(1) TOLKIEN RESEARCH SURVEY. Robin Anne Reid of the Department of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce is continuing to collect surveys for the project mentioned in the January 11 Scroll (item 2) – “I have 42 but more would be nice.”
The link leads to Reid’s academic Dreamwidth page for the informed consent information. The link from there goes to SurveyMonkey. Reid’s cover letter says:
Hello: I am a professor of Literature and Languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce (TAMUC) who is doing a research project. The project asks how readers of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium who are at least eighteen years old and who are atheists, agnostics, animists, or part of New Age movements interpret his work in the context of the common assumption that Tolkien’s Catholic beliefs must play a part in what readers see as the meaning of his fiction.
I have created a short survey which consists of ten open-ended questions about your religious and/or spiritual background, your experiences of Tolkien’s work, and your ideas about the relationship between religious beliefs and interpreting his work. It would take anywhere from thirty minutes to several hours to complete the survey, depending on how much you write in response to the questions. The survey is uploaded to my personal account at Survey Monkey: only I will have access to the responses. My research proposal has been reviewed by the TAMUC Institutional Review Board.
If you are eighteen years or older, and are an atheist, agnostic, animist, or part of a New Age movement that emphasizes spirituality but not a creator figure, you are invited to go to my academic blog to see more information about the survey. The survey will be open from December 1, 2018-January 31, 2019, closing at 11:30 PM GMT-0500 Central Daylight Time.
Complete information about the project and how your anonymity and privacy will be protected can be found at by clicking on the link:
(2) RETRO READING. The Hugo Award Book Club‘s Olav Rokne recalls: “The Retro-Hugo for Best Graphic Story was overlooked by enough nominators that it failed to be awarded last year. That’s a real shame, because I can tell you that there was a lot of work that’s worth celebrating. It’s actually quite sad that it was forgotten last year, and I’m sincerely hoping that people don’t neglect the category this year.” That’s the reason for his recommended reading post “Retro Hugo – Best Graphic Story 1944”.
(3) A FEMINIST SFF ROUNDUP. Cheryl Morgan gives an overview of 2018 in “A Year In Feminist Speculative Fiction” at the British Science Fiction Association’s Vector blog. Morgan’s first recommendation —
Top of the list for anyone’s feminist reading from 2018 must be Maria Dahvana Headley’s amazing re-telling of Beowulf, The Mere Wife. Set in contemporary America, with a gated community taking the place of Heorot Hall, and a policeman called Ben Wolfe in the title role, it uses the poem’s story to tackle a variety of issues. Chief among them is one of translation. Why is it that Beowulf is always described as a hero, whereas Grendel’s Mother is a hag or a wretch? In the original Anglo-Saxon, the same word is used to describe both of them. And why do white women vote for Trump? The book tackles both of those questions, and more. I expect to see it scooping awards.
(4) HONEY, YOU GOT TO GET THE SCIENCE RIGHT. Where have I heard that before? Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is netting all kinds of awards, but writing for CNN, physicist Don Lincoln opines that, “‘Spider-verse’ gets the science right — and wrong.” Of course, this is an animated movie and maybe Don is a bit of a grump.
CNN—(Warning: Contains mild spoilers)
As a scientist who has written about colliding black holes and alien space probes, I was already convinced I was pretty cool. But it wasn’t until I sat down to watch “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” that I understood the extent of my own coolness. There on the screen was fictional scientific equipment that was clearly inspired by the actual apparatus that my colleagues and I use to try to unlock the mysteries of the universe.
Amid the action, the coming-of-age story, a little romance and a few twists and turns, the movie shows a fictional gadget located in New York City called a collider, which connects parallel universes and brings many different versions of Spider-Man into a single universe.
(5) SFF TV EDITOR. CreativeCOW.net features a rising star in “Editing SYFY”.
When talking about her career path, you get the immediate sense that rejection isn’t a “no” for Shiran Amir. There’s never been an obstacle that’s kept her from living her dream. Shattering ceiling after glass ceiling, she makes her rise up through the ranks look like a piece of cake. However, her story is equal parts strategy and risk – and none of it was easy.
After taking countless chances in her career, of which some aspiring editors don’t see the other side, she has continually pushed herself to move onward and upward. She’s been an assistant editor on Fear the Walking Dead, The OA, and Outcast to name a few, before becoming a full-fledged editor of Z Nation for SyFy, editing the 4th and 9th episodes of the zombie apocalypse show’s final season, with its final episode airing December 28, 2018. She’s currently on the Editors Guild Board of Directors and is involved in the post-production community in Los Angeles.
And she’s only 30 years old.
(6) ARISIA. Bjo Trimble poses with fans in Star Trek uniforms.
The con also overcame horrible weather and other challenges:
And here’s a further example of the Arisia’s antiharassment measures:
(7) EXTRA CREDITS. The Extra Credits Sci Fi series on YouTube began Season 3 with “Tolkien and Herbert – The World Builder”
Mythic worldbuilding and intentionality just weren’t staples of science fiction until the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and Frank Herbert were published. We’ll be doing an analysis of The Lord of the Rings and Dune, respectively–works that still stand out today because they are meticulously crafted.
Here are links to playlists for the first two seasons:
- The first season covered the origins of SF up to John Campbell.
- The second season covered the Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke era up to the start of the New Wave.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born January 20, 1884 – A. Merritt. Early pulp writer whose career consisted of eight complete novels and a number of short stories. Gutenberg has all of all his novels and most of his stories available online. H. P. Lovecraft notes in a letter that he was a major influence upon his writings, and a number of authors including Michael Moorcock and Robert Bloch list him as being among their favorite authors.
- Born January 20, 1920 – DeForest Kelley. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy on the original Trek and a number of films that followed plus the animated series. Other genre appearances include voicing voicing Viking 1 in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars (his last acting work) and a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre entitled “Y..O..R..D..” being his only ones as he didn’t do SF Really preferring Westerners. (Died 1999.)
- Born January 20, 1926 – Patricia Neal. Best known to genre buffs for her film role as World War II widow Helen Benson in The Day the Earth Stood Still. She also appeared in Stranger from Venus, your usual British made flying saucer film. She shows up in the Eighties in Ghost Story based off a Peter Straub novel, and she did an episode of The Ghost Story series which was later retitled Circle Of Fear in hopes of getting better ratings (it didn’t, it was cancelled). If Kung Fu counts as genre, she did an appearance there. (Died 2010)
- Born January 20, 1934 – Tom Baker, 85. The Fourth Doctor and my introduction to Doctor Who. My favorite story? The Talons of Weng Chiang with of course the delicious added delight of his companion Leela played by Lousie Jameson. Even the worse of the stories, and there were truly shitty stories, were redeemed by him and his jelly babies. He did have a turn before being the Fourth Doctor as Sherlock Holmes In The Hound of the Baskervilles, and though not genre, he turns up as Rasputin early in his career in Nicholas and Alexandra! Being a working actor, he shows up in a number of low budget films early on such as The Vault of Horror, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, The Mutations, The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb and The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood. And weirdly enough, he’s Halvarth the Elf in a Czech made Dungeons & Dragons film which has a score of 10% on Rotten Tomatoes.
- Born January 20, 1946 – David Lynch, 73. Director of possibly the worst SF film ever made from a really great novel in the form of Dune. Went on to make Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me which is possibly one of the weirdest films ever made. (Well with Blue Velvet being a horror film also vying for top honors as well.) Oh and I know that I didn’t mention Eraserhead. You can talk about that film.
- Born January 20, 1948 – Nancy Kress, 71. Best known for her Hugo and Nebula Award winning Beggars in Spain and its sequels. Her latest novel is If Tomorrow Comes: Book 2 in the Yesterday’s Kin trilogy.
- Born January 20, 1958 – Kij Johnson, 61. Writer and associate director of The Center for the Study of Science Fiction the University of Kansas English Department which is I must say a cool genre thing indeed. She’s also worked for Tor, TSR and Dark Horse. Wow. Where was I? Oh about to mention her writings… if you not read her Japanese mythology based The Fox Woman, do so now as it’s superb. The sequel, Fudoki, is just as interesting. The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is a novella taking a classic Lovecraftian tale and giving a nice twist. Finally I’ll recommend her short story collection, At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories.
- Born January 20, 1964 – Francesca Buller, 55. Performer and wife of Ben Browder, yes that’s relevant as she’s been four different characters on Farscape, to wit she played the characters of Minister Ahkna, Raxil, ro-NA and M’Lee. Minister Ahkn is likely the one you remember her as being. Farscape is her entire genre acting career.
(9) IS BRAM STOKER SPINNING? It’s all about Scott Edelman:
(10) MAGICON. Fanac.org has added another historic video to its YouTube channel: “MagiCon (1992) Worldcon – Rusty Hevelin interviews Frank Robinson.”
MagiCon, the 50th Worldcon, was held in Orlando, Florida in 1992. In this video, Rusty Hevelin interviews fan, editor and author Frank Robinson on his career, both fannish and professional and on the early days of science fiction. Frank talks about the war years, the fanzines he published, the Ray Palmer era in magazines, his time at Rogue Magazine and lots more. Highlights include: working with Ray Palmer, discussion on the line between fan and pro writing, the story of George Pal’s production of ‘The Power’ from Frank’s story of that name, and Frank’s views on the impact of science fiction and of fantasy. Frank Robinson was a true devotee of the field – “Science fiction can change the world.”
(11) MUONS VS. MEGS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Those cheering for the stupid-large shark in last year’s The Meg, may now know what to blame for the lack of megalodons in the current age. A story in Quanta Magazine (“How Nearby Stellar Explosions Could Have Killed Off Large Animals”) explains a preprint paper (“Hypothesis: Muon Radiation Dose and Marine Megafaunal Extinction at the End-Pliocene Supernova”). Using iron-60 as a tracer, supernovae have been tracked to a time of mass extinction at the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary 2.6 million years ago. The paper’s authors make the leap from that to a hypothesis that a huge spike in muons that would have occurred when supernova radiation slammed into Earth’s atmosphere could have contributed to that extinction.
Even though Earth is floating in the void, it does not exist in a vacuum. The planet is constantly bombarded by stuff from space, including a daily deluge of micrometeorites and a shower of radiation from the sun and more-distant stars. Sometimes, things from space can maim or kill us, like the gargantuan asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. More often, stellar smithereens make their way to Earth and the moon and then peacefully settle, remaining for eternity, or at least until scientists dig them up.
[…] But the search for cosmic debris on Earth has a long history. Other researchers have demonstrated that it’s possible to find fossil evidence of astrophysical particles in Earth’s crust. Some researchers are pondering how these cosmic events affect Earth — even whether they have altered the course of evolution. A new study suggests that energetic particles from an exploding star may have contributed to the extinction of a number of megafauna, including the prehistoric monster shark megalodon, which went extinct at around the same time.
“It’s an interesting coincidence,” said Adrian Melott, an astrophysicist at the University of Kansas and the author of a new paper.
(12) STEPPING UP. “Girl Scouts of America offers badge in cybersecurity” – a BBC video report.
Girl Scouts of America is now offering girls as young as five a badge in cybersecurity.
It’s part of a drive to get more girls involved in science, technology engineering and mathematics from a young age.
An event in Silicon Valley gave scouts an opportunity to earn the first patch in the activity, with the help of some eggs.
(13) A LITTLE GETAWAY. The BBC asks “Is this the least romantic weekend ever?”
The road runs straight and black into the gloom of the snowy birch forest. It is -5C (23F), the sky is slate-grey and we’re in a steamy minibus full of strangers. Not very romantic you’re thinking, and I haven’t yet told you where we’re going.
My wife, Bee, had suggested a cheeky New Year break. Just the two of us, no kids. “Surprise me,” she’d said.
Then I met a bloke at a friend’s 50th. He told me how much he and his girlfriend had enjoyed a trip to Chernobyl – that’s right, the nuclear power station that blew up in the 1980s, causing the worst civilian nuclear disaster in history.
“Don’t worry,” my new friend declared, a large glass of wine in his hand. “It’s safe now.”
Well, she’d said she’d like something memorable…
(14) HARRIMAN REDUX. BBC considers the question — “Chang’e-4: Can anyone ‘own’ the Moon?”
Companies are looking at mining the surface of the Moon for precious materials. So what rules are there on humans exploiting and claiming ownership?
It’s almost 50 years since Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon. “That’s one small step for a man,” the US astronaut famously said, “one giant leap for mankind.”
Shortly afterwards, his colleague Buzz Aldrin joined him in bounding across the Sea of Tranquility. After descending from the steps of the Eagle lunar module, he gazed at the empty landscape and said: “Magnificent desolation.”
Since the Apollo 11 mission of July 1969, the Moon has remained largely untouched – no human has been there since 1972. But this could change soon, with several companies expressing an interest in exploring and, possibly, mining its surface for resources including gold, platinum and the rare earth minerals widely used in electronics.
(15) UNIDENTIFIED FEDERAL OUTLAYS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Piggybacking on a Washington Post article (paywalled here) and a Vice article (freely available here), SYFY Wire says, “The government’s secret UFO program has just been revealed, and it’s something out of a sci-fi movie.”
We didn’t know much about the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program until now, but apparently, the Department of Defense has been focusing its efforts far beyond potential threats on Earth.
The Defense Intelligence Agency has finally let the public in on at least some of what it’s been up to by recently releasing a list of 38 research titles that range from the weird to the downright bizarre. It would have never revealed these titles—on topics like invisibility cloaking, wormholes and extradimensional manipulation—if it wasn’t for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request put in by the director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Society, Steven Aftergood.
(16) STANDING TALL. BBC traces “How Japan’s skyscrapers are built to survive earthquakes” in a photo gallery with some interesting tech info. “Japan is home to some of the most resilient buildings in the world – and their secret lies in their capacity to dance as the ground moves beneath them.”
The bar is set by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. This was a large earthquake – of magnitude 7.9 – that devastated Tokyo and Yokohama, and killed more than 140,000 people.
For earthquakes of a greater magnitude than this benchmark, preserving buildings perfectly is no longer the goal. Any damage that does not cause a human casualty is acceptable.
“You design buildings to protect people’s lives,” says Ziggy Lubkowski, a seismic specialist at University College London. “That’s the minimum requirement.”
(17) ORDER IN THE TINY BRICK COURT. SYFY Wire reports “Ruth Bader Ginsburg will uphold the Constitution in Lego Movie 2: The Second Part cameo”.
If nothing else, the upcoming sequel to The Lego Movie will adhere strictly to the legal confines of the U.S. Constitution.
That’s because 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will have a cameo as a black-robed, law-defining minifigure in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, according to the film’s director, Mike Mitchell.
“These movies are so full of surprises. And we were thinking, ‘Who’s the last person you would think to see in a Lego film as a minifig?’ Ruth Bader Ginsburg!” Mitchell told USA Today. “And we’re all huge fans. It made us laugh to think of having her enter this world.”
[Thanks to Greg Hullender, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]