professor Chad Oliver – all members of the Turkey City Writer’s Workshop, a Lone Star coterie that became one of the epicenters of speculative fiction. Of what eventually led, after East Coaster William Gibson had galvanized the field, after enough tons of dream-stained paper had transmediated filmward, to the gritty/glossy mise en scène of the Wachowskis’ Matrix. You know, citizen: cyberpunk. What so much of the future looked like, fictionally, in the Eighties and Nineties.
Brown also landed here while Austin’s fantastic-lit readers and writers still had their own bookstore, one run by ArmadilloCon’s founder. “I remember Willie Siros’ place on West Sixth,” says Brown, “in the building currently occupied by Sandra Bullock’s flower-arrangement-and-money-laundering operation. It was called Adventures in Crime and Space, a specialty science-fiction and mystery bookstore that the community had sustained for a long time.”
Alas, citizen, in the 17th year of the 21st century, Adventures in Crime and Space has gone the way of the space shuttle program, but the rich community it served continues.
(2) POINT OF NO RETURN. Ruth Graham tells why public libraries are finally eliminating the late-return fine at Slate.
In some districts, up to 35 percent of patrons have had their borrowing privileges revoked because of unpaid fines. Only these days, it’s librarians themselves who often lament what the Detroit reporter called “a tragedy enacted in this little court of equity.” Now some libraries are deciding that the money isn’t worth the hassle—not only that, but that fining patrons works against everything that public libraries ought to stand for.
Library fines in most places remain quaintly low, sometimes just 10 cents per day. But one user’s nominal is another’s exorbitant. If a child checks out 10 picture books, the kind of haul librarians love to encourage, and then his mother’s work schedule prevents her from returning them for a week past the due date, that’s $7. For middle-class patrons, that may feel like a slap on the wrist, or even a feel-good donation. For low-income users, however, it can be a prohibitively expensive penalty. With unpredictable costs hovering over each checkout, too many families decide it’s safer not to use the library at all. As one California mother told the New York Times last spring, “I try to explain to [my daughter], ‘Don’t take books out. It’s so expensive.’ ”
(3) THEOLOGICAL PROBLEMS OF THE 21ST CENTURY.
Sometimes when I use a sink in a public restroom and the motion sensor doesn't work, I worry that I died and am now a ghost.
— MichaelDamianThomas (@michaeldthomas) July 15, 2017
(4) TRUNK MUSIC. Gamera Boy posted these scans of an old Starlog article: “Details from the proposed 1977 “Star Trek II” television series from Starlog #136 (1988)”.
Wil Wheaton reblogged the scans and commented:
Some of the unused Phase II scripts were rewritten and used on TNG. They were … not good, if my memory is correct.
(5) SPACE SCHOOL. Fast Company says “Forget Starfleet Academy—Future Astronauts Will Be Trained By These Companies”:
Private space travel could be just a year away.
Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin recently released images of the spaceships it says could be ferrying paying guests to suborbital space in 2018. At the same time, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has hundreds of $250,000 deposits from people who want seats on his spacecraft, and SpaceX’s Elon Musk aims to take a pair of tourists around the moon.
As commercial spaceflights for tourists, scientists, and workers in the burgeoning space economy become more common, experts say those would-be astronauts will need training that goes well beyond earthbound airline safety briefings. Anyone venturing into space will need to know how to deal with space sickness, the effects of acceleration and weightlessness, and even the potential for hallucinations. And those going to do scientific or other work will have to be ready to use their limited time optimally—time outside the earth’s gravitational pull will cost something like $688 per second, according to Gregory Kennedy, education director at the NASTAR Center.
“The research organizations that are sponsoring their flights are going to want to make sure they’re getting their $688,” he says.
The NASTAR Center, located outside Philadelphia, is one of several commercial institutions offering spaceflight training for would-be private astronauts. Founded in 2007 by the Environmental Tectonics Corporation, which makes air and space training equipment, the center has trained more than 500 people for the rigors of spaceflight, Kennedy says. For aspiring space tourists, that includes learning how to tolerate the acceleration forces they’ll experience: “We take somebody with no prior experience and build them up to be able to withstand up to 6 Gs.”
(6) WONDER TRIBUTE. John King Tarpinian says, “I can already hear the audience applaud when she appears on screen.” ScreenRant reports: “Wonder Woman: Lynda Carter Confirms Sequel Cameo Discussions”.
Lynda Carter has confirmed she’s in talks to appear in the Wonder Woman sequel. Director Patty Jenkins has been pressing for a cameo from the actor, who suited up for the film’s starring role via her own TV series in the ’70s, since she started work on the first movie, but the timing didn’t work out. When asked by a fan on Twitter whether she’d keep trying to land Carter for the franchise’s second go-round, Jenkins replied emphatically that she would.
Both women have been vocal about their appreciation for each other’s stake in Wonder Woman: Jenkins, for Carter’s legacy, and Carter for Jenkins’ treatment of it. When Carter congratulated Jenkins et all for the movie’s staggering box office success, Jenkins responded: “Bravo you Lynda. Come on. Let’s admit what was major in starting all of this.”
Now, as focus turns to the sequel, it seems the stars may align for Wonder Woman‘s second outing. In an interview with People, Carter revealed she’d already been approached to appear in the all-but-confirmed movie
(7) SPINNING. Shirley Li, in Entertainment Weekly’s article “Marvel’s The Defenders: Sigourney Weaver says her character is an ‘adversary,’ not a ‘villain'”, tells readers that in describing her work the actress says, “I try to avoid using terms like ‘ice queen’ that are often thrown at women who aren’t completely sympathetic.”
An adversary who, as the head of an ancient organization, has faced worthy opponents before, though none quite like this super-team, says showrunner Marco Ramirez. “In her career, she’s come up against a lot of different people — armies, mercenaries, devoted religious fanatics and all kinds of different groups — who have tried to take her down, but she’s never met four people who are seemingly just interested in taking care of this one little part of New York,” Ramirez says. “I think she’s actually really charmed by it, and weirdly, because they’re unlike anybody she’s ever faced off against before, it’s intimidating to her.”
(8) ALIAS CORDWAINER SMITH & JONES? I didn’t know they knew each other.
Brilliant! How about a nod for Cordwainer Smith too? Say, 'The Game of Rat and Dragon' in the October 1955 edition? https://t.co/i2mkQDL0Tl
— CordwainerJones (@CordwainerJones) July 13, 2017
(9) CALENDRICAL JOT. Aaron Pound covers another Hugo nominee at Dreaming About Other Worlds. A long review follows the executive summary – “Review – Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee”.
Short review: Tasked with putting down a heretical rebellion within the Hexarchate that has caused calendrical rot, Kel Cheris convinces her superiors to revive the insane dead General Jedao. If that sounds kind of incomprehensible to you, be warned that reading the book only makes it a little bit clearer.
(10) BY A WHISKER. Spacefaring Kitten’s tweets about this year’s nominees are collected in “Hugos 2017, part 1” at Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens
— Spacefaring Kitten (@SpacefaringK) July 14, 2017
(11) WE, ROBOT. Advanced technology in real life: “When your body becomes eligible for an upgrade”.
Prof Herr is a double amputee. In 2012, I saw him move a room in London to tears when he revealed his incredibly sophisticated bionic legs that allowed him to move with natural poise and grace.
In 2014, Prof Herr’s technology meant Adrianne Haslet-Davis returned to the dancefloor, less than a year since losing a limb in the Boston marathon bombings. Her first performance after the incident brought a TED talk audience instantly to its feet.
I visited Prof Herr’s lab last week to learn more about the work is team is doing, and where it may lead. Right now, much of the research is focused on doing things the human body can do instinctively, but are extremely complex to engineer.
(12) THEY CAME RUNNING. A siren based on science: “The brain-hacking sound that’s impossible to ignore”.
In a remote and rural part of Malawi in Africa, a siren has been alerting people – and it sounds like nothing you’d recognise from a street elsewhere in the world. Strangely unlike a conventional emergency services siren, instead it is a discordant mashup of musical fragments and intermittent white noise.
“It’s like hearing music on an old transistor radio that seems to be a little bit broken,” explains American artist Jake Harper, who designed it. You can hear it at the beginning and end of the clip below, coupled with a spoken announcement.
The signal was inspired by neuroscience research on sounds that affect the emotion-processing centres of the brain.
The aim? To alert Malawi locals to HIV tests and health checks from a mobile clinic funded by the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation’s (ETAF) and operated by the Global Aids Interfaith Alliance. As the medical van travels through an area, speakers on the roof broadcast these eerie tones.
(13) BEAM MY DATA UP, SCOTTY. “Sounds more like Stross’s version of an ansible,” opines Chip Hitchcock: “Teleportation: Photon particles today, humans tomorrow?”. (Or Clifford D. Simak’s system in Way Station?)
Chinese scientists say they have “teleported” a photon particle from the ground to a satellite orbiting 1,400km (870 miles) away.
For many, however, teleportation evokes something much more exotic. Is a world previously confined to science fiction now becoming reality?
Well, sort of. But we are not likely to be beaming ourselves to the office or a beach in the Bahamas anytime soon. Sorry.
How does it work?
Simply put, teleportation is transmitting the state of a thing rather than sending the thing itself.
Some physicists give the example of a fax machine – it sends information about the marks on a piece of paper rather than the paper itself. The receiving fax machine gets the information and applies it to raw material in the form of paper that is already there.
(14) FIRST NOVEL PRIZE. The longlist for 2017 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize includes several books of genre interest. (Just don’t ask me which ones.) This annual award was created in 2006 to honor the best first novel of the year. The titles below were chosen by a panel of five distinguished writers: Sonya Chung, Anne Landsman, Fiona Maazel, Rick Moody, and Kia Corthron.
- All That’s Left to Tell by Daniel Lowe (Flatiron Books)
- As Lie Is to Grin by Simeon Marsalis (Catapult)
- Empire of Glass by Kaitlin Solimine (Ig Publishing)
- Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz (Random House)
- Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Crystal King (Touchstone)
- Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Random House)
- The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachico (Spiegel & Grau)
- Marlena by Julie Buntin (Henry Holt & Co.)
- Mikhail and Margarita by Julie Lekstrom Himes (Europa Editions)
- Motherest by Kristen Iskandrian (Twelve)
- Murder on the Red River by Marcie R. Rendon (Cinco Puntos Press)
- My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (Riverhead Books)
- Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett (Tin House Books)
- The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers (Algonquin Books)
- Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar (Little, Brown)
- Spoils by Brian Van Reet (Lee Boudreaux Books)
- Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan (Restless Books)
- Tiger Pelt by Annabelle Kim (Leaf~Land LLC)
- Time’s a Thief by B. G. Firmani (Doubleday)
- What to Do About the Solomons by Bethany Ball (Atlantic Monthly Press)
- Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam (Random House)
- The World of Tomorrow by Brendan Mathews (Little, Brown)
(15) WRINKLE IN TIME. Here’s the teaser trailer for Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time, which opens in US theatres March 9, 2018.
(16) LAST JEDI FEATURETTE. The end of Star Wars: The Last Jedi Behind The Scenes may bring on a tear or two.
[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bonnie McDaniel.]