Daniel Dern shares his pictures of guests, panelists and vendors who participated in Readercon 29 over the July 12-15 weekend.
GoH Nisi Shawl
Daniel Dern shares his pictures of guests, panelists and vendors who participated in Readercon 29 over the July 12-15 weekend.
GoH Nisi Shawl
(1) READ THE GAME. The Read it Forward site is celebrating Ready Player One’s theatrical debut this week with an interactive 8-bit-inspired excerpt that “gamifies” the prologue from Ernest Cline’s novel. [Click on the GIF to view.]
Read your way to the top of the Scoreboard as you earn points for discovering Easter eggs that bring the content to life. As readers learn of Parzival’s hunt for the keys to OASIS, they’ll maneuver their way around a maze, attend an ‘80s dance party, unlock footnotes, and more. Upon completion, readers can add their name to a Scoreboard and share their score with a link to the excerpt on social media. All of the excerpt’s hidden extras are unlocked once a reader earns the maximum score of 10,000 points.
(2) TV INTEREST IN THREE-BODY PROBLEM. From io9: “Report: Amazon May Pay $1 Billion to Adapt the Hugo-Winning Chinese Novel The Three-Body Problem”.
The Hugo-winning Chinese novel The Three-Body Problem could become Amazon’s Game of Thrones. A new report from Financial Times suggests Amazon is pursuing a deal to make a three-season television show based on the trilogy from Liu Cixin, and it may be willing to pay up to $1 billion to do so.
According to the Financial Times report, international investors say Amazon is negotiating for the rights to produce three seasons based on Remembrance of Earth’s Past, the scifi trilogy more commonly known by the title of its first book, The Three-Body Problem.
In a statement reported by Chinese news outlets, YooZoo Pictures stated that it remains the sole owners for the film and TV rights for The Three-Body Problem, though it didn’t comment on whether Amazon had approached the company or were in talks with them to collaborate on this reported streaming project. Cixin was also asked about this development by Chinese news outlet MTime.com, where he revealed he knew nothing about the project and doesn’t know if he’d be invited to work on it.
(3) DISSENTING VOICE. In contrast to those looking forward to the movie, Vox says “The Ready Player One book used to be considered a fun romp. Then Gamergate happened,” in “The Ready Player One backlash, explained”.
A time traveler from 2011 could be forgiven for being deeply confused by this response. In 2011, Ready Player One was beloved. It was “a guaranteed pleasure.” It was “witty.” It was not only “a simple bit of fun” but also “a rich and plausible picture of future friendships in a world not too distant from our own.”
What gives? How did the consensus on a single book go from “exuberant and meaningful fun!” to “everything that is wrong with the internet!” over the span of seven years?
… But the main thing Ready Player One is doing is telling those ’80s-boy-culture-obsessed gamers that they matter, that in fact they are the most important people in the universe. That knowing every single goddamn word of Monty Python and the Holy Grail can have life-or-death stakes, because why shouldn’t it? (Yes, that is a crucial step in Wade’s battle to save the OASIS.)
For readers in Cline’s target demographic in 2011, that message felt empowering. For readers who weren’t, it felt like a harmless piece of affirmation meant for someone else. Everyone deserves a silly escapist fantasy, right? And since Cline’s silly escapist fantasy wasn’t specifically meant for girls — unlike, say, Twilight, which was getting savaged in popular culture at the time — Ready Player One was largely left alone by the people it wasn’t built for…
(4) ASHBY STORY. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series, “Domestic Violence” by Madeline Ashby, is a free read at Slate.
A partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University, Future Tense explores how emerging technologies will change the way we live. The latest consumer gadgets are intriguing, but we focus on the longer-term transformative power of robotics, information and communication technologies, synthetic biology, augmented reality, space exploration, and other technologies. Future Tense seeks to understand the latest technological and scientific breakthroughs, and what they mean for our environment, how we relate to one another, and what it means to be human. Future Tense also examines whether technology and its development can be governed democratically and ethically.
And there’s also a response essay from Ian Harris, who works on technology issues with the National Network to End Domestic Violence: “The Complicated Relationship Between Abuse and Tech”.
Violence against women is having something of a moment right now. Which is to say, portrayals of domestic violence in film and TV are gaining critical acclaim. Through shows like Big Little Lies and movies like I, Tonya, popular culture is grappling with more nuanced representations of domestic violence and the humanity of survivors of abuse. These are important conversations, and I hope that this is the start of a profound societal transformation, though time will tell. For me, the most disturbing part of these portrayals is not the brutality of the assaults, but how frequently physical violence is prioritized over other types of abusive behavior. It is what we don’t see that worries me.
We see this distorted prioritization in real life, too. I’ve been a domestic violence attorney for more than a decade. Despite the long list of clients who have struggled to get the justice system to live up to its name, I have found that survivors are much more likely to get help for physical assaults than for other kinds of abusive behavior such as stalking, surveillance, harassment, and intimate image disclosures, which frequently feel more harmful to the survivor.
(5) AVENGERS PLUG. A new TV spot for Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War.
The end is near. One month until Avengers: Infinity War.
(6) SEARCH FOR DIVERSE FICTION. Rocket Stack Rank has another new feature. Greg Hullender explains:
In response to readers who wanted a way to find good stories by diverse authors, we did an analysis of the most-recommended short speculative fiction stories written by people of color in 2015 and 2016 — “Best People of Color SF/F of 2015-2016”.
This only looks at stories that got some sort of recognition (e.g. solid recommendation from a prolific reviewer, inclusion in a years-best anthology, finalist for a major award), so just 481 stories across those two years. Of those, 112 were written by people of color.
The credit for this work goes to Eric Wong, who did the hard work of looking up information on all the authors as well as customizing the software to let readers group the data different ways.
(7) BLOWN UP, SIR. In “This teacher aims to get kids fired up about chemistry”, the Washington Post’s Kitson Jazynka profiles University of Texas chemistry instructor Kate Biberdorf, who “breathes fire and makes explosions that blast the eyes out of jack-o-lanterns.”
Or what about one who, with a quick pour of potassium iodide into a mix of hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and food coloring, makes bubbly foam that shoots toward the ceiling? Kate Biberdorf is no imaginary teacher. She’s real, and she’s coming to Washington next month, bringing along her blowtorch and cornstarch, her supplies of liquid nitrogen and dry ice, and a lot of enthusiasm for chemistry.
Bibersdorf’s website is http://katethechemist.com/. How could Filers NOT be interested in a woman who says her goal in life is “to have an explosive science show in Vegas?”
(8) HELP BILL SPENCER. Paul Di Filippo urges readers to support a GoFundMe that will “Give Back to Bill Spencer”.
We all need a little help sometimes. This is one of those times for Bill. He has several different health issues going on right now and the medical expenses he is incurring that are not covered through Medicare are mounting and could get much worse. As well, he’s facing some unforeseeable out of pocket expenses that could potentially end up being a serious problem. Right now, Bill simply doesn’t have enough for monthly bills, day to day living expenses and numerous co-pays that keep coming his way for various medical necessities.
Many readers know Bill as the award-winning writer William Browning Spencer, author of novels like Zod Wallop, Resume with Monsters and short-story collections like his latest, The Unorthodox Dr. Draper and Other Stories.
But Bill has contributed to others in a very different way as well. By freely and graciously donating endless amounts of his time over the years to sponsoring and supporting people who are facing their own daunting problems related to alcohol, drugs and living life. It’s time to give back to Bill what he has so freely given.
This is something Bill would never ask for himself, but he is one of my best friends and I know he is important to folks like yourself, who may wish to help in his time of need. Bill is truly one of the most amazing, caring and hilarious human beings I know and if you’re reading this you most likely feel the same. I think we’d all love for Bill to have the peace of mind of knowing that, whatever happens, he need not be stressed out and worried each day about how he’s going to pay for medication or a test or procedure he needs on top of his modest monthly and day to day expenses.
(9) BISCHOFF OBIT. Writer David Bischoff, 66, of Eugene, OR died March 19. He was a contributor to Doug Fratz’ 1970s fanzine Thrust. His first professional successes included The Seeker, a novel published in 1976, and the Nebula-nominated story “Tin Woodman,” co-authored with Dnnis Bailey, later adapted into both a novel and TV episode for Star Trek: The Next Generation. He also wrote the Star Trek tie-in novel Grounded, which spent time on the bestseller list. His other TV work included Dinosaucers (with Ted Pedersen). Bischoff wrote 75 original novels, and tie-in novels for movies and TV series.
(10) A POLICEMAN’S LOT. Camestros Felapton reacted to Richard Paolinelli’s minor league prank of complaining to the Aussie cops about Felapton’s blog.
A stalwart champion of free speech has attempted to report me to the federal police for the crime of having a blog – once again surpassing satire.
— Camestros Felapton (@CamestrosF) March 26, 2018
Cop’s spouse: did you catch many evil doers today honey?
Cop: Mainly read an advice column on the internet…by a dinosaur…about how t-Rexs drink too much and try to climb trees when they are drunk…
Cop’s spouse: Just another day on the mean crime ridden streets of Canberra
— Camestros Felapton (@CamestrosF) March 27, 2018
(11) MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE. “The hidden history of the UK’s highest peak”: A tourist hiking trail once led to an early weather station whose records are now being used to trace climate change.
Back in Victorian Britain, science was still largely an amateur pastime conducted by bands of self-financed enthusiasts who formed scientific societies. One was the Scottish Meteorological Society, which set up and maintained a network of weather stations across Scotland between 1855 and 1920.
(12) WAVE GOODBYE. “Stephen Hawking’s final interview: A beautiful Universe” starts from LIGO discovery of grav waves.
Tell us how important is the detection of two colliding neutron stars?
It is a genuine milestone. It is the first ever detection of a gravitational wave source with an electromagnetic counterpart. It confirms that short gamma-ray bursts occur with neutron star mergers. It gives a new way of determining distances in cosmology. And it teaches us about the behaviour of matter with incredibly high density.
(13) MAY THE ODDS BE ALWAYS IN YOUR FAVOR. Don’t look up — “Tiangong-1: China space station may fall to Earth ‘in days'”.
Should I be worried?
No. Most of the 8.5-tonne station will disintegrate as it passes through the atmosphere.
Some very dense parts such as the fuel tanks or rocket engines might not burn up completely. However, even if parts do survive to the Earth’s surface, the chances of them hitting a person are incredibly slim.
“Our experience is that for such large objects typically between 20% and 40% of the original mass will survive re-entry and then could be found on the ground, theoretically,” the head of Esa’s space debris office, Holger Krag, told reporters at a recent briefing.
“However, to be injured by one of these fragments is extremely unlikely. My estimate is that the probability of being injured by one of these fragments is similar to the probability of being hit by lightning twice in the same year.”
(14) WEDDING BELLS. Page Six headline: “‘Star Trek’ star marries Leonard Nimoy’s son”:
Live long and prosper, you two.
Adam Nimoy, son of the late “Star Trek” icon Leonard Nimoy, and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” actress Terry Farrell married on Monday, on what would’ve been Leonard Nimoy’s 87th birthday.
The couple tied the knot in a civil ceremony at City Hall in San Francisco, according to film critic Scott Mantz, who tweeted a photo of the couple on their wedding day. Farrell retweeted Mantz’s photo and wrote, “Freakin AWESOME day!!!!!!! Love ya all! Aka: Mrs. Adam Nimoy.”
She also changed her Twitter bio to include “Mrs. Adam Nimoy.”
RT BREAKING NEWS!! ADAM NIMOY & TERRY FARRELL got MARRIED TODAY at a CIVIL CEREMONY at CITY HALL in SAN FRANCISCO! Today is the BIRTHDAY of Adam’s father #LeonardNimoy! Big CONGRATS to the happy couple!! #LLAP #StarTrek pic.twitter.com/sGB8OX2Tir
— Scott Mantz (@MovieMantz) March 26, 2018
(15) COMPLAINTS ABOUT DATE OF HUGO ANNOUNCEMENT. The announcement of the 2018 Hugo finalists wouldn’t be on March 31/Passover/Easter weekend/a Saturday if it was up to these folks:
Do Worldcons get to pick when the Hugo finalists get announced? Because if so I'm going to start exclusively supporting bids that pledge to announce nominees on a weekday, when nominees have a chance of getting press coverage.
— Annalee Flower (@leeflower) March 27, 2018
And yes I realize I'm kicking the hornet's nest of "this is a fandom event" vs "this is a professional industry event." It's both. That's fine. But cleaving to a practice that doesn't serve modern fandom is choosing 'tradition' over inclusivity.
— Annalee Flower (@leeflower) March 27, 2018
Hey @Dublin2019, PLEASE, Next year, please announce the Hugo Award Finalists on a Monday or Tuesday morning, not on a Saturday.This is a tradition that long since has lost its usefulness. https://t.co/OZn8jADkDu
— Paul Weimer (@PrinceJvstin) March 27, 2018
Without fail, WorldCon always announces the Hugos on the most inconvinient day possible. It's like they don't want people paying attention.
— Aidan Moher rehoM nadiA Aidan Moher rehoM nadiA (@adribbleofink) March 27, 2018
I think this sends is one or more of the following messages, @worldcon2018 :
"There are no observant Jewish finalists so we don't care"
"We don't care about any observant Jewish finalists"
"We don't care about any observant Jewish fans"
"We don't care"
(choose one or more)
— R. Lemberg (@RoseLemberg) March 27, 2018
— R. Lemberg (@RoseLemberg) March 27, 2018
Hugo nominations have almost always been announced the day before Easter. It’s a bad day to do this for so many reasons. Last year was a rare and happy exception.
— John Chu (@john_chu) March 27, 2018
Last year was the anomaly. Releasing the info simultaneously on the weekend of multiple Easter weekend conventions has been the tradition as long as I remember. (Not saying it's good or defensible. I was just pleasantly surprised it was a weekday last year)
— Mur: Whacked-Out Tesla of Podcasting (@mightymur) March 27, 2018
It was a good anomaly, and they should have stuck with it. All I'm saying is, if they can break tradition once, it's clearly not that powerful or important a tradition.
— Navah Wolfe (@navahw) March 27, 2018
Part of a longstanding tradition of announcing them the weekend of Easter, so it's always been an inconvenience to observant Christians. This year, by fluke of the calendar, they're discriminating a little bit less.
— rst (@rsthau) March 27, 2018
Nebula finalists are usually announced on a weekday. Makes sense for getting press.
— Sarah Pinsker (@SarahPinsker) March 27, 2018
— ???? ????????? (@ohseafarer) March 27, 2018
So, here’s a thing i didn’t know: the Hugo Awards are named after Hugo Gernsback, who was Jewish. Odd that this year's Hugo Awards nominee announcement is falling on Passover, then. @worldcon2018
— Rainbow Dash Warrior (@XtinaSchelin) March 27, 2018
OK, while I'm yelling about dumb Hugos things, what the hell is this nonsense? Who thought it was a good idea to put the ceremony on a Sunday night? Most attendees need to be back at work and this makes it that much harder even for pros and industry folk to attend. pic.twitter.com/9LWnJopd8Q
— dongwon (@dongwon) March 27, 2018
1) Announcing on Passover is a terrible idea because it excludes Jewish members/community members.
2) Having the Hugos on Sunday night is a terrible idea – think of all of the people that cannot afford to take the Monday off.
Please reconsider these scheduling decisions.
— Michael R. Underwood (@MikeRUnderwood) March 27, 2018
The ceremony is usually on the Saturday.
Worldcon 76 contact information page:https://t.co/FoGWz43NlE
I'd suggest contacting Events, the Chair, and WSFS. I have no idea if the plans are too mature to change.
Dublin 2019 contacts for pre-emptive lobbying:https://t.co/PwXQtmUTdT
— ULTRAGOTHA [Call Congress: (202) 224-3121] (@ULTRAGOTHA) March 27, 2018
(16) VERTLIEB CANVASSES. Rondo Awards voting closes April 8 at midnight and Steve Vertlieb hopes people will consider his nominated article “Robert Bloch: The Clown at Midnight” for Best Article of the Year.
My published work about the author of “Psycho” … “Robert Bloch: The Clown At Midnight” … has been nominated for a Rondo Award for “Best Article of the Year.” Anyone can vote. This year’s competition ends Sunday night, April 8th, at midnight. To vote for my remembrance of Robert, simply send your choice, along with your name, to firstname.lastname@example.org
This is the story of my twenty five year friendship with acclaimed writer Robert Bloch, the author of Psycho. It is the newly published remembrance of a complex, remarkable man, and our affectionate relationship over a quarter century.
Robert Bloch was one of the founding fathers of classic horror, fantasy, and science fiction whose prolific prose thrilled and influenced the popular genre, its writers, and readers, for much of the twentieth century. An early member of “The Lovecraft Circle,” a group of both aspiring and established writers of “Weird Fiction” assembled by Howard Phillips Lovecraft during the early 1930’s, Bloch became one of the most celebrated authors of that popular literary genre during the 1940’s, 1950’s, and 1960’s, culminating in the publication of his controversial novel concerning a boy, his mother, and a particularly seedy motel. When Alfred Hitchcock purchased his novel and released “Psycho” with Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh in 1960, Bloch became one of the most sought after authors and screen writers in Hollywood. His numerous contributions to the acclaimed television anthology series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” are among the best of the director’s classic suspense series, while his legendary scripts, adaptations and teleplays for Boris Karloff’s “Thriller” series for NBC are among the most bone chilling, frightening, and horrifying screen presentations in television history. He also famously penned several classic episodes of NBC’s original “Star Trek” series for producer Gene Roddenberry. Writers Stephen King, Richard Matheson, and Harlan Ellison have written lovingly and profusely of their own literary debt to Robert Bloch. Bob was, for me, even more significantly, a profoundly singular mentor and cherished personal friend for a quarter century. This is the story of that unforgettable relationship.
(17) NUMBER PLEASE. A strange post at George R.R. Martin’s Not a Blog caught Greg Hullender’s eye: “I wonder if this is a coded announcement that Winds of Winter is coming?” “Yowza” consists of a series of pictures of hands with finger extended as though counting. But does the number 4534 really mean anything?
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Joey Eschrich, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Ghostbird, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Greg Hullender, Paul DiFilippo, and Mark Hepworth for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]
(1) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND THERE LIVED AN ARCHITECT. The structure replacing Ray Bradbury’s torn-down home is nearly finished. LA Observed interviewed architect Thom Mayne and his wife about the design in “What would Ray think? Thom and Blythe Mayne’s house in Cheviot Hills is almost ready to call home “. Despite the title, it didn’t seem to me the question was really addressed.
Prominent LA architect Thom Mayne razed the longtime Cheviot Hills home and work space of Ray Bradbury to build his own home. Mayne promised the neighborhood and fans a “very, very modest” house that would honor Bradbury in its design. Now that the teardown-and-replace is nearly complete, KCRW’s Frances Anderton, host of Design & Architecture, gets a tour and assesses if the promise was met.
However, the promised fence with Bradbury quotes is there, although you really can’t make them out in this photo from LA Observed.
(2) THAT TIME GRUMPY AND DOC WENT TO THE MOVIES. Atlas Obscura unearthed “The Movie Date That Solidified J.R.R. Tolkien’s Dislike of Walt Disney”.
…According to an account in the J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, Tolkien didn’t go see Snow White until some time after its 1938 U.K. release, when he attended the animated film with [C.S.] Lewis. Lewis had previously seen the film with his brother, and definitely had some opinions. In a 1939 letter to his friend A.K. Hamilton, Lewis wrote of Snow White (and Disney himself):
Dwarfs ought to be ugly of course, but not in that way. And the dwarfs’ jazz party was pretty bad. I suppose it never occurred to the poor boob that you could give them any other kind of music. But all the terrifying bits were good, and the animals really most moving: and the use of shadows (of dwarfs and vultures) was real genius. What might not have come of it if this man had been educated–or even brought up in a decent society?
… Tolkien didn’t like the goofball dwarfs either. The Tolkien Companion notes that he found Snow White lovely, but otherwise wasn’t pleased with the dwarves. To both Tolkien and Lewis, it seemed, Disney’s dwarves were a gross simplification of a concept they held as precious….
(3) DEMENTOR INVENTOR. Zata Rana, in an article on Quartz, “How JK Rowling Overcame Depression and Went On To Sell Over 400 Million Books”, reminds us that Rowling began to write Harry Potter novels after being diagnosed with clinical depression in the 1990s and her struggles to overcome her depression provides inspiring lessons for us all.
…During this period, her depression took a dark turn, and she considered herself a failure. She had fallen and felt stuck. She even contemplated suicide. Luckily, she found it in her to seek help, and writing became an outlet. The idea for the Harry Potter series had come to her years before on a train ride from Manchester to London. She had worked on a few chapters in Portugal, but she only really found her momentum back in the UK.
Rowling finished the first two books while still on welfare benefits. The dementors introduced in the third book were inspired by her mental illness….
(4) STINKS IN SPACE. The popular video game took a wrong turn when it left the Earth: “Activision admits taking ‘Call of Duty’ to space was a bad idea”.
Right from the very start it was clear that Activision’s Call of Duty franchise had taken a bit of a wrong turn with Infinite Warfare. The initial trailer for the game was absolutely slaughtered on YouTube, and early sales indicated that the game just wasn’t striking a chord with some of its target audience. Now, Activision is admitting what we all knew: Infinite Warfare was a misstep.
In a recent earnings call with investors, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and COO Thomas Tippl revealed that the company wasn’t particularly pleased with how the game sold, or its overall reception….
(5) CAN’T PULL OVER TO THE ROADSIDE. And you know what else is going to stink in space? Blue Origin — “Hold on tight and hold it: Jeff Bezos says no potty breaks on Blue Origin space trips”. Here are a couple quotes from a Bezos Q&A session.
What if I get queasy? Getting sick to your stomach can be a problem on zero-G airplane flights like NASA’s “Vomit Comet,” but motion sickness typically doesn’t come up until you’ve gone through several rounds of zero-G. Blue Origin’s suborbital space ride lasts only 11 minutes, with a single four-minute dose of weightlessness. “You’re going to be fine,” Bezos said.
What if I have to use the bathroom in flight? Go before you go. “Listen, if you have to pee in 11 minutes, you got problems,” Bezos said. You may have to hold it for more than 11 minutes, though, since passengers will board the spaceship a half-hour before launch.
(6) TODAY’S TRIVIA. “What, Me Worry?” Alfred E. Neuman made his debut as Mad Magazine’s mascot by appearing on the cover of The Mad Reader, a reprint paperback published in November 1954. He appeared for the first time on the magazine’s cover in issue #21 (March 1955).
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY
(8) THEY STOPPED FOR LUNCH. And didn’t clean up after. Better hope your litter doesn’t last this long. “Neanderthals in California? Maybe so, provocative study says”
A startling new report asserts that the first known Americans arrived much, much earlier than scientists thought — more than 100,000 years ago __ and maybe they were Neanderthals.
If true, the finding would far surpass the widely accepted date of about 15,000 years ago.
Researchers say a site in Southern California shows evidence of humanlike behavior from about 130,000 years ago, when bones and teeth of an elephantlike mastodon were evidently smashed with rocks.
The earlier date means the bone-smashers were not necessarily members of our own species, Homo sapiens. The researchers speculate that these early Californians could have instead been species known only from fossils in Europe, Africa and Asia: Neanderthals, a little-known group called Denisovans, or another human forerunner named Homo erectus.
This reminds me of my visit 40 years ago to the Calico Early Man Site where Louis (but not Mary) Leakey thought they had found evidence of equally ancient toolmaking. According to Mary, their disagreement over this contributed to their split.
(9) QUESTIONS BIGGER THAN THE EXPANSE. The Space Review ponders the utopian and quasi-religious aspects of space advocacy in “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids”.
A few years ago historian Roger Launius wrote “Escaping Earth: Human Spaceflight as Religion” in the journal Astropolitics. He noted the similarities between human spaceflight enthusiasts and what we understand as traditional religion. For much of the history of the space age the comparisons have often been blatant, with spaceflight leaders such as Chris Kraft and Wernher von Braun, as well as numerous political leaders such as Ronald Reagan, talking about spaceflight in quasi, or even literally religious terms. Launius observed that human spaceflight, like religion, has its immortality myths, its revered leaders and condemned villains, its sacred texts, and its rituals, rules, and shared experiences. According to Launius, “The belief system has its saints, martyrs, and demons; sacred spaces of pilgrimage and reverence; theology and creed; worship and rituals; sacred texts; and a message of salvation for humanity, as it ensures its future through expansion of civilization to other celestial bodies.”
These religious aspects can be found throughout the writings of spaceflight advocates, the self-styled missionaries of the spaceflight religion. One of the most common arguments for space settlement is to achieve immortality for humankind by moving a portion of humanity to Mars in event of catastrophe. The Space Review regularly publishes these kinds of appeals to transcendence. The advocates argue that humankind could be wiped out by natural disaster—typically a meteor strike—and settling the Moon and Mars would help avoid the species being wiped out (see “Settling space is the only sustainable reason for humans to be in space”, The Space Review, February 1, 2016). Other commonly-cited threats include man-made ones like war and environmental destruction—as if space settlers would not also face the same things in a far more fragile biosphere. The Expanse has highlighted this vulnerability and interdependence with a subplot about food production on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede collapsing because the ecosystem lacks the robustness of Earth’s complex environment.
(10) CHU ON WRITING. In an interview at Outer Places, “Author John Chu Talks Cybernetics, Short Fiction, and Sci-Fi”.
OP: Are there themes or elements you find yourself returning to again and again in your work?
Chu: At a LonCon 3 panel, I joked that all the parents in my stories make unreasonable expectations of their children. That may be truer than I’d like. Certainly, I like to explore the notion of family in its many forms, i.e., family does not have to mean blood relation. The most interesting characters in my stories are likely either navigating relationships with their blood relatives, searching for their family, or both.
(11) PLUS ATWOOD’S CAMEO. An NPR reviewer finds “Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Is Compelling — And Chilling”.
One searing scene features Offred’s memory of Aunt Lydia, the abusive headmistress who trains new Handmaids, quoting scripture and shocking the women with cattle prods. Eventually, she explains their duties as breeders. “You girls will serve the leaders of the faithful and their barren wives,” says Aunt Lydia, who cites Tinder as one source of the moral turpitude that has caused God to create the infertility crisis. “You will bear children for them. Oh! You are so lucky!”
(Atwood, who also served as a consulting producer on Hulu’s series, pops up in one scene from the first episode, where she slaps Offred for being slow to respond during an indoctrination session.)
This is a world of 1984-style paranoia and doublespeak. On the surface, it’s a placid, polite community that just happens to have black-clad guards with machine guns on every corner. But beneath that veneer is a world of grim desperation, fear and oppression. Women are stripped of husbands, children, jobs, their own money and control over their sexuality.
(12) MARVELS AND MARTYRS. Carmen Maria Machado reviews The Book of Joan for NPR.
One of the pleasures of The Book of Joan is its take-no-prisoners disregard for genre boundaries. Its searing fusion of literary fiction and reimagined history and science-fiction thriller and eco-fantasy make it a kind of sister text to Jeff VanderMeer’s ineffable Southern Reach trilogy. Yuknavitch is a bold and ecstatic writer, wallowing in sex and filth and decay and violence and nature and love with equal relish. Fans of her previous novel, The Small Backs of Children, will recognize these themes and their treatment.
(13) HELL’S JINGLING BELLS. And the BBC tells us why Milton should be more widely read.
…Ricks notes that Paradise Lost is “a fierce argument about God’s justice” and that Milton’s God has been deemed inflexible and cruel. By contrast, Satan has a dark charisma (“he pleased the ear”) and a revolutionary demand for self-determination. His speech is peppered with the language of democratic governance (“free choice”, “full consent”, “the popular vote”) – and he famously declares, “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven”. Satan rejects God’s “splendid vassalage”, seeking to live:
Free, and to none accountable, preferring
Hard liberty before the easy yoke
Of servile Pomp.
(14) SOME LIKE THE LIGHTNING — SOME DON’T. Two perspectives on Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning.
TRIGGER WARNINGS for discussion of ciscentricity, allocentricity, intersexis, and gender essentialism, and for quoted anti-trans and anti-intersex slurs apply to the following essay, as well as SPOILER WARNINGS.
Too Like the Lightning has been feted and critically acclaimed, and now nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel. I read it back when it first came out, after hearing about how well it supposedly handled queerness, and especially gender in the context of queerness, from a number of people whose opinions on the topic I usually respect; I did not agree with these assessments. I’ve been asked a number of times to discuss more fully my issues with the presentation of gender in the novel, so, with the Hugo Awards now open for voting, it seems like this might be the moment, to let voters see what this particular genderqueer person thought of the presentation of gender in the book. For context, I’m a bisexual nonbinary person and my pronoun is they….
Hi! I’m trans. I’m queer. I would like to talk about trans characters who end up dead in the course of story, or queer characters who are not the heroes of the story, and why that is frequently completely all right with me; and why the frequent labeling of works as “problematic” for not portraying trans (etc.) characters as paragons of virtue is itself a problem….
Now, I can completely sympathize with someone, especially a trans or nonbinary someone, noping out of Palmer’s novel due to the use of pronouns. I am personally of the opinion that you can refuse to leisure-read a book for any reason you damn well please, and I can see why that would hit a sore spot. (To reiterate: we’re talking about leisure reading here, things you read of your own will.) But I do not agree that Palmer’s worldbuilding here was problematic, and I do not think she should have been discouraged from writing this future….
“But is it hurtful?” you ask.
I feel this is the wrong question.
Individuals are hurt by whatever hurts them. And that’s not always something an author can predict–given the number of individuals in this world that’s a losing proposition, to try to write a work that never hurts anyone. I was not hurt by Palmer’s exploration of gender and society and use of pronouns, but again, trans people are not a monolith; and I want to be clear that people who noped out of the novel because of the pronouns (or any other reason) are entirely within their rights. I do think she was doing something interesting and definitely science fictional and that that’s fine, and that she should not have been prevented from writing with this device.
(15) CLASSIC WHO. Michael O’Donnell contributes an “it’s always new to someone on the internet” news item, a Doctor Who documentary, 30 Years In The Tardis posted on Vimeo by the director Kevin Davies around a year ago. It was originally broadcast by the BBC in 1993 to celebrate the Doctor’s 30th anniversary and never repeated (although it was included with one of the Doctor Who box sets).
(16) WELCOME TO KARLOFFORNIA. And A.V. Club remembers when “Thriller turned classic pulp stories into terrifying television”. (A post from 2014.)
… “As sure as my name is Boris Karloff, this is a Thriller!” was the catchphrase associated with Thriller, the horror anthology hosted by the craggy, silver-haired Englishman who in 1960 was still the world’s most emblematic scary-movie star. Rod Serling’s nervous energy animated The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock’s laconic drawl set the tone for his eponymous suspense series. Karloff was a natural choice to join their ranks: He let viewers know what they were in for just by saying his name….
Here is the prosaic chain of events by which Thriller came to meet Weird Tales: Frye’s associate producer, Doug Benton, asked writer Charles Beaumont (The Twilight Zone) for his ideas on material to adapt for Thriller. Beaumont suggested the pulp magazine and steered Benton to superfan Forrest J. Ackerman, who owned a complete set. Ackerman wouldn’t part with his trunk of back issues but agreed to loan them to Benton, a few at a time. Benton set out to track down authors and rights, and so Thriller began to offer relatively authentic screen versions of many key Weird Tales authors: August Derleth, Harold Lawlor, Margaret St. Clair, Fredric Brown, Henry Kuttner, and Robert Bloch. Only Lovecraft was missing.
(17) PASSING GO. Atlas Obscura goes inside the history and geography of the iconic game: “Touring the Abandoned Atlantic City Sites That Inspired the Monopoly Board”.
One of the last traces of old Atlantic City is the Claridge Hotel. Found on the corner of the two most expensive properties on the Monopoly board—Park Place and Boardwalk—the Claridge was known in its heyday as the “skyscraper by the sea.” Opened in 1930, it had an Art Deco opulence that wouldn’t be out of place in midtown Manhattan.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael D’Donnell, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]
(1) Sasquan GoH and ISS astronaut Kjell Lindgren knows what day it is —
— Kjell Lindgren (@astro_kjell) September 22, 2015
It’s Bilbo’s and Frodo’s birthday!
(2) But that’s not today’s only important birthday. Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer announced the arrival of their “humble bundle” —
He was born at 8:37 in the morning on September the 16th, which is, I am told, the commonest birthday in the US. It was a long but rewarding labour. The name on his birth registration is Anthony, but mostly I call him Squeaker. He makes the best noises in the world, mostly squeaks and peeps and snuffles.
Amanda is an amazing mother. I am changing nappies (or diapers, if you are not English) and enjoying it much too much. This is wonderful.
(3) George R.R. Martin has something of his own to celebrate — “A New Record”:
For now, let it suffice to say that the Emmy looks very good in my TV room, and while it IS an honor just to be nominated (as I have been, six times before), it’s even cooler to win.
(4) Today in History:
1986 – The TV show “ALF” debuted on NBC.
2004 – The pilot episode of “Lost” aired.
(5) Run away! Run away! “Burger King’s Halloween Whopper will be its first intentionally frightening burger”:
We’ve seen a lot of scary fast food over the years but now Burger King is reportedly coming out with a new Whopper that’s intentionally frightening. Fast food blog Burger Lad seems to have obtained some leaked pictures of a special Halloween Whopper that will feature pitch-black buns. As you can see in the photo above, this does not look like an appetizing burger — it rather looks as though Burger King has slapped a slab of beef and some vegetables in between two large pieces of charcoal.
(6) I don’t like that grub, but I do like this garb!
— Seven Times Six (@SevenTimesSix) September 22, 2015
(7) I’ve been waiting for this – Steve Davidson’s latest look at “The 1941 Retro Hugo Awards (Part 5 — Dramatic Presentation Short Form)”.
So far as radio plays go, there’s plenty to listen to, though again, many of the originals are simply not archived anywhere accessible. Superman is an obvious choice; an episode or two from Lux Radio or Mercury Theater may whet your appetite. Don’t forget to check out the Blue Beetle too, as well as taking the opportunity to compare the Green Hornet’s radio appearances against the serial show.
(8) The “’Star Trek’ virtual tour will recreate every deck of the Enterprise” comes with a nice 12-minute animation.
You’ve probably seen a few attempts at recreating worlds in game engines, but never at this level of detail. Artist Jason B is working on the Enterprise-D Construction Project, an Unreal Engine-based virtual tour that aims to reproduce all 42 decks in the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation. While it’s not quite photorealistic, the attention to detail in this digital starship is already uncanny — the bridge, shuttle bay and other areas feel like lived-in spaces, just waiting for the crew to return. Jason is drawing on as much official material as he can to get things pixel-perfect, and he’s only taking creative liberties in those areas where there’s no canonical content.
(9) Mothership Zeta officially launches in October, but Editor Mur Lafferty, Fiction Editor Sunil Patel, Non-fiction Editor Karen Bovenmyer have posted sample Issue 0 at the website. The magazine will be a quarterly, “crammed with the best, most fun speculative fiction.” Read Issue 0 now, containing work from:
(Note: “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon originally ran in Apex Magazine in 2014.)
(10) The Star of the Guardians Indiegogo Campaign has raised over $20,000. Thanks to our contributors,we can now fund the conceptual artwork and the illustrated storyboard book. We can also ensure that all of our amazing perks will be delivered to all of our contributors.
The goal of the campaign is to raise $55,000.
(11) Joe Haldeman is interviewed by Brian Merchant in “The Author of Our Best SF Military Novel Explains the Future of War”.
Now, it’s becoming closer to reality—3D printers may soon allow anyone with the right hardware to manufacture deadly weaponry at home. Obscene weapons are increasingly obscenely easy to find. “Once we have that access to abundant materials, and anyone can print out a hydrogen bomb, we’re about an hour away from total destruction,” he says. “We are just a hair’s thread away from a large disaster.” The future of war is distributed, in other words. But we are just as ill-equipped to deal with our violent impulses now as we were four decades ago, Haldeman says.
“I don’t think we’ve learned any fundamental thing about solving the problem. We’ve learned more about why people do seek violent solutions,” he says. “That doesn’t mean we have the social mechanism to address it.” His words resonate, depressingly, when you consider that the US now averages one mass shooting per day, and that the trend is only accelerating upwards.
“We have people who just go down to the K-mart and just buy ammunition, and they could kill a few dozen people before we can do anything,” he says. “[M]ore brute force is available to individuals, with no obvious improvement in the individual’s ability to responsibly apply that force. Or decide not to use it.” War, it seems, has been distributed.
Hence the forever warring, in smaller theaters.
(12) “Hear Radio Dramas of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy & 7 Classic Asimov Stories” at Open Culture.
If you’re thinking that the epic scale of Asimov’s sprawling trilogy—one he explicitly modeled after Edward Gibbon’s multi-volume History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire—will prove impossible to realize on the screen, you may be right. On the other hand, Asimov’s prose has lent itself particularly well to an older dramatic medium: the radio play. As we noted in an earlier post on a popular 1973 BBC adaptation of the trilogy, Ender’s Game author Orson Scott Card once described the books as “all talk, no action.” This may sound like a disparagement, except, Card went on to say, “Asimov’s talk is action.”
The supermoon lunar eclipse of 2015 will occur Sunday, Sept. 27, and is a confluence of three events: a full moon; a lunar eclipse, in which the Earth blocks the sun’s light from hitting the moon; and lunar perigee, when the moon is in the closest part of its orbit to Earth. The last time such a confluence happened was in 1982; there were just five instances of it in the 20th century. This time around, viewers looking from the Americas, Europe, Africa, western Asia and the eastern Pacific Ocean will have a chance to see the show.
(14) A new Mars exploration tool — “’Mars Trek’ Is Google Earth for the Red Planet” on Motherboard.
If you are one of the thousands of people who would like to start a new life on Mars, you might want to get an early start on scouting out some premium real estate options. Fortunately, NASA has created a new Google-Earth-style web app for the red planet, providing the Mars-eyed among us with a way to virtually explore their fantasy destinations in stunning detail.
“Working with our expert development team at [the Jet Propulsion Laboratory], we have just released our latest product, Mars Trek,” said NASA project manager Brian Day in a video about Mars Trek released today. According to Day, this “web-based portal allows mission planners, scientists, and the general public to explore the surface of Mars in great detail as seen through the eyes of a variety of instruments on a number of spacecraft.”
… Beyond these experiments, you can also calculate the trip time between two points on Mars, explore the adopted homes of NASA rovers and landers, and, if you are feeling really ambitious, 3D-print full sections of the online map. Day and his team also plan to add more features soon, including speculations about landing sites for future projects like the Mars 2020 rover.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Will R., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day GSLamb.]