Pixel Scroll 12/18/18 Just One Pixel Of Scrolls Is Better Than A Lifetime Alone

(1) NOT THE DOCTOR WHO CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. A nice placeholder, though. Io9 sets the frame: “Doctor Who Saves Christmas (Again) in This Adorable Holiday Short”:

Doctor Who’s Twitter account has shared a cute animated holiday short telling the story of how the Doctor (voiced by Whittaker) helped save Christmas once again this year. Narrated by Bradley Walsh (Graham), the Twas The Night Before Christmas-style tale is all about Santa getting stuck in a jam after his sleigh breaks down. Who can he possibly call to save the day? The Doctor, of course!

(2) HARD SF. James Davis Nicoll dares to tell us about “Five Works of Hard Science Fiction That Bypass the Gatekeepers” at Tor.com.

….Still, I think there’s a gap between hard SF defined so narrowly only Hal Clement could be said to have written it (if we ignore his FTL drives) and hard SF defined so broadly anything qualifies provided the author belongs to the right social circles … that this gap is large enough that examples do exist. Here are five examples of SF works  that are, to borrow Marissa Lingen’s definition:

playing with science.

and doing so with a verisimilitude that’s not just plot-enabling handwaving….

(3) MYTHCON 50. Introducing artist Sue Dawe’s logo for Mythcon 50, with the theme “Looking Back, Moving Forward.” The convention will take place August 2-5 in San Diego – register here

(4) TAFF NEWS. Avail yourself of the official Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund news – click to retrieve the PDF file: 

(5) CODE OF CONDUCT GUIDANCE. Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner have made available as a free download their book on Code of Conduct enforcement for those who put on conventions and conferences: “Free code of conduct enforcement book available now”.

You can now download a free book detailing how to enforce a code of conduct, “How to Respond to Code of Conduct Reports,” written by Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner and edited by Annalee Flower Horne. This comprehensive guide includes:

  • Basic code of conduct theory
  • How to prepare to enforce a code of conduct
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to respond to a report
  • In-depth discussion of relevant topics
  • Dozens of real-world examples of responding to reports

Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner were the lead authors of the Ada Initiative anti­-harassment policy, which is the basis of thousands of codes of conduct in use today. Valerie has more than 7 years of professional experience writing and implementing codes of conduct for software-related companies, venture capital firms, and non-profits.

(6) NOT GOING TO DUBLIN 2019? Then a clue as to what you’ll be missing from the Science GoH is contained in this 1/2 hour BBC interview with Jocelyn Bell Burnell. “Of course, if you are going to Dublin, then don’t listen to this,” warns SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, “as there are spoilers.”

Jim Al-Khalili talks to astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Jocelyn Bell Burnell forged her own path through the male-dominated world of science – in the days when it was unusual enough for women to work, let alone make a discovery in astrophysics that was worthy of a Nobel Prize. As a 24-year old PhD student, Jocelyn spotted an anomaly on a graph buried within 100 feet of printed data from a radio telescope. Her curiosity about such a tiny detail led to one of the most important discoveries in 20th century astronomy – the discovery of pulsars – those dense cores of collapsed stars. It’s a discovery which changed the way we see the universe, making the existence of black holes suddenly seem much more likely and providing further proof to Einstein’s theory of gravity.

(7) FILMS THAT BELONG ON YOUR LIST. Looper says these are “The Best Fantasy Movies Everyone Missed In 2018.”

With major blockbusters and huge franchises taking up most of our attention these days, it can be easy to lose track of all the great releases sneaking by under the radar but these 2018 fantasy movies are well worth seeking out…

(8) TV HISTORY. Echo Ishii revisits another sff TV classic, The Stone Tape:

The Stone Tape was a television play broadcast by the BBC in 1972.

The Stone Tape begins with a man named Peter who is head of a research team for an electronics company. Like many of the characters in Beasts, the protagonist is not a pleasant person. Peter Brock, though likely very skilled at his job, is arrogant, self-absorbed, sexist, and condescending. Whereas someof the sexism and the bigoted comments may be a representation of the realities of the the business world (and TV) at the time, you are clearly meant not to like Peter Brock as a person which only amps up the unease surrounding the main plot….

(9) HOW FAR IS IT? Far out. Like, literally Far Freekin’ Out. A newly announced minor planet is the most distant known object in the Solar System (Phys.org: “Outer solar system experts find ‘far out there’ dwarf planet”). The body’s official name is 2018 VG18, but it’s nicknamed “Farout” and it’s current orbital distance is about 120 AUs.

A team of astronomers has discovered the most-distant body ever observed in our Solar System. It is the first known Solar System object that has been detected at a distance that is more than 100 times farther than Earth is from the Sun.

The new object was announced on Monday, December 17, 2018, by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center and has been given the provisional designation 2018 VG18. The discovery was made by Carnegie’s Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen, and Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo.

2018 VG18, nicknamed “Farout” by the discovery team for its extremely distant location, is at about 120 astronomical units (AU), where 1 AU is defined as the distance between the Earth and the Sun. The second-most-distant observed Solar System object is Eris, at about 96 AU. Pluto is currently at about 34 AU, making 2018 VG18 more than three-and-a-half times more distant than the Solar System’s most-famous dwarf planet.

(10) COMING YOUR WAY. The Raven Tower, Ann Leckie’s new fantasy novel, arrives February 26, 2019. “My library’s already let me reserve it,” says Daniel Dern.

(11) THE WISDOM OF P.L. TRAVERS. The Washington Post’s Jerry Griswold profiles Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, whom he interviewed for the Paris Review, saying that Travers “was the wisest woman I’ve ever met,” a deep student of Zen, and the author of novels about Mary Poppins that are much darker than the movies. “Disney tried to erase ‘Mary Poppins’ creator P.L. Travers. She’s still more fascinating than fiction.”.

…Travers was the wisest woman I’ve ever met. She was the second Western woman to study Zen in Kyoto, part of the inner circle of the famous mystic G.I. Gurdjieff and did yoga daily (an exotic practice in the 1970s). One afternoon in her Manhattan apartment, we had a conversation that would later appear in Paris Review. She spoke about the meanings of Humpty Dumpty, how her book “Friend Monkey” had been inspired by the Hindu myth of Hanuman, the Zen expression “summoned not created,” the sacredness of names in aboriginal cultures and a spiritual understanding of the parable of the Prodigal Son. And as for linking “this store of wisdom and our modern life,” she lead me step by step through parallels between the kidnapping of Patty Hearst and the myth of Persephone. It was one of the richest afternoons of my life.

As she often did, Travers emphasized that she “never wrote for children” but remained “immensely grateful that children have included my books in their treasure trove.” She thought her books appealed to the young because she had never forgotten her own childhood: “I can, as it were, turn aside and consult it.”

(11) NASA POSTERS. Bored Panda is a bit skeptical — “Turns Out NASA Creates Posters For Every Space Mission And They’re Hilariously Awkward” – but Michael J. Walsh says, “Contrary to the headline, I think many of them are really good.”

…However, when astronauts got bored of the standard group photos they decided to spice things up a bit. And what’s a better way to do that other than throwing in some pop culture references? Fair warning the results are quite cringy, making it hard to believe that these images are actually real.

First on the list:

(12) DINJOS OBIT. Nigerian sff writer Emeka Walter Dinjos has died. Future Science Fiction Digest editor Alex Shvartsman paid tribute in “RIP Emeka Walter Dinjos”:

It is with a heavy heart that I must share the news that Emeka Walter Dinjos, a Nigerian writer of science fiction and fantasy whose novelette “SisiMumu” is featured in our first issue, passed away at the age of thirty-four on Wednesday, December 12.

Walter was admitted to the hospital a little over aweek ago, on the eve of his birthday. In his last Facebook post he shared a photo of himself in a hospital bed, writing “I once swore I would never find myself in a place like this.” He was quick to point out, “It’s just fatigue.Will probably be out in a few days.” But unfortunately he succumbed to complications related to unmanaged diabetes. Walter is survived by his siblings and extended family, to whom I extend deepest condolences on behalf of everyone at Future SF and his many friends in the SF/F community….

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 18, 1839 — John William Draper took the first photo of theMoon. (Say “Cheese!”)
  • December 18, 1957The Monolith Monsters hit theatres.
  • December 18, 1968 — Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flew into theaters.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 Alfred Bester. He is best remembered for perhaps for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook— a very spooky affair!  The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem100 but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 18, 1939Michael Moorcock, 79. Summing up the career of Moorcock isn’t possible so I won’t. His Elric of Melniboné series is just plain awesome and I’m quite fond of the Dorian Hawkmoon series of novels as well. Particular books that I’d like to note as enjoyable for me include The Metatemporal Detective collection, Mother London and The English Assassin: A Romance of Entropy
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 72. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost ArkE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialTwilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ok so the quality of the last film wasn’t great… He’d repeated that feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook which I both love followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t. The Lost World: Jurassic Park followed along a string of so-so films,  A.I. Artificial IntelligenceMinority Report, War of the Worlds and one decided stinker, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal SkullThe BFG is simply wonderful. Haven’t seen Ready Player One so I’ll leave that up to y’all to opine on. 
  • Born December 18, 1953 Jeff Kober,65. Actor who’s been in myriad genre series and films including V, The Twilight Zone, Alien Nation, the Poltergeist series,The X-Files series, Tank Girl as one of the kangaroos naturally, SupernaturalStar Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, Kindred: The Embraced and The Walking Dead. 
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 49. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers movie. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films! He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt In Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 3000, James K. Polkin, and — oh really Casper — the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Sequels short, Rumpelstiltskin in Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine. That’s a lot of really bad film. 

(15) GOOD PLACE/BAD PLACE. At Vice, D. Patrick Rodgers believes, “The Best Thing on TV This Year Was: ‘The Good Place’.”

The unseen presence of one character has haunted The Good Place from the beginning, lingering like one of Bad Janet’s legendary farts since the very first moments of the very first episode: Doug Forcett.

As we all know — at three seasons and 35 episodes in — the afterlife hinges on a cumulative point system, with good deeds adding to an individual’s point total and bad or selfish deeds subtracting. People with high enough point totals enter The Good Place, while those who don’t make the cut do the whole burn-for-eternity thing down in The Bad Place. Despite all the twists, developments, reveals, and red herrings of the uniquely sharp and wacky sitcom, one constant has remained: that only one mortal has figured out the system, and he did it while on a mushroom trip back in 1972.

“Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By” opens with the song of the same name by the Mamas and the Papas’ “Mama” Cass Elliott, itself a 70s artifact that portends something darker than its sunny melody suggests —that life is short, and if we’re not careful, we’ll screw it up. We watch as some as-yet-unnamed character tends to a series of mundane tasks, his face hidden from view. But there’s something familiar about that grizzled-blond shock of hair we see only from behind. It belongs to someone we know. Turns out that’s doubly true, as the head we’re looking at is that of legendary comedic actor Michael McKean in character as the aforementioned Forcett, now several decades older and committed to obtaining the requisite number of Good Place points.

(16) MEMORIAL FOR A BOT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Mashable brings us word that, “A delivery robot caught on fire at UC Berkeley, students then set up a vigil.” The KiwiBot was one of a fleet of over 100.

A KiwiBot, an automated food delivery robot which is present on UC Berkeley’s campus, caught fire on Friday afternoon.

In a post, the company explained the incident was due to a faulty battery which had been mistakenly installed instead of a functioning one. 

The errant battery started smoldering while the robot was idling, leading to smoke, then fire outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

“A member of the community acted swiftly toextinguish the flames using a nearby fire extinguisher. Within moments ofthe incident occurring, it had already been contained,” the post read.

“The Berkeley Fire Department arrived shortly thereafter to secure the scene, and doused the robot with foam ensuring there was no risk of re-ignition.”

Unsurprisingly, the fire was caught on both video and stills. Pics of the subsequent candlelight memorial also appeared online. Deliveries had been taking place by the bots since 2017 but were suspended following the fire. Since then, software has been updated to more closely monitor the battery state and the fleet is back in service.

(17) MOCKERY. This is the kind of promo I’d expect from JDA or Richard Paolinelli, except you’d have to take their books, too: “Popeyes is launching ‘Emotional Support Chicken’ for stressed travelers craving fried chicken”.

On Tuesday, the chicken chain announced that it is selling three-piece chicken-tenders meals packaged in “Emotional Support Chicken” carriers at Philadelphia International Airport. The special chicken will be available as supplies last starting Tuesday at the Popeyes location in Terminal C.

Emotional-support animals have been making headlines recently, as passengers have pushed for the ability to bring increasingly bizarre companions on flights.

The number of emotional-support animals traveling aboard commercial flights has jumped 74% from 481,000 in 2016 to 751,000 in 2017, according to trade group Airlines for America. In January, a woman tried to bring an emotional-support peacock on a United Airlines flight. And, in February, another woman said Spirit Airlines told her to flush her emotional-support hamster down the toilet.

(18) NICE TRY. Somehow the trash in the Pacific is moving faster than the catcher: “Creator Of Floating Garbage-Collector Struggling To Capture Plastic In Pacific”.

Slat’s system, a 10-foot skirt attached beneath an unmoored, 2000-foot-long plastic tube, takes advantage of the wind and waves to move through the Pacific Ocean. The system aims to collect plastic from the water’s surface, which would then be picked up every few months by a support vessel and transported back to land for recycling. The garbage trap uses solar-powered lights, cameras, sensors and satellite antennas to communicate its position to Slat’s team and passerby vessels.

(19) MAYBE TOMORROW. “SpaceX And Blue Origin Scrub Rocket Launches, Dashing Hopes Of A 4-Launch Day” – NPR has the story.

Weather and other delays marred what had been anticipated as a banner day for space launches Tuesday, as both SpaceX and Blue Origin were forced to postpone launches that had been scheduled to take place within minutes of each other. Both companies say they will look at moving their launches to Wednesday morning.

(20) BANNED ARTWORK. The New York Times reports some work by international artists has been banned from a forthcoming exhibit at the Guangdong Museum of Art: “Their Art Raised Questions About Technology. Chinese Censors Had Their Own Answer.”

Artificial intelligence bots. 3-D printed human organs. Genomic sequencing.

These might seem to be natural topics of interest in a country determined to be the world’s leader in science and technology. But in China, where censors are known to take a heavy hand, several artworks that look closely at these breakthroughs have been deemed taboo by local cultural officials.

The works, which raise questions about the social and ethical implications of artificial intelligence and biotechnology, were abruptly pulled last weekend from the coming Guangzhou Triennial on the orders of cultural authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

The artists, from Europe, Australia and the United States, were not given an official reason why their works were rejected for the show, which opens on Dec. 21 at the Guangdong Museum of Art. The pieces did not touch on the Tiananmen democracy crackdown of 1989, independence for Taiwan or Tibet or the private wealth of Chinese Communist Party leaders —topics that are widely known to be off-limits for public discussion in China.

As a result, some of the show’s curators and the affected artists havebeen left guessing as to why the works were banned. Their conclusion? The works were perhaps too timely, too relevant and therefore too discomforting for Chinese officials.

…The other banned works include “The Modular Body,” an online science fiction story about using human cells and artificial organs to create a living organism. Created by a Dutch artist, Floris Kaayk, the work is intended to raise questions about the potential for 3-D printing of human organs, about extending life with the help of technology and about the desire to design life from scratch.

(21) OUT OF THE BOT BUSINESS. Engadget reports “Sphero is done making licensed Disney bots like BB-8 and R2-D2”:

Say goodbye to Sphero’s cute BB-8 robot. In fact, say goodbye to all the company’s licensed products, including R2-D2, BB-9E and Cars’ Lighting McQueen. According to The Verge, Sphero plans to sell its remaining inventory of licensed toys, but it will no longer manufacture more once it runs out. Indeed, the products’ listings on Sphero’s website says “This is a legacy product and no longer in production.” The company isn’t just discontinuing the models, though: It’s ending its licensing partnerships completely, because it’s no longer worth dedicating resources for their production.

Sphero chief Paul Berberian explained that while the toys sold well when their tie-in movies were released, fewer and fewer people purchased them as the years went by. “When you launch a toy, your first year’s your biggest. Your second year’s way smaller, and your third year gets really tiny,” he said….

(22) ALL YOU HAD TO DO IS ASK. Rocco the parrot apparently knows how to get what he wants (BGR Media: “An intelligent parrot used Alexa to play music and order food from Amazon”).

An African grey parrot has made headlines recently for inadvertently making orders via his owner’s Amazon Echo. Originally reported via The Times of London [paywall], the parrot — whose name is Rocco — would mindlessly activate Alexa and have the virtual assistant tell jokes and play music. Rocco even tried to order a few items from Amazon, but the owner wisely had set up controls to prevent unauthorized purchases.

What makes the somewhat lighthearted story even more amusing is that Rocco previously had a stint living at the UK’s National Animal Welfare Trust (NAWT) but was kicked out — yes, kicked out — because he was swearing too much. As the old adage says, truth is stranger than fiction. Rocco was subsequently placed under the care of a NAWT employee named Marion Wischnewski whereupon he quickly started activating Alexa.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Elusis, Brian Z., Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 9/6/18 Wild Pixels Couldn’t Scroll Me Away

(1) DONATION BY WORLDCON SCIENCE GOH MAKES HEADLINES. BBC reports Dublin 2019 guest of honor Jocelyn Bell Burnell will donate the money coming to her as winner of a major science prize: “Physics star Bell Burnell gives away £2.3m prize”

One of the UK’s leading female astronomers is to donate her £2.3m winnings from a major science prize she was awarded.

The sum will go to fund women, under-represented ethnic minority and refugee students to become physics researchers.

Prof Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell has been awarded a Breakthrough Prize for the discovery of radio pulsars.

This was also the subject of the physics Nobel in 1974, but her male collaborators received the award.

The Breakthrough award also recognises her scientific leadership.

‘An inspiration’

Prof Bell Burnell believes that under-represented groups – who will benefit from the donation – will bring new ideas to the field.

“I don’t want or need the money myself and it seemed to me that this was perhaps the best use I could put to it,” she told BBC News.

Prof Bell Burnell’s story has been both an inspiration and motivation for many female scientists. As a research student when pulsars were discovered, she was not included in the Nobel prize citation – despite having been the first to observe and analyse the astronomical objects (a type of neutron star that emits a beam of radiation).

She now says she wants to use her prize money to counter what she describes as the “unconscious bias” that she believes still occurs in physics research jobs.

The Guardian’s coverage of the donation includes a wonderful quote:

The discovery was so dramatic it was awarded the Nobel prize in 1974. But while Hewish was named as a winner, Bell Burnell was not. The decision drew vocal criticism from the British astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle, but Bell Burnell has not complained.

“I feel I’ve done very well out of not getting a Nobel prize,” she said. “If you get a Nobel prize you have this fantastic week and then nobody gives you anything else. If you don’t get a Nobel prize you get everything that moves. Almost every year there’s been some sort of party because I’ve got another award. That’s much more fun.”

(2) INCLUSION. There is a discussion taking place over the submissions call for Artemis Rising, and what is an effective inclusive phrasing.

The Artemis Rising page at Escape Artists explains its mission:

Artemis Rising is an annual month-long event across all four Escape Artists podcasts, highlighting women in genre fiction, a demographic that has been underrepresented until recent years. This showcase helps to address that historical imbalance and correct the impression, which continues to persist in some social circles, that women cannot write excellent genre fiction.

…Prior to 2018, we specifically included the term “non-binary” in our Artemis Rising submission calls. English is flawed in its ability to accurately represent the breadth of human genders, and as such the language we use is always evolving. We respect the feedback that we’ve received regarding our use of “non-binary” as a catch-all: that it erroneously tilts the perception of non-binary people in a feminine direction. Non-binary authors who identify as women are welcome and encouraged to participate. An author’s gender and its expression are theirs alone to determine.

Bogi Takács, in “Why “women + nonbinary” is not a good idea”, recommended a different collective phrasing:

I have noticed a trend where more and more venues change their phrasing to “women + nonbinary” only to then revert back to “women only” after a period of time. This can be very difficult for nonbinary authors they published in the meanwhile who are not women. (Including, occasionally, me.)

I used to say that “women + nonbinary” can be acceptable as a phrasing, even if not ideal. In the light of this recent trend, I changed my mind and no longer recommend such calls for submission. Nonbinary people can be and often are very rapidly erased from such phrasings…

I tend to recommend “marginalized genders / sexes.” This includes all trans and intersex people, while also including cis non-intersex women. It also includes nonbinary people in general….

There follows (at the linked post) a really interesting and informative FAQ that analyzes a lot of issues involved in the choice of wording. Takács cautions,

This is not the be-all-end-all of nonbinary inclusion in calls for submissions, just my thoughts as someone who is a writer and editor who gets asked all these questions frequently.

Escape Artists’ S.B. Divya , in “Letter to SF”, commented on the issues – here is an excerpt:

…So instead, this is me inviting you to have a conversation. All I ask is that you give me the benefit of your doubt. I know I’m relatively new to this industry so you have no reason to trust me, but please give a chance. I’ll try to keep the rest of this as brief and minimal as necessary to help you know where I’m coming from.

Please note: this is all from me, not representing anyone else at Escape Artists, Escape Pod, or the Artemis Rising project.

I was the one who pushed back on “marginalized genders” when we began discussing this year’s Artemis Rising submissions call back in spring.

I will remove myself from Artemis Rising because I can’t comfortably be part of that conversation anymore. In avoiding my negative emotional triggers, I ended up hurting others, and I don’t want to inflict any more pain on the world. I apologize to everyone affected by this.

I find the word marginalized deeply problematic on a personal level. I lived several years in a high school of 1500 students where I could count the number of Asians on one hand. It was not a good time in my life. Being marginalized is something that was done to me in the past. Inhabiting the margins – or not – is something I actively choose today….

There is also a Twitter thread.

Rachel K. Jones, a former Escape Artists editor who helped start the annual Artemis Rising cycle, also responded to the discussion. Her Twitter thread starts here.

(3) FAREWELL TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET. Richard Bruton has closed the Forbidden Planet blog, noted here because Dublin 2019 chair James Bacon wrote  a hundred posts for them over the years. Bruton explained:

Well, you might have heard, you might have not, but as from this week, the FPI Blog shall be no more. The online side of things at FPI is changing, and the blog simply isn’t part of the future sadly. But, it’s been a wonderful thing while it lasted, a decade plus of incredible comics coverage, serving the UK comics scene as only a few others have really done over the years.

Yep, from this weekend, the blog is being shuttered. Alas.

I started here in 2007 (with this post in fact), a couple of years after the blog itself had started. Initially, it was meant to be the place for a few reviews. It swiftly became a lot more than that. And now, after over 6,000 posts from me, it’s time to say goodnight.

(4) FOURTH MURDERBOT. There’s an excerpt available, however, I resisted reading it because I’ve already got the book pre-ordered and don’t want to spoil my own enjoyment. That won’t be an obstacle for some of you, and will be a treat for others who have not discovered Wells’ series before now –

(5) ON BOARD. The Washington Post’s Michael J. Gaynor previews WashingCon, a board-game convention taking place at the Georgetown University conference center that is expected to draw 1,000 people — “You can play more than 500 board games in D.C. this weekend”.

Since then, WashingCon has grown in attendance and variety of activities. The library is open for anyone to check out something that looks interesting, with volunteers on hand to teach rules to beginners. A gamer might sit down to play with friends, but it’s also typical to just ask random passersby if they’d like to join.

“It’s an easy icebreaker,” says Dave Chalker, a local board-game designer who’s attended all three WashingCons. “You get to meet people throughout the course of the game, and you might even stay together as a group to play a new game together. That side of it is just so casual and welcoming.”

The convention also hosts panel discussions on subjects like inclusivity and diversity in gaming, as well as how to make a living as a designer. (That one’s hosted by Chalker.) There are tournaments for popular games like Pandemic, Codenames and Settlers of Catan.

The Dave Chalker quoted here is the son of Jack and Eva Whitley Chalker.

(6) FOLLYCON. Peter Tyers’ report of this year’s Eastercon is posted at SF Concatenation – “Follycon 2018”.

Follycon 2018 was held at the Majestic Hotel in the Yorkshire spa town of Harrogate. In some ways it was a convention of two halves: the convention catering, which left a lot to be desired (for reasons described later), and the convention itself, which was most enjoyable and very successful.

…The Opening Ceremony was straight after lunch and we were introduced to the committee and the Guests of Honour: Kim Stanley Robinson (author), Nnedi Okorafor (author), Kieron Gillen (graphic novelist and games enthusiast), and Christina Lake (author and fan), who were much in evidence over the weekend. Stan Robinson gave several talks and covered the life and times of John Muir (including his influence on California and the creation of Yosemite National Park), Galileo and the Scientific Method, generally recalled his previous visits to our shores, and answered many questions from the audience.  Nnedi Okorafor was interviewed by Tade Thompson and she was relaxed and forthcoming, covering her intended career as a professional tennis player, curtailed by illness, and how she turned to writing. She also gave a couple of readings and a kaffeeklatsch though her writer’s schedule meant that sometimes she had to retire to her room and meet a few deadlines (lookout for her name on output from the world of Marvel Comics, especially Black Panther stories)….

(7) SPIDER-GEDDON. I thought the artwork for the new Spider-Geddon comics series was impressive:

REVENGE OF THE SPIDER-VERSE! Marvel is excited to celebrate SPIDER-GEDDON from Christos Gage and Jorge Molina with a spectacular, brand-new connecting variant cover by superstar artist InHyuk Lee.

Unlike the variant covers that will accompany SPIDER-GEDDON’s debut, this stellar cover connects all six issues, including the prelude #0 issue, celebrating the multitude of Spideys that appear in the story – from old favorites to new favorites to the newest member of the Spider-Man family, Peter Parker from the world of Marvel’s Spider-Man!

Featuring new villains and old villains, shocking deaths and shocking returns, and all the Spider characters you can fit into one larger-than-life tale, this is a Marvel Spider-Event not to be missed! Don’t miss the opportunity to dive into this fresh new adventure October 10th, when SPIDER-GEDDON #1 hits comic shops!

(8) FRASER OBIT. Liz Fraser (1930-2018): British actress, died September 6, aged 88. Television appearances include The Avengers (one episode, 1966, playing an actress hired to impersonate Emma Peel), Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (1970). Featured in four Carry on movies.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 6, 1956Fire Maidens from Outer Space premiered.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 6 — China Miéville, 46. — Bas-Lag series, myriad stand-alone novels including o I really like, Kraken and The City & The City, plus I’ll single out EmbassytownUn Lun Dun and The Last Days of New Paris which is the only work by him I never finished. He won a Hugo for The City & The City. He’s wrote scripts for Hellblazer, Justice League and Dial H.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump — Would you like to know what bugs time travelers more than anything?

(12) BIG CATS. Nina Kahn at The Bustle brings us the latest in SJW credential science: “Cats Apparently Think Humans Are Bigger, Clumsy, Hairless Cats, So That’s Adorable”.

Needless to say, when I look at a cat, I see a clearly superior being. But what do cats think when they look at us? Well, according to some experts, cats might think humans are cats, too. Bigger, clumsier cats, sure — but cats nonetheless.

According to John Bradshaw, an expert on cat behavior and author of a bestselling book on cat science, there’s plenty of evidence that points to the fact that cats see humans as nothing more than fellow cats. In an interview with National Geographic, Bradshaw stated, “We’ve yet to discover anything about cat behavior that suggests they have a separate box they put us in when they’re socializing with us. They obviously know we’re bigger than them, but they don’t seem to have adapted their social behavior much.”

(13) UP ABOVE THE WORLD SO HIGH. BBC reports “Space laser ‘Aeolus’ starts chasing the wind”.

The British-built Aeolus satellite has begun firing its laser down on Earth to map the planet’s winds.

It is a big moment for the European Space Agency mission, the technology for which took 16 years to develop.

Launched two weeks ago from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, Aeolus is now undergoing three months of testing.

(14) WORD USE FREQUENCY. Fanzine fans have spent decades trying to identify the authors of various hoax and anonymous publications using techniques like this – and failing spectacularly (just going by my own track record of what I’ve gotten away with…)This Twitter thread, which starts here, gathered some entertaining responses.

(15) ABOUT THAT MOON FLAG NONSCENE NONSENSE. Homer Hickam, author of the memoir Rocket Boys, which was made into the film October Sky, has an op-ed in today’s Washington Post about the controversy over the Neil Armstrong biopic  First Man not having the scene where Armstrong unfurls a flag on the moon.  Hickam says the issue of the flag on the moon wasn’t a big deal in 1969 and he plans to see the movie because First Man is based on a book he thinks is an excellent biography of Neil Armstrong: “The new Neil Armstrong movie is about more than the lunar flag-planting”.

…Author James R. Hansen worked hard to reveal a man who comes across in the book as a kind of techno-Atticus Finch — someone who never says outright what he believes but demonstrates it through his actions.

I suspect this vision of Armstrong affected the filmmakers. No one ever saw Armstrong do a fist-pump; he just didn’t do that kind of thing. Raising the flag on the moon might be perceived as that kind of gesture and therefore jar the flow of a film trying to uncover the inner workings of a man who spent a lifetime keeping his emotions in check. Although I personally would have included the flag-raising — it was a moment of rare lightheartedness between Neil and Buzz — I understand from experience the decisions that writers and directors sometimes make to fit their vision of their characters, even ones based on real people….

(16) NOT ON MY CHRISTMAS LIST. Maybe you know someone who will love these Archie McPhee catalog items.

This year we’re excited to introduce TWO new flavors of candy canes. We’ve got Clamdy Canes that taste like sweet clams, and Mac & Cheese Candy Canes that taste like that little packet of cheese powder that comes with instant macaroni and cheese. Savory candy canes are an inevitable wave of the future; you might as well switch now and avoid the rush. Don’t forget to order Pickle Candy Canes now! They sell out every year.

(17) ZOMBIES IN YOUR STOCKING. Here’s the Anna and the Apocalypse Official Trailer. “This year’s feel-good Christmas hit!” exclaims one possibly-already-zombified critic. Based on Ryan McHenry’s 2011 short Zombie Musical.

Music. Christmas. Zombies. Watch the official trailer for Anna and the Apocalypse and see why critics are calling it “Shaun of the Dead meets La La Land”! In theaters this holiday season.

 

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

It’s Official: 77th Worldcon Will Be in Dublin

For the first time in history of the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) the convention will take place in Dublin, Ireland.

Today, Dublin was confirmed as the 2019 location by site selection voters at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki. Worldcon 75 reports 1,227 votes were received.

Dublin 2019 will take place at the Convention Centre Dublin from August 15-19, 2019. The Guests of Honour range from writers to scientists and beyond – Bill and Mary Burns, Diane Duane, Ginjer Buchanan, Ian McDonald, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, and Steve Jackson.

Dublin 2019 chair James Bacon said:

The whole team are delighted to be bringing the Worldcon to Ireland for the first time. It’s a huge achievement and we are very proud to be able to welcome thousands of fans to this beautiful country that is steeped in storytelling. We have fantastic guests and we will building an exciting programme covering all aspects of science fiction, fantasy and horror in all media, including prose, comics, art, film, cosplay, science, TV to name a few in what will be a fabulous celebration here in Dublin.

The Worldcon is held in a different city every year and usually has around 5,000 attendees from around the globe.  Some of the highlights of the five day event include the Hugo Awards, the Masquerade and programming that runs all five days with over a thousand items including panels, talks, workshops, films, autograph sessions and more.

About the guests:

  • Bill and Mary Burns (New York):  Avid readers who have attended Worldcon since 1967.  Bill was the recipient of the Doc Weir Award in 2003 and both were Fan Guests of Honour at Eastercon LX.
  • Diane Duane (Wicklow): Diane’s first novel was published in 1979 and have sold more than fifty other novels during her career.  She has won numerous awards and has also written extensively for tv and film.
  • Ginjer Buchanan (New York): Ginjer has over fifty years in fandom and over 30 years as professional editor.  She has been nominated for the Best Editor- Long Form Hugo six times and won in 2014.
  • Ian McDonald (Belfast): Is a writer who has over written over 20 novels and numerous short stories.  In addition he has also worked in programme development in Ireland. He has won awards for his short fiction as well as novels.
  • Jocelyn Bell Burnell (Lurgan Co Armagh): Jocelyn is a Northern Irish astrophysicist who as a postgraduate student discovered the first radio pulsars.
  • Steve Jackson (Texas): Steve is a game designer by trade who owns Steve Jackson Games.  He has received 12 Origin Awards as well as various other honours for game design.

“World Science Fiction Society,” “WSFS,” “World Science Fiction Convention,” “Worldcon,” “NASFiC,” “Hugo Award,” and the distinctive design of the Hugo Award Rocket are service marks of the World Science Fiction Society, an unincorporated literary society.

[Based on a press release.]