Pixel Scroll 10/9/18 PIXËL SCRØLL IK DEN HØLIË MÜRDËRBØT NØMINEE

(1) WHO IS NUMBER ONE. Patrick McGoohan had to keep asking but Star Trek answered the question right away: “‘Star Trek: Discovery’s Rebecca Romijn Releases First Look Photo Of Number One”.

Romijn will play Number One (a character featured in the original 1966 Star Trek pilot) who serves as Captain Christopher Pike’s second-in-command on the USS Enterprise. The original Number One was played by Star Trek creator Gene Roddeberry’s wife Majel Barrett-Roddeberry.

(2) THE TRAILER OF DOCTOR DEATH. Honest Trailers has answered the plea to do trailers for the Classic and Modern versions of Doctor Who.

You know his name, you know his faces, but maybe these faces not as much- it’s Honest Trailers for Doctor Who! (Classic Version)

 

From fancy PBS comes a show where anything can happen and none of the continuity matters- it’s Honest Trailers for Doctor Who! (Modern Version)

 

(3) SKILLFUL RESEARCH. Juliette Wade’s latest Dive into Worldbuilding features “Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff and The Antiquities Hunter”. This interview was really interesting for me — I’m always curious about the process of figuring out the right questions, so you can go get good answers. Read the summary, and/or watch the video —

I asked Maya about her research process. She said this book took a very long time to write. It started with the character of Gina. Gina’s mom, Nadya, was initially in psychology, but then later changed to folklore. Maya did research on Russian Orthodox magic with the book “The Bathhouse at Midnight: A Historical Survey of Magic and Divination in Russia.” For the archaeological aspects, Maya drew on Archaeology Magazine, where she found a lot of information on National Park Service Agents. There was a story about a woman with a family who was in the field conducting sting operations on antiquities thieves and black market dealers. For the background of a character named Rose, Maya looked at black market antiquities that showed up at Sotheby’s and the English Museum, like the Elgin Marbles (a set of marble statues that once stood in the Parthenon). Maya also had questions like, “What is it like to go to a Police Academy?” and “How are police departments structured?” which she got answered by police officers she connected with in online chatrooms. She also explored questions of what happens when jurisdictions collide, how departments work together, etc.

…Maya suggests if you want to make stuff up well, you should study Science, History, and Psychology. That way when you make stuff up, you’ll be using solid pieces to do it.

 

(4) KGB READINGS. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Tim Pratt and Lawrence M. Schoen on Wednesday, October 17 the KGB Bar.

Tim Pratt

Tim Pratt has won a Hugo Award for short fiction, and was a finalist for Nebula, World Fantasy, and Philip K. Dick Awards, among others. He is the author of 25 novels and four story collections, and works as a senior editor at Locus magazine. His latest project is the Axiom space opera series, begun with The Wrong Stars in 2017 and continuing this year with The Dreaming Stars.

Lawrence M. Schoen

Lawrence M. Schoen has been a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award, the Hugo Award, and the Nebula Award. A variety of small presses have published a series of humorous short stories, novellas, and novels about his protagonist the Amazing Conroy, a stage hypnotist turned CEO who travels the galaxy with Reggie, his alien companion animal that eats anything and farts oxygen. On a somewhat higher level, Lawrence’s book Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard won the Cóyotl Award for Best Novel. Its sequel, The Moons of Barsk, was published by Tor Books this past August.

Starts 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) New York, NY.

(5) FINDING THE BUCKS FOR WAUKEGAN’S BRADBURY MUSEUM. The Chicago Tribune paints a word picture of the proposed exhibits: “Fundraising for Ray Bradbury Experience Museum in Waukegan kicks off as designs take shape”. The organizers are looking for a million dollars to get the museum completely up and running, and are pursuing a mix of grants, large donors and smaller individual donations.

Themed around the Waukegan-born author’s “Martian Chronicles,” the room will allow visitors to explore the concepts of space, time travel and “the limits of human endeavor,” Petroshius said.

An adjustable periscope could use augmented reality to transform the view of Genesee Street beyond the front windows into Mars or another vista.

A sphere in the center of the room could show the surface of Mars, Earth or the planet of the aliens that appear in the story “The Fire Balloons” and glow with blue flames in crystal spheres. Also, using tablets, visitors can explore the stories of the “Martian Chronicles.”

Design work on a room dedicated to “Fahrenheit 451” just began this past week, Petroshius said. The room will examine freedom of expression, censorship and creativity, as well as Bradbury’s experiences being investigated by the FBI during the McCarthy era.

The goal is to appeal to grown-ups who are already fans of Bradbury as well as students who haven’t yet been exposed to his work, said Keith Michalek, a senior designer with Chicago Exhibit Productions Inc., the firm behind the renderings.

(6) WAR GAMES ANNIVERSARY. Slate tells “How Sci-Fi Like WarGames Led to Real Policy During the Reagan Administration”.

This year, John Badham’s WarGames—one of the movies most beloved by hackers, techies, and tech policy wonks (like me!)—celebrates its 35th anniversary. Though it may look a little kitschy now, it was notable for several firsts: It was the first popular film depiction of the now well-known hacker archetype. It raised the specter of an artificial intelligence starting World War III a year before James Cameron’s The Terminator did, and it introduced America to a young Matthew Broderick….

Larry Niven was interviewed for the article.

However, the biggest sci-fi influence on Reagan—arguably the biggest example of sci-fi influence on policy ever—came directly from a group of sci-fi writers and aerospace professionals. The Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy was primarily led by two sci-fi writers: Larry Niven, best known for the sci-fi classic Ringworld, hosted a council meeting of dozens of authors and experts at his home over a long weekend shortly after Reagan’s election. That meeting was organized and led by his friend and regular co-author Jerry Pournelle, who died in 2017. As Niven recently told me in a phone interview, the conservative cold warrior Pournelle was “the beginning, the middle, and the end” of the council and its proposals for the future of America’s presence in space. Several of Pournelle’s ideas were distinctly ahead of their time—ideas about mining asteroids for mineral resources, or developing reusable rockets that could take off and land vertically “just as God and [legendary sci-fi writer] Robert Heinlein intended,” as he once put it. (That’s a phrase Sigma Forum founder Arlan Andrews Sr. first used in 1993 in the sci-fi magazine Analog.)* That proposal ultimately led to Vice President Dan Quayle supporting the development of the DC-X test rocket that Elon Musk has credited as a key predecessor to the reusable rocket systems now deployed by SpaceX.

(7) THE LATEST FROM STAN LEE. Mark Ebner, in “Stan Lee Breaks His Silence:  Those I Trusted Betrayed Me” on The Daily Beast, has a lengthy interview with Lee, where he strikes back at some hangers-on he says betrayed him and says he is reconciled with his daughter J.C.

I’m not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but there have been stories out, and at least one upcoming story with allegations of elder abuse on you by your daughter.

STAN: I wish that everyone would be as abusive to me as JC.

J.C. LEE: [Interjecting] He wishes everyone was so abusive.

STAN: She is a wonderful daughter. I like her. We have occasional spats. But I have occasional spats with everyone. I’ll probably have one with you, where I’ll be saying, “I didn’t say that!” But, that’s life.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 9, 1894 – Harlan Thompson, Screenwriter, Lyricist, Stage and Screen Director and Producer. After an early career co-writing scripts and lyrics for Broadway musicals, he turned his talents to Hollywood, creating films and musicals which starred names such as Cary Grant, Bob Hope, Mae West, and W.C. Fields. His genre connection is his credit for the official novelization in 1972 of the movie Silent Running. The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction notes that “The novel quietly patches some plot holes in the film’s script.”
  • Born October 9, 1900 – Harry Bates, Writer, Editor, and Member of First Fandom. Editor from 1930 to 1933 the new pulp magazines Astounding Stories of Super-Science (which later became Astounding Stories, then Analog) and Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror. His Retro Hugo finalist novelette “Farewell to the Master” was the source of the classic science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still. He wrote a number of other stories under his own name and under various pseudonyms. In 1976 he was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame.
  • Born October 9, 1936 – Brian Blessed, 82, Actor, Writer, and Comedian from England known to genre fans as Prince Vultan in the Hugo-nominated Flash Gordon and as Richard IV in Blackadder (I don’t care what you say, it’s alternate history, I’m calling it genre). He has also appeared in the films Dark Ascension, Shed of the Dead, MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis, and the Gerry Anderson space opera pilot The Day After Tomorrow, had guest roles on episodes of The Avengers, Space:1999, Doctor Who, and Blake’s 7 – and even contributed a character voice in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace – as well providing that magnificent voice to characters in a long list of animated shows and videogames.
  • Born October 9, 1953 – Tony Shalhoub, 65, Actor of Screen and Stage, known for his role in the Hugo-winning Galaxy Quest and character roles in a number of Hugo-nominated movies including Gattaca, Men In Black, and Addams Family Values, as well as Thirteen Ghosts and the adaptations of Philip K. Dick’s Impostor and Stephen King’s 1408. He has provided voices to main characters in Pixar’s Cars films and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot movies.
  • Born October 9, 1954 – Scott Bakula, 64, Actor, Singer, and Director with lead roles on the TV series Star Trek: Enterprise (for which he received 3 Saturn nominations) and Quantum Leap (for which he won a Golden Globe), and the movie adaptations of Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions and Tom Clancy’s NetForce.
  • Born October 9, 1956 – Robert Reed, 62, Writer who has published at least 17 novels and more than 200 short fiction works, many of them in his superb Great Ship universe, his series about a Big Dumb Object and how it gets reused once it enter our galaxy. He was a finalist for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1987, and since then has racked up 7 Hugo nominations, in addition to winning Best Novella for A Billion Eves, and an impressive array of Nebula, Campbell, World Fantasy, Tiptree, Sturgeon, Sidewise, Imaginaire, Asimov’s, and Locus Award nominations.
  • Born October 9, 1960 – Dr. Cheryl Ann Brigham, 58, Astrophysicist who is married to Dr. David Brin and credited in many of his science fiction works for providing research and critical assistance.
  • Born October 9, 1961 – Matt Wagner, 57, Writer, Artist, and Illustrator whose greatest work is no doubt his Grendel series, of which I recommend Grendel: Behold the Devil, Grendel: War Child, and the first sequence of Batman/Grendel. He’s done quite a bit of work for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and other comic houses over the years. In 1991, he illustrated part of the “Season of Mists” story arc in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series, and his work on Sandman Mystery Theatre #1-60 was one of his longer runs. Mage #1-15 for Image Comics is exemplary work as well. He has been nominated for an Eisner Award nine times, winning three of those, and he received an Inkpot Award in 1988.
  • Born October 9, 1964 – Jacqueline Carey, 54, Writer of the long-running mildly erotic Kushiel’s Legacy universe which contains three trilogies, the first novel of which, Kushiel’s Dart, won a Locus Award for Best First Novel. Locus in their December 2002 issue did an interview with her about this series called “Jacqueline Carey: Existential BDSM”. Her most recent works are the standalone novels Miranda and Caliban, which is a re-telling of The Tempest, and the epic fantasy Starless.
  • Born October 9, 1964 – Guillermo del Toro, 54, Oscar-winning Writer, Director, and Producer originally from Mexico who has become especially known for his deeply fantastical Hugo-winning film Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hugo finalist The Shape of Water, as well as Pacific Rim, The Hobbit, Crimson Peak, Hellboy and Hellboy II, Blade II, and Mimic.
  • Born October 9, 1968 – Pete Docter, 50, Oscar-winning Screenwriter, Animator, Voice Actor, Director and Producer, of works Toy Story, Monsters, Inc, and Up which were all Hugo finalists, and WALL-E, which won a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. At the age of 21, he was one of the first people hired at Disney’s Pixar Studios in 1990, and he was named Chief Creative Officer at Pixar in June this year.
  • Born October 9, 1979 – Brandon Routh, 39, Actor known for the lead role in Superman Returns, as well as the science fiction film 400 Days, and the movie version of the graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. In 2014, he began a recurring role on Arrow, which spun off into a recurring role on The Flash, and a starring role on Legends of Tomorrow.
  • Born October 9, 1980 – Arnold Chon, 38, Actor, Producer, and Stunt Coordinator and Performer who began Tae Kwon Do lessons at the age of 4, earned a Black Belt at the age of 11 and became a NASKA World Karate champion. He has had guest roles and performed stunts in more than a hundred movies, including Ant-Man and the Wasp, Fear the Walking Dead , Doomsday Device, The Last Airbender, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Invasion, and the Hugo-nominated Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
  • Born October 9, 1985 – Amanda Richer, 33, Actor, Writer, and Producer from Canada. As an 18-year-old, she starred in Deafplanet, a Gemini-nominated Canadian children’s show which ran for 4 years, about a boy who accidentally launches himself into space on a museum rocket and becomes stranded, with his robot, on a planet where everyone is deaf and only communicates through sign language. She spent 4 months coaching Sally Hawkins in ASL for the Oscar-winning and Hugo finalist film, The Shape of Water.
  • Born October 9, 1994 – Jodelle Ferland, 24, Saturn-nominated Actor from Canada whose genre credits include roles in Twilight: Eclipse and Breaking Dawn and the SyFy series Dark Matter, as well as many other movies, mostly horror, including They, Tideland, Silent Hill, The Messengers, Seed, Bloodrayne II, Cabin in the Woods, and guest roles in many TV series including Stargate: Atlantis, Supernatural, and Smallville.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • In Brewster Rockit, Dr. Mel Practice has a suggestion on how to ensure funding for science (and it involves a certain credential).
  • A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away, and arriving a little late to do any good — Strange Brew.
  • And an embarrassing false alarm at Off the Mark.

(10) FANSPLAINING. Somebody on Twitter decided Paul Cornell didn’t know Who he was talking about. Somebody was wrong.

(11) MORE NYCC COSPLAY. Gothamist has an enormous gallery of cosplayers from New York Comic Con: “Photos: Huge Cosplaying Crowds Pack Javits Center For Comic Con 2018”

Comic Con has grown so huge that it takes over the entire convention hall—some 200,000 people were expected to attend over the four-day run—and on Saturday and Sunday it often felt like every square foot was packed with bizarre creatures, grim warriors, heroic men and women and aliens and animals looking to save or possibly destroy the world. There are no rules of cosplay, of course, except for maybe that no store-bought, factory-made outfits are allowed. Which is why many of the most jaw-dropping costumes took months to create.

(12) GOT WHISKEY? Vinepair reports “Winter Is Here: Johnnie Walker Debuts Nine Game Of Thrones-Themed Scotches”

The Game of Thrones Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection includes eight blends. Seven are paired with the Houses of Westeros, and one is dedicated to the Night’s Watch:

  • Game of Thrones House Tully – Singleton of Glendullan Select
  • Game of Thrones House Stark – Dalwhinnie Winter’s Frost
  • Game of Thrones House Targaryen – Cardhu Gold Reserve
  • Game of Thrones House Lannister – Lagavulin 9 Year Old
  • Game of Thrones The Night’s Watch – Oban Bay Reserve
  • Game of Thrones House Greyjoy – Talisker Select Reserve
  • Game of Thrones House Baratheon – Royal Lochnagar 12 Year Old
  • Game of Thrones House Tyrell – Clynelish Reserve

Also promised — “Johnnie Walker Teases Game of Thrones-Themed ‘White Walker’ Scotch”.

A Game of Thrones-themed Scotch is on its way from Johnnie Walker. Dubbed “White Walker,” the Scotch whisky is set to debut this fall. You know, that season that comes before winter. In other words, when winter is coming.

(13) BLUE SKY. Branson says: “Virgin Galactic to reach space in ‘weeks not months'”

Entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson has said that Virgin Galactic is “weeks” away from its first trip into space.

“We should be in space within weeks, not months. And then we will be in space with myself in months and not years,” the firm’s founder and chief executive told news website CNBC.

He said the firm would be taking people into space “not too long after” that.

(14) DISABILITY IN DOCTOR WHO. Tom Gerken tells BBC readers: “Doctor Who: How the dyspraxic assistant became my hero”.

In Doctor Who, Ryan becomes angry at his failures as he relentlessly falls off his bicycle. Later in the episode, he attempts to channel his frustration and learn again – yet he still fails.

It cannot be overstated how happy I was at this moment. I didn’t want Ryan to suddenly, magically succeed. I wanted him to keep failing.

Don’t call him inspirational

Dyspraxia doesn’t have an overnight fix. You can’t will yourself to not be disabled anymore. It’s always there, always present, always making things harder than they should be.

I don’t want to see people using the word “inspirational” to describe him. He’s not an inspiration. He’s a normal guy, who happens to have a disability.

(15) BEWARE THE POINTY BITS. The warning from the transformed David Bowman in 2010: Odyssey Two (“All these worlds are yours—except Europa. Attempt no landings there.”) may have taken on a new meaning. A new scientific paper (Nature Geoscience: “Formation of metre-scale bladed roughness on Europa’s surface by ablation of ice”) warns that sharp spikes of ice could form on Europa, potentially making it very difficult to land. The Nature Geoscience article is behind a paywall, but Popular Mechanics stepped up to make the key info accessible (“Menacing Ice Spikes on Europa Could Endanger Future Landers”).

All eyes are on Europa right now, with a dedicated NASA mission headed there in 2022, and the European Space Agency launching a more general Jupiter moon probe that will have a couple encounters with Europa that same year.

But if these orbiters are the first step toward more widespread exploration of the ocean moon, they may reveal a giant complication. Like 50 foot spikes of ice jutting out from the crust of the moon.

…[Dr. Daniel] Hobley [of Cardiff University] and his team looked toward another place with a deep ice shell and liquid water below: Antarctica. Specifically, they looked at the formation of penitentes. These structures begin their formation below, jutting out areas of higher altitude into the ice shell.

In turn, sublimation—the process of turning a solid directly into a gas—leaves behind some more compacted areas, that appear as spikes of ice, some of them taller than a human and sharp as a blade. Because the surface of Europa is ever-changing, geologically speaking, Hobley thinks there may be different kinds of spikes at different latitudes. Some of them could even reach as tall as 50 feet high.

(16) BRAAAAAAINS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SingularityHub brings the story of “How BrainNet Enabled 3 People to Directly Transmit Thoughts,” based on a preprint paper on arXiv.org (“BrainNet: A Multi-Person Brain-to-Brain Interface for Direct Collaboration Between Brains”). The usual grain of salt (or 10) should be applied since preprints are not yet peer reviewed.

For a remarkably social species, we’re not particularly effective communicators.

Finding the right words to clearly, efficient transmit our thoughts to another consciousness—even something as simple as driving directions—can be a challenge, especially in-the-moment and under pressure.

What if we could do away with words altogether? What if, rather than relying on an intermediary, we could directly transmit our thoughts through a digital, internet-like space into another mind?

Technology mediated brain-to-brain communication (basically a binary signal) has been demonstrated before. This would appear to be the first time than multiple (two) senders have been connected to a receiver, though. The network was used to play a Tetris-like video game with the senders viewing the full game but the receiver only being able to see part of it. The senders try to signal the receiver to either rotate or not rotate a falling block. The research team claims that the average accuracy is 81.3%, far better than chance. They even injected noise into one sender’s signal (call it “fake news”), but the receiver was able to learn which sender is more reliable “based solely on the information transmitted to their brains.” The researchers consider this the first step toward a social network.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. in “An Object at Rest” on Vimeo, Seth Boyden tells the story of the past few thousand years from the viewpoint of a very sleepy rock!

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

Pixel Scroll 8/5/18 This Is Not A Pixel Scroll Title

(1) MUST-READ GRAPHIC NOVELS. The Guardian has a little list: “From Maus to Tamara Drewe: the 10 graphic novels everyone should read”.

The recent hoo-ha about the Man Booker prize’s longlisting of a graphic novel for the first time, the chilling, understated Sabrina by Nick Drnaso, may have piqued your interest in exploring this ever-expanding medium further, or perhaps for the first time. Not everyone has grown up reading comics and the demands of their various verbal and visual literacies can take some adjusting to, particularly if you’re used to the orderly typesetting of prose novels. It’s never too late, though, to try stretching your brain – both sides of it when it comes to graphic novels, where looking is as important as reading.

The roundup begins with —

This experience comes through in the wordless migration parable The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2006), which follows a man who has gone on ahead of his wife and children to seek work abroad and struggles to navigate his alien surroundings and their indecipherable language. Unable to make himself understood, he resorts to making simple drawings to communicate his need for a room. The reader shares his bafflement and gradually grasps with him how his strange new homeland works. Tan’s genius in children’s picture books blossoms in this extended tale for all ages, illustrated in almost photographic sepia images.

(2) PREDATOR’S FIRST BITE. ScreenRant gives the popular actor’s fans a reason to mourn: “The Predator Cuts Edward James Olmos’ Character Due to Shorter Runtime”.

As first reported by Slash Film, Olmos won’t be appearing in The Predator as previously planned. When asked about his role in the film Olmos commented, “I’m not in the show though. It was too long so my character, they had to take me out. They were like half an hour, 3/4 of an hour too long. So I understand why“. Olmos himself doesn’t seem to be terribly disappointed by the news, but fans of his previous work such as Battlestar Galactica and Blade Runner certainly will be.

(3) CARTOON VERDICT. Camestros Felapton’s “Review: Final Space (Netflix)” is an interesting tour whether you’re likely to watch the series or not – and more likely not, based on his conclusions….

It’s basically a fun kids cartoon but with more violence and (generally mild) sexual references. With a small amount of effort, it could have been a really good kid’s cartoon instead of whatever it ended up being…

I wouldn’t want to recommend you watch it as for some readers it might result in them using their mobile device as a projectile aimed at the wall but it is sort of a better show than it deserves to be.

(4) PAPER CANCELLED.  John Teehan notes that the SFWA Bulletin is abandoning its print edition.

End of an era. As production manager and occasional editor, I worked on 56 issues over 15 some odd years. The SFWA Bulletin is now going digital, and the current issue is the last print one I’ll be involved with. It was a great run—one of the best gigs ever. Had some ups and downs, certainly, but the experience overall was a great one in which I found myself growing each year. Many thanks to everyone who supported our work over the years.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 5, 1861 — The United States government issued its first income tax, encouraging more people to write fantasy.
  • August 5, 2011Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a reboot that worked.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 5, 1930 – Neil Armstrong

(7) CURIOSITY’S QUIET ANNIVERSARY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] You may have seen headlines about Curiosity singing (well, humming) Happy Birthday to itself in honor of it’s fifth birthday (as measured in Earth years since landing) last week. Well, nope. Florence Tan at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate explained to The Atlantic why this was a one-time occurrence (in 2013) rather than an annual event — “Why the Curiosity Rover Stopped Singing ‘Happy Birthday’”.

“The answer to your question will sound rather cold and unfeeling,” her email began.

Oh, no.

“In a nutshell, there is no scientific gain from the rover playing music or singing ‘Happy Birthday’ on Mars,” Tan said. In the battle between song and science, science always wins.

Vibrating the sample-analysis unit (which is a normal part of Curiosity’s scientific endeavors) uses energy that could be put to use elsewhere and adds wear and tear to the SAM unit. Plus, of course, it takes someone to work the humming into an incredibly tight schedule:

“It’s not just, ‘Oh, I’m ready to send a command, just send an email to somebody,’” Tan said in a phone interview. The rover’s activities are scheduled down to the minute, and SAM requires power to operate. Curiosity runs on a nuclear battery that turns heat into electricity, and it will eventually die.

So, the uncaged rover no longer sings.

(8) VONARBURG BIRTHDAY. Steven H Silver lights up another cake at Black Gate with “Birthday Reviews: Élisabeth Vonarburg’s ‘Cogito’”.

She has twice been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and once for the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award. Her greatest recognition came from the Canadian Casper/Aurora Awards, which she has won ten times. Vonarburg won the French language award in 1987 for her story “La Carte du Tendre” (“Readers of the Lost Art”). That same year, she received a second Aurora for her fannish contributions to Solaris. She won three additional short story Auroras for “Cogito” (1990), “Ici, des tigres” (1991), and “La Course de Kathryn” (2004) and five Auroras for Best book for Histoire de la Princesse et du Dragon (1991), Ailleurs et au Japon (1992), Chroniques de Pays des Mères (1993), Les Voyageurs malgré eux (1996), and Reine de Mémoire 4. La Princesse de Vengeance (2007). She won the Prix Rosny-Ainé and the Prix Boreal in 1982 for her novel Le Silence de la Cité. She also won the Boreal for Chroniques de Pays des Mères (1993), Les Rêves de la mer (1997), Reine de Mémoire 1. La Maisson d’oubli (2006) and Reine de Mémoire 4. La Princesse de Vengeance (2007). Prior to 1990, the Aurora Award was known as the Casper Award and in 2011, the Prix Aurora and Prix Boreal combined.

(9) EERIE. Bill “Beamjockey” Higgins has a birthday today, too – and is wondering how File 770’s commenting bug knew!

I can easily accept that some crazy glitch in your blogware puts a far-future date on my draft comment.

What’s spooky is that WHEN I WAS COMMENTING ABOUT CENTENNIALS AND BICENTENNIALS the date on my comment turned out to be 5 August 2854, 900 years after my own birth.

Pics, or it didn’t happen?  I attach a screenshot.

Timebindingly yours….

(10) OUTREACH. The reading evangelists from Dublin 2019 will be out again next weekend at a local event: “Dublin Comic Con and Outreach”. Chair James Bacon outlines the history:

…No matter where we go, we try and focus on ensuring we have something for all ages of reader. We isolate books for children and younger readers, and keep them to one side; we know adults also love them, but we conserve them so every child can walk away with a book or comic.

This year in Dublin we have 4 large boxes of Childrens Comics, The Beano, Whizzer and Chips and Buster, and cartoon based Superhero comics as well as children’s books, and we will ensure kids get them.

It positively encourages the gentle transition of fascination with all that is super heroes or fun on the screen, to reading on the pages.

These projects have benefited hugely from established conventions who support their logistical activities and also from individuals and organisations who make generous donations of books, magazines and comics as well as their time and effort. Publishers and book stores also support the activities, and Half Price Books in the states have consistently been very good to SF Outreach.

This year, Dave Finn from Incognito Comics has again given two car loads of magazines, books, and comics to Outreach, knowing from seeing it in action at London Film and Comic Con, that the energy and enthusiasm to encourage reading is genuine and if as a by-product, people go to more cons, well isn’t that just fabulous.

Dublin Comic Con next weekend, and if you are in Dublin and want to check out anything to do with the Worldcon, please do call by and speak to us if you are going to Dublin Comic Con. (Check tickets availability, they do sell so well!)

(11) CHOCOLATE HUGO. Jerry Pournelle famously said, “Money will get you through times of no Hugos better than Hugos will get you through times of no money,” however, at the 1984 Worldcon Larry Niven played off his collaborator’s pet phrase when he presented him with a solid chocolate rocket during the ceremony: “Jerry, this is the Hugo that will get you through times of no money better than….”

All that came back to mind when I saw Worldcon 76 will auction the version of a chocolate Hugo given at last year’s Hugo Loser’s Party in Helsinki.

Delicious?

Yes, these were awarded at the legendary Hugo Loser’s Party in Helsinki Finland at Worldcon 75. The frame is milk chocolate, the center is white chocolate. Together, they taste like victory.

We can’t guarantee they’re gluten free. They may have been made in a facility that works with nuts. If you have any kind of dietary restrictions, you can still buy and enjoy this, but don’t eat it. Just relax and bathe in the glamor of owning a Worldcon Hugo Award.

And keep cool, or it might melt.

The beneficiary of the Worldcon76 in San Jose Charity Auction is the Alzheimer’s Association.

(12) THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. If that was too much chocolate, then for certain this is too much jam: “What If the Earth Was Made Out of Blueberries?” at Popular Mechanics,

In the heart of blueberry season, Billy-bodega, a user on Physics Stack Exchange, posed the question: “Supposing that the entire Earth was instantaneously replaced with an equal volume of closely packed, but uncompressed blueberries, what would happen from the perspective of a person on the surface?” the question got promptly deleted. But it didn’t stop Anders Sandberg, a researcher at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, to seriously tackle the idea, explaining the development of this blueberry planet (and even publishing the comprehensive answer in a paper).

What you’d end up with, according to Sandberg, “is a world that has a steam atmosphere covering an ocean of jam on top of warm blueberry granita.” Here’s how the planet would form: you start with fat, thick-skinned blueberries (blueberry Earth would be much less dense than actual Earth, and gravity would be weaker). Since blueberries can’t withstand strong forces, gravity would turn them into mash, releasing air that previously separated them from their neighbors, shrinking the radius of the planet.

(13) NOVIK. Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver, her take on Rumplestiltskin, is reviewed by Choire Sicha in the New York Times Book Review“Rumpelstiltskin Redux”.

Here [the author] has gathered countless old tales and turned them into something new. The theft of summer, a burning demon who lives inside a prince, a witch’s hut in the woods, the secret power of names, the frozen winter road that winds its way through the depths of the forest—they’re all here.

(14) THUMB DOWN. At Locus Online, “An Awful Warning, in More Ways Than One: Gary Westfahl Reviews The Darkest Minds.

If anyone is glancing at this review for advice on which films to see this weekend, my recommendation would be to avoid The Darkest Minds. For while it is competently executed and offers some superficial novelties, it is a film that most people have already seen several times, and since two similar franchises to be discussed have failed to generate expected sequels, it may be that many filmgoers are growing as tired of this film as I am.

The film is a generally faithful adaptation of Alexandra Bracken’s novel The Darkest Minds (2012), yet another version of a common formula for success in the modern marketplace of young adult fiction: a future dystopia spawned by an improbable disaster that prods evil adults to torment and oppress its teenagers, despite the fact that – or even because – these amazingly talented and virtuous youth are the only ones who can save humanity from impending extinction. In this case, the improbable disaster is the sudden appearance of a disease called IAAN (Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration), which kills most young people and imbues the surviving youth with a variety of psychic powers: “greens,” superintelligence; “blues,” telekinesis; “yellows” (in the film, “golds”), control of electricity; “oranges,” the ability to control others’ minds; and “reds,” pyrokinesis. Naturally, the government responds by declaring martial law, rounding up all teenagers, and placing them in concentration camps to either be slaughtered or exploited as slave labor. Our heroine, Ruby Daly (Amandla Stenberg), conceals her feared orange powers, keeping her alive until she escapes from her camp with the help of Cate Connor (Mandy Moore), a member of an underground organization called the Children’s League which turns out to be similarly sinister. But Ruby runs away to join three other teenage fugitives, the blue Liam (Harris Dickinson), the gold Suzume, or Zu (Miya Cech), and the green Chubs (Skylan Brooks), and they proceed to have several adventures in the vicinity of Virginia (though the movie was filmed in Georgia).

(15) CLIMATE FIXES. Kim Stanley Robinson educates in “The King Of Climate Fiction Makes The Left’s Case For Geoengineering” at Huffington Post.

…Robinson’s New York 2140, published last year, lays out a vision of what climate catastrophe and a leftist uprising against the capitalist forces that caused it would look like. So HuffPost asked him to elaborate on what he sees as the future of geoengineering. The following was edited for length and clarity.

How do you define geoengineering and what are the forms it will most likely take?

I guess the definition would be something like “a deliberate planned attempt by human beings to mitigate the damages of climate change, of carbon dioxide and methane buildup in the atmosphere, and of ecological damage generally, by way of some action that is large-scale” — if not global in reach, then regional in ways that might have global repercussions.

I’ve been saying that “geoengineering” is a bad name because engineering implies we know what we’re doing more than we really do. Also, that we have more powers than we actually have. I’ve suggested we think of it as “geo-finessing” or “geo-tweaking” or even “geo-begging,” to better indicate our relative ignorance and weakness in the face of global geochemical processes. Lots of those processes we can’t do anything about, even if we really want to. So the name needs some unpacking.

The most likely forms it might take, I think, are the following: casting dust-like particles into the atmosphere to mimic a volcanic eruption, so that for a number of years after that, the global average temperatures would go down a bit. Drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by way of biological and/or mechanical means. Pumping seawater onto the ice cap of Eastern Antarctica. Stimulating growth of small life forms in the ocean that would then die and take their carbon to the seafloor ? this has been mentioned as a possibility, but it’s widely regarded as potentially dangerous for ocean ecologies. Still, it might be tested on small scales, even used on small scales, which would reduce its power to help but also its power to harm.

(16) RETRO TECH. How we know it’s the 21st century: “Town dusts off typewriters after cyber-attack”. Remember all those post-holocaust stories of reviving old tech? (But is anybody still making ribbons?)

Government workers in a borough of Alaska have turned to typewriters to do their jobs, after ransomware infected their computer systems.

A spokeswoman for Matanuska-Susitna said the malware had encrypted its email server, internal systems and disaster recovery servers.

She said staff had “resourcefully” dusted off typewriters and were writing receipts by hand.

The borough is in the process of rebuilding its systems.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, StephenfromOttawa, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Bill “Beamjockey” Higgins, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lisa Goldstein.]

Pixel Scroll 5/24/18 Filenheit 770

(1) LEAVE OF ABSENCE FOR FANX’S BRANDENBURG. Salt Lake City’s Fox13 news has been told “FanX co-founder Bryan Brandenburg stepping aside amid criticism of handling of harassment complaint”.

Salt Lake City FanX co-founder Bryan Brandenburg is stepping aside in response to criticism of his handling of a report of harassment.

Brandenburg told Fox 13 News Thursday he is taking an “immediate and indefinite” leave of absence.

He said he wants his decision to step down from the convention to show the women who have complained that he has heard their complaints. He said it was a hard decision to leave the company he founded with Dan Farr in 2013, but he would rather step aside so that the fan base can thrive.

Brandenburg told a Good4Utah reporter (ABC-TV):

“If it takes me walking away, to see something survive, it’s my baby. And I would rather see it thrive than to have it go through the trauma that it’s going through now,” said Brandenburg.

Brandenburg said he was saddened by all of the divisiveness this caused within his organization.

He said he didn’t want to distract from FanX which is why he’s taking that extended leave of absence.

Today’s TV interviews indicate a definite break, in contrast to superficial changes shared by con organizers in yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune story “After sexual-harassment controversy, FanX says its founders are stepping back and it will donate to Time’s Up” which had only said Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg were stepping back from social media. (Indeed, Brandenburg’s Facebook page is now offline.) The Tribune  reported further defections among FanX guests and vendors:

With authors, celebrities and a major publishing house saying they will pull out of FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention over its insensitive response to sexual-harassment accusations, organizers say they will donate an unspecified amount to the Time’s Up campaign and reduce the public role of co-founders Bryan Brandenburg and Dan Farr.

Brandenburg set off a firestorm on social media this week by posting about best-selling Utah author Shannon Hale, who was questioning FanX’s handling of a sexual-harassment accusation against Utah author Richard Paul Evans.

Without contacting Hale, FanX social media manager Manda Bull posted Tuesday that the convention was inviting her to join a new committee to improve its recently revised anti-harassment policy. The author said Wednesday she’s not interested.

…Since Monday’s dust-up, two celebrities booked for FanX — Lindsay Jones and Arryn Zech, voice actors on the popular anime-style web series “RWBY” — have canceled their appearances. Several authors, showing solidarity with Hale, also have said they will skip the convention.

On Tuesday, one of Utah’s biggest publishing houses — Shadow Mountain Publishing, an imprint run by LDS Church-owned Deseret Book — ended its association with FanX.

…It was the Shadow Mountain booth where, according to a complaint filed with event organizers, Evans harassed a woman at last September’s convention. The woman told FanX in a written account that Evans “touched me several times and went so far as to kiss my cheek. I had never met him before … but he made me very uncomfortable and even said, ‘You’re so pretty’ after he touched me, as though he couldn’t help himself.”

In an interview that aired Tuesday on KUTV-Channel 2, Evans told reporter Chris Jones that “there is a war on men, and that men — white men in particular — are under attack, oppressed by a changing culture, victims of an extremist feminist agenda.” Evans compared the plight of white men in America to “Jews in Nazi Germany.”

(2) EYE PROBLEM. Larry Niven will miss Balticon 52, where he was scheduled to be Author Special Guest. The convention announced the news on its website

Larry Niven will be unable to attend Balticon this year:

We are sorry to report that at the last minute Larry Niven developed a problem that will prevent him from traveling to Baltimore and attending Balticon 52. He suffered a minor complication from a recent eye procedure and lthough is readily reparable it needs to be fixed soon and will require a week or so of bed rest. Riding in a pressurized aircraft is not a good plan at the moment as it could cause his retinas to go all retrograde. He sends his regrets, and we send our best wishes for a speedy recovery.

(3) PACKET IS COMING. Worldcon 76 knows you’re waiting: “Hugo Voter Packet News”.

The Worldcon 76 Hugo Team are working on testing the Hugo Voter Packet and expect to have it online shortly, within the next few days.

The Hugo Voter Packet is a collection of finalist works for the 2018 Hugo Awards and 1943 Retrospective Hugo Awards, made available to members of Worldcon 76 to better allow voters to make their decisions when voting on the Hugo Awards. Finalists’ works that appear in the Hugo Award Packet appear through the courtesy of the finalists, publishers, and rights-holders. Not all finalists will be in the Packet.

(4) COPYEDITOR’S CORNER. Is it just me? I find the wording of this headline troubling. It probably wasn’t written by the author of the article itself who knows how to make her points.

For decades, the field of fantasy books was dominated by white men penning tales about dwarfs, elves, and other Norse-based mythology. Today, that’s changing as diverse writers are bringing fresh voices to the field, incorporating the myths and legends of cultures around the world. “People have been trying to do this for decades,” says author Tomi Adeyemi. “It’s just that enough people have broken down the doors over the decades that we’re where we are now.” Certainly, speculative fiction writers since at least Octavia Butler, the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur Grant, have looked beyond Europe for inspiration. But no longer can they be dismissed as niche. From the $1 billion-plus box-office take of “Black Panther,” directed by Ryan Coogler, to the success of Ms. Adeyemi’s breakout debut, “Children of Blood and Bone,” audiences and readers are flocking to well-drawn worlds inspired by African and Asian countries. As one science fiction professor says, “We are not the field that thinks that what white men say is the only way to say things.”

(5) SALVAGE. When Luke Skywalker destroyed the Death Star, did you think the whole thing vanished into its component atoms? Not so! Cnet brings word: “Chunk of original Star Wars Death Star goes for sale on eBay”

…Get started on your very own Death Star by picking up a prop piece of the original ship from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope on eBay.

…Most of the pieces ended up in a landfill, but an anonymous former ILM employee grabbed this particular panel and kept it safe for decades.

… The panel measures nearly 24 inches (61 centimeters) long and “every inch of the piece has complex modeling used to create the raised elevations and valleys of the Death Star.”

The eBay auction from Hollywood Memorabilia on Thursday, timed to coincide with the weekend release of the Han Solo origin movie Solo: A Star Wars Story. The Death Star chunk is expected to bring six figures in US dollars.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 24, 2008 — The sci-fi musical Christmas On Mars premiered.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian discovered evolution in action at Non Sequitur.

(8) CONVENTION TOOL. A feature at this year’s Confab —

(9) DOWN TO THE WIRE. One of Minnesota’s best-known conventions announced they are being squeezed in hotel negotiations and haven’t secured the DoubleTree Hotel for this July’s con, although they hope to. Lawyers are at work: “CONvergence 2018 Timing Update—Please Bear With Us”.

Dear CONvergence Members,

We wanted to make you aware of some ongoing negotiations regarding this year’s convention. Over the past year, the Board has been in conversation with the DoubleTree Hotel regarding the arrangements and logistics for CONvergence 2018. The hotel has put forth several demands regarding the practices and procedures of the convention. The Board has been negotiating with the DoubleTree regarding which demands we feel are reasonable and which are not. The Board’s main objective is to preserve and provide the best experience for our members.

Unfortunately, these negotiations have gone on longer than we had hoped and have not yet reached resolution. We do currently anticipate being able to hold this year’s convention on time, but must resolve these outstanding issues first. Because of these negotiations, we’ve had to delay some of our normal processes, including room reservations. We are working hard to bring everything to resolution as soon as possible and will keep you updated as quickly as we can, but due to the nature of the negotiations and on advice of counsel we can’t discuss in full detail. We appreciate your understanding.

For now, let’s continue to build those costumes, launch those campaigns, and get ready for the 20th year of CONvergence!

(10) GRRM MOVIE PROJECT ANNOUNCED. “George R.R. Martin’s ‘The Ice Dragon’ to Get the Animated Movie Treatment”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Martin’s children’s fantasy novel, The Ice Dragon, has been picked up by Warner Animation Group to be adapted for the big screen, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

The writer will be actively involved with the project, acting as a producer. There is even a possibility he will take a crack at penning the script, although that is still to be determined (and will undoubtedly scare GoT fans who are awaiting him to finish the latest, long-in-the-works and who knows when it will come out novel).

(11) THE EXISTENCE OF YOUR BANE. Gizmodo’s take on this invention begins: “Hello, You’ve Reached Gotham’s Reckoning. How May I Direct Your Call?”

How many times has this happened to you? You’re trying to organize the destruction of a major metropolitan area and the overthrow of a system you view as irredeemably corrupt, but you keep having to step out of the office to take a call. That problem is no more thanks to Bloxvox, the voice muffling muzzle that lets you plot to fulfill Ra’s al Ghul’s destiny from the comfort of your desk.

The actual item is a “voice privacy tool” that’s supposed to let you make private phone calls in public place.

A new Kickstarter seeks money to develop Bloxvox — a Bane-like mask that’s supposed to let you make private phone calls in public places (think open-plan offices, airports, etc.). At this writing, the Kickstarter is approaching $2000 out of a $25,000 goal; that amount raised from a mere 15 backers. The device allows you to insert the microphone part of your earbuds into the mask, providing some level of voice muffling for your office mates (or the other people in the coffee shop or what have you) but none for the microphone. A head strap holds the mask in place while a hole in the front “allows you to breathe, while letting minimal sound escape.” A soft seal around your mouth is said to “[create] a comfortable fit and voice-blocking seal against your face.”

(12) WATCHMEN CASTING. Here are the players – but who they’re going to play is still a secret: “‘Watchmen’: Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson to Star in Damon Lindelof’s HBO Pilot”.

Watchmen, Damon Lindelof and HBO have announced the star-studded cast of the drama pilot take on Alan Moore’s beloved comic series.

The Leftovers grad Regina King will reunite with Lindelof on the HBO pilot and lead a cast that includes Don Johnson (Miami Vice), Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Louis Gossett Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman), Adelaide Clemens (Rectify) and Andrew Howard (Hatfields & McCoys).

Details about their respective characters are being kept under wraps.

(13) HE’S WHO? You can watch Dr. Michael Keaton’s complete Kent State University commencement address, or skip ahead to the genre-related peroration at about the 18:00 mark.

(14) NOT JUST HANGING AROUND. A teenager dressed as Spider-man, dropped out of a window upside down, and asked his girlfriend out to the prom. Insider says “It’s the most extra thing we’ve seen today”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, JJ, Steven H Silver, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew, David Doering, Chip Hitchcock, David Doering, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 2/9/18 Pixel, Pixel, Scrolling Bright, On The Servers Through The Night

(1) THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE. Evil Mad Scientist has released downloadable “Evil Mad Scientist Valentines: 2018”.

This year’s set features parallel lines, friction, and activation energy:

What could be more romantic than telling someone that the second derivative of your potential energy is at its minimum when you’re around them?

Evil Mad Scientist has been doing this for awhile:

You can download the full set here, which includes all 36 designs from all six years (a 1.6 MB PDF document).

(2) WHERE APES HAVE GONE BEFORE. There will be a “50 Years of Planet of the Apes Exhibit and Film Retrospective” at the University of Southern California in LA through May 13.

The USC School of Cinematic Arts has partnered with 20th Century Fox Film to host an exclusive exhibit and retrospective celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Planet of the Apes franchise titled 50 Years of Planet of the Apes.

A vast collection of props, costumes, photos, posters and artwork from across all iterations of the longstanding franchise will be on display in the Hugh Hefner Exhibition Hall at USC this spring. The exhibit will be available to visit as a work-in-progress from January 26th – February 8th and all final displays will be open from February 9th through May 13th, 2018. A series of panels and screenings will complement the exhibit, including all feature films from the Planet of the Apes universe.

The exhibit is in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the 1968 release of the first Planet of the Apes film, the original installment of the still expanding franchise that now includes four sequels, a TV series, an animated series, comic books, merchandise, and 20th Century Fox Film’s highly successful prequel film series Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and War for the Planet of the Apes.

There is a schedule of associated film screenings at the link.

(3) ROOSTING. Watch the two Falcon Heavy boosters come booming back to Earth in this video at digg: “Seriously Cool Amateur Footage Of The Simultaneous Falcon Heavy Booster Landing”.

(4) ROASTING. Falcon Heavy’s third booster didn’t make it home intact: “SpaceX confirms it lost the center core of the Falcon Heavy”.

What’s more, it landed the two flanking boosters in perfect synchronized formation. But the fate of the core booster was unclear; now it appears that the center booster, which was supposed to land on a drone ship, was lost.

Elon Musk said on a conference call with reporters that the launch “seems to have gone as well as one could have hoped with the exception of center core. The center core obviously didn’t land on the drone ship” and he said that “we’re looking at the issue.” Musk says that the core ran out of propellant, which kept the core from being able to slow down as much as it needed for landing. Because of that, the core apparently hit the water at 300MPH, and it was about 100 meters from the ship. “It was enough to take out two thrusters and shower the deck with shrapnel,” Musk said. That should be worth seeing on video: “We have the video,” Musk confirmed, “it sounds like some pretty fun footage… if the cameras didn’t get blown up as well.”

(5) SFWA AUCTION. Steven H Silver tells about a SFWA fundraiser:

Did you miss our charity auctions in December? Good news! SFWA will be auctioning off five new items every month on Ebay. Available items in February include an autographed uncorrected proof copy of Fevre Dream by George RR Martin, uncorrected proof  13th Annual Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (signed by Ellen Datlow), and a rare signed copy of This Island Earth by Raymond F. Jones.

The bidding began on February 5th and will run through February 12: Ebay.com/usr/sfwa65

All auction proceeds will be earmarked for the SFWA Givers Fund which is used to disperse grants to deserving applicants, along with bolstering the existing Emergency Medical (EMF) and Legal Funds.

For more information about our funds and what they support, please visit sfwa.org/donate. If you have items you would like to donate for future SFWA Charity Auction fundraisers, please contact Steven H Silver at steven.silver@sfwa.org for more information.

Use this search to find items.

(6) BOSKONE PROGRAM. Look forward to the panels and participants discussing “Black Science Fiction at Boskone”, February 16-18 in Boston.

This year Boskone features a program with a strong selection of panels and discussions dedicated to black science fiction authors, publishers, and fans. Our program includes everything from black publishers and Afrofuturism to works by authors such as Octavia Butler, science panels that include the future of medicine, writing discussions that tackle young adult fiction, and much, much more!

Here’s a quick list of some of our program items with an emphasis on black science fiction and the authors who will be joining us from across the country. For the full set of program items, view the Boskone 55 program….

(7) VOLCANO IN TOWSON. Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast visits with Norman Prentiss to sample the volcano shrimp at a Chinese restaurant in Towson, MD.

And who is this episode’s guest? Why, it’s Norman Prentiss, who won the 2010 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Long Fiction for Invisible Fences, and the 2009 Stoker for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction for “In the Porches of My Ears.” His powerful, personal fiction has been reprinted in both Best Horror of the Year and The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, and his poetry has appeared in Writer Online, Southern Poetry Review, and A Sea of Alone: Poems for Alfred Hitchcock.

 

Norman Prentiss

We discussed the day he wowed the other kids on his school playground by reading them Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the movies a Catholic Church newsletter’s warnings made him want to see even more, the supernatural superhero comic that led to a lawsuit against Harlan Ellison, the upside and (surprising) downside of having won a $35,000 college writing prize, how the freebies he got at a Horrorfind convention goosed him to start writing fiction again, why he wrote the last part of his novel Odd Adventures with Your Other Father first, how he’s been able to collaborate with other authors without killing them, what can be taught about writing and what can only be learned, why he ended up writing horror instead of science fiction, and much, much more.

(8) WONDER ANNUAL POWERS, ACTIVATE! Rich Horton announced the contents of
The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2018 Edition so Jason went to work at Featured Futures and finished his “Collated Contents of the Big Year’s Bests (2017 Stories, with Links!)”

Last year, I collated and linked to the webzine stories picked by Clarke, Dozois, Horton, and Strahan for their annuals. This year, I’ve collated all the selections. (I’ve also noted whether I’ve read them and, if so, whether they got an honorable mention, a recommendation, or were recommendations which made my Web’s Best Science Fiction or Web’s Best Fantasy.)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born February 9, 1960 – Laura Frankos

(10) FRANKOS. Steven H Silver celebrated Frankos at Black Gate with “Birthday Reviews: Laura Frankos’s ‘A Late Symmer Night’s Battle’”.

… When a follow-up attack of reremice occur, the fairies must question what they are fighting for and what makes a race worthwhile. While Frankos could have told the story with tremendous amounts of gravitas, the venue for its publication was looking for more lighthearted fare and she managed to deliver, sprinkling her tale with wonderful puns….

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY UNIVERSE. The BBC has the snapshot: “Marvel Cinematic Universe celebrates its 10th birthday with an epic cast photo”.

Over the past decade Marvel has brought us 18 films, starting with Iron Man in 2008 and including Thor, The Avengers and Captain America.

The class photo of 76 actors appeared on Twitter on Thursday.

It includes major players in the films like Robert Downey Jr, Vin Diesel, Scarlett Johansson and Letitia Wright.

The picture was shortly followed by a behind the scenes video.

It begins with Thor’s Chris Hemsworth saying: “It was sort of like being at the Academy Awards or something, every person had been in one or all of my favourite films.”

 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy asks, “Is Gumby genre? Perhaps so…” — The Flying McCoys.
  • And Mike learned from  Basic Instructions, “If you wish to be an evil Emperor, do not waste time taunting your nemesis. Especially in falsetto.”
  • Cath found another cat/book/humor connection in today’s Breaking Cat News.
  • Cath also knows I need proofreading advice —

(13) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. Is the work of comic book colorists inherently apolitical?

(14) MORE ON ACKERMAN. Adam-Troy Castro heard about Forrest J Ackerman’s behavior in 1997:

Yes, I knew about Forry Ackerman twenty years ago.

I was part of the committee that gave him the Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award. I need you to know that I was outvoted. We were giving two awards that year and the Ackerman partisans were given what they wanted in order for those who were against the citation to be given what they wanted. Even so, the hell that went on behind the scenes was intense and lasted for months after the official announcement was made. But yes, one of the things that came up during the hellish brouhaha that followed was that he had, quote, “a house full of child pornography.”

The months of invective that went on, back and forth, behind the scenes, amounted to the worst period of my writing career….

(15) WET WORK. Beneath the waters of the Gulf: “Long-Buried Ice Age Forest Offers Climate Change Clues”.

Scientists say it’s a remarkable discovery.

“The underwater forest is like the Garden of Eden underwater,” says Christine DeLong, a paleo-climatologist at Louisiana State University. She says tests date the forest to be between 50,000 and 70,000 years old.

“It’s a huge deal,” DeLong says. “Because here we have this like perfectly preserved time capsule of an ice age forest.”

(16) LIGHTEN UP. Thanks to French scientists and a NASA probe, “Secrets of solar flares are unlocked”.

Flares can occur on their own, or be accompanied by powerful eruptions of plasma (charged gas) from the Sun.

If charged particles from these eruptions reach Earth, they can create havoc with infrastructure, such as satellite systems and power grids.

Now, researchers in France say the interaction of distinct magnetic structures controls these outbursts from our star.

Generally speaking, solar eruptions are caused by a sudden, violent rearrangement of the Sun’s magnetic field.

At a deeper level, the process is controlled by two types of structures that form in the magnetic field of the Sun: ropes and cages.

The rope is confined within the magnetic cage. If the cage is strong, it can contain the rope’s contortions, but when the cage is weak, an eruption can take place.

(17) WATER SIGN. Sydney has a unique solution to trucks trying to get into tunnels they’re too tall for: a water wall as a screen for a giant projected STOP sign. (Video at the link.) “That will stop them in their tracks! Virtual barrier made from curtain of water halts lorries from driving through too small tunnels”.

They had tried flashing signs, neon signs and staggered signs.

But when lorry drivers continued to keep on driving their over-sized trucks though low tunnels, Australian authorities took the extreme measure of warning drivers with water signs.

Drivers are greeted with a curtain of water falling from the entrance of tunnels with a huge ‘stop’ sign projected on to them….

Laservision said that the Sydney Harbour Tunnel has experienced more than 10,000 incidents of vehicles hitting the structure since it opened.

The damage caused by too large vehicles crashing into the overhead of the tunnel affected up to 12,000 motorists at peak time, the company said.

There’s also this TV clip of the sign in action –

And the manufacturer’s writeup: “Activated 8 times in 8 weeks, with 100% success!”

(18) BUGEYED. “What Scientists Learned From Putting 3-D Glasses on Praying Mantises”: The Atlantic has the story.

One might assume that any animal with two forward-facing eyes would automatically have stereopsis, but that’s not true. It’s a sophisticated skill that requires a lot of processing power and a complex network of neurons—one that not every animal can afford to build. Indeed, after stereopsis was first confirmed in humans in 1838, it took 132 years for scientists to show that other species had the same ability. Macaque monkeys were the first confirmed member of the stereopsis club, but they were soon joined by cats, horses, sheep, owls, falcons, toads—and praying mantises. In the 1980s, Samuel Rossel placed prisms in front of these insects to show that they do triangulate the images from both eyes to catch their prey.

When Jenny Read, from Newcastle University, first read about this, she was amazed. How could an insect pull off such a complicated trick with a brain that contains just 1 million neurons? (For comparison, our brains have 100,000 times that number.) To find out, she and Nityananda set up their mantis 3-D cinemas….

They presented the insects with screens full of black and white dots, with a slightly different pattern projected to each eye. Against these backgrounds, a small circle of dots—a target—would slowly spiral inward from the outside. “It’s meant to be like a little beetle moving against a background,” says Read.

By tweaking the dots, the team could change how far away this target would appear to the watching mantises. And they found that the insects would start to attack the target when it seemed to get within striking distance. Clearly, the insects have stereopsis.

But their stereopsis is not our stereopsis. We use brightness as a cue to align and compare the images that are perceived by our two eyes. Scientists can confirm this by presenting one eye with an image that’s a negative of the other—that has black dots where the other has white ones, and vice versa. “For us, that’s incredibly disruptive. We really can’t match up the images anymore, so our stereopsis falls apart,” says Read. “But the mantises are completely unfazed.” Brightness clearly doesn’t matter to them.

(19) THUMBRUNNERS. I’m not sure “parts is parts” when they’re human — “Special Report: U.S. body brokers supply world with torsos, limbs and heads”.

Demand for body parts from America — torsos, knees and heads — is high in countries where religious traditions or laws prohibit the dissection of the dead. Unlike many developed nations, the United States largely does not regulate the sale of donated body parts, allowing entrepreneurs such as MedCure to expand exports rapidly during the last decade.

No other nation has an industry that can provide as convenient and reliable a supply of body parts.

(Larry Niven once said he preferred Alexei Panshin’s “thumbrunners,” but having been beaten to the term, he’d come up with his alternative, “organleggers.”)

(20) SPACE MOUNTAIN. You get a glimpse inside the illusion created by a popular Disneyland attraction in this Orange County Register piece: “Space Mountain fan gets the roller coaster’s 87-year-old designer to ride it one last time at Disneyland”

How fast do you think you’re traveling when you’re in the rockets on Space Mountain?

Think of the speed of a car on the freeway. Is Space Mountain faster than that? Slower? Is it 100 miles per hour, like Bill Watkins has heard people telling each other?

Watkins contemplated the speed question for years in the early- to mid-1970s. He built his first Space Mountain at Walt Disney World in Florida. But it was bigger – a 300-ft. circle on two tracks. When the Disneyland Space Mountain opened in 1977, Watkins had completed what he always saw as a giant math problem.

Space Mountain is a gravity coaster. Unlike the Matterhorn, which relies on thrusters to help move its vehicles forward, Space Mountain simply starts up and goes down. Technically, it’s 75 seconds of free fall.

At its maximum speed (which can vary slightly depending on the combined weight of the riders) the car you’re riding in Space Mountain is traveling about 40 feet per second.

That’s 27.27 miles per hour.

That seems really slow.

But Watkins somehow made it just right. More than 250 million people have ridden Space Mountain since it opened. And while it’s unclear if it’s the best – Disneyland’s public relations department would only say that Space Mountain is, according to guests, “a top 10 attraction” – how many are better?

It is certainly arguable that Bill Watkins created the most popular roller coaster of all time.

“I seldom meet anyone who hasn’t ridden it,” he said.

(21) BEST PRO ARTIST RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank’s  “2018 Professional Artists” page is designed —

To help people make nominations for the 2018 Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist, we have set up a “lightbox” system to let fans quickly flip through the works of over 113 artists listed below and to set aside the ones they particularly liked.

Greg Hullender says —

This is aimed at helping people pick artists to nominate, based on covers for magazines and for books containing original novels or anthologies. We don’t have pictures for reprints.

Where possible, we have links to the artists’ portfolios, so readers can get a broader idea of any particular artist’s work. To simplify that a bit, for eligible artists who had just a few works published in 2017 we’ve padded their list of pictures with their art from earlier years. (They’re marked by date for the benefit of those who only want to see works published in 2017.)

(22) ROBOTECH RETURNS. Titan Comics will publish a new graphic novel based on the classic Robotech saga.

A mysterious ship crashes on a remote island… 10 years later, the ship’s ‘Robotechnology’ has helped humanity advance its own tech. But danger looms from the skies and an epic adventure is set to begin…

The world-famous, fan-favorite animated epic returns to comics with a classic transforming-jetfighters-versus-giant-aliens adventure! Written by Brian Wood (Star Wars, Briggs Land, X-Men), with art from Marco Turini (Assassin’s Creed) and colorist Marco Lesko! Return to the fan-favorite Macross Saga that began the classic Robotech franchise, as hotshot Veritech pilot Roy Fokker and skilled rookie Rick Hunter are pulled into an intergalactic war when the Earth is invaded by the insidious Zentraedi! Whether you’ve seen the classic cartoon to the point you can quote every episode, or whether you’ve never experienced Robotech before, this graphic novel collection is for you!

 

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Scott Edelman, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cath, Andrew Porter, Will R., David K.M. Klaus, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day evilrooster.]

Pixel Scroll 11/17/17 No, I’m Never Gonna Tick  A Box, Guilty Scrolls Have Got No Pixels

(1) MARVEL CHOPS TOP. Newsweek reports “Marvel’s New Global-Minded Chief C.B. Cebulski Replaces Controversial Axel Alonso”.

Marvel Entertainment announced Friday that it has a new Editor in Chief. C.B. Cebulski is a comic book editor who has worked in Marvel’s global division for more than 15 years. The move comes as Marvel shows greater commitment to diversity in its superheroes, and as it eyes readership that reaches all over the globe.

The shakeup comes amid lagging sales for many of Marvel’s titles, which outgoing EIC Axel Alonso implied was due to the company’s push for ethnically diverse superheroes.

… At a retail summit last year, Marvel’s Vice President of Sales David Gabriel told attendees that the sales slump was due to updated versions of classic characters: a mixed-race Spider-Man, an Asian Hulk, a female Thor. Alonso was part of the discussion and seemingly agreed, saying Marvel had gotten too political. “We’ve gone through a period where in pop culture as a whole (and you guys notice that as much as we do), there’s been this massive discussion about inclusion and diversity,” he said. “But Marvel is not about politics.”

Cebulski, on the other hand, has always been entrenched in Marvel’s attempts to include heroes of diverse backgrounds. He began his career in manga, and worked on the Marvel Mangaverse in the early 2000s. He also worked on the Runaways spin-off Loners, overseeing Nico Minoru’s storyline in the series Mystic Arcana.

(2) CURSED. Camestros Felapton feels there’s a paranormal explanation behind these cinematic disappointments: “Review: Justice League The Curse of Zak Snyder”.

I was apprehensive walking into the cinema – I was out of town, with nothing to do but either stare at my feet in a soulless hotel room or visit the near by shopping mall with its requisite and equally soulless multiplex.

Not many people know that the witch character from the Suicide Squad movie cursed the DC movies with a hex so powerful that it ripples back in time and ruined the Green Lantern movie. Only Wonder Woman and Lego Batman have been strong enough to escape the curse.

So I knew I was paying money to see a film that unnatural powers had already undermined. Of the Zak Snyder films I have seen I only have affection for Legends of the Guardians – The Owls of Ga’hoole, I think it also be the only one of his films that feels like a complete narrative.

Yet Justice League is NOT terrible – don’t get me wrong it isn’t actually good but it’s not Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad….

(3) LEAGUE LUKEWARM. NPR’s Chris Klimek says: “‘Justice League’ Is Just OK”:

But the stuff that works in Justice League, if only just, bears [Whedon’s] stamp. It also sticks out from the material that Snyder started shooting 19 months ago like strapping Clark Kent in a newsroom full of pasty, soft-bellied bloggers.

(4) SOMETHING ROTTEN. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik, in “Rotten Tomatoes under fire for timing of ‘Justice League’ review”, discusses the fire directed at Rotten Tomatoes after they delayed the rating (which was 43 percent) for Justice League for 24 hours, allegedly because Time Warner owns 30 percent of the site and Comcast owns 70 which would lead to Rotten Tomatoes giving Warner and Universal releases better treatment.

More than just a kerfuffle over one superhero movie, however, the incident raises larger questions about the relationship between reviewers and the public, the editorial objectivity of aggregators and how much studios should be empowered to control the pre-release messaging of their films.

“I think we need more transparency and equality on Rotten Tomatoes,” said Guy Lodge, a critic who writes for Variety. “An aggregation site should practice absolute objectivity. You mix Time Warner into it,” he added, “and it becomes very confusing.” A WB spokeswoman declined to provide a comment for this article.

(5) A RED S. Here’s a link to the catalog for Profiles in History’s Superman auction, which happens December 19.

An alien named Kal-El from the destroyed planet Krypton was sent to Earth and raised as Clark Kent by human foster parents. As an adult, he became the protector of Earth while Clark Kent worked as a mild-mannered reporter for The Daily Planet newspaper in Metropolis.  After several failed attempts to find a viable publisher for their story, artist Joe Shuster and writer Jerry Siegel’s creation hit the big time when it was chosen as the cover feature for Action Comics #1 in June 1938 by National Allied Publications (the precursor of DC Comics).  Thus marked the genesis of Superman and the superhero genre, forever changing popular culture. We are now on the cusp of the 80th anniversary of his colossal debut.

(6) EATING THE FANTASTIC. “Nibble frozen cranberries with Amal El-Mohtar” in Episode 52 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast:

Amal El-Mohtar

It’s time to say farewell to Helsinki—and hello to award-winning writer Amal El-Mohtar—in the final episode of Eating the Fantastic recorded during Worldcon 75. Our meal took place a mere 36 hours after she’d won this year’s Best Short Story Hugo Award for “Seasons of Glass and Iron,” for which she’d also won a Nebula Award earlier in the year.

We chose one of the city’s oldest seafood restaurants for our lunch—Sea Horse, which has been in operation since 1934. And it’s lasted that long for a good reason! We enjoyed the food and the ambiance so much I returned a few days later for dinner with my wife during our post-Worldcon stay.

Amal’s stories and poems have appeared in magazines such as Lightspeed, Uncanny, Strange Horizons, and Apex. Her stories “The Green Book” and “Madeleine” were finalists for the Nebula Award in 2011 and 2015 respectively, and “The Truth About Owls” won the Locus Award in 2015. She won the Rhysling award for Best Short Poem in 2009, 2011 and 2014, and in 2012 received the Richard Jefferies Poetry Prize.

We discussed the importance of female friendship, the first poem she wrote at age 6 1/2 (which you’ll hear her recite), how Charles de Lint helped her get her first bookstore job, the importance of welcoming newcomers into the tent of science fiction and fantasy, what she learned about empathy from Nalo Hopkinson, the only time she ever cosplayed, which book made her a writer, why Storm is her favorite member of the X-Men, the delicious magic of honey, the difficulties of reviewing books in a field where everybody knows everybody, and much more.

(7) AUDIO TORTURE. It’s beginning to look a lot like breakfast, everywhere we go.

(8) A PLEASURE. Elsewhere in the world Cheryl Morgan found easy listening: “M. John Harrison in Bath”.

Last night I took myself into Bath where M. John Harrison was reading from his latest collection, the wonderfully titled You Should Come With Me Now. The book is a mixture of short stories and flash fiction, and shows that Mike has lost none of his sentence-crafting skill, nor his biting wit.

The centerpiece of the reading was the magnificent “Psychoarchaeology”, inspired by the discovery of the (alleged) burial of Richard III under a car park. The story is a meditation on the heritage industry, and is both cutting and hilarious.

There’s always a rights issue. Where does the latest Tudor belong? Does he belong where he was found? Or whence he came? Who gets the brown sign? One wrong decision and York won’t talk to Leicester, the knives are out again after hundreds of years of peace. Contracts torn up, the industry at war with itself, we all know where that can lead: diminished footfall in the visitor centres. No one wants to see that.

(9) CHECKING OUT. Open Culture tells how “’Library Extension’ Helps You Find Books At Your Local Library While You Shop for Books Online”.

The concept beyond “Library Extension” is simple. As you browse books and e-books websites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Goodreads, the Library Extension will check the online catalog of your local library and see whether the book you’re interested in happens to be available at your local library. The browser extension currently works on Chrome. Firefox is coming soon. And the browser extension currently has access to data from 4000 local libraries and library systems.

 

(10) SDI. Thrillist revisits “How 2 Sci-Fi Writers Fueled a U.S. President’s Wild Quest to Weaponize Space”.

Larry Niven had the mind for space. An award-winning and best-selling author, his first installment of the Ringworld series — a futuristic and sometimes tongue-in-cheek saga about a massive space station that orbits a distant star as an artificial planet — was considered an instant classic. The book still remains one of the most popular of the several dozen he’s published, and he continues to flesh out the series.

But in 1980, Niven took a career detour. Soon after the election, the author hosted a group of colleagues for a meeting at his home to discuss President-elect Reagan’s stance on space. The “Citizens’ Advisory Council on National Space Policy” included mostly right-leaning military figures, ex-astronauts, scientists, plus a number of Niven’s science-fiction writer contemporaries. The group had the backing of the American Astronautical Society and the L-5 Society, both of which hoped to chart the course of the United States’ space interests over the next two decades, with the more immediate goal of building its recommendations into Reagan’s official policies.

In attendance was Jerry Pournelle, Niven’s co-author on both the 1974 book The Mote in God’s Eye — about a worst-case-scenario alien invasion — and 1977’s Lucifer’s Hammer — about a comet impact that creates widespread anarchy. A self-described centrist — but only in terms of his own elaborate political mapping system, the Pournelle Axes — Pournelle believed in a robust, technocratic military state wedged between the New Left and conservative factions of government.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 17, 1979 Salem’s Lot premiered on TV.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

John King Tarpinian learned about interior design Batman-style on Brevity.

(13) MANY DOLLARS. The BBC says San Diego Comic-Con has a big handle: “Comic book success: The rise of the Comic-Con festival”.

From a gathering of less than 300 people in 1970, the event has morphed into an annual, multi-day media bonanza that draws major corporate sponsors, movie studios and more than 150,000 people.

The event made more than $17m in revenue in 2015, according to the most recent tax filing available online, and it has spawned similar festivals in cities around the world.

“San Diego’s growth has been mind-boggling,” says author John Jackson Miller, who also owns Comichron, which tracks sales of comic books.

Mr Miller went to San Diego for the first time in the early 1990s, when it still drew less than 40,000 people.

(14) FOR WHICH TWITTER WAS MADE. Sam Sykes and Chuck Wendig are at it again. The thread starts here.

(15) MOSKOWITZ. Hal W. Hall’s Sam Moskowitz: A Bibliography and Guide is available as a free download online from Texas A&M University. The sketch of Sam Moskowitz on the cover is by Frank R. Paul.

A comprehensive bibliography of the writings of Sam Moskowitz. Sam Moskowitz was a fixture in science fiction, from near the beginning to the present day. He was a fan, editor, author, historian, critic, WorldCon organizer, and cheerleader for the science fiction field. He was a prolific author of books, articles and letters. His books are readily available in libraries or for sale. The same cannot be said of many of his articles, and certainly not of his letters. Many of the articles and letters appeared in science fiction pulps and in fanzines. Some of the fanzines were quite professional in appearance, content and editing, and served a valuable service to science fiction scholarship in preserving much of the early history of science fiction. The writings of Sam Moskowitz are an important part of that historical archive. Eric Davin notes that “Sam Moskowitz saw himself as the science fiction historian of record.” It is a good description. He researched and recorded much about the beginnings of science fiction.  Some items remain the only resource available on a particular person or topic. An accurate scholarly judgment of the historical and critical output of Moskowitz remains to be done.

(16) QUACKS ME UP.

(17) UNACQUIRED TASTE. Glenn Garvin of Reason.com reviews the Hulu series “Future Man,” in “Future Man is Gleefully Sophomoric, And That’s Part of Its Charm,” where he notes that the series, written and produced by the people who brought you the immortal masterpiece Sausage Party, which means it’s full of the sophomoric jokes teenage boys like, with many jabs at video gamers in general and The Last Starfighter in particular.

The two warriors who escape from the game, Tiger (Eliza Coupe, Quantico) and Wolf (Derek Wilson, Preacher), come from a future where the veneer of civilization has been pretty much worn away from everything, and their sanguinary work habits—Wolf’s favorite plan is “Rip his fucking dick off!”—supply much of Future Man‘s staple humor. (Bodily effluents, emitted in always surprising but ever disgusting ways, are pretty much the rest.)

But it’s hard to resist a show a show that so relentlessly mocks its own origins. Future Man is a tapestry of withering allusions to everything from The Terminator movies to the Mortal Kombat video games (can you guess which organ gets ripped out of losing contestants?) to Animal House.

(18) SAY CHEESE. “The Largest Digital Camera In The World Takes Shape”NPR has the story. “It will go on a giant telescope taking shape in Chile called the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope.”

LSST is different from most large telescopes. Instead of staring at a tiny patch of the sky and taking essentially one snapshot in time, LSST will take a panorama of every part of the sky…and it will do so over and over and over. The idea is to see what’s moving or changing in the heavens.

“That could be everything from asteroids, to variable stars, to supernova, to maybe new phenomenon that we don’t know about yet,” says Aaron Roodman, a physicist at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Roodman is the scientist in charge of the integration and testing of the camera.

(19) SILENT MOVIE THEATER. The future of a LA landmark is in doubt, as Variety says “Cinefamily to Permanently Shut Down Following Sexual Harassment Scandal”.

Los Angeles independent film venue Cinefamily will permanently shut down and dissolve the board following allegations of sexual misconduct made against some of Cinefamily’s executives in August that led to two resignations from the company.

Silent Movie Theater, Cinefamily’s longtime home, will be closed and renovated by the landlord, while the board will establish a transition team to handle the organization’s financial and legal affairs, according to a statement from the board of directors.

“The damage caused to the organization by the conduct of some and the crippling debt now facing the Cinefamily are, in the Board’s view, irreparable,” the board of directors wrote in a statement.

As previously reported by Variety, Cinefamily temporarily suspended all activities in August amid the scandal where anonymous emails accused Cinefamily leaders of sexual harassment. Executive director and co-founder Hadrian Belove and board member Shadie Elnashai resigned on Aug. 22.

(20) DON’T TREAD ON THESE. Peer treated us to a new Elvis lyric in comments.

Pixelled my blue suede shoes
And I clickboxed a plane
Scrolled down in the land of mounttsundokus
In the middle of the pournelle rain
JRR Tolien won’t you look down on me
Yeah, I got a fifth class ticket
But I’m as blue as a Filer can be
Then I’m scrolling in Comments
Keeping at least ten feet off of the Beale
Scrolling in Comments
But do I really file the way I file?

Read the ghost in the shell
Or Atomic Avenue
Followed up with the water knife
Then I waded right through Borne
Now Mord, they did not see him
And he just hovered ’round his town
But there’s a pretty little shell
Waiting for the hell
Down in the Broken Earth
When I was Scrolling the comments
I was clicking with The box right of the left
Scrolling the comments
But do I really file the way I file?

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “What’s New, Atlas?” on YouTube you can see a Boston Dynamics robot do a somersault.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Hal W. Hall, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories,. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Dian Crayne (1942-2017)

Dian Crayne

Author Dian Crayne, 75, was discovered dead in her Northern California home on October 4 by police making a welfare check at the request of friends after she failed to show up for their book club meeting.

Writing under her maiden name, Dian Girard, she had numerous short stories published in Galaxy, Amazing, and anthologies edited  by Jerry Pournelle and John F. Carr. The Internet SF Database shows her first published story, “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry” appeared in 1974. (There are some author pages that cite a much earlier date, possibly having confused this work with Katherine MacLean’s similarly-titled short story.)

After leaving her career as a technical writing manager for Xerox, Crayne began publishing mystery and sf novels under the pseudonym J.D. Crayne. These included The Cosmic Wheel, the Mark Stoddard mysteries, and the Captain Spycer space operas, which she called her “Silverlock for science fiction,” referencing the well-known literary pastiche by John Myers Myers.

She married Bruce Pelz in 1964. They had one daughter, Cecy. Dian was pregnant when she attended the LASFS 1965 Halloween Party, notorious because while it was in progress an assailant outside fired three shots through the window. No one was struck by the bullets, but Dian was cut by flying debris. As she recalled for File 770:

Yes, I remember that incident VERY well. Bill Rotsler and I were sitting in a window seat, talking, and the bullet went between us. I had wood splinters in my cheek, Bill remarked later that he thought momentarily that for some reason one of my earrings had exploded. (He used to say later on that we had been “under fire together.”) Of course, everyone in the room hit the deck, and I remember calling out to Bruce [Pelz], “Don’t get excited, but I think I’ve been hit.” Only splinters, though.

[At the time] I was pregnant with Cecy and she was born in March of 1966.

As for the location, it was wherever Don Simpson and his house mates were living at the time. Don dug the bullet out of the woodwork and I talked him into giving it to me. Alas, I lost it during one of our moves.

The surmise was that the shooter was one of a small group of people who had tried party-crashing earlier in the evening and been ejected. The police came and took statements, but no one was ever picked up for it.

Bruce and Dian divorced on amicable terms at the end of the decade – and in fact threw a divorce party, with Jack Harness officiating, in 1970 that helped inspire Larry Niven’s “What Can You Say about Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?”

Dian and Chuck Crayne wed on March 5, 1972 and were married for 36 years, ending with Chuck’s death in 2009.

She was one of the many women to whom Robert A. Heinlein dedicated Friday (1982).

I met her in person a few times, including at a FAPA collating party she and Chuck hosted in the Seventies. However, it was only the past few years on Facebook that I really had a chance to enjoy her legendry intelligence, wit, and empathy. It was a privilege, and I will miss her.

[Thanks to Lee Gold for the story.]

Lifetime Positive

First meeting at the original LASFS clubhouse (1973). Jack Harness stands at left, Harlan Ellison in the doorway. Elst Weinstein is seated. Photo by Stan Burns.

[First published in 2002.]

By Mike Glyer: Early in Ian Fleming’s novel Moonraker James Bond is driving at night and spots an ominous neon sign flashing the message HELL IS HERE over and over. He rounds a hillock and once the sign is in full view sees it’s only an advertisement that SUMMER SHELL IS HERE. But I’m sure the Friday night card players would have loved adorning the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society clubhouse with the neon sign James Bond thought he saw in the days when we were obsessed by a game called “Hell’s Bridge.”

Two regulars at the game were Jack Harness and Bruce Pelz, legendary fans who both passed away within the last year, Jack on July 13, 2001 and Bruce on May 9, 2002. Mourning the loss of two of the best-known fans of their generation is appropriate, yet so is joyfully remembering their great humor and colorful personalities. I spent many hours together with them in LASFS activities, often at the card tables. The best moments sounded like this:

FRANK GASPERIK: I bid five.
MIKE FRANK: A man with a long suit.
JACK HARNESS: With a trap in the back.
BRUCE PELZ: I know what kind of opening to give you.
JACK HARNESS: But…but…but…
BRUCE PELZ: You assed for it.
MIKE GLYER: (scribbling furiously) Pun slower!

Hell’s Bridge, never actually called by anything but its first name, preoccupied about a dozen players every Friday evening. The game bears a faint resemblance to bridge in that there is a trick-taking and a trump suit (determined by a cut of the cards.) But every player makes a contract for the number of tricks he expects to take, and the total tricks bid may not equal the number of tricks available (it can be under or over.) Since the onus of that rule generally falls on the last person to bid, the dealer, people constantly refer to the “DDA” – dealer’s disadvantage.

Hell is a comparatively inexpensive game to lose: a bad night would set me back the equivalent of a burger and Coke. Yet playing Hell still inflicted all the intensity and madness of more prestigious games like poker. (At least, I never envisioned Bret Maverick saying, “My daddy always told me ‘Never gamble, stick to Hell’s Bridge.’”)

The legendary LASFS poker games went away in the mid-70s when the hosts of the old Thursday night gatherings gave up in exhaustion and the games weren’t allowed to move into the new clubhouse. Members believed even penny-ante gambling would surely lead to a police raid, whereas poker without betting is even duller than a bar without booze. On the other hand members did allow Hell to be played there because it was tracked with a scoresheet, not played with chips or cash, and not hostage to the potential nightmare of the club’s five-and-dime riverboat gamblers wallowing in their loose change when the LAPD kicked the door and charged in with the vice squad.

As Hell grew in popularity those of us who had an early start in the game profited greatly from the neos who came along and received an expensive education. But time was not on our side. In the good old days, Jack Harness finished cleaning out one table full of players (while the LASFS Board of Directors met in the front room), threw open the door, hollered, “Fresh fish!” and they came running to fill up the next game. All too soon, all the new players became competitive. It got very rugged for all but the best. Even Bruce Pelz and Jack Harness had runs of ill luck that were mercilessly exploited. That produced some mythic bursts of temper. Long has the story been told of the night Pelz, hosting a game at his apartment and doing badly, ripped the leg off his card table and chased the players into the night. Doubt it if you like. I can only testify that I never saw him rip a leg off a card table…

Other legends of the game included Marty Massoglia. He gained fame as “Captain Suicide” during a phase when he started jumping to conclusions about whether he would make his bid on a hand, and when it looked bad to him, he abandoned all pretense of making his bid in order to prevent others from making theirs. Conversely, Mike Shupp’s brief career at the Hell table earned him the nickname of “Robin Hood,” because he would junk his chances to make his own hand in order to sabotage a player he felt had bid too ambitiously.

JACK HARNESS: I don’t want to sit on the right hand of Captain Suicide.
BRUCE PELZ: Then sit on his other hand and we’ll both be out of trouble.

Those of us who frequented LASFS card games in the early 70’s saw that Bruce tracked his wins and losses in a pocket diary. While his memory was famous — thus his nickname, the Elephant – he was also a prolific list-maker and recordkeeper. With the advent of personal computers Bruce was soon keeping track of everyone’s wins and losses. Once accounts were settled for the night, Bruce would take the scoresheets home and enter the data. He assigned everyone a “handle” — real names were not used on the printouts. Years passed and we still expected the place to be raided by the vice squad at any moment.

The players with the cumulative best records were dubbed “The Hell-5 Society.” The top five scorers of the year got first crack at playing in the game held at the Nivens’ New Year’s Eve Party.

Players who were cumulatively in the black were referred to as “lifetime positive.” I think I was about $20 to the good when I stopped playing regularly after 15 years, so what was that, an average winning of slightly more than a buck a year? But as more newcomers came along and joined the minus column, a mystique grew up around anyone who had managed not to give all his money to Pelz and the other sharks.

If (in the parlance of comic collectors) Hell’s Bridge represented the Silver Age of LASFS cardplaying, its Golden Age had been the weekly poker sessions at the Nivens’ house in Brentwood. There was an endless parade of great fannish names through the game (I would like to have played poker against Dick Geis). Those poker games were, in fact, the reason I joined LASFS. Joe Minne lived upstairs in our dorm at USC and said he often went to club meetings and then went over to Larry Niven’s house to play poker.

The first time Joe took a couple of us with him, he turned his ancient Ford T-Bird off Sunset onto a dark side street whose mist-shrouded lamps must have inspired “Of A Foggy Night.” When we got into the house Larry Niven said hello and asked Minne, “Can you vouch for these two?” Insuring the integrity of the poker game was probably the least reason Niven asked for assurance: what mattered was the art collection. His home was like a year-round Worldcon art show, walls covered with huge framed Tim Kirk drawings and Wendy Pini original pastel paintings. The burglar alarm system would be no protection against light-fingered fans pretending to be poker players.

I kept going back and the welcome became warmer. After all, I had the one utterly endearing trait of losing quietly, though I could only afford to lose about $3 and then I was done for the evening. Once I accidentally left with a poker chip in my pocket and endured the embarrassment of calling Larry to confess because I needed to be able to get my dollar back next week. Joe Minne, on the other hand, answered each setback by opening his checkbook and saying, “Ahhhh!” I played at the cheap table, hosted by Fuzzy Pink Niven, and there was also a “blood” table where Larry presided over sharks like Jerry Pournelle, whose skill kept him from ever having to fill out the worn personal check he tossed in when he drew his poker chips to start the night.

A certain machismo compelled a few to play at the “blood” game who weren’t equal to it and they made losing their rent a routine, prompting Larry to conclude that “Some people win by winning, and some people win by losing.” There was a high level of pseudo-psychiatric analysis: if you screwed up at poker, your whole lifestyle was bound to be called into question. And for someone losing $200 within a few weeks, this was not unreasonable.

The Nivens set a generous sideboard for these games, which some visitors managed to abuse by melting cheese all over the toaster oven or helping themselves uninvited to the good brandy. The Nivens resorted to posting a dittoed “Rules of the House” which I regret not having kept. At last they moved out of Brentwood and the club relocated to the San Fernando Valley. The era of poker games breaking up at dawn came to an end – and descended into Hell.

Pixel Scroll 8/26/17 M. Glyer’s Classic Tale Of Wretched Hives And High Tsundokus

(1) CAN’T STOP THE BLEEDING. Have comic cons reached a saturation point, or is it a problem with this company in particular, which turned over CEOs last year? ICv2 says gateshow runner Wizard World continues to tank — “Wizard World Sales Drop Nearly 50%”.

Wizard World has released its Q2 financials, and the situation has deteriorated even further from the big loss in Q1 (see “Wizard World Revenue Decline Produces Big Operating Loss“).  Sales declined 49% in Q2 compared to the same quarter last year, and the company had an operating loss of $1.9 million, compared to a $475,000 operating profit in Q2 2016.

…The company says it is planning 22 events in 2017, and hoping to increase revenue over 2016.  That seems a bit of a stretch at this point, with first half sales over $6 million less in 2017 than in 2016.

(2) HOLLYN ON CARSON CENTER ADVISORY BOARD. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln announces: “Carson Center taps arts, entertainment leaders”.

Twenty-five international leaders and innovators in new media will offer their advice and expertise to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s new Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts.

Founding Director Megan Elliott on Aug. 23 announced the center’s initial advisory board, which will partner in the center’s strategic planning and offer valuable industry insight. The board includes leaders in art, technology, gaming, television and film, design, interactivity, communications and business, among other fields, with experience and connections with mainstays such as Lucasfilm, YouTube, Google, Disney and Paramount Pictures.

One of them is a longtime fan —

Norman Hollyn, the Michael Kahn Endowed Chair in Film Editing at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Hollyn is a longtime film, TV and music editor.

(3) UNCOMFORTABLY CLOSE. Now that its publisher’s attempt to game the NY Times Bestseller list has caused the internet to turn a glaring spotlight on Handbook for Mortals, more of their tricks are coming to light — like the cover’s similarity to another artist’s work.

(4) IT GETS VERSE. And Fran Wilde has commemorated the book’s delisting with this parody:

(5) KEEP THE MONEY COMING. Sofawolf’s Kickstarter to publish T. Kingfisher’s Summer in Orcus as an illustrated book has reached all its stretch goals, but if in the remaining hours of the drive they hit $28K then backers will be rewarded with an ebook edition of Black Dogs by Kingfisher’s closer personal friend Ursula Vernon. 🙂

So what’s next? We’ve gone over the financial numbers and everything that we have already committed to, and don’t see enough room for another physical thing without having to introduce some new levels and the resulting chaos that would cause. However, just because we can’t offer another physical thing, doesn’t mean we can’t add on a virtual one.

Many years back, we edited and published the first novel Ursula ever wrote, Black Dogs, as a two-part print edition. For a whole host of reasons (mostly lack of time) we have been slow to tackle the conversion of much of our backlist into eBook format, but we know more than a few of you have been requesting Black Dogs for some time.

Now will be that time.

We’ve gotten the okay from Ursula to release the eBook editions for free to the Kickstarter backers as part of the final stretch goal, which we are going to set at $28K (since we are already almost at $23K and we expect the usual last week frenzy). This will be added to all levels from $8 (Baba Yaga) on up.

If you are not familiar with the story, we want to stress that Black Dogs is not like Summer in Orcus in many ways. While it too centers around a young girl, in this case named Lyra, it is an altogether harsher world which she inhabits; and she both comes from and passes through some dark places to get where she is going. The writing is both clearly very early Ursula, and at the same time, very clearly all Ursula (or T. Kingfisher, or whomever you care to reference).

(6) GUFF DELEGATE. Donna Maree Hanson is chronicling her fan fund trip online. The entries about museum visits are lavishly illustrated with photos of the exhibits. This excerpt is taken from one of the posts about the Worldcon – “Guff # 6 -The Hugo Awards”.

Then it was our turn to go on stage. The ceremony is on You Tube I believe and was webcast. We were in the beginning section. There was an International group of people presenting, South Africa, Poland, China, US and Australia. We had to sit on a sofa on stage and then after we presented we had a short interview. Amazing, John [the TAFF delegate] and I got to plug the fan auction to like 5000 people! They had John’s name wrong in the script so Karen Lord called him Jeff. We gave John a hard time. So Jeff what did you do with John etc.

After the awards ceremony we were invited to the Hugo Losers’ Party. There was a shuttle bus (a small one) so a lot of people took cabs. We waited with C E Murphy and ? (I’m sorry I forgot your name again) and Nalo Hopkinson, George RR Martin, Pat Catigan and others. A Finish fan guy leaped on the bus and Nalo can I come with you and did.

The venue was Helsinki’s steam punk nightclub. It was crowded by the time we got there. Winners turn up and are boohed and made to wear ridiculous head gear. There was an amazing steampunk cake. Lots of booze. Lots of food and desserts in mini containers. The music was good at first but then we tried to dance and the music went to shit. Go figure. I had a blast but wanted to go home. Beans, my daughter, wanted to party and dance and I didn’t get out of there until around 2 am. But I met people, talked to people. John and Valerie turned up late dressed in their steam punk gear. So cute.

Here is a collection of shots, including the steampunk cake. The steampunk couple are John and Valerie Purcell….

(7) MARS CON IN SEPTEMBER. The 20th Annual International Mars Society Convention will take place September 7-10 at UC Irvine.

The four-day International Mars Society Convention brings together leading scientists, engineers, aerospace industry representatives, government policymakers and journalists to talk about the latest scientific discoveries, technological advances and political-economic developments that could help pave the way for a human mission to the planet Mars.

On opening night the convention will feature a panel of science fiction greats discussing “The Human Future in Space.”

Members of this special panel will include Greg Benford (Timescape, The Martian Race, Chiller), David Brin (Startide Rising, The Uplift War, The Postman), Larry Niven (Ringworld, Lucifer’s Hammer, The Integral Trees) and Jerry Pournelle (Footfall, A Mote in God’s Eye, Starswarm).

The science fiction panel discussion will begin at 7:00 pm at the University of California Irvine (A-311 Student Center) and will be open to the public.

Commenting on the panel, Mars Society President Dr. Robert Zubrin said, “This will be an extraordinary event. It’s like having a conference panel a generation ago featuring Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke. I can hardly wait.”

(8) ARRRH. Gail Selinger’s new pirate history, Pirates of New England: Ruthless Raiders and Rotten Renegades will be released September 1.

One would be mistaken to think of pirates as roaming only the Caribbean. Pirates as famous as William Kidd and Henry Every have at various times plundered, pillaged, and murdered their way up and down the New England seaboard, striking fear among local merchants and incurring the wrath of colonial authorities. Piracy historian Gail Selinger brings these tales of mayhem and villainy to life while also exploring why New England became such a breeding ground for high seas crime and how the view of piracy changed over time, from winking toleration to brutal crackdown….

Gail Selinger is a maritime historian and pirate expert who served as a consultant on the History Channel’s Modern Marvels: Pirate Tech. Her commentary appears on the DVDs of The Princess Bride and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. She is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Pirates and lectures on pirates and pirate history.

(9) NOT THE TERRITORY. Alex Acks explains why “I Don’t  Like Fantasy Maps”. And it’s not because you can never get them folded up again. Here’s the first of 10 points:

Most of them are terrible. Like geographically, geologically terrible. You’ve already probably seen me complain about the map of Middle Earth. From my experience as a reader, and I’ll readily admit that I have neither had the patience nor time to read every fantasy book ever written, the majority of fantasy maps make me want to tear my hair out as a geologist. Many of them are worse than the Tolkien map, and without his fig leaf of mythology to justify it. (And sorry, it’s not a fig leaf that works for me.)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born August 26 – David K.M. Klaus

(11) ALIENS AHEAD. The New York Times previews an upcoming exhibit at UC Riverside: “For Latino Artists in Sci-Fi Show, Everyone’s an Alien”.

Starting Sept. 16, Ms. Cortez’s “Memory Insertion Capsule” will greet visitors to “Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas,” an exhibition at the University of California, Riverside that shows Latin American and Latin-heritage artists mining the tropes of science fiction.

Some, like Ms. Cortez, have created startling objects that offer portals into alternative worlds or mimic time machines. Others use the imagery of extraterrestrials to express something of the immigrant’s alienating experience. Most engage in the speculative thinking long associated with science-fiction literature and film to explore social issues.

(12) COURSE CORRECTION. Apparently there was a problem with fulfilling the incentives earned by backers of the 2015 Kickstarter for Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place, because the publisher’s new CEO is trying to make it right.

I know that there are some of you who either weren’t sent the correct rewards or any rewards at all. I sincerely apologize for this. There is absolutely NO reason that you shouldn’t have your rewards by now. That is unacceptable and just a little ridiculous. You have our apologies. We’ll absolutely be correcting this sort of problem.

I also wanted it known that Jaym (Gates) is absolutely NOT to blame for the delays. That falls squarely on our shoulders. Throughout, Jaym has been absolutely professional and has worked hard as your advocate. I also wanted to issue a public apology to Jaym for all the delays as well. Thank you for all your hard work and patience, Jaym. We really appreciate it.

Now, onto fulfillment and reward questions. Right now, I’m going through and trying to figure out who has gotten what and who hasn’t. We’re taking steps to get this sorted out immediately and to get everything to you all that you backed in short order.

To that end, it would help us greatly if you would take a few moments and fill this form out –

Genius Loci Backer Form

(13) WHEN TROI WAS ALMOST CANNED. Paramount wanted to let Marina Sirtis know who was wielding the hammer in these contract negotiations.

The final film for the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew was nearly short one cast member. According to Marina Sirtis, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Deanna Troi, negotiations for her return in Star Trek: Nemesis were not going smoothly and at one point Paramount Pictures threatened to replace her in the film with Jeri Ryan, the actress who played the Borg Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager. …While this is the first time that Sirtis has openly discussed the threat, Ryan has mentioned in it the past, saying that she was utterly confused by how Seven of Nine could possibly make sense showing up in a Star Trek: The Next Generation movie. With Star Trek: Voyager off the air as of 2001, Seven of Nine technically wasn’t doing anything else, but with much of Star Trek: Nemesis revolving around Troi’s wedding the film’s script would have needed a serious rewrite to account for Troi’s absence and Seven of Nine’s introduction.

 

(14) MORE ABOUT W75. Sarah Groenewegen’s Worldcon 75 report is rich in info about the panels: “WorldCon75 – All bound for Helsinki”.

Anyway, I didn’t end up seeing too many panels. I heard about some excellent ones, which will no doubt be highlighted in other reviews and reminiscences. The one that I did see that stood out was the one supposed to be on pre-Harry Potter magical schools. While I quite enjoyed it and found some of the panellists interesting – and I would have like to hear more about Italian versions, rather than just the Anglophone ones – it was a victim of too many panellists for 45 minutes, and the moderator was less than optimally effective, especially when a latecomer arrived on the panel and took over.

The Resistance panel was also good, but very heavily US-centric, saved by Kameron Hurley talking about her experiences in South Africa and drawing on her academic work in the field.

I enjoyed the one on Cyberpunk with Pat Cadigan (but, honestly, I could listen to her all day), and I found Quifan Chen’s contributions to be fascinating about real-life now cyberpunk cities in his native China. I’m reading Pat’s Synners, at long last, and greatly enjoying it.

(15) MAPS OF THE STARS HOMES. For those who have been worried about aliens tracking us down and mugging us based on information we’ve sent into the universe, this might represent good news…. Ethan Siegel tells Medium readers, “Voyager’s ‘Cosmic Map’ of Earth’s location is hopelessly wrong”.

Located throughout the galaxy, the Voyager golden records are emblazoned with the relative orientations, distances, and pulse timing frequencies of 14 different pulsars. (The Pioneer 10 and 11 missions also have the pulsar information on them.)…

Pulsars were only first discovered 50 years ago (by Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, above) in 1967; they were incredibly novel still when the Pioneer and Voyager spacecraft were launched. Now that we have a better understanding of how they work, how ubiquitous they are, and how their apparent properties change over time, we can see that these are terrible long-term beacons! In hindsight, it would have been better to put together the astronomical properties of the Sun, along with the masses, radii, atmospheric contents, and orbital parameters of the planets. After all, those are the pieces of information we use to identify exoplanet systems today, and would be the best way to, on a long-term basis, identify our Solar System.

(16) BANGING ON. Someone wants to know: “Is Canada’s official residence in Ireland haunted?”

Canada’s ambassador to Ireland is concerned about ghosts.

Specifically, Ambassador Kevin Vickers is worried about a spirit that might be haunting Canada’s official residence in Dublin.

In a recent Facebook post, the ambassador describes hearing unusual bangs, laboured breathing and heavy footsteps in the residence’s halls.

Mr Vickers, a history buff, suggests it may be the spirit of one of the leaders of Ireland’s 1916 Easter Rising.

When he first moved into the residence, the ambassador heard rumours that Irish nationalist Patrick Pearse had once lived at the home in Dublin’s Ranelagh district.

Pearse was one of the architects of the April 1916 rebellion to overthrow British rule and set up an Irish republic.

(17) MINNEAPOLIS FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has posted a photo-illustrated audio recording on YouTube of the “Minneapolis Fandom, 4th Street Fantasy & Music” panel at Balticon 51.

Geri Sullivan (Balticon 51 Fan Guest of Honor) and Steven Brust (Balticon 51 Special Guest) tell the true story of Minneapolis fandom from rent parties to 4th Street Fantasy to the music. Steve talks about how he programmed conventions, and where he got the idea for his first book, and Geri talks about her first years in fandom. There are great anecdotes about Steve, convention running and more, but overwhelmingly this audio program (with supplemental images) is about the music and culture of Minneapolis fandom. The fan history program was developed for Balticon 51 by the Fanac Fanhistory project.

 

[Thanks to Greg Hullender, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Paul Weimer, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 5/18/17 For I Am A Bear Of Very Little Files, And Long Scrolls Bother Me

(1) NO NEED TO SAY MORE. Michael Swanwick recounts what he labels the shortest and most succinct discussion about the horror genre in the history of the speculative fiction community:

MICHAEL SWANWICK: “I don’t like horror because it scares me.”

ELLEN DATLOW: “That’s why I love it.”

(2) A FINE ROMANCE. Welcome to 21st-century dating. “This Man Is Suing His Date For Texting During ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy'”.

Texting during a movie is rude.

Brandon Vezmar from Texas is taking a stance on the issue by suing his Bumble date after she used her phone during a movie. The Austin American-Statesman reported that Vezmar filed a small court claim for $17.31, the price of a 3D showing of “Guardians of the Galaxy 2.”

“It was kind of a first date from hell,” he told the local newspaper.

The 36-year-old said that his date was on her phone “at least 10-20 times in 15 minutes to read and send text messages.” According to Vezmar, he told her she should text outside, so she left and took the car in which they both arrived.

Ouch.

Vezmar claimed he tried to text and call his date before taking the matter to court. He tweeted a screenshot once his date sent a statement to KVUE anonymously to say that, while she felt bad that his feelings were hurt, she chose to leave because he made her feel unsafe.

“His behavior made me extremely uncomfortable, and I felt I needed to remove myself from the situation for my own safety,” the statement read. “He has escalated the situation far past what any mentally healthy person would.”

Director James Gunn, who might have stayed safely out of this, unfortunately decided to show his ass, as if texting in the theater was the entire issue.

(3) TRAILER PARK. Aziz H. Poonawalla goes into deep analysis about the Star Trek: Discovery trailer.

But really, hairless Klingons? With a H.R. Geiger armor aesthetic?

It’s not like we haven’t seen the 60’s aesthetic embraced by modern television. Deep Space Nine went there and did it brilliantly — they arguably made the TOS USS Enterprise look even more gorgeous than any of her successors, and they didn’t change anything about her at all — just lighting and texture. Enterprise itself managed to authentically portray a pre-Kirk technology chic that had a more industrial feel, which was utterly believable as the ancestor to the softened look of the Kirk era. I do not accept that the Kelvinization of the Prime timeline was necessary to modernize the production. After all, the aesthetic of The Expanse and Dark Matter is thoroughly modern but doesn’t have the same Kelvin fascination with chrome and glass. Not that I want any Trek to go the grunge-fi look, but I do at least want Trek to honor it’s own identity. This feels like a rejection — purely a Han shot first decision.

(4) MESSAGE TO THE PAST. If the term “calendrical rot” hadn’t been invented for a different purpose, and we had a way to send it into the past, it would find the perfect Petri dish in this incredibly technical discussion of alternate timelines in Star Trek held on Reddit in 2015.

(5) SASQUATCH APPROPRIATED. In the Walrus, Robert Jago introduces his op-ed about Canada’s latest cultural appropriation controversy with an sff illustration: “On Cultural Appropriation, Canadians Are Hypocrites”.

Harry and the Hendersons is a 1987 fantasy movie about a Seattle family’s encounter with a friendly bigfoot (Harry) and their efforts to protect him from harm before releasing him in the mountains of the Pacific northwest. It’s a forgettable film, but it has undoubtedly been seen and heard in more Indigenous homes than has the story of Sasq’ets–the original sasquatch.

Sasq’ets, whose name was one of the few Halkomelem words to make their way into English, was one of a host of other legendary “wild people” living in the forests on the Pacific coast. For hundreds of generations, Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw children were raised on the stories of the wild people and taught to listen for their characteristic hu-hu-hu calls. Sasq’ets, along with Dzunuka, were said to capture wayward children, take them away from their families, and eat them. With their supernatural healing powers, the wild ones were thought to be invincible; only once was a wild person taken by angry villagers and burned alive. But to the mortals’ horror, the ashes began buzzing in a tiny chorus of little hu-hu-hu’s, and each particle sought out human flesh. This was the origin myth of mosquitos.

Sasq’ets taught our children to stay out of the forests at night. It connected us to our part of the world, in the same way that Hansel and Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood connected Europeans to their ancient forests–and possibly for the same purposes. Our stories are works of genius and beauty, and vital to our relationship with the land. By no means do I want to restrict our legends to Indigenous people. I want you to know about Sasq’ets, and the psychedelically odd stories of the spirit of the South Winds, and all of the legends of our country.

But when the story is taken from us and told by outsiders without our involvement, its identity can be lost, and Sasq’ets becomes Bigfoot. The cultural dominance of non-Natives means that a B-movie like Harry and the Hendersons can have more influence over Salish children than the legend that inspired it.

(6) WESTLAKE’S BOND. Daniel Dern says be on the lookout for copies of Donald Westlake’s James Bond novel(ization) released last fall. “I’ve already just put a reserve-request in to my library.”

Forever And A Death

In the mid-1990s, prolific mystery and crime thriller author Donald E. Westlake submitted two treatments for the 18th Bond film (which would ultimately become ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’)….Never one to waste a good story, Westlake turned his treatments into a novel.

Dern adds:

Fewer Filers than normally expected might be familiar with Westlake, since he wrote near-zero scifi, by choice. OTOH, he wrote lots of great mystery/thriller/crime and other novels and stories, ranging from humorous, e.g. his John Dortmunder stories, and his tabloid-reporter ones, to serious, notably the ones written as Richard Stark.

See the Donald Westlake site.

My favorite Westlake book: Up Your Banners

(7) MACE WINDU GETS HIS OWN BOOK. The Jedi have always been the galaxy’s peacekeepers — but with the Clone Wars on the horizon, all that is about to change.

This August, writer Matt Owens (Elektra) will team with artist Denys Cowan (Nighthawk, Captain America/Black Panther: Flags of Our Fathers) to unveil the exciting story of one of the Jedi’s greatest warriors in STAR WARS: JEDI OF THE REPUBLIC — MACE WINDU #1!

One of the most accomplished and storied members of the Jedi High Council, his wisdom and combat prowess are legendary. Now, in this new story, readers will get to see Mace Windu lead his Jedi into battle, and face the ultimate test of leadership!

(8) PETER OLSON OBIT. SF Site News reports that Boston area fan Peter Olson (1949-2017) died April 28. He was active in NESFA and participated in the Ig Nobel Awards.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRLS

  • Born May 18 — R. Laurraine Tutihasi
  • Born May 18 — Diane Duane

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 18, 1897 — Frank Capra

(11) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian says Ziggy has a point.

(12) WHIP OUT YOUR ROLL OF HUNDREDS. Nicole Pelletier on Good Morning America has a piece called “Classic Disney animation art featuring Snow White, Pinocchio headed to auction” about how a tranche of Disney cels from the 1940s is headed for auction in an event sponsored by Bonhams and Turner Classic Movies.

Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will present the movie memorabilia auction, “An Important Animation Art Collection, The Property of a Gentleman” in New York City on June 5.

The sale will feature more than 290 original Disney animation drawings, storyboards, posters, concept art and celluloids, according to Bonhams’ press release.

(13) WARNING LABEL. While I was browsing Bertie MacAvoy’s Amazon page, I especially enjoyed this self-introduction:

Robert A.MacAvoy

If you are young to the S.F. field and don’t know who I am, I will prep you by warning that I often kill off my heroes, sometimes at the most unexpected times. But never in a depressing manner. I’ve never wanted to depress my readers. My outlook is essentially comic.

(14) DRYING OFF. This may be the first good news I’ve ever heard about a convention associated with the Ozarks. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn reports how some fans are overcoming a natural disaster: “West Plains, MO Based Oz-Con Plans Game Day Event to Make Up For Canceled Day of Con”.

I think any reasonable person would forgive the con, considering this was an extreme, unpredictable situation where homes and lives were literally lost. What’s the Sunday of a con compared to that? To the extreme credit of the Oz-Con organizers though, they still want to try to make it right.

Yesterday Oz-Con organizers announced an event they’re calling “Flood Con.” It’s a free game day the con is hosting from 9:00am until 10:00pm on June 17th at the Missouri State University-West Plains Student Rec Center. Admission is free, but they’ll also be accepting cash donations and canned food items to help with ongoing flood relief in the area. There will be video games, tabletop games, and fellow geeks to have a grand old time with.

Admittedly, I haven’t heard much about sff in the Ozarks — just that famous story about the time Larry Niven arrived expecting to be GoH of Ozarkon only to find out the con had been cancelled. (Fans involve swear they tried to get a message to him, but in those pre-internet days it failed to reach him on the road.)

(15) FAME IN PIXELS. Who needs a monument when you can be an answer on Jeopardy!

(16) LOVECRAFT COUNTRY TO TV. Get Out writer-director Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot and Warner Bros Television are teaming on Lovecraft Country, a one-hour drama that has been given a straight-to-series order by HBO.

There is connective tissue to Peele’s breakout genre feature Get Out, which brought a Black Lives Matter theme to the horror genre. Lovecraft Country, the 2016 novel from Matt Ruff, focuses on 25-year-old Atticus Black. After his father goes missing, Black joins up with his friend Letitia and his Uncle George to embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America to find him. This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the malevolent spirits that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback. The goal is an anthological horror series that reclaims genre storytelling from the African-American perspective.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, JJ, Dawn Incognito, Daniel Dern, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ky.]

Edward M. Lerner: Crafted Science, Convincing Characters

Edward M. Lerner

By Carl Slaughter: Retired professional scientist Edward Lerner talks about a host of hard science fiction topics, plus his collaboration with Larry Niven, his participation in SIGMA, and his nonfiction column for Analog.

Carl Slaughter: What was the deciding factor in getting out of full-time science work and getting into full-time fiction work?

Edward M. Lerner: There were two factors, as it happens. The first: I had to become ready for a radical change. While I had greatly enjoyed my career in science and engineering, much of the work eventually came to seem repetitive. Second, I had to prove to myself I had developed the necessary writing skills. My debut novel might have been a fluke, and for about a decade after that book’s publication my day job kept me too busy to write much. It wasn’t till after I’d sold a second novel, plus a couple shorter stories to Analog, that I took the leap.

CS: But in the end, it wasn’t all fiction, was it?

EML: As it turned out, no. Years after the career change, I developed a new interest: writing popular science. The chief example of that is the series of “the science behind the fiction” articles I did for Analog. Each article explored the science and engineering, sometimes speculative, that might underpin a common SF trope (such as faster-than-light travel, time travel, or telepathy), and is “illustrated” with SF stories, TV shows, and movies that made use of—or anticipated—some of that tech.

CS: Your science career, like your science fiction career, is all over the map. Which aspect of your science career contributed, directly or indirectly, to which aspect of your science fiction career?

EML: Certainly my employers were all over the map, metaphorically and geographically. But that first career? I’ll assert otherwise. The unifying theme—notwithstanding the mix of commercial and government-contracting employers, and the variety of situations addressed—was the tackling of complex problems with computers.

To your larger point, however, much of that experience did carry over to writing SF. For example, I put in seven years as a NASA contractor at Hughes Aircraft (now a part of Raytheon). That particular background transferred mostly after the fact, because Hughes/NASA had me working six, and sometimes seven, days a week. (Reference: the abovementioned lag between my first and second novels. But some of that Hughes/NASA experience did figure directly in the second novel.)

More generally, building any complex, responsive, mission-critical system cultivates a mindset. One learns to: consider everything that might go wrong, including recalcitrant users; design features to head off undesirable outcomes; provide ways to mitigate the consequences when such precautions nonetheless fail. As an SF writer, I also consider the implications of technology and how it might go wrong. I try not to rely upon venal or careless characters—as in most every Michael Crichton novel—to drive my stories. If, for example, a plot problem requires information from the bad guy’s computer, the solution ought not to be for the good guy to hack a computer in ten seconds flat, or for the bad guy to walk away from his desk while leaving his computer logged on. When a computer break-in is necessary, I want to make the penetration credible.

I spend much of my “writing” time wearing my engineering hat, asking myself: what about the technology available in a certain situation might go wrong or be abused? Then: what would a responsible engineer have done to minimize that risk? Then: what might a bad guy (or nature, being recalcitrant) do to circumvent those preventive measures? Then: why wouldn’t the designer have anticipated that hazard, and already done something to counter it? Iterate till no party to the developing storyline is being obtuse merely to advance the plot.

Case in point: there are many fictional examples of nanotech run amok. Most such, IMO, rely on thoughtlessness or carelessness on the part of the fictional nanotechnologists. At the start of writing my own nanotech novel (Small Miracles), I did a lot of research—and had a lot of back-and-forth with doctors, biophysicists, a biologist, a neurologist, and nanotechnologists—to come up with defensively designed medical nanobots that might nonetheless, in unforeseen circumstances, have unanticipated effects.

CS: You also did a lot of management work. You even have an MBA. Did your management background help or hinder your science fiction writing?

EML: My immediate reaction was that, apart from its utility on the business side (versus the creative side) of being a writer, my management background had no relevance. While economics is known (hat tip to Victorian historian Thomas Carlyle) as the dismal science, it’s hardly the basis for much science fiction. And when accountants do delve into fiction, we get messes like Enron and the 2008 financial crisis.

My second thought was quite different. Lots of SF, much of mine included, overlaps with the mystery genre, wherein a common method of unraveling plots and solving crimes is to “follow the money.” Maybe that’s why I’ve written three major business-oriented protagonists (and I suspect I’d find more if I did a thorough review of all I’ve written).

The best known of these protagonists is accountant Sigmund Ausfaller (in the Fleet of Worlds series, coauthored with Larry Niven, about which I expect we’ll talk further). Sigmund first appeared decades ago, in Larry Niven’s Hugo award-winning “Neutron Star” and “The Borderland of Sol,” as the foil for his protagonist, derring-do space pilot Beowulf Shaeffer. Those stories revealed little about Sigmund himself or how he came to be a super spy. To develop Sigmund’s back story (for Juggler of Worlds), I got Sigmund into—and out of—life-threatening peril through accounting. Really. (No big spoilers there: that much about Sigmund comes out in the novel’s opening pages. Sigmund went on to have many more adventures, occasionally drawing upon his accounting skills, in the course of this and subsequent novels.)

And, as it happens, my latest story series, kicked off by “The Company Man” (Grantville Gazette, May 2017 issue) has a forensic accountant as its antihero ….

CS: You’ve described some of your work as “meticulously researched novels.” What do you mean by that phrase?

EML: One corner of the broad genre of speculative fiction, as you know, is called “hard SF.” IMO that’s a terrible label, by which “hard” often gets misconstrued as meaning (too) challenging to read. The term is supposed to convey fiction in which real science is integral to the story, the adjective referring to an early emphasis within the subgenre on the so-called “hard” sciences, such as physics and astronomy. I write mainly hard SF—and getting the science right is important to me. That means research.

As for whether my research qualifies as “meticulous,” opinions will vary. To support my claims of research sufficiency, I’ll offer two anecdotes.

Take the aforementioned Small Miracles. I was researching a particular biological/medical detail that would affect where in the human body my medical nanobots could go and/or how I could design them to reach specific places. After refining the details through several iterations, a biophysicist who was helping me declared us done. He said, “Ed, it’s only a novel.”

Did I get the biology right? A doctor friend was discussing the finished novel—during surgery, over a patient—with a colleague. The colleague rushed out after surgery to order a copy, and later ordered a second copy for me to autograph as a gift for a physician relative. The medical aspects couldn’t have been too far off :-).

In Dark Secret, my latest novel (“The end of the world … and what comes next”), the supporting research ranged from gamma ray bursters to cosmic strings, from aberrant psychology to parasailing. For Déjà Doomed (the working title of my novel in progress), I’ve consulted with astrophysicists about fine points of orbital mechanics. Who says writers don’t have fun?

CS: Define artificial life. I mean, how is it life if it doesn’t form and evolve naturally?

EML: Like everything artificial, from sweeteners to skyscrapers, an artificial life is made on purpose. A conscious entity like you or me, and not (only) the impersonal and implacable forces of evolution, shapes it. This description doesn’t preclude adapting methods found in nature—nor does it preclude consciously influencing or eliminating random chance ….

Definitions of life vary, as do conclusions about whether particular things (such as viruses) are even alive. Wikipedia has a whole long article on the topic (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life). In common usage, life is carbon-based, built from one or more biological cells, and must adapt to a physical environmental. IMO, that’s merely natural life.

I imagine your question arises in the context of my novel Fools’ Experiments. That book deals with the directed evolution within a computer of entities with none of the aforementioned characteristics. The fundamental building blocks of these entities, rather than atoms and molecules, are computer bits; the next level of construction is computer instructions (and a subtle point: that’s not human-written software); and the environmental constraints are virtual. Happily (if only for storytelling purposes) those creatures of artificial life discover how their virtual world can interact—dramatically, and often even catastrophically, so!—with our physical world.

CS: Define artificial intelligence. Again, how can it be considered sentient if it was programmed rather than evolving naturally? If you tell it what to think or how to think, it’s just a machine—isn’t it?

EML: As a practical matter, an artificial intelligence is anything humans consider (a) acts intelligently and (b) isn’t us. Why? Because we’re no more able to unambiguously define intelligence than we are to define life, consciousness, or awareness.

AI was initially approached as an exercise in computer programming. That approach failed quite spectacularly. Many newer, and more successful, AI efforts have involved adapting to, or learning from experience. For example, an AI intended to identify cancerous tissue samples might be trained using images of known cancerous and non-cancerous cell cultures. After each attempted diagnosis, internal parameters are tweaked to emphasize whatever internal features of the system leaned toward the correct conclusion and deemphasize whatever internal features leaned toward the wrong conclusion. Through feedback during routine operation, the system will continue to self-adapt. (For completeness, it’s worth noting that this form of machine learning isn’t the only non-programming approach to developing an AI.)

In concept, one could reverse-engineer from the internals of a learning AI exactly which lessons from its training set (and from its subsequent experience) led to a particular decision. In practice, the effects of particular lessons and experiences overlap so much that such case-by-case deduction is impossible. We simply don’t know the inner workings of a modern AI. (Much less of most fictional AIs, such as HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey or Ava in Ex Machina.)

Looking out several years to when quantum computing matures and gets applied to artificial intelligence, it won’t be possible even in principle to understand an AI’s decision process. From basic principles of quantum mechanics, such computing will be inherently nondeterministic. My own cut at quantum-computing-based AI was the Analog detective novelette, “A Case of Identity” (December 2015 issue). If you recognized that as the title of a Sherlock Holmes story, it’s not a coincidence.

(For a far broader discussion of AI and some of the SF that best illustrates it, see my two-part nonfiction article in Analog, “A Mind of Its Own” [September and October 2016 issues.])

CS: Your stories have grand scale impact settings but also focus on the impact on individual characters. How do you strike this balance?

EML: Carefully?

But seriously, balance is the operative word. On the one hand, an unusual context—whether in space or time, physical law or the state of technology—is the distinguishing characteristic of science fiction. In a phrase, that’s world-building. So, absolutely, much of my fiction is meant to offer an exotic and impactful setting. On the other hand, all fiction, whether of the SF or any other variety, is about people. If an exotically located work of fiction doesn’t affect anyone therein, that is at best an imaginative travelogue and not a story.

And beyond making every story about people (even if they’re of an extraterrestrial, AI, or extraterrestrial-AI persuasion) I also strive to follow a dictum of Kurt Vonnegut: “Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.”

CS: How did you hook up with Larry Niven and what type of relationship do you have with him?

EML: At Noreascon 4, aka Worldcon 2004, Larry and I were both on the panel “My Favorite Planet.” As the name suggests, panelists were asked to name the world, real or imaginary, they would most like to visit. When my turn came, I named the Fleet of Worlds. In Larry’s best-known novel, Ringworld, the Fleet is a cluster of five inhabited worlds hurtling through space at relativistic speed. The Fleet and its impressively alien inhabitants are scarcely glimpsed before the reader moves on to the eponymous Ringworld. I told Larry he should write a story set on the Fleet. He said he didn’t have a plot for such a story. I emailed him shortly thereafter, to say, “Well, I do.”

Fleet of Worlds, our first collaboration, was the result. In the (woohoo!) bidding war over the novel, we got an offer as well on a sequel. That we hadn’t discussed a sequel, much less written one? We didn’t let that stand in our way. The sequel became Juggler of Worlds. The series grew to include Destroyer of Worlds, Betrayer of Worlds, and finally Fate of Worlds.

Larry and I live on opposite coasts, three time zones apart. We worked mostly by email, picking up the phone as needed. But while we see each other only occasionally, at cons, we’re friends. When SFWA (that’s the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) declared Larry a Grandmaster of Science Fiction, I was honored to be invited to write the official appreciation for him (text at http://blog.edwardmlerner.com/2015/06/the-2015-nebula-awards-weekend.html.)

CS: Fleet of Worlds, Ringworld, Known Space. The setting and chronology is a bit hard to follow. Can you sort it out for us?

EML: Larry’s universes (your question deals with only one of those) are on grand scales. Briefly, Known Space is the overarching setting of a future history that opens with early human explorations of the Solar System. Known Space stories continue for centuries, ultimately offering adventures across a bubble of space—and civilizations—many light-years across.

Within Known Space, the Ringworld is a physical artifact. Oversimplifying a bit, this is a hoop-like structure a million miles wide, 600 million miles in circumference, circling a distant star. That vast structure has trillions of hominid (although not human) inhabitants. The novel Ringworld, a part of the overarching Known Space future history, deals with the discovery and initial explorations of this wondrous setting. (And, as I’ve noted, the Fleet of Worlds is a separate physical setting glimpsed early in Ringworld.) Larry wrote three sequels about how discovery of the physical Ringworld and the wondrous technologies it embodies affected various Known Space intelligent species.

The Fleet of World series, my five collaborations with Larry, is likewise set in Known Space, opening two hundred years before Ringworld. In our fifth book, Fate of Worlds—subtitled “Return from the Ringworld”—we wrap up both series. Explosively, I might add …

For a more complete discussion, including a recommended reading order(s), File 770 visitors might check out my blog post “Of fleet Fleets and Known Space” (http://blog.edwardmlerner.com/2011/02/of-fleet-fleets-and-known-space.html).

CS: Any plans to return to the Fleet universe?

I won’t say never—working in Known Space, and with Larry, was a blast—but we don’t have any plans to do so. For now I’m too into my own universes.

CS: What exactly are the Drake Equation and the Fermi Paradox?

EML: Together, the intellectual framework behind many discussions of the possibility of alien intelligent life.

In 1961, Frank Drake created an elegant equation to facilitate a conversation about the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). The equation provides a way to estimate the number of technological civilizations currently in our galaxy—civilizations for which radio astronomers (like Drake) might listen. The equation relies upon a long list of input parameters, the values for many of which (such as the fraction of planets on which life emerges) are unknown. With different guesses at such values, the equation has been used to suggest both that intelligent and technologically capable life must be common in the galaxy and that humanity is surely alone.

The Fermi Paradox is a rebuttal—actually, a prebuttal, dating to the early Fifties—of the more optimistic versions of the Drake Equation. Suppose that the vast number of stars (and optimistic estimates of other relevant parameters) argues for intelligence arising elsewhere in the galaxy. If any alien civilization has technology only slightly in advance of humanity’s, then in an eye blink (by astronomical standards) those aliens could spread across the galaxy. So, nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi challenged, where are they? Why have we seen no evidence of them?

(For more about the Drake Equation, the Fermi Paradox, and SETI in general, see my nonfiction Analog article “Alien AWOLs: The Great Silence,” in the October 2014 issue.)

All that said, let’s turn to explorations of these topics in my InterstellarNet novels.

Much popular SF, like Star Trek, rests on two conveniences: faster-than-light travel and nearby alien neighbors. Apart from authorial convenience, there’s no justification. The known universe seems to insist upon a light-speed limit, and we have yet to find an alien bacterium, much less alien intelligences. But for plot purposes, we authors want not only alien intelligence, but alien neighbors. And not only must the aliens be nearby, and intelligent, they need to have technology so similar to human level—no matter that our respective solar systems may differ in age by billions of years—that conflicts between us and them are suspenseful.

In my novels InterstellarNet: Origins and InterstellarNet: New Order, I stuck with slower-than-light travel and radio-based communications. But for an interstellar communications network to function, my aliens had to live nearby, within radio range, and be advanced enough to have radios. I got to wondering: could I find a justification beyond “It’s my universe, and I’ll construct it for my convenience?” I found out that I could—but that justification was a doozy. As constraints so often do, this led to a multilayered, and (if I can toot my own horn) interesting story. That’s my second-most recent novel, InterstellarNet: Enigma.

CS: How does in-person alien interaction affect each species differently than interstellar radio contact?

EML: With contacts limited to communications, initial impacts are “merely” cultural and technological. Early parts of InterstellarNet: Origins explore the dangers—as when, for example, an interstellar message makes fuel-cell cars practical overnight (and in the process destroys the economies of many petroleum-producing countries). Later in the novel, the interspecies contacts become more sophisticated, reliant upon AIs exchanged between civilizations. (See, I had a reason earlier to mention extraterrestrial AIs.) After AIs have been transferred across the stars, the opportunities for interspecies interaction—and mischief—greatly expand. How? Anything a human hacker might attempt via the Internet, so might an alien AI. And an alien AI might try things no mere human hacker would imagine ….

When aliens come calling (as in InterstellarNet: New Order), physical interactions—up to, and including mass mayhem—become possible.

CS: Any plans to return to the InterstellarNet universe?

EML: A return isn’t on my to-do list, but I suspect I’ll eventually succumb. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing in that universe.

CS: What is SIGMA, what does it do, and what’s your involvement?

EML: From all those upper-case letters, you’d think SIGMA (http://www.sigmaforum.org/) is an acronym, but it’s not. SIGMA (aka, “The Science Fiction think tank”) is a group of hard SF authors with professional science or technology backgrounds. We consult, often pro bono, mostly with government agencies. Why would anyone want our input? Because we’re pretty good at thinking “outside the box.”

And me, personally? Through SIGMA, I’ve taken part in a colloquium on asteroid deflection (which turned out to provide handy source material for Energized, in which a captured asteroid becomes raw material for building solar power satellites), guest lectured at the U.S. Naval Academy, and been a panelist at an academic conference on nanotech.

CS: What’s on the horizon for Edward M. Lerner?

EML: Thanks for asking. A bunch of short fiction is queued up in 2017, at Analog, Galaxy’s Edge, and the Grantville Gazette—and I have a couple more magazine-length stories in me yearning to be set free. I recently finished updating, expanding, and integrating my various “the science behind the fiction” magazine articles, a couple of which I’ve mentioned, into a nonfiction book. I look forward to placing that. And I’ll be finishing (I’m at about the halfway mark) Déjà Doomed, a near-future adventure novel mainly set on the Moon.

And thanks for inviting me to File 770.