Pixel Scroll 4/28/20 A Scroll As Small As A Footnote Is Rising From The Pixels

(1) WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY? “Majority of authors ‘hear’ their characters speak, finds study”. Details in The Guardian.

Some writers have always claimed they can hear their characters speaking, with Enid Blyton suggesting she could “watch and hear everything” and Alice Walker describing how her characters would “come for a visit … and talk”. But a new study has shown this uncanny experience is very widespread, with almost two-thirds of authors reporting that they hear their characters’ voices while they work.

Researchers at Durham University teamed up with the Guardian and the Edinburgh international book festival to survey 181 authors appearing at the 2014 and 2018 festivals. Sixty-three per cent said they heard their characters speak while writing, with 61% reporting characters were capable of acting independently….

(2) DISCOVERING ANIME. Mark Merlino, co-founder of the first furry con, has written “A brief history of the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, America’s first anime fan club” at Dogpatch Press.

… At some point (in 1977), we had managed to add material to our screenings, thanks to Marc Kausler, an animator and film collector. People with contacts in Japan began trading tapes with other fans. By that time I had my own VCR (a Sanyo V-Cord II, because it had still frame and slow-motion features, which no other consumer VCR had), and I began making copies for our (my) own video library. In May (I believe) Wendall, Judy, Robin, Fred and I met in a park near Judy’s house and decided to become the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization. I remember the weird name was Fred’s idea (but he later denied it). The reason it was called “cartoon-fantasy” is because they (not me) believed that the term “animation” was too “insider” for typical fans, though everyone knew about “cartoons”. The “fantasy” part was because we were also getting live-action adventure shows from Japan (like Ultraman, Spiderman (Jp), Tiger Mask and many 5 member “transforming ninja” team shows), which were also popular at our screenings. 

(3) BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE. The April 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Daffodil’s Baby,” by Alyssa Virker. Tagline: “What if you could have a baby using an egg from your favorite celebrity?”

It was published along with a response essay, “What’s Missing From Conversations About Designer Babies” by David Plotz, former CEO of Atlas Obscura and author of the book The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank.  

The modern eugenics movement was born when Francis Galton mapped the close genetic connections between the most “eminent” men of England for his 1869 book Hereditary Genius. Ever since then, eugenicists have been scheming up ways to save society by getting the “best” among us to have more children.

And ever since then, those same eugenicists have been fretting that the rest of us—the pig-brained masses—have the wrong idea of who the “best” people are. In the 1930s, one Nobel laureate was certain that mass artificial insemination could ensure that every baby would be a Newton or Leonardo, but worried that, left to their own whims, women would pick celebrities as their sperm donors, leaving us with a trivial society of “Valentinos, Jack Dempseys, Babe Ruths, and even Al Capones.” Hello, Daffodil and Breadbowl!

(4) THE MOUSE THAT ROARED. “Disney sparks backlash with #MayThe4th tweet” – the greedy rats!

Disney has been accused of trying to claim media ownership of popular hashtag “MayThe4th” on Twitter.

The company’s streaming service, Disney Plus, encouraged fans to share their favourite Star Wars memories using the hashtag on Monday.

It followed up with a legal warning suggesting any user who tweeted the hashtag was agreeing to Disney’s terms and letting it use their content.

It backtracked after a huge protest by fans and widespread mockery.

The hashtag – a play on the franchise’s phrase, “May the force be with you,” has been used for years to coincide with the made-up fan holiday.

“Reply with your favourite #Star Wars memory and you may see it somewhere special #MayThe4th,” the company said in a tweet.

“By sharing your message with us during #MayThe4th, you agree to our use of the message and your account name in all media and our terms of use.”

Many fans rushed to share their confusion over Disney’s tweet.

“You can’t just scream a terms of service agreement into the void and then assume anyone who does something falling in line has seen it and agreed,” replied one user.

(5) BOMBS AWAY. DoItYourselfRV takes you on a photo tour of the “Rocket Inspired Atomic Camper For The Astronaut In All Of Us”.

When you just have to get “back to the future” this retro inspired, steampunk-esque “Rocket Camper” may be just the inspiration you’re looking for. Exquisitely handcrafted by instructables user longwinters, this fine piece of machinery is built almost entirely of wood.

Here are two of the photos:

(6) LAST TIME. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 7, premieres May 27.

In the seventh and final season of the Marvel hit, Coulson and the Agents of SHIELD are thrust backward in time and stranded in 1931 New York City. With the all-new Zephyr set to time-jump at any moment, the team must hurry to find out exactly what happened. If they fail, it would mean disaster for the past, present and future of the world.

(7) SHAWL ON DIALECT AND REPRESENTATION. “Odyssey Podcast #128: Nisi Shawl on Dialect & Representation (Part 2)” from Odyssey Writing Workshop.

Nisi Shawl, the Jeff Pert Memorial Lecturer at Odyssey 2019, lectured on dialect and representation. In this excerpt, the second of two parts, Nisi explains techniques to reveal that a character speaks in dialect without using phoneticization. Word omission and word order (syntax) can show non-standard speech patterns and evoke the feeling of dialect while using standard spellings. Nisi discusses examples from her story “Black Betty.” Word choice is another technique that can reveal a person’s experience, cultural background, and expectations. It can also undercut stereotypes and reveal power differentials between characters. The rhythm of a word, sentence, or passage can also show non-standard speech patterns. Copying a poem or transcribing speech from someone native to the pattern you want to mimic can reveal rhythmic patterns. Cultural references can also help reveal a character’s non-standard speech. Nisi discusses several examples. But she wants writers to remember that difference is not monolithic.

(8) SEND ME IN COACH. Shannon Liao, in the CNN story “They lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Now they’re full-time video game coaches” profiles people who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus but have picked up additional income teaching video gamers how to improve their skills.

Trevor Andrews is a concert violist and music teacher who found his symphony performances canceled in late March as Covid-19 decimated the US economy. The private lessons he gave dried up as his clients cut back on their spending.

The 30-year-old resident of South Portland, Maine, is an avid gamer who considers himself an expert at the shooter game “Apex Legends,” in which squads of three battle to be the last team standing. So he decided to pivot from classical music to teaching online customers how to survive the virtual shoot-outs that have made the game an online hit.

“I’m good at explaining things,” he said. “Just like when I’m practicing the viola…You’re always self critiquing, and you’re always figuring out what you’re doing wrong and how to get better.”

Tech-savvy game enthusiasts are becoming full-time video game coaches as the ongoing pandemic has eradicated millions of jobs. While it may sound unusual, the job of teaching others how to improve their video game skills has been around for years and is now growing more popular as people shelter in place and spend more time online.

Like coaches in any endeavor, video game coaches teach players how to be more strategic and how to interact in team-based games like “League of Legends” and “Overwatch.” Some have their own awards for past gaming competitions and others simply have positive reputations bolstered by word of mouth….

(9) IF YOU’VE ACQUIRED THE TASTE. Grimdark Magazine’s CT Phipps provides “Ten Indie Grimdark Novel Recommendations”.

6. Seraphina’s Lament by Sarah Chorn

Mini-Review: Seraphina’s Lament is a truly dark and terrifying story based on the famines during the reign of Joseph Stalin. Taking place in a fantasy world where the old monarchy has been overthrown only to be replaced by something worse, starvation ravages the land. However, the population have more to deal with than their tyrannical overlord and his incompetence, the gods have decided to punish the land by unleashing a plague of hungry dead that will wipe the living from the face of the globe. The tight connections between the various characters sometimes stretches credulity but this is a solid piece of dark fantasy.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 28, 1946 The Shadow’s “Dreams of Death” episode first aired. It starred Lloyd Lamble (Quatermass 2) as Lamont Cranston and The Shadow with Lyndall Barbour as Margot Lane and Lloyd Berrill as The Announcer. The Shadow in the radio series was quite different from the printed version as he was given the power to “cloud men’s minds so they cannot see him”. This was at odds with the pulp novel character who relied solely on stealth and his guns to get the job done. Likewise Margo Lane was a radio creation that would later be added to the pulps. You can hear this episode here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 28, 1840 Palmer Cox. He was known for The Brownies, his series of humorous books and comic strips about the troublesome but generally well-meaning sprites. The cartoons were published in several books, such as The Brownies, Their Book for some forty years starting in the 1870s. Due to the immense popularity of his Brownies, one of the first popular handheld cameras was named after them, the Eastman Kodak Brownie camera. (Died 1924.)
  • Born April 28, 1910 Sam Merwin Jr. He was most influential in the Forties  and Fifties as the editor of Startling Stories,  Fantastic Story QuarterlyWonder Stories AnnualThrilling Wonder Stories and Fantastic Universe. He wrote a few stories for DC’s Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space but otherwise wasn’t known as a genre writer. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 28, 1911 Lee Falk. He’s best remembered for creating and scripting both Mandrake the Magician (first published June 11th, 1934) and The Phantom (first published February 17, 1936). He would be inducted into Will Eisner Hall of Fame for his work on these strips. (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 28, 1917 Robert Cornthwaite. Actor in such Fifties films as The Thing From Another WorldThe War of the WorldsMen Into Space and Destination Space. He would be active throughout the late Twentieth Century in such productions as The Twilight ZoneVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaColossus: The Forbin Project The Six Million Dollar ManBuck Rogers in the 25th Century and White Dwarf. (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 28, 1930 Carolyn Jones. She played the role of Morticia Addams (as well as her sister Ophelia and the feminine counterpart of Thing, Lady Fingers) in The Addams Family. She had an uncredited role in the original The War of the Worlds, her first genre role, as a Blonde Party Guest, and she was Theodora ‘Teddy’ Belicec in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. She had a recurring role as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds on Batman. (Died 1983.)
  • Born April 28, 1948 Terry Pratchett. Did you know that Steeleye Span did a superb job of turning his Wintersmith novel into a recording? You can read the Green Man review here as reviewed by Kage’s sister Kathleen. My favorite Pratchett? Well pretty much any of the Watch novels will do for a read for a night when I want something English and really fantastic. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 28, 1953 William Murray, 67. He’s been the literary executor for the estate of Lester Dent for the past forty years, and has written fifteen Doc Savage novels from Dent’s outlines using Dent’s pseudonym, Kenneth Robeson. His Doc Savage: Skull Island, teams him up with King Kong, and, I kid you not, he recently wrote Tarzan, Conqueror of Mars in which John Carter oF Mars was revived.
  • Born April 28, 1971 Chris Young, 49. Bryce Lynch in the Max Headroom series which I still hold is the best SF series ever done. The only other genre I think he’s in are two horror films, The Runestone and Warlock: The Armageddon. Unless you call voice roles in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars and The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue genre…
  • Born April 28, 1982 Samantha Lockwood, 38. Daughter of Gary Lockwood of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame. And she apparently was in yet another video Trek fanfic though this may not have ever gotten done before Paramount squashed them, Star Trek Equinox: The Night Of Time. There’s a trailer but no actual episode that I can find, so her role in Sci-Fighters which as Girlfriend that it is is her only genre role.

(12) TRUE VALUE. Emmett Asher-Perrin proclaims “The Character of the Doctor Is More Important to Me Than Doctor Who Will Ever Be” in an essay at Tor.com.

…But what I’m really trying to say is, it doesn’t matter if Doctor Who is good. It has never mattered if Doctor Who is good because the only thing that matters about Doctor Who is that it gave us the Doctor. If a piece of fiction is the beholden to what it leaves behind, then that is what the show bequeaths to us.

And what a beautiful inheritance that has become over the decades.

(13) NEW WORLDS, AT THE TIME ANYWAY. Galactic Journey’s Mark Yon reviews the latest issues – in 1965 – of British prozines: “[APRIL 28, 1965] Mermaids, Persian Gods And Time Travel New Worlds And Science Fantasy, April/May 1965″.

This month’s ‘arty’ cover is by the prolific Keith Roberts, who seems to be everywhere at the moment. His colour artwork was last seen on the cover of the January issue, this one to my mind is just as odd. Are British magazine covers meant to look like they are painted by a child? I despair, especially when I see the covers for the US magazines, which by comparison are so much more than what we get here. The best that can be said here though is that they reflect the changes in the magazines at the moment. They are determined to be different.

The Editorial this month mentions the up-coming British Worldcon later this year – now less than four months away! – and how to apply to attend. It also enquires about letters on the idea of genre and also mentions that there will be a letters page – soon! However, before readers get their hopes up that Science Fantasy will take on other New Worlds staples like the Ratings list – it’s not going to happen.

To the stories themselves….

(14) CURRENT EVENTS. Nicola Alter at Thoughts on Fantasy changes pace with a look back at the many people influenced by a 19th century scientist — “Idols, Friends and Mentors: Alexander von Humboldt’s Influence on Writing and Science”.

…First I should probably explain who Humboldt himself was: a scientist, explorer, mountaineer, nature writer and science writer who invented isobars and was the first to propose the idea of climate zones. He published the popular book series Cosmos along with many other volumes on science, nature and politics, and was at one point the most famous scientists of his time.

He also expressed very progressive ideas for a European in the early 1800s – he pointed out that human activity could damage the environment and change the climate; was vehemently anti-slavery, anti-colonialism and pro-democracy; and held positive views of indigenous people, even referring to the European colonists as the real “savages”. If you want to know more about him you can read my review on Goodreads… or better yet, read the book!

(15) FAVORITES OF FORTY-FOUR. Cora Buhlert continues working her way through the Retro Hugo finalists: “Retro Review: ‘Far Centaurus’ by A.E. van Vogt”. BEWARE SPOILERS beyond this introduction:

… “Far Centaurus”, a science fiction short story by A.E. van Vogt that was published in the January 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and is a finalist for the 1945 Retro Hugo Award. The story may be read online here

(16) TIME SINK. In Vice’s opinion “This 51,300-Piece Puzzle Will Either Chill You Out or Ruin Your Quarantine”.

The first wave of stimulus checks from the federal government’s coronavirus relief package have started to appear in some Americans’ bank accounts and, unsurprisingly, a not-insignificant percentage of that money has already been spent on groceries, gas, utility bills and video games, because eventually Tom Nook comes for all of us.

But if you happen to have an extra $599.95 that you aren’t blowing on black market sourdough starter, then Kodak would like you to buy its 51,300 piece jigsaw puzzle. The company says that this is the “world’s largest commercially available puzzle,” and it will arrive at your doorstep in one 40-pound box that contains 27 individually wrapped bags of anxiety….

Here’s a video of someone assembling a slightly smaller puzzle.

(17) LOST WORLD OF THE 21ST CENTURY. “Guillermo del Toro: What Allowed ‘Hellboy’ Films to Be Made No Longer Exists” – as he explains to Yahoo! Entertainment.

“What allowed the two films to exist, it’s gone,” del Toro wrote. “The Blu-ray DVD performance of the first ‘Hellboy’ was massive. So big that Ben Feingold, at Columbia, went full-on on the sequel development. Ben was so impressed by those numbers that he made ‘Hellboy’ one of the very first Blu-rays from Columbia Pictures. Far as I can recall, the number for home video surpassed theatrical.”

Del Toro had plans to direct a third “Hellboy,” but the box office performance of “The Golden Army” killed the franchise. The director pitched “Hellboy” creator Mike Mignola on an idea to turn the third movie into a comic book, but the plan was rejected as to not mixup the different mediums and confuse fans.

(18) A LOST SATELLITE OF THE 20TH CENTURY. “Long-Lost U.S. Military Satellite Found By Amateur Radio Operator”NPR talked to him.

…In 2018, he found a signal from a NASA probe called IMAGE that the space agency had lost track of in 2005. With Tilley’s help, NASA was able to reestablish contact.

But he has tracked down zombies even older than IMAGE.

“The oldest one I’ve seen is Transit 5B-5. And it launched in 1965,” he says, referring to a nuclear-powered U.S. Navy navigation satellite that still circles the Earth in a polar orbit, long forgotten by all but a few amateurs interested in hearing it “sing” as it passes overhead.

Recently, Tilley got interested in a communications satellite he thought might still be alive — or at least among the living dead. LES-5, built by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, was launched in 1967.

Tilley was inspired by another amateur who in 2016 had found LES-1, an earlier satellite built by the same lab. What was intriguing to him about LES-5 was that if it was still working, it might be the oldest functioning satellite still in geostationary orbit.

(19) THE SOOT(LER) DID IT. Smithsonian reports that “After the Dinosaur-Killing Impact, Soot Played a Remarkable Role in Extinction”. No shit, Sherlock.

The famous impact 66 million years ago kicked up soot into the atmosphere that played an even bigger role in blocking sunlight than experts had realized

…When the impactor plowed into the Earth and created the Chicxulub crater in Mexico, it vaporized the crust and created a planet-wide plume of debris that emitted radiation at a rate about 20 times stronger than the sun. It ignited plants and animals in its path. Later, lightning from impact-generated storms ignited more fires, maintaining an atmosphere rich in soot.

“Soot is very good at absorbing sunlight,” Tabor says. “As soot gets into the stratosphere, some of it heats the atmosphere and self-lofts higher, increasing its atmospheric residence time.”

…”Soot blocked sunlight, greatly reducing if not shutting down photosynthesis on both the land and in the sea,” says Chicxulub expert David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Texas. “Without photosynthesis, the base of the food chain would have collapsed. While fires may have demolished vegetation on land in large areas of the world, globally distributed soot may have ravaged vegetation elsewhere.”

…Tabor and his colleagues hoped to sort out the soot by modeling its impact separate from that of sulfates and dust. The new study started by modeling the topography, vegetation and greenhouse gases of the Cretaceous Period. The team also simulated the thermosphere and allowed the sizes of impact aerosols to change over time. Previous models had struggled to quantify these effects. “The impact and fire-generated pollutants were so voluminous that they caused previous computer models to crash,” Kring says. “The current study seems to have succeeded where past attempts failed.”

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “2001: A Space Odyssey: A Look Behind The Future” on YouTube is a 1967 promotional video, prepared by Look magazine for potential advertisers, for 2001: A Space Odyssey, that includes interviews with actor Keir Dullea, the film’s principal science advisor, Frederic I. Ordway III, and Sir Arthur C. Clarke visiting the lunar excursion module under construction at the time by Grumman in Long Island.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Kathy Sullivan, Dann, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 9/7/18 Pixel Yourself On A Spinning Space Station, With Alien Porters With Arthropod Eyes

(1) HAPPENS TO THE BEST OF US. Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes about battling website and ISP) problems in “Business Musings: Website Issues”. The post begins —

It’s tough to write my blog when my website is down…for the second time in two weeks. Both times had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the website hosting service, which is so monumentally incompetent that I’m speechless.

I learned a lesson during this incident. A big important lesson.

And it ends —

…And as I (and the kind folks at WMG) rebuild, we will be doing so with an eye to a 2018 website, not a 2010 website. We’ll make information easy to find. The weekly features will remain as well.

It’s going to take a bit of time, but it was something I needed to do. Bluehost forced me into it.

They also taught me a valuable lesson. Every few years, I need to re-evaluate every service that I hire to help with my business, not just to see if the service is doing well, but also to make sure the service itself is the same company that I hired a few years before.

Things change quickly in this modern world, and I really need to incorporate that awareness of change into my own business planning…

In between, Rusch explains how she learned the lesson the hard way.

(2) ABOUT GRIMDARK. Paul Weimer analyzes “The Fugue of Fantasy and the Grimdark Interregnum” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In the history of epic fantasy, following this analogy and paradigm, there has always been a voice in a minor key, a strain of fantasy with antiheroes, shades of dark grey and darkness, worlds where hope and optimism are not valued or are even punished. Violence is the name of the game, dystopic amorality the norm and the worlds are often the successor states or the  ruins of another, brighter time. The classical Western European model of the first few centuries after Rome fell is the historical ur-model, and indeed, many novels use thinly disguised or even explicitly set in that time period. The latest iteration of this minor-key fantasy, which had in recent years become a dominant theme in epic fantasy, is what we call Grimdark….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites you to share a steak dinner with legendary comics creator Don McGregor in episode 76 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

I reached out to Dauntless Don — we all had nicknames back them; he was Dauntless, I was Sparkling — and said, hey, how about if when I’m on the way back to the airport at the end of Readercon, I swoop down, take you out for dinner, and we chew over the old times. And that’s exactly what we did, at the Safehouse in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, along with Dauntless Don’s wife, the Marvelous Marsha, whose voice you’ll occasionally hear in the background of this episode.

Don started out his career in comics by writing some of the best horror stories to appear in the pages of Creepy and Eerie — and I remember well reading the first of them in the early ’70s. When he moved on to Marvel Comics, he did groundbreaking work with such characters as Black Panther, Killraven, and Luke Cage. In fact, his two-year “Panther’s Rage” arc was ranked as the third most important Marvel Comics storyline of the ’70s by Comics Bulletin. In 2015, he was awarded the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing at San Diego Comic-Con International.

We discussed how meeting Jim Steranko led to him selling his first comics story, why when he was 13 years old, he wanted to be Efrem Zimbalist Jr., what he learned from Naked City creator Stirling Silliphant, how his first meeting with future Black Panther artist Billy Graham could have been disastrous, why the comics he wrote in the ’70s wouldn’t have been able to exist two years later, the reasons Archie Goodwin was such a great editor, how he convinced Stan Lee to allow the first interracial kiss in mainstream comics, what life lessons he took from Westerns in general and Hopalong Cassidy in particular, why he almost stopped writing Lady Rawhide, and much more.

(4) ALIEN ENCOUNTER NUMBER CRUNCHING. James Davis Nicoll discourages the idea that we’ll be meeting aliens in reality: “Doing the Math: Aliens and Advanced Tech in Science Fiction”. After reading Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem, maybe that’s a relief?

Everyone loves them some aliens. But …if the encounter is to work out to the satisfaction of all concerned, it is best if the aliens not be too advanced (because they could brush us aside like ants) or too primitive (we might brush them aside like ants). No, there’s a Goldilocks zone for aliens, in which they are close to the same tech level as humans … and can interact peaceably with us.

Which leads me to wonder: just how likely is it that two unconnected civilizations could reach the same technological level (roughly) at the same time?

Time for some large, round numbers….

(5) EXCEEDING THE READ LIMIT. Walter Mosley declares, “Enough with the Victors Writing History”, at LitHub.

I have studied the great powers that vie to control what they want us to believe about the past; but I don’t identify with them. I identify with the librarians who, when asked by GW Bush to report on their visitors’ reading habits, held up a hand and said, “First Amendment.” I identify with outsider artists and labor organizers and autodidacts who either refuse to or are unable to believe in the lies foisted upon us by the conquerors. I identify with the belief that there exists a history out there just beyond the reach of our powers of cognition. And I believe that a lie is a lie; that if you coexist with a population that helped to build your house, your culture, your music, a population that helped to raise your children and fine-tune your language, and you deny that culture’s impact on who you are… then your knowledge of history will fail you and the past will devour you and your children.

If you deny your past your future will be a detour around your fondest hopes and dreams…

Daniel Dern sent the link with a note, “While best known for his detective fiction, Mosley has written a handful of sf… and is a big sf fan… I’ve got a photo from Millennial PhilCon (Worldcon 2001) of him and Orson Scott Card, just after they met and near-simultaneously said to the other ‘I’m a huge fan.’”

(6) WOMBAT TO RETURN TO ALBUQUERQUE. Kevin Sonney boosts the signal –

(7) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. Chabeli Herrera in the Orlando Sentinel reports that the Kennedy Space Center has opened up the Astronaut Training Experience, which simulates a trip to Mars by having visitors “strap onto a microgravity simulator: and then carry out a repair on the space station.  There’s also a simulation of Mars Base 1, where visitors can “work together to solve various technical problems” including “programming a team of robots to clean dust off the base’s solar panels.” — “Like real astronaut training, Kennedy Space Center’s new simulators let you work in zero gravity, drive Mars rover”.

Like a scene from “The Martian,” the botany lab in Mars Base 1 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex grows vegetables under the glow of fluorescent purple lights.

But it’s not all potatoes like in the 2015 film. This room can grow anything from cress to tomatoes, and all of the crops are planted and harvested by guests playing astronaut for the day.

The botany room is one of several new features at Kennedy Space Center’s Astronaut Training Experience Center, a two-year project designed to simulate astronaut training and work on Mars. The attraction opened in February, but officials gathered Thursday to officially kick off the opening of the ATX with representatives from its sponsor, aerospace company Lockheed Martin.

(8) SPEAK MEMORY. Hear the Harlan Ellison Memorial Panel at Worldcon 76:

(9) SHELLEY OBIT. Actress Carole Shelley (1939-2018), who appeared on stage in The Odd Couple and Wicked, and voiced characters in the Disney animated movies The Aristocats (1970) and Robin Hood (1973), died August 31 reports the New York Times:

A new generation of theatergoers knew Ms. Shelley for originating a less sympathetic character in the musical “Wicked,” a prequel of sorts to L. Frank Baum’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

The show opened in 2003 with Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda, the putatively good witch, and Idina Menzel as Elphaba, who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. (“Wicked” was still running on Broadway, with a different cast, when Ms. Shelley died.)

Ms. Shelley played Madame Morrible, a college official who pairs Glinda and Elphaba as roommates. She later helps arrange a series of events that push Elphaba toward wickedness.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 7, 1958  — Queen of Outer Space premiered.
  • September 7, 2017 – Jerry Pournelle died. Cat Eldridge notes: “Author, The Mote in God’s Eye with Larry Niven, numerous other works including the Janissary series, and superb tech commentary writer as well. His Byte column was something I very much looked forward to reading every month.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 7 – Karen Frenkel, 63. Author, Robots: Machines in Man’s Image (1985) with Isaac Asimov. Available on her website.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • A Hollywood in-joke you’ll all get – Long Story Short.
  • Scene from a comic con by Nigel Auchterlounie —

(13) HIGH CONCEPT. This December in Infinity Wars: Fallen Guardian #1.

(14) CATS IN THE VICINITY OF SFF. David D. Levine made a fan —

(15) ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Data from the Chandra X-ray telescope has been combined with optical data to image a distant galaxy that seems to be encircled by black holes and/or neutron stars (International Business Times: “Ring Made Of Black Holes? Massive Cosmic Structure Found Encircling Distant Galaxy”). Galaxy AM 0644-741 was involved in a recent (astronomically speaking) collision with another galaxy that boosted star formation. The most massive of those stars had a very short life and have since gone supernova, leaving behind black holes and neutron stars.

Out of the newborn baby stars, the most massive ones probably led a short life, spanning on the scale of millions of years. They lost their nuclear fuel with time and exploded as supernovae, where the majority of the stellar material is blown away, leaving black holes 5 to 20 times heavier than the sun or dense neutron stars carrying approximately same mass as the sun.

This indicates the ring is either made from stellar-mass black holes or neutron stars that are accompanied by close companion stars. The dense objects are drawing gas from their stellar counterparts, forming a super-hot spinning disk which acts as a detectable X-ray source for Chandra.

Though the researchers behind the discovery — a team from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, Italy — couldn’t confirm the identity of individual sources making up the ring, they believe this could either be a case of all black holes or all neutron stars, or a mix of both.

The NASA website (“Cosmic Collision Forges Galactic One Ring—in X-rays”) that AM 0644-741 is only one of several galaxies with such X-ray rings and adds a link to the pre-print article on the arXiv service.

The paper describing the study of AM 0644 and its sister ring galaxies appeared in the August 10, 2018 issue of the Astrophysical Journal and is available online. The co-authors of the paper are Antonella Fruscione from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., and Michela Mapelli from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova in Padova, Italy.

(16) PULPFEST DATES IN 2019. The dates for PulpFest 2019 are the same weekend at the Dublin 2019 Worldcon but that may not represent an actual conflict for more than a few fans.

PulpFest 2019 will take place from Thursday, August 15, through Sunday, August 18. We’ll be returning to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City.” PulpFest will be joined by FarmerCon. Hopefully, they’re not too hung over from this year’s Philip José Farmer centennial.

Start making your plans for the 48th convening of PulpFest and its celebration of mystery, adventure, science fiction, and more. Join us for “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories” at “Summer’s Great Pulp Con.” Please bring your friends!

(17) ALMOST. James Davis Nicoll credits John Varley for showing us “How to Make a Near-Utopia Interesting: John Varley’s Eight World Stories” at Tor.com.

Peace and prosperity sound like they’re good things, but perhaps not for authors. What kind of plots can be imagined if the standard plot drivers are off the table? How does one tell stories in a setting that, while not a utopia, can see utopia at a distance ? The premise seems unpromising, but thirteen stories and a novel argue that one can write absorbing narratives in just such a setting. So how did Varley square this particular circle?

(18) AN OSCAR ON HOLD. About that new “popular film” Oscar? Like the Magic Eight-Ball says – “Ask again later” — “Oscars postpone plans for new popular film category”.

…The award, which could have recognised films popular with audiences but not critics, was only announced last month.

In a statement, the Academy’s CEO said she had “recognised the need for further discussion” with its members about the proposal first.

…In previous years, films which have done well at the box office with audiences – including Mamma Mia, Avatar and the Mission Impossible franchise – have been snubbed by the Academy.

The Oscars’ organisers did not elaborate in their August announcement how eligibility for the new category would have been established.

Some Hollywood critics suggested the new category’s “popular” tag was confusing and could risk creating a two-tier system among films.

It was feared films praised by critics and audiences alike, such as Dunkirk and Get Out, would risk being relegated to the new category rather than standing a chance in the prestigious Best Film award category.

(19) MORE RUBY SLIPPER NEWS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Smithsonian has a little more info, including how the recovered shoes were authenticated, as well as more info about the ownership of this pair and the others pairs still extant: “After 13-Year Chase, F.B.I. Nabs Pair of Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers”.

…The slippers, it turns out, were not actually owned by the Judy Garland Museum. Instead, they were property of a collector named Michael Shaw, who purchased them in 1970 for a mere $2,000, reports Jennifer Medina for The New York Times. Shaw, who also owns one of Dorothy’s dresses, a witch’s hat and a munchkin outfit from the 1939 movie, was in the habit of loaning out the slippers to museums around the country, donating his display fee to children’s charities. The slippers were on display as part of a 10-week traveling tour when they were stolen on the night of August 28. According to a press release from the Grand Rapids police, a thief or thieves broke into the museum’s back door and smashed open the plexiglass case. There were no cameras on the premises and the museum’s alarm failed to sound.

…After the shoes were apprehended, the F.B.I. brought them to the Smithsonian, which owns another pair of slippers used in the filming, to confirm their ruby slippers were the real deal. For the last two years, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has been analyzing and conserving a different pair of slippers donated to the museum in the late 1970s as part of a Kickstarter campaign. The F.B.I. brought the purloined pair to objects conservator Dawn Wallace for a look.

“We were able to spend two days looking at them and doing close examination as well as some analysis,” Wallace tells Smithsonian.com. “Not only did we have a physical examination, but we were able to conduct some technical analysis of the material to confirm that they were in fact consistent.”

Wallace says two other details cinched the case: First, it’s difficult to fake 80 years of aging on a pair of shoes. Second, the pair in the Smithsonian’s collection is actually a mismatched pair of ruby slippers, with the left sized “5C” and the right sized “5BC.” The pair recovered by the F.B.I. turned out to be the mates of the museum’s shoes (which are set to go back on display in a climate-controlled case on October 19)….

Since Mr. Shaw had received an $800,000 insurance settlement quite some time ago, the shoes belong to the insurance company now.

(20) FOYLES SOLD:BBC reports “Waterstones buys Foyles to defend bookshops against Amazon” – the Foyles Charing Cross Road location hosted this year’s Clarke Award announcement.

Waterstones is buying the 115 year-old family-owned chain Foyles, saying the deal will help to “champion” real bookshops in the face of online rivals.

The sale includes Foyles’ well-known Charing Cross Road store in central London, which was relocated to larger premises in 2014.

Waterstones said the deal would help booksellers fight back against Amazon’s “siren call”.

The larger chain has 283 bookshops across the UK and northern Europe.

[Thanks to Scott Edelman, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]