Pixel Scroll 9/18 Brackets and Black Dice

(1) Some of these antics would be perfectly at home in the U.S.

While China’s vice president is meeting with the respectable author of Three-Body Problem, other officials are occupied cracking down on fake aliens and zombies says the New York Times.

Science fiction and fantasy tales have been growing in popularity in China, where some creative efforts have earned official endorsement. Vice President Li Yuanchao met this week with authors — including Liu Cixin, who wrote the Hugo Award-winning novel “The Three-Body Problem” — and called on them to inspire young people’s interest in science and encourage “faith in realizing the Chinese Dream,” the state news agency Xinhua reported.

But even as the Chinese leadership offered praise for the writers, the police have been less tolerant of social media users’ flexing their creativity. Several people have been punished in the past few years for relaying tales of the walking undead and extraterrestrial invaders for fear of touching off public panic….

In 2013, a farmer in Shandong Province claimed to have encountered five extraterrestrial creatures, one of whom was killed by an electric fence. The farmer’s story, and photos of the purported alien corpse he kept in a freezer, drew widespread attention online. The local authorities investigated and held a news conference to announce that the dead alien was actually made of rubber, Southern Metropolis Daily reported. The farmer was sentenced to five days of detention for disturbing public order, Xinhua reported.

I guess if Orson Welles had pulled his “War of the Worlds” stunt in China, they’d have made him the star of 20,000 Years in Sing Sing instead of Citizen Kane….

(2) Your 2015 Ig Nobel Prize winners include these scientific advancements —

PHYSICS PRIZE — Patricia Yang [USA and TAIWAN], David Hu [USA and TAIWAN], and Jonathan Pham, Jerome Choo [USA], for testing the biological principle that nearly all mammals empty their bladders in about 21 seconds (plus or minus 13 seconds).

REFERENCE: “Duration of Urination Does Not Change With Body Size,” Patricia J. Yang, Jonathan Pham, Jerome Choo, and David L. Hu, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014: 201402289.

LITERATURE PRIZE — Mark Dingemanse [THE NETHERLANDS, USA], Francisco Torreira [THE NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM, USA], and Nick J. Enfield [AUSTRALIA, THE NETHERLANDS], for discovering that the word “huh?” (or its equivalent) seems to exist in every human language — and for not being quite sure why.

REFERENCE: “Is ‘Huh?’ a universal word? Conversational infrastructure and the convergent evolution of linguistic items,” Mark Dingemanse, Francisco Torreira, and Nick J. Enfield, PLOS ONE, 2013.

(3) “How did George R.R. Martin end up at Janis Ian’s wedding in Toronto?” asks CBC Radio in its post “Janis Ian’s Toronto wedding, where Game of Thrones’ creator was a best man”.

That’s a question we had after reading this Sunday’s New York Times. The newspaper featured a story on the well-known musician’s relationship with Patricia Snyder. It turns out they were the first same-sex couple to be featured in the newspaper’s ‘Vows’ section. You can read more here.

But, it was a photograph published farther down the article that also caught our attention. A short caption reads as follows:

“In 2003, before same-sex marriage was legal in the United States, the couple wed at Toronto’s City Hall. Author of the ‘Game of Thrones’ series George R.R. Martin was best man.”

 

janis-ian-wedding-with-george-r-r-martin

Seated: David Axler, Mike Resnick, Parris McBride, George R.R. Martin. The couple: Janis Ian and Patricia Snyder. The minister is Malcolm St. Clair. Photo by Steve Payne.

This turned out to be a simple why-was-this-celebrity-at-another-celebrity’s-wedding post, not a sly juxtaposition of real life Martin attending a wedding with a reference to the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones. That is left as an exercise for cheesy fan bloggers. Oops.

To make up for it, this fan blogger can name all the people in the photo, which the CBC incompletely captions, “In 2003, before same-sex marriage was legal in the United States, the couple wed at Toronto’s City Hall. Author of the ‘Game of Thrones’ series George R. R. Martin, fourth from the left, was a best man. (Steve Payne)”

They are, in order, David Axler, Mike Resnick, Parris McBride, George R.R. Martin. The minister is Malcolm St. Clair.

(4) Lunar rocks brought back by Apollo astronauts have a tendency to change characteristics once scientists start handling them notes a Space.com article “Some Apollo Moon Samples ‘Crumbling to Dust’”

Between 1969 and 1972, Apollo astronauts brought 842 lbs. (382 kilograms) of lunar rocks and dirt back to Earth. Eighty-three percent of that material remains unexamined in nitrogen storage at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Cooper told Space.com via email. The other 17 percent has been allocated to researchers for study in a number of different laboratories….

The most likely explanation for the degradation is damage caused by water vapor, the scientists say.

“Leaching by water vapor causes the specific surface area of a lunar soil sample to multiply, and a system of pores develops,” they wrote in the study, which was published online last week in the journal Nature Geoscience. “These structural changes may be attributed to the opening of existing, but previously unavailable, pore structure or the creation of new surfaces through fracturing of cement or dissolution of amorphous particles.”

The new results suggest that the Apollo soil samples being studied by scientists are not pristine, Cooper said.

“People should not assume that the Apollo lunar soil samples remain representative of soils found in the natural environment of the moon, especially if they have been exposed to air,” she told Space.com via email. “In addition to particle size distribution, other geotechnical properties (such as strength and cohesion) must also have changed. Also, for example, water found in the sample might be taken to be lunar in origin when in fact it is the result of contamination.”

(5) Yesterday I linked to Kameron Hurley’s commentary, from the viewpoint of someone with ascending sales. Today at Mad Genius Club, Pam Uphoff, who hasn’t had the success yet (“my sales had flat-lined”), talks about the jump start she got from the site’s Labor Day Sale.

Umm, how about the book that had just crept past 200 sales in almost three years selling over a hundred in a week? Call me gob smacked. It briefly broke into the top fifty in its sub category. Call me impressed. And that was before the KU pages counts skyrocketed.

(6) Here are more positive numbers about another market segment — “Nielsen Summit Shows the Data Behind the Children’s Book Boom” – from Publisher Weekly.

The book team at Nielsen held its second-annual Children’s Book Summit at Convene in downtown NYC on September 15, to discuss trends found in their data for publishers to make use of, in an effort to better reach consumers. The days’ panels touched on many aspects of the industry, including adult readers of YA, suburban teens, and multicultural consumers.

Jonathan Nowell, president of Nielsen Book, began the day with plenty of figures: for the time period between January 2014 to September 2015, children’s book sales are up 12.6% in the U.S., 28% in Brazil, and 10% in China, with 11 of the 20 bestselling books in the U.S. being children’s titles. The proliferation of tablets has brought the age kids start reading e-books down from seven to five. And board books have seen 20% compound growth over the last three years.

(7) Naturally, the Neil Gaiman Humble Bundle is selling great guns. It went live on September 9 and was raising huge amounts in no time at all.

It’s broken all the previous Humble Bundle records for Books.  As I type this, about 7000 people have already bought the  Bundle. It’s raised $133,000.

The bundle is on sale for four more days.

Gaiman isn’t the only author in it, and the others aren’t necessarily donating their proceeds to charity like he is –

I’m giving my entire portion of Humble Bundle creator-money directly back to the Gaiman Foundation. (My agent Merrilee has donated her fee, too, so 100% of what comes in to me goes to the Foundation.) There are, obviously, other authors and artists and publishers involved. Some have asked for their money to go to charities, and some are, perfectly sensibly, paying the rent and buying food with it.

But no doubt the Gaiman rarities in the bundle are driving sales.

Books that were long out of print, stories and such that collectors would pay hundreds of dollars for, obscure and uncollected comics and pamphlets and magazine articles. Even the things I am still vaguely embarrassed by (like the Duran Duran biography, a hardcover copy of which, as I said, can set you back thousands of dollars these days, if you can find one).

Books which have been out of print for 30 years, like GHASTLY BEYOND BELIEF, a collection of quotations from the strangest SF and Fantasy books and movies that Kim Newman and I made when we were 23 and 24 respectively. Things that were absolutely private and never before sold, like LOVE FISHIE, a book of poems and letters from my daughter Maddy (aged 8) to me, and from me back to Maddy, that was made into a book (with help from my assistant the Fabulous Lorraine) as a gift for my 42nd birthday.

Two long out-of-print books from Knockabout Comics: OUTRAGEOUS TALES FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT and SEVEN DEADLY SINS, with stories written and or drawn by me, Alan Moore, Hunt Emerson, Dave Gibbons, Dave McKean and a host of others.

Rare out-of-print comics stories by me and Bryan Talbot, by me and Mark Buckingham, even by me and Bryan Talbot and Mark Buckingham.

There would be small-press short story & suchlike collections like ANGELS AND VISITATIONS and the LITTLE GOLD BOOK OF GHASTLY STUFF containing stories that went on to win awards and be collected in the more big, official collections (Smoke and Mirrors, etc), and stories no-one has seen since, not to mention non-fiction articles, like the one about the effects of alcohol on a writer, or the one where I stayed out for 24 hours on the streets of Soho, that are now only whispered in rumours.

There would even be a short story of mine, “Manuscript Found in a Milk Bottle”, published in 1985, that is so bad I’ve never let it be reprinted. Not even to give young writers hope that if I was that awful once, there is hope for all of them.

Han Solo mini fridge(8) I need hardly tell you what the Han Solo mini-fridge is a reference to, although this post on Yahoo! Games drops a heavy hint —

 The refrigerator’s design references, of course, the state that the hero is left in at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. Wal-Mart notes that your hibernating Solo fridge is an “official” Star Wars product, and can hold up to six cans of soda.

That silly thing could wind up on my Christmas list….

(9) Rocket Stack Rank (RSR) aims to help casual SF fans efficiently identify, obtain, and discuss great original short fiction to nominate for the annual Hugo Awards.

“My husband and I have created a new website to make it easy for people to find good SF short stories and figure out how to read them online,” explains Gregory Hullender. “Lots of people are setting up sites to recommend stories, but I think we’re the only ones to put a lot of work into helping people find online copies once they’ve decided they wanted to read a particular story.”

Here’s what they’re planning to do.

After witnessing the problems with this year’s Hugo Awards, we decided to create a website to encourage readers of science fiction and fantasy to read and nominate more short fiction. Lots of other people are doing this too, but we specifically wanted to tackle the problem of helping people get copies of short stories, novelettes, and novellas once they decided they wanted to read them.

The three big professional magazines, Analog, Asimov’s, and F&SF are all available online by subscription, but they don’t make it easy to get back-issues online. Our 2015 Magazines page covers just about every possible way to do this, and there are good strategies for people with tablets and smartphones, people with eReaders like Kindles and Kobos, people who want to read everything on their desktop or laptop, and even people who want to stick with print.

Our rating system, on a scale from one to five stars, aims to produce a small “bucket” of five-star stories by the end of the year. These are the stories we think are award-worthy, and there should be few enough of them that a person with limited time could read just that subset and find things worth nominating. Since we’re trying to apply fixed standards rather than hit a particular target, we’re not sure how many there will be in each category, but it won’t be more than a dozen or so.

(10) You can tell Fred Kiesche is Paul Weimer’s friend.

(11) This Screaming Marmot loop needs an caption from File 770 readers. (Via Boing Boing.)

[Thanks to Daniel Monson, Will R., Susan de Guardiola, Gary Farber, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Shambles.]