Pixel Scroll 7/17/20 Who Will Buy This Wonderful Pixel

(1) TALK AMONG YOURSELVES. N.K. Jemisin has some great news. This is as much of it as she can share.

(2) BEST OF THE FIRST HALF. Grimdark Magazine presents its list of “Best Sff Books Of 2020 So Far: Picked By The GDM Team”. Includes –

The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho

(PICKED BY MIKE MYERS)

Zen Cho returns with a found family wuxia fantasy that combines the vibrancy of old school martial arts movies with characters drawn from the margins of history.

A bandit walks into a coffeehouse, and it all goes downhill from there. Guet Imm, a young votary of the Order of the Pure Moon, joins up with an eclectic group of thieves (whether they like it or not) in order to protect a sacred object, and finds herself in a far more complicated situation than she could have ever imagined.

(3) BEATTS UPDATE. Sponsors of Borderlands Books are among those who have signed “An Open Letter to the Borderlands Books Ownership, Staff, and Community” calling for Alan Beatts to give up ownership of the store.

We, the undersigned, have been sponsors and supporters of Borderlands Books. Alan Beatts asked for community support to keep his business operational; in exchange, we expect him to be accountable to that community.

In light of the accusations that Alan has committed acts of intimate partner violence and sexual assault, we are withdrawing our sponsorship and support for Borderlands Books. We believe the survivors. We want to support them and any others Alan has harmed, whether or not they publicly come forward.

We cannot support Borderlands while Alan might use his position as owner to do and conceal harm. We demand that he relinquish ownership of the store and divest financially from it….

(4) SFF WINS CHINESE AWARD. Congratulations to Regina Kanyu Wang, whose story “The Language Sheath” has been awarded the 2019 Annual Award by Shanghai Writers’ Association. The English version, published by Clarkesworld, is here.

(5) YOUNG PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel encounters Kit Reed:

Dry witted and lethally incisive, Kit Reed (1932 – 2017), was prolific in a variety of genres: speculative fiction, literary fiction, and (as Kit Craig) psychological thrillers. Selecting a particular work out of all the short SFF Reed published over her long career must have been challenging. Nevertheless, editor Marcus assures us 

“To Lift a Ship” is my favorite story from this era, and I think you’ll like it, too.

Did my Young People, in fact, enjoy it?

(6) ONE OF THE BIGGER IDEAS. “The Big Idea: Madeline Ashby” at Whatever begins:

“It’s a rape revenge story? Is that what you said?”

It was October of 2016. It was a rainy morning in London just days from Halloween, and I was mind-shatteringly jetlagged, getting ready to give a talk at MozFest, the festival put on each year by the Mozilla Foundation. I was answering questions put to me by a fact-checker from the Wall Street Journal, after Margaret Atwood said they should talk to me about robots, science fiction, and the future. The interviewer had asked about my series of novels called The Machine Dynasty, which started with a little book called vN. This was how Margaret and I met — we did an appearance together with Corey Redekop at the Kingston WritersFest back home in Canada. She had gently steered the interview in the way only she can, and said, “Now, Madeline, having read your book, I must ask: how old were you when you first saw The Wizard of Oz?”

Oh, I thought. She gets it. Of course she does. She’s Margaret Fucking Atwood.

This was my life in 2016. In a week or two, the world would fall apart. So would I. In both cases, it happened slowly, but faster than you might think. In both cases, it started years earlier. Collapse is not a binary state; damage occurs on a spectrum of possible repair. You might not recognize it, at first. You may not yet have the words with which to describe it….

(7) OTHER SNOW WHITES. The Harvard Gazette interviews a scholar about “Snow White and the darkness within us”.

Maria Tatar collects versions of the tale from around the world and explains how they give us a way to think about what we prefer not to

Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was released as the first feature-length animated film in 1937, and decades later, the musical fantasy based on a Grimm Brothers fairy tale about the complications and conflicts in the mother-daughter relationship is still a cultural touchstone. The story has virtually eclipsed every version of the many told the world over about beautiful girls and their older rivals, often a cruel biological mother or stepmother, but sometimes an aunt or a mother-in-law. In her new book, “The Fairest of Them All: Snow White and 21 Tales of Mothers and Daughters,” Maria Tatar, the John L. Loeb Research Professor of Folklore and Mythology and Germanic Languages and Literatures and a senior fellow in Harvard’s Society of Fellows, collected tales from a variety of nations, including Egypt, Japan, Switzerland, Armenia, and India. She spoke to the Gazette about her lifelong fascination with the saga and how we can look to fairy tales to navigate uncertain times.

GAZETTE: Why did you decide to take up the Snow White story?

TATAR: While working on my previous book with Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr., “The Annotated African American Folktales,” I came across a South African story called “The Unnatural Mother and the Girl with a Star on Her Forehead.” It was basically what we call the Snow White story, but in it the “beautiful girl” falls into a catatonic trance after putting on slippers given to her by her jealous mother. That’s when I fell down the rabbit hole of wonder tales and discovered stories from all over the world in which a stunningly attractive young woman arouses the jealousy of a woman who is usually her biological mother. The Brothers Grimm, whose 1812 story inspired Walt Disney to create the animated film, had many vernacular tales available to them, but they chose to publish the one in which the rival is the stepmother, in part because they did not want to violate the sanctity of motherhood. Now, decades later, it is still our cultural story about the many complications and conflicts in the mother-daughter relationship. It has eradicated almost every trace of the many tales told all over the world about beautiful girls and their rivals.

GAZETTE: Why does this particular story remain so resonant?

TATAR: All of the tales in this collection are cliffhangers. They begin with the counterfactual “What if?” then leave us asking “What’s next?” and finally challenge us to ask “Why?” These stories were originally told in communal settings, and they got people talking about all the conflicts, pressures, and injustices in real life. How do you create an ending that is not just happily ever after, but also “the fairest of them all”? What do you do when faced with worst-case possible scenarios? What do you need to survive cruelty, abandonment, and assault? In fairy tales, the answer often comes in the form of wits, intelligence, and resourcefulness on the one hand, and courage on the other. With their melodramatic mysteries, they arouse our curiosity and make us care about the characters. They tell us something about the value of seeking knowledge and feeling compassion under the worst of circumstances, and that’s a lesson that makes us pay attention today.

(8) REPLAY. Aidan Moher has an epic retro game review at Nerds of a Feather: “Beauty, Dragons, and Isometric Horror: Revisiting Breath of Fire IV”. Lots of analysis accompanied by eye-catching art from the game. At the end —

…Despite all that. I’m nine hours into this playthrough of Breath of Fire IV and it’s going to be the first time I complete it. Maybe it’s playing on a CRT monitor, which really allows those sprites to shine. Maybe it’s sheer grit and determination. Maybe it’s a growing understanding of how to appreciate games within their context, rather than expecting them to be something more modern. Nah. It’s the sprite art.

(9) HISTORY OF WATER? Maybe. The Planetary Society highlighted this NASA public domain image of “Curiosity’s View From The Top Of The Greenheugh Pediment”:

Stitched together from 28 images, this recent view from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover was taken from the top of a steep slope, looking out over a sandstone cap and a more distant “clay-bearing unit,” a region which scientists think contains evidence of the history of water in the area.

(10) COLE OBIT. Joanna Cole, author of more than 250 books for children, including the Magic School Bus series, died July 12 at the age of 75. NPR paid tribute: “‘The Magic School Bus’ Series Author Joanna Cole Has Died”.

She originally created The Magic School Bus in 1986 with illustrator Bruce Degen. The core idea of a sweet and nerdy crew of schoolchildren taking field trips into scientific concepts, bodily parts, into space and back to the age of dinosaurs — and always led by their teacher, the intrepid Ms. Frizzle — eventually spun out into dozens of tie-ins and more than 93 million copies in print, plus a beloved television show that aired for 18 years in more than 100 countries.

In the U.S., the original Magic School Bus TV series was broadcast by PBS for 18 years; in 2017, an updated version launched in 2017 on Netflix, with the first of four specials on the way in August….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 17, 1987 Robocop premiered. Directed by Paul Verhoeven and produced by Arne Schmidt, it was written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. It starred Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Daniel O’Herlihy, Ronny Cox, Kurtwood Smith and Miguel Ferrer. It would lose out to The Princess Bride at Nolacon II for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo. The movie was first given an X-rating by the Motion Picture Association of America due to its graphic violence, but Verhoeven toned it down and got an R. Most critics loved it and gave it high marks both as a SF film and as social commentary. Director Ken Russell said he thought it was the best SF film since Metropolis  It did very well at the Box Office and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an 84% rating. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 17, 1889 Erle Stanley Gardner. Though best-remembered for the Perry Mason detective stories, he did write a handful of SF stories, all of which are collected in The Human Zero: The Science Fiction Stories of Erle Stanley Gardner. It is not available from the usual digital suspects but Amazon has copies of the original hardcover edition at reasonable prices. (Died 1970.) (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1907 – Humphry Ellis.  Double first in Classics at Magdalen (i.e. Oxford; not Magdalene, Cambridge), invited to teach at Marlborough, 1930; while there submitted to Punch, was accepted; hired there, 1933; deputy editor, 1949; resigned to protest new editor Malcolm Muggeridge, 1953; earned more selling to The New Yorker, 1954; a dozen collections.  For us “Trollope in Space”; “The Space-Crime Continuum” and one more in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1912 – Barbara Strachey.  Journeys of Frodo, an atlas; drew the maps herself.  See The Independent’s wonderful obituary, with a doll of Lytton Strachey, wine, Bertrand Russell, gardening.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1936 – John Spurling, 84.  Nairobi (not his fault this reminds me of Ernie Kovacs); Marlborough too late for H. Ellis; St John’s, Oxford; Royal Artillery; British Broadcasting Corp.; free lance.  Arcadian Nights re-imagining Greek myths; King Arthur in Avalon, play for a ladies’ college – is the Matter of Arthur fantasy?  Walter Scott Prize for The Ten Thousand Things, historical fiction about Wang Mêng (1308-1385); three more novels, nine more plays.  Franz Liszt Society.  [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1943 – Grania Davis.  Two novels (and three more outside our field) plus two with Avram Davidson; a dozen and half shorter stories plus four with him; translated into Dutch, French, German, Italian; her collection Tree of Life, Book of Death; AD collections The Boss in the WallThe AD Treasury with Robert Silverberg, Everybody Has Somebody in Heaven with Jack Dann, The Investigations of AD with Dick Lupoff, ¡Limekiller! and The Other 19th Century with Henry Wessells; anthology Speculative Japan with Gene van Troyer; essays, letters, on China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia (as it then was), Japan, M.Z. Bradley, C.N. Brown, AD, P.K. Dick, G.C. Edmondson, Judith Merril, Takumi Shibano, in LocusNY Review of SFet al.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1944 Thomas A. Easton, 76. SF critic and author who wrote the book review column for Analog from 1979 – 2009. His Organic Future series is quite entertaining and I’m reasonably certain I read Sparrowhawk when it was serialized in Analog. He appears frequently at Boston-area Cons. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1954 J. Michael Straczynski, 66. Best-known rather obviously for creating and writing most of  Babylon 5 and its all too short-lived sequel Crusade. He’s also responsible for the Jeremiah and Sense8 series. On the comics side, he’s written The Amazing Spider-ManThor and Fantastic Four. Over at DC, he did the Superman: Earth One trilogy of graphic novels, and has also written SupermanWonder Woman, and Before Watchmen titles. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1956 Timothy D. Rose, 64. Puppeteer and actor. He was the Head Operator of Howard the Duck in that film, but was in The Dark Crystal, Return to EwokReturn of The JediReturn to OzThe Muppet Christmas CarolThe Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. He voiced Admiral Ackbar in the latter two and in The Return of The Jedi as well. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1971 – Cory Doctorow, 49.  Ten novels, five dozen shorter stories.  Columnist for Locus, SF Age; anthologist; interviewed in SF Research Ass’n ReviewShimmerSteampunkStarShipSofaStrange Horizons.  Finding ourselves chatting about something or other at an SF convention we noticed that others stared; now, really, folks.  [JH]
  • Born July 17, 1976 Brian K. Vaughan, 44. Wow. Author of Ex Machina,  Pride of BaghdadRunawaysSagaY: The Last Man, and his newest affair, Paper Girls. And yes, he’s won Hugo Awards. You could spend an entire Summer just reading those series. In his spare time, he was a writer, story editor and producer of the television series Lost during seasons three through five. And was the showrunner and executive producer of the Under the Dome series. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1988 —  Summer Bishil, 32. Best-known as Margo Hanson on The Magicians,  but she’s also been Azula in The Last Airbender, and Aneesa in Return to Halloweentown. (CE)
  • Born July 17, 1989 – H.A. Titus, 31.  Two novels (Burnt Silver just released in February), ten shorter stories.  Paper Tigers proofreading service.  Loves legends, Tolkien, Dungeons & Dragons,skiing, rock-climbing, her husband, their sons.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld captures the spirit of the moment.

(14) TIME FOR A REFILL. Alasdair Stuart’s “The Full Lid for 17th July 2020” takes a look at The Old Guard from the other side, exploring the important choices the movie adaptation makes and what that means for Western action/genre cinema. And after that, says Stuart —

I also take a look at Noelle Stevenson’s vastly impressive The Fire Never Goes Out, a graphic novel autobiography with clear eyes, a wicked sense of humor and incredible emotional honesty. Finally, there’s a look at Concrete Genie, a deeply lovely, and deceptively subtle PS4 game which maps personal and artistic growth onto the renovation of a small town, occasional parkour and adorable grobble monsters. Plus lots of apples.

The Full Lid is published weekly and is free. You can sign up at the top of the most recent issue and view an archive of the last six months. 

(15) TRAILER TIME. Here is the Superman Smashes the Klan Official Trailer for Gene Luen Yang’s graphic novel from DC.

The year is 1946, and the Lee family has moved from Metropolis’ Chinatown to the center of the bustling city. While Dr. Lee is greeted warmly in his new position at the Metropolis Health Department, his two kids, Roberta and Tommy, are more excited about being closer to their famous hero, Superman! Inspired by the 1940s Superman radio serial “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Boxers and Saints, The Terrifics, New Super-Man) brings us his personal retelling of the adventures of the Lee family as they team up with Superman to smash the Klan!

(16) LEARNING FROM THE CLARKE AWARD NUMBERS. “The Good News and the Bad: the Clarke Award submissions list under the lens”. Tagline: “Author and Clarke Award 2020 judge Stewart Hotston on representation and the state of contemporary SF publishing in the UK.”

…Now the bad news.

To be honest, I thought of writing something witty in place of that last sentence. Maybe ‘now the less good news’ but it’s not less good. It’s appalling and I want to be clear with my language here rather than covering over the situation with typical British understatement.

Let’s take a look at the numbers.

121 submissions.

45 imprints

116 authors

14 authors of non-white descent (the specific definition of which we’ll discuss below)

3 British authors of non-white descent

Let me say that again.

3 British authors of non-white descent

Out of 116 authors.

In my view there were actually more books with problematic depictions of race than there are books by authors from those very communities (By my own count there were 9 books submitted from 7 imprints which featured unacceptable racial stereotypes or tropes).

(17) HOLD THE PHONE. “NASA Pushes Back Launch Date On Webb Space Telescope, Citing COVID-19”. NPR’s story includes video of packing the telescope for launch.

The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the long-awaited — and long-delayed — successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, has been pushed back yet another seven months, NASA said Thursday citing, in part, delays from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nearly $10 billion project, which scientists hope will see back to the time when the first galaxies were formed following the Big Bang, had been scheduled to launch next March from French Guiana atop an Ariane 5 rocket, but the space agency said it is now aiming for an Oct. 31, 2021, launch date.

“Webb is the world’s most complex space observatory, and our top science priority, and we’ve worked hard to keep progress moving during the pandemic,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., said in a statement. “The team continues to be focused on reaching milestones and arriving at the technical solutions that will see us through to this new launch date next year.”

(18) LIGHTS OUT. “Scientists shed light on how the blackest fish in the sea ‘disappear'”

An ocean mystery – how the blackest fish in the deep sea are so extremely black – has been solved in a study that began with a very bad photograph.

“I couldn’t get a good shot – just fish silhouettes,” said Dr Karen Osborn from the Smithsonian Institution.

Her detailed study of the animal’s “ultra-black” skin revealed that it traps light.

While it makes the animals difficult to photograph, marine scientists say it provides the ultimate camouflage.

There is, Dr Osborn explained, nowhere to hide from predators in the deep ocean, so this “ultra-blackness” renders creatures almost invisible.

(19) LITTLE TEENY EYES. “Beetle-mounted camera streams insect adventures” — the BBC’s straight-prose version. You can come up with your own filk accompaniment.

Researchers have developed a tiny wireless camera that is light enough to be carried by live beetles.

The team at the University of Washington in the US drew inspiration from the insects to create its low-powered camera system.

Its beetle-cam can stream up to five frames per second of low-resolution, black and white footage to a nearby smartphone.

The research was published in the Science Robotics journal.

The entire camera rig weighs just 250 milligrams, which is about a tenth of the weight of a playing card.

While the sensor itself is low resolution, capturing just 160 by 120 pixel images, it is mounted on a mechanical arm that can shift from side to side.

That allows the camera to look side to side and scan the environment, just like a beetle, and capture a higher-resolution panoramic image.

(20) CHANGING TIMES. BBC explains “Why Monty Python’s Life of Brian, once rated X, is now a 12A”.

In 1979, Monty Python’s Life of Brian was considered so controversial it was given an X certificate and banned from some British cinemas.

Last year, however, its rating was downgraded to a 12A by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC).

In its annual report, published this week, the BBFC said it now considered the film “permissible at a more junior category” under its current guidelines.

The film returned to cinemas in 2019 to mark its 40th anniversary.

It was rereleased in April last year with a 12A rating for “infrequent strong language, moderate sex references, nudity [and] comic violence”.

…When it was first released, the BBFC – then named the British Board of Film Censors – rated the film AA, which meant those under 14 were not allowed to see it.

Contemporary concerns that the film was blasphemous in nature led to more than 100 local authorities opting to view the film for themselves.

This led to 28 of them raising the classification to an X certificate, meaning no one under 18 could see it, and 11 banning the film altogether.

…It is not uncommon for the BBFC to revisit films that are being reissued theatrically and reappraise their original classification.

Earlier this year Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back, released in 1980 with a U certificate, was reclassified as a PG for its “moderate violence [and] mild threat”.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “’The New World’ from RoGoPaG” on YouTube is Jean-Luc Godard’s contribution to a 1963 anthology film called RoGoPaG where he shows the subtle psychological consequences after an atomic bomb is exploded over Paris. Part I is below. Part II is here.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Dann, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 11/21/2017 Come On Over For Scrolled Pixel With All The Trimmings

(1) TOWARD A MORE GRAMMATICAL HELL. McSweeney’s John Rauschenberg explains it all to you in “Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell, Reimagined for Linguistic Transgressions”.

First Circle (Limbo):
Autocorrect

Here wander the otherwise virtuous souls who were forced into grievous errors by autocorrect programs. They sit in silent masturbation, only rising once every hour to chant eerie koans such as “ducking auto cat rectal.”

Second Circle:
The Serial Comma

One half of this circle is populated by souls who are cursed to make arguments that nobody cares about except their own mothers, howling gorgons and the infernal mistresses of hell. The other half are cursed to make arguments that nobody cares about except their own mothers, howling gorgons, and the infernal mistresses of hell. The difference between these two situations seems to matter a lot to both halves. Neither side will listen to you when you suggest that they could avoid this level entirely.

And so on.

(2) EVEN PIXAR. The Hollywood Reporter’s Kim Masters, in “John Lasseter’s Pattern of Alleged Misconduct Detailed by Disney/Pixar Insiders”, says that longtime Pixar CEO John Lasseter has been suspended following sexual harassment allegations.

Rashida Jones is still credited as a writer on Toy Story 4, the next installment in the beloved franchise. But, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter, the actress and her writing partner at the time, Will McCormack, left the project early on after John Lasseter, the acclaimed head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, made an unwanted advance.

Jones and McCormack did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Disney declined to comment on the alleged incident though a studio source said the departure was over “creative differences.” Multiple sources spoke with THR but asked not to be named out of fear that their careers in the tight-knit animation community would be damaged.

Based on the accounts of former Pixar insiders as well as sources in the animation community, the alleged incident was not an isolated occurrence. One longtime Pixar employee says Lasseter, who is well-known for hugging employees and others in the entertainment community, was also known by insiders for “grabbing, kissing, making comments about physical attributes.” Multiple sources say Lasseter is known to drink heavily at company social events such as premiere parties, but this source says the behavior was not always confined to such settings.

(3) MELTDOWN AT LITTLE ROCK’S COSPLAY CON. PopCultHQ extensively covers last weekend’s most disappointing event — “Chaos at Cosplay Con & Anime Experience #CCAE2017”.

November 17 & 18th was the weekend for the Cosplay Con and Anime Experience in North Little Rock, AR. This convention didn’t have a stellar list of top-name celebrities, but it had a good line-up. Their headliner was Ciara Renee from DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Other guests included Cig and George from SYFY’s Faceoff, Joshua Monroe from Cosplay Melee, and actor/voice actor Robert Axelrod.

Ticket prices weren’t bad for a new convention. The day of the con weekend passes were only $30, Friday passes were $15, and Saturday were $25.

This cosplay con and anime experience promised to be, “The ultimate community focused convention” and was marketed as “…a celebration of comic books and pop culture that showcases the exceptional works of talented Cosplayers, writers, artists, illustrators and creators of all types.”

Instead, this turned into a complete disaster that caused so much stress and anxiety for some that at least one person ended up in the hospital. There are so many things with this con, that I’m just going to give you a list of what I have heard so far and then I will expound on a few of them;

  • Bad communication all around
  • Guests weren’t paid
  • Caterer wasn’t paid
  • No break relief for vendors
  • Vendors were not allowed food or drink at their booths
  • Vendors were forced to accept ‘vendor bucks’ without compensation
  • No Load-in information or map provided for Vendors
  • Guests were kicked out of the hotel when the convention credit card was rejected
  • Not all of the Costume contests occurred
  • Owner avoided guests and wasn’t even seen in the vicinity of the convention for a large portion of the show
  • Owner suspected to be operating with a false identity
  • Continual schedule changes during the event
  • Staff wasn’t paid
  • Volunteers didn’t get fed
  • VIP packages weren’t entirely as promised

The article delivers a paragraph or more about each bulleted complaint and accusation, largely gathered from the victims’ Facebook comments.

(4) FOR CERTAIN VALUES. Camestros Felapton dissects the moral values of the new Netflix series in “The Punisher – An Artfully Crafted Moral Vacuum”.

But this is not a general review. What I wanted to discuss was the wisdom of making the show in the first place. I certainly had my doubts when it was announced and it was also clear that Marvel were nervous about making a show centered on a character defined by his gun-fueled killing sprees. While any of the TV/Movie versions of Marvel characters have some scope for re-invention, The Punisher has to act as a one man extra-judicial death squad. A plot line can expand his motivation or show other aspects of his character and he doesn’t even need his distinctive skull logo but sooner or later if he doesn’t kill lots of bad guys then he simply isn’t The Punisher.

…But this fourth space for superheroes to occupy for non-otherworldly threats poses problems for Marvel (and for DC). This vacuum was eluded too but not examined in Captain America: Civil War. Captain America’s stance not to sign the Sokovia Accords was not well examined or explained. Instead, the rightness of his stance is largely just assumed as an extension of Steve Rogers own integrity. That manages to just about work in that film so long as you don’t pay too much attention to it but on closer examination Rogers really has to choose to be either an agent of the state or a vigilante. If you call yourself ‘Captain America’ then you can either be a soldier employed and held accountable by the state or your indistinguishable from a nutty ‘militia’ hiding in a compound and plotting against the BATF.

The Punisher series gets this. It really is genuinely aware of these issues – mainly because they become unavoidable when your central character uses military equipment to murder criminals without trial.

(5) TRANSHUMAN. C.P. Dunphey’s The Year’s Best Transhuman SF 2017 Anthology is out from Gehenna & Hinnom.

As technology progresses, so does its connection with mankind. Augmentations, cybernetics, artificial intelligence filling the void that the absence of flesh will leave behind. In Transhumanism, we fine our imminent future. Whether this future is to be feared or rejoiced, depends on the individual.

Will technology replace mankind? If AI becomes self-aware, is a war imminent?

C.P. Dunphey, critically acclaimed author of Plane Walker and editor of the bestselling Year’s Best Body Horror 2017 Anthology and Hinnom Magazine¸ has collected 25+ stories from the best up-and-coming authors in science fiction for Gehenna & Hinnom’s sophomore collection, The Year’s Best Transhuman SF 2017 Anthology. From veteran award-winning authors like Julie Novakova, to popular horror authors like Chad Lutzke, the anthology presents no shortage of entertaining, mind-bending science fiction.

(6) THE REST OF THE FOOTAGE. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Steven Soderbergh Reveals The BackStory on His Viral Lucasfilm Rejection Letter”, interviews Soderbergh, who says the rejection letter from Lucasfilm (reported in the Scroll awhile back) was for some short films Soderbergh sent them and he’s actually not surprised that Lucasfilm rejected the films.

The inspirational message went viral, no doubt encouraging every dreamer with Hollywood ambitions. But the question remains: just what was on the videotape that Soderbergh submitted to Lucas? A proposed sequel to Return of the Jedi? A pitch for a standalone Ewok movie? Soderbergh’s theory for how Han Solo completed the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs? Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment, Soderbergh revealed that the tape in question had nothing to do with that galaxy far, far away. “I sent them a 3/4-inch tape that had two of my short films on it,” the director says, chuckling at his youthful hubris. “I was not surprised that it got kicked back! There aren’t enough decimal points to count how many packages George Lucas was getting at that point, and probably still gets.”

Soderbergh adds that the short films in question didn’t have any science-fiction elements, although one of them told a story that might have resonated with the director of the nostalgia-drenched teen classic American Graffiti….

(7) YELLOW LIGHT. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, in “Why ‘Justice League’ failed — and where DC goes from here”, says that the low box office returns for Justice League has cast Warner’s plans for greenlighting 10 “DC Creative Universe” films, including Flashpoint, Cyborg, and Justice League 2 into question.  Part of the problem is that DC has no one equivalent to Kevin Feige at Marvel implementing quality control and that th stand-alone success of Wonder Woman leads DC and Warner to support quality “stand-alone films” rather than insisting that all its superhero properties “feed into a universe.”

A little more than three years ago, Warner Bros. announced ambitious plans for its DC Comics properties.

The film studio would undertake no fewer than 10 DC movies, chief executive Kevin Tsujihara said. It would introduce various characters and build up to a pair of “Justice League” ensemble pictures, which in turn would allow it to spin off more stand-alone movies. The template? Rival Marvel, which began with “Iron Man” in 2008 and four years later evolved into a massively successful “Avengers” film, which then became the gift that kept on giving (17 movies and counting, including the current smash “Thor: Ragnarok.”)

This past weekend, all those plans blew up.

(8) MISSING KIT REED. One of the writer’s students tells about how he kept in contact with the author: “Alexander Chee on the life, work and loss of his mentor, Kit Reed” in the LA Times.

The first day of Kit Reed’s advanced fiction class, sitting in the yellow Victorian house I would come to know simply as “Lawn Avenue,” was my first time for so many things. I had never been taught by a professor in her own home, for example, and I remember I couldn’t stop looking at it all. I had never been in a home full of that much art, or with walls painted white or black, or in rooms full of chrome furniture, Lucite lamps, and mirrors— there was an offhand glamour to it all that I loved from the start. This was the kind of home you hoped professors at Wesleyan University had, or at least I did, and I sat nervously, excited, aware that I was lucky to be there as she listed off her rules for the class. We had to turn in 20 pages every other week—she ran the class like a boot camp—and she told us never to call her before noon, as she was writing and wouldn’t answer.

Another first: I’d never had a professor tell me I could call at all, and I don’t know that any of them ever did tell me, besides her. It never occurred to me to call my professors outside of class. Her willingness to accept a call was an openness to another kind of connection and conversation with us, one that, for many of us, would go on for the rest of the time we knew her.

(9) BEWES OBIT. Rodney Bewes (1937-2017): British actor and writer, died November 21, aged 79. Genre appearances included Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1972), Jonah and the Whale (1975), Jabberwocky (1977), The Spaceman and King Arthur (aka Unidentified Flying Oddball, 1979), Doctor Who (two episodes, 1984).

(10) CASSIDY OBIT. David Cassidy (1950-2017): US singer and actor, died 21 November, aged 67. Genre appearances included The Flash (one episode, 1991), Kim Possible (voiced one episode, 2004).

(11) REESE OBIT. Is playing an angel considered genre? From CNN: “Della Reese, ‘Touched by an Angel’ star and singer, dies at 86”.

For nine seasons on CBS, Reese played Tess on “Touched by an Angel,” tasked with sending angels to Earth to help people redeem themselves.

“We were privileged to have Della as part of the CBS family when she delivered encouragement and optimism to millions of viewers as Tess on “Touched by an Angel,” CBS said in a statement to CNN. “We will forever cherish her warm embraces and generosity of spirit. She will be greatly missed. Another angel has gotten her wings.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born November 21, 1924 – Christopher Tolkien

(13) GENRE WHIFF. Poul Anderson always advised writers to engage all five senses. But what is a signature science fictional smell? “Ellis Brooklyn’s “Sci Fi” perfume convinced me, a fragrance monogamist, to switch scents”.

I tried “Sci Fi” from Ellis Brooklyn. Everything about this perfume is intriguing. The name, the packaging, the fact that it’s vanilla but in no way smells like what I imagined a vanilla-forward scent to be. When I think of “vanilla perfumes,” I think of the Body Fantasies body spray I bathed myself in during middle school. But Sci Fi’s vanilla is something utterly different.

Sci Fi, like a Ray Bradbury novel, pulls you in and confounds you. It begins with notes of vanilla bean, swirls into a cloud of orange and freesia, and then finishes with a bright smack of green tea. One day of wearing Sci Fi and I knew this was my next scent. I was making the switch.

(14) DISHING ABOUT THE DISH. NASA Watch has the good news: “NSF Decides Not To Shut Down Arecibo”.

Statement on NSF Record of Decision on Arecibo Observatory, NSF

“On Nov. 15, 2017, the National Science Foundation (NSF) signed its Record of Decision for the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. This important step concludes the agency’s decision-making process with respect to the general path forward for facility operations in a budget-constrained environment and provides the basis for a future decision regarding a new collaborator.”

(15) COSMIC STOGIE. You’re not from around here, are you — “Bizarre shape of interstellar asteroid”.

These properties suggest that ‘Oumuamua is dense, comprised of rock and possibly metals, has no water or ice, and that its surface was reddened due to the effects of irradiation from cosmic rays over long periods of time.

Although ‘Oumuamua formed around another star, scientists think it could have been wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with our Solar System.

(16) MANSON, HUBBARD AND HEINLEIN. Click-seeker Jeet Heer finds them this week with “Charles Manson’s Science Fiction Roots” in New Republic.

In 1963, while a prisoner at the federal penitentiary at McNeil Island in Washington state, Charles Manson heard other prisoners enthuse about two books: Robert Heinlein’s science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) and L. Ron Hubbard’s self-help guide Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (1950). Heinlein’s novel told the story of a Mars-born messiah who preaches a doctrine of free love, leading to the creation of a religion whose followers are bound together by ritualistic water-sharing and intensive empathy (called “grokking”). Hubbard’s purportedly non-fiction book described a therapeutic technique for clearing away self-destructive mental habits. It would later serve as the basis of Hubbard’s religion, Scientology.

Manson was barely literate, so he probably didn’t delve too deeply into either of these texts. But he was gifted at absorbing information in conversation, and by talking to other prisoners he gleaned enough from both books to synthesize a new theology. His encounter with the writings of Heinlein and Hubbard was a pivotal event in his life. Until then, he had been a petty criminal and drifter who spent his life in and out of jail. But when Manson was released from McNeil Island in 1967, he was a new figure: a charismatic street preacher who gathered a flock of followers among the hippies of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco.

…As vile and sociopathic as he was, Charles Manson did have a gift for absorbing the zeitgeist, which is one reason he held such a powerful sway over the cultural imagination. Manson picked up Stranger in a Strange Land in the same spirit that he learned to strum a guitar and offer exegeses on Beatles lyrics. It was a way for him to ride the wave of cultural change. Manson remained infamous all these decades not just because he inspired mass murder, but also because he did so by manipulating some of our most powerful myths.

(17) BAD LUCK. Wrong place, wrong time? A civilian’s frustration at trying to shoot the demolition of the Georgia Dome — “‘Move bus, get out the way!'” (video).

An unlucky camera operator waited 40 minutes to film a stadium demolition – but was thwarted at the last moment.

(18) VIRTUAL MOVIE MUSEUM. Yourprops.com is the “free online museum for your movie props, costumes and wardrobe.” There are myriad photos of movie props (original and replica), wardrobe (original and replica costumes), production used items (crew jackets, shirts and gifts, storyboards, artwork, etc.).

For example: “The Dark Tower, Hero light up Breaker Kid’s Devartoi Watch”.

(19) WHEN NORTH MEETS EAST. At Adweek, see “Sensei Wu Saves Santa, Who Saves Christmas, in Lego’s Fun Holiday Ad”.

Lego Australia is out with a largely winsome addition to the Christmas advertising pile—a stop-motion animation about a Lego Santa finding his way home to save Christmas, thanks to a little surprise help from a spirited stranger.

The minute-long spot from CHE Proximity opens with a Lego North Pole—or Lego Christmas Town, as the brand calls it—set on a living room floor. It’s abuzz with holiday activity, when a human-Godzilla foot comes crashing down on the blissful scene, causing a specific Lego reindeer to squirt very specific Lego poop in fear—graphic sound effects included—while general catastrophe ensues everywhere.

(20) TODAY’S VIDEO. A lure to the dark side in these snippets of The Last Jedi – “Tempt.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Alan Baumler, Chris Barkley, David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 10/24/17 Harry Pixel And The Undeserved Scroll

(1) MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE RADCH. Ann Leckie gave away “Provenance Vestiges” on her book tour. See some of them at the link.

For the trilogy, I was giving out pins, which was great fun, but in all honestly were somewhat difficult to travel with. One pin may not weigh much. Several hundred are another matter entirely. And the mass of them tended to make airport security jumpy.

I wanted to do something fun this time, too, but maybe also something that wouldn’t set off every metal detector on my cross-continent trek, and might be more easily mailable once I got home. And the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like what I wanted was some kind of cool vestige! So I contacted Nikki Thayer. Nikki did me my GigaNotoSaurus banner, and it was Nikki who I turned to when I wanted some Emanations. So this time I went to Nikki and asked her to please make me some cool art to go on the back of some postcards.

If you came to one of my signings, you’ll have gotten (or been able to get) a vestige of the occasion with the first image here, but there are two others! And Nikki says y’all can use these for stuff–make things with them if you want! Do please try to credit Nikki if you can, though.

(2) ROLL ‘EM. The Tolkien biopic has started filming in northern England says Den of Geek.

Nicholas Hoult is taking on the title role in the movie, with the cast also featuring Lily Collins and Colm Meaney (Meaney was announced as joining the cast a week or two back). The latter two have been shooting scenes in Cheshire, under the eye of director Dome Karukoski.

(3) WRITE LIKE THE WIND. Mad Genius Club’s Amanda S. Green is incensed:

Last night, I started my usual prowling through the internet, looking for a topic for today’s post. Nothing resonated with me until I came across a discussion about indie authors. Even though the discussion remained civil, the disdain and condemnation was obvious. I’ll admit, I had a knee-jerk reaction where I wanted to go wading into the discussion to give the indie side of the argument. I didn’t because it would have gained nothing. The people taking part in the discussion are so entrenched in their beliefs, they wouldn’t have listened, no matter how convincing my arguments might have been.

You see, like so many who have been traditionally published, this group simply can’t fathom the speed with which a number of indie authors write. More than that, they can’t accept you can write, edit and publish a book in a month or two. They can’t wrap their minds around the fact that the year or more between books most authors experienced by traditionally publishing was an artificial delay in the production line. But, because this is the system they are used to, it is the only one they feel is valid.

Yes, that is a bit of an oversimplification. They understand that authors write at different paces. It is the rest of it that blows their minds. They have a hard time realizing it doesn’t take months to get edits back and have them finalized. They forget that indies don’t have to wait for publication slots to come open for release dates. Even so, when they start saying they fear for our industry, they point to the speed with which indie writers are putting out their product and assume the product must be inferior because it didn’t go through the same process their work did.

Roger Zelazny once wrote a novel in a weekend. I doubt you could tell which of his works it is.

(4) IN HER PRIME. As previously reported, Kit Reed died September 24 of an inoperable brain tumor. Andrew Porter furnished his photo of the author taken at the 1995 Readercon.

Kit Reed 1995 Readercon – Photo copyright © Andrew Porter

(5) PHILOSOPHICALLY SPEAKING. Ethan Mills delves into “The Contingencies of Histories: Ultima by Stephen Baxter” at Examined Worlds.

Aside from some deeper elements of the plot that really only come together at the end (which I will leave spoiler-free), some of the most interesting philosophical content surrounds the contingency of history.  Could human history of the last few thousand years have gone really differently than it did?  How do contingent events of climate and disease shape history?  Do science, technology, and ethics proceed in a linear fashion from one stage to the next, as a lot of science fiction supposes?  (See especially Star Trek, where the historical trajectory of Western Europe sets the standard for all civilizations in the galaxy in the form of Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Development).  Could you imagine societies with spaceflight, but without sophisticated computers, even opting for low tech interstellar travel?  Or a society that eliminates hunger but not slavery?  A society that colonizes this and other solar systems but with a deeply traditional view of its past and acceptance of social hierarchies including empires and royalty?

(6) WHO’S COMING. Gallifrey One didn’t get Pearl Mackie after all but they have new guests to announce.

Greetings, Gallifrey One attendees! Our October update is now on our website and includes a lot of updates… first and foremost, we are absolutely thrilled to announce that Gallifrey One 2018 will be the very first *ever* convention appearance of Doctor Who’s amazing music composer, Murray Gold, who will be joining us for a special live performance on Saturday afternoon. We’ll have details about that soon. We’re also pleased to welcome Doctor Who’s current costume designer Hayley Nebauer, and a number of other program guests including Jane Espenson, Blair Shedd and Naren Shankar.

With the good news comes the bad: we can confirm that Pearl Mackie will indeed not be attending in February, due to her recent commitment to the new play The Birthday Party in the West End. As we mentioned on our last update in September, we tried to work out an alternative allowing her to come to L.A. for our weekend, but with the play’s schedule and Ms. Mackie’s burgeoning career, it simply wasn’t meant to be. Rest assured we’re already working on additional guests for February so stay tuned!

(7) LONGUEUIEL OBIT. Persephone Longueuiel was a victim of a house fire in April. Jay Allan Sanford has written a tribute in the San Diego Reader,  “Behind the fire at Mission Hills’ ultimate Halloween house: Letters from Persephone”.

Tall and dark, with long jet-black hair and inclined toward gypsy-gothy clothes, she was a part-time photographer and aspiring author who spent 30 years working on a never-published book about homosexuals in early Hollywood forced to hide their sexuality. She lost her virginity at a San Diego Comic-Con to a famous horror author for whom she spent the rest of her life pining. She once managed the Comic Kingdom store in Hillcrest, and she owned a horror memorabilia collection valued many times the $20,000 fire officials say the contents of the “hoarder” house were worth. She bought one each of all the Stephen King signed hardcovers and other contemporary authors such as Clive Barker, but she also had rarities like a second edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and original editions of HP Lovecraft books such as The Outsider and Others. She had original TV scripts for shows such as The Addams Family, crates of Universal monster toys dating back to the 1940s, and movie posters for lovable turds such as Son of Blob and Attack of the Crab Monsters.

Her pen pals over the years included authors Robert “Psycho” Bloch, Clive Barker (Hellraiser), and comic creators Neil Gaiman (Sandman) and Alan Moore (Watchmen). Persephone and Elizabeth got holiday cards from Ray Bradbury, Robert Crumb, and Isaac Asimov. One of those celebrated figures is the man who claimed her virginity at Comic-Con.

(8) WEITZ OBIT. Skylab rescuer: “Astronaut Paul Weitz Dies At 85; Veteran Of Skylab And Shuttle Missions”.

On his first space flight, he served as pilot on Skylab-2 (SL-2), along with Apollo 12 veteran Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr., and Joseph Kerwin, also a rookie on SL-2. The mission to fix Skylab, which had suffered significant damage during the space station’s launch, is still considered one of the most difficult and dangerous in the annals of spaceflight.

…”We had to get the temperatures under control if we were going to salvage Skylab at all,” he told NASA in an oral history recorded in 2000.

Years later, Weitz returned to space when he commanded the critical first mission of Challenger, NASA’s second flight-worthy Space Shuttle orbiter, lifting off on April 4, 1983. The successful flight lasted five days.

Photos and more details on BBC.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The Disney chipmunks Chip and Dale are named after Thomas Chippendale, the furniture maker.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) GRAPHIC EXAMPLES. PJ Media’s Megan Fox finds “Prominent Conservative Artists Blacklisted Because of Involvement with Alt*Hero Comics Series”. (Although it sounds like Chuck Dixon already hadn’t been that busy for awhile.)

Timothy Lim, a talented freelance professional illustrator and cover artist, has been fired from Mount Olympus comics because he took a job to create the cover for subversive right-wing comic series Alt?Hero. After Alt?Hero creator Vox Day announced Lim’s contribution publicly, Lim received this message from his current employer.

Lim had begun work for Patriotika, Mount Olympus’s answer to SJW comics, because he had heard it would be pro-American and the SJWs who have taken over DC Comics and Marvel would hate it. “I found out about Patriotika from friends who had positive things to say about it,” Lim said. “I contacted the owner to volunteer my services for his next issue, free of charge, just to support a good cause. He decided to hire me for cover work on another title in the same universe, Valkyrie Saviors.”

But the goodwill took a bad turn when it became public that Lim was working with Vox Day. “When he saw the work that I had done for Alt?Hero, he was not enthused. Three days later he messaged me to tell me he would not print the Valkyrie Saviors cover or the Patriotika one which I was going to finalize the following week,” said Lim.

… Chuck Dixon, the Batman writer most known for co-creating the popular villain Bane and the man Bleeding Cool called “the most prolific comic book writer of all time,” has also been attacked for signing on with Alt?Hero. PJ Media spoke to Dixon about it.

… Dixon’s conservative politics have never been a secret. He wrote the graphic novel “Clinton Cash” during the last election, which hammered the Clintons for their dubious money grabbing schemes. Dixon says the blacklisting began in the early 2000s. “I’ve experienced a steep drop in assignments since 2000. Primarily from the two largest comics publishers [Marvel and DC Comics]….

…Dixon explained why he decided to work with Vox Day. “My decision to join with Vox on this project is because he offered me an interesting opportunity; a return to the kind of escapist superhero fantasy I used to be allowed to create at DC Comics and Marvel Comics. I’ve long lamented that the major comics publishers have walked away from their core audience over the past two decades,” he explained. “They  ran from them by creating ham-handed preach-athons that scold the readers rather than entertain them. And just within the last year, the diversity movement in comics has ratcheted up to chase away even the last of the die-hard fans who were holding on to the hope that one day superhero comics would return to their core appeal as wish-fulfillment fantasies.”

Dixon believes that the answer to SJW culture is to carve out a counter-culture in the realm of entertainment….

(12) THEY’LL BE BACK. It shouldn’t come as a surprise: “CBS has renewed Star Trek: Discovery for a second season” reports Andrew Liptak at The Verge,

The USS Discovery will continue to explore the galaxy. CBS announced this morning that it has renewed the latest iteration of the Star Trek franchise for a second season.

CBS noted that the show has been successful at bringing in new subscribers to its streaming service All Access, and has earned acclaim from fans and critics. Following the season’s premiere, CBS announced that sign-ups for the service had reached their highest level to date. CBS did not announce an episode count for season 2, nor when it would begin airing.

Star Trek: Discovery is set roughly a decade before the events of The Original Series. The show follows Michael Burnham, a disgraced Starfleet officer who serves aboard the USS Discovery following the outbreak of war between the Federation and Klingon Empire. Presently, CBS has aired six of the first season’s 15 episodes, and it has split the season into two “chapters.” The first nine episodes are set to premiere on a weekly basis through November, while the second half will premiere in January 2018.

(13) NOT A MEAL. Soylent isn’t people, and now it’s also not for people, at least Canadians: “Soylent Banned in Canada for Not Actually Being a Meal” according to Gizmodo.

In a major blow to Canadians who love bland on-the-go meal replacement goop, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has blocked all shipments of Soylent into the country.

Soylent first began shipping to Canada in July 2015, announcing the move with a video of people reading fanatical complaints from Canucks requesting Soylent, with “O Canada” playing in the background. It seems Canada’s food regulatory agency is not as enthusiastic about having the quasi-nutritious substance shipped into the Great White North.

According to a statement from Rob Rhinehart, the CEO of Rosa Foods and the former software engineer who created Soylent, CIFA told the company in early October that their “products do not meet a select few of the CFIA requirements for a ‘meal replacement.’”

(14) ARCHEOLOGICAL GIFTS. NPR has the official word: “U.K. Offers Famed Arctic Shipwrecks As ‘Exceptional Gift’ To Canada”.  The Franklin expedition has spawned genre spinoffs ranging from an Alpha Flight take (right after the first corpses were discovered, 30+ years ago) to a Dan Simmons novel.

In an act befitting “our long shared history and the closeness of our current bilateral relationship,” the U.K. has announced it will give Canada the recovered shipwrecks of John Franklin, a British explorer who sought to chart an unnavigated section of the Northwest Passage in the Arctic in the 1840s — and died in the attempt, along with all of his crew.

“This exceptional arrangement will recognise the historical significance of the Franklin expedition to the people of Canada, and will ensure that these wrecks and artefacts are conserved for future generations,” British Defense Minister Michael Fallon said in a statement published Tuesday.

For more than a century and a half, the resting place of the two vessels remained a mystery — until a team of archaeologists finally found and identified the HMS Erebus in 2014. Just two years later, researchers acted on a tip from an Inuit man to find the HMS Terror, the flagship of Franklin’s 1845 expedition, sitting “perfectly preserved” nearby in the waters near King William Island.

(15) A BANG TOO BIG FOR CAMBRIDGE. Not-so-brief History: “Stephen Hawking’s Ph.D. Thesis Crashes Cambridge Site After It’s Posted Online”.

Interest in “Properties of Expanding Universes” is at an all-time high: Stephen Hawking’s doctoral thesis of that name crashed Cambridge University’s open-access repository on the first day the document was posted online.

The Cambridge Library made several PDF files of the thesis available for download from its website, from what it called a high-resolution “72 Mb” file to a digitized version that is less than half that file size. A “reduced” version was offered that was even smaller — but intense interest overwhelmed the servers.

By late Monday local time, the well-known theoretical physicist’s thesis had been viewed more than 60,000 times, says Stuart Roberts, deputy head of research communications at Cambridge. He added, “Other popular theses might have 100 views per month.”

(16) AGE OF DISCOVERY. “Astrolabe: Shipwreck find ‘earliest navigation tool'” — not exactly the Antikythera, but historic tech in its own right.

An artefact excavated from a shipwreck off the coast of Oman has been found to be the oldest known example of a type of navigational tool.

Marine archaeologists say the object is an astrolabe, an instrument once used by mariners to measure the altitude of the Sun during their voyages.

It is believed to date from between 1495 and 1500.

The item was recovered from a Portuguese explorer which sank during a storm in the Indian Ocean in 1503.

The boat was called the Esmeralda and was part of a fleet led by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, the first person to sail directly from Europe to India.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/30/17 Anyway For All The Things You Know Tell Me Why Does Appertainment Flow

(1) VERSUS ORVILLE. Nick Izumi conducts his own “Trek Off: Comparing ‘The Orville’ to ‘Star Trek: Discovery’” at Nerd & Tie.

Production Design:

The Orville‘s sets and costumes are also reminiscent of 90s Trek. The inside of the ship is well lit, the Bridge design is almost one-to-one with any Federation ship from Star Trek. Event the titular ship basically has a saucer section and light-speed engines in the back. It really doesn’t look bad, all things considered, just really derivative. We all know it wants to be Star Trek, it just legally isn’t. The show does still look very nice, and it’s not just the ins and outs of the ship — the alien make-up is on point. With some occasional cheesy exceptions, you can’t knock The Orville‘s look.

Discovery uses mostly familiar Trek design language, but the budget is clearly much higher than the TV Trek shows that came before it. This has its ups and downs. Some may not take to the very Kelvin Timeline inspired look of the interiors of the Starfleet ships. The new uniforms also seem to be a continuity hiccup, but they honestly look so snazzy, I personally can’t knock them.

What I will knock is the designs of everything Klingon. While Klingon fashion could easily be different in different parts of the universe, the look of the Klingon’s heads and the design language of their ships simply does not match with the established Klingon aesthetic. Frankly, these deviations are not the kind that are easy to overlook. Still, if it serves the story, there’s then I see it as very deal-with-able.

(2) NOT A FAN. NPR’s Glen Weldon dissects the new TV show: “Introducing … The Inept, Inert ‘Inhumans'”

…OK, that’s exactly what you just said abou-

The thing about mutants, see, is that their special abilities manifest, most often, in adolescence.

Uh-huh.

But with Inhumans, their special abilities only manifest when they’re exposed to a special substance called the Terrigen Mists!

“The Terrigen Mists.”

… Which happens, generally speaking, in their adolescence.

[Sigh.]

Generally but not exclusively! I hasten to point out!

Great. So this show is about a bunch of Not-Mutants. With special abilities.

… Who live on the moon, yes. In a city called Attilan, invisible to humans. They have a king named Black Bolt, played here by a pair o’cheekbones named, improbably enough, Anson Mount. Black Bolt’s voice is hugely destructive, so he never speaks. His queen is Medusa, played by Serinda Swan. She’s got long red hair with tresses that can punch and choke and, I don’t know, play the bass line to Primus’ “Jerry was a Race Car Driver,” probably.

There’s also Black Bolt’s brother Maximus, played by Game of Thrones‘ Iwan Rheon, adding another villain to his IMDB page, although this time a strangely joyless one. He didn’t get special powers when he was exposed to the Terrigen Mists as a kid, which happens sometimes. When it does, the little nonspecial Inhuman in question usually gets sent to the moon mines. But Maximus’ status as a member of Attilan’s royal family kept him free to plot and brood and generally skulk around like a low-key Loki….

(3) APEX MAGAZINE IN PRINT. Jason Sizemore says the “Exciting changes for Apex Magazine in 2018” include the availability of print-on-demand copies of each issue.

Beginning with the January, 2018 double issue (#104), the issue’s content will be published in a 5.5? x 8.5? paperback edition using a POD service and made available for sale from Amazon (and it’s affiliates). The price will be $6 to $8 for a single issue, depending on the size of the content month-to-month. It will only be available for purchase as single issues from Amazon (and possibly Apex–TBD).

When will the print edition become available? About 1 week after the digital release (first Tuesday of each month) of each eBook edition.

What about subscriptions? Subscriptions will only be available as a Patreon backer reward level. There will be a $10 a month backer level (for domestic US backers) that will insure you receive the print version every month. A level will be created for international backers to account for the difference in shipping costs.

Subscriber copies will ship about 2 weeks after the digital release.

Will it have all the short fiction that’s in the digital edition? Yes.

And the nonfiction? Yes.

What about the incredible cover art? Yes. In fact, this was our top priority.

Our January issue is filled with double the stories. Right now, we have original work by Nisi Shawl, Delilah S. Dawson, Nick Mamatas, and Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley.

(4) CBS TAX STATUS RESTORED. In July, the Carl Brandon Society announced that its IRS tax exemption was reinstated. Nisi Shawl wrote:

The Carl Brandon Society’s Steering Committee is very happy to announce that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has reinstated our organization as an official 501 (c) 3 nonprofit, tax- exempt group–and furthermore that this nonprofit status has been made retroactive to the date it was first revoked, back in 2013. Donations to us are now itemizable for those past years as well as for all years going forward.

Although we’ve been presenting our Octavia E. Butler Scholarships during this temporary revocation period, and also have been actively pursuing the selection of winners of the Kindred and Parallax literary awards, you may have noticed a lull in our fundraising activities. Now that we can safely guarantee the 501 (c) 3 classification applies to us and all your gifts to us, please feel free to help us out!

Of course this great news inspires us to put more energy into our many programs–the Scholarships, the awards, the panels and parties and online discussions and all the other work the Carl Brandon Society carries out to support the presence of POC in the fantastic genres. It also sharpens our commitment to preventing the unfortunate miscommunications that originally caused the temporary revocation of our nonprofit status. To that end we expect to put together annual reports on what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and where we stand financially and in terms of our programmatic goals. Look for the first of these reports by February 2018.

(5) FAUX KITSCHIES. The award was on hiatus last year, but a leading author helpfully filled the gap – “Adam Roberts Phantom Kitschies 2016”.

Adam Roberts, in typical overachieving fashion, managed to read enough books to populate a full and complete shortlist.

Adam Roberts

No Kitschies were awarded last year. 2016 was a Kitschless year—for one year only it was Nitch on the Kitsch. Which was a shame, since 2016 saw a wealth of (to quote the Kitschies’ remit) ‘progressive, intelligent and entertaining works containing elements of the speculative or fantastic’. So, [*clears throat*] in my capacity a former judge, I thought I’d post some speculative short-lists for the year the prize didn’t happen….

(6) SHEEP DREAMS. NPR’s Chris Klimek loves it: “‘Blade Runner 2049’: Even Sharper Than The Original”.

“I hope you don’t mind me taking a liberty” are the first words spoken in Blade Runner 2049, an unlikely sequel to the oft-revised Ridley Scott sci-fi sleeper that has confounded and divided normals — and been an object of adoration for nerds — for 35 years.

I certainly don’t mind. This inspired, expansive follow-up, for which Blade Runner screenwriter Hampton Fancher returned, though Scott handed the directorial reins to Sicario and Arrival‘s Denis Villeneuve, is less a generational iteration from its precursor than an evolutionary leap. It chews on the many existential questions introduced in Blade Runner — if our machines can think and feel, are they still machines? How do we know our memories can be trusted? Do androids dream of electric sheep, or unicorns or whatever? — more fully and more satisfyingly than Blade Runner did. Yes, even The Final Cut, which came out some 25 years after the original.

(7) CAMERA NOT SO OBSCURA. France strikes back against unreal body images: “Is she Photoshopped? In France, they now have to tell you”.

It’s no secret that images of models are often retouched to make their bodies look thinner or curvier in certain places, to lengthen their legs to mannequin-esque proportions, or to smooth out their skin and widen their eyes.

From Sunday, in France, any commercial image that has been digitally altered to make a model look thinner will have a cigarette-packet style warning on it.

“Photographie retouchée”, it will say, which translates to “edited photograph”.

Anyone flouting the new rule could be fined €37,500 (£33,000) or 30% of the cost of creating the ad.

(8) UNDERAPPRECIATED. In “FFB: Kit Reed, 1932-2017 and some of her peers”, Todd Mason has more to say about the late author, an early nominee for the Best New Author Hugo.

Reed, as noted here last year, started her writing career as a professional journalist, and made a mark, winning industry awards before selling her first short story to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1958, “The Wait”…one rather pathetic colleague at the New Haven Register, she recounted not too long ago, would make a point of pulling her office typewriter off her desk and taking over to a corner where he would type out his own attempts at stories, and claimed, upon learning of her F&SF sale, to have sold a story to The New Yorker, which would be appearing Real Soon Now. Reed continued to place fiction with F&SF, and branched out to the Yale Literary Magazine, Robert Lowndes’s  Science Fiction, Joseph Payne Brennan’s Macabre, and by 1960 Redbook…while her colleague had slunk off somewhere to await his further stories’ appearance in equally imaginary issues of The Dial and Scribner’s, no doubt.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 30, 1953 — Mad science classic Donovan’s Brain debuts.
  • September 30, 1959 Men Into Space premiered on television.
  • September 30, 1960 – The day we met The Flintstones
  • September 30, 1988 Elvira, Mistress of the Dark premieres in theaters.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born September 30, 1946 – Director Dan O’Bannon

(11) TAKING CARE OF NUMBER ONE. Yesterday marked a half-century since the show first aired in Britain: “Number Six At 50: The 50th Anniversary Of ‘The Prisoner'”.

As the series went on, and those symbolic elements kept piling up, it became clear that McGoohan — who created the show — was offering an extended, increasingly surreal allegory about the battle of the individual against society.

In the final episode, all that allegorical, Kafkaesque stuff bubbles over. Characters representing Youth and The State deliver monologues about Freedom and Rebellion.

Number Six escapes the prison of the Village but not the prison of himself — get it?

… No, yeah, lots of people didn’t. They wanted clear answers — Where WAS the village? Which side ran it? Who WAS Number One? — but McGoohan gave them symbols and speeches.

(12) DRAWN THAT WAY. At CBR.com, Kieran Shlach says “It’s Time For DC to Acknowledge HG Peter, Wonder Woman’s Co-Creator”.

This year has been a phenomenal year for Wonder Woman. The iconic Amazon has risen to new heights of popularity thanks to the instant-classic story told by Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp, Nicola Scott and Bilquis Evely as part of DC Rebirth, a blockbuster feature film which blew the doors off even the wildest of expectations, and a new biopic chronicling the life and times of Wonder Woman’s creator William Moulton Marston, his wife Elizabeth and their lover Olive.

However, among all those works there’s one name that you won’t see: Harry George Peter, the artist who helped bring Wonder Woman to life along with Marston in the page of 1941’s All-Star Comics #8.

More often than not, comic books are a collaborative format, and everyone deserves credit for their role in that collaboration. The history of comics as an industry is riddled with horror stories of creators being mistreated by publishers when it comes to work-for-hire projects, but recent years has seen those same publishers attempt to make amends. HG Peter created Wonder Woman as much as William Moulton Marston did, and he deserves to be credited for that right alongside his collaborator.

(13) NOT SO SIMPLE MATH. Galactic Journey turns its spotlight to “[September 30, 1962] The Woman Pioneers of Space Exploration”.

But while the Journey has covered the Space Race in lavish detail, it has devoted little space to the woman scientists and engineers involved behind the scenes.  In part, this is because space travel is a new field.  In part, it’s because science is still a heavily male-dominated arena.  While women have risen to prominence as scientists for centuries, from Émilie du Châtelet to Marie Curie to Grace Hopper, it is only very recently that they have made their way to the top ranks of space science.

Times have changed, and there is now a vanguard of women leading the charge that will perhaps someday lead to complete parity between the sexes in this, the newest frontier of science.  To a significant degree, this development was spurred by the digital computer, which you’ll see demonstrated in several of the entries in this, the first installment of The Second Sex in Space Exploration….

(14) MONSTERS FROM THE ODD. At Camestros Felapton’s blog, Timothy the Talking Cat threatened France with a lawsuit in “Tim’s Legal Updates”.

Timothy: I’m going to sue FRANCE. France as the thing that is itself France. Not ‘the French’ not the French Government. Not any kind of the adjectival case of France but France strictly as a noun.

Camestros: Ah, you’ve been at the Krell machine again and given yourself a brain boost, haven’t you?

Timothy: I may have partaken a smidgen. How can you tell?

There followed an official (?!?) response from France channeled by the commenter known as KR:

RE: Cease and Desist – Harassment

Dear Sir:

This letter serves as notice to you and your id monster immediately to cease and desist all harassing activities towards my client the historico-geographic entity currently known as France, aka La Cinquième République, aka La Ve République.

Among your many unwanted gestures, I refer you to the time when you bombarded my client with thousands of documents and old VHS cassette tapes pretending to be Gérard Depardieu making an attempt to regain his citizenship. You sent the Ministre des Affaires sociales et de l’emploi 1848 copies of The Fountainhead with hopes of persuading them of the evils of unionized labour and long summer holidays. You gravely insulted la francophone mondiale by launching a YouTube channel in which you hire Jesse Watters to dress like a mime and throw “Freedom fries” at Antifa in the name of free speech….

And it goes on. As these things do.

(15) PUBLISHED DECISION. This is John Hodgman’s column from the September 17 New York Times Magazine, “Judge John Hodgman on Coerced Bedtime Stories”:

Morgann writes: I bring a case against my husband, Ben, who is an incredibly talented short-fiction writer. I struggle with falling asleep, especially after a stressful workday. I often ask Ben to tell me a short story to help me get sleepy. Ben absolutely refuses. He uses precious wind-down time arguing with me instead of just telling me a silly little story.

There is never a night when my wife asks me to write a short, judgy newspaper column — she knows that I get paid to do that. Also, it would not help her sleep, because I chisel all my first drafts into stone, loudly. (There are no second drafts.) Even if Ben does not write for money, it’s still the case that creativity is work and usually highly personal. Ben deserves as much wind-down time as you do.

(16) TEENIE WEENIE VIBRATION. With the help of colorful animations and graphics, a YouTuber explained “The Absurdity of Detecting Gravitational Waves” in a video released this past January.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/25/17 What Do A Pixel And A Scroll Have In Common? They Both Can’t Climb Trees

(1) STAR TREK DISCOVERING. Camestros Felapton takes you from photon soup to Klingon nuts: “Thoughts on Star Trek Discovery Episodes 1 & 2”. Although not especially spoilery, good form still demands a SPOILER WARNING!

However, Russell T Davies made a smart move from which Discovery could have learnt. Set a new series in a time that follows a catastrophe that creates both a bridge to the previous series, and allows the viewers to re-encounter familiar protagonists in a new way. That doesn’t imply a new Star Trek would need to have a post-apocalyptic vibe, rather some sort of event that disrupted galactic civilisations sufficiently that the Federation is needing to rebuild (a gamma-ray burst, a contagion that spreads via transporter beams, a big-bad alien did more damage than usual).

Discovery hasn’t taken that option but the setting kind of looks like it did. The technology is both old and new, the spaceships look both updated and more grungy, some aliens are now more familiar and closer to humans (e.g. the Vulcans) while others have become even more alien and Star Fleet understands them less (the Klingons). The whole feel of the show implies a setting where change has occurred but which claims that it is about changes that will occur and I find that somewhat annoying.

(2) ALLEGRO CON TROPE. The Independent is more enthusiastic — “Star Trek: Discovery season 1 episode 1 & 2 review: Tropes and unprecedented surprises balance out for an intriguing new Trek iteration”. But who are you going to believe?

The team behind Star Trek: Discovery could be forgiven for feeling under pressure. They had to deliver a show that satisfies one of the most rabidly pedantic fan bases out there, while still catering to normies only not really au fait with Trek beyond a few action movies about good-looking people having fights in space.

But, despite a reportedly troubled gestation, they’ve somehow managed to deliver, audaciously using their first two episodes to set up several seemingly key characters before wiping the slate clean in the closing moments. In truth, the first two episodes that arrive on Netflix today – ‘The Vulcan Hello’ and ‘Battle at the Binary Stars’ – function more as a standalone TV movie, setting up the tone and feel of the show while leaving about as much wiggle room for the future as conceivably possible.

(3) ROCKET SCIENCE. Video highlights of last Saturday’s Atlas V launch of NROL-42 from Vandenberg. Via United Launch Alliance.

(4) FUSION. The Register says it’s happening — “Hotter than the Sun: JET – Earth’s biggest fusion reactor, in Culham”.

Geek’s Guide to Britain I’m in a room that, in normal circumstances, is not fit for human habitation. It features a number of big red buttons surrounded by illuminated yellow rings – just in case. “Push button to switch off Jet. Press only in case of extreme emergency,” the signs read, informatively.

This is the Torus Hall, a 40,000m3 space the size of an aircraft hangar with two massive fly-towers that house 1,100-tonne doors to seal the room off from an adjacent assembly hall. The walls and ceiling are two metres thick. The atmospheric pressure inside the hall is kept lower than pressure outside so that in the event of a breach, air would be sucked in rather than vented.

The hall houses possibly the closest thing on Earth to the centre of a star: the Joint European Torus, the world’s biggest fusion reactor at the Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire, UK. Jet is a tokamak, a circular structure shaped like a doughnut that employs powerful magnets to control that stuff of science fact and fiction: plasma.

…Jet is a European project involving 40 laboratories and 350 scientists. In 1997 it set a record, producing 16MW of fusion power from a total input power of 24MW.

Iter, however, is a scaled-up version of Jet currently under construction in the south of France planned to open in 2025 – a fusion reactor that aims to use 50MW to generate 500MW for 500 seconds. Iter, in turn, will pave the way for Demo, one or more proof of concept fusion power stations, with South Korea aiming to put a Demo live in 2037.

For now, however, Jet is the world’s biggest fusion device and proves that nuclear fusion can generate power – it’s just not big enough to create more power than it uses….

(5) HOW ONE AUTHOR GETS PAID. A post at Metafilter attempting to use Amazon stats to estimate writers’ sales provoked John Scalzi to explain why that is a futile effort: “Can You Tell My Earnings From My Amazon Sales? Spoiler: Nope, Not at All”.

…So what does this all mean? Well, it means that for a non-self-pubbed author, often none of their annual earnings from a book are directly related to how many of those books sell in a year (or any other specified time frame). In fact, depending on how the advance is paid out, three-quarters or more (even all!) of the author’s earnings from a book are disbursed before the book has sold a single unit.

Like so:

Book is contracted: 40% of the advance (“signing installment”) goes to the author. Books sold to date: 0.

Book is turned in and accepted: 20% of the advance (“delivery and acceptance installment”) goes to the author. Books sold to date: 0

Book is published in hardcover: 20% of the advance (“hardcover installment”) goes to the author. Books sold to date: 0 (there may be pre-orders, but the sales don’t usually start being counted until this time).

Book is published in paperback: Final 20% of the advance goes to author. Books sold to date: Hopefully some! But even if the number is zero, the final installment gets paid out (if so few books are sold that the publisher foregoes the paperback release, there’s still usually the contractual obligation to pay out)….

(6) CROWDFUNDING THREE ANTHOLOGIES. Joshua Palmatier’s “Guilds & Glaives, Insurgency, and Ur-Bar Anthologies!” Kickstarter has less than three days to run and is still looking to raise about $3,000 of its $20,000 goal.

THE RAZOR’S EDGE, GUILDS & GLAIVES, and SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE URBAR anthology kickstarter is nearing its goal! If we can reach $20K by Noon, September 28th, EST, then there will be an open call for submissions for the remaining slots in the anthologies. If you have a story idea that fits one of the anthology themes, write it up, revise it, polish it, and send it in for consideration. I’ve posted the guidelines below. Note that the kickstarter still has a few days left and there are still some pretty awesome reward levels left…

(7) AS YOU WISH. “‘The Princess Bride’ Turns 30: Rob Reiner, Robin Wright, Billy Crystal Dish About Making the Cult Classic” is a Variety piece full of interviews about the beloved 1987 fantasy film.

“It was an impossible sell,” said Reiner. “The funny thing about it was that before I made ‘Stand by Me’ — I had made ‘Spinal Tap’ and ‘The Sure Thing’ — I had a meeting with this executive at Paramount. She said, ‘We love your films. What do you want to do next? I said, ‘Well, you don’t want to do what I want to do.’ She said, ‘No, that’s not true. I want to do what you want to do. I said, ‘No, no. You want me to do what you want to do.’  She said, ‘No, no. I want to do what you want to do. What is it?’ I said ‘The Princess Bride.’ She said, ‘Well, anything but that.’”

(8) PALS FOR ETERNITY. SyFy Wire contributes to the nostalgia in “The Princess Bride at 30: Why Fezzik and Inigo have one of the best friendships in film”. Reason number one is —

Helping each other deal with a difficult boss, Vizzini

Vizzini is clearly not an easy man to work for, and he doesn’t treat Fezzik or Inigo very well as his employees. After they kidnap Buttercup, Fezzik expresses his opinion that it’s not right to kill an innocent girl, but Vizzini isn’t interested in his hired help doing anything beyond what they are hired to do. He immediately insults Fezzik, and when Inigo voices his agreement with Fezzik, insults him as well before turning on Fezzik again. Once Vizzini walks away though, Inigo goes to Fezzik and the two rhyme together happily, much to Vizzini’s annoyance.

The scene captures how the two friends have each other’s back in this perhaps less than ideal work environment. Inigo didn’t have to voice his agreement with Fezzik after seeing Vizzini’s reaction, but he did. Then he tries to turn the mood around by doing something Fezzik enjoys and excels at: rhyming. It reminds Fezzik that he’s more than the dumb brute Vizzini wants him to be, and that Inigo recognizes his gifts, even if Vizzini does not.

(9) DONATIONS NEEDED. The father of Pierre Pettinger died recently due to a house fire, and Pierre has set up a Gofundme campaign to help cover the funeral expenses — Pierre Pettinger [Sr.] Funeral Fund. Their target is $13,000.

While it appears that insurance will cover the costs of repairing and restoring the home, the expenses for Dad’s funeral were significant and have put some strain on all the members of our family. Pierre will be administering the funds and will see to it that they go directly to the funeral home. The goal we have set represents the total cost, but any help you would care to offer would be received with gratitude.

Pierre the younger and his wife Sandy are Fan GoH for Worldcon 76. They’ve done wonders in Masquerades for years, winning many awards, and Pierre is Archivist for the International Costumers Guild.

(10) REED OBIT. SF Site News reports author Kit Reed (1932-2017) died on September 24 from an inoperable brain tumor.

Reed  was a Best New Author Hugo nominee in 1959. Reed was up for the James Tiptree, Jr. Award three times, had a novel, Where, on the John W. Campbell Memorial Award shortlist, and received the ALA Alex Award for Thinner Than Thou. Reed’s most recent novel, Mormama, was published earlier this year.

(11) JACOBS OBIT. Harvey Jacobs (1930-2017), a 1998 World Fantasy Award nominee for his novel American Goliath, died September 24 from an infection brought on by brain cancer treatment. An author sometimes compared with Vonnegut and Roth, he published his first story in 1951, contributed regularly to New Worlds and F&SF in the Sixties, and continued to produce a modest number of sff stories thereafter.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 25, 1989 — Fox TV’s Alien Nation premiered.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOYS

  • Born September 25, 1930 — Shel Silverstein (author, humorist)
  • Born September 25, 1951 – Actor Mark Hamill
  • Born September 25, 1952 – Actor Christopher Reeve

(14) POURNELLE MEMORIAL. Jennifer Pournelle’s eulogy of Jerry Pournelle, delivered at the memorial service held September 16, has been posted at Chaos Manor.

He was generous as a husband. He adored his wife. He loved deeply, and passionately, and never anyone more than her. The parable of the widow’s alms teaches us the truest measure of generosity: when that of which you have the least, you give most freely. So by “generous,” here I do not mean with obvious things like, like gifts and jewelry and public events (though with those too). I mean that, although always awkward as a schoolboy in showing his feelings for her, he did his utmost with what he knew how to do: jokes, and puns, and praise, and respect, and walks, and stalwart support of her career, and four sons.

And especially—and this is most telling—by listening to her, and to her alone. Certainly not always. Probably not often enough. But I do not believe that any other human being on the planet had the capacity to tell him “no” and make it stick. Because of his generous love for her, he listened, and learned how to be a better father, and an outwardly more affectionate one. To say the words out loud. She taught him that the great light of a generous heart need not be hidden beneath a bushel. He listened, and let his generous light shine on her, and everyone around them.

It certainly shined on us, his children. He was generous as a father. OK, let’s start with the obvious. There was never a check he would not roll his eyes, groan, and write. School fees? Of course. Wrecked car? Harrumph. No problem. College expenses? Well, it’s your job to get the best deal you can. It’s my job to pick up the rest. Airplane tickets, tailored mess uniforms, personal sidearms? Here you go. Need a tool, a meal, a book, a computer, a printer, a place to sleep, a bottle of white-out? There’s one here somewhere in the house. Go find it. Help yourself.

But his real generosity was with imagination. He believed in space. He believed in adventure. He believed in deep truths in myth, and deep lessons in legend. He believed in science. He believed in nature. He believed in fun. And he combined them all. Road trips, hiking trips, shooting trips; flights of imagination; cooking (badly), reading (well), brainstorming plot lines, standing up to bluster, figuring out what you need to know, then figuring out who could tell you. He’d pick up a phone in a heartbeat if he thought he could marshal support or make a contact. He’d invite you to dinners across thresholds you’d never otherwise cross—and then always pick up the tab.

And when you finished what you started, or achieved what you’d aimed, or found success in your field, his outpouring of respect was spontaneous and generous—and never seeking to curry your favor….

(15) KEITH KATO. Keith Kato posted his own extensive memories of Jerry Pournelle and account of the memorial service at The Heinlein Society website.

Of course he knew not only all the Mercury astronauts, but also knew the candidates who did not make the cut. Jerry once told a funny story about turning John Glenn upside down and shaking him over a smoky fire, while fake-arguing with the staff, and dropping manhole covers on the floor. Glenn kept a dot in a circle, and his heartbeat remained rock steady (except for one momentary blip when the manhole covers landed), after which Glenn glaringly said “You son of a [redacted for the delicacy of our readers’ um…eyes?]!”

(16) MASTERCHEF. On the making of videogames: Jason Sheehan reviews Walt Williams’s Significant Zero: Heroes, Villains, and the Fight for Art and Soul in Video Games: “Leveling Up In The Video Game Industry, Without Checkpoints: ‘Significant Zero'”.

I learned this recipe from Walt Williams, whose debut book, Significant Zero, is all about the making of videogames. And also about the making of Walt Williams who, for years, has been involved (both seriously, tangentially, and in every way in between) with the production of some of the best videogames ever created: Bioshock, Star Wars Battlefront, Mafia II, Spec Ops: The Line. Mostly Spec Ops, which is one of the darkest, most haunting, and most narratively daring games I’ve ever played. Spec Ops was Williams’s masterpiece and Significant Zero is the story of everything it took to make it and everything it cost him — beginning years before, ending years after. Sure, it’s a workplace memoir (more or less): A writer writing about writing, which can be the most annoying thing in the world. Except for one thing.

Walt Williams is basically a ghost.

(17) OVERWHELMING SUCCESS. The BBC writes the biography of a product in “How plastic became a victim of its own success”.

He became so famous that Time magazine put his face on the cover without needing to mention his name, just the words, “It will not burn. It will not melt.”

What Leo Baekeland invented that July was the first fully synthetic plastic.

He called it Bakelite.

(18) EXTENDED MAINTENANCE. How would you like this job? “Airlander 10: ‘How we fix the world’s longest aircraft'” (short video)

Two technicians have told how they had to learn how to rope climb to fix the world’s longest aircraft.

The Airlander 10 – a combination of plane and airship – has been at Cardington Airfield, Bedfordshire, for the last four years.

Technicians Ivor Pope and Darren Gurney have overseen the aircraft since early 2016.

“Being up on the hull is a fantastic experience,” said Ivor Pope, the maintenance, modification and ground operations manager.

(19) BIKE RECYCLERS. Leave no trace? “Abandoned at Burning Man, bicycles now head for Houston and the Caribbean”.

After nine days of parties, music and larger-than-life art installations, the 2017 season of Burning Man came to a close on 4 September. In theory, all evidence of “Black Rock City” – which attracted 70,000 attendees to the dusty desert – was supposed to vanish. One of the festival’s core tenets is “leave no trace”.

However, clean-up crews found thousands of perfectly useable bicycles abandoned by attendees. Bikes are the most common form of transportation around Black Rock City, and the way they are tossed aside at the end has long been a problem.

Burning Man partners with local charities to take, refurbish and sometimes donate the bikes to needy families, but this year, the sheer number of bikes overwhelmed even these partners. An estimated 5,000 bicycles were left behind.

(20) I SWEAR THAT IT’S ALL TRUE. Past Daedalus: Whale tails and the human-powered watercraft speed record: “Water speed record that’s surprisingly hard to break”.

However, an Oxford University spinout called Animal Dynamics, co-founded by zoologist Adrian Thomas, is spending £200,000 ($260,000) to do just that. Their craft, the Malolo, is a hydrofoil-like Decavitator. Unlike its rival, the Malolo’s design is inspired by the way whales swim through water – instead of a propeller, it has the kind of large, arched tail that you sometimes spot above the water when a whale dives.

Now two years after starting work on the project, the team have begun testing their third prototype off the south coast of England. According to Thomas, they have already reached speeds of about 12 knots (13.8mph/22km/h).

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Nancy Sauer, Cat Eldridge, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]