Pixel Scroll 4/14/20 You’re The Nosferatu, On The Grave’d Durante

(1) TOPICAL TV IDEAS. The Vulture asked TV’s idle talent to take up the challenge: “If I Wrote a Coronavirus Episode”. Tagline: “Tina Fey, Mike Schur, and 35 more TV writers on what their characters would do in a pandemic.” If you scroll way down there’s one for Picard, although most of the others are funnier. By comparison, this bit for Sheldon Cooper is spot on —

“I’m not one to brag, but I was practicing social distancing back when it was called ‘Who’s the weird kid alone in the corner?’ And at the risk of sounding like a hipster, I was washing my hands 30 times a day before it was cool. I do, however, miss being with my friends. Sitting around eating Chinese takeout, sharing my scientific ideas and correcting theirs … that’s my happy place.” —Sheldon Cooper, Ph.D., The Big Bang Theory (Chuck Lorre and Steve Molaro)

(2) SUPPORT AVAILABLE FOR WRITERS. Publishers Lunch has a standing free reference page listing organizations that offer emergency grants to authors and other creators. Two examples:

Poets & Writers has created a COVID-19 Relief Fund to “provide emergency assistance to writers having difficulty meeting their basic needs.” They will provide grants of up to $1,000 to approximately 80 writers in April. The board allocated $50,000, which has been supplemented by gifts from supporters including Michael Piestch and Zibby Owens.

We Need Diverse Books will provide emergency grants to diverse authors, illustrators, and publishing professionals “who are experiencing dire financial need.” They will give grants of $500 each, and are limiting the first round of applications to 70.

(3) A WORD IN DEFENSE. From Publishers Weekly:“Internet Archive Responds to Senator’s Concern Over National Emergency Library”.

Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle is defending the legality of the organization’s National Emergency Library initiative to a U.S. Senator who last week raised concerns that the effort may be infringing the rights of authors and publishers.

…In his three-page response to [Senator] Tillis, Kahle rejected those criticisms, and explained the creation of National Emergency Library using the Senator’s constituents to illustrate its utility.

“Your constituents have paid for millions of books they currently cannot access,” Kahle explained, adding that North Carolina’s public libraries house more than 15 million print book volumes in 323 library branches across the state. “The massive public investment paid for by taxpaying citizens is unavailable to the very people who funded it,” he writes. “The National Emergency Library was envisioned to meet this challenge of providing digital access to print materials, helping teachers, students and communities gain access to books while their schools and libraries are closed.”

Kahle further maintained that “the vast majority” of the books in the National Emergency Library, mostly 20th Century books, are not commercially available in e-book form, and said the collection contains no books published in the last five years.

“[For] access to those books, readers and students can continue to turn to services like OverDrive and hoopla,” Kahle explained, making what defenders say is a critical distinction: commercial providers offer patrons access to e-books; the National Emergency Library is providing stopgap digital access to scans of paper books that are locked away in shuttered libraries and schools. “That is where the National Emergency Library fills the gap,” Kahle insists.

(4) LEGACY. [Item by Steve Davidson.] From Faaneds on Facebook: A friend is going through the personal effects of a passed fan and came across a number of LOCs by Michael W. Waite. Does anyone here know if there are any family members/friends who would appreciate having these?

(5) HAVE A LISTEN. Wil Wheaton links to his reading of a Doctorow story — “Radio Free Burrito Presents: Return to Pleasure Island by Cory Doctorow”.

I was talking to my friend, Cory, over the weekend, and we decided that we would each read and release something the other had written, because why not?

I’m a huge fan and admirer of Cory both as a human and as a creative person. He’s been my primary mentor since I started writing professionally, and I owe him more than I’ll ever be able to properly repay. It’s not unreasonable to say that, without Cory’s guidance and kindness, I wouldn’t be a published author.

So it’s with excitement (and a little trepidation, because I don’t want to disappoint my friend) that I chose one of Cory’s fantastic short stories from way back in 1999, which he describes this way:

This is the story of the ogres who run the concession stands on Pleasure Island, where Pinocchio’s friend Lampwick turned into a donkey. Like much of my stuff, this has a tie-in with Walt Disney World; the idea came to me on the Pinocchio ride in the Magic Kingdom, in 1993.

You can grab my narration at my Soundcloud. I hope you enjoy it.

(Public domain ebook versions of the story are also available at Project Gutenberg.)

(6) SPACE VERSE. Asimov’s Science Fiction’s Emily Hockaday posted the “National Poetry Month Podcast 2020” today.

Happy National Poetry Month! We have a dozen poems here pulled from past and current issues to celebrate our poets this year. Each of these poems is striking in its own way, and I hope you enjoy the many voices and styles to come. First up is “All Saints Day” by Lisa Bellamy, read by Diana Marie Delgado, followed by “All the Weight” by Holly Day, read by Emily Hockaday, “The Celestial Body” read and written by Leslie J. Anderson, “The Destroyer is in Doubt about Net Neutrality” read and written by Martin Ott, “Unlooping” read and written by Marie Vibbert, “Attack of the 50 foot Woman” read and written by Ron Koertge, “The Language of Water,” by Jane Yolen, read by Monica Wendel, “Archaeologists Uncover Bones, Bifocals, a Tricycle” read and written by Steven Withrow, “Objects in Space” by Josh Pearce, read by R.J. Carey, “Small Certainties” by Sara Polsky, read by Emily Hockaday, “Palate of the Babel Fish” read and written by Todd Dillard, and finally “After a Year of Solitude” by Lora Gray, read by Jackie Sherbow.

(7) SOUNDS PRETTY NUTTY. In the Washington Post, as part of his annual celebration of Squirrel Week, John Kelly has a piece about the Norse god Ratatoskr, a squirrel with a giant horn in the center of his head who ferried messages up and down the great World Tree. “Meet Ratatoskr, mischievous messenger squirrel to the Viking gods”. Incidentally, long before there was File 770, Bruce Pelz’ Ratatosk was the fannish newzine of record.

…Most of what we know about the stories Vikings told each other comes from Snorri Sturluson, who was an Icelandic poet and lawyer, a combination not quite so rare then as now. Snorri (1179-1241) was ambitious. He journeyed from Iceland to Norway to ingratiate himself with leaders there and pick up skills….

(8) IN WORDS OF MORE THAN ONE SYLLABLE. “’I May Have Gone Too Far In A Few Places’ And 9 Other Famous George Lucas Star Wars Quotes” compiled by ScreenRant.

In May of 1944, George Walton Lucas Jr. was born, twenty-three years later, he graduated from USC, and a decade after that he changed the world forever by releasing Star Wars. The Star Wars franchise is a phenomenon like no other, and nobody, not even the maker himself, could have predicted its impact.

The headline quote is #9. Here is ScreenRant’s commentary:

…Before The Last Jedi came to be, the prequels were the kings of controversy. After seeing a rough cut of his film in 1999, Lucas said the famous quote to a small screening room “I may have gone too far in a few places.”

Ironically, in behind the scenes videos of The Phantom Menace, Lucas talks about how the key to these types of films is not to go too far. This quote shows Lucas’ self-awareness and references the disjointedness of the movie.

(9) SULLIVAN OBIT. Ann Sullivan, the Disney animator behind The Little Mermaid and The Lion King, has died at the age of 91. She is the third member of the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement home to die as a result of the coronavirus. The Hollywood Reporter paid tribute.

… Sullivan re-entered the business in 1973, when she started at Filmnation Hanna Barbera. She later returned to Disney, landing credits on studio titles from the late-1980s to the mid-2000s. Sullivan worked in the paint lab on…1989’s The Little Mermaid…and 1992’s Cool World. She painted for the 1990 short The Prince and the Pauper; 1994’s The Lion King; 1995’s Pocahontas; 1997’s Hercules; 1999’s Tarzan and Fantasia 2000; 2000’s The Emperor’s New Groove; and 2002’s Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet. Sullivan also is credited as having worked as a cel painter on 1994’s The Pagemaster and for performing additional caps and painting on 2004’s Home on the Range.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 14, 2010 — In the United States, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (in French, Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec) premiered. It was directed by Luc Besson from his own screenplay. It was produced by Virginie Besson-Silla, his wife.  It starred Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, Philippe Nahon, Gilles Lellouche and Jean-Paul Rouve. It was narrated by Bernard Lanneau. It is rather loosely based upon “Adèle and the Beast” and “Mummies on Parade” by Jacques Tardi. Critics world-wide loved it, and the box office was very good, but the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a oddly muted 54% rating. Be advised the Shout Factory! DVD is a censored PG rating version but the Blu-Ray is uncensored. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 14, 1929 Gerry Anderson. English television and film producer, director, writer and if need be voice artist.  Thunderbirds which ran for thirty-two episodes was I think the best of his puppet based shows though Captain Scarlet and the MysteronsFireball XL5 and Stingray are definitely also worth seeing. Later on, he would move into live productions with Space: 1999 being the last production under the partnership of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 14, 1935 Jack McDevitt, 85. If you read nothing else by him, read Time Travelers Never Die as it’s a great riff on the paradoxes of time travel. If you’ve got quite a bit of time, his Alex Benedict space opera series is a fresh approach to conflict between two alien races.
  • Born April 14, 1936 Arlene Martel. No doubt you’ll best remember her as T’Pring in Star Trek’s “Amok Time” as it was a rather memorable episode. She also had roles in one-offs in a lot of genre series including Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestMission:ImpossibleThe Delphi BureauI Dream of Jeannie,  Man from AtlantisMy Favorite Martian,  The Six Million Dollar Man and Battlestar Galactica. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 14, 1949 Dave Gibbons, 71. He is best known for his work with writer Alan Moore, which includes Watchmen and the Superman story ”For the Man Who Has Everything” (adapted to television twice, first into the same-named episode of  Justice League Unlimited and then more loosely into “For the Girl Who Has Everything”.) He also did work for 2000 AD where he created Rogue Trooper, and was the lead artist on Doctor Who Weekly and Doctor Who Monthly
  • Born April 14, 1954 Bruce Sterling, 66. Islands in the Net is I think is his finest work as it’s where his characters are best developed and the near future setting is quietly impressive. Admittedly I’m also fond of The Difference Engine which he co-wrote with Gibson which is neither of these things. He edited Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology which is still the finest volume of cyberpunk stories that’s been published to date. He’s won two Best Novelette Hugos, one for “Bicycle Repairman” at LoneStarCon 2, and one at AussieCon Three for “Taklamakan”.
  • Born April 14, 1958 Peter Capaldi, 62. Twelfth Doctor. Not going to rank as high as the Thirteenth, Tenth Doctor or the Seventh Doctor on my list of favorite Doctors, let alone the Fourth Doctor who remains My Doctor, but I thought he did a decent enough take on the role. His first genre appearance was as Angus Flint in the decidedly weird Lair of the White Worm, very loosely based on the Bram Stoker novel of the same name. He pops up in World War Z as a W.H.O. Doctor before voicing Mr. Curry in Paddington, the story of Paddington Bear. He also voices Rabbit in Christopher Robin. On the boob tube, he’s been The Angel Islington in Neverwhere. (Almost remade by Jim Henson but not quite.) He was in Iain Banks’ The Crow Road as Rory McHoan (Not genre but worth noting). He played Gordon Fleming in two episodes of Sea of Souls series. Before being the Twelfth Doctor, he was on Torchwood as John Frobisher. He is a magnificent Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers series running on BBC. And he’s involved in the current animated Watership Down series as the voice of Kehaar.
  • Born April 14, 1977 Sarah Michelle Gellar, 43. Buffy Summers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, I watched every episode. Great show. Even watched every bit of Angel as well. Her first genre role was as Casey “Cici” Cooper in Scream 2 followed by voicing Gwendy Doll in Small Soldiers. Her performance as Kathryn Merteuil in Cruel Intentions is simply bone chillingly scary. I’ve not seen, nor plan to see, either of the Scooby-Do films so I’ve no idea how she is Daphne Blake. Finally, she voiced April O’Neil in the one of latest animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films. 
  • Born April 14, 1982 Rachel Swirsky, 38. Her “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window”  novella (lovely title that) won a Nebula Award, and her short story, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” would do a short while later. Very impressive. I’ve read her “Eros, Philia, Agape” which is wonderful and “Portrait of Lisane da Patagnia” which is strange and well, go read it. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) BE YOUR OWN VILLAIN. We’ve heard the saying that everyone is the hero of their own story. In contrast, Brian Cronin reminds readers about “That Time That Jerry Siegel Plundered the Funny Pages to Defeat Superman” at CBR.com.

In Meta-Messages, I explore the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator (or sometimes even themselves) in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.”

Today, we look at Jerry Siegel plunder the Funny Pages as he, himself, becomes the villain of a Superman story involving other newspaper comic strips!

The whole thing went down in the opening story in 1942’s Superman #19 (by Siegel, Ed Dobrotka and John Sikela)… 

(14) DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH. ScreenRant tries to explain “Just What is the Direct Market In Comics and Where Did It Come From?”

With the coronavirus pandemic grinding the comic book industry to all halt, there has been much talk about what is to be done with the “direct market”. But just what exactly is the direct market, and how did it come to be? And perhaps more pressing, what will happen to the direct market in a post-COVID-19 world?

Believe it or not, there was a time comic books were purchased outside of comic book shop, carried by newsstands, grocery stores, and even gas stations. However, the comic book shop model, primarily engineered by Phil Seuling in 1972, offered several advantages. The system was known as the “direct market” because it bypassed traditional newspaper and magazine distributors. It offered a much more diverse line of content than the newsstands, including comic books aimed at an adult audience. One of the primary advantages for the distributor was that the comic books were unreturnable unlike newsstands, which would traditionally return all unsold merchandise…. 

Much history ensues. Then —

…Because of all of these factors and more, the future of the direct market is looking increasingly uncertain. In addition to the growing concern that many retailers will have to close their doors due to the coronavirus, the comic book industry itself seems destined for an overhaul. Some comic book shop owners are considering the possibility of re-negotiating with Diamond, while others are considering trying to bypass the current distribution system altogether. The direct market has served the comic book industry well for nearly fifty years, but it might be time to ask – what will best serve the comic book industry for the next fifty?

(15) GOOD REASON TO PREEN THEIR PLUMAGE. In “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: The Hugo Awards”, Adri Joy and Joe Sherry talk about their Hugo nomination for Nerds of a Feather, and some of the other works they’re glad made the final ballot.

Adri: There have been a few feelings knocking around! And about an hour of my life in which it has been unclear whether I should cry, shout, laugh, breathe, throw up, and indeed if I could do any one of those things without the others happening too.

Also, while I’ve definitely experienced the post-announcement Twitter love before, CoNZealand’s decision to schedule a streamed announcement at a timezone that worked for as many Hugo-voter-heavy countries as possible, and the general enthusiasm for people to get online at the moment and hang out, meant that the announcement feed and stream just felt so full of frenzied excitement and love for everyone. Definitely a very heightened moment and, yeah, I’ll absolutely take that finalist status, even if I was already swanning around Dublin wearing the “Finalist” badge ribbon last year.

Joe: I absolutely enjoyed that youtube sidebar chat during the announcement, even if it ultimately did amount to a bunch of people just mashing their keyboards at the same time in excitement.

(16) I’LL TAKE ‘DUBIOUS PRODUCT NAMES’ FOR $100. [Item by Daniel Dern.] This is what comes from not having any Humanities majors in your company… There’s enough obvious cheap-shot jokes that I’m not even going to bother including one here. From PRwire: “Pepperdata Introduces New Kafka Monitoring Capabilities for Mission-Critical Streaming Applications”.

With Streaming Spotlight, existing customers can integrate Kafka monitoring metrics into the Pepperdata dashboard, adding detailed visibility into Kafka cluster metrics, broker health, topics and partitions.

Kafka is a distributed event streaming platform and acts as the central hub for an integrated set of messaging systems. Kafka’s architecture of brokers, topics and data replication supports high availability, high-throughput and publish-subscribe environments. For some users, Kafka handles trillions of messages per day.

Managing these data pipelines and systems is complex and requires deep insight to ensure these systems run at optimal efficiency….

(17) HALL OF FAME. R. Graeme Cameron has finally received the hardware, and I enjoyed his description on Facebook.

Since I was not present when Eileen Kernaghan, Tanya Huff and myself were inducted into the CSFFA Science Fiction Hall of Fame during the Aurora Awards ceremony at Can-Con last year, CSFFA planned to present the plaque to me (and I assume to Eileen) at the Creative Ink Festival in May this year. But, as we all know, Covid-19 forced the CIF to cancel.

Consequently, CSFFA elected to mail me the plaque….

The Janus-like trophy features on one side the visage of an aging knight representing venerable fantasy, blended with vegetation and rather resembling a forest-spirit Don Quixote, an ancient book to the right of his beard, and on the other side the fresh face of a proud, young aviatrix representing the cutting edge of science fiction as perceived back in the 1930s, a rocket ship in flight just to the right of her neck. A most splendid and evocative trophy. Each inductee gets a plaque like this one. The trophy is on display throughout the year in various libraries.

(18) HIGH-SPEED HYPERLOOP PROJECTS WILL BEGIN OPERATION NO EARLIER THAN 2040. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Let’s make notes in our calendars so we can check whether they’re right…

Economics, not technology, pose the largest barriers to building the Hyperloop according to a new Lux report: “High-speed Hyperloop projects will begin operation no earlier than 2040”.

Lux has found that, while the Hyperloop concept is technically feasible, it will require significant development to become cost-effective. The Hyperloop differs from conventional rail because it operates in a vacuum system that reduces aerodynamic drag, thus enabling higher speeds and greater energy efficiency. There are four main design elements creating technical challenges with the Hyperloop: pillar and tube design, pod design, propulsion and levitation of the pods, and station design.

Lux Research found that pod design is the fastest-growing area for Hyperloop patent activity, with a focus on improving comfort and performance. Customer comfort is important due to the compact, enclosed spaces with no windows, which can increase the likelihood of customers getting sick. Optimizing pod performance is key to minimizing drag and reducing costs because pod design choices have a significant impact on tube design and aerodynamics. Propulsion and levitation systems have the least patent activity, in part due to the fact that Hyperloop will likely adapt magnetic levitation, or maglev, technology.

One of the biggest technical challenges will be identifying the optimal system pressure and minimizing leakage of the vacuum system, which, if higher than expected, can increase operating costs and reduce top speeds. “Selecting the Hyperloop’s tube pressure is the most important factor impacting cost, for both operational expenses and the initial capital needed for tube design and construction,” says Lux Research Associate Chad Goldberg….

(19) IN FRANCE. Is this anywhere near Remulac? Reuters reports: “Space scientists use COVID-19 lockdown as dry run for Mars mission”.

French space scientists are using the COVID-19 lockdown as a dry run for what it will be like to be cooped up inside a space craft on a mission to Mars.

The guinea pigs in the experiment are 60 students who are confined to their dormitory rooms in the southern city of Toulouse – not far removed from the kind of conditions they might experience on a long space mission.

When the French government imposed movement restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, space researcher Stephanie Lizy-Destrez decided to make the most of a bad situation, and signed up the student volunteers.

It’s not an exact simulation of space flight: tasks such as picking up samples from a planet’s surface using a lunar rover do not feature, and the students can break off from their virtual space journey for a daily trip outside.

Instead, they conduct computer-based tasks such as memory tests and mental agility tests. They keep a daily journal, and every five days have to complete a questionnaire.

(20) SOCIAL DISTANCING EARTH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Spacecraft BepiColombo’s handlers have published a GIF of Earth as seen from the craft during a recent flyby. BepiColombo was slingshotting past Earth on its way to a Mercury survey mission. BC presumably wished us well in handling COVID-19, and made sure to stay far enough away not to pick up the virus. “BepiColombo takes last snaps of Earth en route to Mercury”.

The ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission completed its first flyby on 10 April, as the spacecraft came less than 12 700 km from Earth’s surface at 06:25 CEST, steering its trajectory towards the final destination, Mercury. Images gathered just before closest approach portray our planet shining through darkness, during one of humankind’s most challenging times in recent history.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “Cole Porter” Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/11/19 Pixel Twice, Scroll Once

(1) NOW WITH ADDED KA-BOOM! Filer Charon Dunn is off to the San Diego Comic-Con to plug her new book, A Dark and Stormy Day, the culmination of the Adventures of Sonny Knight trilogy, “which has even more explosions than the last two.”

I’m going to be providing copious updates on my Facebook page, but if you’re not a Facebooker, I’ll do a summary after I get back. If you are a Facebooker, throw me a like. It’s my first SDCC, so I’m mostly going to be wandering around gawking at everything like an utter yokel.

I will be wearing my fabulous SDCC battle armor: a denim vest with the solar system embroidered on the back, to discourage me from buying more superfluous hoodies while giving me a place to display my collectable pins.

Dunn will also be carrying swag to distribute to her readers – don’t miss out!

(2) ONLY HUNDREDS OF SHOPPING DAYS TIL CHRISTMAS. During Hallmark’s Keepsake Ornament Premiere Event from July 13-21, there will be “event exclusive offers” on the Hogwarts Tree Topper and Harry Potter Collection. The castle lights up and plays music. Ooh, ahh!

(3) STATION ELEVEN COMING TO MORE STATIONS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Emily St. John-Mandel’s award-winning post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven is getting a small-screen adaptation. The novel, which won the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke award, follows a theatre troupe as they travel around the Great Lakes some decades after a pandemic wiped out most of civilization. It’s an excellent novel, though I have to admit that I find the author’s dismissal of science fiction as a genre to be annoying (much like Ian MacEwan). 

CBC Books has the story: “Emily St. John Mandel’s novel Station Eleven being adapted into 10-episode TV series”

(4) BOWIE FIGURE. The New York Times shares details of “A David Bowie Barbie: Mattel Unveils Ziggy Stardust Doll”.

On Thursday, the world learned that Barbie is a Bowie fan.

With its release of a doll dressed as David Bowie’s glittering alter ego Ziggy Stardust, Mattel said it was celebrating the 50th anniversary of “Space Oddity,” released in 1969.

The new Barbie doll wears a body-hugging metallic “spacesuit,” calf-high red platform boots and silver earrings with dangling stars. Her dark red hair is slicked back like Ziggy Stardust’s, and daubed on her forehead is the golden circle he wore. Her nails are painted black.

It’s a notably androgynous look for a doll that epitomized the stereotypes of feminine appearance in its earlier iterations….

(5) BARBIE’S SPACESUIT. And that’s not all the Barbie news – BBC reports “Barbie and ESA launch plan to get more girls in space”.

Barbie has teamed up with the European Space Agency (ESA) to encourage girls to become the next generation of astronauts.

Currently, only 15 percent of active astronauts in the world are female and, 50 years on from the first person landing on the moon, no woman has ever landed on the moon.

The ESA only has one active astronaut. She’s called Samantha Cristoforetti.

In order to highlight the lack of female astronauts, the company behind Barbie – Mattel – has made a special one-of-a-kind doll of Cristoforetti.

The astronaut hopes her collaboration with Barbie “will help young girls and boys to dream about their future without limits.”

(6) THE MOTES ON NEIL’S SUIT. A lot bigger and older than Barbie’s, and in need of refurbishing: “Of Little Details And Lunar Dust: Preserving Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 Spacesuit”.

When astronaut Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon 50 years ago, it was a giant leap for functional fashion.

The spacesuit he wore was an unprecedented blend of technology and tailoring.

“The suit itself is an engineering marvel,” says Malcolm Collum, the chief conservator for the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. “Every single thing on here is a specific function. It is engineered to the last little detail.”

Take the metal fittings that connect the helmet, air tubes and gloves. They’re brightly colored — for example, vivid red metal for the right glove, neon blue for the left. Patriotic, yes, but also exceptionally functional. That’s because NASA wanted to make sure that in all of the excitement of landing on the moon, Armstrong was able to easily connect his gear.

And that attention to detail is evident from helmet to toe. The stitching throughout is meticulous — much of it done by hand in 1969. The suit had to be tough, flexible and airtight. Armstrong’s life depended on a finely guided needle and thread.

But decades of being on display throughout the country took a toll. In 2006, Smithsonian technicians noticed Armstrong’s spacesuit was showing signs of age. So they removed it from the Air and Space Museum in Washington, moved it to a storage facility and laid it out in a drawer.

Collum and his team of technicians have had the job of getting Armstrong’s spacesuit standing tall and back on public view again.

(7) SOURCE OF THE TROUBLE. The author of Ash Kickers explains the set-up in “The Big Idea: Sean Grigsby” at Whatever.

Whatever catastrophe nature throws at us, people always seem to make it worse.

Not all of us. Some seek to help and not to hurt, to heal instead of destroy. Firefighters are just one example of a few good people trying to make a difference. I’m proud to call myself one. But, like I said, sometimes there are a few hateful assholes standing in our way.

The Smoke Eaters series is about firefighters versus newly-returned dragons, sure, but there are other big ideas at play. In the first book I talk about corrupt government using disasters for their own gain, and replacing first responders with robots. In Ash Kickers, it’s something much worse…

(8) E UNUM PLURIBUS? Popular Mechanics tells how “Pangea Gave Us Modern Oceans”:

It’s hard to imagine all of the world’s land masses together as one supercontinent. Over 200 million years ago, however, that’s what Earth looked like. The breakup of Pangea was essentially the first step in the creation of the modern world….

Around 175 million years ago, as Pangea was violently being ripped apart, new rifts started opening on the ocean floor. Water-heavy slabs started falling in one after another, faster and farther down than they had before until the water began to evaporate entirely. With no water left, the end result was millions of years of water loss like the planet had never seen.

With ocean levels now rising due to man-made climate change, the idea of chucking all the water into the Earth’s mantle sounds tempting. No such luck, Karlsen says.

“While the deep water cycle can effectively change sea level over hundreds of millions to billions of years, climate change can change the sea level in zero to 100 years,” she says. “For comparison, the present-day sea level rise associated with climate change is about 0.1 inches (3.2 millimeters) a year. The sea level drop associated with the deep water cycle is about 1/10,000 of that.”

(9) CORTESE OBIT. Her credits included Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits (1965) and Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). The New York Times remembers her in “Valentina Cortese, a Leading Italian Film Actress, Dies at 96”.

Valentina Cortese, an Italian film actress best known for her role as a fading, tippling movie diva in François Truffaut’s “Day for Night,” which earned her a 1975 Academy Award nomination and, remarkably, an apology from the winner, Ingrid Bergman, died on Wednesday in Milan. She was 96.

(10) NICKERSON OBIT. BBC reports the death of  Willy Wonka cast member: “Denise Nickerson: Violet Beauregarde actress dies aged 62”

Denise Nickerson, the former child actress who played Violet Beauregarde in the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, has died aged 62.

Nickerson’s family announced the news in a Facebook post that read: “She’s gone.”

In earlier updates on social media, her family said she had pneumonia and had experienced several seizures.

Nickerson – who was cast opposite Gene Wilder at the age of 13 – had previously survived a stroke in 2018.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 11, 1899 E. B. White. Author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, both of which are surely genre. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 11, 1913 Cordwainer Smith. Pen name of Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger. Most of his fiction was set in The Instrumentality of Mankind series which I know I’ve read once upon a time at in fragments. Both iBooks and Kindle are well stocked with his novels and short stories including Scanners Live in Vain, a most excellent novella. (Died 1966.)
  • Born July 11, 1920 Yul Brynner. The Gunslinger in Westworld and its sequel Futureword.  He would also play Carson, a human warrior in the post-apocalyptic The Ultimate Warrior. I don’t think we can consider The King and I genre… (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 11, 1925 David Graham, 84. Early voice of the Daleks on Doctor Who, Dutch as The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth. He also provided a number of the voices on the Thunderbirds. And In the 1984 television Super Bowl advert filmed to introduce the Apple Macintosh computer, he played the role of Big Brother.
  • Born July 11, 1956 Amitav Ghosh, 63. Author of the absolutely brilliant The Calcutta Chromosome: A Novel of Fevers, Delirium and Discovery. Really go read it and with we’ll discuss it over a cup of chai masala. 
  • Born July 11, 1958 Alan Gutierrez, 61. An artist and illustrator, specializing in SF and fantasy cover art. His first professional sale was to the now defunct semi-professional Fantasy Book in 1983. He then began producing work for Baen Books, Tor Books,Pequod Press  and other publishers. He has also painted covers for Analog magazine, Aboriginal Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and other SF magazines.
  • Born July 11, 1959 Richard James Bleiler, 60. Genres breed academics. One of them is this bibliographer of speculative, crime, and adventure fiction. Among his papers are “The Fantastic Pulp Fiction of Frank Belknap Long” which appeared in Gary Hoppenstand’s Pulp Fiction of the ’20S and ’30S and “Forgotten Giant: A Brief History of Adventure Magazine” which was published in Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy.
  • Born July 11, 1972 Leona Wisoker, 47. Green Man Reviewer and author of the excellent Children of the Desert series. 
  • Born July 11, 1984 Marie Lu, 35. Best known for her Legend trilogy, a dystopian and militarized future.  Lionsgate has optioned it for a film. She’s also a novel in the DC Icons series, Batman: Nightwalker. And a YA series called the Young Elites.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • How do you like this selection of “Rejected Wizard of Oz Characters,” courtesy of The Argyle Sweater?

(13) HE CAN SIT ANYWHERE HE WANTS. Camestros Felapton did something rather amusing with the new poster art for Star Trek: Picard — “New TNG Spin Off Looks Interesting”.

(14) TRUE GRIT. Gizmodo finds a very good way to make a dry topic interesting: “Research Sheds Light on Strange Seaway That Once Covered the Sahara”.

The Sahara might seem like one of Earth’s most lifeless regions today, but its fossils show it was once a vast seaway filled giant fish and some of the largest sea snakes the planet has ever seen.

From 100 million to 50 million years ago, a large seaway up to 160 feet deep covered much of West Africa, leaving behind lots of marine fossils, including vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, and microbes. Many of them were surprisingly large. It’s difficult to study this region due to harsh geopolitical and physical climates, so a group of scientists decided to compile and synthesize lots of existing research on the area

(15) ON THE SCALES. Paul Weimer analyzes the pedigree of Evan Winter’s new book for readers of the B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog: Gladiator Meets The Count of Monte Cristo in the African-Inspired Fantasy Epic The Rage of Dragons.

The Rage of Dragons, the debut epic from self-publishing success story Evan Winter, distinguishes itself by its setting, a fantasy world inspired by Africa, but truly impresses with its storytelling. It weaves a tale of determination, love, revenge, and war that is, at its core, the story of one young man who, even as he seeks to improve his life by learning the art of war, must grapple with deadly politics, powerful magic, and a threat that could destroy an entire civilization.

(16) RELATIVITY. The Hugo Award Book Club blog reviews a set of finalists in “Best Related Work: Category or Collection of Categories?”. One work on the list is —  

The Story Of The Hugos 
It seems odd to us that this is only the second time that Jo Walton has appeared on a Hugo Award ballot. It can be argued that several of her novels and non-fiction works warrant the recognition.

Her Informal History Of The Hugo Awards, based around the Tor.com blog posts of the same name that she wrote a couple of years ago, traces the history of the awards through their creation in 1953, through to the year 2000. True to its name, this is a subjective look at both the winners and the shortlists, livened with insight and personal anecdotes.

The book version adds significant material, additional essays and footnotes, as well as a curated set of comments from the blog. Walton has a deep and rich knowledge of science fiction and of fandom, and it shines through in essay after essay tackling controversies of years past, or years where she might disagree with the verdict of Hugo voters.

This is a work that we believe will have enduring value. In most years it would be a lock for the top of our Best Related Work ballots.

(17) HUGO REVIEWS. Bonnie McDaniel is back with “Hugo Reading 2019: Best Novelette”.

4) “The Thing About Ghost Stories,” Naomi Kritzer

This is a lovely story about just what it says–ghost stories, not ghosts. Although ghosts definitely make an appearance, in the form of the narrator’s mother, who recently succumbed to Alzheimer’s. (The details of this ring scarily true, by the way.) This is another quiet story, but in this case, the still waters run deep, and the mother-daughter relationship depicted here is sad and beautiful.

(18) GRAPHIC STORY. J.C. Reid does a good rundown of one of the more rarely-reviewed categories: “Hugo Awards Extravaganza 2019 -Graphic Story”. First up —

Abbott by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colours by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell

A journalist fights racism and magic in 70s Detroit.

You can’t go past a good high concept, and Blaxploitation Call of Cthulhu is a pretty great high concept.  What rapidly becomes apparent is that Ahmed has aspirations beyond kick ass action comics, and is engaging with more than the superficial trappings of blaxploitation.  It starts with the setting – 70s Detroit in washed out colours, newspaper headlines, and near ubiquitous smoking.  Everywhere we visit in the story we see divisions along race, gender and class, and the genius at work here is to carry these divisions over to the supernatural.

(19) IN THIS CORNER. James Davis Nicoll orchestrates a cage match between two classic names in “Heinlein’s Juveniles vs. Andre Norton’s Young Adult Novels” at Tor.com.

Something about Heinlein’s characters that eluded me when I was an idiot teen: some of his protagonists (in particular Rod from Tunnel in the Sky) were not necessarily the sharpest pencils in the box. They’re always good-hearted fellows, but also naive enough to justify folksy lecturing from mentors. This also allows readers to feel just a little superior to the fellow who, for example, can’t seem to work out that another character is a girl even after he wrestles with her, then partners up with her (leading a third party to inquire, “Rod…were you born that stupid? Or did you have to study?”).

(20) OBJECTS MAY BE SMALLER THAN THEY APPEAR. NPR says “At The T-Rex Races: On Your Mark, Get Set, Rawwrr!”

At first glance, the starting gate at Emerald Downs racetrack looks relatively normal. But then the gates open and the race begins, and instead of thoroughbreds a mass of people bursts forth, running as fast as they can — while wearing oversized T-Rex costumes.

“The T-Rexes stand at the ready — and T-Rexes away!” track announcer Tom Harris yells, as prehistoric — and hilarious — chaos breaks out on the track.

At the wire, a dino named Regular Unleaded took the victory, holding off Rex Girlfriend by a tail.

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Bonnie McDaniel, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 12/5/16 And They Will Know Us By The Trail Of Pixels

(1) POSTER CHILD. Early this year Cat Rambo placed herself at the forefront of the movement encouraging writers to put up awards eligibility posts, and using the authority vested in her by the Science Fiction Writers of America now calls on everyone to do it.

Practicing what she preaches, Rambo has done a year-end recap of her publications:

The stories of my own I am pushing this year are “Left Behind” (short story), “Red in Tooth & Cog” (novelette), “Haunted” (novella co-written with Bud Sparhawk), and the fantasy collection Neither Here Nor There. SFWA members should be able to find copies of those on the member boards; I am happy to mail copies to people reading for awards whether or not you are a member. Drop me a line and let me know the preferred format. I am looking for reviewers interested in Neither Here Nor There and happy to send copies as needed.

The recap contains links to nearly 30 other F&SF writer awards eligibility posts.

(2) PW PRIDE. Rambo is also proud of Publishers Weekly’s starred review for her new short story collection Neither Here Nor There.

This double collection showcases Rambo’s versatility within the fantasy genre. In the “Neither Here” half, tales set in her existing worlds of Tabat (“How Dogs Came to the New Continent”) and Serendib (“The Subtler Art”) rub shoulders with new worlds of magic and mystery. “Nor There” displays her skill at seeing our world through different lenses, with locations including steampunk London (“Clockwork Fairies”) and urban fantasy Seattle (“The Wizards of West Seattle”)…

(3) SCREEN TIME. George R.R. Martin is getting busy recommending things for Hugos – including other people’s things.

For my part, I already know what two of my Hugo nominations for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form will be. ARRIVAL, to start with. Terrific adaptation of a classic story by Ted Chiang. Brilliant performance from Amy Adams. (She is always great, I think, but this was her best role to date). A real science fiction story, not a western in space. Intelligent, thought-provoking, with some wonderfully alien aliens. And WESTWORLD, season one, from HBO. Of course, as with GAME OF THRONES, one can nominate individual episodes of this one in Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form… but for me it makes more sense to nominate the entire season in Long Form. (GAME OF THRONES season one was nominated in this fashion

(4) HITS AT THE LIBRARY. Library Journal’s “Best Books 2016” picked these as the top five titles from the year’s SF and fantasy.

Borderline, by Mishell Baker
The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers
The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman
Every Heart A Doorway, by Seanan McGuire
Behind The Throne, by K.B. Wagers

(5) SURPASSING THE MASTER. No spoilers for the movie Arrival in the following excerpt, only for the story it’s based on. But it’s natural that the movie spoilers quickly follow in Peter Watts analysis of the adaptation: “Changing Our Minds: ‘Story of Your Life’ in Print and on Screen”.

What might come as a shock— and I hesitate to write this down, because it smacks of heresy— is that in terms of storytelling, Arrival actually surpasses its source material.

It’s not that it has a more epic scale, or more in the way of conventional dramatic conflict. Not just that, anyway. It’s true that Hollywood— inevitably— took what was almost a cozy fireside chat and ‘roided it up to fate-of-the-world epicness. In “Story of Your Life”, aliens of modest size set up a bunch of sitting rooms, play Charades with us for a while, and then leave. Their motives remain mysterious; the military, though omnipresent, remains in the background. The narrative serves mainly as a framework for Chiang to explore some nifty ideas about the way language and perception interact, about how the time-symmetric nature of fundamental physics might lead to a world-view— every bit as consistent as ours— that describes a teleological universe, with all the Billy Pilgrim time-tripping that implies. It’s fascinating and brow furrowing, but it doesn’t leave you on the edge of your seat. Going back and rereading it for this post, I had to hand it to screenwriter Eric Heisserer for seeing the cinematic potential buried there; if I was going to base a movie on a Ted Chiang story, this might be the last one I’d choose.

(6) CALL FOR PAPERS. GIFcon, Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations, is looking for papers and creative works. The deadline is December 19. The SFWA Blog gave their announcement a signal boost:

With a focus on intersections (academic and creative writing; film, art, and games) we aim for GIFCON’s inaugural event to be a crossroads at which these communities can meet and come into conversation.

Fantasy at the Crossroads: Intersections, Identities, and Liminality

29th – 30th March 2017

What is Fantasy? This is a question that the University of Glasgow’s MLitt in Fantasy has explored throughout its first year. While this may seem an unanswerable question, for many of us, fantasy is where reality and the impossible meet. Fantasy inspires a sprawling collection of worlds that stem from a myriad of identities, experiences, and influences. From traditional epics to genre-melding, fantasy branches out into every style imaginable. Cross-sections of genre and identity create cracks in traditional forms, opening in-between spaces from which bloom new ideas and stories.

Examples of intersections in fantasy can be found in:

– Julie Bertagna’s Exodus trilogy, which explores environmentalism within the context of fantasy and science fiction.

– Arianne “Tex” Thompson’s Children of the Drought series, which focuses on subversions of race and gender.

– China Miéville’s The City and the City, which fuses the detective novel with the fantastic.

– Eowyn Ivey’s The Snow Child, which uses fairy tale inspirations to create a magical realist setting and narrative.

– Netflix’s Stranger Things, which melds horror with Dungeons and Dragons via a coming-of-age science fiction story.

– The Elder Scrolls video game series, which intersects narrative, music, and visual arts.

– Frank Beddor’s Looking Glass Wars series, which combines science fiction and fantasy to explore unique, genre-melded world-building.

…Please submit a 300-word abstract, along with a 100-word biography (both in DOC or RTF format) to submissions.gifconference@gmail.com by Monday 19th December 2016.

(7) RIVENDELL AUDIO. Here is the schedule of December Readings from Rivendell program in the Twin Cities, MN.

readings-from-rivendell-december

(8) WETA DIGITAL END OF YEAR PARTY 2016. I’d love to be on the invitation list for this shindig —

The Weta Digital End of Year Party has always had the reputation of being the best party in town. As with previous years, no one knew where the party was being held, or what was involved, all we knew was we had to go to platform 9 at the Wellington train station. After boarding buses at the station, we were transported to the secret location. This is what went down after we arrived… The party was themed by the four elements of nature – Water, Fire, Air/Wind and Earth. As you can see in the video, the themed installations and performance art at the party location were fantastic, and an amazing time was had by all! A big thanks to Weta Digital for putting on such an incredible party!

 

(9) PUCK VS. CUPID. The Book Smugglers present Tansy Rayner Roberts’ review of the year’s favorites in “Smugglivus 2016: A Very TansyRR Smugglivus”. There’s a lot of entertaining writing in the post, not to mention revelations about the previously unsuspected (by me, anyway) subgenres of gay hockey comics and novels.

This has also been an important year for Check! Please, one of my favourite all time web comics. I a couple of scary, stressful months earlier in the year, and the Check! Please fandom pulled me through until I was ready to face the world again. Check! Please was already an adorable gay hockey comic about bros and sports and friendship and pies, but its creator Ngozi gave us so many gifts this year, starting in February with The Kiss which pretty much made the comics fandom lose their collected minds.

Their love is so canon, y’all!

We’ve also had several waves of updates throughout the year, following the ups and downs of our hero Bitty and his secret NHL boyfriend. Ngozi also launched a Kickstarter for the book publication of Year 2 which was crazy successful, showing how dramatically her work’s popularity has soared since Jack Zimmermann got a clue that he was a character in a sweet gay rom com, not a gritty hockey tragedy.

(10) HINES BENEFIT AUCTION #9. The ninth of Jim C. Hines’ 24 Transgender Michigan Fundraiser auctions is for an autographed copy of Jenna Black’s Replica, and a matching handmade pendant to go with it.

Today’s auction is for an autographed copy of REPLICA and a handmade pendant to go with it (pictured below). You can see samples of Black’s other gorgeous pendants at her Etsy store.

About the Book:

Sixteen-year-old Nadia Lake’s marriage has been arranged with the most powerful family in the Corporate States. She lives a life of privilege even if she has to put up with paparazzi tracking her every move, every detail of her private life tabloid fodder. But her future is assured, as long as she can maintain her flawless public image—no easy feat when your betrothed is a notorious playboy.

Nathaniel Hayes is the heir to the company that pioneered human replication: a technology that every state and every country in the world would kill to have. Except he’s more interested in sneaking around the seedy underbelly of the state formerly known as New York than he is in learning to run his future company or courting his bride-to-be. She’s not exactly his type…not that he can tell anyone that.

But then Nate turns up dead, and Nadia was the last person to see him alive.

When the new Nate wakes up in the replication tanks, he knows he must have died, but with a memory that only reaches to his last memory back-up, he doesn’t know what—or rather, who—killed him. Together, Nadia and Nate must discover what really happened without revealing the secrets that those who run their world would kill to protect.

(11) NOT ASKING SANTA FOR THESE. This link leads to a page from Hunter’s Planet of the Apes Archive. Consider it an online museum of print advertising for Planet of the Apes merchandise.

(12) IN DOORSTOPS TO COME. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer have sold another Big Book – “Announcing The Big Book of Classic Fantasy”.

As Ann and I announced on social media last week, we’re thrilled to have sold another behemoth of an anthology, The Big Book of Classic Fantasy, to editor Tim O’Connell at Vintage Books!! Tentatively scheduled for publication in 2018 and covering roughly the period 1850 up to World War II. Thanks to our agent, Sally Harding, and the Cooke Agency. This will be our fourth huge anthology project, following this year’s The Big Book of Science Fiction, The Time Traveler’s Almanac, and the World Fantasy Award-winning The Weird.

Will this anthology include not just your favorite classics from the English language, but also translations from all over the world? Yes. Will it include never-before-translated new stories? Yes. Will it include the best of the Decadents and the Surrealists in a fantastical vein? Oh yes, most certainly. We hope to widen our net on the translation side, focusing on areas of the world that have been underrepresented in prior anthologies.

(13) WILLIAMS OBIT. Van Williams, famed as television’s The Green Hornet, has died at the age of 82.

Variety reports he actually died on Nov. 28, but his passing only became publicly known on Sunday.

Born in 1934 in Forth Worth, Texas, Williams was working as a diving instructor in Hawaii when he was discovered in 1957 by producer Mike Todd, who persuaded him to move to Hollywood. He earned his big break two years later with a lead role on the ABC private detective drama “Bourbon Street.” He followed that with “Surfside 6,” starring opposite Troy Donahue.

However, it’s on the short-lived “Green Hornet” that Williams made a lasting mark as newspaper publisher Britt Reid, who fought crime as the masked Green Hornet alongside his partner Kato, so memorably played by Bruce Lee.

(14) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 3, 1974 – The last new episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus was broadcast on the BBC.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born December 5, 1901 – Walt Disney

disney-comic-lio161205

(16) A CAPRINE TRAGEDY. As discussed in comments on an earlier Scroll, the Gävle Yule Goat was burned down on its inauguration day, and replaced by a baby goat made of straw.

Only a week later, a vandal drove a car into the replica.

But in the early hours of Monday, those who were unable to sleep and instead found themselves watching the goat’s webcam feed (we’re told this is a thing) were able to see in real-time how someone raced towards the new goat in their car and brutally ran it over.

(17) SEND THE BILL TO LUCASFILMS. VentureBeat has been reliably informed coff that “The Death Star would cost $7.8 octillion a day to run”.

The British energy supplier Ovo has put some very well-spent hours into a comprehensive calculation of the operating costs of the Death Star, which will return to the spotlight in the December 16th movie Rogue One. They conclude that operating the planet-destroying starbase would cost 6.2 octillion British pounds, or $7.8 octillion, per day—that’s $7,800,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

To put that absurdly large number in perspective, $7.8 octillion is more than 100 trillion times the $70 trillion annual global economic activity of Earth, or 30 trillion times the roughly $200 trillion in wealth on our little blue planet.

(18) WHAT IF THEY’RE NOT LITTLE AND GREEN? NPR reports on NASA’s efforts to recognize life if they find it:

There’s a growing interest in so-called biosignatures — or substances that provide evidence of life — because NASA has upcoming missions that have real potential to search for them. Those include a visit to Europa in the 2020s and the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, which could scan the atmospheres of planets around other stars.

The last thing NASA officials want is a repeat of the experience with the Viking missions back in the 1970s, when analysis of Martian soil chemistry produced what was initially interpreted as evidence of life — but then later deemed a false-positive.

“I remember the aftermath of that,” says James Kasting, a professor of geosciences at Penn State University, who was tasked with planning this week’s meeting. “NASA was criticized heavily for looking for life before they had investigated the planet and for not having thought that through carefully. They’re hoping to avoid that same experience.”

Finding life means first defining life, and NASA’s Green says the key features are that it must metabolize, reproduce and evolve.

(19) ESA WILL BUILD ROVER. The European Space Agency will build a Mars rover, even if the cost keeps going up.

Europe will push ahead with its plan to put a UK-assembled robotic rover on the surface of Mars in 2021.

Research ministers meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland, have agreed to stump up the outstanding €436m euros needed to take the project through to completion.

The mission is late and is costing far more than originally envisaged, prompting fears that European Space Agency member states might abandon it.

But the ministers have emphatically reaffirmed their commitment to it

(20) AUTO INTELLIGENCE. Uber has bought an AI company to move toward self-driving car.

Ride-sharing service Uber has acquired a New York-based artificial intelligence start-up which it hopes can speed up its progress in creating self-driving cars.

The deal, for an undisclosed sum, will see Uber gain 15 specialist researchers who will form a new division at the company known as Uber AI Labs.

(21) DISAPPEARING STAR. Did you enjoy the video of Chris Pratt’s magic, linked here the other day? Cards aren’t the only medium he does tricks in — “Chris Pratt keeps cropping Jennifer Lawrence out of Instagram selfies and it’s hilarious”.

The acting megastar duo are both starring in upcoming sci-fi romance Passengers, but throughout the film’s promo tour 37-year-old Pratt has been enjoying social media hijinks by cutting out 26-year-old Lawrence whenever the pair share a snap together….

 

(22) WINTER IS COMING. At Dangerous Minds, “Stunning images of pagan costumes worn at winter celebrations around the world”.

In a recent interview, French photographer Charles Fréger revealed that he has always been fascinated by European tribal traditions. This fascination inspired the well-known artist to travel all around Europe to capture images of people dressed in ritualistic costumes honoring the arrival of winter and other seasonal celebrations.

Fréger began his journey in Austria and to date has photographed stunning costumes and rituals from 21 countries around the world. According to Fréger there are many celebrations that mark the arrival of winter that take place in the Czech Republic and, say, Italy that are quite similar when it comes to the materials that are used to create the costumes. Such as the incorporation of animal pelts, branches from trees, horns and bells into the costumes. Though they may share similar appearances, the story behind each living piece of folklore varies from country and location. Here’s more from Fréger about why so many of these celebrations often involve a human masquerading as an animal:

It is not about being possessed by a spirit but it is about jumping voluntarily in the skin of an animal. You decide to become something else. You chose to become an animal, which is more exciting than being possessed by a demon.

(23) LOL. Larry Correia goes through the comments carefully answering everyone’s questions about when the electronic and audiobook versions of his latest novels will be available, when one fan decides to yank his chain:

Ben Smith: Will the leather bound book have a kindle version?

(24) MR. GREEN HAS ARRIVED. Let’s kick off the verse segment of today’s Scroll with a link to Theodora Goss’ “The Princess and the Frog” which begins….

I threw the ball into the water.
The frog came out and followed after,
bringing me the golden ball —
which I did not want at all, at all.

(25) SEASONED GREETING. Joe H. and Heather Rose Jones produced this collaboration in comments.

Lo, how a pixel scrolling,
From tender file hath sprung…
Of Glyer’s laptop coming
As SMOFs of old hath sung

(26) THEN ONE FOGGY CHRISTMAS EVE. In a piece called “Hamildoph (An American Christmas Story)” the group Eclipse 6 performs “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” as if it was done by the cast of Hamilton.

I cannot fly if I cannot see, people!
I’m in dire need of assistance.
Brrr
Your Excellency, you wanted to see me?
Rudolph, come in—did you say “brrr”?
Yes, sir, ‘cause it’s freezing.

 

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Rambo, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 11/20/16 Your Pixels Too Small To Scroll With God

(1) FOR SOME VALUES OF CHIANG. Abigail Nussbaum gives Arrival a thorough analysis at Asking the Wrong Questions. Spoilers, naturally.

It’s been about four years since the movie adaptation of Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” was announced, and during that period, every time I heard a piece of news about the film’s progress, there was always one question paramount in my mind: how?  How could you possibly take Chiang’s story, a trippy, challenging piece of writing whose ultimate conclusion needs to be carefully laid out for even the most attentive and game reader, and translate it into a mainstream movie, in a medium that isn’t normally permitted to spell out its themes and ideas the way written fiction is?  For me personally, there was an element of protectiveness to this wondering.  “Story of Your Life,” which I first read in my late teens, was an eye-opener for me.  In its focus on the “soft” science of linguistics, in its willingness to use relatively abstruse concepts from both linguistics and physics to build its premise, and in its foregrounding of a thoroughly unsentimental mother-daughter relationship, it expanded my ideas of what science fiction was capable of.  I couldn’t bear the thought of someone turning it into yet another alien invasion story.

And, to be fair to director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Eric Heisserer, that is not what Arrival is.  In fact, by the standards of Hollywood and what it tends to make of science fiction, Arrival is a remarkably thought-provoking and meditative movie, and its message of understanding and cooperation feels particularly relevant in our present moment.  But as regards to my question, how could Villeneuve and Heisserer take the implications of Chiang’s story and put them on screen, the answer is: they didn’t.  And in fact, it seems quite obvious that this was a deliberate choice.

(2) THE UR-TEXT. Ethan Mills goes back to the book in “Interrogating Ideas: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang”  at Examined Worlds.

Ted Chiang’s Stories of Your Life and Others includes several excellent stories/novelettes/novellas (including “Story of Your Life,” which is the basis for the film Arrival).  In addition to the good ones, a few more are okay, and there’s one I didn’t care for.

Ted Chiang is the opposite of prolific, having only published about a dozen works of short fiction in the last 25 years, but he’s one of the best when it comes to using science fiction and fantasy to interrogate ideas.  There are nice little notes on each story in the back of the book in which Chiang tells you which ideas inspired the stories (sometimes it’s surprising).  It’s no wonder his work is a top pick for Eric Schwitzgebel’s list of philosophers’ favorite science fiction.

Here’s a bit on each work in this collection…

(3) NEBULA AWARD RECOMMENDATIONS. Lots of time to go, but who’s leading SFWA’s Nebula Award Recommendations novel category right now?

With nine recommendations each, Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky and Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Blades ae at the head of the list.

(4) B&N BEST SFF. The B&N Sci-Fi &Fantasy Blog is at work on its own list of “The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2016”. The Anders book features there, too.

All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders Former io9.com editor Charlie Jane Ander’s debut speculative novel is a story of love and friendship, hope and despair, science and magic, and the end of the world. A girl who can do magic falls for a boy who only believes in science, and together, they must figure out how to save our dying planet—assuming, of course, the planet even wants our help. Childhood friends Patricia and Laurance lose touch with one another as they grow up, their differing paths sending one of them to a secret school for magicians and the other to the best engineering programs on offer. Years later, they meet again, with the fate of the world at stake, and the forces of science and magic edging toward all-out war. Read our review.

(5) EUROPEAN WRITER OBITS. Europa SF reports two European authors have died:

  • French SF Writer Andre Ruellan (7 August 1922-15 November 2016)
  • Italian SF Writer Massimo Mongai (3 November 1950-1 November 2016)

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 20, 2007 The Wizard of Oz Munchkins received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

(7) WARRIORS WHO DON’T IMPRESS. Cracked ranks “9 Supposed Action Stars Who Clearly Couldn’t Fight”.

The funniest lines are about #7 –

Fred Williamson

People started calling Fred Williamson “The Hammer” during his professional football career, and when you think about how many gigantic men were trying to get that same nickname to stick, you’ll realize that this achievement is the closest thing a person can get to a Nobel Prize in Badassery. This is a man who has crippled dozens of offensive linemen and starred in three movies that have the N-word right in their titles. And yet despite how terrifying that is to me, I’m still choosing to say that a Fred Williamson fight scene looks like two people with cerebral palsy feeding each other.

There are several reasons for these bad action sequences. First of all, he had to hold back so much to not kill his co-stars. If he wanted, Fred Williamson could kick your ass so hard that nine months after you die, your wife would give birth to his foot.

However, it is our own Captain Kirk who head the list at #1 —

William Shatner

You knew the whole time there was no other choice for the top spot. Bill Shatner invented entirely new ways to look ridiculous while punching, and he did it all at one-quarter speed. He threw judo chops so slowly against space monsters that he was already on T.J. Hooker by the time they connected. They say the Gorn still roams the Vasquez Rocks, waiting for his cue to duck….

(8) FUNNY BUZZNESS. Vincent Price’s daughter spoke on fear, love and The Fly at the  Vincent Price Art Museum at East LA College.

Victoria Price also stressed that humor is an excellent weapon against fear, and says one of the reasons her dad was popular for so long was that there was always a little humor in his horror work that “provided a release. And there is a way that laughing at fear, breaks its mesmerism. It’s hard right now to see that, but I do promise that laughter is an important part of our healing.”

And so, for fans of the original “The Fly,” she says, watch the absurd ending.

“My dad told me, that last scene they could not film. He said they all thought this is the most ridiculous thing, a fly talking, and they had to shoot it so many times. And they’re doubled over almost peeing their pants. So watch the last scene, and you will see that they are all just barely holding it together.”

(9) LIGHTNING STRIKING AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. Motherboard tells why “NASA’s New Satellite Is Going to Be a Game Changer for Weather Forecasts”.

The satellite will assist meteorologists by providing atmospheric measurements and a stream of high-definition images taken every 5 minutes over the Western Hemisphere with the ability to simultaneously zoom in on specific areas. From this data, GOES-R will help experts observe and predict severe weather events—thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash floods, fog, etc.—and detect hazards like forest fires, dust storms, and volcanic eruptions. It will also be used for search and rescue, oceanography, and climate monitoring.

GOES-R is the 17th GOES spacecraft and is part of the $11 billion system upgrade. What makes the new satellite unique is that it is far more advanced—and five times faster—than the current system. The spacecraft is equipped with a high-resolution camera designed to see in 16 wavelengths, offering images with four time better resolution. In comparison, the satellite’s predecessor can only see in five wavelengths.

(10) BEAUTY JOINS HAN AND THE BEAST. StarWars.com announced that Emilia Clarke has joined the Han Solo stand-alone film.

Emilia Clarke is heading to a galaxy far, far away — and she’s going to meet Han and Chewie.

StarWars.com is excited to announce that Clarke, known for her stirring portrayal of Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, will join the upcoming untitled Han Solo Star Wars movie. Clarke’s role will round out a dynamic cast of characters that Han and Chewie will encounter on their adventures.

Clarke joins Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover — previously cast as Han Solo and Lando Calrissian, respectively — in the highly-anticipated film, which is set prior to the original Star Wars trilogy.

(11) LATER ARRIVAL. It won’t look like the movies – which probably surprises no one. “An Astrolinguist Explains How to Talk to Aliens” at Motherboard.

“I am so envious of Louise Banks because she gets to have a face to face with ET,” Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) International president Douglas Vakoch told Motherboard. “But in the scenarios that SETI and METI folks deal with there’s no possibility of that. Our idea of a snappy exchange with extraterrestrials is a decade—and that only works if the nearest star is populated.”

(12) AND THE ROCK YOU RODE IN ON. NASA is going, but can ESA get its complementary mission funded? “Why ESA Scientists Really Want to Crash a Satellite into an Asteroid”.

NASA will be launching a probe called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), which will arrive at the asteroid (called 65803 Didymos) in late 2022 and then directly proceed to crash into the asteroid’s moon at 6 km/s (or about 13,400 mph). This impact would then be monitored by ESA’s Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) spacecraft, which will have placed itself into orbit around the binary asteroid four months in advance of DART’s arrival.

The mission is designed so that NASA can go ahead with its DART portion of the mission whether or not ESA is able to get AIM funded, but for scientists around the world, not funding AIM would be a huge missed opportunity for planetary science and defense.

“If ESA doesn’t do AIM, DART can still go,” said Michel. “But it’s just half the mission. You wouldn’t get the initial conditions or outcomes in detail, but at least you are able to complete DART to test the capacity to autonomously guide a projectile to a very small target.”

[Thanks to JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Shadow of a Doubt

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft successfully deployed its Philae lander November 12 on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, with a mission to drill, extract and analyze samples, and send pictures back to Earth.

Unfortunately, Philae landed in the shadow of a cliff that is probably blocking sunlight needed to recharge its batteries. Today the ESA received no signals during a scheduled effort to establish communication.

Paolo Ferri, ESA’s head of mission operations, told The Associated Press that the Rosetta orbiter did not get any signals from the lander on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

ESA on Friday ordered a rotating operation to pull the lander out of a shadow so that solar panels could recharge the depleted batteries.

Even if that operation was successful, it may take days or weeks until the batteries of Philae are strong enough to send signals again.

“We don’t know if the charge will ever be high enough to operate the lander again,” Ferri told The AP ahead of the 1000GMT (5 a.m. EST) listening time.

Sprinkling Saturn

Seems like in space there’s actually “water, water everywhere…”

The European Space Agency’s Herschel space observatory has shown that water expelled from Saturn’s moon Enceladus forms a giant torus of water vapor around the planet:

Enceladus expels around 250 kg of water vapor every second, through a collection of jets from the south polar region known as the Tiger Stripes because of their distinctive surface markings.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

Faux Mars Landing Successful

The European Space Agency’s simulated Mars mission made a successful landing, for certain values of successful, reports The Register:

Joyous news from the European Space Agency today, which reports that it has successfully landed three astronauts on Mars. Sadly this is only simulated Mars: the three spacesuited pioneers are at present exploring a large indoor sandpit, having spent the previous eight months inside a wood-panelled simulator pretending they were in transit to the red planet

An accompanying photo prompted this comment from David Klaus:

Even when you’ve already simulated the entire eight-month spaceflight to Mars, entry into the Martian atmosphere, and landing, it’s still kind of cheesy when you do your simulated EVA and flag-plant on a simulated Mars-scape, and through an open door in the simulated Martian horizon behind you there are a bunch of technicians, executives, and politicians in their shirtsleeves and business suits watching you.

It’s kind of seeing the “backstage” at The Truman Show.