Snapshots 70 Three Score and Ten

Here are 11 developments of interest to fans.

(1) “Oh, it’s great to be a genius of course, but keep that old horse before the cart….” Let’s hear it for the Swedish man who was arrested after trying to split atoms in his kitchen:

Richard Handl told The Associated Press that he had the radioactive elements radium, americium and uranium in his apartment in southern Sweden when police showed up and arrested him on charges of unauthorized possession of nuclear material.

The 31-year-old Handl said he had tried for months to set up a nuclear reactor at home and kept a blog about his experiments, describing how he created a small meltdown on his stove.

Only later did he realize it might not be legal and sent a question to Sweden’s Radiation Authority, which answered by sending the police.

Here’s a transcript of the call: “Hello, desk sergeant? I’m ready to be arrested. I’ll be standing out front with my hands extended waiting for the cuffs….”

(2) Even if they never publish another paper book the conserving of exquisite rare books will go on forever. The Washington Post reports a summer gathering of people devoted to this work:

Here is a book about handwriting by Palatino, a 16th-century calligrapher for whom a font is named. And here, a folio of Shakespeare’s plays that sold for one English pound in 1632. And here, an exquisitely illustrated, calfskin-bound Horace collection that bankrupted its publisher in 1733. Welcome to Rare Book School, summer camp for bibliophiles. Tucked in the basement of the cavernous main library at the University of Virginia, the school is an annual five-week homage to the printed page. Or is it an elegy?

The modern book, a bunch of sheets bound together within a cover, has endured for two millennia, surviving the Dark Ages, radio, television and the moving picture. But now it is threatened by an electronic version of itself. The e-book is projected to outsell the printed book by 2015, according to Publishers Weekly magazine. Borders bookstores have begun liquidation sales. Google intends to scan all the world’s books by the end of the decade.

(3) A hat tip to the KaCSFFS blogger who asked and answered how the makers of Captain America depicted Chris Evans as both the 4F weakling Steve Rogers and the muscular superhero, and how they made actors sharing a scene with him “appear to be looking into the eyes of the wimpy Rogers, if he was being played by the tall Evans.” The Wikipedia explains:

“Most of the shots were done by an L.A. company called LOLA that specializes in digital ‘plastic surgery’. The technique involved shrinking Chris in all dimensions. We shot each skinny Steve scene at least four times; once like a normal scene with Chris and his fellow actors in the scene, once with Chris alone in front of a green screen so his element could be reduced digitally, again with everyone in the scene but with chris absent so that the shrunken Steve could be re-inserted into the scene, and finally with a body double mimicking Chris’s actions, in case the second technique were required. When Chris had to interact with other characters in the scene, we had to either lower Chris or raise the other actors on apple boxes or elevated walkways to make skinny Steve shorter in comparison. For close-ups, Chris’ fellow actors had to look at marks on his chin that represented where his eyes would be after the shrinking process, and Chris had to look at marks on the tops of the actor’s head to represent their eyes. . . . The second technique involved grafting Chris’s head onto the body double. This technique was used mostly when Chris was sitting or lying down, or when a minimum of physical acting was required.”

(4) The broker’s online listing for a New York apartment is tailored to appeal to very rich fans (if there are any such):

This apartment is simply surreal, with a Jules Verne meets Tim Burton sensibility. This home is an incredible journey starting as you walk through the front door, which has been remodeled to resemble a submarine. The distinctive features within the home, from the pulleys and antique pipes, to the miniature planes and huge old wooden casts, have been individually hand-picked and are mired with history.

The Chef’s kitchen is equipped with high-end appliances and impeccable finishes abound to compliment this one-of-a-kind apartment, from antique wrenches and tools designed as cabinet handles to the inescapable technicolored zeppelin that suspends across 32-feet of the apartments ceiling.

Inescapable indeed! For fans of the neon steampunk aesthetic—and after seeing these listing pics, we might count ourselves among them—the apartment is asking $1.75 million.

(5) The interview with William Shatner in the Globe and Mail includes the inevitable question, and the subject’s typically wry answer:

Would you ever consider retirement?

I don’t even know what that means. What does that mean? I stop and go twiddle my thumbs somewhere? Maybe they could film me twiddling my thumbs.

(6) Rainn Wilson from The Office and the forthcoming Super talks about SF and Norwescon in a post on the LA Times “Hero Complex” blog.

Note that Rainn’s father, Robert Wilson, wrote SF — Tentacles of Dawn (1978) and the short story “Vandals of the Void” for Planet Stories (1945).

(7) The BBC News Magazine looks at the input SF artists have had to real spacecraft and speculates how that will play out in the future:

More and more, the aim of companies, such as Boeing, will be to entice consumers to pay for space travel. Just as airlines have done, they will have to appeal to potential passengers – and investors – in order to establish their brands against the competition.

“An enterprising company seeking to attract government and private passengers might achieve success by offering them spaceships that resembled the unique visions of Chris Foss,” says science fiction academic Dr Gary Westfahl.

(8) Will simple text e-readers or multimedia apps win out? The Globe and Mail found a major SF writer willing to pooh-pooh the chances of more elaborate readers:

 “I think the notion we can entice people into reading by having soundtracks or little animations is a category error,” British fantasy novelist Chine Miéville said in a recent interview. “I just don’t think that’s why people who want to read want to read. You’re not going to persuade them on that basis.”

That may explain why relatively simple, black-and-white e-readers remain so popular despite competition from glitzier tablets. Like books themselves – and manifestly unlike the Internet-inflected apps – they promise long periods of undisturbed immersion in fully realized other worlds. Rather than changing books by adding more stuff to them, they optimize books by stripping out everything but the essential shapes of black letters on a white background

(9) Brad Foster will draw the certificates for first-place finishers in the 2012 Fan Activity Achievement Awards, to be presented at Corflu Glitter:

“Brad did an outstanding job on the FAAN Award certificates for Corflu Quire and Corflu Silver,” notes Chairman Joyce Katz. “We’re delighted to have him execute the 2012 FAAn Awards certificates.”

(10) William Gurstelle, author of The Practical Pyromaniac has a contest going to create a Clerihew (a type of doggerel poem) about a scientist. Example:

Sir Humphrey Davy
Abominated gravy.
And lived in the odium
Of inventing sodium.

(11) Newcity Lit thinks that Ray Bradbury’s old hometown could use a little refurbishing in its article “Something Waukegan This Way Comes: Finding Ray Bradbury’s Boyhood Muse”:

A Midwestern Proust, Bradbury re-imagined Waukegan as Green Town, Illinois, in several works—most famously in “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and “Dandelion Wine.” Per Bradbury, Waukegan was a charming rural burg of the twenties, rife with sun-dappled fields and pies cooling on windowsills, which happened to be visited by serial killers and evil carny demons. Waukegan may well have been sun-dappled, etc. when Mr. Bradbury was growing up, but today’s reality is grim. The Autumn People may have succeeded, leaving semi-industrial, depressed Waukegan—location of three superfund clean-up sites—in their wake. It’s not a happy place, though it’s obvious some people are trying to revive the poor thing.

[Thanks for these links go out to David Klaus, Andrew Porter, Steven H Silver, Arnie Katz, John King Tarpinian, James Hay and John Mansfield.]

One thought on “Snapshots 70 Three Score and Ten

  1. One small correction. According to Robert Reginald’s bibliography, the Robert Wilson who wrote Tentacles of Dawn was born in 1942, so he is not likely to have written for Planet Stories in 1945.

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