Pixel Scroll 11/8/18 Octokittens

(1) DUMBLEDORE. Another Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald  featurette, “Distinctly Dumbledore,” released this week. The movie arrives in theaters November 16.

At the end of the first film, the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) was captured by MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), with the help of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escaped custody and has set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings. In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world.

 

(2) WHAT’S UP, WHITE WOLF? Joseph D. Carriker identifies a big problem with the next Camarilla book for Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition in a public post on Facebook.

So, filing this under “Second Verse Same As The First”: the excerpt below is from the upcoming Camarilla book for Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition.

In it, it describes a vampire-dominated Chechnya. Even setting aside the gross implications of that design decision – and there are plenty of them – it also turns the internment of queer people into literal death camps into what amounts to a distraction.

This text literally refers to the “controversy” (which is such a weighted word in this context, quite frankly, carrying with it connotations of mountains being made of mole-hills) over queer internment and murder as “clever media manipulation.” This text literally turns the ending of queer lives into a throw-away feint that hides vampires. Which is a monstrous reframing of that real-world thing STILL GOING ON.

This is egregiously vile. It’s not okay. Our lives are constantly being *ended* for straight peoples’ prejudices in real life, but also in fiction and media for straight peoples’ fucking entertainment, and all of this is just “second verse same as the first.”

…This is not a good fucking look, White Wolf. Not in the least.

(3) PRO TIP. How to avoid crossouts while autographing books:

(4) ABEBOOKS BACKS DOWN. An Amazon subsidiary has yielded to an international protest by booksellers and abandoned its plans to stop allowing rare and used booksellers in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Russia and South Korea to sell books on AbeBooks. The New York Times article “After Protest, Booksellers Are Victorious Against Amazon Subsidiary” says the “Banned Booksellers Week” protest involved nearly 600 booksellers around the world who stopped selling nearly 3.8 million titles via AbeBooks.

A worldwide strike by antiquarian booksellers against an Amazon subsidiary proved successful after two days, with the retailer apologizing and saying it would cancel the actions that prompted the protest.

It was a rare concerted uprising against any part of Amazon by any of its millions of suppliers, leading to an even rarer capitulation. Even the book dealers said they were surprised at the sudden reversal by AbeBooks, the company’s secondhand and rare bookselling network.

The uprising, which involved nearly 600 booksellers in 27 countries removing about four million books, was set off by the retailer’s decision to cut off stores in five countries: the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, South Korea and Russia. AbeBooks never explained its actions beyond saying it was related to payment processing.

“AbeBooks was saying entire countries were expendable to its plans,” said Scott Brown, a Eureka, Calif., bookseller who was an organizer of the strike. “Booksellers everywhere felt they might be next.”

… “I don’t think anything like this has ever happened before with any part of Amazon,” said Juozas Kaziukenas, chief executive of Marketplace Pulse, an e-commerce analytics firm. “It would be much harder to have a strike on Amazon itself, just because there are so many sellers there and they are not part of an organized community.”

(5) KATHERINE KURTZ JOINS WOTF PANEL. Broadway World reports “Internationally Acclaimed Author, Katherine Kurtz, Named as Judge for Writers of the Future”.

Historical fantasy author of the Deryni series, Katherine Kurtz, is the newest judge to join the ranks of the internationally-acclaimed L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, now in its 35th year.

Kurtz is now amongst a blue-ribbon panel of 23 judges, including Brandon Sanderson, Orson Scott Card, Nnedi Okorafor, Tim Powers, Jody Lynn Nye, and Robert Silverberg….

(6) REMEMBER THE CRATONS. Fragments of ancient continents, known as cratons, have been isolated as parts of Antarctica using data from a European satellite (Newsweek: “Lost Continents Hidden Deep Beneath Antarctica Ice Sheet Discovered From Space”). Cratons—both in Antarctica and as parts of other continents—comprise the oldest surviving parts of Earth’s lithosphere. The satellite data was from a mission that ended in 2013.

Scientists have discovered the remnants of ancient lost continents hidden deep beneath Antarctica’s ice. Using the European Space Agency’s gravity mapping satellite, researchers were able to peer beneath the ice to map out the terrain below.

The findings, published in Scientific Reports, reveal a long-lost landscape littered with cratons—large, stable blocks of the Earth’s crust that are remnants of ancient continents. They are part of the lithosphere—which consists of the crust and upper mantle—and are generally found in the center of modern continental plates. Studying these features allow researchers to understand the history of the Earth—and its future.
The ESA’s Gravity Field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) satellite was launched in 2009 to measure the pull of Earth’s gravity. However, during its last year of operation, it was flown at an altitude of just 158 miles—meaning it could take extremely accurate measurements of localized gravity gradients. Using this data, the team was able to build up a patchwork 3D image of the lithosphere beneath Antarctica—including the cratons.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 8, 1847 – Abraham “Bram” Stoker. You know that he’s author of Dracula, but did you know he wrote other fiction such as The Lady of the Shroud and The Lair of the White Worm? The short story collection Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories was published in 1914 by Stoker’s widow, Florence Stoker. (Died 1912.)
  • Born November 8, 1906 – Matt Fox. I’m here to praise an illustrator of one of those magazines that published the stories of such writers as Robert Bloch, Manly Wade Wellman and Ray Bradbury. The covers by Fox were of course intended to lure you to magazine rack, pick up the magazine and purchase it. Such was what he did for Weird Tales from 1943 to 1951. After that, during the fifties and sixties he worked for Atlas Comics, inking and penciling Journey into Mystery, World of Fantasy, Tales of Suspense and Journey into Unknown Worlds. It is thought that his last known published work is an advertisement, printed in 1967, for original mail-order glow-in-the-dark posters. (Died 1988.)
  • Born November 8, 1932 – Ben Bova. He’s written more than 120 books. While at Analog, he won six Hugo awards as Best Professional Editor, and he was once editorial director at Omni. Hell, he even had the thankless job of SFWA President. (Just kidding. I think.) I couldn’t hope to summarize his literary history, so I’ll single out his Grand Tour series that, though uneven, is overall splendid hard sf, as well as his Best of Bova short story collections put out recently in three volumes. Like R.A. Lafferty, I know each of you has favorites by him.
  • Born November 8, 1952 – Alfre Woodard. Her most memorable genre role is as Lily Sloane in Star Trek: First Contact in which she assisted Zefram Cochrane in building the Phoenix. Other genre roles are Captain America: Civil War,  A Series of Unfortunate EventsLuke Cage, The Last Ship, True Blood, The animated Black Panther, and  K-PAX.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) TEXAS LEGISLATOR OF GENRE INTEREST. Here’s an election news item you may have missed — Luke Plunkett, in Dragon Ball Z Composer Elected To Texas State Senate” on Kotaku says that Nathan Johnson, a lawyer who has composed a lot of Dragon Ball Z music, was elected to the Texas state senate from the 16th district as a Democrat.

Johnson, a Democrat, won 54% of the vote to beat out the incumbent, Republican Don Huffines. It’s not like he just suddenly jumped into office from composing—he’s a lawyer by trade…

(10) WELCOME HOME. Been a long time since I was overseas, however, I remember the importance of gifts that are easy to pack…

(11) A SPLIT-LEVEL HEAD. James Davis Nicoll, who barely has room enough for his own thoughts, tells why he’s horrified by the idea – “Get Out of My Head: SFF Stories About Sharing Brain-Space With Somebody Else” at Tor.com.

I have a modest dream. I hope one day to live in an isolated skull-shaped mountain guarded by carnivorous birds. My lair would be surrounded by a fearsome fence, adorned with the heads of uninvited guests. I like my privacy. It should not surprise anyone, then, that I would emphatically NOT like to have a second person sharing my head.

Mental timeshares are a rich source of plot for science fiction and fantasy authors. I was reminded of this trope when I was reading, or re-reading, a few novellas in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric series.

(12) STAND ASIDE, CHAUVET. “Indonesian Cave Hold Oldest Figurative Painting Ever Found, Scientists Say” — new uranium-thorium dating tech shows paintings are 40,000 years old, vs Chauvet’s 32,000 and Lascaux’s mere 17,000.

It depicts … a cow. Despite the humble subject matter, the painting is extraordinary because it’s at least 40,000 years old. That makes it thousands of years older than the oldest such paintings in Europe.

The Indonesia painting is one of thousands of drawings and stencils in a warren of limestone caves tucked into remote mountains at the far eastern edge of the island of Borneo, a part of Indonesia called Kalimantan. Archaeologists went there in the 1990s looking for cave art.

The BBC reports uncertainty from some reviewers:

The prehistoric cave paintings of Lascaux and Chauvet in France, and Altamira in Spain, are similarly magnificent. They contain images of a veritable prehistoric menagerie, including cave lions, hyenas, horses, deer, rhinos and bison.

But a paper published earlier this year in the journal Science pushed the dates for cave art in Europe back to as much as 65,000 years. These paintings pre-date the known arrival of modern humans in Europe, leading to the study’s suggestion that they might have been made by Neanderthals.

One of the authors of that paper in Science was Prof Alistair Pike, an archaeologist from the University of Southampton. Prof Pike – who was not involved with the new research – welcomed the findings, but expressed reservations about the date for the oldest figurative painting.

(13) NEW FOSSIL SITE. NPR is there to see the bones — “Scientists Unveil Ancient Sea Monsters Found In Angola”.

When the South Atlantic Ocean was young, sea monsters ruled it.

Some of their bones have turned up along the coast of West Africa and are going on exhibit Friday at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. They tell a story of the bloody birth of an ocean.

The fossils of giant swimming reptiles called mosasaurs have been found in the rocky cliffs of Angola, overlooking the Atlantic. It’s not a country known for fossils. Few scientists have looked there — half a century of civil war made it too dangerous. But geologically, Angola is special.

(14) DOWNSIZING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The Verge talks  bout how “SpaceX’s helipad-equipped boat will bring astronauts safely home”. I mean, Apollo used a frikin’ aircraft carrier plus many other ships for recovery. Now SpaceX will use the GO Searcher, which looks more like the captain’s gig for an aircraft carrier—though it does have a brand new helipad grafted above the main deck.

Go Searcher is part of a fleet of ocean vessels that SpaceX has acquired over the years to aid in its spaceflight efforts. The most famous of these are SpaceX’s autonomous drone ships, which are used as landing pads when the company’s Falcon 9 rockets are recovered in the ocean after launches. Go Searcher used to accompany these drone ships when they were tugged back to shore as a support vessel. But at the end of summer, SpaceX gave Go Searcher a suite of upgrades — including the addition of a helipad and a radar dome — to make sure the boat can swiftly recover Dragon capsules that carry astronauts back to Earth.

As part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX has been developing the Crew Dragon capsule to take astronauts to the ISS. And the company is also responsible for getting these crews safely back to Earth. When astronauts need to return home, the plan is for the Crew Dragon to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. During an ideal mission, Go Searcher will lift the Crew Dragon out of the water with a crane, attached to the end of the boat, according to NASA. The capsule will then be hauled onto the deck of Go Searcher, and the astronauts will be evaluated by doctors from SpaceX and NASA.

(15) BOOK TRAILER. Does A Town Divided by Christmas mark the beginning of a “War on Christmas” series by Orson Scott Card?

It began with a quarrel over which newborn should be the baby Jesus in the town’s Christmas pageant. Decades later, two scientists arrive to study small-town genetic patterns, only to run up against the invisible walls that split the leading citizens into two congregations that can only be joined by love and forgiveness. And maybe a little deception, because there might be some things that people just don’t need to know.

 

(16) REACH OUT AND TOUCH E.T. One grad student – completely disregarding warnings by everyone from Stephen Hawking to Cixin Liu — would like to use a laser beam to send a “Here We Are” signal to aliens (Popular Mechanics: “Firing a Giant Laser Into Space Could Help Find Aliens, MIT Scientist Says”). There’s no word if the laser would be attached to a shark.

If scientists wanted aliens to find Earth, how would they arrange such an encounter? A new paper from MIT suggests that a giant laser, magnified by a giant telescope and aimed out into space, could do the trick.

In what author James Clark calls a “feasibility study,” he proposes that a high-powered 1-to 2-megawatt laser be focused directly into space. While the Earth has been sending signals like radio waves into space for over a century, like those famously seen in the opening of Contact, it’s possible that solar entities like the sun and exoplanets beyond the solar system have been interfering with signals, making it harder for potential aliens to touch base.

The goal of the laser-telescope rig is the creation of an energy beam, meant to stand out amid all of the excess noise in the solar system. Its target would be areas like Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth, and TRAPPIST-1, a star around 40 light-years away with seven exoplanets in orbit. Scientists say 3 of those exoplanets are potentially habitable.

“If we were to successfully close a handshake and start to communicate, we could flash a message, at a data rate of about a few hundred bits per second, which would get there in just a few years,” says Clark, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, in a press statement.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The 3-Second Dumpling” on YouTube explains how you can cook dumplings in three seconds if you happen to have a cannon and a flamethrower! (I may have linked to this one before – but let’s do it again!)

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

Lammas Night TV Project

William “Scratch” Bacharach is looking for fans who want to get involved with his project to bring a Katherine Kurtz novel to TV. He writes —

In 1983, Ballantine books published Katherine Kurtz’s Lammas Night, an historic fantasy set during World War II, in which Hitler plans to use witchcraft to destroy Britain. A colonel in British Intelligence conceives a plan to stop him by uniting British witches covens and a Royal to perform a sacrifice on Lammas Night.

I was impressed with the book when I first read it, and I thought it could make a great TV production. Thirty years later, I am working to make that happen. My lawyer Cathy Olanish Raymond and I sat down with Katherine and her husband Scott McMillanand I acquired the option to produce Lammas Night for television.

This was the first step in a lengthy process. Since the book is set in Britain, I anticipate filming to be done in Britain, with a British cast. I’ll be attending Eastercon to make contacts and spread the word. I will then contract to get a treatment written and Scott has recommended a screenwriter in Britain for me to speak to.

To the extent possible, I would like to keep this as a fannish project. I have been a fan for 4 decades and first met Katherine Kurtz at Heicon in 1970. This is a labor of honor and respect on my part and I want the involvement of others in the fannish community who feel the same.

Please contact me at Dedrell@epix.net if you are interested.