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.]
DOCTRINE. “Moon dust may not burn you, but
it’s no picnic.” In his debut “Good Question” column for The New York Times,“If
I Touched the Moon, What Would It Feel Like?”, science author Randall Munroe explores what would
happen if a person directly touched the moon.
Set on a Tatooine-like planet complete with speeder bike-style vehicles, the clip shows the trio alongside Chewbacca, C3PO, and BB-8 as they escape enroaching stormtroopers. Director and co-writer J.J Abrams recently teased that the ambition for the first entry of the sequel trilogy is at an all-time high. “What we set out to do was far more challenging,” he told Entertainment Weekly of the movie, which he admitted they had more “story adjustments” on than the previous entry he worked on, The Force Awakens.
John Azarian is the founder and curator of the Azarian Collection, which you can see at theazariancollection.com. As a child of the 60s and a fan of nostalgia, John began collecting iconic items from the shows and movies he loved in his youth. Some of his favorite childhood memories include the superb television shows of the 1960s, like his favorite TV show, Batman, starring Adam West and Burt Ward.
…The highlight of the collection just so happens to be the first items he ever purchased, coincidentally, from Profiles in History.
The only known pair of complete costumes from
The Dynamic Duo, Adam West’s “Batman” and Burt Ward’s “Robin” from the original
1960s TV series, Batman.
Adam West’s “Bruce Wayne” Shakespeare bust
with hidden switch that opens the entrance to the Batcave from Batman.
Adam West’s “Batman” hero working Batmobile
Batphone from Batman.
William Shatner’s “Captain James T. Kirk”
wraparound tunic from Star Trek: The Original Series.
William Shatner’s “Alternate Universe Cpt.
James T. Kirk” tunic from Star Trek: The Original Series, episode “Mirror,
Leonard Nimoy’s “Evil Spock” tunic from Star
Trek: The Original Series, episode: “Mirror, Mirror”.
The I Dream of Jeannie signature Genie bottle.
“Jupiter 2” spaceship filming miniature from Lost
“Space Pod” filming miniature Lost in Space.
Henry Winkler’s “Arthur ‘Fonzie’ Fonzarelli”
signature leather jacket from Happy Days.
Jeff Conaway’s “Kenicki” signature “T-Birds”
jacket from the “Greased Lightnin’” musical number in Grease
Lynda Carter’s “Wonder Woman” signature
superhero ensemble from Wonder Woman.
Barbara Eden’s “Jeannie” signature pink harem
costume from I Dream of Jeannie.
(4) LOADING THE CANON. Library of America interviews
editor Gary K. Wolfe about his selections for American Science Fiction: Eight Classic
Novels of the 1960s — The High Crusade, Poul Anderson; Way Station, Clifford D.
for Algernon, Daniel Keyes; . . . And Call Me Conrad [This Immortal], Roger
Master, R. A. Lafferty; Picnic on Paradise, Joanna Russ; Nova, Samuel R. Delany; and Emphyrio, Jack Vance. “Gary
K. Wolfe: Reinvention and revolution in 1960s science fiction”.
LOA:Appreciations of Delany’s Nova regularly note that it has roots in old-fashioned space opera, and in the next sentence mention how it anticipates cyberpunk. How does Nova simultaneously evoke science fiction’s past and anticipate its future?
Wolfe: As his own critical and autobiographical works make clear, Delany was a sophisticated and critical reader of science fiction from an early age, so it’s not surprising he would make use of his knowledge of the genre’s classic space opera tropes, just as he had made use of the post-nuclear apocalypse theme in The Jewels of Aptor or the generation starship theme in The Ballad of Beta-2. So while the huge planet-hopping canvas and the economic and corporate rivalries suggest classic space opera, the characters are quite different. While there are human-machine interfaces and implants in Nova, I think the more important way in which it anticipates cyberpunk has to do with these characters: racially diverse, often alienated outsiders like The Mouse or drifters like Dan.
Nova is set in a much more distant future—the thirty-second century—than novels like William Gibson’s Neuromancer, set in the reasonably near future, probably sometime in the twenty-first century. And while Nova does touch upon themes like body modifications and virtual reality, it’s less concerned with information technology, urbanization, and other earmarks of cyberpunk. But I’ve always felt that, despite the remarkable futuristic insights of Gibson, Sterling, Rucker, and others, the “punk” aspect of cyberpunk is what really gave rise to all the later variations like steampunk, dieselpunk, etc.—and that streetwise “punk” sensibility was certainly prefigured by Nova, along with a few other important works of the ’50s through the ’70s.
… The poet and scholar Michael Schmidt has just published a wonderful book, “Gilgamesh: The Life of a Poem” (Princeton), which is a kind of journey through the work, an account of its origins and discovery, of the fragmentary state of the text, and of the many scholars and translators who have grappled with its meaning. Schmidt encourages us to see “Gilgamesh” not as a finished, polished composition—a literary epic, like the Aeneid, which is what many people would like it to be—but, rather, something more like life, untidy, ambiguous. Only by reading it that way, he thinks, will we get close to its hard, nubbly heart.
(6) REFERENCE OF THE DAY. Now that you mention it….
(7) JURY DUTY. The Australian Science Fiction Foundation has put out a call for jurors for the 2020 Norma K Hemming Award – “eminent individuals in the Australian speculative fiction field.”
The award is designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work. Jury members are generally appointed for a two year period, and no juror may judge the same category for more than four years. Expressions of interest are to be submitted via the online form by COBFriday December 6, 2019.
In a rare streaming-to-linear deal, the Greg Berlanti-produced superhero drama will air on The CW the day after episodes debut on WarnerMedia-backed subscription service DC Universe. Additionally, the Brec Bassinger-led drama will also be available to stream on The CW’s free digital platforms the day after their linear debut. The series will launch on DC Universe in the second quarter of 2020 with new episodes released weekly.
This is the latest effort to give a signal boost to a scripted original from the nice streaming service. In July, DC Universe renewed drama Doom Patrol for a second season with the sophomore order set to run on both DCU and WarnerMedia’s forthcoming subscription streaming service, HBO Max.
Stargirl follows high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore (Bassinger), who inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to stop the villains of the past. The project reimagines Stargirl and the very first superhero team, the Justice Society of America, in a fun, exciting and unpredictable series. Geoff Johns and Lee Moder created the character, who was named after the former’s sister, Courtney, who died in the 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800. The character made her first appearance in July 1999’s Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. #1.
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.
November 25, 1915 — Albert Einstein formulated his general theory of relativity.
November 25, 1964 — Voyage To The End Of The Universe premiered. The feature starred Zdenek Stepánek and Frantisek Smolík. It’s actually a 1963 Czechoslovak called Ikarie XB-1 is and directed by Jind?ich Polák. The Americanized version has a very different end that the Czech version does.
November 25, 1983 — I predatori di Atlantide (The Atlantis Interceptors) premiered in Italy. Starring Tony King, Christopher Connelly, Gioia Scola, Michele Soavi and George Hilton. Directed by Ruggero Deodato who also directed the widely banned Cannibal Holocaust and Phantom of Death.
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born November 25, 1920 — Ricardo Montalbán. Khan Noonien Singh and Mr. Rourke. Armando and Grandpa Valentin Avellan. I’m picking those as four most memorable roles he’s played and they just happen to all be genre in nature. Oh, and is Khan Noonien Singh the only occurrence of a non-crew character carrying over from the original series into the films? I suspect not but I can’t think of anyone other. (Died 2009.)
Born November 25, 1926 — Poul Anderson. My favorite ones by him? Orion Shall Rise for the mix of personal scale story with his usual grand political stories, and all of the Flandry and van Rijn stories. I also enjoy his Time Patrol stories as well, and the two Operation Luna are quite fun. He was quite honored with seven Hugo Awards and three Nebula Awards. (Died 2001.)
Born November 25, 1926 — Jeffrey Hunter. Best known for his role as Capt. Christopher Pike in the original pilot episode of Star Trek and the later use of that material in “The Menagerie” episode. Other genre work included Dimension 5, A Witch Without A Broom, Strange Portrait (never released, no print is known to exists), Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Journey into Fear and The Green Hornet. (Died 1969.)
Born November 25, 1941 — Sandra Miesel, 78. She has described herself as “the world’s greatest expert” on Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson. She’s written such works as Against Time’s Arrow: The High Crusade of Poul Anderson on Borgo Books and she’s written the front and back matter for many of their books. Oh, and she started out as a serious fan being nominated thrice for Hugos for her writing in zines such as Yandro and Granfalloon. She co-authored The Pied Piper of Atheism: Philip Pullman and Children’s Fantasy with Catholic journalist and canon lawyer Pete Vere.
Born November 25, 1947 — John Larroquette, 72. I think his best genre role is Jenkins in The Librarians. He’s also had one-offs in Almost Human, The Twilight Zone, Chuck, Batman: The Animated Series and Fantasy Island. He’s uncredited but present in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight, Doing voice acting in Green Lantern: First Flight, the Klingon Maltz in The Search for Spock and the oddly named K.K.K. in Twilight Zone: The Movie. Did you know he was the narrator of two Texas Chainsaw Massacre films?
Born November 25, 1951 — Charlaine Harris, 68. She is best known for the Southern Vampire series starring Sookie Stackhouse which was adapted as True Blood. I know I’ve read several of this series and enjoyed them. She has two other series, nether genre or genre adjacent, the Aurora Teagarden and Lily Bard series.
Born November 25, 1953 — Mark Frost, 66. He’s best known as a writer for Hill Street Blues (I know it’s not genre but superb nonetheless) and as the co-creator with David Lynch of Twin Peaks in which he’s been involved with in other roles as well. He had a hand in writing both of the Fantastic Four films. He was also one of the Executive Producers of the very short lived All Souls series.
Born November 25, 1968 — Jill Hennessy, 51. Best known for being Dr. Marie Lazarus in RoboCop 3 which did not star Peter Weller despite my not noticing this for several viewings. She pops up elsewhere such as twice in the War of The Worlds series playing two different characters which she also foes in The Hitchhiker series, and amazingly being on Friday the 13th: The Series in four different roles!
Born November 25, 1974 — Sarah Monette, 45. Under the pen name of Katherine Addison, she published The Goblin Emperor which garnered the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and was nominated for the Nebula, Hugo and World Fantasy Awards. She won the Spectrum Award in 2003 for her short story “Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland”. Her first two novels Mélusine and The Virtu are quite wonderful and I highly recommend her Iskryne series that she co-wrote with Elizabeth Bear.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
Tom Gauld has tapped into a theme that brings to mind Lafferty’s “Slow Tuesday Night.”
Gotham’s leading philanthropist has joined other billionaires, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerburg and hedge-fund billionaire Leon Cooperman, in opposing [Elizabeth] Warren. Wayne has even gone one step further, insisting a wealth tax could curb private spending on items such as hang glider capes, personally-branded boomerangs, and rodent-themed flood lights that illuminate the night sky.
(13) AU REVOIR? French sff news site ActuSF tweeted about
the recent conference in China —
“On November 24, Asian science fiction writers announced at the 5th International Science Fiction Conference in China that more international cooperation is expected in the Asian FS sector.”
— Prompting a despairing comment from Olivier Pacquet to another
French SF writer, Sylvie Denis:
“We can say goodbye to a Worldcon in France in 2023.”
Pope Francis was in Japan for a four-day visit on Saturday, Nov. 23 — his second papal visit to the country.
While greeting Catholics and the media on Monday, Nov. 25, the Pope, known for his unconventional background and unorthodox methods and comments, wore a Japanese coat called a “happi”.
…Words in different languages, such as Japanese and Spanish, can be seen on the “happi” as well.
Some of the Japanese phrases read “gratitude”, “let’s pray together”, “may there be peace”, “what can be done to give disaster victims hope”, and “we are glad that you’re the pope”.
A happi is a traditional Japanese straight-sleeved coat. They are usually worn only during festivals. Originally these represented the crest of a family, as happi were worn by house servants. Firefighters in the past also used to wear happi; the symbol on their backs referred to the group with which they were associated.
(16) LET NOTHING STAND IN YOUR WAY. This is wonderfully over the top. A Foot Locker commercial asks people how desperately do they want this shoe? “Would you do whatever it takes to get to the Week of Greatness and get the drop? Even if aliens attacked Earth during a zombie epidemic and a global meteor storm?”
[Thanks to John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock,
Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Lise Andreasen, Olav Rokne, and
Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing
editor of the day, our neighbor Jon Meltzer.]
Proposed Site: Nice, in the south of France
Proposed Dates: August 2-6, 2023
Bid Leadership: (From a Smofcon questionnaire)
At the moment, our team is led by a group of seven individuals who have been active in the French fandom for several decades. Some are editors, writers, translators, many with past or current experience running local conventions and festivals. These seven persons are: Alex S. Garcia, Alain Jardy, Sybille Marchetto, Arnaud Koëbel, Albert Aribaud, Thomas Menanteau and Patrick Moreau.
DISCUSSION POINTS. There is a drumbeat of opinion in favor of denying the U.S. all future Worldcons, energized by each new instance of an sff fan or writer being put through the wringer by TSA, or denied entry upon arrival in US due to visa rules enforcement. Here are several examples of what has appeared in social media. Apart from Adam Roberts, the rest live in the U.S.
And I would urge all U.S.-based SFF writers to strongly support Worldcon bids outside the U.S. Community solidarity with all our international colleagues who deserve to participate without risking their safety. https://t.co/0dPBH0XFNN
Agree wholeheartedly. I will not support future US based Worldcon bids unless this ends. If I had known during the 2016 site selection what kind of cesspit we were going to fall into, I would not have supported the San Jose bid, and this is my home.
There are currently no bids outside the US for WorldCon in 2021 or 2022. I desperately hope that changes. Nothing personally against the American bids, but I cannot in good conscience support having the convention in the US when our shitty government is treating people like this. https://t.co/Fk7HWlMF7h
A bid to host the 2023 Worldcon in Chendgu, China was announced at today’s Fannish Inquisition session at Worldcon 76. Chengdu joins a field which already includes bids for Nice, France, and New Orleans, LA.
A new chengduworldcon account is sharing information on Twitter:
I was originally invited by the heads of the China World Science Fiction society, Renwei Dong, Haijun Yao, and Wu Yan, to attend the Chinese Nebula Awards ceremony in Beijing, through the kind offices of Ruhan Zhao. Later the invitation was extended by the company Xinhuanet for Wayne and I to then spend a week in Chengdu.
For the first time ever, I was invited to a literary conference to be an Author Guest of Honor. It was the 4th International Science Fiction Conference in Chengdu, Sichuan, China. It was sponsored by SFWorld, a Chinese magazine and book publisher, with media and tech giant Tencent as one of the sponsors. I was one of about a dozen foreign authors and editors in attendance….
Among the international guests were authors Michael Swanwick and Ted Komsatska from the USA, Taiyo Fujii from Japan, Robert J Sawyer and I from Canada, and editors Neil Clarke from the USA, Francesco Verso from Italy, con organizer Crystal Huff from the USA, and a few others.
Huff is a former Worldcon 75 co-chair. Japanese sf writer Taiyo Fuji has been chair of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Japan since 2015.
Historically, the trajectory of Chinese SF was heavily influenced by top-down political forces at times. Recently it begins to receive continuous and influential support from the governments at all levels. On the one hand, following the tradition of focusing on ‘science’ in science fiction, the government re-emphasizes SF as a useful instrument for popularizing science and improving citizen’s scientific literacy. On the other hand, due to the high popularity and penetration rate of SF media, it is conceivable that the so-called ‘SF industry’ is often adopted in governmental agenda for creative and cultural industry development.
In a central government’s paper regarding promoting citizens’ science literacy issued by State Council in February 2016, it is explicitly stipulated that the government shall support science fiction writing as part of popular science writing. More details were revealed in a later talk given by Han Qide, president of China Association for Science and Technology (CAST), announcing that CAST will set up a national award for SF and host international SF festivals. The story reached the climax when Vice Chairman Li Yuanchao attended 2016 National SF Convention held in September 2016 and gave a speech at the opening ceremony warmly encouraging SF writing.
In the 1980s, science fiction once again fell foul of the ruling party, as a new “Anti-Spiritual Pollution Campaign” emerged as a backlash to Deng Xiaoping’s modernisation and liberalisation policies. Deng’s opponents in the party railed against Western “bourgeois imports” of all kinds, and with sci-fi seeming to fall firmly in that category, it was all but wiped out for a time.
The genre’s recovery was partly led by the emergence of Science Fiction World magazine in Chengdu, and its energetic editor, Yang Xiao, herself the daughter of a prominent party member. Having such influential backing allowed Science Fiction World to bring together many young writers for an “appropriate” reason.
By the end of the century, Chinese sci-fi entered its own golden age. Although the authorities still raised the issue of literary “appropriateness”, the old restrictions had gone. One prominent contemporary sci-fi author is Han Song, a journalist at the state news agency Xinhua. Many of his works are only published outside the mainland due to their political themes, but Han is still widely recognised at home. His fiction can be dark and melancholy, envisioning, for instance, a spacefarer building tombstones to fellow astronauts, or the Beijing subway system being turned into a graveyard in which future explorers, arriving back on Earth, find themselves trapped on a fast-moving train. Along with Liu Cixin and Wang Jinkang, he is considered one of the “Three Generals” of Chinese sci-fi.
Chengdu also figured in the creation of the new Asia Science Fiction Association, which held its first meeting on July 17, and announced a plan to hold its first Asiacon there in 2019. ASFA’s president is Liu Cixin, whose Three-Body Problem (translated by Ken Liu) won the Best Novel Hugo in 2015.
Smofcon 35, the convention for conrunners, taking place December 1-3 in Boston, asked Worldcon, NASFiC and Smofcon bidders, and seated Worldcon committees to answer a questionnaire. The responses have been posted at Smofcon’s website under Fannish Inquisition.
There will also be a Q&A session at the con – 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.
At the Fannish Inquisition, all questions will be asked by the Inquisitors. The Inquisitors welcome your questions. They will ask them (possibly edited and combined), leaving you anonymous. Before the convention, E-mail questions to email@example.com. At the convention, there will be a drop-off point in the con suite.
SUBTRACTION. For a couple of years Worldcon.org has been listing a Doha, Qatar in 2022 bid. Superversive SF contributor “Ray Blank” (pen name of Eric Priezkalns), posited the bid in June 2015 while taunting fans about diversity in articles like “On Worldcons and World Cups” (Superversive SF, June 13, 2015):
Qatar is scheduled to host the 2022 World Cup, and they are nearing completion of one of the largest convention centres in the world, with a view to becoming a hub for global and regional events. But if Worldcon went to Qatar, its members would have to engage with a society where homosexuality is against the law, many women choose to cover their faces, and expatriate workers have inadequate legal protection, leading to their mistreatment.
If you have strongly-held progressive beliefs, you should want to go to places like South Africa, Malaysia and Qatar; nobody changes opinions by avoiding those who disagree with them. And dealing with weighty real-world issues might discourage some of the sound and fury that taints arguments about how to vote for a book award.
He also engaged fans here at File 770, writing a dozen comments, all on June 15 and 16, 2015. He said about Qatar:
From scratch, I’m going to work on a new bid for Worldcon to be hosted in a country that would be radically different to any previous host. My first thought is to see if it will be possible to build grass roots support for Doha, Qatar, to host the 2022 Worldcon. Failing that, I will explore the possibility of a bid for Bangalore, India.
There has been no sign of any traditional bid activity – parties, ads, etc. Ray Blank has time to do something about that if he wants, but right now there’s nothing to justify keeping Qatar on the list.
(2) A CENTURY OF CARL SLAUGHTER. Adding together all the interviews, book features, series features, author profiles, essays, and news items he’s written for File 770, today I published Carl’s 99th and 100th submissions. I’m grateful he’s been so generous with his talent here.
These are just the tidbits that everyone in the industry takes for granted and assumes everyone knows.
1 – Literary agents close for several months of the year so always check their websites to see if they are open to queries right now.
2 – Summer is con season and, on Fridays, the agents and editors leave work early. If your deadline falls on a Friday, make sure the manuscript gets in early.
3 – Between Thanksgiving (American) and Groundhog’s Day, publishing is slow and full of NO. Everyone wants to clear their desk for the new year and empty their inboxes so agents (and editors) are quicker to say no this time of year.
That means February is one of the best times to query. Everyone is back from their holidays. Everyone is over their “no booze” New Year’s Resolution. Everyone is excited about the coming spring and in the mood to say YES!
On Thursday, just as I am saying goodbye to Margaret Atwood at the end of our interview, I get a text message. “Oh,” I say. “Bob Dylan’s won the Nobel prize.” She is about to have her photograph taken, and is arranging a rakish grey felt hat atop her steely curls. She looks at me, opens her mouth very slightly, and widens her eyes. They are the faintly unrealistic blue of a Patagonian glacier.
“For what?” she says, aspirating the word “what” with devastating effect.
If Atwood herself occasionally checks her phone for missed calls from Stockholm on such mornings, she does not admit to it; in any case, fellow Canadian Alice Munro’s victory in 2013, commemorated with a generous tribute by Atwood in this paper, will have queered that particular pitch for some years to come.
(5) BUT HOW DID THIS NOT PREVENT DYLAN FROM WINNING THE NOBEL PRIZE? Though it may be the reason it took so long.
(6) BOB WEINBERG MEMORIAL. Steven H Silver sent this report about the celebration of the late Robert Weinberg, who passed away September 25.
A memorial party was held for Bob Weinberg today at the Orland Park (IL) Civic Center from 12:00-4:30. There were about 70 people attending. Doug Ellis and others spoke about their relationship with Bob. Attached is a picture showing Phyllis and Alex Eisenstein, Tina Jens, Randy Broecker, and Richard Chwedyk. Images of Bob and his art collection were shown on a screen and some of Bob’s jigsaw puzzles were available for people to work on or take home.
I am currently hiding from the icky people of the world. Many of them are on Twitter, so I’ve taken a Twitter break until after the election. Quite a few are also on Facebook so I’ve stopped hanging around there too: It’s like people are just waiting for you to show up so they can poot in your face. I’ve noticed that if I spend any time on either platform my mood turns sour like milk from four months ago, and I’d rather not let that negativity poison my days.
I am, however, still posting happy pictures on Instagram, if you’d like to follow me there: I’m @kevin_hearne. And I’m on imzy as well. If you’d like to follow me there & become part of that community, click on this link, ask for an invitation, and I’ll approve it quick as I can.
Both Instagram and imzy, I have found, are poot-free.
Before John Stuart Mill coined the word “dystopia” in 1868, pessimistic post-Enlightenment thinker Jeremy Bentham created an earlier, perhaps even scarier, word, “cacotopia,” the “imagined seat of the worst government.” This was the term favored by Anthony Burgess, author of one of the most unsettling dystopian novels of the last century, A Clockwork Orange. Depicting a chaotic future England filled with extreme criminal violence and an unnerving government solution, the novel can be read as either, writes Ted Gioia, “a look into the morality of an individual, or as an inquiry into the morality of the State.” It seems to me that this dual focus marks a central feature of much successful dystopian fiction: despite its thoroughly grim and pessimistic nature, the best representatives of the genre present us with human characters who have some agency, however limited, and who can choose to revolt from the oppressive conditions (and usually fail in the attempt) or to fully acquiesce and remain complicit.
I really wish this con were closer to me, I would go every year if I could. It was like meeting old friends for the first time (shout out to Madame Askew and The Grand Arbiter). Tea Dueling is my new favorite sport of all time and everyone should do it everywhere forever.
In 2007, data showed that a young star about 400 light years away from our solar system was blinking. It was being covered, uncovered and covered again in what astronomers call a “series of complex eclipses.”
The eclipses told astronomers that something was orbiting the young star, and that the something was very large….
…In 2012, [Eric Mamajek] and colleagues published a paper announcing what they thought was causing what he calls “the weird eclipse.”
It was an enormous ring system swirling around a planet.
“This planet is much larger than Jupiter or Saturn, and its ring system is roughly 200 times larger than Saturn’s rings are today,” Mamajek said at the time….
(12) THE BEST THINGS IN LIFE ARE FREE. Terry Bisson’s classic “Bears Discover Fire” is available as a free read at Lightspeed Magazine.
“What’s this I hear about bears discovering fire?” she said on Tuesday. “It’s true,” I told her as I combed her long white hair with the shell comb Wallace had brought her from Florida. Monday there had been a story in the Louisville Courier-Journal, and Tuesday one on NBC or CBS Nightly News. People were seeing bears all over the state, and in Virginia as well. They had quit hibernating, and were apparently planning to spend the winter in the medians of the interstates. There have always been bears in the mountains of Virginia, but not here in western Kentucky, not for almost a hundred years. The last one was killed when Mother was a girl. The theory in the Courier-Journal was that they were following 1-65 down from the forests of Michigan and Canada, but one old man from Allen County (interviewed on nationwide TV) said that there had always been a few bears left back in the hills, and they had come out to join the others now that they had discovered fire.
“They don’t hibernate anymore,” I said. “They make a fire and keep it going all winter.”
“I declare,” Mother said. “What’ll they think of next!”
The nurse came to take her tobacco away, which is the signal for bedtime.
(13) PRE-ARRIVAL RAVES. Comedian Patton Oswalt (who is also a geek supreme) did a tweet storm that raved about the upcoming movie Arrival, based on Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life.”
(1) 'Scuse my mini-Tweet storm, but I just saw ARRIVAL and my mind is racing.
Scroll along the pixel tower
Filers kept the view
While all the SMOFs came and went
Outside, in the distance
An angry troll did growl
Two puppies were approaching
The wind began to howl
[Thanks to Rob Thornton. John King Tarpinian, Petréa Mitchell, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Josh Jasper. Hate to disillusion anyone, but I don’t know what this one means myself…]