(1) ARTIFICIAL ARTELLIGENCE. Camestros Felapton has invented the “Space Opera Book Cover Maker”.
Ladles and Gentlebens, here it is: The Space Opera Book Cover Maker Thing!
First a word of warning. The images take a while to load and might be even slower depending on your internet connection. However, that speeds up as your browser caches some of them.
The basic idea is this. There are seven layers of images which you can control. The images load as thumbnails (actually the full image is loading into your browser’s memory hence it being a bit slow). You then press a button and all the images you’ve picked get stacked together into an HTML Canvas. If you right click on the canvas then you can save the combined image to your computer.
You can tell the output is authentic space opera because these covers have no tavern and no snow!
(2) ABOUT THAT CALENDRICAL ROT. Abigail Nussbaum’s latest column for Lawyers, Guns & Money is devoted to the Machineries of Empire trilogy: “A Political History of the Future: Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee”.
As Lee eventually reveals, the Hexarchate’s calendar relies on regular “remembrances”, in which heretics are ritually tortured to commemorate specific victories or the suppression of a particular heresy. In order to maintain their power and the empire’s technologies, the Hexarchate’s doctrinal authorities have to provide it with a continuous stream of rebels and heretics, which requires either a constant expansion of the empire’s borders, or a constant narrowing of the range of permissible behaviors. As weird as the calendar notion initially seems, I’m struggling to think of a fantastical device that so perfectly captures the pernicious trap of life under totalitarianism, the way that such systems feed themselves on their own citizens while sapping any survivors of the capacity for resistance.
(3) BEGONE, YOU HAVE NO POWER HERE. James Davis Nicoll invokes the magic number in his latest feature for Tor.com – “Five Worldbuilding Errors That Should Be Banished from SF Forever”.
The stars in our part of the Milky Way (with some notable exceptions) tend to be headed in the same general direction at the same general speed, but not exactly in the same direction and not exactly at the same speed. Over time, the distances between stars change. Today, our closest known neighbour is Alpha Centauri at 4.3 light years. 70,000 years ago, it was Scholz’s Star at as little as 0.6 light years.
This error does not come up often. It’s a timescale thing: stars move on a scale marked in increments like time elapsed since the invention of beer. That is a lot slower than plot, for the most part, unless your plot covers thousands of years. Still, if your novel is set in the Solar System a billion years from now, don’t namecheck Alpha Centauri as Sol’s closest neighbor….
(4) FUTURE TENSE. Each month in 2018, Future Tense Fiction—a series of short stories from Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives— is publishing a story on a theme. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Lions and Gazelles” by Hannu Rajaniemi.
“Where do you think we are?” the young Middle Eastern woman with the intense eyes asked.
Jyri smiled at her and accepted a smoothie from a tanned aide.
“I think this is a Greek island.” He pointed at the desolate gray cliffs. They loomed above the ruined village where the 50 contestants in the Race were having breakfast. “Look at all the dead vegetation. And the sea is the right color.”
In truth, he had no idea. At SFO, he’d been ushered into a private jet with tinted windows. The last leg of the journey had been in an autocopter’s opaque passenger pod. The Race’s location, like everything else about it, was a closely guarded secret.
It was published along with a response essay, “Can You Replicate the Burning Desire to Win That Drives Superhuman Athletes?”, by evolutionary biologist Rowan Hooper.
Take a random selection of athletes at any Olympic Games. No matter their discipline, they will have one factor in common: a burning desire to win, and a motivation to be the best in the world. Imagine if we could develop a short cut to that kind of passion.
(5) LIADEN ONLINE. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s “Liaden Universe® InfoDump Number 121” is online, with news about things to come such as —
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller will be signing the thirtieth anniversary edition of Agent of Change, and whatever else comes to hand, at Children’s Book Cellar, 52 Main Street, Waterville, Maine 04901, on! Friday, November 2, from 7:30-9 pm. Hope to see you there!
(6) HOPEFULLY NOT ICE-9. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] LiveScience article: “Bizarre Particles Keep Flying Out of Antarctica’s Ice, and They Might Shatter Modern Physics”.
There’s something mysterious coming up from the frozen ground in Antarctica, and it could break physics as we know it.
Physicists don’t know what it is exactly. But they do know it’s some sort of cosmic ray — a high-energy particle that’s blasted its way through space, into the Earth, and back out again. But the particles physicists know about — the collection of particles that make up what scientists call the Standard Model (SM) of particle physics — shouldn’t be able to do that. Sure, there are low-energy neutrinos that can pierce through miles upon miles of rock unaffected. But high-energy neutrinos, as well as other high-energy particles, have “large cross-sections.” That means that they’ll almost always crash into something soon after zipping into the Earth and never make it out the other side.
The underlying paper(s) they’re reporting on are on the arXiv service:
—and before that—
Popsci articles reporting on not-yet-published papers can get a little breathless and further can just plain get stuff wrong. What’s being reported in the underlying papers is that 2 anomalous events from one of the flights of ANITA (NASA’s Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna experiment with uses a balloon to loft the experiment over the Antarctic) — along with some supporting data from the underground IceCube neutrino detector (also in Antarctica) — just might point to previously unseen particles not contained in the Standard Model. This would be Very Big News if true… but the scientists and/or the popular science writers may well be getting ahead of themselves on this one
(7) QUESTIONS ABOUT BOOKS. Paul Weimer covers “Six Books with Lauren Teffeau” at Nerds of a Feather.
And speaking of that, what’s *your* latest book, and why is it awesome?Implanted, my debut from Angry Robot, is a cyberpunk adventure featuring light espionage, high-tech gadgets, romance, and hard questions about the future. The main character is a young woman named Emery Driscoll who’s blackmailed into working as a courier for a shadowy organization, and the book explores what happens when the life she was forced to leave behind comes back to haunt her after she’s left holding the bag on a job gone wrong.
(8) LOOKING FOR SOMETHING GOOD? Lady Business knows these are times when people need a break — “Short & Sweet: Comforting Stories”.
I don’t know about you but I’ve been finding the world a very stressful place recently. That can make it really hard for me to focus. So I thought I’d put together a list of comforting stories. Because sometime I just need to read something that reminds me of the good in the world. I learned from talking about hopeful stories that some of the stories I found bleak others found hopeful, so I suspect that not everyone will be comforted by these stories. There’s a lot family in these stories: both blood family and found family; a fair bit of food; and plenty of people being nice to each other and trying their best. Those are the things I try and hold on to when things are hard. I hope they bring you some comfort.
One example –
”Sun, Moon, Dust” by Ursula Vernon — This story about a young man who inherits a magic sword from his grandmother—but he just wants to be a farmer! I love this story because it’s about valuing feeding people and taking care of the land.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]
- Born September 28, 1897 – Mary Gnaedinger, Editor, from 1939 through 1953, of Famous Fantastic Mysteries and Fantastic Novels Magazine, plus two years of A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine. There is evidence that she was once a member of the New York Futurians.
- Born September 28, 1923 – William Windom, Actor, known for playing Commodore Decker in the episode “The Doomsday Machine” of the original Star Trek series, a role he reprised in the Star Trek: New Voyages fan series. He also had numerous guest roles in genre TV series including The Twilight Zone, The Invaders, Night Gallery, Ghost Story, Mission: Impossible, and The Bionic Woman, played the President of the U.S. in Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and voiced a main character in the Sonic the Hedgehog series.
- Born September 28, 1938 – Ron Ellik, Writer and Editor, a well-known SF fan who was a co-editor with Terry Carr of the Hugo winning fanzine, Fanac, in the late 1950s. Ellik was also the co-author of The Universes of E.E. Smith with Bill Evans, which was largely a concordance of characters and the like. Fancyclopedia 3 notes that “He also had some fiction published professionally, and co-authored a Man from U.N.C.L.E. novelization.” The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction says he died in in an auto accident the day before his wedding.
- Born September 28, 1946 – Herbert Jefferson Jr., 72, Actor, best known to genre fans as Lieutenant Boomer in Battlestar Galactica (later promoted to Colonel when he reprised that role in Galactica 1980).
- Born September 28, 1964 – Janeane Garofalo, 54, Actor, Writer, Producer, and Comedian who has had roles in odd genre movies, including Dogma, Mystery Men, and The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, and has done lots of voice acting in animated series and films including the Ratatouille movies.
- Born September 28, 1967 – Mira Sorvino, 51, Actor and Producer whose genre credits include the TV series Falling Skies and Intruders, and the movies Mimic and Space Warriors.
- Born September 28, 1968 – Naomi Watts, 50, English/Welsh Actor whose genre roles have included leads in the short-lived TV series Sleepwalkers and the movies Stay, King Kong (the 2005 remake), and Dream House, as well as the Divergent movie series.
(10) I FLOCK TO THE TREES. Steven H Silver celebrates one birthday in his daily Black Gate feature: “Birthday Reviews: Michael G. Coney’s ‘The Byrds’”
Michael Coney takes a look at mass hysteria in “The Byrds,” in which a Canada which is struggling with population problems sends out questionnaires to the elderly which encourage them to choose euthanasia. In one family, as Gran gets on in years, she refuses to kill herself and instead strips naked, paints herself like a bird, and straps on an anti-gravity belt before taking to the trees to the mortification of her family.
(11) COMICS SECTION.
(12) ON FANTASY. In August Tor.com posted V. E. Schwab’s Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature, given at Pembroke College, Oxford — “’In Search of Doors’: Read V.E. Schwab’s 2018 J.R.R. Tolkien Lecture on Fantasy Literature”.
I write fantasy to make cracks in the foundation of a reader’s expectations, to challenge the solidity of their assumptions and beliefs.
I write fantasy because I want to bolster the believers, and make the skeptics wonder, to instill doubt and hope in equal measure. To help readers envision a time, a place, a world in which fantastical concepts like magic, or immortality, or equality, seem within reach.
(13) FAILS. Oren Ashkenazi breaks down “Eight Absurdities We Force on Female Characters” at Mythcreants.
It would be impossible to list all the difficulties storytellers create for themselves, but here are eight of the most common….
The second on the list is —
Separate Fighting Styles
I used to think it was strange how often I would see people online asking how to realistically write women in fight scenes. I thought, “Simple: pointy end goes into the other fighter.” But then I realized that people were actually confused and that the debates over which killing tools would work as “women’s weapons” are largely spawned by existing stories.
Every time a novel depicts a woman needing to find a special weapon or a film gives women a sexy fighting style, it furthers the idea that the way women fight is inherently different from the way men fight. This is nonsense – the physics of murder don’t change based on gender – but the idea persists.
Storytellers can free themselves from this problem by simply accepting that women in their setting fight the same way men fight. A sword doesn’t particularly care about its wielder’s pronouns. If a storyteller actually wants to know what tactics a physically weaker fighter would employ against a stronger opponent, they can ask that, but it should be decoupled from gender. If that level of detail is important to the setting, then it should be considered any time combatants differ in strength, not just when one of them is female.
(14) VASTER THAN EMPIRES. Another big dino discovered: “Bones Reveal The Brontosaurus Had An Older, Massive Cousin In South Africa”.
Millions of years before the brontosaurus roamed the Earth, a massive relative was lumbering around South Africa.
Scientists think this early Jurassic dinosaur was, at the time, the largest land creature ever to have lived. And unlike the even bigger creatures that came later, they think it could pop up on its hind legs.
They’ve dubbed the newly discovered dinosaur Ledumahadi mafube, which translates in the Sesotho language to “a giant thunderclap at dawn.” And the discovery sheds light on how giants like the brontosaurus got so huge.
(15) A DISCOURAGING WORD. “Hackers expose ‘staggering’ voter machine flaws” — even counters-of-paper-ballots can be hacked.
In August, the Def Con conference in Las Vegas ran a “Voting Village”, where participants were encouraged to uncover flaws in US election infrastructure by hacking into various computer systems.
The organisers of the conference on Thursday released a 50-page report on their findings.
They describe the number and severity of flaws in voting equipment as “staggering”.
(16) HE’S BATMAN. The new Nerd & Tie Podcast — “Episode 132 – Your Favorite Cartoon (That No One Remembers)” – shows there’s someplace you can hear all you want about that topic I banished here. (And no, it’s not the one mentioned in the episode title.)
This episode of Nerd & Tie’s big topic is childhood cartoons we loved that hardly anyone else seems to remember. Trae, Gen and Nick all had different childhoods, so the list ends up being pretty diverse.
Before that though, we hit the news — where Telltale Games is shutting down, Disney is admitting that they’ve been milking Star Wars too hard, and DC showed everyone Batman’s wing wang.
We talk about that last one for waaaaaay too long.
(17) SHARE THE VISION. Engadget delves into the VR adaptation of a PKD story: “Philip K. Dick’s ‘The Great C’ for Oculus Rift arrives this October”.
The virtual reality adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s The Great C is now making its way to VR headsets after debuting at the Venice Film Festival. It will be available for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive as soon as October 9th, but PlayStation VR owners will unfortunately have to wait until 2019. Fans can expect to be thrust into a 37-minute immersive sci-fi adventure when they put on their headsets and fire up the experience.
The Great C is a post-apocalyptic story that revolves around the remnants of humanity under the rule of an all-powerful supercomputer called “The Great C.” Every year, a human tribe living nearby has to sacrifice a young person to the machine in order to appease it. The VR adventure by Secret Location focuses on a woman named Clare whose fiancé was chosen for that particular year’s pilgrimage from which nobody ever returns.
(18) LUCASFILM GAMES. Digital Antiquarian studies the history of the gaming sideline to George Lucas’ moviemaking activities: “Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (or, Of Movies and Games and Whether the Twain Shall Meet)”
Before there was Lucasfilm Games, there was the Lucasfilm Computer Division, founded in 1979 to experiment with computer animation and digital effects, technologies with obvious applications for the making of special-effects-heavy films. Lucasfilm Games had been almost literally an afterthought, an outgrowth of the Computer Division that was formed in 1982, a time when George Lucas and Lucasfilm were flying high and throwing money about willy-nilly.
In those days, a hit computer game, one into which Lucasfilm Games had poured their hearts and souls, might be worth about as much to the parent company’s bottom line as a single Jawa action figure — such was the difference in scale between the computer-games industry of the early 1980s and the other markets where Lucasfilm was a player. George Lucas personally had absolutely no interest in or understanding of games, which didn’t do much for the games division’s profile inside his company. And, most frustrating of all for the young developers who came to work for The House That Star Wars Built, they weren’t allowed to make Star Wars games — nor, for that matter, even Indiana Jones games — thanks to Lucas having signed away those rights to others at the height of the Atari VCS fad. Noah Falstein, one of those young developers, would later characterize this situation as “the best thing that could have happened” to them, as it forced them to develop original fictions instead — leading, he believes, to better, more original games.
(19) HEROIC PILOT. Here’s the extended sneak peek of Star Wars Resistance —
A daring pilot embarks upon a secret mission against the First Order… with a lot of help from his friends in Star Wars Resistance. Premiering Sunday, October 7 at 10pm ET/PT on Disney Channel.
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Joey Eschrich, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]