Smofcon 37, the convention for conrunners, taking place December
6-8 in Albuquerque, NM, asked Worldcon, and Smofcon bidders, and seated
Worldcon and Westercon committees to answer a questionnaire. The responses have
been posted at Smofcon’s website under Fannish Inquisition.
will also be a Q&A
the con on December 7 – publishing these questionnaires in advance helps keep
that time from being taken up with basic information. If you want to submit a
question, see the information at the end of this post.
following FAQs have been received from Bids and seated conventions:
Seven Worldcon committees and bidders (all except Nice in 2023) cosigned a statement (which many inserted at the beginning of their questionnaires) criticizing the Smofcon 37 committee for the short response deadline, the dramatic increase in number of questions asked from last year’s form, and use of Google Docs to communicate, which cannot be accessed in China. Smofcon 37’s chair Ron Oakes responded with a lengthy justification of what happened, while the FAQ coordinator apologized.
Submitting Questions to the Fannish
Inquisition: Here are the
This event is our traditional time for bids for future SMOFCon, Worldcons and NASFiCs. Our usual highlight event, and will mostly be run as it has been in the recent past with written questions through our able moderators. Those wishing to submit questions in advance may do so by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org, up to 6:30pm MST December 7, 2019 to ensure that we receive it prior to the convention.
[Update 12/07/2019: After this post was drafted last night, several more questionnaires were added to the website. The new links have been added here.]
Two bases will be chosen, one for
the 2020 Hugo Award and one for the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards. An artist may
submit multiple base designs and could be selected for both bases. The
winner(s) of the base design competition will receive a full (five-day)
Attending membership for CoNZealand, where they will be invited to take part in
the public unveiling of their design at the convention’s Opening Ceremonies,
Retro Hugo Award presentation, and at the Hugo Awards Ceremony. The bases will
also be added to the physical archive of Hugo base designs, and thus be part of
the Hugo History exhibit that travels to each Worldcon.
Detailed specifications can be
found at the link. They expect to need approximately 36 bases for the 2020 Hugo
Awards and 14 for the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards. As a guideline, bases should cost
no more than $250 (NZD) each to fabricate. The committee wants to
receive the bases in June 2020. (The convention starts July 29.)
The contest winner will be selected
by early February 2020.
CoNZealand has announced that 2020 Worldcon members will be able to book selected Wellington, New Zealand accommodations at special rates beginning December 3, 2019 at 9 a.m. (NZ time, UTC+13).
“We have negotiated special rates or discounts for members at 14 hotels in Wellington in close proximity of our venues,” say CoNZealand Co-Chairs Kelly Buehler and Norman Cates.
Details about the hotels and rates are posted at www.conzealand.nz/hotels; however, booking links and discount codes will only be provided beginning December 3 on the CoNZealand website.
The Co-Chairs advise, “Members need to be aware that the process for booking accommodation for CoNZealand is different from other Worldcons. Wellington doesn’t have a housing bureau or any other central booking agency. That means individuals will need to book their own rooms, and these will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.”
Members should also keep in mind that the convention will use two main locations, which are approximately 600 metres (about 4/10 of a mile) apart: The TSB Arena, Shed6 and the Intercontinental Hotel will be used is mostly for panels, workshops, dealers and exhibits during the day, and the Michael Fowler Centre and West Plaza will host large events like Masquerade, Hugo Ceremony, major speeches, dances, parties and the World Science Fiction Society business meeting.
Most hotels will need a credit card to guarantee the reservation, and some may place a charge on the card at the time of booking. Hotels also have different cancellation policies, meaning that after a certain date it will be expensive to change plans.
The individual conditions for each hotel are noted on the CoNZealand website.
“While we’re pleased we’re able to offer members special rates, we also note that visitors’ choice is not limited to the options listed on our website,” Buehler and Cates say. “Wellington boasts a large range of accommodation options, including backpackers and AirBnBs, and visitors are welcome to shop around for housing best suited to their needs and budgets. We look forward to seeing you all here!”
Bookings for people with accessibility needs opened on November 5, with information emailed directly to those who had indicated they had accessibility requirements in their membership registration.
(1) 2019 WORLD FANTASY AWARDS PHOTO. Lee Whiteside took
this picture of the winners and accepters at Sunday’s World Fantasy Awards
Left to right: Kathleen Jennings (accepting for Best Novella winner Kij Johnson), Emma Törzs (Best Short Fiction co-winner as well as accepting for co-winner Mel Kassel), C. L. Polk (Best Novel), Tobias S. Buckell (Best Collection with Paolo Bacigalupi), Reiko Murakami (accepting for Best Artist winner Rovina Cai), Irene Gallo (Best Anthology) and Rajan Khanna (accepting for Scott H. Andrews, Special Award – Nonprofessional)
The Official Watchmen Podcast launches after the third episode of the series airs on November 3rd. Over three episodes, host Craig Mazin (HBO and Sky’s Chernobyl) discusses Watchmen with its Executive Producer and Writer, Damon Lindelof. Join Mazin and Lindelof as they divulge narrative choices, explore the show’s connection with the groundbreaking graphic novel, and how it reflects our modern times. Make sure to watch episodes one through three of Watchmen before listening. The Official Watchmen Podcast is produced by HBO in conjunction with Pineapple Street Studios.
(3) MAKE ROOM. If Marie Kondo didn’t get you started
decluttering, maybe this post by Wil Wheaton will do it: “The Purge”. This excerpt
is followed by a moving account of the emotional work he went through in the
…As I was cleaning up my emotional baggage, working on strategies to protect myself from my abusers, and practicing mindfulness daily, I realized that I had a ton of STUFF just sitting around my house, cluttering up my physical living space the way my emotional trauma and pain was cluttering up my emotional space. So I made a call, and hired a professional organizer to come to my house, go through all my bullshit with me, and help me get rid of all the things I didn’t need any more.
This process was, in many ways, a metaphor.
We spent several days going through my closets, my game room, my storage spaces in my attic and shed, and eventually ended up with FIVE TRUCKLOADS of stuff I didn’t need. Most of it was clothes and books and things that we donated to shelters, which was really easy to unload. I acquire T-shirts so much, I regularly go through my wardrobe and unload half of what I have, so it’s easy to get rid of stuff without any emotional attachments.
But there were some things that were more difficult to get rid of, things that represented opportunities I once had but didn’t pursue, things that represented ideas that I was really into for a minute, but didn’t see through to completion, things that seemed like a good idea at the time but didn’t really fit into my life, etc….
The death of Yahoo Groups is a particular blow to text-based fan communities, which thrived on the platform in the 2000s. Yahoo message boards and email lists were crucial to the early days of fandom, both as a publishing platform and as a semi-private meeting place in the days before social media sites like Tumblr, Twitter, and Reddit. Yahoo Groups were particularly integral to Harry Potter and English-language anime fandoms, overlapping with the rise of Livejournal in the early 2000s. These fannish mailing lists were home to reams of fanfiction and in-depth commentary on pop culture, and spawned lifelong friendships (and, OK, the occasional deathly feud) within their communities.
AO3 has offered sanctuary to fanworks that are at risk because of
the Yahoo Groups shutdown:
We have two processes in place — one to move fanworks from Yahoo Groups onto the Archive Of Our Own, and one to download and preserve messages and other content from Yahoo Groups in file systems so moderators and Yahoo Groups users have more than nine weeks to figure out how to preserve and possibly share that content.
Open Doors can only import fanworks archived in Yahoo Groups onto the Archive of Our Own with the consent of the moderator(s). If you are a moderator and would like to import fanworks from your Yahoo Group(s) to AO3, you are welcome to contact Open Doors via our contact form.
…If you’re a moderator who’d like to potentially import your group to the AO3, contact Open Doors and we’ll talk to you about options. For more updates on what’s happening, see announcements or check back on this page.
If you’d like to directly help rescue teams and you want to save only fandom groups, you can use this form to nominate fandom groups OR you can go directly to the public spreadsheet to find nominated groups that still need downloading. (General downloading instructions are here.) If you want to help save fandom groups and many other non-fandom groups, see Archive Team’s chrome extension. Both are worthy efforts and both face a hard deadline of Dec 14.
(5) CONZEALAND MINORS POLICY. Here are some features of
Onsite Policy” for the 2020 Wordcon,
A minor is anyone under the age of 18. In New Zealand, the law requires that no minor under the age of 14 be left unattended. …
All Kid-in-tow and Child memberships must be tied to an adult membership. All minors under 16 should have a sticker on the back of their badge detailing up to two adults (over 18) who are responsible for them.
Due to the nature of licensing and regulation in regards to child care in New Zealand, it will not be possible for us to provide child care at CoNZealand. Please refer to the links to nanny and babysitting services at the end of this document.
There are three types of memberships for minors at CoNZealand:
Kid-in-tow (no charge)—born in or after 2015 (generally 5 and under)
Child ($105)—born in or after 2005 (generally 5-15)
Young Adult ($250)—born in or after 2000 (generally 15-20)
These age groups do not exactly align with the differing expectations for supervision of minors. New Zealand law requires that no child under the age of 14 be left unattended.
At the Hugo Awards ceremony at this summer’s Dublin Worldcon, Jeannette Ng was presented with the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Ng gave an outstanding and brave acceptance speech in which she called Campbell – the award’s namesake and one of the field’s most influential editors – a “fascist” and expressed solidarity with the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.
I am a past recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (2000) as well as a recipient of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award (2009). I believe I’m the only person to have won both of the Campbells, which, I think, gives me unique license to comment on Ng’s remarks, which have been met with a mixed reception from the field.
I think she was right – and seemly – to make her remarks….
From the escapades of an intern-turned-spy in Turkey’s capital to the tale of a priest in 15th Century Somerset, there might not be an obvious connection between the novels shortlisted for this year’s Staunch Book Prize.
But they have one thing in common: none of them involve physical or sexual violence towards women.
The prize, which is in its second year, recognises thrillers in which “no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered”.
But while some commend it for challenging stereotypes, others accuse it of ignoring social realities.
Speaking to the BBC, shortlisted authors and other writers share their views on why female characters are so often the victims of violence – and whether that needs to change.
…The concept of the Moon as a strategic base apparently dates at least back to 1948 and an article by Robert S. Richardson titled “Rocket Blitz From the Moon” in the mass-market Collier’s magazine. The article was beautifully illustrated by famed space artist Chesley Bonestell. In one Bonestell painting a bullet-shaped rocket (illogically equipped with large aerodynamic fins) is blasting off from a lunar crater. Another rocket stands prepped in the background and a lunar base is tucked into the side of a mountain. In the next illustration—probably Bonestell’s most dramatic painting ever—Manhattan has been blasted with at least three atomic bombs.
Richardson’s article focused primarily on the physics of the Moon: the low gravity, the lack of air, the trajectory and velocity calculations for firing rockets at the Earth. Rather than advocate that the United States should build a lunar rocket base, Richardson warned that another country could undertake a secret project to develop a lunar base and achieve strategic surprise against the United States. He did not clearly explain why the Moon would be a good place for basing missiles other than its presumed safety from Earth observation, and he noted that it would take at least a day for a rocket to reach Earth with its warhead. Considering that there were other means of basing long-range strategic weapons that did not involve the massive cost of a space program and a lunar base, Richardson’s idea was fanciful at best. But Collier’s was a large circulation magazine, not a science fiction pulp, and this short article certainly reached a big audience and probably fired some imaginations.
Richardson was not the only person writing about the possibilities of using space as a platform for attacking Earth. Robert Heinlein co-wrote a non-fiction article in August 1947, also for Collier’s, called “Flight into the Future.” Heinlein and his co-author, US Navy Captain Caleb Laning, suggested basing atomic weapons in orbit, and Heinlein later used this idea in his book Space Cadet. The 1950 movie Destination Moon, which Heinlein co-wrote, also echoed a similar theme (see “Heinlein’s ghost (part 1)”, The Space Review, April 9, 2007). One of the characters in the movie explains why a lunar base is necessary: “There is absolutely no way to stop an attack from outer space. The first country that can use the Moon for the launching of missiles will control the Earth. That, gentlemen, is the most important military fact of this century.”…
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born November 5, 1938 — Jim Steranko, 81. His breakthough series was the Sixties “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” feature in Marvel Comics’ Strange Tales and in the subsequent debut series. His design sensibility is widespread within and without the comics industry effecting even Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker’s Dracula as he created the conceptual art and character designs for them. He was inducted into the comic-book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2006.
Born November 5, 1942 — Frank Gasperik. Tuckerized in as a character in several novels including Lucifer’s Hammer as Mark Czescu, and into Footfall as Harry Reddington aka Hairy Red, and in Fallen Angels, all by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. He was a close friend of both and assisted Pournelle on his Byte column. To my knowledge, he has but two writing credits which are he co-wrote a story, “Janesfort War”, with Leslie Fish that was published in Pournelle’s War World collection, CoDominium: Revolt on War World, and “To Win the Peace” co-written with Leslie Fish which was published in John F. Carr’s War World: Takeover. He was a filk singer including here doing “The Green Hills of Earth”. (Died 2007.)
Born November 5, 1944 — Carol Anne Douglas, 75. Although she has two inarguably genre series In the Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator and the Sword and Circlet novels, I’m here to pitch to you her Social Justice Warrior credential series instead (and dissenters can now go elsewhere) in the form of her Midnight Louie series. Each novel is told in part from the point of view of Midnight Louie, the cat himself in a style some say is like that of a Damon Runyon character.
Born November 5, 1949 — Armin Shimerman, 70. Quark on Deep Space Nine. And Principal Snyder on Buffy the Vampire Slayer who if I remember correctly came to a very bad end. He had the recurring role of Pascal on Beauty and the Beast. He also played Professor George Edward Challenger in the later Nineties Lost World film.
Born November 5, 1960 — ?Tilda Swinton, 59. Her take as Rosetta/Ruby/Marinne/Olive in Teknolust might be the most weird genre role she’s done but I like her take as The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as her best role to date. Mind you her Gabriel in Constantinewas frelling strange…
Born November 5, 1961 — Sam Rockwell, 58. First in our area of interest as the Head Thug in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’ve got him next being Francis Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, not a role I knew. Ahhh, Guy Fleegman on Galaxy Quest. And lastly, he was Zaphod Beeblebroxin The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Born November 5, 1964 — Famke Janssen, 55. Her first genre role was Xenia Onatopp in the Bond film GoldenEye and her longest running genre role was as Jean Grey / Phoenix (Dark Phoenix) in the X-Men film series. Counting horror which I do, she’s got a number of genre appearance including Lord of Illusions, The Wolverine, House on Haunted Hill, Deep Rising and Star Trek: The Next Generation,
Born November 5, 1970 — Tamzin Outhwaite, 49. She was Detective Inspector Rebecca Flint on Paradox, a SF police series that ran for just five episodes and received really harsh reviews. Her only other SF role was as the Captain in an Eleventh Doctor story, “Nightmare in Silver” which was scripted by Neil Gaiman.
“Just by word of mouth and also on the library’s social media pages like Facebook, we saw a lot of patrons say, ‘Oh my God. This is so great. I’m gonna bring back my books. I’ve been hesitant to come back to the library because I owe these fines,'” Telli said.
Chicago became the nation’s first major city to forgo overdue fines, which went into effect Oct. 1 and erased all outstanding fees. Mayor Lori Lightfoot framed the policy change as her latest attempt to remove barriers that deter youth and low-income patrons.
Lightfoot is also making an effort to open libraries on Sundays. The mayor’s 2020 budget includes an $18 million property tax increase to honor her promise to establish Sunday hours at Chicago’s 81 libraries. Currently, the Harold Washington central library and three regional libraries are open 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
(11) NEVER? WELL, HARDLY EVER. Even Book View Café’s Madeleine E. Robins will sometimes “RTFM*”.
I am, by nature, a dive-in-and-figure-it-out sort of technology user. This may come from my early days as a computer user, when my then room-mate and sometime business partner dropped a box on my desk and said “we’re doing a user’s manual for X Corp. Can you learn this” — this being PageMaker, the forerunner of InDesign, a page layout program–“by next week? I should have copy for you then.”
Reader, I did not rise up and slay him; I learned the program, eventually well enough that I taught classes in it. I still use those skills: one of the things I do at my day job is to use InDesign to produce the posters, ads, and other marketing materials that the museum I work at needs for promotion….
…In the past 20 years, as we all know, the movie business has changed on all fronts. But the most ominous change has happened stealthily and under cover of night: the gradual but steady elimination of risk. Many films today are perfect products manufactured for immediate consumption. Many of them are well made by teams of talented individuals. All the same, they lack something essential to cinema: the unifying vision of an individual artist. Because, of course, the individual artist is the riskiest factor of all.
I’m certainly not implying that movies should be a subsidized art form, or that they ever were. When the Hollywood studio system was still alive and well, the tension between the artists and the people who ran the business was constant and intense, but it was a productive tension that gave us some of the greatest films ever made — in the words of Bob Dylan, the best of them were “heroic and visionary.”
Today, that tension is gone, and there are some in the business with absolute indifference to the very question of art and an attitude toward the history of cinema that is both dismissive and proprietary — a lethal combination. The situation, sadly, is that we now have two separate fields: There’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema. They still overlap from time to time, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. And I fear that the financial dominance of one is being used to marginalize and even belittle the existence of the other….
(13) ELRIC MEETS DUNGEON SYNTH. A Moorcock-obsessed United Kingdom musician who goes by the name Elric is working in the “dungeon synth” genre (an eerie combination of goth, classical, and folk tunes played on 80s synths). The releases are on Bandcamp and are named “Antihero”, “Stormbringer”, and “Elric of Melnibone”. They are all “name your price.” As Bandcamp said about one of the releases:
It’s safe to say that fantasy literature and role-playing games (the tabletop and the video variety) loom large in the world of Dungeon Synth, and Elric expertly combines both of them. Inspired by the chiptune soundtracks of games like Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana as well as (obviously) the fantasy novels of Michael Moorcock, Elric’s music is the perfect soundtrack to crawling through (16-bit) alcoves, searching for abandoned potions and treasure while trying to avoid the hungry ghouls hidden in the shadows.”
High up in the Arctic Ocean close to the North Pole, a solitary ship floats in darkness, moored to an expansive piece of ice.
If all goes according to plan the ship will remain with that ice for an entire year, so that scientists on board can study the Arctic system and how it’s responding to climate change.
It’s a project called the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC). But finding a piece of ice thick and stable enough to host the mission’s science and logistics is not easy, and there may be challenges for the ice and the scientists in the months ahead.
…The MOSAiC expedition – about a decade in the planning – is an international collaboration involving hundreds of scientists and almost 20 countries. Their goal is to better understand the changing Arctic and improve how it’s represented in climate models.
“We need this information because the Arctic is changing so rapidly, and it’s a place that we have not observed very well in the past,” says Matthew Shupe, an atmospheric scientist with the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a co-coordinator for MOSAiC.
The last time scientists looked at the Arctic Ocean system so comprehensively was more than 20 years ago. But the Arctic has been warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, and the picture there has changed dramatically.
That’s why these researchers want a year out in the ice: to get an updated look at how the physics, the chemistry, and the biology of this area work during all four seasons.
In France, climate change is already impacting one of the country’s most emblematic industries — winemaking. French vintners say heat, drought and erratic weather is altering the landscape and their centuries-old way of working.
Brothers Remi and Gregoire Couppé are fourth generation winemakers who craft a top vintage, grand cru St Emilion. In the last few years they’ve been confronted with some new challenges. Forty-four-year-old Remi Couppé says there’s no denying the weather is getting hotter and drier.
“Because of the grapes. They show us the change,” he says. “Especially in alcohol. The alcohol level has been getting higher in the last five years.” These days, the alcohol content by volume can reach 15%, he says; when he was a boy, “it was maximum 12 [% ABV]. It’s causing me some problems when I start the vinification process, because I have to use new yeast to avoid too much alcohol. It’s really new for me.”
The higher alcohol levels come from increased sugar in the grapes due to more sun and heat. What’s also new are some of the plants sprouting up between the vines. Couppé picks a flowery-looking weed, holding it up to the blazing sun. “This plant is from the south of Europe and I never saw it here in my life before four years ago.”
Couppé says you have to be careful when using the mechanized harvester now, because such plants can get mixed in and ad a taste to the grapes.
The brothers say in the past three years they’ve completely stopped a process called “stripping,” where most of the vine leaves are removed just before the harvest. Now they need the leaves’ shade to keep the grapes from burning on the vine. Couppé points to a shriveled, sun-exposed cluster of grapes next to the dark, plump ones still shaded by the leaves.
Data sent back by the two Voyager spacecraft have shed new light on the structure of the Solar System.
Forty-two years after they were launched, the spacecraft are still going strong and exploring the outer reaches of our cosmic neighbourhood.
By analysing data sent back by the probes, scientists have worked out the shape of the vast magnetic bubble that surrounds the Sun.
The two spacecraft are now more than 10 billion miles from Earth.
Researchers detail their findings in six separate studies published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
“We had no good quantitative idea how big this bubble is that the Sun creates around itself with its solar wind – ionised plasma that’s speeding away from the Sun radially in all directions,” said Ed Stone, the longstanding project scientist for the missions.
[Thanks to Daniel Dern, Lee Whiteside, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip
Hitchcock, Rob Thornton, Cora Buhlert, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse
Wooster, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title
credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]
…Thomas’s investigation leads to one of the most radiant and thought-provoking descriptions of the potentials of fantastic literature. In particular, what Thomas terms “the dark fantastic” — fantasy that includes but hinders or stereotypes people of color — is problematic. Still, if we’re to write what Thomas terms “an emancipatory dark fantastic” — stories that break the cycle of the tragic, sacrificial Dark Girl, and instead, reveal her as complex, defiant, central, and vibrant — we may ultimately succeed in “decolonizing our fantasies and our dreams.” And, as Thomas suggests, the ability to reconsider and reinterpret “the crisis of race in our storied imagination has the potential to make our world anew.”
…Thomas wants us to consider difference as relative and circumscribed by power. Who has the power to label someone as different or monstrous?
(3) FINALLY RETURNING TO LONG FORM. Only her second, Susanna
Clarke’s next novel will be sff and appear next fall.
Bloomsbury nabbed world English rights to the sophomore novel by the author of the 2004 bestseller Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Susanna Clarke’s Piranesiis slated for a global laydown in September 2020. A Bloomsbury spokesperson said the novel is set in “a richly imagined, very unusual world.” The title character lives in a place called the House and is needed by his friend, the Other, to work on a scientific project. The publisher went on: “Piranesi records his findings in his journal. Then messages begin to appear; all is not what it seems. A terrible truth unravels as evidence emerges of another person and perhaps even another world outside the House’s walls.” Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has, per Bloomsbury, sold more than four million copies worldwide. Clarke, who’s won both a Hugo Award and a World Fantasy Award, was represented by Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown.
Fathom Events and CBS Home Entertainment have scheduled a Nov. 14 showing for “The Twilight Zone: A 60th Anniversary Celebration” at more than 600 North American cinemas.
The shows will combine digitally restored versions of six episodes with an all-new documentary short titled “Remembering Rod Serling” about the life, imagination and creativity of the show’s creator. It’s the first time that original episodes of the series, which ran from 1959 to 1964, have been presented on the big screen.
Fathom Events CEO Ray Nutt said, “‘The Twilight Zone’ has inspired many filmmakers and storytellers, so it is a great honor to be able to bring these classic stories to the big screen, and to offer such an incisive look into the mind of the man who created them.”
Do you have disability or accessibility requests for your accommodation in Wellington? We are busy confirming hotel information to share with our members later this year, and need to know your current accessibility requests as part of this planning by 15 October 2019.
If you have hotel accessibility needs, please email email@example.com with details of your hotel accessibility requests and an indication of the number of nights you think you will be staying as well.
(6) PRISING OFF THE LID. Alasdair
Stuart previews this week’s Full Lid (27th September 2019). It
opens with —
— the UK strand of Netflix’s new anthology show [Criminal UK] which is massively impressive and COLD in a way very little drama manages to be. Then it’s a very welcome return for Warren Ellis, Jason Howard and co’s Trees from Image Comics. The third series is a Strugatskian deep dive into one of the oddest places in the scarred and painfully human world of the series and it’s off to a great start. Finally, I take a look at Ad Astra, equal parts towering spectacle, moments of surprising emotion and near total tonal misfire.
(7) NELSON OBIT. VentriloquistJimmy Nelson, Jimmy Nelson – known for his Farfel and Danny O’Day
characters – died September 24 at age 90.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
September 29, 1967 — Trek aired the “The Changeling” episode. When Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered in 1979, many fans suggested that the plot was simply a remake of this episode.
September 29, 1967 — Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons first premiered into Supermarionation. This process was used extensively in the puppet series of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born September 29, 1873 — Theodore Lorch. He might have the earliest birthdate in these Birthday Honors so far. He’s the High Priest in 1936’s Flash Gordon serial. He’s also shows up (uncredited originally) as Kane’s Council Member in the 1939 Buck Rogers serial as well. (Died 1947.)
Born September 29, 1930 — Naura Hayden. Her best-known film appearance is a starring role in The Angry Red Planet where she was Dr. Iris “Irish” Ryan. Yes, she was a redhead. Unless you can her uncredited appearance as a harem girl in Son of Sinbad, this is her only film or series genre role. Though in 1955, she joined a Canadian musical cast of Li’l Abner. This was made possible by Sidney W. Pink who wrote the script for The Angry Red Planet. (Died 2013.)
Born September 29, 1942 — Ian McShane, 77. Setting aside Deadwood, which is the favorite series of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, where he’s Al Swearengen, he portrays Mr. Wednesday in American Gods.and it turns out, although I don’t remember it, he was Dr. Robert Bryson in Babylon 5: The River of Souls film. And he’s Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Now you tell me what your favorite genre role is by him.
Born September 29, 1944 — Isla Blair, 75. Her first credited film appearance was in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as an art gallery assistant. She was Isabella in The King’s Demons, a Fifth Doctor story. She’s in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the wife of her real-life husband Julian Glover, and credited as Mrs. Glover.
Born September 29, 1952 — Lou Stathis. During the last four years of his life, he was an editor for Vertigo. He had a fascinating work history including collaborating with cartoonist Matt Howarth by co-writing the first few issues of Those Annoying Post Bros. (Kindle has them available.) He was also a columnist and editor for Heavy Metal and a columnist for Ted White’s Fantastic magazine during the late Seventies through early Eighties. His fanwriting included the “Urban Blitz” column for OGH’s Scientifriction (the first installment appearing in 1977, Issue 9, page 29). (Died 1997.)
Born September 29, 1959 — Scott MacDonald, 60. He’s been on four Trek shows: Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and Enterprise. He’s also up on Space Above and Beyond, Babylon 5, X-Files, Stargate: SG-1,Carnivale and Threshold. He was also in Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman, a film which you can guess the rating at Rotten Tomatoes is.
Born September 29, 1961 — Nicholas Briggs, 58. A Whovian among Whoians. First off he’s the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the new series of shows. Second he’s the Executive Producer of Big Finish Productions, the audioworks company that has produced more Doctor Who, Torchwood and other related works that you’d think possible. Third he’s appeared as himself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
Born September 29, 1969 — Erika Eleniak, 50. Her film debut was a small part in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial as one of Elliott’s classmates. Her first film role as an adult was as Vicki De Soto, a victim of the creature in the 1988 horror remake The Blob. She’s Vice-Captain Aurora in Dracula 3000, a film that had to have a disclaimer that it wasn’t a sequel to Dracula 2000.
Born September 29, 1981 — Shay Astar, 38. At age eleven, she portrayed Isabella, the imaginary friend of a young girl aboard the Enterprise in the Next Generation episode “Imaginary Friend”. She’s best known for her work as August Leffler, a recurring character on 3rd Rock from the Sun. Her only other genre role is as Mary Elroy in the “A Tale of Two Sweeties (February 25, 1958)” episode of Quantum Leap.
Tales featuring anthropomorphic animals have been around as long as there have been storytellers to spin them, from Aesop’s Fables to Reynard the Fox to Alice in Wonderland. The genre really took off following the explosion of furry fandom in the 21st century, with talking animals featuring in everything from science fiction to fantasy to LGBTQ coming-out stories.
In his lifetime, Fred Patten (1940–2018)—one of the founders of furry fandom and a scholar of anthropomorphic animal literature—authored hundreds of book reviews that comprise a comprehensive critical survey of the genre. This selected compilation provides an overview from 1784 through the 2010s, covering such popular novels as Watership Down and Redwall, along with forgotten gems like The Stray Lamb and Where the Blue Begins, and science fiction works like Sundiver and Decision at Doona.
(11) EMSH EXHIBITION. “Dream Dance: The Art of Ed Emshwiller”, the first major monographic exhibition of the artist’s groundbreaking work in film, video, and visual art, will be presented at the Lightbox Film Center in Philadelphia from October 18-December 7. Full details and ticket information at the link. See Vimeo preview here.
With an immensely diverse body of creative work, Ed Emshwiller (1925-90) is perhaps one of the most significant yet under-recognized artists of the latter half of the 20th century.
Emshwiller’s career spanned abstract expressionist painting, commercial illustration, film, video and computer art, and collaborations with dancers, choreographers, and composers. Dream Dance includes the preservation of two of Emshwiller’s earliest films, Dance Chromatic (1959) and Lifelines (1960), which will be screened at Lightbox along with 19 of his other films—some of which have never been publicly presented in Philadelphia—as well as notable films by other filmmakers for which he served as cinematographer.
A concurrent exhibition at the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery highlights Emshwiller’s visual and fine art background, including video works, early paintings, notes, sketches, ephemera, and many early science fiction cover paintings. Dream Dance is a full scale investigation of the artist’s legacy, presenting his multidisciplinary oeuvre to a new generation of audiences.
Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have epic fantasy, urban fantasy, military fantasy, dark fantasy, Arthurian fantasy, Asian fantasy, Wuxia, paranormal mystery, space opera, military science fiction, time travel romance, Steampunk, LitRPG, horror, ghosts, fae, pirates, space marines, conscientious objectors, traffickers, trailblazers, time travel, crime-busting witches, crime-busting werewolves, literary characters come to life, Arthur and Merlin, defiant empires and much more.
In the beginning of the film, it’s established that in order to retire a replicant, they must be subject to a VK test to determine their empathy levels. When Holden is sent to give the test to Leon, why doesn’t he recognize him? It’s established that all replicants have dossiers, because we see their mugshots lined up later on in the film. This proves there’s a unique database that exists of every replicant’s face on record.
Also, if it comes to identifying replicants in the streets, why can’t Deckard or other Blade Runners use an EMF reader to locate them? They have machine components under their synthetic flesh, so their electromagnetic impulses would assuredly register on such devices.
The Mars Society convention program includes a series of plenary talks, panel discussions and public debates on important issues related to planning for a human mission to the Red Planet and general space exploration.
Conference highlights will include an update about NASA’s Curiosity rover with Ashwin Vasavada, a talk about SpaceX and its mission to Mars by Paul Wooster, a debate about NASA’s proposed Lunar Gateway project, an update about the Mars InSight mission by Tom Hoffman, a review by Shannon Rupert of her experiences with Mars analog research, the finals of the Mars Colony Prize Contest involving student teams from around the world and, as always, an address by Mars Society President Robert Zubrin.
[Thanks to Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chip
Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Sherrill Patten, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge,
and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing
editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
By JJ: To assist Hugo nominators, listed below are the series believed to be eligible as of this writing for the 2020 Best Series Hugo next year *†.
Each series name is followed by the main author name(s) and the 2019-published work(s).
Feel free to add missing series and the name of the 2019-eligible work in the comments, and I will get them included in the main post.
I just ask that suggesters (1) first do a Find on author surname on this page, to check whether the series is already on the list, and (2) then make an effort to verify that a series does indeed have 3 volumes, that it has a 2019-published work, and that it has likely met the 240,000 word threshold; in the past I have spent a considerable amount of time trying to verify suggested series, only to discover that they had fewer than 3 volumes, or nothing published in the current year, or weren’t anything close to 240,000 words (e.g., children’s books). Self-published works may or may not be added to the list at my discretion.
Note that the 2017 Hugo Administrator ruled that nominations for a series and one of its subseries will not be combined. Therefore, when nominating a subseries work, think carefully under which series name it should be nominated. If the subseries does not yet meet the 3-volume, 240,000 word count threshold, then the main series name should be nominated. If the subseries does meet that threshold, then the subseries name should probably be nominated. This will ensure that another subseries in the same universe, or the main series itself, would still be eligible next year if this subseries is a finalist this year.
The 2018 and 2019 Hugo Administrators ruled that the 2017 Best Series Finalists, although the result of a one-time category, were subject to the same re-qualification requirements as the 2018 Best Series Finalists, and it is likely this will be the rule going forward; bear that in mind when making your nominations.
Co-chairs Norman Cates and Kelly Buehler have announced that CoNZealand, the 2020 Worldcon, will present Retro Hugo Awards for 1945, acknowledging notable works published in 1944.
The Hugos are the most prestigious award in the science fiction and fantasy genres. First presented in 1953, they honor literature, media and fan activities, and have become the key event held during the annual World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon).
Since 1996, Worldcon committees also have had the option of presenting Retrospective (Retro) awards to honor works published in the earlier years of Worldcon when no Hugos were awarded. No Hugo Awards were given out in 1945, when Worldcon was on hiatus due to World War II, and CoNZealand will take place 75 years after the awards would have occurred.
The 2019 Irish Worldcon, held in Dublin last month, presented the 1944 Retro Hugos for the 1943 calendar year; Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Ray Bradbury were amongst the winners.
“Some of the works created during the World War II years have become classics and it is a great opportunity to be able to formally celebrate them,” said Cates and Buehler.
Nominations for the 1945 Retro Hugos will open at the same time as the 2020 Hugo Award nominations.
In addition to the Hugos and Retro Hugos, CoNZealand will host the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, which recognize excellence in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents.
(1) ASTOUNDING AWARD. CoNZealand will use the new name immediately. (At least one very well-known business meeting regular has been trying behind the scenes to convince other conrunners they don’t have the authority to make the change, and failed.)
Ng, who wrote the fantasy novel “Under the Pendulum Sun,” said in an interview on Wednesday that she was delighted by the decision. “It’s a good move away from honoring a completely obnoxious man who kept a lot of people out of the genre, who kept a lot of people from writing, who shaped the genre to his own image.” Thanks to the change, she added, “we’re now celebrating a little more neutrally a piece of history that’s not attached to his name.”
Becky Chambers just earned a Hugo Award for her blisteringly optimistic Wayfarers trilogy, and coming off that win, she’s shifting gears with a new, standalone novella, To Be Taught, If Fortunate. In the 22nd century, scientists make a big breakthrough that will help astronauts adapt to the harsh realities of space, opening up distant destinations in the cosmos to human explorers.
One team of astronauts ventures out to a solar system 15 light years away, and as they transform and adapt to their new home, so too is Earth. Publishers Weekly gave the book a starred review, saying that “Chambers packs an immense amount of story into a novella worthy of full-length praise.”
TAKEAWAYS. Eric Wong and
Greg Hullender cover their Ireland tour and Dublin 2019 in “Dublin
2019 Recap “. Says Greg, “Yeah, it had a few issues, but we had fun.”
Greg was on the “Fanzines Now!” panel, and that was the only panel we participated in this year. This panel was a discussion about the state of fanzines today. We had a good mix of people doing online fanzines (Rocket Stack Rank, Journey Planet, and Nerds of a Feather Flock Together) as well as Joe Siclari, who runs the Fanac History Project.
As usual for fanzine panels, the audience included lots of people involved with the traditional paper-based fanzines. Somewhat to our surprise, they were broadly supportive of modern online efforts. Joe remarked at one point that he had thought he’d be the conservative one on the panel, but he found himself standing up for the idea that “a blog is a fanzine, even if it only has one contributor, and even if no one ever comments on it.”
In 1979, the year before he was awarded the World Fantasy Professional Award, DMG published Acts of Providence, The Road of Azrael, Lack Colossus, The Black Wolf, Tales of the Werewolf Clan, Jewels ofGwahlur, Lovecraft’s Providence and Adjacent Parts, Mayhem on Bear Creek, and Hawks of Outremer.
The year after Grant won the award, Stephen King approached him with the rights to publish the first edition of any and all books in the Dark Tower series. King didn’t believe they would have a wide appeal among his general audience.
(5) TIPTREE DISCUSSION. Geoff
Ryman’s thoughts about the call to rename the award (which the Motherboard
today declined to do) is here on
Facebook and attracted comments from writers including David Gerrold, Nisi
Shawl and Eileen Gunn.
(6) MONGOLIAN HANDMAID. Ferret Bueller checks in from a
Mongolian bookstore once again. (Eat your heart out Locus!)
I don’t think I’ve had free time to visit File770 more than three times the past several months, but I saw the newest Mongolian SFF translation at the bookstore near my office today and immediately thought I’d pass on a picture if anyone was interested?. First is the full view and then the picture cropped to give a good look at the book at the top left, Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale (the translation of the title is exact). It’s next to Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in a Time of Cholera (though that title is rendered in Mongolian as Love in a Time of Plague), both of which were released about a month or two ago, maybe longer.
(7) DICKS OBIT. Perhaps the most prolific contributor to Doctor
Who, Terence Dicks (1935-2019) died August 29. Working as a writer and also serving as the program’s script
editor from 1968 to 1974, he was credited in 156 episodes of Doctor
Who. He wrote several Doctor Who serials and scores of novelizations. His final short story Save Yourself will be published next month in BBC Books’ Doctor Who: The Target Storybook. He wrote for TV’s The Avengers, the soap opera Crossroads,
and co-created and wrote for the series Moonbase 3. He also worked as a
producer on Sunday Classics. He authored several children’s series,
including about a cat call Magnificent Max and, his longest running, another
about a golden retriever The Adventures of Goliath. He received the 2015 Scribe Grandmaster career award for
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born September 2, 1899 — Martin Miller. He’s in Doctor Who with the First Doctor as Kublai Khan in “Mighty Kublai Khan” and “Assassin at Peking”. He’s Professor Spencer in The Avengers in “The Master Minds” and he shows up in The Prisoner as Number Fifty Four in “It’s Your Funeral”. He also showed up as Dutrov in Department S in the series finale, “The Perfect Operation”. (Died 1969)
Born September 2, 1909 — David Stern III. Creator of the Francis the Talking Mule character that became the star of seven popular Universal-International film comedies. Stern adapting his own script for the first entry, simply titled Francis. (Died 2003.)
Born September 2, 1911 — Eileen Way. She appeared on Doctor Who in An Unearthly Child, a First Doctor story, as Old Mother Karela the series first on-screen death, and in The Creature from the Pit, a Fourth Doctor story, as Karela. She would appear yet again in the 1966 Peter Cushing film Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. (as Old Woman), based on the serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth. (Died 1994.)
Born September 2, 1936 — Gwyn Thomas. Welsh poet and academic who translated Tales from the Mabinogion with Kevin Crossley-Holland. “Chwedl Taliesin”, “The Tale of Taliesin” was a short story by them as well. By the way my SJW credit is named Taliesin. And he tells a lots of tales. (Died 2016.)
Born September 2, 1964 — Keanu Reeves, 55. Ok Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a lot better film than its sequel. And I find the Matrix franchiseto be a pretentious mess that almost works. And let’s not talk about Johnny Mnemonic which bore little resemblance to the brilliant Gibson story.
Born September 2, 1966 — Salma Hayek, 53. Her performance as Santanico Pandemonium in From Dusk till Dawn is quite excellent. I can’t say the same for her performance as Rita Escobar in Wild Wild Wild West which got her nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress. I do like her as Francesca Giggles in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over.
Born September 2, 1968 — Kristen Cloke, 51. Captain Shane Vansen in the unfortunately short-lived Space: Above and Beyond, a damn fine series. She has one-offs in Quantum Leap, The X-Files, Millennium and The Others. She co-wrote with Shannon Hamblin an episode of The X-Files, “Rm9sbG93ZXJz” which is base64 code for “Followers”.
Joaquin Phoenix stars as Batman’s arch-nemesis in a new origin-story movie. But is this dark, dingy drama any better than any of the other supervillain films?
Now that Hollywood studios are running out of superheroes to make films about, they’re turning to supervillains instead, starting with Suicide Squad and Venom, and moving onto Batman’s smiley-faced arch enemy, the Joker. Todd Phillips’ revisionist origin story is different from those other entries in the bad-guy sub-genre, though. Devoid of fist fights and bank robberies, Batcaves and Batmobiles, Joker is a dark, dingy drama about urban decay, alienation, and anti-capitalist protests, with a distinctive retro vision and a riveting central performance by Joaquin Phoenix. Whether these differences make it much better than other supervillain movies, however, is open to question.
The film doesn’t specify when it is set, but its Gotham City is modelled on the graffiti-sprayed, litter-strewn pre-gentrification New York of Taxi Driver and Midnight Cowboy. This is the home of Arthur Fleck, played by Phoenix as a greasy, disturbingly emaciated figure with ribs and vertebrae poking out at all angles. No male actor has been this skinny since Christian Bale – yes, Batman himself – starved himself to stick-insect proportions for The Machinist.
…The film traces his gradual uncovering of family secrets, and his slow descent into homicidal mania – and I do mean slow. Joker doesn’t have much of a plot, let alone any subplots, so there are only a couple of major sequences that haven’t already been in the trailers. Phoenix is a magnificent presence – always believable, how outrageous he becomes – and I was quite happy to sit and watch him skipping around in his outsized shoes and striking balletic poses on beautifully grimy staircases. But, however unusual its grungy 70s styling may be, Joker is ultimately nothing but a flimsy, two-hour supervillain origin movie, so the viewer is just waiting for Arthur to become the fully-fledged Clown Prince of Crime. If it had been chopped down to an hour and then intercut with a Batman plot, what a film that might have been.
In May 1937, John W. Campbell, Jr. was looking for work. He was in good company — the unemployment rate in the United States was fluctuating around 15%, reflecting the lingering economic malaise of the Great Depression. Despite his degree in Physics and some success as a writer of science fiction stories, Campbell hadn’t found a steady gig.
This was to change in the Fall of that year when Campbell was hired as the Editor of Astounding Stories, where he reigned until his death in 1971….
The bottom of this page begins a critical passage that relates Campbell’s relationship with Mort Weisinger, a former editor of Science Fiction Digest / Fantasy Manazine, the most prominent fanzine of the mid-1930s. At the time of this letter, Weisinger had crossed into the professional ranks as Editor of Thrilling Wonder Stories.
This page essentially says that Weisinger taught Campbell how to be an editor, and wrote a letter of recommendation for him in that vein. It seems likely that both the advice and the reference played key roles in Campbell acquiring his job at Astounding. This is a tremendous testament to the role that prominent fans played in establishing science fiction as an industry during this period.
What do hideous mall t-shirts, emo bands from the mid-aughts, and gorgeously-wrought realist novels about dissolving marriages have in common? Simply this assertion: Life Sucks. And it does suck, undoubtedly, even for the happiest and/or richest among us, not one of whom is immune from heartbreak, hemorrhoids, or getting mercilessly ridiculed online.
Still, at certain points in life’s parade of humiliation and physical decay almost all of us feel a longing—sometimes fleeting, sometimes sustained—for it to never actually end. The live-forever impulse is, we know, driving all manner of frantic, crackpot-ish behavior in the fringier corners of the tech-world; but will the nerds really pull through for us on this one? What are our actual chances, at this moment in time, of living forever? For this week’s Giz Asks, we spoke with a number of experts to find out.
Answers are essayed by Alice
Parker (“Dean’s Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering,
University of Southern California, whose research focuses on
reverse-engineering the human brain, among other things”), Lindsay Wu (“Senior Research Fellow and Co-Head
of the Laboratory for Ageing Research at the University of New South Wales,
Sydney”), David Sinclair (“Professor of Genetics and
co-Director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for the Biology of Aging at Harvard
Medical School, whose research focuses on why we age and how to slow its
effects”), and Mark
McCormick (“Assistant Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular
Biology, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center”).
In the nearly two decades since a co-founder of Dragon Con was accused of molesting teenage boys, a strange legal odyssey has unfolded, including a proposed move to Israel, a trial delay because of a presidential election and an extradition by air ambulance.
Now, Ed Kramer faces new charges that could send him to prison for the rest of his life.
As one Disney movie continues succeeding at the box office, another falls another spot down on the all-time charts. Thanks to another steady weekend at the box office, The Lion King hyper-realistic reimagining has passed Joss Whedon’s fan-favorite The Avengers on the worldwide all-time box office chart. The Lion King is now seventh on the chart with $1.56 billion while the Marvel Studios hit drops to eighth with $1.52b.
It appears that’s the highest Jon Favreau’s remake will go on the worldwide charts as Jurassic World is sixth with a hefty $1.67b.
Three full truck loads of dinosaur fossils were shipped out of the “Mission Jurassic” dig site in North Wyoming as scientists brought the 80-day excavation season to an end.
The specimens included skeletal parts from giant herbivorous sauropods and meat-eating theropods.
The fossils will now be cleaned to see precisely which species they represent.
Mission Jurassic is a major undertaking involving researchers from the US, the UK and the Netherlands.
It is led by The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis (TCMI) which has taken out a 20-year lease on a square mile (260 hectares) of ranch land.
The BBC was given special access to the site in July.
The fossil beds exposed at the secret location in the Big Horn Basin record dinosaur activity around 150 million years ago – and the summer’s work confirms the site is particularly rich.
One three-tonne block of rock lifted on the final day last week was embedded with multiple remains all stacked one on top of the other.
“Overall we must have moved something like 500-600 bones; it’s just a huge amount of material we’ve been able to shift in one year,” said Prof Phil Manning, a University of Manchester palaeontologist and TCMI scientist in residence.
A British inventor has taken up the challenge to deliver a letter across open water through donning a jet engine-powered suit, 85 years after the idea of rocket post failed.
Richard Browning has followed in the footsteps of German entrepreneur Gerhard Zucker, who tried to send mail by rocket to the Isle of Wight, in 1934.
The distance from Hurst Castle in Lymington to Fort Albert in Freshwater is 1.3 km, and is the furthest Richard has ever flown.
(18) MEANWHILE, IN THE REAL WORLD. BBC reminds
everyone about “The ‘ghost work’ powering tech magic”. Chip
Hitchcock notes, “It’s ironic that Amazon’s collaborative tool is named
Mechanical Turk, considering the fraud behind the original.”
Armies of workers help power the technological wizardry that is reshaping our lives – but they are invisible and their jobs are precarious.
Next time you ask Alexa a question, your voice might fly halfway round the world to Chennai, India, where human workers toil away to fine tune her artificial intelligence- (AI-) powered responses.
In nine-hour shifts workers transcribe audio, classify words and phrases into categories, and evaluate responses from Amazon’s digital assistant. It’s one of many Amazon centres around the world where “data associates” prepare millions of chunks of data to train Alexa’s AI.
The work can be relentless, says a former employee. He was crunching roughly 700 Alexa questions a day with strict benchmarks for how long each should take. Workers’ performance figures were circulated daily and targets crept up over the time he spent there. The work was monotonous, but the volume and pace were mentally exhausting, and he eventually quit.
“It’s not possible to work like a machine every day,” he says. “The system is built in such a way that every time you have to give 100%. From the point of a human, it’s not possible.”
To users, digital assistants, search engines, social media and streaming services seem like software wizardry, but their smooth running relies on armies of humans whose contribution often goes unrecognised.
(19) WIKIPEDIA TODAY. When he saw the Wikipedia had selected “the Nebula Award for Best Short story” for on Today’s Featured Article, John King Tarpinian snapped his screen. So to speak.
There are so many words and phrases that we use in science fiction—and even science—without giving it much thought. But where did we get terms like “death ray,” “terraforming,” “hive mind,” “telepathy,” and “parallel universe”?
(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Egg” on YouTube is an animated adaptation of a short
story by Andy Weir about the meaning of life
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Rich Horton, Mike Kennedy, JJ,
Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Darrah Chavey, Cat Eldridge, Hampus
Eckerman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to
File 770 contributing editor of the day Contrarius.]
NASA civil servants and contractors at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida are bracing for high winds and rain from Hurricane Dorian. Ahead of the storm, they are securing rocket stages, spacecraft assembly areas and even hauling a 6.7-million-pound mobile launch tower, designed for the huge rocket being built for the Artemis moon program, back to the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building for safekeeping.
The 355-foot-tall gantry structure, carried atop a squat Apollo-era crawler-transporter, is scheduled to begin the 4.2-mile trip from launch complex 39B back to the protection of the VAB at dawn Friday — a journey that’s expected to take more than eight hours to complete.
Thursday (15th August) was the first full day – I spent a while in the morning doing some running for the Chair’s office – up and down the elevator with bits and pieces – highly important bits and pieces, of course! Then I got to attend two brilliant panels – ‘Invasions and the Irish Imagination’ and ‘When scientists write science fiction’ – before a quick bite for lunch with my friend Karina, and then a 3-hour Writers’ Workshop with the amazing Diane Duane. What was great about this workshop was the amazing DD, and the other fantastic participants – I made 2 lovely new friends – Eliana all the way from Paraguay, and Caoilfhionn from Kilkenny – we hung out at the bar lots together. There was an ‘interesting’ bit in the middle of the workshop when I was terribly rude and had to answer a phone call from my Featured Artist, Jim, who was having technical difficulties at his presentation – SO SO sorry to interrupt the flow of the workshop, but we got it sorted. The opening ceremony then was great, including the Retro Hugos. And seeing 3 members of my (real-life, work) company onstage with the rousing choir at the close : ‘where the strawberry fields…’.
…GRRM The Irish Connection with Colm Lundberg (Moderator) William Simpson, Peadar O’Guilin and Parris McBride Martin. It was a really enjoyable panel on their Irish Connections and great to have it confirmed that Westeros is indeed a map of Ireland upside down!
Afterwards he walked right by me and I said hello which is probably the closest I’ll ever get to him! We got chatting with William Simpson who is absolutely lovely, very passionate about climate change as is Abigail. William drew all of the storyboards for Game of Thrones and while we were chatting he drew a dragon for Abigail in her notebook! So very cool.
(3) NEXT YEAR’S WORLDCON. CoNZealand invites everyone to view
their promotional video from the Dublin 2019 closing ceremony, featuring
their Author Guests of Honour, Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon, NZ Artist Guest
of Honour, Greg Broadmore, and special guests, Tania Taylor, Sir Richard
Taylor, and the Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Right Honourable Jacinda
“I just want to thank all the people who have contributed to my GoFundMe appeal. I’m still weak, but I can walk about 50 feet without a cane or a walker. Carol and I have been overwhelmed by your numbers, and by the absolute love we read in your messages. I’m back to work — not as fast as I’d wish — but I did sell 3 short stories in the last two weeks, so at least you know your good wishes and outporing of affection aren’t going into a black hole. I have been moved beyond belief.”
The donations passed $19,000 today.
(6) ROBOTS AND KNIGHTS. Jewish in Seattle recently published two items of interest to Filers. The first
is a short story entitled “Next
Year In” by Merridawn Duckler. It won the magazine’s short story
…The day of Team meeting for the spring robot fashion launch, it was raining hard. Other protectorates have man-made precipitation but here in New Cascadia we still have the real thing, from little eyelash dusters, to the full, sideways sliding downpour. I like real rain. I’ve experienced the human-made stuff and it’s just not the same; too uniform, each drop perfect, dries too fast. Plus, it stops. Still, I complain about the rain like everyone else. The last thing we need is for more people to emigrate here….
…And Yiddish? One Arthurian figure, Wigalois, has piqued the interest of Annegret Oehme, a University of Washington assistant professor of Germanics who specializes in pre-modern literatures and languages. She argues that the story of Wigalois (pronounced vee-gah-loy) is an intercultural production between medieval German and Jewish societies. Not only does Wigalois appear in Yiddish, but Oehme argues that it interacted with and influenced Germanic versions of the story.
“It’s really important to see that the Jewish community was familiar with courtly literature, they participated with transmission, and didn’t just read and produce religious texts,” Oehme says.
The son of prominent Arthurian knight Gawain, Wigalois grows up in a fairylike land with his mother before setting off to find his father in Camelot. While at court, he accepts the quest of a maiden seeking aid for her kingdom, which is under siege. Battling dragons and giants along the way, Wigalois successfully defeats the usurper and frees the kingdom, becomes a knight, and marries a princess.
The tale packs enough action for an HBO series, yet Oehme argues the real stakes of the story lie in what it tells us about early modern Yiddish culture….
(7) HINES’ SAD ANNOUNCEMENT. Jim C. Hines told Facebook
readers that his wife, Amy, died yesterday after a nine-month fight with
cancer. Read more on Facebook.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born August 30, 1797 — Mary Shelley. Author of the Gothic novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus which I’ll admit that I’ve not read. Who here has read it? It certainly has spawned a multiverse of novels and films since it came, some quite good, some quite bad. (Died 1851.)
Born August 30, 1896 — Raymond Massey. In 1936, he starred in Things to Come, a film adaptation by H.G. Wells of his own novel The Shape of Things to Come. Other than several appearances on Night Gallery forty years later, that’s it for genre appearances. (Died 1983.)
Born August 30, 1942 — Judith Moffett, 77. She won the first Theodore Sturgeon Award with her story “Surviving” and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer at the Nolacon II for her Pennterra novel. Asimov wrote an introduction for the book and published it under his Isaac Asimov Presents series.
Born August 30, 1943 — Robert Crumb, 76. He’s here because ISFDB lists him as the illustrator of The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick which is likely they say an interview that Dick did with Gregg Rickman and published in Rickman’s The Last Testament. They’re also listing the cover art for Edward Abby’s The Monkey Wrench Gang as genre but that’s a very generous definition of genre.
Born August 30, 1955 — Jeannette Holloman. She was one of the founding members of the Greater Columbia Costumers Guild and she was a participant at masquerades at Worldcon, CostumeCon, and other conventions. Her costumes were featured in The Costume Makers Art and Thread magazine. (Died 2019.)
Born August 30, 1963 — Michael Chiklis, 56. He was The Thing in two first Fantastic Four films, and Jim Powell on the the No Ordinary Family series which I’ve never heard of. He was on American Horror Story for its fourth season, American Horror Story: Freak Show as Dell Toledo. The following year he was cast as Nathaniel Barnes, in the second season of Gotham, in a recurring role. And he voiced Lt. Jan Agusta in Heavy Gear: The Animated Series.
Born August 30, 1965 — Laeta Kalogridis, 54. She was an executive producer of the short-lived excellent Birds of Prey series and she co-wrote the screenplays for Terminator Genisys and Alita: Battle Angel. She recently was the creator and executive producer of Altered Carbon. She also has a screenwriting credit for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, a film the fanboys hate but which I really like.
Born August 30, 1967 — Frederique van der Wal, 52. She appeared in exactly one genre film — Wild Wild West as Amazonia. Oh well.
Born August 30, 1972 — Cameron Diaz, 47. She first shows as Tina Carlyle in The Mask, an amazing film. She voices Princess Fiona in the Shrek franchise. While dating Tom Cruise, she’s an uncredited Bus passengers in Minority Report. Oh and she’s Lenore Case in the cringingly awful Green Hornet.
Born August 30, 1980 — Angel Coulby, 39. She is best known as Gwen (Guinevere) in the BBC’s Merlin. She also shows up in Doctor Who as Katherine in the “The Girl in the Fireplace”, a Tenth Doctor story. She also voices Tanusha ‘Kayo’ Kyrano in the revived Thunderbirds Are Go.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
Incidental Comics by Grant Snider – “Reader’s Block”
(11) SUPERREALISM. In “Review:
The Boys (Amazon)”, Camestros Felapton indicates the show suffers from
certain inconsistencies in storytelling.
…Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) is a young man whose girlfriend is brutally killed accidentally by the superhero A-Train — a Flash like superhero whose superspeed essentially explodes Campbell’s girlfriend in front of him. This early scene sets the confused tone of the series: gory, comical and shocking, with events often set up like jokes but then played out for emotional impact.
A distraught Hughie is recruited by Billy Butcher — Karl Urban sporting the accent he used as Skurge in Thor: Ragnarok. Butcher is a foul-mouthed cockney rogue CIA agent on his own personal mission of revenge against the seven….
By the time a fetus is 6 months old, it is producing electrical signals recognizable as brain waves.
And clusters of lab-grown human brain cells known as organoids seem to follow a similar schedule, researchers reported Thursday in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
“After these organoids are in that six-to-nine-months range, that’s when [the electrical patterns] start to look a lot like what you’d see with a preterm infant,” says Alysson Muotri, director of the stem cell program at the University of California, San Diego.
The finding suggests that organoids can help scientists study the earliest phase of human brain development and perhaps reveal the earliest biological beginnings of conditions such as schizophrenia and autism.
But the presence of humanlike brain waves in a dish is also likely to focus attention on the ethical questions surrounding this sort of research.
Two real-life hoaxes managed to fool the creator of Sherlock Holmes – and they help to reveal our own ‘metacognitive illusions’ that influence our memory and perception.
On 21 March 1919, a committee including a paranormal investigator, a viscountess, a mind reader, a Scotland Yard detective, and a coroner were all assembled in a small flat in Bloomsbury, London. “I have spent years performing with fake mediums all over the world in order to disprove spiritualism,” declared their host. “Now at last, I have come across a genuine medium.”
The woman who entered the room was wearing a veil that concealed the lower half of her face. She began with a séance which involved a demonstration of “clairvoyance”. Each member of the committee had been instructed to bring with them a small personal item or written letter. Before the medium arrived all the objects were placed into a bag, which was then locked inside a box.
The medium held the locked box in her lap, and while the committee watched carefully, she proceeded to not only name the objects within, but to describe them in vivid detail. She divined that one of the objects was a ring belonging to the deceased son of the paranormal investigator, and even read the faded inscription.
…The creator of Sherlock Holmes declared that he was highly impressed with the clairvoyant demonstration, although he said he would need to see the ghost again before he would attest to its paranormality.
Today, Conan Doyle is best known for his detective stories, but the good doctor was also an illustrious paranormal investigator who often failed to see the frauds in front of his eyes. He famously fell for the photographs of the Cottingley Fairies, for instance, faked by two children – Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright. He attended séances, too. As a spiritualist, Conan Doyle also asserted that he witnessed mediums make direct contact with the spirits of the dead.
…Conan Doyle’s reactions to these hoaxes are clearly problematic, but they are also an illustration of psychological phenomena known as “metacognitive illusions”.
“Metacognition” is the idea of thinking about thinking. By extension, metacognitive illusions occur when people hold mistaken beliefs about their own cognitive systems. We all tend to feel like we are experts about the nature of our own perceptions and memories. After all, we generally perceive things and remember things successfully throughout most of our day-to-day lives. However, in many cases our intuitions about our own cognitive systems can be surprisingly unreliable – we are not always nearly as observant as we think we are and our memories can be surprisingly malleable.
In case there were any lingering doubts, Sarah Connor is most definitely back. Reprising her signature role for the first time in nearly 30 years, Linda Hamilton asserts her authority in the latest trailer for Terminator: Dark Fate by delivering the franchise’s most famous line … you know the one. (Watch the trailer.)
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Danny Sichel,
Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Tolan, Jerry
Kaufman, and Chip Hitchcock, for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to
File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]
With Dublin 2019 – An Irish Worldcon ending its five-day run, CoNZealand has picked up the reins as host of the next World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon).
CoNZealand will be the 78th Worldcon and will take place from Wednesday, July 29 to Sunday, August 2, 2020. Guests of Honour are the authors Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon, New Zealand artist Greg Broadmore, and fandom star Rose Mitchell. George R.R. Martin, a longtime friend of Worldcon, will be Toastmaster.
New Zealand is the second southern hemisphere country ever to host a Worldcon, following Australia, where four Worldcons have taken place. New Zealand’s own National Science Fiction Convention has been running since 1979, and the country has attracted significant fan tourism since the release of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, which were filmed and produced in New Zealand.
“We’re excited to be able to bring one of the world’s most important science fiction conventions to New Zealand fans, and bring the international science fiction community to Middle Earth,” said CoNZealand Co-Chairs Norman Cates and Kelly Buehler.
2019 sold out, with more than 5,800 members attending and more than 7,380
memberships sold in total including supporters. In addition, more than 500 day
passes were sold.
“It has been a thrill to welcome fans to Ireland and I want to thank
everyone who contributed to the experience,” said Dublin 2019 chairman
James Bacon. “That includes programme participants, volunteers, and all
the members, as well as venue staff. We wish CoNZealand every success with New
Zealand’s debut Worldcon.”