Pixel Scroll 1/22/20 Keep Scrolling And Pixel On

(1) THE APPETIZER COMES LAST. “Hunger Games prequel will reveal villain’s origins” – BBC has the story,

A new Hunger Games novel is to be published in May, focusing on the back story of the villainous President Snow.

…The new book is set 64 years before the events of The Hunger Games and details the “Dark Days” that led to the failed rebellion in Panem.

A first excerpt, available on the Entertainment Weekly website, depicts Coriolanus Snow as a charming university student who was born into privilege.

Here is the Entertainment Weekly link: “Excerpt from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins”.

The world still thought Coriolanus rich, but his only real currency was charm, which he spread liberally as he made his way through the crowd. Faces lit up as he gave friendly hellos to students and teachers alike, asking about family members, dropping compliments here and there. “Your lecture on district retaliation haunts me.” “Love the bangs!” “How did your mother’s back surgery go? Well, tell her she’s my hero.”

(2) HELP NAME THE ROVER. NASA’s Name the Rover contest—for their next Mars rover—has published its list of nine finalists. Students around the country sent in over 28,000 essays supporting their suggested names.

Now the public is invited to chime in — “You Can Help Name the Mars 2020 Rover!” The polls are open for another five days. Each finalist comes with a link to the essay describing why the nominators think it should win.

(3) NEW EDITOR. Galaxy’s Edge publisher, Shahid Mahmud, has announced Lezli Robyn will take over as editor.

As many of you know, Mike Resnick passed away recently.

He pretty much single handedly created this magazine with the aim to give writers, particularly newer writers, a new venue for their stories. He was known in the industry as someone who loved helping younger aspiring authors and there is a large group of writers out there who proudly call themselves Mike’s Writer Children.

One of his writer children was Lezli Robyn, who also works for me as my assistant publisher. During the last year she also helped Mike with the magazine, particularly as his illness started taking a greater toll on his health.

Lezli is an award-winning writer in her own right and has also collaborated with Mike on a number of stories. She will now be taking over as editor of the magazine. I know Mike was very pleased with that decision…to have someone who was very close to him take over something he put so much of his heart into.

Since the two of them were working together on the magazine for the last few months, the transition should be smooth and we expect issue 43 to be available on time, on March 1, 2020.

(4) GALLERY OF HUGO ELIGIBLE ARTISTS. Rocket Stack Rank has posted their annual gallery of pro artists who are eligible for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. “2020 Professional Artists”.

It has 300+ images from 100+ pro artists whose art was used for short fiction, magazine covers, and novel covers.

However, there is this note –

Thumbnail images with a highlighted link are professional works done in 2019. Thumbnails without a highlighted link were done earlier (shown in last year’s list), later (show in next year’s list) or fan art (published in a semi-prozine) and included to give more examples of the artist’s style.

(5) STET, I REPEAT, STET. Ursula Vernon fights back against the Copyedits of Doom. Thread starts here.

(6) FREE AGENCY. Rudy Rucker shared his experience “Discussing ‘Agency’ with William Gibson”.

RR===

It’s fine with me if the thriller pace slows down. I like your meditative stuff. so nice to have you doing real SF again! “Slash is electric once more.”

I love how Netherton is expecting to be in a superhero iron man peripheral, and then it’s squat and small, like part of an oil filled radiator. He’s a good anti hero, and you have fun tormenting him. He still works as a character being sober, still has the same outside attitude. When I had my character Sta-Hi be sober in Realware, some of my older fans were mad about it, grumbled that “Rucker has gone religious, he’s no fun anymore, etc.” But if they’d notice, Sta-Hi stays exactly as crazy as before, as does Netherton.

WG===

For me, what took over for Netherton in this book was his co-parenting! My first POV character with a baby to take care of! When I discovered how different that felt to write, I guess I decided to roll with it, getting some perverse satisfaction out of imagining poor fuckers who bought the book in an airport, just before jumping on an 8-hour flight, expecting to get the generic thriller hand-job, and bang, they’re parenting!

(7) VOTING AGAINST THE MUTANT REGISTRATION ACT. The National Post’s “Rookies of Parliament Hill” spotlights a new Canadian legislator with a link to X-Men.

Lenore Zann, best known to the SFF community as the voice of Rogue in the classic X-Men cartoon series of the 1990s has a new role: as a legislator in the Canadian parliament. The 61-year-old actress was elected last autumn as part of the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau. 

“X-Men is a deep show about deep themes that are universal. They’re almost like our Greek gods and goddesses — they’re like mythology for young people,” said Zann. “I sit on a plane watching what people are looking at on their TV screens in front of them. Most of them are watching stuff like that.”

(8) JONES OBIT. Terry Jones of Monty Python’s Flying Circus died January 22. He had been suffering from dementia for years, says The Hollywood Reporter: “Terry Jones, ‘Monty Python’ Co-Founder and British Comedy Icon, Dies at 77”.

Born in North Wales, Jones read English at Oxford University, where he met his long-term collaborator and friend, Michael Palin. The two would star together in the college’s comedy troupe The Oxford Revue, and after graduation, they appeared in the 1967 TV sketch comedy Twice a Fortnight.

Two years later, they created The Complete and Utter History of Britain, which featured comedy sketches from history as if TV had been around at the time. It was on the show Do Not Adjust Your Set where they would be introduced to fellow comic Eric Idle, who had starred alongside John Cleese and Graham Chapman in productions mounted by the Cambridge University theatrical club the Footlights.  

The five — together with Terry Gilliam, whom Cleese had met in New York — would quickly pool their talents for a new show. Monty Python’s Flying Circus was born and ran on the BBC for four seasons between 1969 and 1974, with Jones driving much of the show’s early innovation.

Vanity Fair’s 1999 profile of the troupe, “The Dead Parrot Society”, includes this intro of Terry:

Jones is a noted history buff who has written on Chaucer and hosted a number of documentaries, including one on the Crusades. He directed Life of Brian and Monty Python’s the Meaning of Life; apart from Monty Python he has directed the films Erik the Viking and The Wind in the Willows and written several children’s books. The son of a bank clerk, he was born in North Wales and attended Oxford University. He and his wife, a biochemist, live in London and have a son and a daughter. Jones regularly appeared nude (playing the organ) in the opening credits of the Monty Python television series; he also played the obscenely fat, vomit-spewing Mr. Creosote in The Meaning of Life.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 22, 2000 Cleopatra 2525 first aired in syndication. It was created by R.J. Stewart and Robert G. Tapert. Many who aired it do so as part of the Back2Back Action Hour, along with Jack of All Trades. The primary cast of this SF with chicks not wearing much series was Gina Torres of later Firefly fame, Victoria Pratt and Jennifer Sky. (A sexist statement? We think you should take a look at the show.)  it would last two seasons and twenty episodes, six episodes longer than Jack of All Trades. (Chicks rule?) it gets a 100% rating by its reviewers at a Rotten Tomatoes though the aggregate critics score is a much lower 40%. 
  • January 22, 1984 Airwolf would premiere on CBS where it would run for three seasons before ending its run on USA with a fourth season. Airwolf was created by Donald P. Bellisario who was also behind Quantum Leap and Tales of The Golden Monkey, two other SFF series. It starred Jan-Michael Vincent, Jean Bruce Scott. Ernest Borgnine, and Alex Cord. It airs sporadically in syndication and apparently has not developed enough of a following to get a Rotten Tomatoes rating.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 22, 1858 Charles H. M. Kerr. He’s best remembered for illustrating  the pulp novels of H. Rider Haggard. Some of his other genre-specific work includes the Andrew Lang-edited The True Story Book, Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Wrong Box and Arthur Conan Doyle‘s  “The Sign of the Four”. You can see the one of the H. Rider Haggard novels he did here. (Died 1907.)
  • Born January 22, 1906 Robert E. Howard. He’s best remembered for his characters Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, less so for Kull, and is widely regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre. His Cthulhu mythos stories are quite good. I believe all of these were published in Weird Tales.  If you’re interested in reading him on your slate, you’re in luck as all the ebook publishers are deep stockers of him at very reasonable prices. (Died 1936.)
  • Born January 22, 1925 Katherine MacLean. She received a Nebula Award for “The Missing Man” novella originally published in Analog, March of 1971. She was a Professional Guest of Honor at the first WisCon. Short fiction was her forte and her two collections, The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy and The Trouble with You Earth People, are brilliant. I can’t speak to her three novels, all written in the Seventies and now out of print, as I’ve not read them. (Died 2019.)
  • Born January 22, 1940 John Hurt. I rarely grieve over the death of one individual but his death really stung. I liked him. It’s rare that someone comes along like Hurt who is both talented and is genuinely good person that’s easy to like. If we count his role as Tom Rawlings in The Ghoul, Hurt had an almost fifty-year span in genre films and series. He next did voice work in Watership Down as General Woundwort and in The Lord of the Rings as the voice of Aragon before appearing as Kane, the first victim, in Alien. Though not genre, I must comment his role as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man — simply remarkable. He had the lead as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four and had a cameo as that character in Spaceballs. He narrates Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound and will later be one of two of the narrators of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. That role is simply magnificent. Ok, I’m just at 1994. He’s about to be S.R. Hadden in Contact. Did you remember he played Garrick Ollivander In Harry Potter films? You certainly remember him as Trevor Bruttenholm in the Hellboy films, all four of them in total. He’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Dr. Harold Oxley, one of the few decent things about that film. Series wise, he’s been around. I’ve got him in Spectre, a Roddenberry occult detective pilot that I’ve not seen. On the Merlin live action series, he provides the voice of the Great Dragon. It’s an amazing role for him. And fitting that he’s a dragon, isn’t it? And of course he played The War Doctor. It, despite the brevity of the screen time, was a role that he seemed destined to play. Oh, for an entire series of stories about His Doctor! Big Finish, the audiobook company, had the singular honor of having him flesh out his character in a series of stories that he did with them just before his death. I’ve heard some, they’re quite remarkable. If I’ve missed anything about him that you feel I should’ve touched upon, do tell me. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 22, 1959 Tyrone Power Jr., 61. Yes, son of that actor. He is the fourth actor to bear the name Tyrone Power. If you remember him at all, it’s as Pillsbury, one of the aliens, in the Cocoon films. Other than Soulmates, a horrid sounding sort of personal zombie film, in which he had a role, that’s it for his SFF creds. 
  • Born January 22, 1959 Linda Blair, 61. Best known for her role as the possessed child, Regan, in The Exorcist. She reprised her role in Exorcist II: The Heretic. (I saw the first, I had no desire to see the second film.)  Right after those films she started she started starring in a lot of the really bad horror films. Let’s see… Stranger in Our HouseHell Night (fraternity slasher film), GrotesqueWitcheryDead Sleep and Scream to name a few of these films. She even starred in Repossessed, a comedy parody of The Exorcist
  • Born January 22, 1969 Olivia d’Abo, 51. She makes the Birthday Honors list for being Amanda Rogers, a female Q, in the “True Q” episode on Next Generation. Setting that gig aside, she’s got a long and extensive SFF series history. Conan the Destroyer, Beyond the Stars, Asterix Conquers America, Tarzan & Jane and Justice League Doom are some of her film work, while her series work includes Fantasy Island, Batman Beyond, Twilight Zone, Eureka and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
  • Born January 22, 1996 Blanca Blanco, 24. She’s here today because she’s on one of those Trek video fanfics that seem to have proliferated a few years back. This one had her planning on playing someone on Star Trek Equinox: The Night Of Time but the funding never materialized. I’m fascinated by this one as a certain actor was reprising his Gary Mitchell role here.  If it was decided that  an audio series would be made instead but I can’t find any sign of that being done either. Any of you spotted it? 

(11) WHEN THE GALAXY IS OUT OF ORDER YOU CALL… Guardians of the Galaxy!

Someone has to guard the galaxy – but who will accept the mission? And will they survive it? See who answers the call in the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #1 trailer featuring writer Al Ewing, Editor in Chief CB Cebulski, and Editor Darren Shan! 

Cosmic peace is hanging by a thread as the major galactic empires bristle against each other. Amidst the chaos, the Gods of Olympus have returned — harbingers of a new age of war, reborn to burn their mark on the stars themselves! The legendary Star-Lord leads Rocket Raccoon, Nova, Marvel Boy, Phyla-Vell, and Moondragon on a mission to restore order to the stars!

“The galaxy is just one bad day away from complete and total collapse, and that day is here,” teases Shan.

“Guardians of the Galaxy is where the Marvel cosmic universe, as we know it, comes alive. Marvel space is about to come crashing into the Marvel Universe in a big way,” says Ewing. 

(12) SO MUCH FOR THOSE GOLDEN MEMORIES. The Guardian’s Luke Holland is a little grumpy: “Rise of the ‘bleakquel’: your favourite heroes are back – and more miserable than ever”

… Take the recent Star Wars trilogy, whose entire existence is predicated on the revelation that Han, Leia and Luke all had a miserable old time of it after the events of Return of the Jedi. Before, any fan with R2-D2 on their jim-jams could envisage the three of them growing old together, with a grey-muzzled Chewbacca snoozing contentedly by a crackling hearth. The new films suddenly forced them to confront a new reality in which Han and Leia are estranged because their son became a mass-murderer, and a PTSD-ravaged Luke lives a life of solitude on a remote skerry somewhere uncannily reminiscent of Ireland. And what happens next? Oh, they all die. Miserably. Great. Thanks.

(13) FISTS OF FURRIES. On TV news — “Furries to the rescue: Costumed conventioneers save woman from assault in San Jose”. This is KABC’s caption:

A trio of costumed furries – people who like to dress as animals – came to the rescue of a woman who was being assaulted in a car in San Jose.

(14) CLOSING THE UNDERWATER BARN DOOR. A bit late for this, isn’t it? “Titanic Wreckage Now Protected Under U.S.-U.K. Deal That Was Nearly Sunk”.

More than a century after the RMS Titanic sank to bottom of the sea — and nearly a quarter-century after its memory was dredged up for a Hollywood blockbuster — the U.S. and U.K. have implemented a formal agreement on how to safeguard and manage the ill-fated steamship’s remains.

British Maritime Minister Nusrat Ghani confirmed the news Tuesday during a visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the ship was built before setting off from the English port city of Southampton in 1912.

…”This momentous agreement with the United States to preserve the wreck means it will be treated with the sensitivity and respect owed to the final resting place of more than 1,500 lives,” Ghani said in remarks released Tuesday by the Maritime Ministry.

Ghani’s comments cap a long and winding journey for the deal, which representatives from the U.K., the U.S., Canada and France officially agreed to as part of a 2003 treaty. The Agreement Concerning the Shipwrecked Vessel RMS Titanic sought to sort out and regulate public access, artifact conservation and salvage rights within 1 kilometer of the wreck site, situated hundreds of miles off the coast of Canada in the North Atlantic.

But since the countries negotiated the treaty, the document has largely languished. It requires the ratification of at least two of the four countries to enter into force, and while the U.K. quickly ratified the agreement, both Canada and France have yet to do so. The formal approval of the U.S. government looked long in doubt, as well.

(15) DEAD LETTERS. BBC warns about “The alphabets at risk of extinction”.

It isn’t just languages that are endangered: dozens of alphabets around the world are at risk. And they could have even more to tell us.

On his first two days of school, in a village above the Bangladeshi port of Chittagong, Maung Nyeu was hit with a cane. This was not because he was naughty. It was simply that Nyeu could not understand what the teacher was saying, or what was written in his textbooks. Although 98% of Bangladeshis speak Bengali as a first language, Nyeu grew up with Marma, one of several minority tongues in the region. Written, it is all curls, like messy locks of hair.

Eventually Nyeu managed to escape this cycle of bewilderment and beatings. After learning Bengali at home, he returned to school and went to university. Now he is pursuing a doctorate at Harvard. Yet Nyeu never forgot his early schooldays. He spends much of his time in the hills where he grew up, where he founded Our Golden Hour – a nonprofit fighting to keep Marma and a flurry of other scripts alive.

There are between 6,000 to 7,000 languages in the world. Yet 96% are spoken by just 3% of the global population. And 85% are endangered, like Marma.

Along with the spoken words, something else is also at risk: each language’s individual script. When we talk about “endangered languages”, most of us think of the spoken versions first. But our alphabets can tell us huge amounts about the cultures they came from. Just as impressive is the length people will go to save their scripts – or invent whole new alphabets and spread them to the world.

(16) LET THERE BE LIGHT MEASUREMENT. And it was good. “Space mission to reveal ‘Truths’ about climate change”.

The UK is going to lead a space mission to get an absolute measurement of the light reflected off Earth’s surface.

The information will be used to calibrate the observations of other satellites, allowing their data to be compared more easily.

Called Truths, the new spacecraft was approved for development by European Space Agency member states in November.

Proponents of the mission expect its data to help reduce the uncertainty in projections of future climate change.

Scientists and engineers met on Tuesday to begin planning the project. Industry representatives from Britain, Switzerland, Greece, the Czech Republic and Romania gathered at Esa’s technical centre in Harwell, Oxfordshire.

(17) POCKET WATCH. “Australia fires: ‘Incredible’ signs of life return to burned bush” – BBC video, including incredibly cute joey.

Australia’s bushfires have burnt through 10 million hectares of land, and it is feared some habitats may never recover.

But in some worst-affected areas, the sight of plants growing back and animals returning to habitats is raising spirits.

(18) CALLING CHARLES FORT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Things are not so cute in Florida. NPR aired this story today: “Florida Weather Forecasters Warn Of Falling Iguanas”.

Last night, the National Weather Service called for lows in the 30s and 40s with a chance of falling iguanas. Apparently, the lizards can fall into a deeper slumber in the cold, and it is not uncommon for them to tumble from trees. The advice for you is watch your heads, and don’t bug the iguanas after they land. I mean, do you like being bothered when you’re just getting up?

Related older stories: “What To Do If You Come Across A Frozen Iguana” (2018) – “Bottom line: don’t touch them. They are not dead. They may thaw out and attack.”

For perspective: “Florida Has An Iguana Problem” (2019).

Biologists say invasive green iguanas have been spreading in Florida, and they’re a major nuisance. The state encourages homeowners to kill iguanas on their property.

And for “historical context.” Bob & Ray “The Komodo Dragon” (Live at Carnegie Hall, 1984)

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, JJ, Cliff Ramshaw, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rick Moen.]

Pixel Scroll 1/25/19 Eight Files High

(1) SINGING ABOUT PEASPROUT CHEN. Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with Henry Lien brought out a fascinating musical connection —

You’re the first author I’ve interviewed who’s had a Broadway singer perform at the book launch for their debut novel. I watched the promotional video of the one and only Idina Menzel performing the theme song from the first book of your Peasprout Chen series, Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword, with you. That’s so cool! What’s the backstory? How did that happen?

We’re represented by the same agency, ICM. She got a hold of the advance reader copy of the first Peasprout Chen book and flipped over it. She asked ICM if they could arrange for her to meet me. After I finished screaming into my pillow, I said, “Oh, well, let me see if I can find a slot in my calendar to squeeze in lunch with Idina Freeggin’ Menzel.” Then I screamed into my pillow some more. We met and really hit it off. She has become a dear friend. So I asked her to sing the theme song for the book at the launch. She said yes. Then I died of shock, and thus am conducting this interview with you from the Beyond.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites you to gobble goat cheese fritters with Scott H. Andrews while listening to Episode 87 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Scott H. Andrews, founder and editor and publisher of the online magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, celebrated the 10th anniversary of that magazine by hosting a party at the recent World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore, Maryland — which made it seem like the right time for us to discuss that first decade. So we raised a pint at Red’s Table in Reston, Virginia.

Well, he raised a pint — of bourbon-barrel aged Gold Cup Russian Imperial Stout from Old Bust Head Brewery in Fauquier County, Virginia — while I downed my usual bottle of Pellagrino. And as we sipped, we chatted about that work on Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which has so far earned him six World Fantasy Award nominations and six Hugo Award nominations — and won him a British Fantasy Award. He’s a writer as well, with his own fiction appearing in Weird Tales, Space and Time, On Spec, and other magazines.

We discussed the treatment he received as a writer which taught him what he wanted to do (and didn’t want to do) as an editor, how his time as member of a band helped him come up with the name for his magazine, why science fiction’s public perception as a literary genre is decades ahead of fantasy, what it takes for a submission to rise to the level of receiving a rewrite request, the time he made an editor cry (and why he was able to do it), how he felt being a student at the Odyssey Writing Workshop and then returning as a teacher, the phrase he tends to overuse in his personalized rejection letters (and the reason why it appears so often), the way magazine editing makes him like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian, why writers shouldn’t worry about the ratio of submitted stories to purchased ones, the reason he’ll probably never edit novels, what anyone considering starting a magazine of their own needs to know, and much more.

(3) GET ILLUMINATED. “Sacred Texts: Codices Far, Far Away” – Two University of Pennsylvania scholars are doing a series of videos about the ancient Jedi texts until Star Wars Episode 9 is released on December 20.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Luke Skywalker gathered a small library of ancient Jedi texts and placed them in an uneti tree on Ahch-To.

On October 8, 2018, Dr. Brandon Hawk and curator Dot Porter met to talk about these ancient books, and to compare them with manuscripts from the collection of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania.

Here are the first two videos:

(4) NEW HORIZONS PHOTOS ARRIVING SLOWLY. “Nasa’s New Horizons: Best image yet of ‘space snowman’ Ultima Thule” – BBC had the story.

The New Horizons probe has sent back its best picture yet of the small, icy object Ultima Thule, which it flew past on New Year’s Day.

The image was acquired when the Nasa spacecraft was just 6,700km from its target, which scientists think is two bodies lightly fused together – giving the look of a snowman.

Surface details are now much clearer.

New Horizons’ data is coming back very slowly, over the next 20 months.

This is partly to do with the great distance involved (the separation is 6.5 billion km) but is also limited by the small power output of the probe’s transmitter and the size (and availability) of the receive antennas here on Earth. It all makes for glacial bit rates.

The new image was obtained with New Horizons’ wide-angle Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) and gives a resolution of 135m per pixel. There is another version of this scene taken at even higher resolution by the probe’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), but this has not yet been downlinked from the probe.

(5) RSR PRO ARTIST RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Greg Hullender says, “Based on the discussion on File770, we did the experiment of expanding our Pro Artist list using the ISFDB info. This actually expands it hugely. We ended up not trying to merge the lists for this year, but we posted the ISFDB data separately just so people could have it as a resource. It’s awfully nice data, if a bit overwhelming, and it’d be great to find a good way to use it. We’re hoping people will look at it and offer some ideas for how to make it a bit more manageable.” — “Pro Artists from ISFDB Novels 2018”.

Based on some conversations on File 770 about better ways to find candidates for the Best Professional Artist Hugo Award, we decided to try using the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB) as a source.  The result is spectacular, but maybe a bit overwhelming, so we decided not to try to integrate it with our regular Pro Artists page this year. Instead, we’re treating this as an experiment and inviting feedback on how we might best use this wealth of data in the future to help people who’re trying to find professional artists to nominate.

(6) FRANKENSTEIN AND ROBOTS. In the Winter 2019 Beloit College Magazine, Susan Kasten (“Why Frankenstein Will Never Die”)  discusses how an English professor, an anthropologist, a physicist, and a professor of cognitive science team-taught Frankenstein in a class called “Frankenstein 200:  Monster, Myth, and Meme.”

Robin Zebrowski, a professor of cognitive science, pointed out that the themes of Frankenstein — of creation, difference, empathy, monstrosity, and control–are the memes of artificial intelligence.  Zebrowski pointed out that early robot stories are about Frankenstein.  ‘They’re about building something no one can control once it’s unleashed,’ she said.  She noted that the first work of literature ever written about robots–a 1923 Czech play called R.U.R.–is a story about a robot uprising.

(Incidentally, Professor Zebrowski believes she is not related to sff author George Zebrowski.)

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

January 25, 1915 — First transcontinental telephone call was made, between New York and San Francisco; Alexander Graham Bell and Dr. Thomas A. Watson exchanged greetings.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 25, 1918 King Donovan. His first first SF film have him as Dr. Dan Forbes in the 1953 The Magnetic Monster and as Dr. Ingersoll In The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. The very next year, he plays James O’Herli in Riders to the Stars. And now we get to the film that you know him from — Invasion of the Body Snatchers in which he playsJack Belicec. After that, I show him only in Nothing Lasts Forever which has never been released here in the States. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 25, 1943 Tobe Hooper. Director of such such genre films as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (the original of course), Poltergeist (damn scary film) Invaders from Mars and Djinn, his final film. He directed a smattering of television episodes including the “Miss Stardust” of Amazing Stories, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” of Freddy’s Nightmares, “Dead Wait” of Tales from the Crypt and the entire Salem’s Lot miniseries. He also wrote a horror novel with Alan Goldsher,  Midnight Movie: A Novel, that has himself in it at a speaking engagement. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 25, 1958Peter Watts, 61.Author of the most excellent Firefall series which I read and enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read the Rifters trilogy so would welcome opinions on it. And his Sunflower linked short stories sound intriguing. 
  • Born January 25, 1963 Catherine Butler, 56. Butler published a number of works of which the most important is Four British fantasists : place and culture in the children’s fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper. Another important work is Reading History in Children’s Books, with Hallie O’Donovan. Her website is here.
  • Born January 25, 1970 Stephen Chbosky, 49. Screenwriter and director best-known I’d say for the Emma Watson-fronted Beauty and the Beast. But he also was responsible for the Jericho series which was a rather decent bit of SF even if, like Serenity, it got killed far too quickly. (Yes, I’m editorializing.) 
  • Born January 25, 1973 Geoff Johns, 46. Where to begin? Though he’s done some work outside of DC, he is intrinsically linked to that company having working for them for twenty years. My favorite work by him in on Batman: Gotham Knights, Justice League of America #1–7 (2013) and 52 which I grant which was over ambitious but really fun. 
  • Born January 25, 1985 Michael Trevino, 34. Performer, Tyler Lockwood on The Vampire Diaries and now Kyle Valenti on the new Roswell, New Mexico series whose premises I’ll leave you to guess. His first genre appearance was in the Charm episode of “Malice in Wonderland” as Alastair. He also shows up on The OriginalsThe Vampire Diaries spin-off. 
  • Born January 25, 1985 Claudia Kim, 34. Only four film films but all genre: she played Dr. Helen Cho Avengers: Age of Ultron followed by voicing The Collective In Equals which Wiki manages to call a ‘dystopian utopia’ film to which I say ‘Eh?!?’, and then Arra Champignon in the 2017 version of The Dark Tower and finally as  Nagini, Voldemort’s snake which I presume is a voice role (though I’ve not seen the film so I could be wrong) in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Hulk’s last words? Bizarro has them.

(10) ASIMOV REFERENCE. Yesterday on Late Night With Stephen Colbert (at about the 1:50 mark) the host said during a sketch —

“My self-driving car has stopped taking me to Taco Bell…citing the first law of Robotics.”

(11) RE-DEEP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] press release from Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias in Spain addresses the latest “deep image” from the Hubble Space Telescope. The original Hubble Deep Field was assembled in 1995, only to be exceeded by the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field in 2004 and the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field in 2012. Each imaged galaxies further away and thus further back in time. Now there’s a new version of the Ultra-Deep Field that recovers “additional light” not included in earlier versions and showing thus additional information about the included galaxies.

To produce the deepest image of the Universe from space a group of researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) led by Alejandro S. Borlaff used original images from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST taken over a region in the sky called the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF). After improving the process of combining several images the group was able to recover a large quantity of light from the outer zones of the largest galaxies in the HUDF. Recovering this light, emitted by the stars in these outer zones, was equivalent to recovering the light from a complete galaxy (“smeared out” over the whole field) and for some galaxies this missing light shows that they have diameters almost twice as big as previously measured.

A scientific paper on the image and analysis is on ArXiv at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1810.00002.pdf (technically a preprint, but it has been accepted for publication by Astronomy & Astrophysics). The data itself is at http://www.iac.es/proyecto/abyss.

(11) NOW BOARDING. James Davis Nicoll knows how we love the number 5 here — “5 SFF Stories About Surviving the Dangers of Boarding School” at Tor.com.

As a setting, boarding schools allow for the construction of thrilling narratives: concerned parents are replaced by teachers who may well prioritize student achievement over student welfare, e.g. maximizing points for Gryffindor over the survival of the students earning those points…

Are there any SFF novels featuring boarding schools? Why yes! I am glad you asked—there are more than I can list in a single article. Here are just a few….

(12) BETTER TECH, MARK 0. Scientists have now deduced that “Neanderthals ‘could kill at a distance'”.

Neanderthals may once have been considered to be our inferior, brutish cousins, but a new study is the latest to suggest they were smarter than we thought – especially when it came to hunting.

The research found that the now extinct species were creating weaponry advanced enough to kill at a distance.

Scientists believe they crafted spears that could strike from up to 20m away.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Lead researcher Dr Annemieke Milks, from UCL Institute of Archaeology, said: “The original idea was that Neanderthals would have been very limited using hand-delivered spears, where they could only come up at close contact and thrust them into prey.

“But if they could throw them from 15m to 20m, this really opens up a wider range of hunting strategies that Neanderthals would have been able to use.”

Extension of the above — “Why we still underestimate the Neanderthals”.

Prof Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum, explains why some old assumptions about the intellectual capabilities of our evolutionary relatives, the Neanderthals persist today. But a body of evidence is increasingly forcing us to re-visit these old ideas.

A paper out this week in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution reports the early arrival of modern humans to south-western Iberia around 44,000 years ago.

Why should this be significant? It all has to do with the spread of our ancestors and the extinction of the Neanderthals. South-western Iberia has been claimed to have been a refuge of the Neanderthals, a place where they survived longer than elsewhere, but the evidence is disputed by some researchers.

The latest paper, which is not about Neanderthals, has been taken by some as evidence of an arrival into this area which is much earlier than previously known.

By implication, if modern humans were in south-western Iberia so early then they must have caused the early disappearance of the Neanderthals. It is a restatement of the idea that modern human superiority was the cause of the Neanderthal demise. Are these ideas tenable in the light of mounting genetic evidence that our ancestors interbred with the Neanderthals?

(13) LOST ART? This certainly seems symbolic of the government shutdown: “Shutdown Leaves Uninflated Space Sculpture Circling in Orbit” in the New York Times.

…“Orbital Reflector,” a sculpture by Trevor Paglen that was recently launched into orbit.

The sculpture is not lost in space as much as stuck in a holding pattern before activation, pending clearance by the Federal Communications Commission. According to the artist, it might not survive the wait while F.C.C. workers are on furlough.

A 100-foot-long mylar balloon coated with titanium oxide, “Orbital Reflector” was designed to be visible to the naked eye at twilight or dawn while in orbit for a couple of months. It would then incinerate upon entering the Earth’s thicker atmosphere.

But although it was sent to space, the balloon was never inflated as planned.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Mlex, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Hugo Awards Study Committee Report Online

The final Hugo Awards Study Committee Report is now online at the Worldcon 76 WSFS Business Meeting page along with the draft agenda for this year’s Business Meeting.

Committee chair Vincent Docherty says:

The committee got going much later than planned (entirely due to my own lack of time due to other commitments) but once we got started there was very energetic participation by the 20+ committee members. The report summarises the discussion and makes a number of recommendations, including four specific proposals which are on this year’s Business Meeting agenda (three updates to categories and continuation of the committee), as well as a number of topics for further discussion next year, assuming the committee is continued.

The committee welcomes feedback from interested fans. We’re aware of some online reaction to the specific proposals already, which might result in adjustments to the proposals when we get to the Business Meeting.

My thanks to the committee members for their work this year.

Direct link to the report: “2018 Report of the Hugo Awards Study Committee”

An excerpt from the overview of their recommendations —

…Understanding that the overall operation of the categories works well, the Committee found several places for improvement:

The Committee found that the present definitions in the Fan Artist/Professional Artist category were potentially problematic. The Fan Artist category was initially designed in 1967, seeking to honor those offering their artistic talents to the broader community of fandom for little or no compensation. Such contributions were often in the form of illustrations for fanzines and convention programs. In the last fifty years, however, the form that fandom has taken has changed, and the result is that the definition of Fan Artist was found to be outdated. This was given an extensive examination. The Committee also acknowledges that some further examination of the other fan/professional categories may be in order, and has proposed to carry forward at least one further change in this area.

The Committee found the term “Graphic Story” problematic. Just as “comic book” has come to be taken as including work not literally comic, “graphic story” has come to be taken as excluding work appearing in comic books or comic strips. The Committee proposes re-titling to “Best Graphic Story or Comic.”

The Committee feels that altering “Best Fancast” into a “Best Podcast” category and removing the restriction on eligible productions receiving money is desirable. Many podcasts generate income from either limited advertisements, tip jars, or other small streams of income. While these are often not sufficient to support someone making a living, the income can still be substantial. As also discussed in the context of the Fan/Professional Artist categories, the use of fixed income thresholds was also found to be problematic.

In addition to the Artist categories, the Committee gave some consideration to cases of category overlap and/or gaps in categories in general, and would propose to continue examining this both in the context of current and proposed awards. This arose, in particular, in discussions surrounding the future of Best Novel and the proposed Best Translated category.

The Committee also briefly considered several other questions, including how well the Hugo Awards have handled the digital/print divide and differences between how terms are used in an “industry” context in non-industry discourse (e.g. by Worldcon attendees/WSFS members who are giving the awards) and in the Hugo Award definitions themselves. Consideration of various such questions fed into the discussions on specific proposals.

The second question, ‘How well do the categories honor what we wish to honor?’, generated more questions for examination. Given the interaction of this question and the question of how many Hugo Awards should be awarded, most of these questions have been recommended for passage forward for further consideration in the next year. In particular:

A Best Translated category was proposed relatively late in the Committee’s deliberations. As a result, the Committee did not have the time to study this potential award in sufficient depth alongside the rest of its workload, and there were multiple ideas as to what form this category should take (e.g. whether it should be limited to novels, cover all written works) and, if recommended, whether the award in question should be a Hugo or a non-Hugo award given by Worldcons. In particular, the Committee proposes to examine whether such an award is presently feasible.

A potential reorganization of the Best Dramatic Presentation categories was considered, and has been proposed to be passed forward should the committee be continued. Multiple alternatives, including a possible addition of one (or more) categories and redefining the Long/Short division into a TV/Movie division, would be given consideration if the committee is reauthorized.

A readjustment of the Best Semiprozine and Best Editor categories has been proposed and will be considered if the Committee is reauthorized. In particular, the Committee feels that the nature of the internet may have reduced the advantage that professional magazines have over non-professional productions, and that allowing professional publications to compete in a “Best Magazine” category would allow them to once again be honored. The Committee also noted various complications with the Best Editor categories; several proposals, including a possible realignment into “Best Anthology” and “Best Imprint,” will be evaluated if we are authorized to do so….

The report advances three proposed changes, and recommends further study of four more:

Part II: Specific Proposals

(1) Proposed continuation of the Hugo Study Committee

(2) Proposed Changes to the Fancast Hugo Category (with slight changes to the Semiprozine and Fanzine categories to maintain consistency)

(3) Proposed Changes to the Professional Artist and Fan Artist Hugo Categories

(4) Proposed Changes to the Best Graphic Story Hugo Category

(5) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Addition of a Best Translated Work Hugo Category

(6) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Replacement of Semiprozine and Best Editor Hugo Categories with Professional Magazine, Anthology/Collection, and Publisher/Imprint

(7) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Potential Alterations to Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo Categories

(8) Proposal Recommended for Further Study: Best Art Book and Alterations to Best Related Work

(9) Proposal Not Recommended for Further Consideration: Best Novel Split

[Thanks to Vincent Docherty for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 2/9/18 Pixel, Pixel, Scrolling Bright, On The Servers Through The Night

(1) THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE. Evil Mad Scientist has released downloadable “Evil Mad Scientist Valentines: 2018”.

This year’s set features parallel lines, friction, and activation energy:

What could be more romantic than telling someone that the second derivative of your potential energy is at its minimum when you’re around them?

Evil Mad Scientist has been doing this for awhile:

You can download the full set here, which includes all 36 designs from all six years (a 1.6 MB PDF document).

(2) WHERE APES HAVE GONE BEFORE. There will be a “50 Years of Planet of the Apes Exhibit and Film Retrospective” at the University of Southern California in LA through May 13.

The USC School of Cinematic Arts has partnered with 20th Century Fox Film to host an exclusive exhibit and retrospective celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Planet of the Apes franchise titled 50 Years of Planet of the Apes.

A vast collection of props, costumes, photos, posters and artwork from across all iterations of the longstanding franchise will be on display in the Hugh Hefner Exhibition Hall at USC this spring. The exhibit will be available to visit as a work-in-progress from January 26th – February 8th and all final displays will be open from February 9th through May 13th, 2018. A series of panels and screenings will complement the exhibit, including all feature films from the Planet of the Apes universe.

The exhibit is in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the 1968 release of the first Planet of the Apes film, the original installment of the still expanding franchise that now includes four sequels, a TV series, an animated series, comic books, merchandise, and 20th Century Fox Film’s highly successful prequel film series Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and War for the Planet of the Apes.

There is a schedule of associated film screenings at the link.

(3) ROOSTING. Watch the two Falcon Heavy boosters come booming back to Earth in this video at digg: “Seriously Cool Amateur Footage Of The Simultaneous Falcon Heavy Booster Landing”.

(4) ROASTING. Falcon Heavy’s third booster didn’t make it home intact: “SpaceX confirms it lost the center core of the Falcon Heavy”.

What’s more, it landed the two flanking boosters in perfect synchronized formation. But the fate of the core booster was unclear; now it appears that the center booster, which was supposed to land on a drone ship, was lost.

Elon Musk said on a conference call with reporters that the launch “seems to have gone as well as one could have hoped with the exception of center core. The center core obviously didn’t land on the drone ship” and he said that “we’re looking at the issue.” Musk says that the core ran out of propellant, which kept the core from being able to slow down as much as it needed for landing. Because of that, the core apparently hit the water at 300MPH, and it was about 100 meters from the ship. “It was enough to take out two thrusters and shower the deck with shrapnel,” Musk said. That should be worth seeing on video: “We have the video,” Musk confirmed, “it sounds like some pretty fun footage… if the cameras didn’t get blown up as well.”

(5) SFWA AUCTION. Steven H Silver tells about a SFWA fundraiser:

Did you miss our charity auctions in December? Good news! SFWA will be auctioning off five new items every month on Ebay. Available items in February include an autographed uncorrected proof copy of Fevre Dream by George RR Martin, uncorrected proof  13th Annual Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (signed by Ellen Datlow), and a rare signed copy of This Island Earth by Raymond F. Jones.

The bidding began on February 5th and will run through February 12: Ebay.com/usr/sfwa65

All auction proceeds will be earmarked for the SFWA Givers Fund which is used to disperse grants to deserving applicants, along with bolstering the existing Emergency Medical (EMF) and Legal Funds.

For more information about our funds and what they support, please visit sfwa.org/donate. If you have items you would like to donate for future SFWA Charity Auction fundraisers, please contact Steven H Silver at steven.silver@sfwa.org for more information.

Use this search to find items.

(6) BOSKONE PROGRAM. Look forward to the panels and participants discussing “Black Science Fiction at Boskone”, February 16-18 in Boston.

This year Boskone features a program with a strong selection of panels and discussions dedicated to black science fiction authors, publishers, and fans. Our program includes everything from black publishers and Afrofuturism to works by authors such as Octavia Butler, science panels that include the future of medicine, writing discussions that tackle young adult fiction, and much, much more!

Here’s a quick list of some of our program items with an emphasis on black science fiction and the authors who will be joining us from across the country. For the full set of program items, view the Boskone 55 program….

(7) VOLCANO IN TOWSON. Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast visits with Norman Prentiss to sample the volcano shrimp at a Chinese restaurant in Towson, MD.

And who is this episode’s guest? Why, it’s Norman Prentiss, who won the 2010 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Long Fiction for Invisible Fences, and the 2009 Stoker for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction for “In the Porches of My Ears.” His powerful, personal fiction has been reprinted in both Best Horror of the Year and The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and his poetry has appeared in Writer Online, Southern Poetry Review, and A Sea of Alone: Poems for Alfred Hitchcock.

 

Norman Prentiss

We discussed the day he wowed the other kids on his school playground by reading them Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the movies a Catholic Church newsletter’s warnings made him want to see even more, the supernatural superhero comic that led to a lawsuit against Harlan Ellison, the upside and (surprising) downside of having won a $35,000 college writing prize, how the freebies he got at a Horrorfind convention goosed him to start writing fiction again, why he wrote the last part of his novel Odd Adventures with Your Other Father first, how he’s been able to collaborate with other authors without killing them, what can be taught about writing and what can only be learned, why he ended up writing horror instead of science fiction, and much, much more.

(8) WONDER ANNUAL POWERS, ACTIVATE! Rich Horton announced the contents of
The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2018 Edition so Jason went to work at Featured Futures and finished his “Collated Contents of the Big Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, with Links!)”

Last year, I collated and linked to the webzine stories picked by Clarke, Dozois, Horton, and Strahan for their annuals. This year, I’ve collated all the selections. (I’ve also noted whether I’ve read them and, if so, whether they got an honorable mention, a recommendation, or were recommendations which made my Web’s Best Science Fiction or Web’s Best Fantasy.)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born February 9, 1960 – Laura Frankos

(10) FRANKOS. Steven H Silver celebrated Frankos at Black Gate with “Birthday Reviews: Laura Frankos’s ‘A Late Symmer Night’s Battle’”.

… When a follow-up attack of reremice occur, the fairies must question what they are fighting for and what makes a race worthwhile. While Frankos could have told the story with tremendous amounts of gravitas, the venue for its publication was looking for more lighthearted fare and she managed to deliver, sprinkling her tale with wonderful puns….

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY UNIVERSE. The BBC has the snapshot: “Marvel Cinematic Universe celebrates its 10th birthday with an epic cast photo”.

Over the past decade Marvel has brought us 18 films, starting with Iron Man in 2008 and including Thor, The Avengers and Captain America.

The class photo of 76 actors appeared on Twitter on Thursday.

It includes major players in the films like Robert Downey Jr, Vin Diesel, Scarlett Johansson and Letitia Wright.

The picture was shortly followed by a behind the scenes video.

It begins with Thor’s Chris Hemsworth saying: “It was sort of like being at the Academy Awards or something, every person had been in one or all of my favourite films.”

 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy asks, “Is Gumby genre? Perhaps so…” — The Flying McCoys.
  • And Mike learned from  Basic Instructions, “If you wish to be an evil Emperor, do not waste time taunting your nemesis. Especially in falsetto.”
  • Cath found another cat/book/humor connection in today’s Breaking Cat News.
  • Cath also knows I need proofreading advice —

(13) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. Is the work of comic book colorists inherently apolitical?

(14) MORE ON ACKERMAN. Adam-Troy Castro heard about Forrest J Ackerman’s behavior in 1997:

Yes, I knew about Forry Ackerman twenty years ago.

I was part of the committee that gave him the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award. I need you to know that I was outvoted. We were giving two awards that year and the Ackerman partisans were given what they wanted in order for those who were against the citation to be given what they wanted. Even so, the hell that went on behind the scenes was intense and lasted for months after the official announcement was made. But yes, one of the things that came up during the hellish brouhaha that followed was that he had, quote, “a house full of child pornography.”

The months of invective that went on, back and forth, behind the scenes, amounted to the worst period of my writing career….

(15) WET WORK. Beneath the waters of the Gulf: “Long-Buried Ice Age Forest Offers Climate Change Clues”.

Scientists say it’s a remarkable discovery.

“The underwater forest is like the Garden of Eden underwater,” says Christine DeLong, a paleo-climatologist at Louisiana State University. She says tests date the forest to be between 50,000 and 70,000 years old.

“It’s a huge deal,” DeLong says. “Because here we have this like perfectly preserved time capsule of an ice age forest.”

(16) LIGHTEN UP. Thanks to French scientists and a NASA probe, “Secrets of solar flares are unlocked”.

Flares can occur on their own, or be accompanied by powerful eruptions of plasma (charged gas) from the Sun.

If charged particles from these eruptions reach Earth, they can create havoc with infrastructure, such as satellite systems and power grids.

Now, researchers in France say the interaction of distinct magnetic structures controls these outbursts from our star.

Generally speaking, solar eruptions are caused by a sudden, violent rearrangement of the Sun’s magnetic field.

At a deeper level, the process is controlled by two types of structures that form in the magnetic field of the Sun: ropes and cages.

The rope is confined within the magnetic cage. If the cage is strong, it can contain the rope’s contortions, but when the cage is weak, an eruption can take place.

(17) WATER SIGN. Sydney has a unique solution to trucks trying to get into tunnels they’re too tall for: a water wall as a screen for a giant projected STOP sign. (Video at the link.) “That will stop them in their tracks! Virtual barrier made from curtain of water halts lorries from driving through too small tunnels”.

They had tried flashing signs, neon signs and staggered signs.

But when lorry drivers continued to keep on driving their over-sized trucks though low tunnels, Australian authorities took the extreme measure of warning drivers with water signs.

Drivers are greeted with a curtain of water falling from the entrance of tunnels with a huge ‘stop’ sign projected on to them….

Laservision said that the Sydney Harbour Tunnel has experienced more than 10,000 incidents of vehicles hitting the structure since it opened.

The damage caused by too large vehicles crashing into the overhead of the tunnel affected up to 12,000 motorists at peak time, the company said.

There’s also this TV clip of the sign in action –

And the manufacturer’s writeup: “Activated 8 times in 8 weeks, with 100% success!”

(18) BUGEYED. “What Scientists Learned From Putting 3-D Glasses on Praying Mantises”: The Atlantic has the story.

One might assume that any animal with two forward-facing eyes would automatically have stereopsis, but that’s not true. It’s a sophisticated skill that requires a lot of processing power and a complex network of neurons—one that not every animal can afford to build. Indeed, after stereopsis was first confirmed in humans in 1838, it took 132 years for scientists to show that other species had the same ability. Macaque monkeys were the first confirmed member of the stereopsis club, but they were soon joined by cats, horses, sheep, owls, falcons, toads—and praying mantises. In the 1980s, Samuel Rossel placed prisms in front of these insects to show that they do triangulate the images from both eyes to catch their prey.

When Jenny Read, from Newcastle University, first read about this, she was amazed. How could an insect pull off such a complicated trick with a brain that contains just 1 million neurons? (For comparison, our brains have 100,000 times that number.) To find out, she and Nityananda set up their mantis 3-D cinemas….

They presented the insects with screens full of black and white dots, with a slightly different pattern projected to each eye. Against these backgrounds, a small circle of dots—a target—would slowly spiral inward from the outside. “It’s meant to be like a little beetle moving against a background,” says Read.

By tweaking the dots, the team could change how far away this target would appear to the watching mantises. And they found that the insects would start to attack the target when it seemed to get within striking distance. Clearly, the insects have stereopsis.

But their stereopsis is not our stereopsis. We use brightness as a cue to align and compare the images that are perceived by our two eyes. Scientists can confirm this by presenting one eye with an image that’s a negative of the other—that has black dots where the other has white ones, and vice versa. “For us, that’s incredibly disruptive. We really can’t match up the images anymore, so our stereopsis falls apart,” says Read. “But the mantises are completely unfazed.” Brightness clearly doesn’t matter to them.

(19) THUMBRUNNERS. I’m not sure “parts is parts” when they’re human — “Special Report: U.S. body brokers supply world with torsos, limbs and heads”.

Demand for body parts from America — torsos, knees and heads — is high in countries where religious traditions or laws prohibit the dissection of the dead. Unlike many developed nations, the United States largely does not regulate the sale of donated body parts, allowing entrepreneurs such as MedCure to expand exports rapidly during the last decade.

No other nation has an industry that can provide as convenient and reliable a supply of body parts.

(Larry Niven once said he preferred Alexei Panshin’s “thumbrunners,” but having been beaten to the term, he’d come up with his alternative, “organleggers.”)

(20) SPACE MOUNTAIN. You get a glimpse inside the illusion created by a popular Disneyland attraction in this Orange County Register piece: “Space Mountain fan gets the roller coaster’s 87-year-old designer to ride it one last time at Disneyland”

How fast do you think you’re traveling when you’re in the rockets on Space Mountain?

Think of the speed of a car on the freeway. Is Space Mountain faster than that? Slower? Is it 100 miles per hour, like Bill Watkins has heard people telling each other?

Watkins contemplated the speed question for years in the early- to mid-1970s. He built his first Space Mountain at Walt Disney World in Florida. But it was bigger – a 300-ft. circle on two tracks. When the Disneyland Space Mountain opened in 1977, Watkins had completed what he always saw as a giant math problem.

Space Mountain is a gravity coaster. Unlike the Matterhorn, which relies on thrusters to help move its vehicles forward, Space Mountain simply starts up and goes down. Technically, it’s 75 seconds of free fall.

At its maximum speed (which can vary slightly depending on the combined weight of the riders) the car you’re riding in Space Mountain is traveling about 40 feet per second.

That’s 27.27 miles per hour.

That seems really slow.

But Watkins somehow made it just right. More than 250 million people have ridden Space Mountain since it opened. And while it’s unclear if it’s the best – Disneyland’s public relations department would only say that Space Mountain is, according to guests, “a top 10 attraction” – how many are better?

It is certainly arguable that Bill Watkins created the most popular roller coaster of all time.

“I seldom meet anyone who hasn’t ridden it,” he said.

(21) BEST PRO ARTIST RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank’s  “2018 Professional Artists” page is designed —

To help people make nominations for the 2018 Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist, we have set up a “lightbox” system to let fans quickly flip through the works of over 113 artists listed below and to set aside the ones they particularly liked.

Greg Hullender says —

This is aimed at helping people pick artists to nominate, based on covers for magazines and for books containing original novels or anthologies. We don’t have pictures for reprints.

Where possible, we have links to the artists’ portfolios, so readers can get a broader idea of any particular artist’s work. To simplify that a bit, for eligible artists who had just a few works published in 2017 we’ve padded their list of pictures with their art from earlier years. (They’re marked by date for the benefit of those who only want to see works published in 2017.)

(22) ROBOTECH RETURNS. Titan Comics will publish a new graphic novel based on the classic Robotech saga.

A mysterious ship crashes on a remote island… 10 years later, the ship’s ‘Robotechnology’ has helped humanity advance its own tech. But danger looms from the skies and an epic adventure is set to begin…

The world-famous, fan-favorite animated epic returns to comics with a classic transforming-jetfighters-versus-giant-aliens adventure! Written by Brian Wood (Star Wars, Briggs Land, X-Men), with art from Marco Turini (Assassin’s Creed) and colorist Marco Lesko! Return to the fan-favorite Macross Saga that began the classic Robotech franchise, as hotshot Veritech pilot Roy Fokker and skilled rookie Rick Hunter are pulled into an intergalactic war when the Earth is invaded by the insidious Zentraedi! Whether you’ve seen the classic cartoon to the point you can quote every episode, or whether you’ve never experienced Robotech before, this graphic novel collection is for you!

 

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cath, Andrew Porter, Will R., David K.M. Klaus, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day evilrooster.]

The Recent History of the Hugo Artist Awards

Editor’s Note: Reblogged from Hugo Eligible Art 2015 at the suggestion of the author.

By Doctor Science: Until recently, nominations for both the Best Pro and Best Fan Artist Hugos were done by the “round up the usual suspects!” method. Artists generally first appeared on the ballots after a few years of being nominated but not making the cut, and then they tended to stay there for a l-o-o-o-n-g time. Winners frequently repeated.

This pattern has been broken recently, in different ways for the two categories.

Best Professional Artist

Julie Dillon won the 2014 Pro Artist Hugo on a ballot with a number of Usual Suspects. In 2015, though Dillon again was on the ballot, all the other names were new. All the new names were from the slating campaigns by the Sad and Rabid Puppies; the artists are all friends of the slate creators.

Dillon won by a landslide, getting 63% of all first-place votes. None of the others finished above “No Award”. (Detailed results are in this PDF.) The artists who would have gotten on the ballot absent the slate were John Picacio, Galen Dara, Stephan Martinière, and Chris McGrath – all Usual Suspects who’ve been nominated before.

Best Fan Artist

Fan Artist was a Usual Suspects category until 2013. That year, Galen Dara barely made it onto the ballot for her first time, with 5th place in nominations. She won handily, with 27% of the first-place votes, 40% more than the runner-up.

In 2014, Sarah Webb got on the ballot for the first time, in third place. She won with 55% of the first-place votes.

Last year, Elizabeth Leggett got onto the ballot for the first time, in 5th place. She won with 41% of the first-place votes.

In other words, the Usual Suspects system has substantially broken down for Best Fan Artist. That’s 3 years in a row where an artist has essentially come out of nowhere to dominate the voting – where by “nowhere” I mean the Internet. All of them are technically skilled and at least semi-pro (Webb is still an art student): they are fans, but they aren’t amateurs.

I have a Cunning Plan

The main reason I have for starting this blog [Hugo Eligible Art 2015 ] is to make it easier for Hugo nominators to survey eligible artists for both Pro and Fan Artist, to break the Usual Suspects habit for both categories. I also think we maybe ought to discuss whether the categories as they’re currently defined are really what we want.

Hugo Statistics Dress Sad Puppies in Black Armbands

First The Good News: Julie Dillon is the first woman to win the Best Pro Artist Hugo in 45 years. [*] And as I write, you can see a fine example of her work on the masthead of A Dribble of Ink, winner of the 2014 Best Fanzine Hugo.

Yes, Aidan Moher has finally won the Hugo he has coveted for so long. What we began with a certain amount of mutual irritation has evolved into a gentler, almost Fred Allen/Jack Benny-style feud (see for example here and here) – so congratulations, and better Aidan should win than a stranger!

Far more startling was to see Sarah Webb win Best Fan Artist on the first ballot while every other nominee registered fewer first place votes than No Award. For all the discussion in social media of the best way to tactically vote No Award, it’s a surprise to find that having the most impact in a category with no connection to the politics that fueled it.

And Now, The Rest of the Story: Meanwhile at Monster Hunter Nation HQ, it’s time to lie back and stop thinking of England. No matter what people hoped or feared would happen as the Hugo Awards were announced, only one of the 7 shortlisted nominees endorsed by Larry Correia finished ahead of another nominee in their category – basically, they ran last.

Corriea had asked his readers to nominate his novel Warbound plus a slate of 11 other recommendations. Warbound and 6 other beneficiaries of the “Sad Puppy” campaign made it. The most successful among them was Toni Weisskopf, who actually received the most first-place votes in the Best Editor – Long Form category, though she finished fourth in the runoff.

Correia took the high road in his Hugo Aftermath Post

First off, some people are upset and saying there was fraud. I understand your disappointment but I truly don’t think so. In all of my dealings with LonCon they’ve been totally professional and honest. On things like Toni’s, yes, that is confusing as hell, but that is how the Australian system works. One of the original goals of Sad Puppies was to test the Hugo nomination process just because there had been allegations of “lost” noms in prior, and as a retired auditor, I’m a sucker for statistical analyses. SP1 gathered data, and SP2 gave me comparisons. I saw zero indication of fraud. I’ve only been awake for an hour, so I’ve only skimmed the new numbers, but they appear to have shaken out about where expected. So don’t get mad at LonCon, they did their job (and as I can attest, getting accused of fraud without evidence is annoying as hell.)

He followed by explaining yet again why he thought his “Sad Puppies” campaign was justified and how the voting results prove his point – because it’s not as if he was going to suddenly smack his forehead and exclaim, “Wait, I was wrong!”

In the general exchange of social nukes set off by “Sad Puppies” it was a surprise (though by no means a disappointment) that No Award failed to take a single Hugo category.

Furthermore, the nominees receiving the most first place votes in a category tended to win wire-to-wire.

Suspense mounted in the Best Novel category leading up to the vote because no one could predict the impact of Larry Correia’s voting bloc or the strength of support for the Wheel of Time series, while Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, despite winning the Nebula, seemed handicapped by the publisher’s refusal to put the complete book in the Hugo Voter Packet.

The suspense was unwarranted, as it turns out. Ancillary Justice began with a comfortable lead, getting 1,335 first place votes. The Wheel of Time series had the next largest number of first place votes, 658. However, Wheel of Time finished in fourth place in runoff voting.

There were only a couple of really tight races.

Lightspeed Magazine won the Best Semiprozine Hugo by 16 votes. Two UK-based publications, Strange Horizons and Interzone, hung with Lightspeed Magazine for the first four passes, however, the home-field advantage did not hold true. When Interzone was eliminated almost one-third of its votes dropped out (having listed neither of the survivors in next place) and the remaining votes were divided almost equally between Interzone and Hugo-winner Lightspeed.

Only in a few cases did the eventual winner ever trail. In Best Novella, “Six-Gun Snow White” had a 14 vote edge on “Equoid” after four rounds, but lost by 83.

In Best Dramatic – Long Form, “The Rains of Castamere” was only 11 votes ahead of “The Day of the Doctor” after the fifth pass, but picked up a majority of the votes left after Orphan Black was eliminated, and won by a comfortable margin.

In Best Pro Editor – Long Form, Ginjer Buchanan trailed Toni Weisskopf by 7 votes after the third pass, but ended up winning by over 200 votes.

The “Who are you mad at?” index shows more voters listed the following nominees behind No Award than any others (except for Toni Weisskopf, who is included for comparison, and Wheel of Time which was controversial for a different reason.) (Not ranked in order).

Sad Puppies Finalists Runoff votes No Award
Warbound 1161 1052
The Chaplain’s Legacy 999 602
The Butcher of Khardov 1222 687
The Exchange Officers 1146 736
Opera Vita Aeterna 855 1232
Toni Weisskopf 568 186
Elitist Book Reviews 510 334
Wheel of Time 1306 672

But if the “Sad Puppies” say they had it tough, just show them the “take no prisoners” mentality at work in the fan categories. Many finalists got fewer first place votes than No Award — the fate of 4 out of 5 nominees for Best Fan Artist, 4 out of 7 nominees for Best Fancast, 3 out of 5 nominees for Best Fan Writer, and 1 out of 5 nominees for Best Fanzine.

Turning to the nominating statistics, Vox Day compiled this list of the number of nominating votes that put each of the “Sad Puppies” on the ballot, and scoffed at the supposed “bloc vote” —

Larry Correia 184 (Best Novel)
Toni Weisskopf 169 (Best Professional Editor – Short Form)
Brad Torgersen: 111 (Best Novella)
Dan Wells 106 (Best Novella)
Brad Torgersen 92 (Best Novelette)
Vox Day 69 (Best Novelette)
Sarah Hoyt 38 (failed to make final ballot for Best Short Story)

Just the same, the bloc vote for Vox Day’s Opera Vita Aeterna kept Ken Liu’s “The Litigation Master and the Monkey King” off the ballot.

Paging through the rest of the nominating statistics I observed that Neil Gaiman, by declining a nomination for The Ocean at the End of the Lane, allowed Mira Grant’s Parasite on the ballot – it finished third.

Ender’s Game came within six votes of being shortlisted for Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form. With another couple of nominating votes, two more Doctor Who episodes could have been finalists in Short Form (which would have thrilled my friends who run Gallifrey, I’m sure.)

On a personal level I found it rather surrealistic to see that in the Best Fanzine category the next five top vote-getters after the finalists were essentially the zines that would have been on the final ballot just a couple years ago – Banana Wings, The Drink Tank, Argentus, SF Signal and File 770. Time marches on.

Update 08/19/2014: As Arnie Fenner points out in his comment below, Diane Dillon, along with husband Leo, won the Hugo for Best Artist in 1969 and deserves the “first-ever” designation, though Julie Dillon’s win is still a breakthrough since she is the first woman to win the Best Artist Pro Hugo in 45 years.

Picacio Salutes His Predecessors

John Picacio celebrates all the winners of the Best Professional Artist Hugo, of which he is the latest, in a post to his blog On the Front:

Stephan Martiniere: As far as I’m concerned, he’s the master of the futuristic cityscape. This is his cover art for Ian McDonald’s RIVER OF GODS. There are many artists that do this type of imagery so well, but I can’t think of any more transcendent than Stephan. Even as some traditionalists and collectors decry the evolution and impact of digital art, Stephan has done what the great artists do in all media throughout history — he has pushed the vocabulary of art forward, and that achievement goes beyond arguments over pencils, paints or pixels. He won the Hugo Award in 2008.

A Humble Dissent

When SF Awards Watch editors Cheryl Morgan and Kevin Standlee dissected complaints about the Best Pro Artist Hugo by the editors of the Spectrum fantasy artists website, the duo defended Hugo rulesmakers against charges of indifference but agreed with Spectrum’s critique of the voters, saying:

WSFS members have been very unimaginative in their choices over the years, and there seems to be good circumstantial evidence that artists are getting nominated based on name recognition rather than on any work that they have produced.

That’s great! The solution has finally been revealed. Get rid of the corrupt dimbulbs who have been voting for Hugo Awards all these years. Yes, turn the rascals out! I hereby fire myself as a voter. Finally the Hugos will work as Tucker and nature intended. High quality replacement voters will be imaginative enough to select the best professional artist each year, who will nevertheless always be a different person than has ever won it before! Cue Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” — we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden!

People may be frustrated by the Best Pro Artist category’s record of repeat winners, but it sure looks to me like the voters are working their butts off to get familiar with the eligible artists.

Every year a report shows how many nominating votes were received by each candidate that got at least 5% of the nominations in a category. The Nippon 2007 report of Hugo nominating statistics listed 32 professional artists with 6 or more nominations.

Compare that to only 21 editors in long form who had at least 6 nominating votes, the minimum to get listed. And only 18 editors in short form with the minimum (7) for that category. There were 39 fan writers with the 5% minimum necessary to be listed, but just 20 of them had at least 6 nominations. You’ll see a comparable record in the Best Fan Artists category. The truth is that more pro artists received serious attention from Hugo voters than the candidates in any of the other “Best People” categories.