(1) PROS WITH A FOUNTAIN PEN. The Goulet Pen company blog invited writers to speak about using fountain pens in their work. Two of them are of genre interest: Elizabeth Bear and Aliette de Bodard. In the comments others mention Neil Gaiman and Neil Stephenson as having written book drafts with a fountain pen.“6 Writers On Why They Use Fountain Pens”
My name is Aliette de Bodard and I’m a writer of science fiction and fantasy. I learnt to write with fountain pens as a child but put mine away after I left university. Last year, after a dry spell of being unable to write, I reconnected with that love and discovered the world of bottled inks, and it’s been such good writing practice.
For me, the act of using a fountain pen is visceral and soothing. I love feeling the bite of the nib on paper. Writing things down has been super useful: I brainstorm, or take notes while writing a scene on my computer. I find in both cases using the fountain pen will unlock new ideas for me to work with. I also doodle: I will totally draw little diagrams of what a scene looks like and where my characters are!
(2) PERSISTENCE OF VISION. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik explains why ratings are far less of a determination about whether a show is renewed than they used to be, which is why The Simpsons is on Season 30 because it works well overseas and on streaming platforms. Also, campaigns to save shows matter more, which is why Timeless will have a two-hour TV movie despite being cancelled: “When ratings don’t define success, more TV series are staying on the air longer”.
In fact, last year marked the first time since the ratings site TV By The Numbers began tracking figures nearly a decade ago that fewer than half of networks’ first-year series were canceled. That marks a severe drop-off — the number once topped 70 percent.
And as the fall season begins this month, 13 shows are entering at least their 10th season, believed to be a modern-day record. That includes such programs as “Grey’s Anatomy,” entering Season 15, and “The Simpsons,” entering Season 30. Viewership for each of these shows is down more than 70 percent from their all-time highs.
(3) MAP OF A WORLD. A Reddit fan of Steven Erikson and Ian Esselmont’s Malazan books has mapped the series’ world (known as WU) to a chalkboard globe. Tor.com has an article about it: “Ever Wondered What the Known World of Malazan Looks Like on a Globe?”
While there is no official, unified map for the world of Malazan, that has not stopped fans from constructing their own maps drawing from conjectures and clues in Malazan Book of the Fallen. Now, one especially crafty fan has taken that experiment a step further by making the world (affectionately and informally referred to as “Wu”) three-dimensional.
See photos of the globe at the link.
(4) THE APPETIZER COURSE. Amanda Baker offers her list of “Sci-fi books for people who don’t think they like sci-fi” at Salon.
“The Sparrow,” by Mary Doria Russell — This book was the first I read from my “starter kit,” and it hit me like a gut punch. Yes, there is a spaceship. But it also has some of the most engrossing depictions of culture shock and good intentions leading to severe consequences of any book I have read. It can be an emotionally demanding read.
(5) STEAM AGING. Disappointingly, this place is not open to tourists! “Steampunk Meets Science at New Hendrick’s Distillery in Scotland” – Bloomberg has the story.
The door is stout, with curly wrought iron hinges, the only entrance in an imposing, 13-foot-high brick wall. It could be the exterior of an old castle here in Scotland, a bell hanging nearby to summon attention. When the huge clapper dings, a small hatch rattles open to reveal a pair of eyes, like a guard greeting Dorothy arriving at Emerald City for the first time. “Who’s there?” he says, before recognizing the visitor “Och aye, come in.”
When the gates swing open, it’s an Oz-worthy sight: there’s a palatial building hidden inside, made mostly from glass and iron like a Victorian exhibition hall. Two of the wings are hothouses, filled with plants, while between them sits a central conservatory festooned with decoration. A stuffed peacock perches proudly in one corner, near a pile of steam trunks. A coat rack is hung with tweed cloaks and pith helmets. Penny farthing bikes are racked together jauntily by the door.
…While Ward points to an enormous new visitor center recently unveiled by The Macallan and the 100,000 plus visitors who pass through Bombay Sapphire’s jewel-box of a distillery each year, the Gin Palace is not configured for thirsty, drop-in visitors. Rather William Grant has taken a more selective approach. Bartenders will be invited to come here to finesse their skills alongside select VIPs, who will tour the hot houses and gardens, meet with Lesley in her lab and taste her various experiments; the gin’s brand ambassadors will be tasked with identifying, and inviting, the first few such folks. If you want to wangle a visit for yourself, charm everyone you see wearing a pith helmet and a retro mustache in any bar.
(6) BRADBURY’S VOICE. At the link you can watch The Halloween Tree movie with Ray Bradbury’s commentary overdubbed from the laserdisc edition.
(7) HE WAS HAD. Billy Dee Williams tweeted a photo of he and Mark Hamill at the Royal Performance of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. Mark Hamill tweeted the reason he didn’t look Princess Margaret in the eye —
— Mark Hamill (@HamillHimself) September 19, 2018
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY
- September 30, 1959 — Men Into Space premiered on television.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]
- Born September 30, 1946 – Dan O’Bannon, Actor, Writer, Director best known to genre fans for his collaboration with John Carpenter on the cult science fiction film Dark Star, in which he also starred. He built a career writing screenplays for numerous genre films including Alien, Lifeforce, and Total Recall, and directed The Return of the Living Dead.
- Born September 30, 1950 – Vondie Curtis-Hall, 68, Actor and Director, whose genre appearances include Broken Arrow, a guest role on Medium, and a main role in the Daredevil TV series.
- Born September 30, 1959 – Debrah Farentino, 59, Actress and Producer who played major roles in the TV series Earth 2 and Eureka.
- Born September 30, 1960 – Nicola Griffith, 58, Writer, Essayist and Teacher. Her first novel was Ammonite which won the Tiptree and Lambda Awards and was a finalist for the Clarke and BSFA Awards, followed by The Blue Place, Stay, and Always, which are linked novels in the Ammonite universe featuring the character Aud Torvingen. Her novel Slow River won Nebula and Lambda Awards. With Stephen Pagel, she has edited three Bending the Landscape anthologies in each of the three genres Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, the first of which won a World Fantasy Award. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in March 1993. She lives with her wife, author Kelley Eskridge, in Seattle.
- Born September 30, 1964 – Monica Bellucci, 54, Italian Actor, known for The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions and voices for the videogames in that franchise, The Brothers Grimm, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
- Born September 30, 1972 – Sheree Renée Thomas, 46, Writer and Editor who has published two collections of her own stories and poems. The two Dark Matter anthologies she edited, A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, and Reading the Bones, each won World Fantasy Awards. She has been guest co-editor this year on two magazine special editions, the Strange Horizons Southwestern USA Issue (July) and the Apex Magazine Zodiac Double Issue (August).
- Born September 30, 1974 – Daniel Wu, 44, Actor, Director, and Producer, who has appeared in genre films Warcraft, Geostorm, and the Tomb Raider reboot, and currently has a lead role in the post-apocalyptic TV series Into the Badlands.
- Born September 30, 1975 – Marion Cotillard, 43, French Actor and Director, had early appearance in two episodes of Highlander, followed by larger roles in the genre films Big Fish, Inception, Contagion, The Dark Knight Rises, and Assassin’s Creed.
(10) CAN YOU DIG IT? Ever wanted to get the dirt on Mars. Um, of Mars? Well, definitely not from Mars. Phys.org lets you know that the University of Central Florida can hook you up with some sweet, sweet simulant (“UCF selling experimental Martian dirt—$20 a kilogram, plus shipping”).
The University of Central Florida is selling Martian dirt, $20 a kilogram plus shipping.
This is not fake news. A team of UCF astrophysicists has developed a scientifically based, standardized method for creating Martian and asteroid soil known as simulants.
The team published its findings this month in the journal Icarus.
“The simulant is useful for research as we look to go to Mars,” said Physics Professor Dan Britt, a member of UCF’s Planetary Sciences Group. “If we are going to go, we’ll need food, water and other essentials. As we are developing solutions, we need a way to test how these ideas will fare.”
You can also pick up Lunar simulants in addition to the Martian and asteroid models. There’s no word in the Phys.org article whether toxic perchlorates are included in the base price of the Martian simulant, or are an extra-cost upgrade.
(11) CHINA SPACE PROGRAM. According to ThatsGuangzhou, “China Plans to Reach Mars by 2021”.
On September 18, an official with the China National Space Administration (CNSA) provided details on China’s Mars exploration goals, saying the PRC’s first probe will be launched in 2020 and is expected to reach the Red Planet by 2021….
According to ECNS, the first mission will orbit, land and put an exploration rover on Mars after a 10-month voyage. The second mission, in 2028, will bring back samples of Martian soil, People’s Daily reports.
Li Guoping, director general of the department of system engineering of CNSA, said the Long March 8 rocket for 2020 will employ two 2.25-meter-diameter, solid-fuel boosters. The Long March 9 rocket for 2028 will be over 90 meters in length, capable of carrying 140 metric tons into low-Earth orbit, according to People’s Daily.
Last year, China announced plans to build a ‘Mars village’ in Qinghai province due to its uninhabited, otherworldy environment.
The voyages to Mars are only a part of the nation’s space exploration plans. In December, China will launch the Chang’e-4 lunar probe into the South-Pole Aitken Basin on the far side of the moon. The 2,500-kilometer-wide hole is considered rich in iron and was first spotted in the 1960s. Eventually, the country hopes to establish a research station on the moon. China is also planning a space mission to Jupiter.
(12) FROM THE NINETEENTH CENTURY. The New York Post headline reads: “Secret identity of 150-year-old body found in NYC revealed”. ULTRAGOTHA says, “What piqued my interest here, was that the forensic archaeologist contacted the Centers for Disease Control because the body was so well-preserved that he worried the Small Pox virus might still be active. Now THERE’s a story prompt.”
…A testament to the coffins’ effectiveness, Peterson’s skin was intact to the point that she appeared to have been deceased for only a week. Warnasch noted that “smallpox lesions covered her body.” Initially he was concerned by this: “The body was so well preserved that I would not have been shocked if the smallpox virus had survived.”
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the smallpox had degraded to a nonthreatening level. An autopsy revealed that the disease had infected Peterson’s brain and most likely killed her…
(13) I YELLED FIRE WHEN I FELL INTO THE CHOCOLATE. A new chocolate source: “Brazil indigenous group bets on ‘golden fruit'”:
He took pictures of what his people call “golden fruit” and took to the Socio-Environmental Institute, a non-governmental organisation promoting indigenous products.
The “golden fruit” of his native Waikas forest was Theobroma cocoa, the seeds of which are used to make cocoa powder and chocolate.
But it is not just any kind of cocoa. A cocoa expert the Ata Institute, which works closely with the NGO Julio had originally approached, found the pod from the Waikas forest had a different shape from all other known varieties.
The expert, Roberto Smeraldi, thought it could be a hitherto-unknown pure variety offering great potential.
(14) BRAVE NEW WORLD AUTHOR. Mike Wallace interviewed Aldous Huxley on CBS in 1958 —
Aldous Huxley shares his visions and fears for this brave new world.
(15) LESS LIKE ZAP, MORE LIKE SPLOOSH. At Nerdist, Kyle Hill’s video “Beware the Phaser’s Maximum Setting, Because Science” claims Star Trek makes death too neat….
In my latest episode of Because Science, I’m shedding light on the fact that a scientifically accurate vaporization wouldn’t be just a flash of light. What vaporization actually does is right in the name. It turns the matter of the target into vapor or gas. If that’s the case, what would really happen to a human if you vaporized them is nowhere near as neat and tidy as Star Trek always portrayed it. Think more… chunks…
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Nancy Sauer, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Rob Thornton, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]