Pixel Scroll 9/25/18 I Want To Be In The Scroll Where It Happens

(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.

(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 JazzFreakin’ at the Freakers Ball and The Best of Shel Silverstein: His Words His Songs His Friends.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(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.]

68 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/25/18 I Want To Be In The Scroll Where It Happens

  1. @Errolwi —

    Okay, now we’re all wondering just what exactly your ancestor did to get banished!

  2. @Hampus Eckerman,

    To me, “Durmstrang” always sounded like a spoonerism-like variant of “Sturm und Drang“; that phrase is German in origin, which to me suggested that Durmstrang might be located in an area where German is or was commonly spoken.

  3. @Chip

    @Andrew: wizards in posse, not in esse; as asked before, how would they get trained? I’m also doubting that a tenth of the population outside the South would be Black; ISTM that we’re not there even now, after a century or more of the north encouraging southern Blacks to immigrate.

    Powerful wizards seem to be dangerous even when untrained – Harry was setting animals free in zoos by accident before any training and Dumbledore’s sister was apparently very dangerous without training as well. “Tenth of the population” referred to the total population of the US – in 1860, about 10% of the US population was enslaved – but of course that population was mostly in the South. I agree that the northern population of enslaved/ex-enslaved people would have been much smaller.

  4. I found one article about the hippos more recent than 2016: https://www.euronews.com/2018/02/20/colombia-declares-war-on-pablo-escobar-s-hippos

    They know how to stop the hippos from reproducing; the problem is funding. Sterilizing one hippo cost 100 million pesos, which is about $33,300. Multiply that by 40 hippos and you’re looking at $1.25 million. Less if they manage to sterilize either all the male or all the female hippos (whichever sex works out to be cheaper and/or less dangerous to the people doing the work).

  5. Ryan H on September 26, 2018 at 7:03 pm said:

    The original Harry Potter books are the platonic ideal of Just-in-time world building. It had exactly enough world building to support the story/plot/characters exactly as it needed them. No more and no less. And it has never stretched or expanded very well. As soon as you start poking it the seams start showing.

    Yeah, but Lois McMaster Bujold worldbuilds like that, too. She only figures out what she needs for this plot and the rest is in the nebulous “Schrodinger’s plot box” as she calls it. To coalesce into actual plot/worldbuilding when the box is opened for later books.

    And her worldbuilding, while certainly problematic in places, is leaps and bounds better than Rowlings.

  6. @Contrarius

    Speaking of slavery, I’ve been doing genealogy research lately and just this evening came across a record of one of my ancestors apportioning out his deceased father’s slaves as part of the father’s probate settlement back in the mid-1700s.

    I remember being shocked when I learned that a large, empty area in the middle of the family cemetery was where the slaves were buried.

  7. @Andrew: (replying to myself): It occurs to me that Dumbledore’s sister, Ariana, became very dangerous because of physical abuse from muggles before she had any magical training, which is an indication of what might result from the enslavement of wizards and witches.

  8. But I have to admitt that I was 100% sure from the books that Durmstrang Institute was placed somewhere in Russia and was totally chocked when I read on the Harry Potter Wikia that it was placed in Sweden or Norway. Even more stupid, russia seems to have its own school – Koldovstoretz. Have all scandinavians been run out of their country? What has happened?

    I thought that Durnstran had a Ruritanian* feel about, placing it somewhere in the Danube/Balkans region – never seemed particularly Scandinavian to me.

    *that may have to do with a recent viewing of the 1922 version of Prisoner of Zenda, featuring the fabulously-named Snitz Edwards.

    Bujold IMHO can get away with Just-In-Time world building since she’s dealing multiple planets in her Vorkosigan series, and that leaves a lot of room for growth: it seems less making it up on the spot and more fleshing out a nebulous outline. Whatever, I always felt Barryar had a proper lived-in look. Rowling on the other hand was trying to superimpose her magical society on a real place, which left a lot of the holes exposed. (How do wizards get their food, since it’s stated in one of the books that they can’t magic it up? What do Hogwarts graduates who don’t work for the Ministry of Magic or Hogwarts do? Who makes up the underclass of wizard bus drivers and merchants – are these the children of wizards who don’t make the grade?)

    WRT American wizards, Rowling’s version (like a lot of US history school texts) seems to overlook the non-British parts of history. Even ignoring Native American communities, Santa Fe was a thriving settlement while the English at Jamestown were still trying to figure out which end of the plow went into the ground, and well before the Puritans arrived. Not to mention the large French-influenced region stretching along the St. Lawrence river and into the Mississippi basin and points west. Until the late 1700s, the British settlements were just a thin strip along the Atlantic coast .

  9. @Darren Garrison: that was interesting, but I think they were overselling (at least) their case by the same sort of blurring they complain about; evolution is incompatible with Biblical literalism (ska “Fundamentalism”), but not even all of Christianity has that as a tenet.

  10. @Contrarius: Okay, now we’re all wondering just what exactly your ancestor did to get banished!

    Fairly mundane – publishing pamphlets ranting about the ‘yellow peril’. I guess if you did it often enough in an obnoxious enough way you actually could suffer consequences. Apparently he was also a tightwad.

  11. On slave wizards – while there are some Muggle born wizards, the vast majority seem to come from wizarding families. Assuming African wizards used their powers to keep from being enslaved, there would be a very low number of slave wizards born, low enough that they could disappear at 11 without getting noticed.

  12. @Darren, what Chip said. I’m certainly a Christian who accepts the truth of evolution by natural selection. I’m a theist, not a deist, so I don’t believe in godly intervention, and I also understand Biblical stories as intended to teach lessons rather than to be historical. (Insert rant here about counting blessings, or thanking God for good results, when we know perfectly well that bad things happen to good people and vice versa, and that poor and oppressed people do not deserve their situations. Ain’t God making those things happen.)

  13. @bookworm1398, it hurts to remember why, but slaves didn’t stay purely African for long. So there would have been plenty of wizards in the next generation, and more still in the third.

  14. “To me, “Durmstrang” always sounded like a spoonerism-like variant of “Sturm und Drang“; that phrase is German in origin, which to me suggested that Durmstrang might be located in an area where German is or was commonly spoken.”

    Well, Durmstrang Institute was created in 1294 during the time of the Hanseatic League, so I guess the merchants at least would know a bit of german. But commonly spoken? And there’s still no explanation of why all students and teachers of Durmstrang have russian or slavic names. The only swedish/norwegian/danish name seems to have been that of the second headmaster, Harfang Munter.

  15. @Lenore Jones: I have the impression that wizards have little connection with mundane power; how many would have been plantation owners, or overseers? And is wizardry dominant? ISTM that if so everyone would be a wizard in short order.

  16. @Chip, both excellent questions. On the first, I don’t know if wealthy American wizards would have stuck with house elves or enslaved other humans. On the second, I suspect wizardry genetics is one of those unexplored world-building issues. It’s canon that some wizards arise from muggle parents, which implies strange things about the genetics. If it comes from a mutation, it must be dominant, or muggle-born wizards would be vanishingly rare. If it is recessive, that implies that a certain percentage of the muggle population carries the wizard gene(s) heterozygously. And what about squibs?

    More likely wizardry is passed on in some non-genetic fashion. In which case, who knows what happens when populations mix?

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