(1) COMING DISTRACTIONS. Space.com presents a gallery of photos of Hurricane Florence taken from space.
With Hurricane Florence dominating this view from the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst warns the East Coast to get ready, “this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you.” Click through this gallery to see the latest images of Hurricane Florence.
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) September 12, 2018
(2) SF CONCATENATION. The new issue of SF Concatenation is up — “Science Fiction News & Recent Science Review for the Autumn 2018”. Jonathan Cowie outlines what’s in store for readers —
Most recently added (mid-September) is our autumnal edition of news and reviews. As usual its news page has sections on film, books and publishing, TV, as well as the season’s forthcoming books listing of new titles (also fantasy and non-fiction) from the major SF/F imprints in the British Isles, many of which will soon be available elsewhere in the world. (A great way to see what will be coming out and ideas for your Christmas shopping.) And then there is the news page’s science consisting of short paragraphs on the season’s key, primary research papers that are cited so our scientist regulars can Google Scholar the papers for themseleves (and our non-scientist regulars can see that we don’t do fake news). Plus there’s the news page’s science-and-SF-interface section where yesterday’s SF is becoming today’s fact.
Other content includes articles and convention reports. Here there is another in our series by scientists are also SF authors as to their science heroes born in the 20th century.
The issue delivers over 40,000 words of selected news. That selection includes not reporting most of the Hugo winners:
…We continue (from last year) to define the Hugo ‘principal categories’ as those that had over a thousand nominating in that category (down from two thousand as our definition in 2016 as the numbers involved in Hugo nominating have declined since 2016). The 1,813 number nominating was down on last year’s number (2,464) (the second year of decline). The 2,828, voting on the final shortlist was down on the 3,319 voting in 2017 which in turn was marginally up on the number voting in 2016 (3,130).
So not surprisingly, the principal Hugo categories (those categories with over one thousand nominating) were markedly fewer than last year. Indeed, for the first time in many years we are not counting the ‘Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form’ as principal category (it only saw 819 nominating ballots and just a paltry 87 nominating the programme that went on to win). The principal category Hugo wins this year therefore were:-
Best Novel: The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin (fantasy) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the ‘best books’ of 2017. This is the third consecutive win for ‘best novel’ for Jemisin something that has never happened before in this category.
Best Novella: All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form: Wonder Woman (Trailer here) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the best SF/F/H films of 2017.
(3) THE MILITARY USES OF VENTRILOQUISM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Bluetooth earpieces have made people apparently talking to themselves normal—at least sort of. But at least one can spot the earpieces if you look carefully. A product in development for military use could change that, moving the mic and speaker inside the mouth (Smithsonian: “Military Invests in ‘Molar Mic’ That Can Route Calls Through Your Teeth”).
Communications devices have taken over our pockets and our wrists, but soon the gadgets may go even deeper. Patrick Tucker at Defense One reports that the Air Force has signed a $10 million deal with a California company to continue development of a communication device that is fitted to a users’ teeth.
Dubbed the “Molar Mic,” the gadget is being designed by San Mateo-based Sonitus Technologies Officially called the ATAC system, the two-way communication system consists of a small microphone that clips to a users back teeth. This enables them to hear communications through their cranial bones which transmit the sound to the auditory nerve. Users also wear a low-profile transmitter loop around their neck that connects to the Molar Mic via near-field magnetic induction, a system similar to Bluetooth that can be encrypted and also passes through water. The loop then connects with with a phone, walkie-talkie or other communications device.
The device has seen field testing—albeit not in combat—with good results reported according to the contractor:
Tucker reports that airmen in Afghanistan tried it for 14 months while deployed, though not in active missions. Pararescuemen from the Air National Guard’s 131st Rescue Squadron based at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, also tested the device in Houston last year during Hurricane Harvey. The team faced high water, noisy helicopters and other external noises that make traditional communication difficult.
“This guy is standing in neck-deep water, trying to hoist a civilian up into a helicopter above. He says, ’There is no way I would be able to communicate with the crew chief and the pilot if I was not wearing your product,” [Sonitus CEO Peter] Hadrovic tells Tucker.
Might you ever see a civilian walking around with a “molar mic”? Gizmodo weighs in on that question (“Weird Tooth Phone Wins Millions in Pentagon Funding”):
A spokesperson for Sonitus told Gizmodo the company won’t speculate about when the technology will be available for commercial, industrial, or consumer markets—and the company won’t scale beyond military use until it completes the contract the Department of Defense just awarded them.
So, we probably have at least a few years before civilians start lodging phones into their throats.
(4) FRESH COMPETITION. Deadline is determined not to be left behind: “Former Hero Complex Columnist Geoff Boucher Joins Deadline As Genre Editor”.
Veteran journalist Geoff Boucher, best known for launching the Hero Complex column in the Los Angeles Times that built a vast following, has joined Deadline in the newly created post of Genre Editor. He will be based in Los Angeles and specialize in breaking news, features and analysis of “Comic-Con culture.” His stomping ground will encompass superhero fare, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and animation, the hottest film and television sectors in today’s Hollywood.
(5) CONSPIRASKI. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A conspiracy theory promoted by Russian media have it that a NASA astronaut deliberately damaged the docked Soyuz that was leaking air from the International Space Station. A joint NASA/Roscosmos statement reported in The Verge (“NASA is trying to squash conspiracy theories about the space station leak”) tries to quash that rumor… this despite earlier media reports that Roscosmos personnel are feeding those rumors through back channels.
Wild theories of sabotage still persist two weeks after a mysterious pressure leak occurred on the International Space Station, and the gossip has gotten so nonsensical that both NASA and Russia’s state space corporation, Roscosmos, are now trying to quell the rumors.
In a joint statement released today, NASA and Roscosmos claim that the US space agency is working closely with Russia to figure out the cause of the leak. The statement also notes that no information will be released until the Russian-led investigation is over, despite rampant speculation in the Russian press that the leak was possibly caused by one of NASA’s astronauts in space.
…the gossip over the leak seems to have only grown in the last couple of weeks. As first reported by Ars Technica, a story published in Russia’s Kommersant cited anonymous sources from Roscosmos, who claimed that investigators were looking into the possibility that the hole was caused by a NASA astronaut. The theory was that one of the three American crew members had gotten sick, so one of the astronauts caused the leak in order to force a quick evacuation to Earth.
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY
- September 13, 1985 – Super Mario Bros. was released by Nintendo. BGR has the story: “Let’s wish a happy 33rd birthday to a certain mustachioed Italian plumber”.
Setting aside his technical first appearance in 1981’s Donkey Kong, today is a fun anniversary to take note of for fans of the Super Mario video game franchise. The fat plumber who sports the iconic overalls and red cap debuted as a titular video game hero 33 years ago today, in Super Mario Bros. which was released in Japan on Sept. 13, 1985.
Not that anyone needs to be reminded, but when the game made its way over to North America and started selling here, it became one of the best-selling video games of all time. With some 40 million copies sold for the original NES.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born September 13, 1894 – J.B. Priestley. Who apparently wrote SF but I’ll admit that even after reading his page at the Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction that I’ll be buggered if I can figure out precisely what that means. One of y’all will need to explain what sort of genre fiction he did.
- Born September 13, 1916 – Roald Dahl. Writer, though how much of his work I’d consider genre is a good question, Witches certainly as well as Gremlins, James and the Giant Peach and Fantastic Mr Fox but what else are genre to your thinking? He would win the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, so I may be being overly fussy tonight.
- Born September 13 — Bernard Pearson, 72. Discworld specialist. Would I could kid you? He wrote the Compleat Discworld Atlas with Ian Mitchell and Isobel Pearson and Terry Pratchett and Bernard Pearson and Reb Voyce; Also such works (and for sake of brevity I’m skipping co-authors though you can assume Pratchett was listed as being involved though how involved he was is a good question) as the Discworld Almanak: The Year of the Prawn, Discworld Diary: A Practical Manual for the Modern Witch and Miss Felicity Beedle’s The World of Poo.
- Born September 13 – Bob Eggleton, 58. He has won the Hugo for Best Professional Artist an amazing eight times, he also won the Hugo for Best Related Book for his art book Greetings From Earth. He has also won the Chesley Award for Artistic Achievement. He was the guest of honor at Chicon in 2000.
- Born September 13 – Tom Holt, 57. Humorous fantasy such as Expecting Someone Taller and Who’s Afraid of Beowulf? One of his latest works, The Good, the Bad and the Smug is roughly a take on Rumplestiltskin based economies where Evil goes for modern, hopefully appealing appearance.
(8) COMICS SECTION.
- This Over the Hedge strip is not what Kirk had in mind when he asked for more power:
(9) DRIVERLESS MOTORCYCLE ON THE WAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Don’t worry, this is probably not going to develop into the first Terminator. BMW has taken the wraps off a research project — said to be more than two years old — and has published video of a self-driving motorcycle (Mashable: “BMW’s riderless motorcycle can handle curves, obstacles”). In the video, the cycle is shown driving both with and without a rider along. What appears to be an early version has wide outrider wheels, but the current prototype looks pretty much lke a regular motorcycle with extra metal boxes attached that presumably contain the electronics.
This week BMW Motorrad — the motorcycle division of the German car company — showed a prototype driverless bike on a test track accelerating, navigating curves, and braking all on its own. In Munich, safety researchers have been using the autonomous motorcycle to test out features for its real motorcycles to handle dangerous situations.
(10) MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE UNCANNY SLUSHPILE. You can’t say they don’t know what they missed.
— Señor Zorro (@jondelarroz) September 13, 2018
(11) ESCAPE POD OPENING FOR SUBMISSIONS. On September 16.
— Benjamin C. Kinney (@BenCKinney) September 13, 2018
(12) ST. KOONTZ. Benedictine College English professor Stephen Mirarchi, reviewing Dean Koontz’s new novel The Forbidden Door, says that Koontz is an orthodox Catholic who is “a wildly successful writer who has infused his art with God’s grandeur.” National Review Online has the story: “The Transcendent Dean Koontz”.
… To take a wider view, Koontz is presenting in the series a large-scale defense of the ability to choose meaning and virtue. One of his recurring characters is an anxiety-prone latter-day Puritan, while another is an intellectually and physically domineering hulk straight out of a Max Weber tract. Koontz fairly and logically shows the necessary consequences of these characters’ thoughts and actions by creating storylines of such accessibility that the general reader can see how their ideologies contradict any coherent notion of the good life. The modern Puritan, for instance, moves nervously from scene to scene, constantly seeking perfection and never finding it, unjustly critiquing others while placating his own ego. The ideologies Koontz critiques inevitably lead to disaster — not just for the characters, but for the societies built on such chimeras.
Hawk, on the other hand, embraces the natural religion to which Koontz’s wide fan base responds with awe. She finds solace in the wonder of creation while calling out evil for its supernatural maliciousness, ever uniting reason with hope against secular hedonism. Koontz does “diversity” the right way, too: He features an autistic character in this series who is a compelling hero because he faces down his particular suffering by accepting grace. And as Flannery O’Connor and Léon Bloy before her have shockingly reminded us, the reception of grace usually hurts — badly.Speaking of the reception of grace, I am going to prognosticate: There is one mesmerizing scene in The Forbidden Door, an explicitly Catholic one, that many readers may wildly misinterpret….
(13) THOSE MISTY WATERCOLOR MEMORIES. Jason Heller intended to write an evocative, nostalgic tribute to the world of Piers Anthony – until he reread A Spell for Chameleon: “Revisiting the sad, misogynistic fantasy of Xanth” at AV Club.
I know other people who have read Anthony’s Xanth books. All of them did so in their youth—and like me, they drifted away from them long before graduating high school. There’s something inherently juvenile about the Xanth series, even though it wasn’t marketed as young adult, a distinction that didn’t exist as such back then. Even worse, as the series progressed it became increasingly reliant on really bad puns. That was more of a turnoff than any perceived lady hating, at least when I was a teenager and less attuned to such things. I do wonder how much of the books’ warped view of women trickled into my sensibility back then. Or other readers’ sensibility.
I grew up to be involved deeply in science fiction and fantasy, but it doesn’t take an insider to know that those genres have trouble with gender issues—both on the page and in real life, where sexual harassment at sci-fi conventions is an ongoing problem. Anthony’s books were huge in their day, and their influence runs deep; dozens of similarly humorous series, from Robert Lynn Asprin’s Myth Adventures to Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger, popped up in Xanth’s wake. I read and loved them, too, when I was a kid. But they don’t evoke an icky feeling the way Xanth does—a creepiness that retroactively corrodes any lingering nostalgia.
(14) LUNCH WAS SERVED. Can you guess “Who killed the largest birds that ever lived?” Bones show that humans lived beside “elephant birds” on Madagascar for millennia before wiping them out for food.
Prehistoric humans are under suspicion of wiping out the largest birds that ever lived after fossilised bones were discovered with telltale cut marks.
According to scientists, it’s evidence that the elephant birds of Madagascar were hunted and butchered for food.
The remains have been dated to about 10,000 years ago.
Until now, the first settlers were thought to have arrived on the island about 2,500 to 4,000 years ago.
“This does push back the date of human arrival by 6,000 years, at least,” says Dr James Hansford, a scientist at Zoological Society London, UK.
(15) WALLACE WINS. “Smarty pants: Robot trousers could keep the elderly mobile” — linings of legs fitted to act as supplementary muscles.
Johnathan Rossiter proudly displays his new trousers. Brightly coloured and fit for the running track, but packing more than just Lycra. They’ll be robotic.
“We are all going to get older and our mobility is going to reduce,” he says. “What we want to do is give people that extra bit of boost, to maintain their independence as long as possible.”
A team of British researchers thinks the future lies in wearable soft robotics. They’ve developed robotic muscles; air-filled bubbles of plastic that can raise a leg from a seated to a standing position.
(16) FLY ME TO THE MOON. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SpaceX is up to something… the Moon. Or, at least they want to be. They’ve announced (via a tweet) that they have signed their first customer to take a trip around the Moon (The Verge: “SpaceX says it will send someone around the Moon on its future monster rocket”):
SpaceX has signed its first customer to fly on the company’s huge new rocket, the BFR, the company says. The passenger will fly on the monster ship around the Moon, though there are no details yet regarding when the trip will happen. SpaceX says it will announce who is flying — and why — on Monday, September 17th.
The BFR, or the Big Falcon Rocket, is the giant rocket that SpaceX is currently developing to send humans to the Moon and Mars. The BFR design, [presented] by CEO Elon Musk last year, consists of a combined rocket and spaceship, called the BFS for Big Falcon Spaceship. The main rocket will have 31 main Raptor engines and be capable of sending up 150 tons to low Earth orbit, according to that presentation.
(Yeah, yeah, BFR stands for “Big Falcon Rocket.” Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Say no more, say no more.)
SpaceX had already announced (in early 2017) plans for two people to take such a trip; it’s not immediately not clear if this new announcement is one of those or yet a third person. The tweet does say that the name of the person as well as the reason for the trip will be announced Monday 17 September.
(17) MESSAGE FROM A CRYPTIC KRYPTONIAN. Erin Donnelly, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Henry Cavill Posts Complex Superman Vibe as Reports Claim He’s Leaving Superhero Role” says that Henry Cavill posted a video on Instagram wearing a “Krypton Lifting Team” and waving a Superman action figure around, leaving his 6.4 million followers wondering what this means.
(18) DAREDEVIL. Nextflix release the Daredevil Season 3 teaser trailer.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]