Pixel Scroll 11/21/19 Because The Scroll Belongs To Pixels

(1) CHENGDU ROLLS OUT THE RED CARPET. An international array of visiting writers and Worldcon runners will attend the 5th China (Chengdu) International Science Fiction Conference this weekend.

China Daily previewed the event in an English-language article “Sci-fi conference to be held in Chengdu”.

…The guests are from 14 countries and regions, and over 40 events will be organized during the three-day conference.

…Chengdu, the capital of Southwest China’s Sichuan province which is best known as the home of pandas, is the cradle of “Science Fiction World,” China’s most popular sci-fi periodical.

Founded 40 years ago, the magazine has cultivated a large number of well-known sci-fi figures including Han Song, Wang Jinkang and Hugo Award-winner Liu Cixin.

Chengdu has made great efforts in recent years to develop the sci-fi culture industry and build itself into China’s science fiction town. It has put in a formal bid to host the 81st World Science Fiction Convention in 2023.

Chengdu’s bid is competing with two other bids Nice, France, and Memphis, TN.

A partial list of the international writers and conrunners who are in Chengdu includes CoNZealand (2020) co-chairs Kelly Buehler and Norman Cates, DisCon III (2021) co-chairs Colette Fozard and William Lawhorn, Chicago in 2022 bid co-chairs Dave McCarty, Helen Montgomery, plus Crystal Huff, Pablo M.A Vazquez, Ben Yalow, Derek Künsken, Mimi Mondal, Robert J. Sawyer, and Francesco Verso.

Pablo M.A Vazquez is a winner of the Shimmer Program’s Two-Way Exchange Fund, chaired the 2017 NASFiC, and will co-chair of the 2020 Corflu.

Some of the guests and visitors were also part of the group photo below taken at the China Science Fiction Conference two weeks ago (November 2-3) in Beijing, China. SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal is at center, with Vazquez on the left, and Vincent Docherty (co-chair 1995 and 2005 Worldcons) to the right.

(2) ILM INNOVATION. Slashfilm fires the imagination with its description of a new visual media tech: “How Lucasfilm’s New ‘Stagecraft’ Tech Brought ‘The Mandalorian’ to Life and May Change the Future of TV”

… Kennedy adds an interesting little tidbit about the material used to create the screen:

“But I’m going to add one other thing that I didn’t know anything about this and it’s an interesting little tidbit. You have to grow the crystals for these screens. Who knew? You have to wait five years for the crystals to grow. And the crystals means a limited number of screens. Not only do you have to grow them but if you have volume, it’s important that you have the same bunch of LCD screens so that all the crystals are growing together. And then, how they refract the light, then they go into a whole pass on the ground crystals to then curate which ones are refracting the light in the same way so Its quite a process.”

So now the soundstage, a performance capture volume like the one James Cameron used on the Avatar films, is wrapped with these very high-resolution LED screens that present footage either shot on location or “in combination with CG environments.” Brennan explains further:

“And we’re able to have the perspective with cameras, but that means that you can change from Iceland to the desert in one [minute] from setup to setup so it really changes the flow of production. I think it also helps because actors are not in a sea of green. They’re actually seeing the environments that they’re in. And you add to that, after the puppetry and they’ve got characters to perform against in the environments that they are in and I think it does change.”

(3) BEST SFF. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar pick “The best science fiction and fantasy of 2019” for Washington Post readers. They make a wide, international sweep.

Silvia: I like mosaic novels so it’s no wonder I thought “Automatic Eve” by Rokuro Inui was cool, but it also had a Phillip K. Dick meets steampunk Japan vibe that is hard to miss. The other science fiction novel I recommend is Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s “We Cast a Shadow,” in which a black lawyer wants his son to undergo an expensive procedure that will render him white. It’s a near-future, socially charged and pretty impressive debut.

(4) TOP OF THE DECADE. And Paste Magazine figures with only a month to go it’s safe to call these titles “The 30 Best Fantasy Novels of the 2010s”. I’ve actually read four of them – yay me!

1. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (2015)

The first book in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy introduces a stunning world in the midst of an apocalyptic event. To avoid major spoilers, let’s just say that The Fifth Season is brimming with gloriously intense family drama and includes one of the most phenomenal magic systems ever created. It also boasts a complex protagonist who is a mother, gifting us with one of the most formidable and fascinating characters of the 21st century. Jemisin made history by winning the Hugo Award for Best Novel three years in the row for this trilogy, cementing her status as an essential voice in fantasy literature. But critical success aside, simply diving into her luminous prose will be enough for you to discern why she’s such a brilliant, must-read author. —Frannie Jackson

 (5) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 21, 1942 — “Tweety Bird” debuted.
  • November 21, 1969 — First ARPANET link put into service.  

ARPANET was an early computer network developed by J.C.R. Licklider, Robert Taylor, and other researchers for the U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). It connected a computer at UCLA with a computer at the Stanford Research Institute, Menlo Park, CA. In 1973, the government commissioned Vinton Cerf and Robert E. Kahn to create a national computer network for military, governmental, and institutional use. The network used packet-switching, flow-control, and fault-tolerance techniques developed by ARPANET. Historians consider this worldwide network to be the origin of the Internet.

  • November 21, 1973 — The Michael Crichton scripted Westworld premiered. Starring Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin and James Brolin, critics gave it mixed reviews but it has an 86% rating among watchers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • November 21, 2012 — The animated Rise Of The Guardians enjoyed its premiere.  The feature starred the talents of Hugh Jackman, Jude Law and Isla Fisher. Based on William Joyce’s The Guardians of Childhood series, it really bombed. However the audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes is very healthy 80%. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 21, 1924 Christopher Tolkien, 95. He drew the original maps for the LoTR. He provided much of the feedback on both the Hobbit and LoTR and his father invited him  to join the Inklings when he was just twenty-one years old, making him the youngest member of that group. Suffice it to say that the list is long of his father’s unfinished works that he has edited and brought to published form. I’ll leave to this group to discuss their merit as I’ve got mixed feelings on them.
  • Born November 21, 1937 Ingrid Pitt. Actor from Poland who emigrated to the UK who is best known as Hammer Films’ most sexy female vampire of the early Seventies. Would I kid you? Her first genre roles were in the Spanish movie Sound of Horror and the science-fictional The Omegans, followed by the Hammer productions The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula, and The House That Dripped Blood. She appeared in the true version of The Wicker Man and had parts in Octopussy, Clive Barker’s Underworld, Dominator, and Minotaur. She had two different roles in Doctor Who – somewhat of a rarity – as Dr. Solow in the “Warriors of the Deep” episode and as Galleia in “The Time Monster” episode. (Died 2010.)
  • Born November 21, 1941 Ellen Asher, 78. Editor who introduced many fans to their favorites, as editor-in-chief of the Science Fiction Book Club (SFBC) for thirty-four years, from 1973 to 2007 (exceeding John W. Campbell’s record as the person with the longest tenure in the same science fiction job). She was personally responsible for selecting the monthly offerings to subscribers, and oversaw the selection of individual works for their special anthologies and omnibuses. She has been honored with a World Fantasy Special Award and an Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction. In 2009, she was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and she was Editor Guest of Honor at Worldcon in 2011.
  • Born November 21, 1942 Jane Frank, 77. Art collector along with her husband quite beyond belief. Really. Together they put compiled a legendary collection of genre artwork, The Frank Collection, that has won awards. She is the author of numerous articles on illustration art, artists and collecting, and the book The Art of Richard Powers which was nominated for a Hugo, The Art of John Berkey, and The Frank Collection.
  • Born November 21, 1944 Harold Ramis. Actor, Writer, and Producer, best-known to genre fans for his role as Egon Spengler in the Saturn-winning, Oscar- and Hugo-nominated Ghostbusters and its lesser sibling Ghostbusters II (the scripts for both of which he co-wrote with Dan Aykroyd). He had voice roles in Heavy Metal and Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, and a cameo in Groundhog Day, for which he received Saturn nominations for writing and directing. He was also director and producer of Multiplicity. (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 21, 1945 Vincent Di Fate, 74. Artist and Illustrator who has done many SFF book covers and interior illustrations since his work first appeared in the pages of Analog in 1965. He was one of the founders of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA), and is a past president. In addition to his Chesley Award trophy and 7 nominations, he has been a finalist for the Professional Artist Hugo 11 times, winning once; two collections of his artwork, Infinite Worlds: The Fantastic Visions of Science Fiction Art and Di Fate’s Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware, have been Hugo finalists as well. He was Artist Guest of Honor at the 1992 Worldcon, for which he organized their Art Retrospective exhibit. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2011. You can see galleries of his works at his website.
  • Born November 21, 1946 Tom Veal, 73. He’s a con-running fan who chaired Chicon 2000. He was a member of the Seattle in 1981 Worldcon bid committee. He chaired Windycon X.  In 2016 he married fellow fan Becky Thomson. And he wrote the “1995 Moskva 1995: Igor’s Campaign“ which was published in  Alternate Worldcons and Again, Alternate Worldcons as edited by Mike Resnick.
  • Born November 21, 1950 Evelyn C. Leeper, 69. Writer, Editor, Critic, and Fan, who is especially known for her decades of detailed convention reports and travelogues. A voracious reader, she has also posted many book reviews. She and her husband Mark founded the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Club at Bell Labs in New Jersey (Mt = abbreviation for the labs’ Middletown facility), and have produced their weekly fanzine, the MT VOID (“empty void”), since 1978; it is currently at Issue #2,041. She was a judge for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for 20 years. She has been a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times, and Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a Windycon.
  • Born November 21, 1953 Lisa Goldstein, 66. Writer, Fan, and Filer whose debut novel, The Red Magician, was so strong that she was a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer two years in a row. Her short fiction has garnered an array of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominations, as well as a Sidewise Award. The short story “Cassandra’s Photographs” was a Hugo and Nebula finalist and “Alfred” was a World Fantasy and Nebula finalist; both can be found in her collection Travellers in Magic. Her novel The Uncertain Places won a Mythopoeic Award. You can read about her work in progress, her reviews of others’ stories, and other thoughts at her blog.
  • Born November 21, 1965 Björk, 54. Who bears the lovely full name of Björk Guðmundsdóttir. I like Icelandic. And I’ve got boots of her band somewhere here I think. She’s here for The Juniper Tree which is a 1990 Icelandic film directed and written by Nietzchka Keene which is based  on “The Juniper Tree” tale that was collected by the Brothers Grimm. She’s one of five performers in it. Oh, and because her last album Utopia explored that concept even using cryptocurrency as part of the purchase process.

(7) ZOMBIES APPERTAIN THEIR FAVORITE BEVERAGE. [Item by Errolwi.] Complaints about a “terrifying to children” TV ad for New Zealand soft drink L&P have been rejected by the NZ advertising watchdog. Stuff has the story — “‘Frightening’ L&P zombie ad attracts 40 complaints from viewers”.

Coca-Cola Amatil, which produces the beverage, said the ad was a light-hearted parody of “zom-com” or “zomedy” movies such as Shaun of the Dead and Warm Bodies

…The Advertising Standards Authority dismissed the complaints, saying that while the ad may be distasteful to some viewers, it did not reach the threshold to be considered likely to cause harm or serious offence.

It noted that since receiving the complaints, the advertiser had decided to reschedule the ad to be screened after 7pm.

(8) BEWARE THIS SORT OF SPOILER. Whoops, too late. SYFY Wire insists: “Worry you must not! Yoda Baby merchandise will be coming in time for Christmas”.

We still don’t know what the titular hero of The Mandalorian is going to do with the little “asset” that he found in the first live-action Star Wars series, but it is more than clear that the real world wants a piece of it. Everyone wants merchandise for the “Yoda Baby,” and there’s good news on the horizon. 

Disney and Lucasfilm purposely held back this bit of salesmanship to avoid spoilers, but that starship has flown. CNBC reports that all kinds of toys and apparel based on the character will be out in time for the holidays. 

(9) IN WIRED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The December WIRED has three articles on Star Wars that I thought were interesting. These are:

  • Angela Watercutter interviews cosplayers who enjoy cosplaying Rey because her costume is relatively simple and because she is the first female character in Star Wars to wield a lightsaber: “Everybody Loves Rey, a Star Wars Story”.

Annamarie McIntosh is coming undone. People in comic-book tees are rushing past her, lit up by too-bright fluorescents. She’s surrounded by massive signs with corporate logos, from Nintendo to DC Comics. The cavernous hall is 460,000 square feet, and McIntosh is taking up about three of them, trying to cinch the beige bandages wrapped around her arms. “We’re having issues here,” she says, with an exasperated giggle. “It’s been falling down all day.” With an assist by her mom, the 17-year-old finally twists and tucks her costume into place. All things considered, the fix is easy. It’s 2019’s Comic-Con International, and compared to the wizards and warlocks and Wonder Women crowding the floor, the outfit of the Jedi Rey is plain, simple. Sensible.

  • Adam Rogers undertakes “A Journey to Galaxy’s Edge, the Nerdiet Place on Earth” — and discusses how the park is a form of storytelling.  He says that cosplaying in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is banned, although “I saw a few women cosplaying on the down low, hair done weird, rocking galactically appropriate boots.” This graf of Rogers is news to me:

Eventually, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will open. That’s a two-day stay adjacent to the Orlando park in a hotel designed to look like a Star Wars spaceship, a luxury liner called the Halcyon.  The windows will somehow look out onto space; families will get tours of the bridge, and ‘port day’ will connect to Galaxy’s Edge.  Apparently even the hotel building ill be bermed off from arriving guests–all they’ll see is the ‘terminal’ where they board a shuttle to the Halcyon in orbit above.

The biggest battle in Star Wars is between its mythic arcs—the heroes’ journeys—and its political stories. Padmé fell on the political side so squarely that the prequel trilogy expended significant visual and narrative energy trying to drag her toward the mythic, where Anakin Skywalker was waiting.

She never got there. Her realm was that of the negotiation and the vote, and nothing was able to bring her into line with the adventure and the myth.

(10) KIWI IN TRAINING. Stephen Colbert has spent the week masquerading as The Newest Zealander. I don’t think any WorldCon venues are in shot, but parts are right next to Museum of NZ.

Prominent New Zealand celebrities Lucy Lawless (“Xena: Warrior Princess”) and Bret McKenzie (“Flight of the Conchords”) show Stephen around the town of Wellington and offer him tips on how to blend in as a local.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, N., Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Errolwi, Tom Boswell-Healey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 9/8/18 Space Zamboni!

(1) WHO TO LISTEN TO. Nicholas Whyte enthusiastically reviews four audio Doctor Who stories in “Jenny – the Doctor’s Daughter”.

Big Finish have scored a major coup by persuading Georgia Tennant to return to her brief role as Jenny, the Tenth Doctor’s cloned daughter, for more sfnal adventures across space and time, flanked by Sean Biggerstaff as the innocent but mysterious Noah, and both pursued by Siân Philips (who was Livia in I, Claudius forty years ago) as a vengeful cyborg, the Colt-5000. (Georgia Moffatt, as she then was, had a part in a Big Finish audio back in 2000, when she was only 16.)

 

(2) EVERMORE. Utah’s VR theme park Evermore opens today: “Evermore Park immersive experience from former Disney Imagineer invites you to enter fantasy world”.

Walt Disney Imagineers work diligently to create the most incredible experiences in the world. Sometimes, however, they take their immeasurable talents and create these experiences elsewhere. That’s the case for former Imagineer Josh Shipley.

According to his LinkedIn page, Shipley started with the Walt Disney Company in 1992 and became an Imagineer in 1996. He left Disney Imagineering in 2017 and began working on an immersive new experience park (located in Pleasant Grove, Utah) known as Evermore.

 

(3) ALL YOUR BASE. The Hugo Awards official site now has some very nice photos of the 2018 Hugo Award base created by Sara Felix and Vincent Villafranca, including closeups of the figures, inscriptions, and other details.

(4) STILL TIME TO HELP. A GoFundMe created to help Samanda Jeude is still open for donations. It’s received only a little over $1,000 so far. One of the incentives was a 1986 Hugo Award trophy.

“Helping The Helper -Electrical Eggs”

Science Fiction Fandom lost a long time friend and organizer in January, in the form of Donald (Dea) Cook. He left behind another well-known fan, his wife of over 30 years, Samanda Jeude.  Samanda is best known for establishing the organization Electrical Eggs, the first Disability Access organization in the Science Fiction community. Don was Sam’s sole career. She had polio as an infant, and that was complicated later in life by a couple of strokes. She now resides in a nursing home in Canton, Georgia. We helped to clear out the house to get it sold, and are now selling all of the contents to pay for Samanda’s ongoing care needs. How does any of this involve a Hugo, you might ask, and rightfully so!

Marcia Kelly Illingworth organized the appeal, and says the Hugo will stay in the fannish family, so to speak:

Update #2

The votes are in! The people have spoken! You have voted overwhelmingly to donate the Hugo to Fandom. I think I always knew that you would. Samanda thanks you, and I thank you!

We are leaving the fund open for a while longer for those who still wanted the opportunity to donate. Thank you again for all of your support.

Since donors have voted to donate the Hugo to fandom rather than have it be auctioned off to the highest bidder, that means less money raised for Samanda’s ongoing care. Given her service to fandom, it would be great to see further donations from fans.

(5) HIS PREFERRED WINNER. Nicholas Whyte has one thing in common with all Hugo voters – he thinks sometimes the wrong book loses — in this case, “Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson”.

Second paragraph of third chapter:

But there are worse places to live. There are much worse places right here in this U-Stor-It. Only the big units like this one have their own doors. Most of them are accessed via a communal loading dock that leads to a maze of wide corrugated-steel hallways and freight elevators. These are slum housing, 5-by-10s and 10-by-10s where Yanoama tribespersons cook beans and parboil fistfuls of coca leaves over heaps of burning lottery tickets.

This popped to the top of one of my lists just at the moment that I have been reading some of the other award winners from 1994. Snow Crash was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award (won by Jeff Noon’s Vurt) and the BSFA Award (won by Christopher Evans’ The Aztec Century); also on both of those shortlists was Ammonite by Nicola Griffith, which won the Tiptree. The Hugo for Best Novel was shared between A Fire On The Deep and Doomsday Book, the latter winning the Nebula as well; Snow Crash was on the Hugo long-list, but nowhere for the Nebula. (It did win two awards in French translation, and one in Spanish.)

This is surely one of those cases where the awards in general (and particularly across the Atlantic) failed to spot the classic in the making: Snow Crash now has more owners on LibraryThing than any two of the other books named above combined (which is why I read it; see below). I think it’s much the best of them.

(6) YOUR DIGITAL GOOD PLACE. Courtesy of io9, (“Google Chrome Has a Forking Clever Good Place Extension”) I learned about Google Chrome’s The Good Place extension:

Replace new tab page with a personalized dashboard that brings your very own version of The Good Place right to your desktop.

Calling all Good Place fans! Make The Good Place your Chrome home with an all-new tab page that features your favorite characters, quotes and photos from the show. Complete with weather updates, calendar reminders, and daily “inspiration” from Eleanor and the crew, you can become more productive and feel like you’re getting into The Good Place every single time you go online.

FEATURES:

-Replace curse words from your Chrome with the Obscenities Censor

-Search the web using your very own Janet

-Pry yourself away from the internet with the “Joy of Missing Out” built-in break reminders

-Replace “Thumbs up” and “Thumbs down” buttons on YouTube with “Good Place” and “Bad Place”

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 8, 1966  — A little TV show, Star Trek, aired its first episode, “The Man Trap,” written by George Clayton Johnson.

And earlier this week The Hollywood Reporter reprinted the show creator’s article about his new series: “When Gene Roddenberry Explained ‘Star Trek’ in 1966”.

Just over two months after Star Trek first beamed up to audiences on NBC during the 8:30 p.m. hour on Sept. 8, 1966, creator Gene Roddenberry wrote a column explaining the scope of his ambitious space series — and why it aimed for much more “science” than “fiction.” His original column in The Hollywood Reporter, “Science Fiction Thing of Past,” is below: 

Imagine a space vessel, larger than any naval vessel known, crossing our galaxy at a velocity surpassing the speed of light. Fourteen decks, a crew of over 430 persons. A whole city afloat in space.

Science fiction? Absolutely not. Rather, real adventure in tomorrow’s space. Based upon the best scientific knowledge and estimates of what our astronauts of the future may face when they move out of our own solar system and into the vastness of our galaxy. Other worlds like ours? Other peoples? What?

Our starship, designed with the help of space experts, is the United Space Ship Enterprise. The place — NBC-TV, Thursday nights. In full color, this new action-adventure format boasts flesh and blood stars like talented William Shatner playing Ship’s Captain Kirk; love Grace Lee Whitney playing Yeoman Janice Rand; and Leonard Nimoy in an unusual new role as the half-alien Mister Spock. Plus talents such as DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Jimmy Doohan and Nichelle Nichols.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 8 – John Boardman, 85. Editor, fanzine Knowable; his Diplomacy zine, Graustark turned fifty a few years ago. Active in civil rights as a student as Florida State University which got him expelled from his doctoral studies program there.
  • Born September 8 – Michael Hague, 70. Illustrator of his own work including The Book of Dragons, Michael Hague’s Magical World of Unicorns,  The Book of Fairies, The Book of Wizards and Michael Hague’s Read-to-Me Book of Fairy Tales; also interior and cover art for such genre works as The Hobbit, The Wizard of Oz and The Wind in The Willows. 
  • Born September 8 – Gordon Van Gelder, 54. Editor, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, The New York Review of Science Fiction and a smattering of anthologies including Go Forth and Multiply and Welcome to the Greenhouse. Reviewer as well.
  • Born September 8 – Matt Ruff, 53. Author of quite a number of genre novels including Fool on The Hill, Lovecraft Country which was nominated for a World Fantasy Award, and Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls which may or may not be genre fiction but never-the-less won a James Tiptree Jr. Award.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cutting-edge humor: Bizarro
  • Copernicus’ theory of SJW credentials: Free Range.
  • They’re not phoning home: Bliss

(10) GAP IN EXHIBIT. Holly Ordway, in “The Maker of the Maker of Middle-earth” at Christianity Today, reviews the Bodleian Tolkien exhibit and examines why it says little about Tolkien’s strong religious faith.

…There are many ways that Tolkien’s Christian faith could have been represented, even in the relatively limited space available. One item already on display was a 1914 letter to Edith. The display label transcribes, from Tolkien’s small and difficult-to-read handwriting, a paragraph about officer-training maneuvers on Port Meadow.

Immediately following this portion of the original letter is Tolkien’s comment that the next day “I got up at 7.40 and just reached church on time, and went to Communion.” Just one more sentence on an already existing display label would have given a glimpse of Tolkien’s faith in practice. As it is, nearly all visitors will miss this reference entirely; I very nearly did.

Other extracts from letters could have been shown, such as the 1956 letter in which Tolkien relates Frodo’s failure to give up the Ring to the petition in the Lord’s Prayer “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Or perhaps the 1944 letter in which Tolkien discusses modern healing miracles and describes the Resurrection as the “happy ending” of human history.

Several examples of his Elvish calligraphy were displayed; one could have been selected from the prayers that Tolkien translated into Elvish, such as the Lord’s Prayer. Both the 1956 letter and this translation show the way that Tolkien’s faith, and indeed specifically his prayer life, had an influence on his writing—exactly the kind of influence we would hope to see emphasized in an exhibit on an author.

…These references, if they had been included, need not have been emphasized, but for one who knows of Tolkien’s faith, the absence of any such small detail is striking.

Playing It Safe

Why might the Tolkien Estate and the Bodleian have chosen to downplay Tolkien’s faith? And why does it matter? …

(11) FUTURE FICTION AUTHOR. Listen to “Nexhuman, an interview with Francesco Verso” conducted by Filer Mlex at Yunchtime.

In this free-form interview, Francesco Verso, explores the topics of transhumanism, consumer culture, and the philosophical aspects of Nexhuman. He also discusses his work in the context of English language publications and the emergence of global voices in Science Fiction, including his own anthology, called Future Fiction, which was co-edited by Bill Campbell and published by Rosarium Press.

(12) NZ NATCON REPORT. SF Concatenation has posted a report on the New Zealand national sf convention by Lee Murray (with an assist from Simon Litten) — “Conclave III”. The convention was held the weekend of March 30-April 2, 2018 in Auckland.

Then we were on to Norman Cates’ WETA presentation to get the skinny on all the new techniques making our movie viewing epic. As is customary with Norman’s presentation, I could tell you about all the wonderful clips he showed us, but then I’d have to kill you, or Norman would, or WETA’s lawyers would have to engage a hitman. In any case, it was cool.

Next up, was the Other Voices panel, moderated by Stephen Litten, where we were joined by Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body author Simon Petrie and Indiana fantasy writer, Laura VanArendonk Baugh. It’s a lively discussion, with some great insights from my fellow panellists around the definition ‘other’ and the value of including marginalised and foreign-to-us voices on our reading lists. We discussed the vagaries of translation and the layering of culture that occurs when works are translated by a second voice. We touched on appropriation and the discourse surrounding Aboriginal and Maori mythologies. Panellists and audience members raised some seminal works from other cultures, including French, Italian, Japanese titles, which we all felt should be included on our must-read lists.

(13) UNKEPT ROBOTIC PROMISES. On Gizmodo, Matt Novak lists (and links) “99 Things That Robots Were Supposed to Be Doing by Now” (though many of the linked “predictions” aren’t really “by now”).

Below is a list of just some of the things people of the past said robots would do in the near future. Many of them are fun or weird, while others are downright scary. But they’re all still “futuristic.” For now.

  1. Robots were supposed to replace school teachers.
  2. Robots were supposed to be professional boxers.
  3. Robots were supposed to pay taxes.

[…]

  1. Robots were supposed to pull off their heads and become the sickest drum set you’ve ever seen.
  2. And by 2076, robots were supposed to run for president.

(14) WINTER IS COMING FOR AI, MAYBE. Popular Science looks at the idea that Artificial Intelligence may — once again — be overhyped, which could lead to a collapse in research/support (“Another AI winter could usher in a dark period for artificial intelligence”).

Artificial intelligence can take many forms. But it’s roughly defined as a computer system capable of tackling human tasks like sensory perception and decision-making. Since its earliest days, AI has fallen prey to cycles of extreme hype—and subsequent collapse. While recent technological advances may finally put an end to this boom-and-bust pattern, cheekily termed an “AI winter,” some scientists remain convinced winter is coming again.

The article goes on to discuss the first “winter” that occurred during the early Cold War when natural language translation proved to be a much more difficult task that anticipated and another beginning in the 70s/80s when the Lisp machine didn’t live up to its hype as an AI solution. Author Eleanor Cummins expresses concern that, among other things, self-driving cars are over-promised and may be under-delivered, then concludes that:

Much like actual seasonal shifts, AI winters are hard to predict. What’s more, the intensity [of] each event can vary widely. Excitement is necessary for emerging technologies to make inroads, but it’s clear the only way to prevent a blizzard is calculated silence—and a lot of hard work. As Facebook’s former AI director Yann LeCun told IEEE Spectrum, “AI has gone through a number of AI winters because people claimed things they couldn’t deliver.”

(15) AI PRIORITY. DARPA doesn’t seem worried by that weather forecast: “DARPA announces $2B investment in AI”.

At a symposium in Washington DC on Friday, DARPA announced plans to invest $2 billion in artificial intelligence research over the next five years.

In a program called “AI Next,” the agency now has over 20 programs currently in the works and will focus on “enhancing the security and resiliency of machine learning and AI technologies, reducing power, data, performance inefficiencies and [exploring] ‘explainability’” of these systems.

“Machines lack contextual reasoning capabilities, and their training must cover every eventuality, which is not only costly, but ultimately impossible,” said director Dr. Steven Walker. “We want to explore how machines can acquire human-like communication and reasoning capabilities, with the ability to recognize new situations and environments and adapt to them.”

(16) FOUNDATION ORDERED. Ars Technica says that, “Apple confirms TV series order of Asimov’s Foundation” for their nascent streaming service.

In April, we reported that Apple was working on developing a TV series based on Isaac Asimov’s highly influential Foundation series of science fiction novels. Today, Ars has confirmed not only that Foundation was in development, but it has now been given a full series order—meaning we’re definitely going to see it.

As previously reported, David Goyer (screenwriter for The Dark Knight and Batman Begins) and Josh Friedman (creator of the TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and screenwriter for Steven Spielberg’s 2005 War of the Worlds film) will be the showrunners and executive producers. The series is being produced by Skydance Television, and Skydance CEO David Ellison will be an executive producer for the series (he is the son of famed Oracle executive Larry Ellison). Isaac Asimov’s daughter, Robyn Asimov, will also executive produce, along with Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross.

(17) THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE…UHH. NPR says this wouldn’t be news if anyone besides photographers had been paying attention: “Scientists Are Puzzled By Mysterious Lights In The Sky. They Call Them STEVE”.

There’s a light in the night sky over Canada that’s puzzling scientists. It looks like a white-purple ribbon. It’s very hot, and doesn’t last long. And it’s named STEVE.

STEVE: as in, Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.

Naturally.

Scientists don’t actually know what’s causing the atmospheric phenomenon, which has been known to amateur photographers of the night sky for decades but only recently came to the attention of researchers.

But in research published this week in Geophysical Research Letters, they pin down what it definitely isn’t. It’s not an aurora….

(18) HYBRID HUMAN. Nature reports: “Mum’s a Neanderthal, Dad’s a Denisovan: First discovery of an ancient-human hybrid”

Genetic analysis uncovers a direct descendant of two different groups of early humans.

A female who died around 90,000 years ago was half Neanderthal and half Denisovan, according to genome analysis of a bone discovered in a Siberian cave. This is the first time scientists have identified an ancient individual whose parents belonged to distinct human groups….

(19) BEFORE MARVEL WAS A SURE THING. Looper has a roster of Marvel TV Shows You Completely Forgot About. Or in my case, never heard of to begin with….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Daniel Dern, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]