Pixel Scroll 6/14/18 When The Scroll Hits Your Eye Like A Big Pixel Pie, That’s A-nnoying

(1) PUTTING SOME ENGLISH ON IT. Should the Hugo Awards add a Best Translated works category? Here are Twitter threads by two advocates.

(2) EXPANDING STOKER. The Horror Writers Association will be adding a new Bram Stoker Awards category for Short Non-Fiction in 2019.

HWA President, Lisa Morton welcomes the new addition, stating: “As a writer who has written non-fiction at all lengths, a reader who loves articles and essays, and an admirer of academic study of dark fiction, I am pleased to announce this new awards category.”

(3) WEBER DECLARES VICTORY. David Weber’s Change.org petition, “Ensure Freedom of Speech & Assembly at ConCarolinas”, recorded 3,713 signatures. Weber’s fans were so enthusiastic one of them even signed my name to the petition. Although I asked them to remove it I’m still getting notifications, like this one — “The Vote Is In…”

Our petition in favor of the policy on guest invitations for ConCarolinas enunciated by Jada Hope at the closing ceremonies of the 2018 convention is now closed.

That policy, simply stated, is that ConCarolinas will issue apolitical invitations to genre-appropriate guests and that guests, once invited, will not be DISINVITED because of political hate campaigns waged online after the invitations are announced.

In the week that it was open, it accrued over 3,700 signatures, many of whom left comments explaining why they had signed in support of that policy. We believe this is a fairly resounding statement of the fact that many more members of fandom support a policy in which individuals are not excluded because of the political demands of a vocal minority who assail conventions online. We believe the fact that NONE of the signatures on this petition were anonymous speaks volumes for the willingness of the signers to “put their money where their mouths are” on this issue.

At no time have we suggested that conventions are not fully entitled to make their initial guest selections on whatever basis they like, including how compatible they expect that guest’s apparent politics to be to the con goers they expect to attend. What we have said is that there is no justification for RESCINDING an invitation, once issued and accepted, simply because someone else objects to that guest’s inclusion. Clearly there will be occasional genuinely special circumstances, but unless something becomes part of the public record only after the invitation has been extended, it should not justify rescinding an invitation. That was that thesis of this petition, and that was what all of these individuals signed in support of.

Sharon and I thank you for the way in which you have come out in support of our position on this, and we reiterate that it does not matter to us whether the guest in question is from the left or the right. What matters is that true diversity does not include ex post facto banning of a guest simply because some online mob disapproves of him or her.

Fandom is supposed to be a community open to ideas that challenge us. Creating an echo chamber in which no dissenting voices are heard is the diametric opposite of that concept. Thank you, all of you, for helping to tone down the echo effect.

(4) WHERE STORIES COME FROM. Robert Aickman recalled, in “Strange, Stranger, Strangest” at The Baffler.

Like some of his more famous contemporaries—Evelyn Waugh, say, or Aldous Huxley—Aickman yearned for those pre-industrial times before the democratic rabble began making all their poorly educated and unreasonable demands; and while his political prejudices didn’t yield what some of his contemporaries considered a satisfactory person (one of his closest friends recalled him as being incapable of any “real commitment to anyone”), they inspired him to explore narrative ideas that were always idiosyncratic, funny, disturbing, and unpredictable. No two Aickman stories are alike; and no single story is like any other story written by anybody else.

The most dangerous forces in an Aickman story often emerge from common and unremarkable spaces: tacky carnival tents, rural church-yards, the rough scrim of bushes at the far end of a brick-walled back garden, the human rabble who visit their dead relatives in decaying cemeteries, or remote (and often unnamable) foreign holiday isles. And while supernatural events may often occur in Aickman stories—at other times they only seem to occur, and at still other times they don’t occur at all.

(5) JEMISIN GETS AWARD. The Brooklyn Book Festival Literary Council has announced the lineup of initial 150-plus authors for this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival (“Brooklyn Book Festival Announces Stellar Fall Line-Up”), September 15-16. Hugo award-winning author N.K. Jemisin will be the recipient of the annual Best of Brooklyn (BoBi) Award.

Brooklyn author N.K. Jemisin has been named the recipient of the Brooklyn Book Festival’s annual Best of Brooklyn (or BoBi) Award. The annual award is presented at the September Gala Mingle to an author whose work exemplifies or speaks to the spirit of Brooklyn. Past honorees have included Colson Whitehead, Jacqueline Woodson, Jonathan Lethem, James McBride, Lois Lowry and Pete Hamill.

(6) LE GUIN TRIBUTE. John Lorentz, who attended, says the video recording of last night’s tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin is now available online at http://www.literary-arts-tribute.org/.

It was a special night (Ursula was a real treasure here in Portland, and throughout the literary world), and we were very happy that we could be there.

It was a mix of videos of Ursula and live speakers, such as Molly Gloss, David Jose Older and China Mieville.

And a dragon!

(7) AROUND THE BLOCK. Mary Robinette Kowal says NASA astronauts are now doing the spacewalk she saw them rehearse. Get on the Twitter thread here —

(8) SNEYD OBIT. Steve Sneyd, a well-known sff poet who also published fanzines, died June 14. John Hertz, in “The Handle of a Scythe, commemorated Sneyd after the Science Fiction Poetry Association named him a 2015 Grand Master of Fantastic Poetry.

He was poetry editor for Langley Searles’ unsurpassed Fantasy Commentator.  His own Data Dump has been published a quarter-century;

.. On the occasion of the Grand Master award, Andrew Darlington posted a 3,400-word piece “Steve Sneyd from Mars to Marsden” at Darlington’s Weblog Eight Miles Higher,  with photos, images of Sneyd’s various publications including Data Dump, electronic links, and things too fierce to mention

Sneyd’s own website was Steve-Sneyd.com. And there’s an entry for him at the SF Encyclopedia — http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/sneyd_steve.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 14  — Lucy Hale, 29. Bionic Woman (2007 TV series) as Becca Sommers, sister of Jaime Sommers, and voiced Periwinkle in TinkerBell and the Secret of the Wings.

(10) NOW AUTOMATED. CockyBot™ is on the job.

(11) SWATTERS PLEAD. “Two rival gamers allegedly involved in Kansas ‘swatting’ death plead not guilty in federal court” reports the Washington Post.

…Late last December, Casey Viner and Shane Gaskill, two young men separated by more than 800 miles and a time zone, clashed inside the digital playpen of “Call of Duty: WWII.” The Wichita Eagle would later report that the disagreement was over an online wager of less than $2.

But according to a federal indictment, Viner, from North College Hill, Ohio, became “upset” with Gaskill, a Kansas resident. Plotting a real-world revenge for the alleged slight delivered in the first-person shooter, Viner allegedly tapped a 25-year-old  from Los Angeles named Tyler Barriss to “swat” Gaskill.

“Swatting” — or summoning police to an address under false emergency pretenses — is a particularly dangerous form of Internet harassment. But when Gaskill noticed that Barriss had started following him on Twitter, he realized what the Californian and Viner were plotting. Instead of backing down or running for help, Gaskill taunted the alleged swatter via direct message on Twitter.

“Please try some s–t ,” Gaskill allegedly messaged Barriss on Dec. 28, according to the indictment. “You’re gonna try and swat me its hilarious … I’m waiting buddy.”

The wait was not long. According to authorities, about 40 minutes after the messages on Twitter, police in Wichita swarmed a local house in response to a hostage situation. Twenty-eight-year-old Andrew Finch was shot dead by law enforcement — the result, allegedly, of Barriss’s fake call to police. The deadly hoax, sparked by an online gaming beef, quickly became international news.

Now Viner, Gaskill, and Barriss are all facing federal criminal charges stemming from the shooting. On Wednesday afternoon, Viner and Gaskill — 18 and 19, respectively — were in a Wichita courtroom making their first appearance in the case. The Associated Press reported that both men pleaded not guilty to a host of charges, including conspiracy to obstruct justice and wire fraud.

(12) WARM SPELL. NPR reckons “Antarctica Has Lost More Than 3 Trillion Tons Of Ice In 25 Years”.

Scientists have completed the most exhaustive assessment of changes in Antarctica’s ice sheet to date. And they found that it’s melting faster than they thought.

Ice losses totaling 3 trillion tonnes (or more than 3.3 trillion tons) since 1992 have caused global sea levels to rise by 7.6 mm, nearly one third of an inch, according to a study published in Nature on Wednesday.

Before 2010, Antarctica was contributing a relatively small proportion of the melting that is causing global sea levels to rise, says study co-leader Andrew Shepherd of the University of Leeds.

But that has changed. “Since around 2010, 2012, we can see that there’s been a sharp increase in the rate of ice loss from Antarctica. And the ice sheet is now losing three times as much ice,” Shepherd adds.

(13) DUSTY ROADS. The end? “Enormous Dust Storm On Mars Threatens The Opportunity Rover”.

A massive dust storm on Mars is threatening NASA’s Opportunity rover, which has been conducting research on the Red Planet for well over a decade.

Where the rover sits, the dust storm has completely blotted out the sun, depriving Opportunity of solar power and cutting off communications with Earth.

NASA scientists believe the rover has fallen asleep to wait out the storm, and that when the dust storm dies down and sunlight returns, the rover will resume activity.

“We’re concerned, but we’re hopeful that the storm will clear and the rover will begin to communicate with us,” says John Callas, the Opportunity project manager.

The rover has survived dust storms before, but it’s never lost power this thoroughly.

The dust storm on Mars grew from a small, local storm into a massive event over the course of the last two weeks. Opportunity is located near the middle of the storm, while the newer rover Curiosity — which is nuclear-powered, so not threatened by the loss of sunlight — is currently near the storm’s edge.

… There’s no expectation that the rover will be completely buried by dust, but there are risks associated with the lack of temperature control and the extended lack of power.

“The good news there is that the dust storm has warmed temperatures on Mars,” Callas says. “We’re also going into the summer season so the rover will not get as cold as it would normally.”

The rover also has small, plutonium-powered heater units on board that will help keep it from freezing, and NASA scientists believe the rover will be able to ride out the storm until the skies clear. It’s not clear how long that will take.

(14) HOMEBREW DROID. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Patrick Stefanski decided, even before Solo: A Star Wars Story hit the theaters he wanted to build an Alexa-powered version of the droid L3-37. Well, the head anyway. He combined his skills with 3-D printing, model painting, and electronics to have his robot head respond to “Ethree” as a custom wake word and reply with a sassy “What?” when summoned. Those changes required running Amazon Voice Services software—basically the thing that powers Alexa—on a Raspberry Pi microcomputer rather than using stock Amazon hardware. That change also allowed him to set the localization to the UK so “she” could speak with a British accent.

Quoting the io9 article “Talented Hacker Turns Amazon’s Alexa Into Lando’s Sass-Talking L3-37 Droid” —

One of the best parts of Solo: A Star Wars Story is Lando Calrissian’s piloting droid, L3-37, who’s been uniquely pieced together and upgraded from parts of other droids. Patrick Stefanski has essentially done the same thing to turn Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant into a desktop version of L3-37 who answers to your beck and call.

The customizability of Amazon’s Echo speakers, which feature Alexa built-in, are quite limited. So in order to make his L3-37 actually respond to the simple phrase, “Elthree,” Stefanski instead used a software version of Alexa running on a Raspberry Pi3 mini computer. It also allowed Stefanski to alter his location so that his Alexa-powered L3-37 speaks in a British accent, similar to actor Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s performance of the character in the movie.

The SYFY Wire article has more of an interview with Stefanski, “This dude built a fully-functional and definitively sassy 3D-printed L3-37 Alexa”, including:

“I originally wrote off the idea of doing a 3D printed L3 project when I first saw her in a teaser trailer. Here is a 6- or 7-foot walking humanoid robot with tons of articulation and a ton of personality. What could I possibly do with that? Some builder’s tried to tackle K2-SO, a very similar droid from the Rogue One movie, and ended up with a 6-foot static mannequin.

…]That’s cool and all but, me, I’m all about the motors and the electronics and the motion.

“Then as luck would have it, the first time I heard L3-37 talk (a British female voice), it happened to be on the same day I saw a random YouTube video about someone hacking together an Echo Dot and one of those old ‘Billy the Bass’ novelty fish. […] My daughter is 3, and just starting to really get comfortable with Alexa. ‘ALEXA PLAY FROZEN!!!!’ is something you’ll hear yelled in my house a lot! So, I started thinking of something fun to do with our Echo, and the idea of turning it into this new female robot from Star Wars kind of just fell into place.”

(15) GREEN HELL. Science Alert is enthralled: “Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Is Literally Raining Gemstones Now, And We Want Some”.

If Hawaii’s K?lauea volcano were to offer an apology for its chaos and destruction, it just might come in the form of a beautiful green mineral called olivine.

Over the past months we’ve reported on devastating lava flows and bone-shattering boulders. Now it’s raining gems – a rare event that has geologists enthralled and the rest of us just plain confused.

But ULTRAGOTHA sent in the link with a demurrer: “I will note that I am not confused as to why an active volcano is producing olivine.  This one does it a lot. There is a green beach on Hawai’i.” She has in mind Papakolea Beach:

Papakolea Beach (also known as Green Sand Beach or Mahana Beach[1]) is a green sand beach located near South Point, in the Ka?? district of the island of Hawaii. One of only four green sand beaches in the world, the others being Talofofo Beach, Guam; Punta Cormorant on Floreana Island in the Galapagos Islands; and Hornindalsvatnet, Norway.[citation needed] It gets its distinctive coloring from olivine sand eroded out of the enclosing volcanic cone (tuff ring).

(16) HIGH PRICED TICKET. This weekend, “Aliencon links the worlds of space travel, UFOlogy and science fiction at the Pasadena Convention Center”. Story from the Pasadena Weekly.

Tully notes that AlienCon moved to Pasadena this year simply because of needing a bigger venue, and that there is no hidden agenda or secret information that ties Pasadena to an impending alien invasion or hidden landing sites from past eras.

“That question of whether we know things we can’t tell came up numerous times at the first AlienCon,” says Tully. “I don’t know anything, hand over heart, but I believe we have a panel that answers everything one could possibly know. They don’t get censored by the government.”

The move to Pasadena has already paid off with one-day passes  for Saturday already sold out, as are the Bronze and Gold level (which includes a private event with the “Ancient Aliens” cast) passes, which cost $124 and $549, respectively. The remaining Silver level passes cost $436 and, according to the website, “passholders receive guaranteed premium seating in the Main Stage, a voucher redeemable for autographs or photographs, a tote bag with exclusive merchandise, and much more!”

The fact that AlienCon doesn’t feature any experts from Caltech or JPL raises the antenna of Dr. Michael Shermer, founder of the Altadena-based Skeptic Society, who has long debunked the prospect of alien life forms as well as the existence of God. While he was somewhat impressed that the chief astronomer of the federal government’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) program and “Star Trek: Voyager’s” Picardo (who works with the Pasadena-based Planetary Society) will be panelists, he was more incredulous about the moneymaking aspects of the event.

“It’s a fun topic, like talking about God, where everyone has an opinion, but no one has any proof,” says Shermer. “But with the Gold Pass costing $550, you better be able to meet and greet an actual alien.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, ULTRAGOTHA, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Bill, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Chuck Connor, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Look around! Look around! Look around!

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1304)

White irises bloom
In dozens, in their bushes.
We do have seasons.

But I must write about death.

June Moffatt (1926-2018) left us on May 31st – kindly sparing, we might say, the month of her name.  She and her husband Len (1923-2010) were exemplary of “The Second Time Around”, the 1960 Sammy Cahn – Jimmy Van Heusen song I associate, like much else, with Frank Sinatra (though introduced by Bing Crosby, whom June preferred).

By our mythos, at least half in jest like much else, they’re together again in After-Fandom.  Whether that’s otherwise true is not for me to say.

I never met June’s first husband Eph (“eef”) Konigsberg or Len’s first wife Anna Sinclare Moffatt.  Each had, among much else, been active among us.

Much of what comes to mind about June I wrote about Len (Van 913).  They were like that.  I’ll repeat this: “Conviviality, hospitality were with Len’s wit, amplified, if possible, by June.  Together clubmen and party hosts – the suffix -man is not masculine – they also welcomed and sponsored newcomers with open arms, and discernment, for them no paradox.  Fine fannish things happened at Moffatt House and when the Moffatts went abroad.”

They were the 1973 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegates; their TAFF report, mimeographed by Mike Glyer, was The Moffatt House Abroad; the same was true of them at other people’s parties and at conventions – which from the fannish point of view are, we might say, justly deemed to be no less than other people’s parties.

Glyer has a fine note about June; he’d kindly reprinted my note about Len, and has linked to it.  June was 92.

I always thought she had good taste: outward from our core, the Oz books, especially Frank Baum’s; the comic strips that charmed us, George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, Walt Kelly’s Pogo – which Judith Merril put in her 6th annual Year’s Best S-F; tangent to us, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey, Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe – June and Len were among co-founders of detective fiction’s annual Bouchercon, named for Tony Boucher, so excellent both here and there.

But I was one of those newcomers.

She and Len were active to the ends of their lives in the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society – founded 1934, even then we wanted to be sure of including both science fiction and fantasy.  LASFS (to me “lahss fuss”, to Len rhyming with sass mass) hosts Loscon, where she and Len were Fan Guests of Honor in 1981; they were given the Evans-Freehafer Award for service to LASFS in 1994.  June was Chairman of the Board when Glyer joined in 1970.

June and Len sometimes invited me to other fannish clubs they took part in; naming two, the Petards, which had a Hoist and Hoistess, and the Prestigious International Gourmand Society, which more than once met at a Farrell’s ice-cream parlor, where Alan Frisbie, who among much else hosted the two mascots of the 42nd World Science Fiction Convention, Reynolds Rat and Rat Masterson, at least once consumed a Trough.

June helped crack hazelnuts for a flourless torte I had something to do with.  Hazelnuts are hard.  At the time I quite deliberately had no telephone.  There was a doorbell, rung by a cord that ran down one storey if you knew where to find it.

Moffatt House had, among much else, a plaque “These Are the Good Old Days”.

Fanwriting to me is best as one word; a girlfriend or boyfriend is not merely a girl or a boy who is a friend.  In the s-f community amateur magazines we publish for one another discuss life, the universe, and everything: by the 1940s we called them fanzines.  They may sometimes seem never to mention s-f; but a love of s-f, and a sense of participation, are the string on which the beads of fanwriting are strung.

We did not invent apas, but our first was FAPA the Fantasy Amateur Press Association, founded 1937, still ongoing.  Others followed.  Originally they seemed a convenient way to circulate fanzines.  Eventually apazines took on a life of their own.

The Moffatts’ FAPAzine was Moonshine.  Their Lzine De Jueves (Spanish, “Of Thursdays”, APA-L being collated at but not by LASFS, which since 1934 has met on Thursdays) ran through No. 2084, until the end of 2017, mostly by June, after 2010 by her alone except that Len was always with her in spirit.

She shone with fanwriting virtues, intelligence, responsiveness, good humor, a light touch, reaching the new and the old; she avoided our too-typical vices, retaliation, garrulity, unignition, unfocus; in APA-L, weekly over forty years, a feat.  Had she achieved nothing else she would have earned our awe.  She would have declined it.  She can’t now.

She was my longest-time friend in fandom.  I loved Len, and I loved her.  Writing about death I have written about life.  June was like that.  Goodbye.

Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?

By John Hertz:  In the course of reading and re-reading this and that I came across these two remarks I thought worth attention.  They touch points we often talk of.

Here’s Bernard Shaw in a 1930 preface to a reprint of his play The Philanderer. I found it in Plays Unpleasant (Penguin Bks. 1978, p. 98; I haven’t compared any of the more recent printings).

There is a disease to which plays as well as men become liable with advancing years.  In men it is called doting, in plays dating.  The more topical the play the more it dates.  The Philanderer suffers from this complaint.  In the eighteen-nineties, when it was written, not only dramatic literature but life itself was staggering from the impact of Ibsen’s plays, which reached us in 1889.  The state of mind represented by the Ibsen Club in this play was familiar then to our Intelligentsia.  That far more numerous body which may be called the Unintelligentsia was as unconscious of Ibsen as of any other political influence….

I make no attempt to bring the play up to date.  I should as soon think of bringing Ben Jonson’s  Bartholomew Fair up to date by changing the fair into a Woolworth store.  The human nature in it is still in the latest fashion: indeed I am far from sure that its ideas, instead of being 36 years behind the times, are not for a considerable section of the community 36 years ahead of them.  My picture of the past may be for many people a picture of the future.  At all events I shall leave the play as it is; for all the attempts within my experience to modernize ancient plays have only produced worse anachronisms than those they aimed at remedying.

Now here’s Vladimir Nabokov. He’s writing in 1949 about Afanasy Fet. I found it in the posthumous collection Verses and Versions (pp. 300-01).

Literary criticism in Russia, or at least that part of literary criticism that swayed the reader, was mainly a social force, occupied with social civic problems, and to such critics, to critics immensely celebrated in Russia as champions of liberty, civilization, commonsense, popular science, and the rest … a poet who spent his time inventing new methods of making poems out of landscapes, or love, was a ridiculous freak, a heretic, a sinner against mankind….  Fet was harried, spat at, spanked, mocked, insulted in such a thorough fashion that it is a wonder he never lost his head, never so much as replied to those attacks, ignoring absolutely his furious critics who in the long run made dreadful fools of themselves by raving at things they did not understand.  And so it happened that up to the present day it is a good way to test whether a Russian understands poetry or not by finding out whether he appreciates Fet….

The matter-of-fact critics who cursed Fet because he did not describe the sufferings of the Russian peasant in blunt manly measures, those critics were particularly maddened by Fet’s verse slipping as it were between their fingers, verse which became intangible when placed in a coarse medium of their own world, for in their world mental curves were as illegal as the roundness of the world was in the days of the flat-footed logicians who were firmly planted on a flat beach, where every grain of sand voiced, unheeded, the claim of its circular shape.  A poem by Fet seemed to them meaningless, because for them the meaning of things was limited by the square angles of their immediate use – city squares where crowds gather with square flags, square shoes, square prison cells, square tombstones.  But Fet looped his loop and was suddenly somewhere in the Milky Way just when he was expected to come home with some reasonable explanation of his behavior.

Among much else I was struck by how pertinent these seemed, written ninety and seventy years ago – about things written a hundred twenty and a hundred thirty years ago.  But so are Shakespeare and Lady Murasaki. They are also of course impertinent.

Do Shaw and Nabokov contradict each other?  Very well then they contradict each other.  They are large, they contain multitudes.

Classics of S-F at Westercon 71

By John Hertz:  Westercon LXXI, combined with Myths & Legends Con VI, will be 4-8 July 2018 at Denver, Colorado: the Denver Tech Center Hyatt Regency Hotel.  We’ll discuss three Classics of Science Fiction, one discussion each.  Come to as many as you like.  You’ll be welcome to join in.

In fact Denver has hosted three Worldcons, but this is its first Westercon.  Partly by way of unbreaking the circle, Denvention 3 chair Kent Bloom, and his wife Mary Morman, will be Fan Guests of Honor at Westercon LXXI.  But I digress.

I’m still with “A classic is a work that survives its own time.  After the currents which might have sustained it have changed, it remains, and is seen to be worthwhile for itself.”  If you have a better definition, bring it.

Each of our three may be more interesting now than when first published.

I thought it only right that each should have something to do with myths and legends.

Have you read them?  Have you re-read them?

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (1915)

Three men who discover a country peopled only by women find “daring….  broad sisterly affection … fair-minded intelligence…. health and vigor … calmness of temper” (ch. 7).  It’s neat, imaginative, warm-hearted.  How does she do it?

Robert A. Heinlein, Glory Road (1963)

Is it science fiction?  If not, where does fantasy belong?  Samuel R. Delany called it “endlessly fascinating” and said it “maintains a delicacy, a bravura, and a joy”.  Is he a dope?  Why does Heinlein’s preface quote Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra? What happened to Herr Doktor Professor Gordon?  Is this (gasp) a feminist tract?

Arkady & Boris Strugatsky, Hard to Be a God (1964)

Centuries after Communism has inevitably prevailed on Earth, students follow other planets – but if they interfere, they’ll ruin the progress of historical materialism and bring about catastrophe.  How’s that for a Prime Directive?

Shall the Twain Meet? or, Before Bowers and Gillespie

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1297) Waiting in the Maguire Garden at the west of the public library down town while a fire alarm was cleared, I saw above the library door in alto-relievo two horsemen passing a torch, under the motto Et quasi cursores vitai lampada tradunt (Latin, “And like runners they hand on the lamp of life”; Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 2:79, 50 b.c.e.).

On the left, over a figure of Phosphor (personification of the Morning Star), was “Wisdom of the East / Moses / Zoroaster / Buddha / Confucius / Mohammed / Lao Tse / Hillel / Avicenna / Al Gazali / Badarayana”.

On the right, over a figure of Hesper (the Evening Star), was “Wisdom of the West / Herodotus / Socrates / Aristotle / Vergil / Augustine / Aquinas / Petrarch / Bacon / Descartes / Kant”.

The architect of the building was Bertram Goodhue 1869-1924 (it was finished 1926); the sculptor, Lee Lawrie 1877-1963; the iconographer, Hartley Alexander 1873-1939 chair of the Univ. Nebraska philosophy department.

They made a conversation piece.  The work of each person named is worth discussing; the inclusion of that person, the omission of others; placement under East or West; each set’s numbering ten; and, as the saying goes, much much more.

                                            

Bill Bowers of e.g. Outworlds was, and Bruce Gillespie of e.g. SF Commentary is, famous for lists.

And He Should Know

By John Hertz: Patrick Nielsen Hayden has long said fanwriting is not a “junior varsity” for pro writing.  It’s a different artform.  And he should know.

Here’s Bernard Shaw.

Amateur art is discredited art in so far only as the amateur is known as the ape of commercial art….  smitten with an infatuate ambition to reproduce … what they see the great professional artists doing….  mostly foredoomed to failure and ridicule.  Here and there one of them succeeds, only to be absorbed by the commercial….  But the countryside is full of stout characters with no such folly and no such ambition…. demonstrating that the laughter of fools is as the crackling of thorns under a pot!

Shaw, The Complete Wagnerite (4th ed. 1923; closing paragraph)

                             

Thorns under a pot, Ecclesiastes 7:6

“Starry-eyed” Inspired Me

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1300)

Take my hand, I’m a ranger in SF-land;
All lost in a wonderland, a ranger in SF-land.
If I float starry-eyed, that’s a danger in SF-land
For any who come aboard minds of pros and fans too.

I saw its face and I ascended
Out of the commonplace into the rare.
Somewhere in space I hang suspended
While I set aside Is it true for We dare.

Won’t you fly with me?  We’ll meet strangers in SF-land.
We’ll pass beyond can’t and can through imagining’s door.
With open hearts we’ll join all the rangers in SF-land
Who while dreaming dreams need be mundane no more.

                                            

R. Wright & G. Forrest, “Stranger in Paradise” (1953); A. Borodin, “The Gliding Dance of the Maidens”, Prince Igor (1890)

Pixel Scroll 4/24/18 I Should’ve Never Rolled Those Hypercubical Dice

(1) MEXICANX INITIATIVE. John Picacio tells how Constellation 9 helped him hit the Assistance Fund’s $15,000 goal.

Picacio gave a play-by-play on his blog:

I was the Artist Guest of Honor at Constellation 9 in Lincoln, Nebraska this past weekend. It’s a small sf/f convention — the kind that pulls a modest 350-person attendance and serves a ‘big tent’ approach to fandom, celebrating art, books, films, TV, anime, gaming, cosplay and more. However, in all of my years of attending conventions, I’ve never seen a show with bigger heart. How big are we talking here?

Big enough to take The Mexicanx Initiative‘s $4333 remaining distance toward its $15,000 Assistance Fund goal and CRUSH IT in a single, unrelenting, hellacious Saturday Night Charity Auction.

That’s right.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED for The Mexicanx Initiative’s Assistance Fund — we reached our $15,000 goal this past Saturday night, thanks to everyone who gave in recent weeks and finished off by the incredible sf/f fandom of Constellation Nebraska, who believe in an American dream where all cultures are represented and welcomed. Shoutouts to Nanci H., Sam S., Nate W., Theron, Brian H., and the greatness of Dylan N. of NebrasKon (pictured upper right), who offered to shave his head AND his beard in order to raise money for The Initiative, generating a thunderous roar from the approving mob, reportedly causing onlookers to pass out. It was an epic night, hosted by John Pershing and Richard Graham, and by the end of the three-hour fever dream, Constellation Nebraska generated a whopping, record-setting $4,444, which brought the Mexicanx Initiative’s Assistance Fund total to $15,121!

And Nebraska wasn’t done — on Sunday, more contributions arrived, bringing The Mexicanx Initiative’s Assistance Fund total to $15,304.19 — $4,627.19 of that coming from the hearts, souls, and hairlines of the legendary Nebraskan people. Every dollar of that will benefit the 50 Mexicanx all-star pros and fans attending Worldcon 76 this summer.

(2) LAMBDA VISIONARY AND TRUSTEE AWARDS. Lambda Literary announced the winners today.

Lambda Literary, the nation’s oldest and largest literary arts organization advancing LGBTQ literature, is pleased to announce that Edmund White will receive Lambda’s Visionary Award and Roxane Gay will receive the Trustee Award at the 30th Annual Lambda Literary Awards (“Lammys”).

White and Gay will be honored along with the winning authors of 23 separate LGBTQ literary categories determined by over 65 judges. The Lammys bring together over 500 attendees, sponsors, and celebrities to celebrate excellence in LGBTQ publishing, making it the most glamorous and prestigious LGBTQ literary event in the world.

The awards will be hosted by Kate Clinton on Monday, June 4 in New York City

[Via Locus Online.]

(3) TED TABLE TALK. The Periodic Videos team, using the TED-Ed platform, has created a video lesson about every single element on the periodic table. (And with no help from Tom Lehrer.)

Take your old pal Beryllium, for example —

(4) POUL’S PRONUNCIATION LESSON. John Hertz remembers –

I believe it was while Poul Anderson was a Guest of Honor at Lunacon that he told an eager group “I’ll teach you all how to pronounce my name.” We bated our breath. He said, “AN-der-son.”

(5) BROUGHT TO YOU BY. James Davis Nicoll reaches names that start with the letter K in “Fighting Erasure: Women SF Writers of the 1970s, Part V”.

Lee Killough first appeared under the Del Rey imprint. I suspect editors Lester and Judy-Lynn may have been searching for authors like Larry Niven at the time. Yes, there’s a faint resemblance, but Killough has greater talent than Niven for crafting memorable characters. I quite liked her re-contact novel A Voice Out of Ramah, which is out of print, and her collection Aventine, which is also out of print. The Killough novel that first caught my eye was 1979’s The Doppelgänger Gambit, an engaging police procedural that followed a desperate killer’s attempts to evade a panopticon state. Doppelgänger, happily, is available in a new edition, which sadly lacks the eye-catching Michael Herring cover of the original edition³, but which is definitely worth your time.

(6) STAR WARS AND OTHERS. In 2016, Sarah Ellison, writing for Vanity Fair, profiled Kathleen Kennedy: “Meet the Most Powerful Woman in Hollywood”.

In 2012, after more than three decades producing hits such as E.T., Jurassic Park, and Schindler’s List, Kathleen Kennedy was handpicked by George Lucas to head Lucasfilm. Now, with the smash success of The Force Awakens behind her, Kennedy sits down with Sarah Ellison to talk about her mentors, her sense of equality, and her vision for the Star Wars franchise.

(7) GAMING NEWSLETTER. James Davis Nicoll is giving this a signal boost: “More Seats at the Table: a newsletter featuring awesome games by underloved designers”

We’re so pleased to be able to announce More Seats at the Table – an email newsletter designed to highlight games made by designers and creators who don’t fit neatly into the gender binary, femmes, and women.

More Seats at the Table came about as a result of a conversation between Kira Magrann and Anna Kreider about the problem of games by and about not-cismen being perceived as only for not-cismen – and they decided a good way to address this challenge would be an email newsletter highlighting the work of marginalized designers. To that end, they enlisted the organizational aid of Misha Bushyager of New Agenda Publishing and Kimberley Lam.

But we don’t just want this email list to be subscribed to by marginalized designers. Cismen, we’d very much like you to subscribe, and if you find work that excites you – then we hope you’ll consider either buying or using your platform to signal boost work by marginalized designers that you find exciting!

If you’d like to subscribe to the email list, please fill out our sign-up here. Our first issue will be sent out this Friday, April 27th!

“Cismen” sounds like something Flash Gordon fought, not a way I’d describe myself.

(8) NANCY. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna says that Olivia Jaimes, after taking over Nancy from Guy Gilchrist on April 9, has caused the hits on this ancient strip on GoComics to 5,000  per dayto 390,000 as Nancy and Sluggo now encounter earbuds, social media, and Snapchat: “How the new ‘Nancy’ creator is handling divided fans and sudden fame”.

“Olivia must be channeling her inner Bushmiller,” wrote one positive commenter on the syndicate’s website, referring to longtime “Nancy” creator Ernie Bushmiller, around whom a cult of top comics professionals has formed. Another commenter noted how Jaimes nods to the comic’s tradition even while including modern touches, writing: “It is refreshing to see a return to its original style and humor.” And wrote another: “Nancy Goes Millennial.”

Others have not been as pleased. One commenter wrote on April 16: “This is ridiculous. You’d never catch Ernie Bushmiller doing a joke about Snap Chat. Bring back, Ernie!” And a reader expressed to The Washington Post, “Since the characters have not aged in 85 years I don’t think it’s necessary to change them now.”

Some friend of mine used to revere Nancy – was that you, Penguin Dave Feldman?

(9) VENOM. Venom Official Trailer:

(10) ABOUT THOSE TROLLS. J.K Rowling says this —

(11) DON’T GET PURGED. Amanda S. Green suggests this solution to those who are going to follow Amazon’s rules about reviews:

However, a number of those who claim to be innocent victims of Amazon purges really aren’t. Oh, they might not have set out to violate Amazon’s ToS but they did. Every time an author says, “If you review my book, I’ll review yours,” they violate the ToS. Every time someone receives a free book and gives a review without also noting they received the book without buying it, they violate the ToS.

So how do we get around this? I want to be able to review books my friends write and I know they want to review mine. But we have hesitated because we don’t want to violate the ToS — or get caught up in the latest ‘bot review even though we didn’t trade reviews.

The answer is simple: review the book on your blog. Link your blog to Facebook and Twitter and other social media platforms. But don’t review it on Amazon. Yes, there are negatives (mainly, by not reviewing it on Amazon, the author doesn’t get a review that counts to that magic number that starts the “if you bought this, you might enjoy that” sort of recommendation). However, a number of readers really don’t read Amazon reviews. They might look at the number of reviews a book has, or at least the overall number of stars, but they don’t read the reviews.

(12) STAN LEE. Here’s something else that probably won’t make it into Stan Lee’s biography.

A massage therapist says Stan Lee of Marvel Comics fondled himself and inappropriately grabbed her during arranged massages at a Chicago hotel in 2017, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Cook County circuit court.

The massage therapist, Maria Carballo, also filed a complaint with Chicago police on March 16, said her attorney, Alexandra Reed-Lopez. A Chicago police spokeswoman confirmed a complaint was filed that date against Lee, under his legal name, Stanley Lieber. The case is still under investigation, police said.

The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000, punitive damages and attorney fees from Lee.

“He is a high-profile public figure and I think it’s a shakedown,” said Jonathan Freund, an attorney for Lee. “The guy is 95, I don’t think he would do that.”

…Freund said Lee “will defend his rights vigorously.”

(13) ROBOT HELPS GRANT A WISH. Through telepresence, “Robot helps Jack McLinden, 14, to be Everton mascot”.

Jack McLinden, who has multiple health conditions, experienced joining his heroes on the pitch before their game against Newcastle United on Monday.

Everton captain Phil Jagielka carried the robot, which fed panoramic live images and sound back to Jack’s tablet.

…The company has worked with UK charity WellChild to give Liverpool teenager Jack, who has much-reduced mobility, an unforgettable experience.

Jack needs oxygen 24 hours a day which means he can never attend a match at Goodison Park, even though he lives just under two miles away.

His mother Michelle Wignall said it was a “once in a lifetime experience” for her son.

(14) QUBITS. Popular Science peeks inside: “In photos: a rare glimpse inside the heart of a quantum computer”.

Qubits rely on many components. A wall of microwave generators create electromagnetic pulses that travel through a maze of coaxial cables and send the qubits—deep in the 5-foot-tall blue fridge pictured at the top of this article—into action. To create a climate colder than outer space, external pumps drive helium-3 refrigerant into copper tubing. As the helium circulates, it compresses, liquefies, and chills. It takes a day to hit the lowest low: 0.01 degrees Kelvin, or minus 459 degrees F.

(15) TIME TO FEUD. I’m Filmy brings you “Avengers: Infinity War Cast Play Family Feud.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John A Arkansawyer.]

National Poetry Month

By John Hertz:  April is National Poetry Month in the United States.  Science fiction is often set in the future.  So here’s an Englishman of the 16th Century.

What if within the Moones faire shining spheare?
What if in euery other starre vnseene
Of other worldes he happily should heare?
He wonder would much more: yet such to some appeare.

This is from The Faerie Queene (proem to Book II, 3rd stanza); Paul J. Alpers in his anthology Edmund Spenser (1969, p. 21) preserves Spenser’s spelling and punctuation, so I have.  In 1590 happily, like many words then, was closer than now to its root meaning of “occurrence” or “chance”, which we still have in happen.

Wishing you the same.