(1) STAMPEDE ZONE. Fran Wilde, in one of the New York Times’ op-eds from the future, implores “Please, Stop Printing Unicorns”. Tagline: “Bioprinters are not toys, and parents shouldn’t give them to children.”
… Making bioprinting more accessible to the public — especially to children — will be likely to lead to even worse disasters than last Friday’s blockade of the Chicago I-899 skyways off-ramp by a herd of miniature unicorns. Sure, the unicorns (whose origins are unknown) were the size of ducklings, but their appearance caused several accidents and a moral quandary.
These bioprinted unicorns were living creatures with consciousness — as defined by the A.I. Treaty of 2047 — trying to find their way in the world…..
(2) NYRSF STARTS SEASON 29. The New York Review of Books’ readings open their 29th season on September 3 with Gregory Feeley and Michael Swanwick.
Gregory Feeley writes novels and stories, most in some respect science-fictional. His first novel, The Oxygen Barons, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award, and his short fiction has twice been nominated for the Nebula Award. His most recent novels are the historical novel Arabian Wine, and Kentauros, a fantasia on an obscure Greek myth. He recently completed a long novel, Hamlet the Magician.
Michael Swanwick writes fantasy and science fiction of all sorts, at lengths ranging from novels to flash fiction. Over the years, he’s picked up a Nebula Award, five Hugos and the World Fantasy Award–and has the pleasant distinction of having lost more of these awards than any other writer. Tor recently published The Iron Dragon’s Mother, completing a trilogy begun with The Iron Dragon’s Daughter twenty-five years ago. That’s far longer than it took Professor Tolkien to complete his trilogy.
The event is Tuesday, September 3 at The Brooklyn Commons Café, 388 Atlantic Avenue (between Hoyt & Bond St.). Doors open at 6:30 p.m., event begins at 7:00 p.m.
(3) D&D FILES — THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE. Kotaku challenges the received wisdom: “Dungeons & Deceptions: The First D&D Players Push Back On The Legend Of Gary Gygax”.
Everybody calls Rob Kuntz last, he says. Those who want to know about the history of Dungeons & Dragons start with co-creator Gary Gygax’s kids, one of Gygax’s biographers, or D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast. As they’re wrapping things up, they might get around to dialing up Kuntz, a 63-year-old game designer. And once they call him, he tells them the same thing: Everything they know about the creation of the tabletop role-playing game is, in his opinion, sorely mistaken or flat-out wrong.
“There’s a myth that’s been propagated in the industry,” Kuntz told Kotaku during an interview in February of this year. “If you keep digging into this, you’re going to come up with a story that will enrage people and expose the truth.”
(4) MIND OF THESEUS. In the August 14 Financial Times (behind a paywall), Library of Congress fellow Susan Schneider critiques the arguments of Ray Kurzweil and Elon Musk that we should figure out how to download our brains into the clouds to prevent really smart AI machines from taking over our lives.
“Here is a new challenge, derived from a story by the Australian science fiction writer Greg Egan. Imagine that an AI device called ‘a jewel’ is inserted into your brain at birth. The jewel monitors your brain’s activity in order to learn how to mimic your thoughts and behaviours. By th time you are an adult, it perfectly simulates your biological brain.
At some point, like other members of society, you grow confident that your brain is just redundant meatware. So you become a ‘jewel head,’ having your brain surgically removed. The jewel is now in the driver’s seat.
Unlike in Mr Egan’s story, let us assume the jewel works perfectly, So which is you–your brain or your jewel?”
(5) CHAMBERS PRAISED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The recent Worldcon in Dublin seems to be prompting some discussion of the literary merit of genre work. Writing in the Irish Times, John Connolly (“The future of sci-fi never looked so bright”) holds up the work of Hugo-winner Becky Chambers as an example of meritorious genre work, writing that:
In a world in which intolerance seems to be implacably on the rise, the fundamental decency at the heart of Chambers’s narratives, her depiction of a post-dystopian humanity attempting to construct a better version of itself while encountering new worlds and species, begins to seem quietly, gently radical.
(6) THE STORY OF A GENERATION. USA Today reports from D23 — “Disney unveils new ‘Rise of Skywalker’ footage, ‘Star Wars’ fans lose it over Rey’s double lightsaber”. The clips start with a walk down memory lane…
Disney released a new poster depicting the battle, presenting it to all attendees.
Fans can now watch the pinnacle moment of the footage – a cloaked Rey pulls out what appeared to be a red, double lightsaber in battle, similar to the infamous weapon wielded by Darth Maul in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.”
The D23 crowd let out an immediate, overpowering cheer at the sight of the weapon’s return and proclaimed the sighting on Twitter.
It caused a disturbance in the Force which was felt well beyond the D23 walls.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born August 26, 1911 — Otto Oscar Binder. He’s best remembered as the co-creator with Al Plastino of Supergirl and for his many scripts for Captain Marvel Adventures and other stories involving the entire Marvel Family. He was extremely prolific in the comic book industry and is credited with writing over four thousand stories across a variety of publishers under his own name. He also wrote novels, one of which was The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker, one of the series created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist and co-plotter Jack Kirby. (Died 1974.)
- August 26, 1912 – Ted Key. Of interest to us is his screenplay for The Cat from Outer Space about an apparent alien feline who has crash-landed here (starring Ken Berry, Sandy Duncan and Harry Morgan), which he followed up with a novelization. He also conceived and created Peabody’s Improbable History for producer Jay Ward’s The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. It would become the Sherman and Peabody Show. (Died 2008.)
- Born August 26, 1912 — Gerald Kersh. He wrote but one genre novel, The Secret Masters, and two genre stories in his Henry the Ghost series. So why’s he here, you ask? Because Ellison declared “you will find yourself in the presence of a talent so immense and compelling, that you will understand how grateful and humble I felt merely to have been permitted to associate myself with his name as editor.” You can read his full letters here. (Died 1968.)
- Born August 26, 1938 — Francine York. Her last genre performance was on Star Trek: Progeny. Never heard of It? Of course not, as it was yet another fan project. It’s amazing how many of these there are. Before that, she appeared in Mutiny in Outer Space, Space Probe Taurus and Astro Zombies: M3 – Cloned. (Died 2017.)
- Born August 26, 1949 — Sheila E Gilbert, 70. Co-editor-in-chief and publisher of DAW Books with Elizabeth R (Betsy) Wollheim. For her work there, she has also shared the Chesley Awards for best art director with Wollheim twice, and received a solo 2016 Hugo award as best professional editor (long form).
- Born August 26, 1950 — Annette Badland, 69. She is best known for her role as Margaret Blaine on Doctor Who where she was taken over by Blon Fel-Fotch Pasameer-Day, a Slitheen. This happened during “Aliens of London” and “World War Three” during the Era of the Ninth Doctor. Her story would conclude in “Boom Town”.
- Born August 26, 1970 — Melissa McCarthy, 49. Yes, I know she was in the rebooted Ghostbusters. Fanboys across the net are still wetting their pants about that film. I’m more interested in Super Intelligence in which she is playing a character that has an AI who has decided to take over her life. It reminds me somewhat of Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please” premise. It will be released on December 20 of this year. (And we are not talking about her The Happytime Murders.)
- Born August 26, 1980 — Chris Pine, 39. James T. Kirk in the Star Trek reboot series. He also plays Steve Trevor in both Wonder Woman films and Dr. Alexander Murry in A Wrinkle in Time. He’s also Cinderella’s Prince in Into the Woods. Finally, he voices Peter Parker / Ultimate Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
(8) COMICS SECTION.
- Why you read SF, really. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
- A hilarious Dr. Seuss parody at The Argyle Sweater.
(9) LOOKS LIKE DEATH (EXTREMELY) WARMED OVER. Delish says“Cheetos Is Rumored To Be Bringing Back Its ‘Bag Of Bones’ Snacks For Halloween” in Flamin’ Hot and White Cheddar flavors.
If you haven’t had a chance to try this snack yet, they’re basically Cheetos puffs that are shaped into various parts of a skeleton like the head, ribcage, hands, and bones. This means that besides being as delicious as a classic Cheeto, you can also build spooky skeletons with your food if you can resist scarfing down the whole bag for a while.
.(10) LAUNCHING FROM THE ANTIPODES. Ars Technica invites readers “Behind the scenes at Earth’s most beautiful rocket launch site” – lots of photos.
Not a blade of grass longer than the rest, a red “Remove Before Flight” tag unchecked, or a single Kiwi (be it bird or engineer) out of place: Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex-1 looks like an industry brochure come to life (better in fact). Located at the southern tip of the picturesque Mahia Peninsula on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, LC-1 is currently the only operational Rocket Lab launch site where the Electron vehicle—Rocket Lab’s low-cost small satellite launch vehicle—takes flight.
Rocket Lab just took advantage of the latest window at LC-1 on August 19. But back in December 2018, fellow rocket launch photographer Brady Kenniston had the exclusive opportunity to photograph Rocket Lab’s first NASA mission, ElaNa-19, from this private launch site. This launch was going to be Rocket Lab’s most important mission to date because, as the leader in the small satellite industry, they had an opportunity to show NASA (and the world) what they are made of. If successful, it could lead to future business from other small satellites in need of a ride to space—not to mention, the company would earn the endorsement of NASA Launch Services as an eligible vehicle to fly future NASA small-satellite science payloads.
(11) SO FAR, SO GOOD. Joe Sherry, Adri Joy, and Paul Weimer identify the high points of 2019 in “Blogtable: Best of the Year So Far” at Nerds of a Feather.
Joe: We’re a little more than seven months into what is shaping up to be an absolute stellar year for science fiction and fantasy fiction and I wanted to check in with the two of you to see what you’ve been reading and what has stood out in a year of excellence.
Adri: Indeed! well for starters I lost my heart in the time war…
Paul: I, too, lost my heart in the Time War. Among many other places, but having recently finished that, it is strongly on my mind. I am Team Blue, Adri, how about you?
(12) FEEDBACK. Heinlein is both an important influence on genre history and in the regard of author Chris Nuttall, who goes deep into Farah Mendlesohn’s book in “Review: The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein”. Nuttall ends a substantial discussion by saying —
Heinlein was not fond of critics, not entirely without reason. Even in his day, a good critic could be a wonder – and a bad one a nightmare. But I think he might have liked this book – and, as Heinlein remains popular, we should ask ourselves why. You may not agree with everything in this book, but it will make you think. Mendlesohn treats Heinlein as what he was, a man. Not an angel, or a demon, but a man. An influential man, but a man nonetheless.
(13) SMILE! Guess what this scene made Kevin Standlee think of —
(Now imagine, what if somebody used X-ray film?)
(14) CHALLENGES IN PRODUCING HEINLEIN BOOK. Shahid Mahmud of Arc Manor Publishers sent out an update about Phoenix Pick’s Heinlein novel The Pursuit of the Pankera.
…As many of you are aware from my previous emails, this is the parallel text to The Number of the Beast.
It is, effectively, a parallel book about parallel universes.
We had originally attempted to release the book before Christmas, but some production issues have delayed the release to Sprint/Summer of 2020.
These include sorting out some fairly intricate details discussed in the book. For example (for those of you dying to see what it is that we publishers actually do), here are a few internal excerpts between editors working on various aspects of the book:
“The planet-numbering system may be off in certain parts of the story. At the beginning of the story (and in real life) we live on planet Earth. In the course of the story, there is time travel, and that’s where it gets confusing… the story refers to both Earth-One and Earth-Zero. There is a detailed explanation of the numbering system (see pg. 312) wherein “Earth-Zero is so designated because Dr. Jacob Burroughs was born on that planet…”
However, in other parts of the book, Earth-One is referred to as the characters’ home planet.”
“After discussion with Patrick, I’ve settled on the following conventions: x-axis (hyphenated, lowercase, no italics) but axis x (no hyphen, lowercase, italic single letter). In the manuscript, of course, the italic letter would be underlined rather than set italic. The letters tau and teh remain in the Latin alphabet (rather than Greek or Cyrillic) and are lowercase but not set italic. When used with the word “axis” (tau-axis) they are hyphenated.”
These are the little details that keep us Publishers up at night 🙂
But alas, given a book of this magnitude and size (this is a BIG book, over 185,000 words) all this takes time.
Hence the delay.
Mahmud says the ebook will be priced at $9.99 at launch, but they will run a Kickstarter beginning September 4 to help pay for production, which will allow people to buy the ebook for just $7.00. And there will be other rewards available.
(15) THE NEXT BIG THING. Best Fanzine Hugo winner Lady Business tweeted a get-acquainted thread for new followers (starts here) which closes with this appeal –
OMG, what a great idea, nominating business meeting agenda items in Best Related Works! Chris Barkley will be so excited (Best Translated Novel Hugo Category Proposed)! Am I right or am I right?
(16) NOT A GOOD IDEA. Just because Trump doesn’t know this it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t: “Nuclear weapons and hurricanes don’t mix, NOAA advises”.
Using nuclear weapons to destroy hurricanes is not a good idea, a US scientific agency has said, following reports that President Donald Trump wanted to explore the option.
The Axios news website said Mr Trump had asked several national security officials about the possibility.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the results would be “devastating”.
Mr Trump has denied making the suggestion.
Hurricanes typically affect the US east coast, often causing serious damage.
It’s not the first time the idea has been considered.
Following reports of Mr Trump’s suggestion, the hashtag #ThatsHowTheApocalyseStarted has been trending on Twitter.
What effect would nuking a hurricane have?
Mr Trump asked why the US couldn’t drop a bomb into the eye of the storm to stop it from making landfall, news site Axios said.
The NOAA says that using nuclear weapons on a hurricane “might not even alter the storm” and the “radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas”.
(17) A VOLCANO SPEAKS. There was smoke on the water. Then this: “Vast ‘pumice raft’ found drifting through Pacific Ocean”. Opinions vary on whether it will reach Australia or break up, and on how likely it is to be helpful — “Giant Pumice Raft Floating Toward Australia Could Help Replenish Great Barrier Reef”:
A vast “raft” of volcanic rocks stretching over 150 sq km (93 sq miles) is drifting through the Pacific Ocean, scientists say.
The sea of pumice – the size of 20,000 football fields – was first reported by Australian sailors earlier this month.
Experts say the mass likely came from an underwater volcano near Tonga which erupted around 7 August according to satellite images.
Sailors have been warned to stay clear of the potential hazard.
Pumice is a lightweight, bubble-rich rock that can float in water. It is produced when magma is cooled rapidly.
(18) NOT COKE. “World of Warcraft Classic: Hit game goes back to basics” – BBC has the story.
The hit video game World of Warcraft (WoW) is going back to basics with the launch of WoW Classic this evening.
First released in 2004, the online multi-player game has evolved and changed dramatically over the years.
Many players had asked developer Blizzard Entertainment to revive the original version of the game, known as “classic” or “vanilla” WoW.
While not identical to the original, WoW Classic will replicate a majority of the features from the first game.
World of Warcraft is a fantasy game in which players roam the virtual world, fighting monsters and completing quests.
Blizzard said some players who had been given early access to the classic version – which is released at 23:00 BST on Monday – mistakenly thought some of the original features were errors.
(19) FASTER THAN A PET ROCK. A BBC video shows “Gloucestershire man walks tortoise to the pub every day”. Doesn’t move as slow as you might think…
A Gloucestershire man has started walking Nancy Drew the tortoise to the pub and around town.
Jason Smith says the African sulcata tortoise, which is actually male, needs to burn off energy, as in the wild he would ordinarily be looking for a mate at this time of year.
The creature has become famous around Tewkesbury, with people loving to stop and say hello.
(20) CRASH LANDING. “Natalie Portman rockets toward madness in mind-bending ‘Lucy in the Sky’ trailer” Yahoo! Entertainment cues it up.
Legion creator Noah Hawley’s feature directorial debut stars the Oscar-winning actress as Lucy Cola, a loose adaptation of real-life astronaut Lisa Nowak, who, after returning to earth from a length mission to space, began an obsessive affair with a coworker….
[Thanks to Jim Freund, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Lise Andreasen, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Errolwi, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]