Pixel Scroll 8/27/18 Pixelbot Murderscrolls

(1) ON THE GROUND AT WORLDCON 76. Raven Oak’s trip report about Worldcon 76 includes a fun photo of astronaut Kjell Lindgren posing with fans costumed (so I believe) as the GalaxyQuest alien crew members.

Kjell thanked me and said he was an astronaut because of science fiction authors like me. He read lots of sci-fi books as a kid, which made him dream of going into space. He signed the back of one of my coloring book pages, the one featuring Bay-zar from my sci-fi novella Class-M Exile.

Lots of good photos of hall costumes, too.

(2) RETRO HUGOS OF 1943. Chair Kevin Roche sent along a better photo of the Retro-Hugo award base he designed for Worldcon 76.

The block is solid cherry, in honor of the orchards once common in San Jose (cherries were still one of the top cash crops in the Valley of Heart’s Delight in the early 40s).  The backplane is a laser-etched image I created of our SJ Galactic Tower, which is itself an homage to the historic San Jose Electric Tower, erected in 1881 and making San Jose the first electrified downtown west of the Rockies (the historic tower, alas, collapsed in 1915. I have photos from 1910 showing buses driving under the tower where it stood over the intersection of Market and Santa Clara Streets.)

(3) CHILDHOOD’S BEGINNING. James Davis Nicoll gives his opinions about “SF Books That Did Not Belong in the Kids’ Section of the Library” at Tor.com. He’s talking about his childhood, however, not whatever the current situation may be.

How Norman Spinrad’s The Men in the Jungle, which features drugs, violence, and infanticide, made it into the children’s section, I don’t know. Is there anything by Spinrad that is child-friendly? That was indeed a traumatizing book to encounter when I was prepared for something more along the lines of Blast-off at Woomera. If I think about that Spinrad book now (even though I am older and somewhat hardened) I still feel queasy.

(4) CAMPAIGN TRAIL WOES. Congressional candidate Brianna Wu was quoted in the New York Times campaign coverage: “For Female Candidates, Harassment and Threats Come Every Day”.

A different kind of normalization happens at the other end of the spectrum, where the harassment is so vicious and constant that it overwhelms the ability to react.

As an independent video game developer in 2014, Brianna Wu was the subject of abuse during GamerGate, when women involved in gaming were targeted for harassment.

Now a Democrat running for Congress in Massachusetts, Ms. Wu, 41, said death and rape threats came so routinely that she had ceased to feel much in response. Even when people threw objects through her window. Even when they vandalized her husband’s car. Even when they emailed paparazzi-like photos of her in her own home.

“I often look at it and I’m like: ‘I know I should be feeling something right now. I know I should be feeling scared or angry or stressed.’ And it’s at a point where I can’t feel anything anymore,” Ms. Wu said. “It’s almost like fear is a muscle that is so overtaxed, it can just do nothing else in my body.”

Many said it was a point of principle not to be intimidated into silence. Others said their political ideals were simply more important.

“For good reason, there’s never any shortage of telling stories about women being harassed on the campaign trail,” Ms. Wu said. “But I cannot communicate to you strongly enough: Over all, this job is fun. This job is exhausting, but this job is amazing.”

(5) ANOTHER BORDER ISSUE. Some artists on their way to a Dungeons & Dragons concept push were stopped from entering the US because their Electronic System for Travel Authorization waiver was not accepted as they expected.

According to the government website about the ESTA program –

ESTA is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Authorization via ESTA does not determine whether a traveler is admissible to the United States. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers determine admissibility upon travelers’ arrival. The ESTA application collects biographic information and answers to VWP eligibility questions.

(6) VOTING WISDOM. Brandon Sanderson delivers a brief conreport and some classy advice in “Worldcon Wrap-up and Dragon Awards”.

The Hugo Awards ceremony was a delight. We didn’t win the Best Series award, but to be honest, at only three books into the Stormlight series it might have been a little preemptive to give it any awards. We’ll see how things go as the series progresses. Many congrats to Lois McMaster Bujold (the winner), who is a favorite around the Dragonsteel offices. She’s a fantastic writer, well worthy of the award.

Oathbringer still has one shot at an award, the Dragon Award, given out at Dragon Con. This is a newer award, one I’m not as familiar with, but man…the award itself is gorgeous. (Seriously, you guys should go have a look at the thing.)

…As always, however, I strongly urge you to be a thoughtful voter when it comes to awards. Don’t vote for Oathbringer just because I wrote it—only do so if you think this book, in specific, deserves the award. And there are some other excellent nominees, so if you enjoyed one of those more, then vote for it!

(7) IT’S NOT LOOKING GOOD. P.N. Elrod hopes people can help, especially those who like Elrod’s Patreon and Facebook entertainment.

Crap. Having a blubbing panic meltdown. In a month my rent goes up by 63 bucks. At this point I don’t have even half the rent for September. I’m facing the ugly reality of eviction.

The complex offered to get me into a different apartment with slightly lower rent, but that means moving. (Bureaucracy Stuff.) I can’t afford that, either, and most of all, I do not have the strength or mobility to move again. I just don’t. I am sick. I am tired.

The ONLY thing I can think of at this point to prevent that is to increase subscriptions to my Patreon page. Right now, that income isn’t enough to cover my bills, so some go unpaid until and unless I sell books from my library.

(8) VOX FEATURES JEMISIN. N.K. Jemisin guested on the latest episode of Vox’s podcast The Ezra Klein Show. You can access it at “N.K. Jemisin recommends stories from fellow groundbreaking sci-fi authors” — which lists two recommendations from her:

While Jemisin finds it hard to recommend books, she does offer up two recommendations from fellow award-winning female science fiction authors.

1) The Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells
Jemisin is “a giant fan” of Martha Wells’s Murderbot series, an “adorable little set of almost old-school science fiction.” The titular Murderbot is a rogue cyborg who works tirelessly to protect humans from themselves, though it would rather be watching soap operas. The latest novella in the series, Exit Strategy, will be released on October 2.

2) Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler
Groundbreaking science fiction author Octavia Butler died in 2006, but two of her stories were found posthumously and published as an e-book. One of the stories in the volume, “Childfinder,” was commissioned by writer Harlan Ellison to be included in a never-published anthology.

The podcast is available direct from Apple iTunes as well as many other sources.

(9) BALL OBIT. K.C. Ball died of a fatal heart attack on August 26 reports the SFWA Blog: “In Memoriam: K.C. Ball”.

…Ball attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in 2010 and Launch Pad in 2011.  She served as the publisher and editor of 10Flash Quarterly, an on-line flash fiction magazine.  She also won the Speculative Literature Foundation Older Writer Award….

Cat Rambo’s tribute is here.

And now she’s gone, fallen to another heart attack, and she never really got the chance to “break out” the way many writers do, which is through hard work, and soldiering on through rejection, and most of all playing the long game. If you want to read some of her kick-ass work, here’s the collection I edited, Snapshots from a Black Hole and Other Oddities.

I’m so sorry not to able to hear your voice any more, K.C. I hope your journey continues on, and that it’s as marvelous as you were.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 27 – Frank Kelly Freas, who won many Best Professional Artist Hugos, and drew Mad Magazine covers once upon a time.

[compiled by Cat Eldridge]

  • Born August 27, 1929 – Ira Levin. Author of many novels including The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby which of course became films.
  • Born August 27 – Paul Reubens, 66. Genre work includes GothamBatman:The Brave and the Bold, Tron: Uprising Star Wars Rebels and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Is Pee-wee’s Playhouse genre?
  • Born August 27 – Alex PenaVega 30. Spy Kids film franchise and apparently a Spy Kids tv series as well, also The Tomorrow People, Sin City: A Dame To Live For and The Clockwork Girl, an animated film where love conquers all differences.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) COLSON WHITEHEAD HONORED. “Writers with ties to Brooklyn named NYS author and poet” – the Brooklyn Eagle has the story.

Two renowned writers with Brooklyn ties have been appointed as the state’s official author and poet by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Colson Whitehead, Brooklyn resident for more than a dozen years, has been named New York’s 12th state author.

Alicia Ostriker, born in Brooklyn, has been named New York’s 11th state poet. Cuomo said the award recognizes their work “and the impact it has had on the people of New York and beyond.”

During their two-year terms the state laureates promote and encourage fiction writing and poetry throughout New York by giving public readings and talks.

(13) GATEKEEPING. I haven’t spent much time covering its peregrinations here, but in Camestros Felapton’s view, “’Comicsgate’ is the crappiest ‘gate’”.

The main focus of the campaign has actually been crowd-funding for comics by a rightwing creator, not all of whom use the term “Comicsgate” (Vox Day, for example, has been a bit more equivocal about the term because he thinks all these people should be joining his petty empire). So we have a ‘campaign’ that is just a collaboration of outrage marketing techniques following the standard Scrappy-Doo model: be as loud and as obnoxious as possible and then when people react, claim to be being persecuted.

(14) RAH IN CONTEXT. Charles Stross has a whole rant about what RAH was actually about, versus what his emulators seem to think he was about: “Dread of Heinleinism”.

…But here’s the thing: as often as not, when you pick up a Heinlein tribute novel by a male boomer author, you’re getting a classic example of the second artist effect.

Heinlein, when he wasn’t cranking out 50K word short tie-in novels for the Boy Scouts of America, was actually trying to write about topics for which he (as a straight white male Californian who grew up from 1907-1930) had no developed vocabulary because such things simply weren’t talked about in Polite Society. Unlike most of his peers, he at least tried to look outside the box he grew up in. (A naturist and member of the Free Love movement in the 1920s, he hung out with Thelemites back when they were beyond the pale, and was considered too politically subversive to be called up for active duty in the US Navy during WW2.) But when he tried to look too far outside his zone of enculturation, Heinlein often got things horribly wrong. Writing before second-wave feminism (never mind third- or fourth-), he ended up producing Podkayne of Mars. Trying to examine the systemic racism of mid-20th century US society without being plugged into the internal dialog of the civil rights movement resulted in the execrable Farnham’s Freehold. But at least he was trying to engage, unlike many of his contemporaries (the cohort of authors fostered by John W. Campbell, SF editor extraordinaire and all-around horrible bigot). And sometimes he nailed his targets: “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” as an attack on colonialism, for example (alas, it has mostly been claimed by the libertarian right), “Starship Troopers” with its slyly embedded messages that racial integration is the future and women are allowed to be starship captains (think how subversive this was in the mid-to-late 1950s when he was writing it).

(15) ROCKET MAN. In the wake of yesterday’s report that 10% of Hugo novel winners are named Robert, and someone else’s observation that being named Robinson helped, too, Soon Lee composed this filk:

So here’s to you Robert Robinson
Hugo loves you more than you will know,
Wo wo wo
Awards you heaps Robert Robinson
Rockets coming out your ears all day
Hey hey hey, hey hey hey

Then Cath could only exorcise the earworm by finishing the verse –

Hide your rockets in the hiding place where no cat ever goes
Put them on your bookcase with your cupcakes
It’s a little secret just the Robinsons’ affair
Most of all you’ve got to hide it from the pups

Sitting in the green room on a Sunday afternoon
Feasting from the finalists’ cheese plate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When Hugo’s got to choose
There’s no way that you can lose

Where have you gone, John Picacio
A Worldcon turns its lonely eyes to you
Wu wu wu
What’s that you say, Robert Robinson?
Diversity shall never go away

(16) SUBTRACTION. Robert/Rob/Bob may be a statistically lucky name for a Hugo nominee, however, the odds won’t soon be improving in the astronaut program. Ars Technica has the info that, “For the first time in 50 years, a NASA astronaut candidate has resigned” — one of a class of 12:

A little more than a year ago, NASA introduced its newest class of 12 astronaut candidates. These talented men and women were chosen from a deep pool of 18,300 applicants, and after two years of training they were to join the space agency’s corps for possible assignment on missions to the International Space Station, lunar orbit, or possibly the surface of the Moon.

However, one of those 12 astronauts, Robb Kulin, will not be among them. On Monday, NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean confirmed to Ars that Kulin had resigned his employment at NASA, effective August 31, “for personal reasons.”

(17) NAUGHTY GOOGLE. Fingerpointing: “Google is irresponsible claims Fortnite’s chief in bug row”. “Bug row” – there’s the Queen’s English for you.

The leader of the firm behind the hit game Fortnite has accused Google of being “irresponsible” in the way it revealed a flaw affecting the Android version of the title.

On Friday, Google made public that hackers could hijack the game’s installation software to load malware.

The installer is needed because Epic Games has bypassed Google’s app store to avoid giving it a cut of sales.

Epic’s chief executive said Google should have delayed sharing the news.

(18) BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE. Beyond the Sky trailer (2018). The movie is coming to theaters this September.

Chris Norton has been hearing about alien abductions his entire life but, in his gut, he knows they are not real. Setting out to disprove the alien abduction phenomenon once and for all, he attends a UFO convention to meet alleged abductees and reveal the truth behind their experiences. It is only when he meets Emily, who claims to have been abducted every seven years on her birthday, that Chris realizes there may be more to these claims than meets the eye. With Emily’s 28th birthday only days away, Chris helps her to uncover the truth as they come face to face with the reality that we are not alone.

CAST: Ryan Carnes, Jordan Hinson, Peter Stormare, Dee Wallace, Martin Sensmeier, Don Stark

 

(19) AN INTERPLANETARY ROMANCE. The restored 1910 Italian silent film Matrimonio interplanetario (“Marriage on the Moon”) is now online. Its antique delights include a very strange space launch facility that looks suspiciously like a samovar or maybe an espresso machine.

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

NASA Astronaut Kjell Lindgren Presents Another Hugo, This Time From Earth

Worldcon 75 says Special Guest, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, will present an award at the 64th Hugo award ceremony on August 11.

Lindgren, a member of Expedition 44/45 to the International Space Station (ISS), and a NASA Distinguished Service Medal recipient (2016), has had a lifelong interest in science fiction and fantasy. Most recently, he led NASA’s 22nd Extreme Environment Mission Operation (NEEMO), a 10-day project at Aquarius Reef Base, an underwater habitat 19 meters below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. Research on the mission was relevant to long duration space travel, and included assessment of equipment for a lunar medical evacuation.

Toastmistress Dr. Karen Lord is excited to welcome back Dr. Lindgren. In 2015, he announced the winner for Best Novel, Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem, via videoconference from the ISS. Lindgren will join presenters from 15 countries at the first World Science Fiction Convention to be held in Finland.

[Based on the press release.]

Worldcon 75 Announces Special Guest Astronaut Kjell Lindgren

NASA Astronaut Dr. Kjell Lindgren has been named a Special Guest of Worldcon 75.

As one of Sasquan’s guests of honor in 2015 he participated by video from the International Space Station, which was wonderful in its own way, but he’ll attend this year’s Worldcon in Helsinki in person.

Dr. Lindgren also recently served as Toastmaster at the 2017 Nebula Awards banquet.

He became a NASA astronaut in June 2009, and spent 141 days aboard the ISS in 2015. During that time he conducted two spacewalks, cumulatively lasting over 15 hours.

Mini Hugo rocket carried into space and photgraphed by astronaut Kjell Lindgren in 2015.

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

2016 Nebula Awards

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. has announced the recipients of the Nebula Awards®.

The Nebula Awards® are voted on and presented by the active members of SFWA for outstanding science fiction and fantasy published in 2016.

THE RECIPIENTS OF THE 2016 NEBULA AWARDS

NOVEL

  • All the Birds in the Sky, Charlie Jane Anders (Tor; Titan)

NOVELLA

  • Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)

NOVELETTE

  • “The Long Fall Up”, William Ledbetter (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction)

SHORT STORY

  • “Seasons of Glass and Iron”, Amal El-Mohtar (The Starlit Wood)

RAY BRADBURY AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING DRAMATIC PRESENTATION

  • Arrival, Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Screenplay by Eric Heisserer, 21 Laps Entertainment/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films/Xenolinguistic

ANDRE NORTON AWARD FOR YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY BOOK

  • Arabella of Mars, David D. Levine (Tor)

2017 DAMON KNIGHT GRAND MASTER AWARD

  • Jane Yolen

SOLSTICE AWARD

  • Peggy Rae Sapienza (Posthumous)
  • Toni Weisskopf

KEVIN O’DONNELL JR. SERVICE TO SFWA AWARD

  • Jim Fiscus

Toastmaster Dr. Kjell Lindgren.

Astronaut Dr. Kjell Lindgren Named Nebula Conference Toastmaster

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have announced that Dr. Kjell Lindgren will serve as the Toastmaster for the 52nd Nebula Award Ceremony.

Dr. Lindgren flew to the International Space Station on Soyuz TMA-17M in 2015 to serve as part of ISS Expedition 44 and 45. His missions lasted from July 22 to December 11, 2015. For Expedition 45, Dr. Lindgren and the other five astronauts famously posed as Jedi for their mission poster with the tag line “The Science Continues.” While aboard the International Space Station, Dr. Lindgren was a Guest of Honor for the 2015 Worldcon, Sasquan, participating remotely from Low Earth Orbit.

The Nebula Awards will be presented during the annual SFWA Nebula Conference in Pittsburgh, which will run from May 18-21 and feature seminars and panel discussions on the craft and business of writing, SFWA’s annual business meeting, and receptions. On May 19, a mass autograph session will take place at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center and is open to the public.

Registration rates are currently $180, and will increase on April 8 to $200. Additionally, banquet tickets are still available.

Lindgren is the Jedi on the front left.

Pixel Scroll 12/11 Fresh Squeezed Pixel Juice

(1) COME OUT OF YOUR SHELL. The University of Maryland Libraries is hosting “Exam Wars: The Turtle Awakens” (U of M’s mascot is the terrapin.)

They’re having a Star Wars drawing contest, among other things.

Exam Wars Illustration Contest Students will send us a drawing of a Star Wars character, and will be entered into a drawing for their very own VIP Study Room, (modeled after the University of Dayton <http://www.programminglibrarian.org/blog/very-important-prize>  study room give-away). This room in McKeldin will be available to the winner during reading day and finals week.

(2) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! “Calista Flockhart Thought the Millennium Falcon Was an Airline”, or so she told Jimmy Kimmel.

In recent months, Harrison Ford has grudgingly acknowledged that he has a soft spot for Star Wars — but apparently, not enough to show the films to his wife Calista Flockhart. During a visit to Jimmy Kimmel Live last night, Supergirl actress Flockhart admitted that she was completely in the dark about all things Han Solo until this year. In fact, when a producer on Star Wars: The Force Awakens called to inform her of Ford’s accident on the Millennium Falcon, she had no idea what the Millennium Falcon was.

“A producer called me and she said, ‘Hi Calista, I have some bad news. Harrison has been hurt. He had an accident: he was standing on a Millennium Falcon and the door fell,’” Flockhart told Kimmel. “And I thought that he was on some commercial airline, and the door fell off and he flew out of the airplane!”

Totally confounded, Flockhart called a friend. “I said, ‘What the hell is the Millennium Falcon? I have never heard of that airline!’” she recalled. (Never heard of that airline? It’s the airline that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs!)

(3) DAMMIT JIM! ”Dammit Jim!” beer got its name when New Republic Brewing Company had to rename of one its products.

Dammit jim sixpack

The New Republic Brewing Co received a cease and desist letter from a law firm representing Luxco. They demand that we stop using the brand name Bellows as it is in violation of their trademark.  They claim that you, the consumer will confuse their plastic bottle bourbon with our quality craft beer.

Jim Beam apparently has a ‘Bellows’ line of rail-liquor and put pressure on New Republic. Thus, I suppose the message behind the new name is, “Dammit Jim, I’m a beer not a bourbon!”

Chad B. Hill commented, “The closest Captain Kirk will ever get to a 6 pack!”

(4) BANDERSNATCH EXPLAINED. “Diana Pavlac Glyer Talks About New Book, Bandersnatch” at the Azusa Pacific University website.

What common misconception about creative writing does Bandersnatch hope to eliminate?

This is a good opportunity to explain how Bandersnatch got its title. In a written exchange with Lewis an interviewer asked, “What influence have you had on Tolkien?” He responded, “No one ver influenced Tolkien—you might as well try to influence a bandersnatch.” (A bandersnatch is a mythical animal with a fierce disposition created by author Lewis Carroll.) Many researchers argued that Tolkien and Lewis must, therefore, have worked independently. In the very same letter, however, Lewis goes on to explain that Tolkien either ignores suggestions all together, or completely redoes his work.

The idea of the solitary genius is extremely popular, especially in the United States. Many people imagine the creative process this way: Someone struck with inspiration, sits alone with a typewriter and completes an entire book in one sitting. This could not be more off base. The world’s most influential creators are those embedded in a web of collaboration. They communicate deeply with other people about their ideas, and immerse themselves in groups of influence. When we work among others, our own productivity flourishes. We need people not only to work with us, but to do small things like encourage us along the way.

(5) SECRET AGENT NARNIAN. Harry Lee Poe’s title is overdramatized, however, he seems to be literally correct in saying “C.S. Lewis Was a Secret Government Agent”, according to the information in his article for Christianity Today.

…[The] British did the next best thing they could do to help Denmark and the rest of Europe: They launched a surprise invasion of Iceland, which was part of the Kingdom of Denmark….

Though British control of Iceland was critical, Britain could not afford to deploy its troops to hold the island when greater battles loomed elsewhere, beginning with the struggle for North Africa. Holding Iceland depended upon the goodwill of the people of Iceland who never had asked to be invaded by the British. If Britain retained Icelandic goodwill, then Churchill could occupy the island with reserve troops rather than his best fighting forces.

This was the strategic situation in which C. S. Lewis was recruited. And his mission was simple: To help win the hearts of the Icelandic people.

The Work of a Literary Secret Agent

The Joint Broadcasting Committee recruited C. S. Lewis to record a message to the people of Iceland to be broadcast by radio within Iceland. Lewis made no record of his assignment, nor does he appear to have mentioned it to anyone. Without disclosing his involvement with military intelligence, however, Lewis did make an indiscreet disclosure to his friend Arthur Greeves in a letter dated May 25, 1941. Lewis remarked that three weeks earlier he had made a gramophone record which he heard played afterwards. He wrote that it had been a shock to hear his own voice for the first time. It did not sound at all the way his voice sounded to himself, and he realized that people who imitated him had actually gotten it right!

(6) MST3K CASHES IN. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Kickstarter raised $5,764,229 with 48,270 backers , and another $600,000 in add-ons, for a total of $6,364,229. MST3K claims $5,764,229 is a Kickstarter record, beating Veronica Mars to become the most funded media project ever.

We get 13 episodes, a holiday special, and a 14th episode. More importantly we have shown the industry that fans have real power, and in fact don’t need networks and studios to rule our viewing choices. Good work.

(7) SHAGGY. R. Graeme Cameron takes a deep dive into the November 1958 issue of LASFS’ fanzine Shangri-L’Affaires #39 in “The Clubhouse; Fanzine Reviews: ‘breaking people off at the ankles’”.

He begins by reciting the entire credits page (“If the following doesn’t convince you the clubzine SHAGGY was a group effort by a staggering array of now legendary fans in the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, there’s no hope for you”), quotes a Halloween party review at length (Fritz Leiber attended in costume), and documents Bjo’s abilities to mesmerize male fans of the 1950s.

(8) COMPANIONSHIP. All I can say about TVGuide.com’s “The Most Fabulous Doctor Who Companions, Ranked” is any such list that doesn’t have Donna Noble at #1 will not be receiving my daughter’s seal of approval.

(9) SECRETS OF CERES. NASA reports “New Clues to Ceres’ Bright Spots and Origins”.

Ceres reveals some of its well-kept secrets in two new studies in the journal Nature, thanks to data from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. They include highly anticipated insights about mysterious bright features found all over the dwarf planet’s surface.

In one study, scientists identify this bright material as a kind of salt. The second study suggests the detection of ammonia-rich clays, raising questions about how Ceres formed.

(10) LAST SASQUAN GOH RETURNS HOME. Sasquan GoH and NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren had a longer flight than most. He returned to Earth earlier today (December 11).

Expedition 45 flight engineers Kjell Lindgren of NASA, Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos (Russian Federal Space Agency) and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) touched down at approximately 8:12 a.m. EST (7:12 p.m. Kazakhstan time) northeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan in Kazakhstan. It was the first time a crew has landed after sunset and only the sixth nighttime Soyuz return from the space station.

 

Kjell Lindgren

Kjell Lindgren

(11) BE YOUR OWN ALIEN. See the cartoon at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal“Why has no one made this?!”

(12) Today In History

  • December 11, 1992:  The Muppet Christmas Carol premieres in theaters.

(13) Today’s Birthday Ghoul

  • Born December 11, 1922 – Vampira, aka Maila Nurmi.

(14) PUPPY SCHOLARSHIP. Doris V. Sutherland in “2014 Hugos Versus 2015 Sad Puppies: Short Stories” quotes Gregory Benford’s complaint about fantasy taking over the Hugo Awards, and after a long introduction to the Sad Puppy controversy (excerpted here) assays the sf worth of the 2014 Hugo finalists compared to the stories on the slates.

The grave talk of a fight against a “toxic” and “hateful” ideology that controls the Hugos is a long way from the puckish humour of Correia’s early posts. At this point, what started out as a jokey bit of grandstanding has begun to resemble an online holy war against “SJW” hordes.

This element of moral imperative is the key distinction between the Sad Puppies campaign and earlier exercises in slate-voting, such as John Scalzi’s “Award Pimpage”. When a slate of potential nominees is taken as a simple suggestion, that is one thing; when it is taken as a call to arms against evil forces, that is quite another.

And the Winner Is… Well, Nobody

I am, of course, awfully late to the party, and by now I think just about anyone reading this will know the result of the two campaigns. The Sad and Rabid Puppies gathered enough support to sweep the nominees with a mixture of choices from the two slates. And yet, they also had enough detractors to keep almost all of those choices from winning – even if it meant voting “no award” to the tops of multiple categories.

Both sides took this as a victory. Many opponents of the Puppies congratulated themselves on keeping the slated works from winning, while supporters took the results as evidence that the Hugos were run by “SJWs” who barred any nominees with the wrong ideology.

Myself, I would have to agree with Liana Kerzner: “No one won. It was just a disruption in the Force like Palpatine ripped a big fart.”

(15) CONTENT WARNING. The Castalia House blog has posted the first two of a five-part series “Safe Space as Rape Room: Science Fiction Culture and Childhood’s End.” The series argues the sf community has a pedophilia problem. Whether you read it, you now know it exists – Part IPart II.

[Thanks to David Doering, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris S.]

Pixel Scroll 12/6 From the Mixed-Up Pixels of Mrs. Basil E. Frankscroller

(1) WITNESS FOR GOLLUM. Well-known Tolkien scholar Michael D.C. Drout is quoted in the New York Times’ “Is Gollum Good or Evil? Jail Term in Turkey Hinges on Answer”.

Michael D. C. Drout, an English professor at Wheaton College who edits an annual review of Tolkien’s works, is observing the situation from America. He said that those experts will be assessing the most complicated character in the English writer’s already complex world.

“I don’t think there’s any consensus that Gollum is evil,” Mr. Drout said in an interview. “He is the most tragic character in ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ ”

Middle Earth, the place where Gollum began his life as a creature named Sméagol, is full of complex characters and allegiances. But a single gold ring, forged with a dark lord’s evil powers, has the power to rule them all. Sméagol catches a glimpse of the ring, murders for it, and possesses it for centuries until it is mislaid and found by another hobbit. Sméagol struggles to redeem himself, but his obsessive bloodthirst for the ring wins out. He accidentally destroys himself and the ring, but also saves Middle Earth in the process. (It is the hobbit hero Frodo who gets most of the credit.)

“The context is this: Gollum accidentally, not intentionally, saves the entire world,” Mr. Drout said.

Mr. Drout said that no one would’ve appreciated the existential debate over Gollum more than the author who created him. Painfully and pitifully, Sméagol almost succeeds in overcoming his evil side, but fails. It is a scene that is said to have upset Mr. Tolkien to the point of tears as he wrote it, Mr. Drout said.

“He didn’t see him as irredeemably evil,” he said of Mr. Tolkien. “He saw him as someone who had been destroyed by this evil ring.”

(2) COMIC CON IN INDIA. The fifth Delhi Comic Con drew an estimated 40,000 people last weekend.

Thousands of fans cheered and clicked pictures with their favorite comic characters Saturday at India’s annual comic book fest at a sprawling fairground in southeast New Delhi.

The fifth Delhi Comic Con had something for everyone who attended on this mild, wintry day. Die-hard fans came dressed as their favorite comic characters. Others crowded the more than 200 stalls selling comic books, graphic novels and merchandise on cartoon characters.

There was real live entertainment, as well.

Crowds of college students and young people cheered and roared as Kristian Nairn, best known for his role as Hodor in “Game of Thrones,” ascended a stage and addressed them. Nairn was mobbed as eager fans pushed to get themselves clicked with the star of the popular television series….

Indian mythological heroes, dressed in gaudy costumes with bejeweled crowns and sparkly clothes, added to the carnival atmosphere, ready to oblige fans with an autograph, a selfie or a photograph.

Indian comics have seen a revival in the last decade thanks to new funding and technologies for printing, animation, digitizing and distribution.

(3) STAR WARS REWATCH. A new installment of Michael J. Martinez’ Star Wars rewatch has been posted: ”Star Wars wayback machine: Star Wars (or A New Hope if you prefer)”.

I know this movie by heart. In fact, while in my 20s and firmly in my barfly life-stage, several friends and I recreated the entire movie over pints at the pub. We didn’t miss a line. There are few cultural touchstones so firmly rooted in our global community as this one.

But I’m now looking at it with fresh eyes, and asking myself…is it really any good? Does it stand up to the test of time and the grey clouds of cynicism accumulated with age?

Largely, yes. Enthusiastically, yes. Are there things that I’ve noticed now, years later, both good and bad? Absolutely. Is it dated? Sure, but not as bad as you think. But ultimately, I think it works. The resonance it has in our culture is well deserved.

(4) STANDLEE ON SMOFCON. Kevin Standlee is running short notes on his LiveJournal about this year’s SMOFcon.

At 4 PM, I went to the panel about administering the Hugo Awards. A year ago, a panel on this subject would have been lucky to draw more audience than panelists. This year, it was standing-room-only. Had we two hours rather than one to discuss how the Hugo Awards are administered, we could have filled it.

 

After breakfast with Linda Deneroff, Mo Starkey, and John Sapienza, I went to the first panel of the morning, presented by Andrew Adams based on work that René Walling has done to accumulate available demographic information about Worldcon members. The slide above shows the memberships over time, attending and supporting, both in absolute numbers (line) and percentage (colored bars) for the 2015 Worldcon, showing how the numbers changed over time. (The upper line and the upper colored section are supporting members; the lower are attending.) Sasquan really was different. There were many more very interesting charts in this presentation, and you can see some of them if you click through the photo above, but Andrew said he’d publish the entire slide deck later and asked us not to keep taking photos.

 

How to Call Out Other Conventions. This was a discussion about how and whether you should point out other groups’ mistakes, particularly the most egregious ones that could poison your convention’s relationship with hotel facilities. I found it very interesting listening to the stories behind the panel title, but I was so sleepy that I couldn’t concentrate that well.

(5) ASTRONAUTS SEND MESSAGE ON CLIMATE CHANGE. Sasquan GoH Kjell Lindgren is one of the astronauts in the video “Call to Earth: Astronauts Send a Message from Space to Global Leaders at #COP21 Urging Action on Climate Change”.

In less than three days, an outpouring of messages streamed in from astronauts around the world – eyewitnesses to profound changes to our planet they’ve seen first hand while in orbit. The messages were produced by members of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), the professional association of flown astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts. ASE assists members to communicate their unique perspective of Earth to help stimulate humanity’s sense of responsibility for our home planet.

Also in the video was Wubbo Ockels, Ph.D. Space Shuttle, the first Dutch citizen in space, who said “Our Earth has Cancer and I have cancer too.” He was filmed the day before he died.

(6) BUCKELL. Tobias Buckell offers 28 solid ideas for finding focus in the task of writing.

There are two places to lose focus. One: yourself sitting down to do the work. Two: inside the work as the work itself loses focus. I’ll tackle number one, as I think that was what was being asked.

Caveat: I believe most writing advice is only as valuable to someone as it works. In other words, I believe all writing advice is a hack to get you to a finished draft and help you find tricks to get there. You try something. If it works, it goes in your toolbox. If it doesn’t, you mark it as not currently effective and move on….

11) Don’t tell anyone about what you’re writing about before sitting down to do it

12) Tell someone how cool what you’re writing about is right before sitting down to do it

I really like this pair. Obviously the answer is to use the alternative that helps you. Larry Niven always perfected his story ideas by explaining them to select people before putting them on paper. In contrast, if I tell somebody an idea, then I never feel the need to actually do the writing…

(7) WRIGHT. Someone showed John C. Wright Liu Cixin’s remarks about the Sad Puppies in Global Times, which triggered Wright into writing a post headlined “Liu Cixin to Sci Fi: Drop Dead”.

Within the same fortnight that David Hartwell announced that the World Fantasy Award trophy would no longer be a bust of Lovecraft, but instead be the head of someone whose sole qualification to represent all of fantasy literature is her skin color, Liu Cixin, the first chinaman ever to win a Hugo Award has publicly spit in the face of those of us who voted for him….

That means that this man is gullible enough to believe either what his translator, or Tor Books, or the mainstream news told him, namely, that we who voted for him were motivated by race-hatred against non-Whites. So we voted for a non-White because his book was good, not because his skin color was correct. Because we treated the award as if it were for the merit of science fiction story telling, not as if it were a political award granted to whatever most helped the far Left. We ignored race. By Morlock logic, that makes us racist.

I realize, my dear readers, that if you read THREE BODY PROBLEM, and weighed its merits, and in your honest judgment you thought it was the best SF novel of the year, and your judgment does not matter because you are not the correct sort of people to have opinions.

Even though your opinion in this one case agreed with our Leftist insect Overlords, the mere fact that the opinion was your taints it.

You are wrongfans.

(8) COLLECTING HEINLEIN. Black Gate’s John ONeill compares the collectible paperback market for science fiction’s Big Three – Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein – and comes away surprised by the demand for Heinlein.

Whatever your opinion on their relative merits, it’s hard to argue against the fact that Heinlein has endured longer than Asimov and Clarke… and virtually any other Twentieth Century genre writer except H.P. Lovecraft, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Philip K. Dick. Much of his work is still in print in mass market paperback today.

Even more impressively, Heinlein has stayed popular and in print with virtually no help from the film industry. With the notable exception of 1997’s Starship Troopers (and the much lesser-known films The Puppet Masters, from 1994, and Predestination, 2014), Heinlein has endured chiefly on his own steam.

(9) MORLEY REMEMBERED. Available online now and for the next few weeks is the BBC 4 radio production 1977, about the creation of the soundtrack for Watership Down.

In 1977 the bestselling children’s novel Watership Down was made into an animated film. Malcolm Williamson, Master of the Queens music, had been hired as the film’s composer. But all was not well. Williamson, a notoriously difficult and complicated man, was under extreme pressure; it was the Queens jubilee year and he was over commissioned. When the film’s conductor, Marcus Dods, arrived looking for the film’s score he found to his horror that all that existed were two small sketches of music which amounted to no more than seven minutes of screen time. With an expensive orchestra and recording studio booked for the following week, the film’s future looked to be in jeopardy. In desperation he turned to the one person he knew could help; composer and arranger Angela Morley. But she, for her own reasons, was going to need some persuading…

Morley needed persuading because this would be her first high-profile composing job after transitioning to female. Morley later worked on other genre music projects, too, scoring for TV’s Wonder Woman, and assisting John Williams on several films including E.T.

(10) BULK SALES. Hey, John King Tarpinian saw rafts of these at his local CostCo and shot a photo.

GRRM at Costco by JKT COMP

Let Suvudu’s Shawn Speakman fill you in on the details —  “Gifts For the Geek – Day 6: George R. R. Martin leather Box Set”.

I’m always on the hunt for leather books!

George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones Leather-Cloth Boxed Set fits that bill. It is a gorgeous representation of the bestselling series, perfect for that Game of Thrones fan in your life.

The books are not full-sized but instead of a traveling variety, easy to take with as well as looking beautiful on the shelf.

(11) EMPIRE PERIOD ARCHITECTURE. “Alamo Drafthouse Unveils ‘Star Wars’ Themed Movie Theater” at ScienceFiction.com.

If you happen to be curious about what it would be like to see a movie on the Death Star, you don’t need to travel to a galaxy far, far away. You can just head to Omaha, Nebraska. The Alamo Drafthouse just opened a Star Wars-themed cineplex that’s absolutely astounding.

There’s a 10-foot replica of the Death Star in the front lobby, and from the looks if it, you can purchase tickets at an Imperial Command center.

(12) SISTERS. The new Tina Fey/Amy Poehler movie Sisters will be released on the same day as The Force Awakens. How will they fight for their audience share? With a Star Wars trailer of their own called “Sisters – The Farce Awakens.”

(13) ALIENS DIG SECONDHAND SMOKE. Saturday Night Lives presents the Pentagon debriefing of three subjects of the first verified alien abduction.

An establishing shot of the Pentagon took us to a room where National Security Agency dudes Aidy Bryant and Bobby Moynihan are interviewing the three participants in “the first verified alien abduction.” Cecily Strong and Gosling are all lah-dee-dah groovin’ on the cosmic beauty of the mind-expanding, I’ve-seen-God-and-all-the-colors-of-the-rainbow Kenny-G-type experience. Then there’s McKinnon, slumped in her chair in a K-Mart blouse and jeans, her hair a rat’s nest, cigarette in hand, relating a series of experiences that were much more, let’s say tactile, than teleological.

 

[Thanks to Petrea Mitchell, JJ, Brian Z., Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 11/7 The Manliness of MEH

(1) “The Empire Strikes Thomas Kinkade” points to Jeff Bennett’s satirical improvements on “The Artist of Light.”

(2) American wizards have a completely different word for “Muggle” reveals Entertainment Weekly.

Next year’s Harry Potter prequel film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is set in 1926 New York, where the wizarding community uses another term entirely for people without magical powers.

In shifting the franchise away from the U.K., author J.K. Rowling — who also wrote the movie’s screenplay — is poised to introduce several new words into the Potterverse lexicon, and the most significant might be what Stateside wizards say instead of Muggle: “No-Maj” (pronounced “no madge,” as in “no magic”).

(3) And here’s a gallery of images from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

In Entertainment Weekly’s new issue, we go on the set and deep inside the chamber of secrets of J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Here’s your first look at Katherine Waterston as Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein, Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, Alison Sudol and Queenie Goldstein, and Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski.

(4) More alleged secrets are spilled by the host of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert:

J.K. Rowling can’t stop revealing “Harry Potter” secrets, even though the last book came out over 8 years ago. It’s time for Stephen to take spoilers into his own hands.

 

(5) Adam Whitehead, in “A History of Epic Fantasy – Part 25“, courts controversy by asking about the Harry Potter series:

But is it really an epic fantasy?

That question has been asked many times before and has proven slightly controversial. The more obvious answer may be no: the books are set in the “real” world, with some of the action taking place in real locations such as London. Much of the story is set in and around a single location, Hogwarts, whilst epic fantasy is often based around a long journey or series of journeys across a fantastical landscape. Epic fantasy also usually features a large and diverse number of nonhuman races, whilst Harry Potter only has a small number of them, and all of the primary protagonists are human. Epic fantasy also relies on characters with diverse skillsets, whilst in Potter pretty much everyone of note is a wizard.

But there are strong arguments to the counter. The books may touch on the real world but most of the action takes place in original, fantastical locations such as Hogwarts. Also, the books make much of the idea of the world being similar to ours, but one where magic is real (if mostly secret) and the impact that has on government and society, making it arguably an alt-history.

(6) At World Fantasy Con 2015:

(7) Also allegedly sighted at WFC by Adam Christopher. No context!

(8) Ethan Mills continues his celebration of Stoic Week at Examined Worlds.

Friday: Relationships with Other People and Society Stoics, Vulcans, Buddhists, and artificial intelligences alike are often accused of being emotionless and not caring about other people.  In all four cases, this is a mistake (although in the case of AIs, it may depend on which AI you’re talking about).  See my philosophical tribute to Leonard Nimoy for more on this point. As any sufficiently nerdy Star Trek fan knows, Vulcans actually have emotions, but, in many of the same ways as Stoics, they train themselves to move beyond being controlled by negative emotions and they cultivate positive emotions like compassion.  Vulcans like Spock do care about their friends.  The deep friendship that Spock feels for his crew mates, especially Kirk and McCoy, is unmistakable, as illustrated most poignantly near the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (whether Spock is a utilitarian or virtue ethicist is hard to say.)

Marcus Aurelius realized that cultivating compassion for everyone is often hard, especially when other people are obnoxious (as they so often are, even more so now that we have internet trolls).

(9) In “Guillermo del Toro’s Guide to Gothic Romance” at Rookie the director lists the Gothic romances that influenced him.

Do you ever wonder what goes on in the wondrous mind of director, producer, and screenwriter Guillermo del Toro? Yes? Same. Well, to chime with the recent release of his creepy, goth thriller Crimson Peak, Guillermo has curated a syllabus of the Gothic and Gothic romance novels, short stories, and engravings that influenced the making of the film. He sent us these recommendations with the following words: “I hope you enjoy some of these as fall or winter reads by the fireplace.” Before you post up beside an actual fire, here’s what Guillermo del Toro has to say about these Gothic essentials.

First on the list –

Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu This book defines the link between fairy tales and gothic romance. Uncle Silas is a convoluted, highly perverse mystery-thriller about innocence in danger, written by the master of ghost stories, J. Sheridan Le Fanu. It’s a dense but rewarding read, and it was crucial to Crimson Peak.

(10) Superman will make a (blurry) appearance on the next episode of Supergirl.

Consequently, Josh Wilding at We Got This Covered is a little bit crabby.

While it makes some sense that Superman would come and save the inexperienced Supergirl, the series really needs to find a way to take him off the board so he’s not continuously used as a plot device in future. If that’s not going to happen, then he should make an actual appearance instead of all these endless teases.

(11) Cedar Sanderson, “The Slow, Dark Eclipse of the Soul”, at Mad Genius Club.

It’s been a discouraging week, overall. First there was the article about SF writers coming into the genre without reading the classics of the genre. Then, when I started working on a list of classics available free (or very cheap) online to suggest to potential readers, I got a comment to the effect of ‘classics suck, they should die in a fire, and why should anyone read them?’

In the aftermath of that, which left me wondering why I was trying to make this list… I don’t make the lists to force anyone to read anything. I can’t – who am I? I’m not the teacher, or the… anything. I’m just someone who likes to create these lists of recommendations with input from others, and then they generate even more suggestions in the comments. I make lists to be beginnings, not endings. The hope is that someone will see a title they had never read, or had forgotten, and that strikes mental sparks in folks who have favorites they want to share, and so on. It’s about building up the genre, not tearing it down. I’d never say ‘you must read these books, and only these books, all others are anathema.’

As I was saying, I was still mentally mulling the whole ‘classics suck!’ thing over in my head, when a minor controversy erupted over writing book reviews. When, if ever, is it ok to be critical in a review? Should we put ourselves in a position where we say ‘well, that author is on my side, ergo I must never say a bad word about his work?’ Well, no, I don’t think so. Nor do I think that the occasional critical review is a bad thing – as long as the review is analyzing the work, not the author, and leavened with the good along with the bad. That’s how I do it. But it’s discouraging to be told that we can’t present a critical view of a work, simply because of who the author is.

(12) Fans are so smitten by the idea of an illuminated toy lightsaber that’s sturdy enough to bash around that they have fully funded Calimacil’s Kickstarter and then some – raising $46,889, well beyond the $38,259 goal.

The challenge was to build a lightsaber made of foam for safe play. To integrate light, we had to enhance the foam formula we normally use to build our products. Moreover, we had to develop a new technology into the handle to enable both light and sound. Thus our journey began, and we successfully achieved the creation of a fully immersive foam LEDsaber!….

The LEDsaber can communicate with a smartphone through Bluetooth. With that communication enabled, you will be able to customize the light effects of the blade. Multiple choices of colors are available: red, blue, green, orange and more. Even more, you can create various visual plasma effects on the blade….

Calimacil has no intention to commercialize the product using any kind of trademark associated to Disney. For the purpose of the kickstarter campaign we use the term LEDsaber.

 

(13) A lot of people post about their pets passing away, and I empathize with their sadness and loss.

It’s rare that someone can communicate what it was like to be in relationship with that animal, as John Scalzi has in “Lopsided Cat, 2000-2015”.

(14) And I therefore place next a BBC video in which an “Astronaut plays bagpipes on International Space Station”

A US astronaut has played a set of Scottish-made bagpipes on the International Space Station to pay tribute to a colleague who died.

Kjell Lindgren played Amazing Grace on the pipes after recording a message about research scientist Victor Hurst, who was involved in astronaut training.

It is thought to be the first time that bagpipes have been played in space.

(15) Internet English – the language in which “honest” means “brutal”!

The Force is awakening soon – and we have an honest look at the trailer for the movie that everyone’s already going to see anyway.

 

 [Thanks to Mark-kitteh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 11/4 The Pixellence Engine

(1) Nothing says the holiday season like this Kurt Adler 28” Star Wars Stormtrooper Light-Up Tinsel Lawn Decor

Holding a small, neatly-wrapped present for a festive twist, this soldier of the Galactic Empire is wearing his all-white uniform and armor.

Stormtrooper lawn decor

(2) “Sir David Attenborough and giant hedgehog launch new TV show Natural Curiosities”.

If Sonic is the first name that pops into your head when hearing the word “hedgehog,” British naturalist Sir David Attenborough wants to change your perceptions about the prickly creature.

A life-like hedgehog statue, measuring 7 feet tall and 12 feet long, covered in coconut fiber and over 2,000 wood spikes, was unveiled on Clapham Common in London to launch Attenborough’s new nature series, “Natural Curiosities” on UKTV this week….

A recent survey of 2,000 British adults revealed that because the “average Briton takes only 16 walks in the countryside each year, dramatically limiting their exposure to wildlife, a quarter of Britons say they have never seen a wild hedgehog, rabbit or fox, while 26 per cent claim never to have spotted a grey squirrel or frog, and 36 per cent say wild deer have eluded them,” according to the Daily Mail.

 

(3) Richard Davies discusses “Fragile Treasures: The World’ Most Valuable Paperbacks” at AbeBooks.

In terms of sheer numbers, collectible softcovers are vastly outnumbered by collectible hardcovers. However, many paperbacks – books with soft, not rigid, paper-based covers – sell for high prices. The reasons vary – authors self-publish, publishers lack the necessary budget or the desire to invest in a particular author (think of poets particularly) or simply softcover is the format of choice for the genre….

Published in German, Kafka’s Metamorphosis is the king of the collectible softcovers. Its famous front cover, designed by Ottomar Starke, shows a man recoiling in horror. Probably no more than a thousand copies of this novella were printed. It wasn’t printed in English until 1937. Today, this story of a salesman transformed into an insect is studied around the world.

 

Metamorphosis 1916

(4) Ethan Mills is observing Stoic Week at Examined Worlds. The second post in his series considers the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

Tuesday: What is in Our Control and the Reserve Clause Tuesday’s morning text is one of my favorite parts of the Meditations from Marcus Aurelius, one that has helped me get out of bed on more than one occasion!

Early in the morning, when you are finding it hard to wake up, hold this thought in your mind: ‘I am getting up to do the work of a human being. Do I still resent it, if I am going out to do what I was born for and for which I was brought into the world? Or was I framed for this, to lie under the bedclothes and keep myself warm?’ ‘But this is more pleasant’. So were you born for pleasure: in general were you born for feeling or for affection? Don’t you see the plants, the little sparrows, the ants, the spiders, the bees doing their own work, and playing their part in making up an ordered world. And then are you unwilling to do the work of a human being? Won’t you run to do what is in line with your nature?

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.1

Thinking about this through a science fiction lens invites questions about the work of a human being.  What are we like as a species?  Marcus compares humans with other terrestrial animals, but science fiction might extend the comparison to extraterrestrials as well.

Is it our nature, as Star Trek tells us, to “seek out new life and new civilizations”?  Is this what gets us out of bed in the morning?  Consider the theme of exploration in the recent book/movie, The Martian.  Is it inevitable that we long to leave our terrestrial bed?  Is our species at the beginning of a dawn of space exploration?  Or should we be wary of over-indulging this exploration drive, as Kim Stanley Robinson’s amazing novel, Aurora, seems to imply?

(5) This video has been reported in a comment on File 770, however, I may not have linked it in a Scroll.

Sasquan Guest of Honor Dr. Kjell Lindgren sends welcome from the International Space Station to members of the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention.

 

(6) Today In History

(7) This is billed as a Dalek relaxation tape by Devour.com.

(8) Lawrence Railey is skeptical about “The rise of the Self-Insertion fic” at According To Hoyt.

Diversity isn’t the goal. At best, it’s a side-effect. Good story-telling is the only purpose, and the Puppies believe that nothing should get in the way of that.

And, quite simply, this notion that one must share essential attributes with the main character in order to enjoy a story is patronizing, narcissistic, and stupid. A black man can enjoy a story about a white woman. And, in the case of the story I just finished reading a couple days ago, a conservative white man can enjoy a story about a transsexual robot named Merlin living on distant planet.

Books do not have to be self-insertion fics, and they do not need to push a socio-political agenda.

The fact that the Puppy Kickers don’t know any better is disappointing to say the least.

(9) Steven Harper Piziks advises writers show equine intestinal fortitude in “Writing Nowadays: The Anti-Waiting Game” at Book View Café.

How things have changed.  Now you’re as likely to get a giant email dump with a PDF in it and a frantic note from someone in the editorial food chain: “I know this is short notice, but we need you to go through these changes by Friday morning!”

Every author I know has gone through this. Demands that manuscripts be rewritten within two days, or over Christmas, or when the author is on vacation. There’s an idea out there that because email allows instant delivery, instant writing must follow.

Horse manure.

Just say no. Politely and firmly.

(10) An appreciation of the late French sf author Yan Ayerdhal by Jean-Daniel Breque at Europa SF.

French science fiction writer Yan Ayerdhal died Tuesday, October 27, 2015, after an intense bout with lung cancer.

Born Marc Soulier on January 26, 1959, in Lyons, he thrived on SF from an early age, since his father, Jacky Soulier, was a big-time fan and collector—he co-authored a few children and young adult SF books in the 1980s. Ayerdhal worked in several trades before becoming a full-time writer: he was a ski instructor, a professional soccer player, a teacher, he worked in marketing for L’Oréal, and so on….

Most notable among his novels are Demain, une oasis (“Tomorrow, an Oasis”, 1991), L’Histrion (“The Minstrel”, 1993), Parleur ou les Chroniques d’un rêve enclavé (“Speaker, or Chronicles of an Enclosed Dream”, 1997), Étoiles mourantes (“Dying Stars”, in collaboration with Jean-Claude Dunyach, 1999), and Transparences (“Transparencies”, 2004). Most of them were illustrated by Gilles Francescano. He was the recipient of several SF awards: the Tour Eiffel award, the Rosny aîné award (three times), the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire (twice) and many more. He had one story published in Interzone, “Flickerings” (May 2001 issue, original title: “Scintillements”, 1998, translated by Sheryl Curtis).

(11) Jesse at Speculiction rejects 100 Year Starship and its new award, in “Awards Like Stars In The Sky: The Canopus”.

What’s interesting to see on the Canopus award slate is Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, a cautionary tale that seems to draw focus away from space and back to Earth, and not Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, a masturbatory exercise in space gadgetry if ever there were. One would have almost expected Stephenson’s novel to be a shoo-in given the novel’s theme, but I’m not the award’s organizer.

Looking through the Science Fiction Awards Database, a person finds many a defunct award. The group were able to hold the ship together for a few years, sometimes even a decade or more, before the strings let loose (probably the purse strings) and the award slipped into the night of genre awareness (that vast space comprising the majority of material older than ten years).  I’m not pronouncing the Canopus’ doom, but with so many crises at hand on Earth, I think I’m in Aurora’s boat, not Seveneves. Shouldn’t we be solving Earth’s problems before tackling the riddle of space????

(12) A patent has been granted for a space elevator.

Patent granted to space elevator brings science fiction one step closer to reality

Canada-based Thoth Technology was recently granted U.S. and U.K. patents for a space elevator reaching 12.5 miles into the sky. The ThothX Tower is a proposed freestanding piece of futuristic, pneumatically pressurized architecture, designed to propel astronauts into the stratosphere. Then they can then be launched into space. The tower would also likely be used to generate wind energy, host communications technology and will be open to space tourists.

(13) And in the biological sciences the news is –

(14) Never bet against Einstein when general relativity is on the line!

Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity has been proven right again — and this time, physicists have pinned down just how precise it is: Any deviations from his theory of general relativity are so small that they would change calculations by just one part in 10,000 to one part in 100,000.

(15) Though not a genre film, Christmas Eve has Patrick Stewart in it.

[Thanks to rcade, Daniel Dern, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 10/10 A Filer on the Deep

(1) The Art of The Lord of the Rings by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull was released in the UK on October 8. The American edition, from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, will be out on October 13.

art-of-lord-of-the-rings-trial-binding

Wayne and Christina say “The final product still has 240 pages, as we reported earlier, with 192 numbered figures (including 10 details), around 100 of which were not previously published. In the last stages of production, we located further small instances of art in the Lord of the Rings papers at Marquette and had to revise how the pictures were presented.”

Ethan Gilsdorf has an early review of the book on Wired.com — “See the Sketches J.R.R. Tolkien Used To Build Middle-Earth”.

The many maps and sketches he made while drafting The Lord of the Rings informed his storytelling, allowing him to test narrative ideas and illustrate scenes he needed to capture in words. For Tolkien, the art of writing and the art of drawing were inextricably intertwined.

In the book The Art of The Lord of the Rings, we see how, and why….

Tolkien didn’t seem to care what he drew or painted on. His sketch of “Helm’s Deep and the Hornburg,” the fortress enclave of the Rohirrim people, is executed on a half-used page of an Oxford examination booklet. Drawn in perspective, the tableau nicely captures Tolkien’s final description of the castle from The Two Towers: “At Helm’s Gate, before the mouth of the Deep, there was a heel of rock thrust outward by the northern cliff. There upon its spur stood high walls of ancient stone, and within them was a lofty tower. … A wall, too, the men of old had made from the Hornburg to the southern cliff, barring the entrance to the gorge…” One can imagine Tolkien pausing in the middle of grading a student’s paper, pondering how the castle wall and mountain valley might have appeared from a distance, both in his mind’s eye and the eyes of his characters.

(2) Cinemablend has a piece about “How Star Trek’s Walter Koenig Found Out He Got the Job” based on an interview he gave to the Whine at 9 podcast. Said Koenig —

They told me it was a very serious character and that I needed to bring a lot of intensity to the role. All the while they had me dressed up in any number of different colored wigs… The most important thing was, after I finished reading this with all this great intensity, they asked me to make it funny and I had to totally reverse on the character, which in no way was part of what was written. It worked, they all laughed and as a consequence I became immediately one of the two people in the running for the role… Finally, the costumer came by, didn’t introduce himself, just asked me to follow him. I went to wardrobe and he dropped to his knees in front of me, put his hand on my crotch. I said, ‘What are you doing, please?’ He said, ‘Well, I have to measure you for a costume, don’t I?’ And that’s how I found out that I became a member of Star Trek.

 

Walter Koenig

Walter Koenig

(3) Walter Koenig’s own website features all kinds of funny confessions in his Tales From The Lunch Counter.

I phoned Mario at “Two Guys From Italy”.and ordered a turkey sausage pizza. Mario called me “Mr. Star Trek” . My order wasn’t ready when I arrived. In fact, they couldn’t find my name. Then they told me that they didn’t carry turkey sausage. I was getting upset. I asked to speak to Mario. “Mario died ten months ago” I was told. There was a movie called “Gaslight” where the husband tried to drive his wife insane. “God Damn it,” I said, let me talk to Mario!” “God, damn it”, came the reply “Mario is dead and we don’t have turkey sausage!” “Do you know who I am?!”, I shouted. “Some whacko short guy!” came the rejoiner. I grabbed the menu determined to find the turkey sausage. Before I could thumb the pages I saw the name of the restaurant on the cover “Little Tony’s” it said in bold script. I had phoned in my order at one place and had gone to another to pick it up. What an idiot! A waiter came by. “Hey, aren’t you the guy from that Star Trek show?” Not me”, I said lunging for the door.

(4) It’s not explicitly said, but I think Rachel Swirsky may have in mind Ruth A. Johnston’s comments on Superversive SF:

(5) All of the videos Kjell Lindgren recorded for Sasquan are now on the Worldcon website — http://sasquan.org/2015/10/kjell-lindgren-videos/

Unfortunately, when I tried one, it buffered so slowly I abandoned the attempt.

(6) I hope John Scalzi shares a bit more about the con that led to these acrobatics —

(7) I was unable to figure out what anyone is supposed to learn by looking at Christophe Cariou’s Hugo statistics graphs.

(8) Today’s Birthday Boy

October 10, 1924 — Director Ed Wood, Jr. is born in Poughkeepsie, NY.

(9) FUD or a real concern. YOU decide!

There are claims that Gravatar is a privacy risk.

Your email generates a unique Gravatar hash, and allegedly you can be identified by the email you registered with across multiple websites that have Gravatar enabled, even though only the hash, not the email, is displayed.

Thus, people allegedly can learn the hash ID of someone’s email and find out what the person has been saying anonymously on the internet when they register with that address on Gravatar enabled sites.

Plus there is a handy site where you can “check if someone used the email you think they did in a blog comment.” — http://lea.verou.me/demos/gravatar.php

Gravatar says there is provision made for profile privacy.

(10) “You Can Now Download Stephen Hawking’s Voice Software for Free”

The software that Stephen Hawking uses to speak via a synthesized voice on his computer has been released freely on the internet. Its creators, Intel, hope that it can now be used in research to create interfaces that similar sufferers of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) can use.

The Assistive Context-Aware Toolkit (ACAT) system has been released on Github, complete with a user guide. It allows researchers to develop communication systems where minimal input is needed. Hawking’s system, for example, relies solely on him moving a muscle in his cheek to type and use his computer. Hawking’s latest system was installed last year, which doubled his typing rate and improved his use of other computer functions by ten times.

(11) The Maryland Historical Society will revive the tradition of the “Poe Toaster”.

The Toaster appeared by Poe’s gravesite every year until 2009. Some speculate that in more recent years the original Toaster’s son took over; others think there have been several Toasters.

Since the last sighting, there had been hope that the Toaster would return, but the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum finally declared that the tradition was no more in 2011.

“We’ve been without one of our interesting characters for four years now, so we thought it would be fun to put a new twist on it and reinvent the tradition,” Caljean said.

The Maryland Historical Society is encouraging artists to submit proposals via email to describe how they would perform the toast. Submissions are due by Oct. 23, and a handful of finalists will be announced on Halloween.

(12) Elsewhere in Maryland today….

(13) Number one on Jalopnik’s list of “The Ten Strangest Space Weapons Ever Developed” is the USAF’s 1956 proposal for a home-grown UFO:

The Lenticular Reentry Vehicle was another U.S. government “black budget” item that never had its time to shine. It was a flying saucer-like spacecraft with the power to start a nuclear World War III. Supposedly, the LRV would be carried atop an Apollo rocket 300 miles into space, then deployed on a six-week voyage of hell-raising doom, armed with four nuclear missiles.

After completing its mission, the LRV would rocket back down to Earth, deploy a multi-stage parachute and touch down on a strategically determined lakebed.

(14) Cartoon Brew has posted a six-minute short, “Giant Robots From Outer Space”–a 2014 graduation film made at Supinfocom Valenciennes by Elsa Lamy, François Guéry, Aurélien Fernandez, Valentin Watrigant, and Louis Ventre.

“In the 1950s, earth is invaded by a mechanical menace. Love emerges between a man, a woman, and a giant robot from outer space. A tribute to classic science fiction and ’50s cinema.”

James H. Burns warns, “There seems to be an odd misogynistic tone, and some other strange stuff, perhaps, but otherwise (!), there is some spectacular stuff here!”

[Thanks to James H. Burns, Will R., Mark, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]