Pixel Scroll 11/4 The Pixellence Engine

(1) Nothing says the holiday season like this Kurt Adler 28” Star Wars Stormtrooper Light-Up Tinsel Lawn Decor

Holding a small, neatly-wrapped present for a festive twist, this soldier of the Galactic Empire is wearing his all-white uniform and armor.

Stormtrooper lawn decor

(2) “Sir David Attenborough and giant hedgehog launch new TV show Natural Curiosities”.

If Sonic is the first name that pops into your head when hearing the word “hedgehog,” British naturalist Sir David Attenborough wants to change your perceptions about the prickly creature.

A life-like hedgehog statue, measuring 7 feet tall and 12 feet long, covered in coconut fiber and over 2,000 wood spikes, was unveiled on Clapham Common in London to launch Attenborough’s new nature series, “Natural Curiosities” on UKTV this week….

A recent survey of 2,000 British adults revealed that because the “average Briton takes only 16 walks in the countryside each year, dramatically limiting their exposure to wildlife, a quarter of Britons say they have never seen a wild hedgehog, rabbit or fox, while 26 per cent claim never to have spotted a grey squirrel or frog, and 36 per cent say wild deer have eluded them,” according to the Daily Mail.

 

(3) Richard Davies discusses “Fragile Treasures: The World’ Most Valuable Paperbacks” at AbeBooks.

In terms of sheer numbers, collectible softcovers are vastly outnumbered by collectible hardcovers. However, many paperbacks – books with soft, not rigid, paper-based covers – sell for high prices. The reasons vary – authors self-publish, publishers lack the necessary budget or the desire to invest in a particular author (think of poets particularly) or simply softcover is the format of choice for the genre….

Published in German, Kafka’s Metamorphosis is the king of the collectible softcovers. Its famous front cover, designed by Ottomar Starke, shows a man recoiling in horror. Probably no more than a thousand copies of this novella were printed. It wasn’t printed in English until 1937. Today, this story of a salesman transformed into an insect is studied around the world.

 

Metamorphosis 1916

(4) Ethan Mills is observing Stoic Week at Examined Worlds. The second post in his series considers the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

Tuesday: What is in Our Control and the Reserve Clause Tuesday’s morning text is one of my favorite parts of the Meditations from Marcus Aurelius, one that has helped me get out of bed on more than one occasion!

Early in the morning, when you are finding it hard to wake up, hold this thought in your mind: ‘I am getting up to do the work of a human being. Do I still resent it, if I am going out to do what I was born for and for which I was brought into the world? Or was I framed for this, to lie under the bedclothes and keep myself warm?’ ‘But this is more pleasant’. So were you born for pleasure: in general were you born for feeling or for affection? Don’t you see the plants, the little sparrows, the ants, the spiders, the bees doing their own work, and playing their part in making up an ordered world. And then are you unwilling to do the work of a human being? Won’t you run to do what is in line with your nature?

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.1

Thinking about this through a science fiction lens invites questions about the work of a human being.  What are we like as a species?  Marcus compares humans with other terrestrial animals, but science fiction might extend the comparison to extraterrestrials as well.

Is it our nature, as Star Trek tells us, to “seek out new life and new civilizations”?  Is this what gets us out of bed in the morning?  Consider the theme of exploration in the recent book/movie, The Martian.  Is it inevitable that we long to leave our terrestrial bed?  Is our species at the beginning of a dawn of space exploration?  Or should we be wary of over-indulging this exploration drive, as Kim Stanley Robinson’s amazing novel, Aurora, seems to imply?

(5) This video has been reported in a comment on File 770, however, I may not have linked it in a Scroll.

Sasquan Guest of Honor Dr. Kjell Lindgren sends welcome from the International Space Station to members of the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention.

 

(6) Today In History

(7) This is billed as a Dalek relaxation tape by Devour.com.

(8) Lawrence Railey is skeptical about “The rise of the Self-Insertion fic” at According To Hoyt.

Diversity isn’t the goal. At best, it’s a side-effect. Good story-telling is the only purpose, and the Puppies believe that nothing should get in the way of that.

And, quite simply, this notion that one must share essential attributes with the main character in order to enjoy a story is patronizing, narcissistic, and stupid. A black man can enjoy a story about a white woman. And, in the case of the story I just finished reading a couple days ago, a conservative white man can enjoy a story about a transsexual robot named Merlin living on distant planet.

Books do not have to be self-insertion fics, and they do not need to push a socio-political agenda.

The fact that the Puppy Kickers don’t know any better is disappointing to say the least.

(9) Steven Harper Piziks advises writers show equine intestinal fortitude in “Writing Nowadays: The Anti-Waiting Game” at Book View Café.

How things have changed.  Now you’re as likely to get a giant email dump with a PDF in it and a frantic note from someone in the editorial food chain: “I know this is short notice, but we need you to go through these changes by Friday morning!”

Every author I know has gone through this. Demands that manuscripts be rewritten within two days, or over Christmas, or when the author is on vacation. There’s an idea out there that because email allows instant delivery, instant writing must follow.

Horse manure.

Just say no. Politely and firmly.

(10) An appreciation of the late French sf author Yan Ayerdhal by Jean-Daniel Breque at Europa SF.

French science fiction writer Yan Ayerdhal died Tuesday, October 27, 2015, after an intense bout with lung cancer.

Born Marc Soulier on January 26, 1959, in Lyons, he thrived on SF from an early age, since his father, Jacky Soulier, was a big-time fan and collector—he co-authored a few children and young adult SF books in the 1980s. Ayerdhal worked in several trades before becoming a full-time writer: he was a ski instructor, a professional soccer player, a teacher, he worked in marketing for L’Oréal, and so on….

Most notable among his novels are Demain, une oasis (“Tomorrow, an Oasis”, 1991), L’Histrion (“The Minstrel”, 1993), Parleur ou les Chroniques d’un rêve enclavé (“Speaker, or Chronicles of an Enclosed Dream”, 1997), Étoiles mourantes (“Dying Stars”, in collaboration with Jean-Claude Dunyach, 1999), and Transparences (“Transparencies”, 2004). Most of them were illustrated by Gilles Francescano. He was the recipient of several SF awards: the Tour Eiffel award, the Rosny aîné award (three times), the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire (twice) and many more. He had one story published in Interzone, “Flickerings” (May 2001 issue, original title: “Scintillements”, 1998, translated by Sheryl Curtis).

(11) Jesse at Speculiction rejects 100 Year Starship and its new award, in “Awards Like Stars In The Sky: The Canopus”.

What’s interesting to see on the Canopus award slate is Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, a cautionary tale that seems to draw focus away from space and back to Earth, and not Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, a masturbatory exercise in space gadgetry if ever there were. One would have almost expected Stephenson’s novel to be a shoo-in given the novel’s theme, but I’m not the award’s organizer.

Looking through the Science Fiction Awards Database, a person finds many a defunct award. The group were able to hold the ship together for a few years, sometimes even a decade or more, before the strings let loose (probably the purse strings) and the award slipped into the night of genre awareness (that vast space comprising the majority of material older than ten years).  I’m not pronouncing the Canopus’ doom, but with so many crises at hand on Earth, I think I’m in Aurora’s boat, not Seveneves. Shouldn’t we be solving Earth’s problems before tackling the riddle of space????

(12) A patent has been granted for a space elevator.

Patent granted to space elevator brings science fiction one step closer to reality

Canada-based Thoth Technology was recently granted U.S. and U.K. patents for a space elevator reaching 12.5 miles into the sky. The ThothX Tower is a proposed freestanding piece of futuristic, pneumatically pressurized architecture, designed to propel astronauts into the stratosphere. Then they can then be launched into space. The tower would also likely be used to generate wind energy, host communications technology and will be open to space tourists.

(13) And in the biological sciences the news is –

(14) Never bet against Einstein when general relativity is on the line!

Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity has been proven right again — and this time, physicists have pinned down just how precise it is: Any deviations from his theory of general relativity are so small that they would change calculations by just one part in 10,000 to one part in 100,000.

(15) Though not a genre film, Christmas Eve has Patrick Stewart in it.

[Thanks to rcade, Daniel Dern, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 10/17 The Fish Have Discovered Fire

(1) A Tokyo department store is offering a $91,000 solid gold figure of the alien Baltan, a villainous monster from Japan’s superhero Ultraman TV series. The perfect accessory to go with the 2007 Hugo base, except none of the winners I know can write the check!

(2) Stephen Fabian, among the most gifted illustrators ever, and whose professional career was capped by multiple Hugo nominations and a World Fantasy Life Achievement Award (2006), has put his gallery online. StephenFabian.com contains 500 drawings and paintings that he did for fan and professional publications beginning in 1965. Fabian includes autobiographical comments about each drawing or painting. For example, appended to his notes on the drawing “Born to Exile”:

And the greater wonder of it is, for me, that every once in a while I receive a surprise gift from a fan in appreciation of my artwork. In this case a fan sent me a beautiful copper etching that he made of my drawing that you see here, and that etching hangs on the wall in my drawing room. Other surprise tokens of appreciation that I’ve received from fans are; a miniature spun glass ship, a knitted sweater with an artist’s palette worked into the chest area, a neatly carved wooden figure of a “Running Bear,” that came from a missionary preacher in New Zealand, a fantasy belt buckle, and a miniature paper-mache sculptured “gnome” that keeps watch over me. I cherish them all, they give form and reality to that wonderful feeling of appreciation that comes from the heart.

Stephen E Fabian Collection

(3) Enter a selfie by tomorrow for a chance to win a box of “Marshmallow Only Lucky Charms”.

General Mills announced the “unicorn of the cereal world,” Marshmallow Only Lucky Charms, is finally a reality — but there are only 10 boxes.

The cereal maker said the 10 boxes of Marshmallow Only Lucky Charms will be given out as prizes in the “Lucky Charms Lucky Selfie” contest, which calls on participants to post pictures of themselves holding “imaginary boxes of Lucky Charms” on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag, “#Lucky10Sweepstakes.”

Entries must be posted by Oct. 18, the company said.

(4) The Gollancz Festival ‘s “One Star Reviews” features Anna Caltabiano, Simon Morden, Sarah Pinborough, Joanne Harris, Brandon Sanderson, Aliette de Bodard, Richard Morgan, Bradley Beaulieu, and Catriona Ward on camera reading their most savage reviews.

(5) Then, Game of Scones is a Gollancz Cake Off with Jammy Lannister and fantasy authors AK Benedict, Edward Cox and Sarah Pinborough competing for the Iron Scone.

(6) Oneiros wrote:

I dream of the day that I’m libelled quoted by Mike on File770. Of course first I guess I’ll have to start a blog of some description.

I notice there is a lot of competition in the comments for the honor of being Santa Claus, but how many others can fix this up for you? While saving the internet from another blog? Merry Christmas!

(7) Mark Kelly journals about his Jonny Quest rewatch – a show that was a big favorite of mine as a kid.

So: the show is about Jonny Quest, his father Dr. Benton Quest, a world-renowned scientist, Quest’s pilot and bodyguard “Race” Bannon, and their ‘adopted son’ Hadji, an Indian boy who saved Dr. Quest’s life while visiting Calcutta. The episodes involve various investigations by Dr. Quest, who seems to have a new scientific specialty each week (sonic waves one week, lasers another, sea fish another, a rare mineral to support the space program on another) or who is challenged by alerts from old friends (a colleague who is captured by jungle natives) or threats from comic-book character Dr. Zin (via a robot spy, etc.)

(8) Accepting submissions – No Shit, There I Was

Who We Are: Alliteration Ink is run by Steven Saus (member SFWA/HWA), focusing on anthologies and single-author collections, with over a dozen titles across two imprints.

Rachael Acks is a writer, geologist, and sharp-dressed sir. In addition to her steampunk novella series, she’s had short stories in Strange Horizons, Waylines, Daily Science Fiction, Penumbra, and more. She’s an active member of SFWA, the Northern Colorado Writer’s Workshop, and Codex.

Who: This will be an open call. All who read and follow the submission guidelines are welcome in the slush pile.

When: Rachael wants stories no later than 6 Jan 2016. No exceptions will be made. The Kickstarter will occur after the table of contents has been set.

What We Want From You:

Stories 2,000-7,500 words long. Query for anything shorter or longer.

All stories must begin with the line, No shit, there I was. It can be dialog or part of the regular prose.

(9) Childhood’s End starts December 14 on SyFy with a three-night event. Stars Charles Dance, recently of Game of Thrones.

John King Tarpinian says, “Hope they do not screw this up.”

I’m not completely reassured, because when I checked the SyFy Youtube channel today, this was the first video they were hyping —

(10) Today in History:

October 17, 1933: Physicist Albert Einstein arrived in the U.S. as a refugee from Nazi Germany.

(11) Congratulations to frequent commenter Laura “Tegan” Gjovaag on her award-winning photo in the Better Newspaper Contest sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association.

DSN reporter Laura Gjovaag came away with the Sunnyside newspaper’s only first-place award. She won the top award in the black and white sports photo action, or feature, category. The photo of Lady Knight softball player Jenna den Hoed appeared in the May 20, 2014 issue, and beat out all entries in the category submitted by all four circulation groups.

(12) Ultimately, Sarah A. Hoyt’s “Magical Thought” is about a particular anti-gun protest in Texas involving dildos, but on the way to that topic she writes —

The problem is that more and more — and unexpectedly — I run up against this type of thought in places I don’t expect.

We ran into it a lot over the puppy stuff.  No matter how many times we told them we were in it for the stories, and because our story taste was different from theirs, they kept thinking magically.  It went something like this “We’re good people, and we’re for minorities.  So if these people don’t like the same stories we do, they must be racist and sexist.”

This was part of the nonsense that started Gallo’s flareup.  She had some idea we’d get all upset at TOR publishing Kameron Hurley’s book.  Because you know, we have different tastes than those primarily on the left who controlled the Hugos so long, so we don’t want them to … get published?

This only makes sense if the person saying it is inhabiting a magical world, where objects/people of certain valences are played against each other like some kind of card game.

This is not real.  I mean sad puppy supporters might not — or might, I won’t because it’s not to my taste, but — read Hurley’s book, but we won’t recoil from it like a vampire from a cross.  A Hurley book doesn’t magically cancel out a Torgersen book.  Or vice versa.

On the good side, at least on that level, our side doesn’t act like that.  We don’t say “ooh” at a new Ringo book because “Oooh, that will upset those liberals”  we say “oooh,” because we’ll get to read it.  Books are books and people are people, not points in some bizarre game.

(13) Umair Haque says he can explain “Why Twitter’s Dying (And What You Can Learn From It)”.

Here’s my tiny theory, in a word. Abuse. And further, I’m going to suggest in this short essay that abuse?—?not making money?—?is the great problem tech and media have. The problem of abuse is the greatest challenge the web faces today. It is greater than censorship, regulation, or (ugh) monetization. It is a problem of staggering magnitude and epic scale, and worse still, it is expensive: it is a problem that can’t be fixed with the cheap, simple fixes beloved by tech: patching up code, pushing out updates.

To explain, let me be clear what I mean by abuse. I don’t just mean the obvious: violent threats. I also mean the endless bickering, the predictable snark, the general atmosphere of little violences that permeate the social web…and the fact that the average person can’t do anything about it.

We once glorified Twitter as a great global town square, a shining agora where everyone could come together to converse. But I’ve never been to a town square where people can shove, push, taunt, bully, shout, harass, threaten, stalk, creep, and mob you…for eavesdropping on a conversation that they weren’t a part of…to alleviate their own existential rage…at their shattered dreams…and you can’t even call a cop. What does that particular social phenomenon sound like to you? Twitter could have been a town square. But now it’s more like a drunken, heaving mosh pit. And while there are people who love to dive into mosh pits, they’re probably not the audience you want to try to build a billion dollar publicly listed company that changes the world upon.

(14) “3+1” — A funny claymation short by Soline Fauconnier, Marie de Lapparent, and Alexandre Cluchet.

(15) “(Give Me That) Old-Time Socialist Utopia: How the Strugatsky brothers’ science fiction went from utopian to dystopian” by Ezra Glinter at The Paris Review.

Since they started writing in the mid-1950s, the brothers published at least twenty-six novels, in addition to stories, plays and a few works written individually. According to a 1967 poll, four of the top ten works of science fiction in the Soviet Union were by the Strugatskys, including Hard to Be a God in first place and Monday Begins on Saturday (1965) in second. For at least three decades they were the most popular science-fiction writers in Russia, and the most influential Russian science-fiction writers in the world.

Their popularity wasn’t without political implications, however. Later in their lives, the Strugatskys were characterized as dissidents—sly underminers of the Soviet regime. In its obituary for Boris, who died in 2012 (Arkady died in 1991), the New York Times called him a “prolific writer who used the genre of science fiction to voice criticisms of Soviet life that would have been unthinkable in other literary forms.” This is mostly true­—their work did become critical and subversive over time. But at the beginning of their career, the Strugatsky brothers were the best socialist utopians in the game.

(16) Todd Mason at Sweet Freedom discovered the 1963 LASFS Lovecraft panel:

Briefly, and in October it’s almost mandatory, particularly for a lifelong horrorist such as myself, to deal with something eldritch, but I’ve finally read the August Derleth-annotated transcript of a symposium recorded on 24 October 1963 at the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, a discussion of Lovecraft and his influence featuring a panel including Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber, writer Arthur Jean Cox, Sam Russell, and Riverside Quarterly editor Leland Sapiro, along with some comments and questions from the audience. Given that Bloch and Leiber were both helped and influenced by Lovecraft early in their careers and were the two most important exemplars of how to take his model for approaching the matter of horror fiction and improving upon it, it’s useful, if not as comprehensive here as one could hope, to see how they thought about that influence and their respective takes on Lovecraft’s work and legacy. Bloch unsurprisingly seems most taken by the interior aspects of what Lovecraft was getting at in his best work, the questions of identity and madness and usurpation from within; Leiber, also not too surprisingly, is at least as engaged by the larger implications, philosophically and otherwise, of humanity’s not terribly secure foothold in Lovecraft’s universe. The notion that such non-fans of Lovecraft as Avram Davidson and Edmund Wilson had more in common with him than their experience of his work led them to believe is briefly if amusingly explored. Not as significant as some of Leiber and Bloch’s other considerations of Lovecraft, but useful to read, and one’s suspicions of what August Derleth made of what he was transcribing and annotating, particularly when it touches on his own involvement with Lovecraft’s body of work, are mildly telling.

Click the link for a copy of the symposium transcript [PDF, 24 MB file]

(17) Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur is due in theaters November 25.

(18) If you click through the newly released archive of Apollo photos quickly enough you get something like stop motion animation.

[Thanks to Will R., Andrew Porter, Harry Bell, Karl Lembke, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peace Is My Middle Name.]

Happy Birthday, Dear Wormhole

Dave Goldberg points out that today, May 7, is the anniversary of an idea that’s become indispensible to writers of Space Opera and other fantasists:

Seventy-five years ago today, Albert Einstein and his collaborator, Nathan Rosen, submitted a paper to the Physical Review with the goal of unifying gravity and electromagnetism. Although they failed to discover a theory of everything, they did something arguably more much important: By creating the first theoretical model of a wormhole, Einstein and Rosen allowed science-fiction writers — including Arthur C. Clarke, Madeleine L’Engle and the writers of “Babylon 5” and “Doctor Who” — to explore vast stretches of space and time in the blink of an eye.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the link.]

And He Fell Into A Black Hole

Ruth Huzzard, 104, told an interviewer from NBC that she once came to the rescue of a familiar face while going to the store in Princeton, N.J., in the late 1940s:

“As I came along, I said, ‘Boy, there’s a man down in a manhole,’ and I went closer and I discovered it was [Albert] Einstein,” she said in a recent interview. “He was walking along the street, and he stepped into this manhole. I helped him out, brushed him off, and took him back to his home.”