(1) A STORY OF REVOLUTION. Luke the Son of Anakin (Star Wars + Hamilton Parody) is from 2016 but managed to elude me until today. Turn on closed captioning to see the text of the lyrics.
(2) MODEL TARDIS. “Maladroit Modeller” has built a “working” Tardis — that is, it is truly bigger on the inside than on the outside, and he’s provided video proof.
Bill sent the link with a request, “Viewers may be strongly tempted to go searching to figure out how this works. They may be successful. But I’d hope they would keep that information to themselves, rather than post it in the comments and spoiling the mystery.”
(3) THINGS THAT DON’T MAKE SENSE. Naomi Kritzer critiques the worldbuilding involved in setting stories from the world of Harry Potter in America. The thread starts here.
If you're writing the Harry Potter world in the US, you have to be able to answer an absolutely critical question before you even start:
What happened to the muggleborn wizarding children who were born to enslaved women?
— Naomi Kritzer (@NaomiKritzer) September 25, 2018
There are a lot of ways to answer these questions. And you need to KNOW those answers because they inform a MILLION other things about your society.
— Naomi Kritzer (@NaomiKritzer) September 25, 2018
(4) STILL AFLAME. Alex Acks wrote up the FIYAH/Goodreads controversy for Book Riot: “All Issues of FIYAH Literary Magazine Removed from Goodreads”
The near-simultaneous removal of the only two speculative fiction magazines that exclusively publish Black writers and writers of color does not seem like a coincidental thing. There is ample cause for people in speculative fiction to be on the alert for activity like this. Speculative fiction is a small field—which is why you notice when two magazines suddenly vanish from site like Goodreads—and it’s had serious problems lately with the racist machinations of groups like the Puppies and even individuals who, for example, are just really upset about N.K. Jemisin winning so many Hugos even though they’ve never bothered to read her books.
(5) A VORACIOUS READER’S CHOICES. Jason Sanford listed his picks of the “Best SF/F short fiction, January through June 2018”.
I originally set out to read a short story a day this year but massively failed in that attempt. That said, I still read more than 130 short stories, novelettes and novellas published between January and the end of June.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t missed some great stories — I’m certain I did. In particular, I read relatively few novellas this go around. I’ll try to make up for that in the coming months and will add any stories I missed to my next listing of the year’s best short fiction, which will be released in December.
(6) BUT YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF THE GAME. Popular Mechanics asks what you can do with a super-soldier who wants out of the game (“Suddenly Superhuman: If the Pentagon Turns People Into Augmented Super-Soldiers, Can It Turn Them Back?”). In other words, if Halo’s Master Chief retires, can he ever become just a regular human again?
A soldier wears a skullcap that stimulates his brain to make him learn skills faster, or reads his thoughts as a way to control a drone. Another is plugged into a Tron-like “active cyber defense system,” in which she mentally teams up with computer systems “to successfully multitask during complex military missions.”
The Pentagon is already researching these seemingly sci-fi concepts. The basics of brain-machine interfaces are being developed—just watch the videos of patients moving prosthetic limbs with their minds. The Defense Department is examining newly scientific tools, like genetic engineering, brain chemistry, and shrinking robotics, for even more dramatic enhancements.
But the real trick may not be granting superpowers, but rather making sure those effects are temporary.
The latest line augmentation research at DARPA, the Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology (N3) program, is focused on one key part of augmenting soldiers: making sure the effects can be reversed.
(7) BEYOND CONFUSE-A-CAT. Our future AI overlords are sneaking another “job” away from humans… amusing SJW credentials (Inverse: “This A.I. Cat Toy Draws Out the Most Violent Feline Behavior to Play”).
Who would’ve thought that the most sophisticated cat toy imaginable would also be the one that happens to trigger a cat’s most ruthless and disturbing behavior?
That’s what you get from Mousr, a super-smart cat toy from Petronics that has a time-of-flight sensor, a real-time operating system in a custom-built microcontroller, and A.I. programming all working on concert to convince your cat that it’s a mouse and not a tiny robot. Mousr can map its surroundings — and it even initiates a struggle protocol when it feels trapped by its predator. My cats absolutely love the struggle part.…
“A lot of automatic or autonomous toys eventually just make cats bored by doing the same exact thing over and over again,” Cohen said. “But Mousr — and real mice — will react to a cat.” Unlike many comparable devices that simply simulate a motion on repeat, Mousr uses onboard artificial intelligence to navigate the physical space around it.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY
- September 25, 1924 — In in Russia, Aelita: Queen Of Mars had its theatrical premiere.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born September 25, 1919 – Betty Ballantine. Editor who with husband created Bantam Books in 1945 and were responsible for Ballantine Books in 1952. They became freelance publishers in the 1970s. She wrote a novel that was genre, The Secret Oceans. The Ballantines won a special World Fantasy Award for professional work in 1975 and another one shared with Joy Chant and other creators of The High Kings (Bantam, 1983), a reference book on the Matter of Britain that incorporates stories of the Arthurian myths.
- Born September 25, 1930 – Shel Silverstein. Cheerfully admitting he’s not genre but I want to include him anyways. Film, theater, song, illustration, writing — he was a bloody genius. For books, I’ll single out The Giving Tree, Where The Sidewalk Ends and A Light in The Attic. Oh for albums, let’s do Hairy Jazz, Freakin’ at the Freakers Ball and The Best of Shel Silverstein: His Words His Songs His Friends.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- Frank and Ernest deliver a vampiric pun.
(11) MAKING IT UP AS YOU GO ALONG. In “The Big Idea: Ryan North” at Whatever, North explains why his fictional world needs a book titled How To Invent Everything:
I made up a future in which time travel existed and was practiced routinely. It was a world in which time machines are rented like cars: generally painlessly, though sometimes with the risk that your too-good-to-be-true deal of a vehicle breaks down. It was a way to ease myself (and readers) into the concept, and it helped me set up some ground rules: you, as a reader, are a temporal tourist. You are trapped in the past in a broken rental-market time machine. There is a repair guide, but it very quickly reveals a unfortunate truth: that time machines are for sure the most complicated pieces of machinery humans have ever produced, and that there aren’t any user-serviceable parts inside. Time machines are so complicated, in fact, that it’s actually easier to tell you how to rebuild all of civilization than it is to explain how a 45.3EHz chrotonic flux inverter works. So that’s what this time machine repair guide does.
(12) KING JAMES VERSION, OF COURSE. Nate Sanders Auctions set a minimum bid of $40,000 on a “Bible Flown to & Landed Upon the Moon During the Apollo 14 Mission” – bids are being taken until September 27.
Extraordinarily rare Bible lunar-landed upon the moon aboard Apollo 14, one of only a handful of such Bibles to have graced the surface of the moon, flight-certified by both Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell and the Director of the Apollo Prayer League Reverend John Stout.
Complete King James microform Bible, Serial Number 14-026, originates from the Apollo Prayer League, formed with the dual goals of praying for the astronauts, and also of sending a Bible to the moon in the memory of Edward White, the astronaut who died in the Apollo 1 fire before he could fulfill his dream of bringing a Bible to the moon.
(13) FIRST LOTR. Hasn’t been to the moon and the minimum bid is only $4,000, but you still might be interested in this “First Edition Set of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’”. Bidding is open til September 27.
Rare first edition, second printing set of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ”Lord of the Rings” trilogy. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1954 & 1955. All three books are well-preserved, in their original dust jackets and with maps present. ”The Fellowship of the Ring” is a first edition, second printing (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1954) with map attached to rear flyleaf. Publisher’s red cloth with gilt spine titles.
(14) THE UNRECOGNIZABLE BRADBURY. According to The American Conservative, “Ray Bradbury Was the Coolest Non-Conformist on the Planet”, but they do their best to make him sound rather Sad Puppyesque. Really, is this the same guy that the FBI ran a file on?
Still, even Bradbury could not fully disguise or dismiss his own political and cultural view of the world. When asked what the truth was that emerged from Fahrenheit 451, he admitted he wrote it in response to “Hitler and Stalin and China, where they burned God knows how many books, killed God knows how many teachers.” Add to this, he feared, the disaster of Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s, and free thought and free expression would collapse in America. Siding with Alexis de Tocqueville, Bradbury feared that true oppression in the United States would be a soft despotism, with the culture being run by progressive busy bodies, moralizing and oppressing with a myriad of rules and acceptable attitudes. Fahrenheit 451, thus, anticipated political correctness almost three full decades before it became a deadly and nascent issue in the late 1980s.
(15) SIGN UP FOR THIS COURSE. NPR tells about a new college degree: “Space Mining — Learning How To Fuel An Interplanetary Gas Station”.
Starting this semester, the Colorado School of Mines is offering the world’s first degree programs in Space Resources — essentially mining in outer space.
It’s not just academic institutions like the School of Mines taking note; a small but growing number of startups expect this to be very big business sooner than a lot of us might think.
If people ever want to land on Mars, or explore beyond it, it’s too expensive to rocket everything these missions will ever need from Earth. You need interplanetary gas stations on the moon or on asteroids, extracting raw materials to fuel future deep space missions.
(16) ARE YOU AS SMART AS A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD? See if you can answer these — “Quiz: Test your knowledge of evolution”.
Even spelling the word, evolution, can be tricky when you’re seven, but Sophia tells me confidently that evolution “basically means engineering”.
And Jack says that sharks are lighter underneath so that “when the sun is on the sea, you can’t really see the sharks”.
He’s talking about the fact that sharks have evolved a form of camouflage that helps them sneak up on their prey.
At the opening of the new Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, school children are learning about evolution through the help of cuddly sharks of all shapes and sizes, fruit flies and even a tame owl.
(17) MIND UNDER MATTER. Rose Eveleth, in an episode of her podcast Fast Forward called “Fungus Among Us”, interviews sf authors David Walton and Tade Thompson in an episode discussing possible futures where people’s brains are taken over by fungi. Also in this episode: zombie ants!
How much of what you do is actually your choice? What if you were secretly being controlled by a parasite that had infected your brain? What if that infection was spreading?
(18) ANIME. SYFY Wire has a list of “10 LGBTQ+ anime that you need to watch now”, several of them genre stories.
What may surprise many who aren’t terribly familiar with anime is the wealth of LGBTQ+ focused series out there. Sure, many series have gratuitous fanservice and crossdressing is a recurring trope across the board, but there are earnest stories out there with a strong, if not singular, focus on LGBTQ+ characters.
To get started you need to know your terminology. Shounen-ai is boys love, while shoujo-ai is girls love. Yaoi is explicit boys love, so you’re going to get some sexy times on screen. Likewise, yuri is explicit girls love.
Now that you’ve got that down pat, here is our list of LGBTQ+ anime to watch!
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Chapter 17: The Grid Man’s Universal Translator on Vimeo, Stan Schwartz offers a story of identical twins with unusual powers and a universal translator with supernatural results. [Note: Vimeo has this video set so it can’t be embedded here.]
[Thanks to Bill, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morese Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]