Pixel Scroll 12/11/18 For The World Is Hollow And I Have Scrolled The Pixel

(1) PICARD. Entertainment Weekly got the word from Alex Kurtzman: “Star Trek producer explains how Picard spin-off will be ‘extremely different'”.

“It’s an extremely different rhythm than Discovery,” [writer-director Alex] Kurtzman told EW exclusively. “Discovery is a bullet. Picard is a very contemplative show. It will find a balance between the speed of Discovery and the nature of what Next Gen was, but I believe it will have its own rhythm.”

Continued Kurtzman: “Without revealing too much about it, people have so many questions about Picard and what happened to him, and the idea we get to take time to answer those questions in the wake of the many, many things he’s had to deal with in Next Gen is really exciting. ‘More grounded’ is not the right way to put it, because season 2 of Discovery is also grounded. It will feel more…real-world? If that’s the right way to put it.”

(2) NO BUCKS, NO BUCK ROGERS. Also,Variety says the Picard series will be made in California to take advantage of state tax benefits: “New‘ Star Trek’ Series to Shoot in California, Selected for Tax Credit”.

CBS’s new “Star Trek” series, with Patrick Stewart reprising the role of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, will shoot in California and receive a $15.6 million production tax credit.

The California Film Commission announced Monday that the untitled “Star Trek” series and eight other TV series have been selected for the latest tax credit allocations totaling $90 million under the state’s expanded Film & TV Tax Credit Program 2.0.

Six recurring series already in the tax credit program and picked up for another season of in-state production have also been set for allocations — Fox’s third season of “The Orville” with $15.8 million, CBS’s second season of “Strange Angel” with $10 million, Fox’s ninth season of “American Horror Story” ($8.9 million),  and the second seasons of “MayansMC” ($7.6 million), “Good Trouble” ($6.6 million) and “The Rookie” ($4.5million).

(3) LULZINE. John Coxon and España Sheriff have launched a new online fanzine called Lulzine, focused on comedy, and comedy in science fiction and fantasy. Check out Lulzine Issue 1. The editors are still looking for material that suits the first issue’s theme. (Adding stuff makes sense because Lulzine presents as a blog. But don’t tell anyone I said so.)

We’re hoping to add more articles to the first issue before we start the second issue just before Ytterbium (the next Eastercon). The theme of the first issue is comedy in television, so if anyone wants to pitch us articles, they can contact us at editors@lulzine.net.

(4) BREAKFAST WITH EINSTEIN. At Whatever, Chad Orzel explains “The Big Idea” behind his book Breakfast with Einstein: The Exotic Physics of Everyday Objects.

Quantum mechanics is one of the most amazing theories in all of science, full of stuff that captures the imagination: zombie cats, divine dice-rolling, spooky actions over vast distances. Maybe the single most amazing thing about it, though, is that we think it’s weird.

That probably seems a strange thing to say, because quantum physics is so weird, but that’s exactly the point. These are the fundamental principles governing the behavior of everything in the universe, and yet they run completely counter to our intuition about how the world works. If these are the basic rules underlying everything, shouldn’t they make sense? How can the entire universe behave according to strictly quantum laws, and yet we’re not intuitively aware of it?

(5) GLOBAL VIEW. Here’s Mortal Engines’ fascinating “Explore London 360” video –

(6) STUDY IN THIS WORLD’S HOGWARTS. Buzzfeed displays photos of “16 Libraries That Look Like Hogwarts IRL”. One of them is —

2.The University of Washington Library in Seattle, Washington

(7) CREATING AN IMPRESSION. Dave Addey takes up book covers as part of his column’s “Typeset in the Future” sub theme at Tor.com: “Designing the Future: Deconstructing Five Sci-Fi Book Covers”. He doesn’t restrict the conversation to Tor publications, I just thought this one made a good excerpt for the Scroll —

“Loss of Signal” by S. B. Divya (A Tor.com Original,2018)

…The cover’s inverted planetary relationship evokes “Earthrise”, a famous NASA photograph taken onboard Apollo 8 by astronaut Bill Anders….

Like “Earthrise” and Loss of Signal, 2001’s intro shows our home planet far in the distance, small and insignificant when compared to the moon’s barren surface in the foreground. Both images require viewers to consider their place in the universe from an entirely alien vantage point, far from the comforts of home. It’s an entirely appropriate feeling for S. B. Divya’s story of the first human mind to circle the moon without a body in tow.

(8) UNSTINCTION. Shelf Awareness calls attention to Torill Kornfeldt’s “The Re-Origin of Species: A Second Chance for Extinct Animals”.

“There is no way in which a lost species can really be brought back to life,” writes Swedish science journalist Torill Kornfeldt in her fascinating debut, The Re-Origin of Species: A Second Chance for Extinct Animals. “The nearest thing we can manage is a substitute.” But as each chapter reveals, the “substitutes” that many scientists think are possible would be nearly identical to–and just as astonishing as–the originals.

Kornfeldt travels the world to meet scientists who are attempting “de-extinction,” the practice of bringing extinct animals back to life. In Siberia, she meets Sergey Zimov, a Russian scientist attempting to revive mammoths. And in California she speaks with Ben Novak, a young scientist trying to resurrect the passenger pigeon. Other scientists are working on the northern white rhino, a Spanish ibex called a bucardo and, yes, even a dinosaur. There are still advancements to be made in genetic research before any of these experiments could result in actual resurrected animals but, according to the scientists Kornfeldt interviews, breakthroughs are happening at an unprecedented pace. De-extinction is only a few years away from becoming reality.

(9) BUT THEN I TURNED ON THE TV, AND THAT’S ABOUT THE TIME SHE WALKED AWAY FROM ME. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Looks like Gerard Way’s The Umbrella Academy won’t be the only science fiction TV show based on a comic book by a famous Emo band member. Blink 182 guitarist Tom DeLonge’s sci-fi graphic novel Strange Times is being turned into a show for TBS. The show will follow all-American teen Charlie Wilkins who starts investigating when his dad is abducted by aliens. He’s helped by his skateboarding friends and the ghost of a girl. Of the show, DeLonge says: “My love for all things paranormal and skateboarding are sometimes only superseded by my love for offensive humor. This series combines them all into one.” “Blink 182’s Tom DeLonge is making his own sci-fi TV series”NME has the story:

…The show is in development at US network TBS and will follow “five dirty teenage skateboarders who solve paranormal mysteries while being chased by Deep State government agents.”

(10) WHEN IT ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY HAS TO BE THERE OVERNIGHT. “Mark Hamill reveals script for Star Wars IX will be flown to him and then immediately taken back amid intense plot leak fears”Daily Mail has the story.

If you can’t trust a Jedi Master, who can you trust? Mark Hamill has revealed the script for Star Wars Episode IX will be flown to him and he must immediately hand it back after reading it.

Security around the finale is so tight that the 67-year-old is no longer allowed to keep a copy. He has yet to shoot his scenes.

The actor, who plays Luke Skywalker in the sci-fi saga, is currently in Prague where he is shooting the History Channel’s Knightfall. 

(11) LIGHTSABER AUCTION CANCELLED. Profiles in History responded to the controversy reported in an earlier Scroll by withdrawing the item: “Star Wars lightsaber auction pulled over origin dispute”.

…However, the Original Prop Blog posted a series of videos raising doubts about the weapon, including alleged discrepancies between the lightsaber shown in that letter and the lightsaber in the auction catalogue.

There were also claims this might be a replica or prototype prop.

But Mr Roger Christian told the BBC it was one of five original lightsabers made for the film, saying: “It is real – I’ve got the Oscar to prove it.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 11, 1957 – William Joyce, 61. Author of the YA series Guardians of Childhood which is currently at twelve books and growing. Now I’ve no interest in reading them but Joyce and Guillermo del Toro turned them into in a rather splendid Rise of the Guardians film which I enjoyed quite a bit. The antagonist in it reminds me somewhat of a villain later on In Willingham’s Fables series called Mr. Dark. 
  • Born December 11, 1959  — M. Rickert, 59. Usually I don’t cotton with listing Awards but she’s rather unusual in she’s has won or been nominated for several major awards despite working largely in short fiction with I believe The Memory Garden being her only novel. “Journey into the Kingdom” was nominated for the 2006 Nebula Award for Best Novelette and an International Horror Guild Award, and won the 2007 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction Her Map of Dreams won a World Fantasy Award for Best Collection and a Crawford Award, and the collection’s title story was nominated for the 2007 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella. 
  • Born December 11, 1962Ben Browder, 56. Actor of course best known for his roles as John Crichton in Farscape and Cameron Mitchell in Stargate SG-1.  One of my favorite roles by him was his voicing of  Bartholomew Aloysius “Bat” Lash in Justice League Unlimited “The Once and Future Thing, Part 1” episode. He’d have an appearance in Doctor Who in “A Town Called Mercy”,  a Weird Western of sorts. His most recent genre appearance was as a character named Ted Gaynor on Arrow
  • Born December 11, 1965 Sherrilyn Kenyon, 53. Best for her Dark Hunter series which runs to around thirty volumes now. I confess I’ve not read any, so I’m curious as to how they are. Opinions? (Of course you do. Silly me.)  She’s got The League series as well which appears to be paranormal romance, and a Lords of Avalon series too under the pen name of Kinley MacGregor. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • This is no job for the sommelier: Bizarro
  • Frosty the UFOman at Bizarro.
  • Why can’t Santa guest on Star Trek? Meme will explain.

(14) TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter has his eye on the tube. Tonight’s Jeopardy!, in the category “Posthumous Books,” gave the answer as: “After death, this horror author still talked about the Necronomicon in his novel, ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.'”

Wrong question: “Who is Asimov?”

(15) SKY’S THE LIMIT. In his latest Nerds of a Feather contribution,“Microreview [Book]: The Fated Sky, by Mary Robinette Kowal”, Joe Sherry declares —

The Fated Sky stands well on its own but, when coupled with The Calculating Stars, is a masterpiece.

After reading The Calculating Stars (my review) earlier this year, I wrote about how Mary Robinette Kowal did more than achieve a sense of wonder, she brought the dream of spaceflight beyond the page and directly into readers hearts. The Calculating Stars was a masterful novel that will surely find a place on many Year’s Best lists and a number of awards ballots. It’s a lot to live up to, but the near perfection of The Calculating Stars only serves to whet the appetite for The Fated Sky.

The Fated Sky picks up a few years after the end of The Calculating Stars. There is a fledgling base and colony on the moon, regular round trip missions from the earth to the moon, and the IAC (International Aerospace Coalition) is planning for its first Mars mission. Each of the two books are tagged as “Lady Astronaut” novels and Mary Robinette Kowal won a Hugo Award for her story “The Lady Astronaut of Mars“. We know how the progression of Elma’s story, where she ends up. It isn’t about spoiling the ending, the beauty of The Fated Sky is in the journey. In this case, a journey to Mars.

(16) BATWOMAN IN CW CROSSOVER. The Hollywood Reporter tells“How Batwoman Fit Into The CW’s DC Comics World in ‘Elseworlds'”.

Batwoman has finally arrived on The CW. Ruby Rose’s iconic lesbian superhero officially made her debut during Monday’s Arrow, part two of The CW’s three-part superhero crossover “Elseworlds.” 

With Earth-1 impacted by a magical book that altered reality, Monday’s Arrow installment of The CW’s big “Elseworlds” superhero crossover found The Flash’s Barry (Grant Gustin), Arrow’s Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Supergirl’s Kara (Melissa Benoist) in Gotham to try and get to the bottom of things. Unfortunately for the heroes, a mugging (and their inability to stand down) landed the trio in jail, where they were bailed out by a mysterious figure — Kate Kane (Orange Is the New Blackgrad Rose), aka Batwoman.

(17) JUST DO IT. Mars Society president Robert Zubrin argues in the Washington Post that “We have the technology to build a colony on the moon. Let’s do it.” The author of The Case For Mars takes aim at current NASA plans to build a mini-space station that would orbit the moon, and instead suggests that the time has come to set up a permanent habitable structure on the lunar surface.

…As for landing people on the moon, NASA is vague about that, too. Apparently, if we wanted to build a lander sometime in the future, it would rendezvous with the Gateway for some reason and then attempt a landing.

This is all just plain weird. It’s like building a big, expensive aircraft carrier, positioning it off the European coast and requiring passengers going from New York to Paris to land there first and do something (although what isn’t known) until another airplane is built to pick them up to carry them to their destination. This, we suspect, is not the best way to get to France.

Rather than build this murky Gateway, which we frankly doubt the American people will understand or support, we believe the best expenditure of time and money is to simply make it a national goal to build a base on the lunar surface. Such a base would be similar to the U.S. South Pole Station and constructed for the same reasons: science, exploration, knowledge, national prestige, and economic and technological development for the benefit of the U.S. taxpayer.

…If we’re serious about going to the moon, let’s just go there. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, reminding us of the sort of things we as a nation once accomplished. We should resolve now to do no less.

(18) STOP AND GO. First story isn’t good news: Himalayan glaciers are slowing because they’ve thinned enough that there’s less mass to move them downhill, and their outflows provide inland water. Second story also isn’t good news: Satellite images show Antarctic glaciers getting more lubrication on their way to the ocean, where they’ll melt and raise ocean levels.

The glaciers that flank the Himalayas and other high mountains in Asia are moving slower over time.

Scientists have analysed nearly 20 years of satellite images to come to this conclusion.

They show that the ice streams which have decelerated the mostare the ones that have also thinned the most.

The region has long been considered stable and unaffected by some of the more dramatic changes occurring elsewhere on the continent.

But satellites have now shown that ice streams running into the ocean along one-eighth of the eastern coastline have thinned and sped up.

If this trend continues, it has consequences for future sea levels.

There is enough ice in the drainage basins in this sector of Antarctica to raise the height of the global oceans by 28m – if it were all to melt out.

(19) GAME CENSORS. From BBC we learn that “China’s new games censors take tough stance”.

A panel of censors set up to vet mobile video games in China has signalled it will be hard to please.

State media reports that of the first 20 titles it assessed, nine were refused permission to go on sale.

The Xinhua news agency added that developers of the other 11 had been told they had to make adjustments to remove “controversial content”.

There has been a clampdown on new video game releases in the country since March.

The authorities have voiced concerns about the violent nature of some titles as well as worries about the activity being addictive.

President Xi Jinping has also called for more to be done to tackle a rise in near-sightedness among the young – something that the country’s ministry of education has linked to children playing video games at the cost of spending time on outdoor pastimes.

(20) FILMING IN NEW ZEALAND. The Hollywood Reporter shows how Peter Jackson’s pioneer efforts have paid off for New Zealand: “‘Avatar’ to ‘Mulan’: Hollywood Movies Are Keeping New Zealand Busier Than Ever”.

…In addition to recently hosting summer blockbusters like Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible — Fallout and the giant shark thriller The Meg, the New Zealand production uptick is indeed evidenced by the volume of high-profile projects that are in varying stages of production right now.

James Cameron is gearing up for the monumental task of shooting all three of the Avatar sequels there simultaneously early in 2019. The films were brought to New Zealand via a government deal that requires 20thCentury Fox to spend no less than NZ $500 million (about $345 million)in-country and to hold at least one of the world premieres there.

Meanwhile, Disney is just wrapping production on its live-action adaptation of Mulan, with a budget north of $100 million and Kiwi director Niki Caro at the helm. The project shot on the new stages at Kumeu Film Studios in West Auckland as well as on locations across the country. Netflix, of course, also is active in New Zealand, having recently begun filming the family fantasy series The Letter for the King in Auckland; Amazon Studios, meanwhile, is shooting the YA series The Wilds in Auckland nearby. Also courtesy of Amazon, the franchise that made New Zealand synonymous with Middle Earth is tipped to be coming back to the island nation — for many in the local industry, it’s simply unthinkable that the streamer’s Lord of the Rings TV series, with a rumored budget of $500 million, won’t shoot there.

(21) BEST RESOURCE. Congratulations to Mark Kelly who has added contents of 15 best-of-year anthology series to his Science Fiction Awards Database site, with single-page composite tables of contents for each series, and all stories included on their authors’ individual pages. (He still has more such series yet to do, for example, the Datlow/Windling series.) See “Anthologies & Collections Directory”. The first 15 “bests” include–

1939 – 1963  • Asimov/Greenberg • The Great SF Stories (DAW, 1979 – 1992)

1948 – 1957  • Bleiler/Dikty • The Best Science-Fiction Stories and Novels (1949 – 1958)

1955 – 1967  • Judith Merril • Year’s Best S-F (1956 – 1967)

1964 – 1970  • Wollheim/Carr • World’s Best Science Fiction (Ace, 1965 – 1971)

1967 – 1975  • Harrison/Aldiss • Best SF (1968 – 1976)

1974 – 1975  • Lester del Rey • Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year (Dutton, 1972 – 1976)

1971 – 1989  • Donald A. Wollheim • Annual World’s Best SF (DAW, 1972 – 1990)

1971 – 1986  • Terry Carr • Best Science Fiction of the Year + Fantasy (1972 – 1987)

1976 – 1980  • Gardner Dozois • Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year (Dutton, 1977 – 1981)

1983 – 2017  • Gardner Dozois • Year’s Best Science Fiction (St. Martin’s, 1984 – 2018)

1995 – 2012  • Hartwell/Cramer • Year’s Best SF, Year’s Best Fantasy (1996 – 2013)

2001 – 2004  • Silverberg/Haber/Strahan • Science Fiction Best of, Fantasy Best of (ibooks: 2002 – 2005)

2003 – 2017  • Jonathan Strahan • The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year (2004 – 2018)

2005 – 2017  • Rich Horton • The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy (Prime, 2006 – 2018)

2015 – 2017  • Neil Clarke • The Best Science Fiction of the Year (Night Shade, 2016 – 2018)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Olav Rokne, 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 Olav Rokne.]

Pixel Scroll 12/4/18 You Miss 100 Percent Of The Pixels You Don’t Scroll

(1) WRITING IDENTITY. Lara Elena Donnelly discusses the challenges to a writer in an industry with entrenched genre labels and sublabels. Thread starts here.

(2) “I’M SHOCKED”: The Wrap begins its story

We sense a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of bank accounts suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly emptied.

…Hollywood auction house Profiles in History is offering the original lightsaber prop used by Mark Hamill in 1977’s “Star Wars: A New Hope” at the estimated value of $150,000 – $200,000.

But is it the real McCoy? BBC reports that “Mark Hamill questions Luke Skywalker lightsaber auction”.

[On] Twitter, Mr Hamill explained it may not be a one-off.

But the Academy Award-winning production designer for the original Star Wars film, Roger Christian, told the BBC the lightsaber is an original.

“There are five originals I handmade myself, and this is one of them,” he said. “It is real – I’ve got the Oscar to prove it.”

(3) ON THE FRONT. “How I became a book cover designer: Chip Kidd” at USA Today.

Q: What has been your biggest career high and your biggest career low?

Kidd: High: “Jurassic Park.” That will be the first line of my obituary, and I’m extremely proud of that. I have absolutely no regrets.

Low: There’s nothing where I think, oh my God, I’m so ashamed I did X or Y- I mean, I’m really not. There are books that you work on that you are hoping are going to do really well, but that’s not the same – that’s not saying ‘oh my God, I’m so ashamed of that,’ it’s just like saying, ‘well, we did our best and that didn’t work.’

(4) THE BOOK OF KINGFISHER Camestros Felapton chimes in with “Review: Swordheart by T. Kingfisher”.

This book positively sparkles with snappy dialogue as if it were a 1940s romantic comedy…but with swords, talking badger people and a possibly demonic bird.

We are back to the world of the Clockwork Boys, a few years on since the end of the Clocktaur wars. There are no shared characters but the shared fantasy setting relieves the story from having to spend time on additional world building. There are hints of broader trouble brewing but unlike the Clockwork Boys this is a less conventional fantasy quest.

(5) AUDIBLE.COM BEST OF THE YEAR. Audible.com has announced the audiobooks picked in various categories as the Best of the Year 2018.

Tade Thompson’s Rosewater is the Sci-Fi Winner.

Sci-Fi Winner: Rosewater

Rosewater is one of the most unique sci-fi books I’ve listened to in the past few years, let alone 2018. Author Tade Thompson—who won the inaugural Nommo Award (Africa’s first speculative fiction award) for this novel—describes his concept as a Frankenstein of influences, a phrase that calls to mind a monster cobbled together with mismatched parts. But in reality, the pieces all fit together in near-perfect synchronicity. A completely original alien invasion story with neocolonialist themes, combined with top-notch world-building make this series as unpredictable as it is unputdownable. And enhancing the experience is new narrator Bayo Gbadamosi, who was personally chosen by the author, and whose effortless performance of various characters and accents immerse the listener in this twisty, enthralling world. —Sam, Audible Editor

The other finalsists were Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu, Level Five by William Ledbetter, The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, and Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor.

Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver is the Fantasy Winner.

Fantasy Winner: Spinning Silver

Spinning Silver is unexpectedly epic. The spell of it sneaks up on the listener. Yes, it’s a fairytale retelling of Rumplestiltskin, only with six different character perspectives and a fully fleshed-out world that’s familiar, but imbued with magic. At its center are two main heroines, Miryem and Wanda. Together, they carry complicated and relatable problems on their shoulders, making this an easily accessible fantasy for those who might be daunted by the genre. The land around them is bewitching and enchanting, made all the more so from Lisa Flanagan’s subtly accented narration. Simply put, it led us away to a wintry fantasy land and trapped us there, firmly cementing its place in our minds. —Melissa, Audible Editor

(6) EXPANDING UNIVERSE. Awareness of science-fiction’s blossoming of cultural inclusivity seems to be reaching the mainstream, as the BBC culture writer Tom Cassauwers looks at a variety of literary movements that are making the genre more meaningful to more people: “What Science Fiction Says About The Cultures That Create It”.

Well-known artistic depictions of the future have traditionally been regarded as the preserve of the West, and have shown a marked lack of diversity. Yet new regions and authors are depicting the future from their perspectives. Chinese science fiction has boomed in recent years, with stand-out books like Cixin Liu’s The Three-Body Problem. And Afrofuturism is on the rise since the release of the blockbuster Black Panther. Around the world, science fiction is blossoming.

Susana Morris, Associate Professor at Georgia Institute of Technology says:

“People often think Afrofuturism is a genre, while really it’s a cultural movement. It isn’t just black science fiction. It’s a way for black folks across the diaspora to think about our past and future.”

(7) THE OTHER FIRST PERSON. “Jonathan Lethem on First-Person Narrators: When Men Write Women and Women Write Men” on Bookmarks has a conversation between Lethem and Jane Ciabattari about novels with first-person narration from the opposite gender.  Among the books discussed are Philip K. Dick’s The Transmigration of Timothy Archer and Anna Kavan’s Ice.

JL: …One of the things that’s striking about Dick’s work is that for such a wildly imaginative writer, he also frequently uses material from his own life quite directly, and the two nestle side-by-side very easily.

(8) BLACK MIRROR HINTS. Get yer red hot wild guesses here — “‘Black Mirror’ Season 5 Date and Episode Title Leak, Prompting Fan Theories” at Yahoo! Entertainment.

The wait for new “Black Mirror” is almost over, maybe. As reported by Entertainment Weekly, Netflix’s science-fiction Twitter account @NXonNetflix accidentally leaked the Season 5 premiere date and first episode title. If the tweet is to be believed, then “Black Mirror” returns December 28 with an episode called “Bandersnatch.” The tweet was deleted off Twitter but not before fans captured it via photo and sent it around the web.

…The “Bandersnatch” is a fictional creature in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass” and his 1874 poem “The Hunting of the Snark,” but, as one eagle-eyed Twitter user uncovered, it was the name of a video game listed on the cover of a fictional magazine in the Season 3 episode “Playtest,” directed by Dan Trachtenberg and starring Wyatt Russell.

The “Bandersnatch” game, as it turns out, is real. The UK-based Imagine Software developed the project in 1984 but it was never released to the public…

(9) STAYS MAINLY ON THE PLAIN. Cat Rambo livetweeted highlights of theRambo Academy for Wayward Writers’ December 1 class “Highspeed Worldbuilding for Games and Fiction” with James L. Sutter. Thread starts here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born December 4, 1945 – Karl Edward Wagner, Writer, Editor, Publisher, Poet, and Fan. As an editor, he created a three-volume set of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian fiction restored to its original form as was it was originally written by Howard. He is quite likely best known for his invention of the character Kane, the Mystic Swordsman, who appeared in thirty novels. His short fiction amassed piles of World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Stoker Award nominations and took home the trophy for many of them. He took over as editor of The Year’s Best Horror Stories series for DAW Books at the 8th edition, a role he held for fifteen years. He also edited the three Echoes of Valor anthologies that came out around the late 1980s. His Carcosa publishing company issued four volumes of stories by authors of the Golden Age pulp magazines. He received a British Fantasy Awards Special Award for his work with Carcosa; in 1997, the BFS renamed this award in his honor. (Died 1994.)
  • Born December 4, 1949 – Richard Lynch, 69, Writer, Editor, Historian, and Fan who with his wife Nicki produced the long-running fanzine Mimosa from 1982 to 2003, which was nominated fourteen times for the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine, winning six of those years. He has been a member of several fan groups and APAs, chaired a Chattacon, and edited the 1998 Worldcon Souvenir Program Book. He and Nicki have been Fan Guests of Honor at several conventions, and were honored with the Phoenix Award by Southern Fandom.
  • Born December 4, 1949 – Jeff Bridges, 69, Oscar-winning Actor whose best genre role, I’d say, was as the Oscar-nominated, Saturn-winning lead in Starman – but many genre fans would offer his Saturn-winning dual role as Keven Flynn/CLU in TRON and the followup TRON: Legacy as his main genre credential. Other genre work includes Kiss Me Goodbye, K-PAX, Tideland, King Kong (1976), the Saturn-nominated titular character in The Fisher King, Iron Monger in Iron Man, and the voice of Prince Lir in The Last Unicorn. He appeared also as an undead police officer in a film called R.I.P.D. (the Rest in Peace Department), which was either really bad or really, really bad.
  • Born December 4, 1949 – Pamela Stephenson, 69, Psychologist, Writer, Actor, and Comedian who was born in New Zealand, grew up in Australia, and emigrated to the UK. She may be recognized by genre fans as villain Robert Vaughn’s moll in Superman III, or as Mademoiselle Rimbaud in Mel Brooks’ alt-history History of the World: Part I. Other roles include the films The Comeback and Bloodbath at the House of Death, and guest parts on episodes of Space: 1999, The New Avengers, Tales of the Unexpected, and – of special interest to Ursula Vernon fans – a 3-episode arc as Wombat Woman on the British series Ratman. She is married to comedian Billy Connolly, with whom she has three children; she was the travel researcher for his film series Billy Connolly’s World Tour of…, which JJ highly recommends, as each trip includes visits to numerous interesting sites of quirky, bizarre, and supernatural reknown.
  • Born December 4, 1954 – Sally Kobee, 64, Bookseller, Filker, and Fan who, with Larry Smith, ran for 25 years comprehensive dealer stores at Worldcons and other conventions, which always contained books written and illustrated by convention guests, so that fans could obtain works for autographing sessions. She has served on the committees for numerous conventions, and chaired two Ohio Valley Filk Fests and two World Fantasy Conventions. She was honored as a NESFA Fellow and as a Guest of Honor at Windycon.
  • Born December 4, 1954 – Tony Todd, 64, Actor, Director, and Producer. Let’s see… He was memorable as Kurn in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, and as Captain Anderson of EarthForce in Babylon 5: A Call to Arms, but he is likely best known to horror fans as the lead character in the Candyman horror trilogy. He also had main roles in Night of the Living Dead, the Final Destination film series, and played Cecrops in Xena: Warrion Princess and Gladius on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. He provided the voice of The Fallen in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
  • Born December 4, 1957 – Lucy Sussex, 61, Teacher, Writer, Editor, Critic, and Fan from New Zealand who emigrated to Australia. Writing across the range of science fiction, fantasy, and horror (as well as crime and detective fiction), her works have won 4 Ditmar Awards, 2 Aurealis Awards, and a Sir Julius Vogel Award, mostly for short fiction; however, her Ditmar-winning novel The Scarlet Rider was also longlisted for the Tiptree Award. Her anthology She’s Fantastical was nominated for a World Fantasy Award. She has been an instructor at Clarion West and Clarion South. She has been Guest of Honor at several conventions including the New Zealand Natcon, and has been honored with the A. Bertram Chandler Award for Outstanding Achievement in Australian Science Fiction and the Peter McNamara Achievement Award.
  • Born December 4, 1964 – Marisa Tomei, 54, Oscar-winning Actor of Stage and Screen and Producer who played May Parker in Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Spider-Man: Far From Home, but also, to my delight, has an uncredited role as a Health Club Girl in The Toxic Avenger! She also had a guest role in the “Unwomen” episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.
  • Born December 4, 1974 – Anne KG [Murphy] Gray, 44, Engineer, Physicist, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Fan. Known in fandom as Netmouse, she was a member of the Ann Arbor Science Fiction Association, and has served on numerous convention committees and chaired three ConFusions. As a member of Midfan, which ran four Midwest Construction regional conrunner training conventions in the 2000s, she was editor of their publication MidFanzine. She is a past president of the Science Fiction Oral History Association. She is married to Brian Gray, with whom she won the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund in 2010; they went to Eastercon and Corflu in the UK and produced a TAFF trip report, a piece on the Sherlock Holmes museum, and a photo album.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • PvP Online takes a turn with one of 770’s favorite motifs….

(12) PRIME SUSPECTS. Christopher Sandford, in “Who Was the Real Sherlock Holmes?” on CrimeReads, has an excerpt from his book The Man Who Would Be Sherlock where he looks at the people who inspired Sherlock Holmes, including Dr. Joseph Bell and Conan Doyle’s rich imagination.

Although Conan Doyle, like most authors, deplored the habit of identifying ‘real-life’ models for his characters, he also took the opportunity to pay Dr Joseph Bell (1837–1911) the compliment of calling him the “true Holmes.”

The frock-coated Bell was 39 years old when Doyle, an impoverished medical student, first attended one of his lectures at Edinburgh University. Described as a “thin, white-haired Scot with the look of a prematurely hatched bird, whose Adam’s apple danced up and down his narrow neck,” the doctor spoke in a piping voice and is said to have walked with a jerky, scuttling gait “suggestive of his considerable reserves of nervous energy.” Bell was a keen observer of his patients’ mental and physical characteristics—”The Method” as he called it—which he used as an aid to diagnosis. A lecture in the university’s gaslit amphitheater might, for example, open with Bell informing his audience that the subject standing beside him in the well of the auditorium had obviously served, at some time, as a non-commissioned officer in a Highland regiment in the West Indies—an inference based on the man’s failure to remove his hat (a Scots military custom) and telltale signs of tropical illness, among other minutiae. Added to his impressive powers of deduction, Bell also liked to bring an element of drama to his lectures, for instance by once swallowing a phial of malodorous liquid in front of his students, the better to determine whether or not it was a deadly poison. (He survived the test.) For much of the last century, Bell has been the individual most popularly associated with the “real Holmes.”

(13) GAME OF STRAPHANGERS. Gothamist says commuters will have a chance to buy collectible prepaid fare cards: “Limited Edition ‘Game Of Thrones’ MetroCards Available At Grand Central Starting Tuesday”.

Last week, the MTA announced that there would be a delay on a set of limited edition Game Of Thrones-emblazoned MetroCards planned for release in advance of the hotly-anticipated final season of the show. Today, we’ve learned that the MetroCards will be available starting tomorrow (Tuesday, 12/4) at Grand Central Terminal—and you can get a first look at them up above.

There will be 250,000 copies of the four MetroCards available at in the Grand Central subway station while supplies last.

(14) WHO’S ON FIRST. Galactic Journey was there in November 1963 for the series premiere: “[Dec. 3, 1963] Dr. Who?  An Adventure In Space And Time”.

Produced by Verity Lambert (the BBC’s youngest and only woman producer), Doctor Who is the new science fiction series from the BBC, about the mysterious eponymous old man and his machine that allows him to travel through time and space. Along with him are his granddaughter, Susan, and two of her school teachers, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. Together, they’ll travel backwards and forwards through history, and upside down and sideways through the universe. According to the Radio Times, each adventure may bring them to the North Pole, distant worlds devastated by neutron bombs (well, THERE’S a relevant story for you!), and even the caravan of Marco Polo. I also hear this show is to have a bit of an educational element, so I’ll be looking forward to seeing how that goes.

(15) BELIEVABLE FANTASY. Marion Deeds and Terry Weyna, in their review of Alexandra Rowland’s novel at Fantasy Literature, “A Conspiracy of Truths: Interesting debut novel from a writer to watch”, point out that Chant is an unreliable narrator – but maybe not that unreliable:

For a story that takes place mostly within prison cells, where it seems pretty likely the first person narrator has not been executed, A Conspiracy of Truths becomes surprisingly suspenseful. Partly this is because there are characters at risk, particularly Ylfing and Consanza, but the suspense comes also not from “what will happen,” but “how will it happen?”

(16) A BIT MUCH. Fantasy Literature’s Taya Okerlund wrote a headline that made me read her review — “Legendary: If you like The Cheesecake Factory, this book might be for you” – and wrote a review that talked me out of reading the book:

The CARAVAL series has been very well received among YA readers; I guess I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Critics call it sweeping and immersive, and I’ll go with that. The writing is quite rich, and conjures to mind a world that might have been decorated by a cooperative design team from The Cheesecake Factory and Victoria’s Secret. It is gilded, rich and sugar crusted — which may be just the thing for an escapist read, but it wasn’t for me.

(17) SUPERCALI-WHAT? “Odeon defends £40 hi-tech cinema prices” — per an image, ticket prices for a show of Mary Poppins Returns started at £25.75; average price in the UK is £7.49. Just how much better than a typical cinema is this one? (And does this mean the bankers are the heroes in the Poppins sequel?)

Odeon has responded to criticism over the prices it is charging for seats at its new hi-tech cinema in London, where tickets will cost up to £40 ($51).

It told the BBC the prices were similar to tickets for theatre or live sports.

The newly refurbished Odeon Leicester Square will re-open later this month, showing Mary Poppins Returns.

It has had a multi-million pound facelift in partnership with Dolby, which is providing cutting-edge audio-visual technology.

(18) SHATNER CLAUS. Cleopatra Records would love to sell you a copy —

A very special gift of the holidays – the first ever Christmas album from the godfather of dramatic musical interpretations and a legend of stage and screen, Mr. William Shatner!

(19) FURSUITS AND LAWSUITS. Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn says a well-known Chicago-region vendor “Lemonbrat Has Filed Suit Against Former Employee (and Con-Runner) Corey Wood “. (They specialize in costumes and gear of interest to furries.)

In a series of events that has left many of us shocked, frequent convention vendor Lemonbrat has filed a lawsuit against their former financial manager Corey Wood.

The Cook County Record story lists the allegations:

According to the complaint, Wood has been employed by the plaintiffs since January 2013 as a financial manager and prepared payroll and the company’s books. The plaintiffs allege they discovered Wood established separate Square accounts for Lemonbrat and its predecessor that diverted credit card payments that belonging to the plaintiffs to Wood personally. The plaintiffs allege Wood diverted more than $40,000 to himself via his false Square account or accounts and has written more than $15,000 in bogus checks.

Dorn adds:

What makes it even more important though is Wood’s prominence in the con running community. Wood is the convention chair for Anime Milwaukee (Wisconsin’s largest anime convention), and owns and operates other events including the upcoming furry convention Aquatifur.

(20) PICKING HELLBOY. In an episode of PeopleTV’s video series Couch Surfing, Ron Perlman says that director Guillermo del Toro had to work a long time to get Perlman cast in HellboyEntertainment Weekly has the story (“Guillermo del Toro fought 7 years for Ron Perlman to star as Hellboy”), transcribing part of the video. It wasn’t until del Toro’s success with Blade II that producers would listen to him.

Before actor Ron Perlman played the titular role in Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro’s 2004 unconventional superhero flick Hellboy, he was a typecast character actor, successful but with little hopes of ascending to leading man status. Luckily for Perlman, del Toro had a very specific vision for the film, with Perlman front and center.

“I said to him from the get-go, ‘That’s a great idea and god bless you, I love you for entertaining the idea, but it’ll never happen,’” Perlman says in the latest episode of PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing, recalling his disbelief that he’d ever excite studios enough to be cast. “Sure enough, for seven years he’d go to these meetings at these studios, and he’d say, ‘Ron Perlman.’”

(21) MISSION-CRITICAL. Another first world problem: “Research worms ‘too old’ to go to space station”.

Thousands of worms being blasted into space could be “too old” for research when they get to the International Space Station (ISS).

The launch of a SpaceX rocket was delayed after mouldy food was found among another research team’s kit.

Teams from Exeter, Nottingham and Lancaster universities are hoping the microscopic worms could lead to new treatments for muscular dystrophy.

The worms were meant to be “just turning into adults” at the launch.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was due to launch from the NASA Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Tuesday evening, but has now been rescheduled for 18:16 GMT on Wednesday.

(22) PASSING THE POST. Congratulations to Adri Joy for reaching a specialized kind of milestone with “Microreview [Book]: A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy by Alex White” at Nerds of a Feather.

Hurrah! With this review, I have officially reached my “sequeliversary” for Nerds of a Feather: Alex White’s A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe was one of the first books I reviewed on this site, and now here I am looking at its successor for your potential reading pleasure! Admittedly, there were only six months between the two, but I still think that’s cool. If you haven’t read White’s breakneck opener full of grumpy yet brilliant ladies and satisfying space magic, now’s the time to go check out that review and the book behind it…

A Bad Deal for the Whole Galaxy opens one year after we last saw the crew of the Capricious, having hunted down the big ship at the edge of the universe (also known as the Harrow) and started to uncover a galaxy spanning plot. Like it’s predecessor, Bad Deal doesn’t waste any time, throwing its audience right into the middle of things

(23) WHERE THERE’S SMOKE. Vance K adds James Tiptree Jr. to the dossier in “Feminist Futures: Her Smoke Rose Up Forever” at Nerds of a Feather.

In reading Tiptree, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Flannery O’Connor in that wherever the stories started or whichever direction they may start heading, they would always veer hard to death. Characters don’t get happy endings, hope is inevitably extinguished just when it seemed likely to pay off, and those misgivings nagging at the back of characters’ minds always turn out to be harbingers of a doom lurking just up ahead.

(24) GEM OF A DINO. National Geographic has a photo of this exotic find: “Sparkly, opal-filled fossils reveal new dinosaur species”.

In a dazzling discovery, fossils brought up from a mine in Wee Warra, near the Australian outback town of Lightning Ridge, belong to the newly named dinosaur species Weewarrasaurus pobeni. The animal, which was about the size of a Labrador retriever, walked on its hind legs and had both a beak and teeth for nibbling vegetation.

…But perhaps the most striking thing about this fossil—described today in a paper published in the journal PeerJ—is that it is made from opal, a precious gemstone that this part of the state of New South Wales is known for.

(25) ALL FINISHED. Gothamist tweaks the celebrated fantasy author: “George R.R. Martin Finally Finishes His Guide To NYC Pizza”.

Do you ever get the feeling that George R.R. Martin will do literally anything to get out of finishing the A Song Of Ice & Fire series? It’s been well over seven years since the release of A Dance Of Dragons, and in lieu of the long-awaited new GoT book, Martin has released spin-off books like Fire and Blood, he’s helped adapt his 1980 novella Nightflyers into a TV show, he’s started non-profits, he’s cameoed in Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, gone to some Dead shows, campaigned for Hillary Clinton, and he’s blogged way too much about the Jets.

The latest iteration of this phenomenon: to promote Fire & Blood, Martin gave his guide to NYC pizza. Did we really need the creator of Game Of Thrones to confirm what we all already know, that NYC pizza is by far the best in the world?

 

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

Pixel Scroll 9/30/18 I Bless The Rains On Mt. Tsundoku, Gonna Take Some Time To Read The Things We Never Had

(1) PROS WITH A FOUNTAIN PEN. The Goulet Pen company blog invited writers to speak about using fountain pens in their work. Two of them are of genre interest: Elizabeth Bear and Aliette de Bodard. In the comments others mention Neil Gaiman and Neil Stephenson as having written book drafts with a fountain pen.“6 Writers On Why They Use Fountain Pens”

My name is Aliette de Bodard and I’m a writer of science fiction and fantasy. I learnt to write with fountain pens as a child but put mine away after I left university. Last year, after a dry spell of being unable to write, I reconnected with that love and discovered the world of bottled inks, and it’s been such good writing practice.

For me, the act of using a fountain pen is visceral and soothing. I love feeling the bite of the nib on paper. Writing things down has been super useful: I brainstorm, or take notes while writing a scene on my computer. I find in both cases using the fountain pen will unlock new ideas for me to work with. I also doodle: I will totally draw little diagrams of what a scene looks like and where my characters are!

(2) PERSISTENCE OF VISION. The Washington Post’s Steven Zeitchik explains why ratings are far less of a determination about whether a show is renewed than they used to be, which is why The Simpsons is on Season 30 because it works well overseas and on streaming platforms.  Also, campaigns to save shows matter more, which is why Timeless will have a two-hour TV movie despite being cancelled: “When ratings don’t define success, more TV series are staying on the air longer”.

In fact, last year marked the first time since the ratings site TV By The Numbers began tracking figures nearly a decade ago that fewer than half of networks’ first-year series were canceled. That marks a severe drop-off — the number once topped 70 percent.

And as the fall season begins this month, 13 shows are entering at least their 10th season, believed to be a modern-day record. That includes such programs as “Grey’s Anatomy,” entering Season 15, and “The Simpsons,” entering Season 30. Viewership for each of these shows is down more than 70 percent from their all-time highs.

(3) MAP OF A WORLD. A Reddit fan of Steven Erikson and Ian Esselmont’s Malazan books has mapped the series’ world (known as WU) to a chalkboard globe. Tor.com has an article about it: “Ever Wondered What the Known World of Malazan Looks Like on a Globe?”

While there is no official, unified map for the world of Malazan, that has not stopped fans from constructing their own maps drawing from conjectures and clues in Malazan Book of the Fallen. Now, one especially crafty fan has taken that experiment a step further by making the world (affectionately and informally referred to as “Wu”) three-dimensional.

See photos of the globe at the link.

(4) THE APPETIZER COURSE. Amanda Baker offers her list of “Sci-fi books for people who don’t think they like sci-fi” at Salon.

The Sparrow,” by Mary Doria Russell — This book was the first I read from my “starter kit,” and it hit me like a gut punch. Yes, there is a spaceship. But it also has some of the most engrossing depictions of culture shock and good intentions leading to severe consequences of any book I have read. It can be an emotionally demanding read.

(5) STEAM AGING. Disappointingly, this place is not open to tourists! “Steampunk Meets Science at New Hendrick’s Distillery in Scotland”Bloomberg has the story.

The door is stout, with curly wrought iron hinges, the only entrance in an imposing, 13-foot-high brick wall. It could be the exterior of an old castle here in Scotland, a bell hanging nearby to summon attention. When the huge clapper dings, a small hatch rattles open to reveal a pair of eyes, like a guard greeting Dorothy arriving at Emerald City for the first time. “Who’s there?” he says, before recognizing the visitor “Och aye, come in.”

When the gates swing open, it’s an Oz-worthy sight: there’s a palatial building hidden inside, made mostly from glass and iron like a Victorian exhibition hall. Two of the wings are hothouses, filled with plants, while between them sits a central conservatory festooned with decoration. A stuffed peacock perches proudly in one corner, near a pile of steam trunks. A coat rack is hung with tweed cloaks and pith helmets. Penny farthing bikes are racked together jauntily by the door.

…While Ward points to an enormous new visitor center recently unveiled by The Macallan and the 100,000 plus visitors who pass through Bombay Sapphire’s jewel-box of a distillery each year, the Gin Palace is not configured for thirsty, drop-in visitors. Rather William Grant has taken a more selective approach. Bartenders will be invited to come here to finesse their skills alongside select VIPs, who will tour the hot houses and gardens, meet with Lesley in her lab and taste her various experiments; the gin’s brand ambassadors will be tasked with identifying, and inviting, the first few such folks. If you want to wangle a visit for yourself, charm everyone you see wearing a pith helmet and a retro mustache in any bar.

(6) BRADBURY’S VOICE. At the link you can watch The Halloween Tree movie with Ray Bradbury’s commentary overdubbed from the laserdisc edition.

(7) HE WAS HAD. Billy Dee Williams tweeted a photo of he and Mark Hamill at the Royal Performance of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980.  Mark Hamill tweeted the reason he didn’t look Princess Margaret in the eye —

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 30, 1959Men Into Space premiered on television.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born September 30, 1946 – Dan O’Bannon, Actor, Writer, Director best known to genre fans for his collaboration with John Carpenter on the cult science fiction film Dark Star, in which he also starred. He built a career writing screenplays for numerous genre films including Alien, Lifeforce, and Total Recall, and directed The Return of the Living Dead.
  • Born September 30, 1950 – Vondie Curtis-Hall, 68, Actor and Director, whose genre appearances include Broken Arrow, a guest role on Medium, and a main role in the Daredevil TV series.
  • Born September 30, 1959 – Debrah Farentino, 59, Actress and Producer who played major roles in the TV series Earth 2 and Eureka.
  • Born September 30, 1960 – Nicola Griffith, 58, Writer, Essayist and Teacher. Her first novel was Ammonite which won the Tiptree and Lambda Awards and was a finalist for the Clarke and BSFA Awards, followed by The Blue Place, Stay, and Always, which are linked novels in the Ammonite universe featuring the character Aud Torvingen. Her novel Slow River won Nebula and Lambda Awards. With Stephen Pagel, she has edited three Bending the Landscape anthologies in each of the three genres Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, the first of which won a World Fantasy Award. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in March 1993. She lives with her wife, author Kelley Eskridge, in Seattle.
  • Born September 30, 1964 – Monica Bellucci, 54, Italian Actor, known for The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions and voices for the videogames in that franchise, The Brothers Grimm, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
  • Born September 30, 1972 – Sheree Renée Thomas, 46, Writer and Editor who has published two collections of her own stories and poems. The two Dark Matter anthologies she edited, A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, and Reading the Bones, each won World Fantasy Awards. She has been guest co-editor this year on two magazine special editions, the Strange Horizons Southwestern USA Issue (July) and the Apex Magazine Zodiac Double Issue (August).
  • Born September 30, 1974 – Daniel Wu, 44, Actor, Director, and Producer, who has appeared in genre films Warcraft, Geostorm, and the Tomb Raider reboot, and currently has a lead role in the post-apocalyptic TV series Into the Badlands.
  • Born September 30, 1975 – Marion Cotillard, 43, French Actor and Director, had early appearance in two episodes of Highlander, followed by larger roles in the genre films Big Fish, Inception, Contagion, The Dark Knight Rises, and Assassin’s Creed.

(10) CAN YOU DIG IT? Ever wanted to get the dirt on Mars. Um, of Mars? Well, definitely not from Mars. Phys.org lets you know that the University of Central Florida can hook you up with some sweet, sweet simulant (“UCF selling experimental Martian dirt—$20 a kilogram, plus shipping”).

The University of Central Florida is selling Martian dirt, $20 a kilogram plus shipping.

This is not fake news. A team of UCF astrophysicists has developed a scientifically based, standardized method for creating Martian and asteroid soil known as simulants.
The team published its findings this month in the journal Icarus.
“The simulant is useful for research as we look to go to Mars,” said Physics Professor Dan Britt, a member of UCF’s Planetary Sciences Group. “If we are going to go, we’ll need food, water and other essentials. As we are developing solutions, we need a way to test how these ideas will fare.”

You can also pick up Lunar simulants in addition to the Martian and asteroid models. There’s no word in the Phys.org article whether toxic perchlorates are included in the base price of the Martian simulant, or are an extra-cost upgrade.

(11) CHINA SPACE PROGRAM. According to ThatsGuangzhou, “China Plans to Reach Mars by 2021”.

On September 18, an official with the China National Space Administration (CNSA) provided details on China’s Mars exploration goals, saying the PRC’s first probe will be launched in 2020 and is expected to reach the Red Planet by 2021….

According to ECNS, the first mission will orbit, land and put an exploration rover on Mars after a 10-month voyage. The second mission, in 2028, will bring back samples of Martian soil, People’s Daily reports.

Li Guoping, director general of the department of system engineering of CNSA, said the Long March 8 rocket for 2020 will employ two 2.25-meter-diameter, solid-fuel boosters. The Long March 9 rocket for 2028 will be over 90 meters in length, capable of carrying 140 metric tons into low-Earth orbit, according to People’s Daily.

Last year, China announced plans to build a ‘Mars village’ in Qinghai province due to its uninhabited, otherworldy environment.

The voyages to Mars are only a part of the nation’s space exploration plans. In December, China will launch the Chang’e-4 lunar probe into the South-Pole Aitken Basin on the far side of the moon. The 2,500-kilometer-wide hole is considered rich in iron and was first spotted in the 1960s. Eventually, the country hopes to establish a research station on the moon. China is also planning a space mission to Jupiter.

(12) FROM THE NINETEENTH CENTURY. The New York Post headline reads: “Secret identity of 150-year-old body found in NYC revealed”. ULTRAGOTHA says, “What piqued my interest here, was that the forensic archaeologist contacted the Centers for Disease Control because the body was so well-preserved that he worried the Small Pox virus might still be active. Now THERE’s a story prompt.”

…A testament to the coffins’ effectiveness, Peterson’s skin was intact to the point that she appeared to have been deceased for only a week. Warnasch noted that “smallpox lesions covered her body.” Initially he was concerned by this: “The body was so well preserved that I would not have been shocked if the smallpox virus had survived.”

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the smallpox had degraded to a nonthreatening level. An autopsy revealed that the disease had infected Peterson’s brain and most likely killed her…

(13) I YELLED FIRE WHEN I FELL INTO THE CHOCOLATE. A new chocolate source: “Brazil indigenous group bets on ‘golden fruit'”:

He took pictures of what his people call “golden fruit” and took to the Socio-Environmental Institute, a non-governmental organisation promoting indigenous products.

The “golden fruit” of his native Waikas forest was Theobroma cocoa, the seeds of which are used to make cocoa powder and chocolate.

But it is not just any kind of cocoa. A cocoa expert the Ata Institute, which works closely with the NGO Julio had originally approached, found the pod from the Waikas forest had a different shape from all other known varieties.

The expert, Roberto Smeraldi, thought it could be a hitherto-unknown pure variety offering great potential.

(14) BRAVE NEW WORLD AUTHOR. Mike Wallace interviewed Aldous Huxley on CBS in 1958 —

Aldous Huxley shares his visions and fears for this brave new world.

 

(15) LESS LIKE ZAP, MORE LIKE SPLOOSH. At Nerdist, Kyle Hill’s video “Beware the Phaser’s Maximum Setting, Because Science” claims Star Trek makes death too neat….

In my latest episode of Because Science, I’m shedding light on the fact that a scientifically accurate vaporization wouldn’t be just a flash of light. What vaporization actually does is right in the name. It turns the matter of the target into vapor or gas. If that’s the case, what would really happen to a human if you vaporized them is nowhere near as neat and tidy as Star Trek always portrayed it. Think more… chunks…

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

Pixel Scroll 9/27/18 Where Never Scroll, Or Even Pixels Flew

(1) DOES SFF LACK IMAGINATION? Charles Stross, in “Do my Homework”, asks questions that speculative fiction writers aren’t speculating about, including futures without capitalism or the patriarchy and near-future novels about what the world will be like in 50 or 75 years. Stross’ second example is –

The social systems based on late-stage currently-existing capitalism are hideously broken, but almost all the SF I see takes some variation on the current system as a given: in the future, apparently people will have these things called “jobs” whereby an “employer” (typically a Very Slow AI controlled by a privileged caste of “executives”) acquires an exclusive right to their labour in return for vouchers which may be exchanged for food, clothing, and shinies (these vouchers are apparently called “money”). Seriously folks, can’t we imagine something better?

(2) RAMPING UP TO ST:D SEASON TWO. Starting next week — October 4 — on CBS All Access, Star Trek: Short Treks. Here’s the trailer for the first one, “Runaway”

STAR TREK: SHORT TREKS, four stand-alone short stories, will begin rolling out on Thursday, October 4, in anticipation of the early 2019 return of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. The first STAR TREK: SHORT TREKS is titled “Runaway” and stars Mary Wiseman as “Tilly.” Each short will run approximately 10-15 minutes and will be an opportunity for fans to dive deeper into key themes and characters that fit into the STAR TREK: DISCOVERY and expanding “Star Trek” universe. Each of STAR TREK: SHORT TREKS four stories will center on a key character, including familiar faces from STAR TREK: DISCOVERY: Mary Wiseman (Tilly), Doug Jones (Saru) and Rainn Wilson (Harry Mudd), in a short he will also direct, as well as a new character unfamiliar to fans, Craft, played by Aldis Hodge.

 

(3) PRO 101. Mark Lawrence, in “Advances”, wrote an overview of author advances/signing bonuses/etc.

…So, what is an advance exactly?

Well, it’s kinda a cash bonus, and kinda not. For authors an advance is a de-risking device, and for publishers it’s a risk. For both of them it signals a commitment to the success of the book.

The advance is, in some senses, a gift. It cannot be taken away as long as the author delivers the book/s and they are accepted. If my next trilogy only sells three copies I will still keep the advance.

In another very real sense the advance is not a gift. If my next trilogy sells a hundred thousand copies I won’t see a penny as all of the income from royalties that would otherwise by paid to me will instead go to the publisher to pay back the advance. That process continues until the publisher is paid back. At that point the book is said to have “earned out”. After that point the royalties (typically ~5 to 15% of the cover price, depending on the format) will come to me.

So whether I have to sell 1 copy or 1 million copies before I see any more money depends on the size of the advance. With no advance I will earn from the first sale. With a million dollar advance I would have to sell many hundreds of thousands of books, maybe millions if most are cheap ebooks….

Lawrence’s post set off a lot of interesting discussion on Reddit.

(4) CHRIS GARCIA. There’s a new Drink Tank out, issue 404: “Heavy Metal & Horror!” Chris Garcia is excited —

It’s the first issue working with Doug Berry as co-editor! There’s writing from me, Doug, Kirsten Berry, Kyle Harding, Jean Martin, and a great cover by Espana Sheriff!

It’s up at eFanzines – Drink Tank 404 [PDF file].

Chris adds, “We’ve got our big Musicals issue deadline coming up to on October 8th!”

(5) SHRINK RAP. Today at Book View Café Laura Anne Gilman went off: “A Meerkat Rants: Eff you, I’m not neurotic”.

But it’s out there now, this “Oh, creative people, always needing validation” meme, as though the need for validation is somehow a special snowflake thing reserved for us.  Like we spend every day of our lives whimpering because we din’t get enough love and attention when we were seven, or something.

Fuck you and the Freud you rode in on.

Here’s the thing, okay?  And listen up, because next time I say it it’s going to be with sharp pointy knives….

(6) GOING UP. A Japanese mission will test a space elevator concept. BGR’s Mike Wehner explains: “Japan is about to launch a mini space elevator that could be a sign of things to come”.

We’re obviously not there yet, but Japan’s small-scale test is still vitally important. The test will be conducted using a small prototype that will travel between two small satellites. The satellites will be connected via a cable, and the satellites will provide the tension needed to keep the cable straight. The tiny elevator will then move back and forth along the cable, testing the feasibility of “elevator movement” in space conditions.

(7) KNIGHTCASTING. Yahoo! Entertainment finds Mark Hamill’s new role has some similarities to his Star Wars role: “From Jedi Master to Knight Templar: First Look at Mark Hamill in ‘Knightfall’ Season 2”.

Mark Hamill laid down his lightsaber last year and is now picking up a sword, as he joins Season 2 of History’s drama series “Knightfall.” And the first look image of Hamill in character reveals that he does, in fact, get to rock a beard for this project, too. And this one is even more badass than Luke Skywalker’s facial hair.

Hamill will play Talus, a battle-hardened Knight Templar veteran of the Crusades, who survived captivity for 10 years in the Holy Land and is tasked with training the new initiates to the Order.

“Knightfall” goes inside the medieval politics and warfare of the Knights Templar, the most powerful, wealthy and mysterious military order of the Middle Ages who were entrusted with protecting Christianity’s most precious relics.

(8) ALL POINTS BULLETIN. Don’t be taken in.

(9) BREYFOGLE OBIT. Batman artist Norm Breyfogle has passed away at the age of 58.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born September 27, 1933 – Roger C. Carmel, Actor who played the infamous Harry Mudd in two classic Star Trek episodes, as well as voicing characters in the Transformers movies, TV series, and videogames.
  • Born September 27, 1934 – Greg Morris, Actor, known for a main role in the 1960s TV series Mission: Impossible, which he later reprised in the 1980s series remake, and for guest appearances in numerous episodes of genre shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man, Wonder Woman, and The Twilight Zone.
  • Born September 27, 1934 – Wilford Brimley, 84, Actor who has appeared in The Thing (the film adaptation of John W. Campbell, Jr.’s novella “Who Goes There?”), Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo finalist Cocoon, Cocoon: The Return, and the science fiction “classics” Ewoks: The Battle for Endor and Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.
  • Born September 27, 1947 – Michael Lee Aday, better known as Meat Loaf, 71, Actor and Musician who has had frequent cameo roles in horror TV episodes and movies, including the unusual distinction of appearing on the menu in both the cult film The Rocky Horror Picture Show and an episode of the HBO series Tales from the Crypt. He’s currently appearing in the series Ghost Wars.
  • Born September 27, 1947 – Denis Lawson, 71, Actor and Director from Scotland, best known to genre fans for playing rebel pilot Wedge Antilles in the original Star Wars trilogy and for being the uncle of young Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ewan McGregor.
  • Born September 27, 1950 – Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, 68, Actor and Producer, a well-known character actor who has played roles in many genre series including The Man in the High Castle, Lost in Space, Star Wars: Rebels, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Space Rangers, and Mortal Kombat, as well as voicing characters in numerous videogames.
  • Born September 27, 1956 – Sheila Williams, 62, Editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine for the past thirteen years, following twelve years before that working under Isaac Asimov and Gardner Dozois at the magazine, which is a remarkable achievement. Editor, with Gardner Dozois, of the 17 “Isaac Asimov:” subject anthologies – think everything from werewolves to robots – collected from the magazine. Williams has been a finalist or winner of the Best Editor Hugo in numerous years, and this year was given the Kate Wilhem Solstice Award for significant impact on speculative fiction by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).
  • Born September 27, 1970 – Tamara Taylor, 48, Actor who appeared in the opening scene of the Firefly movie Serenity, currently has a role in the Altered Carbon series adapted from Richard K. Morgan’s books, and has played the voice of Wonder Woman in animated Justice League TV series and videogames.
  • Born September 27, 1973 – Indira Varma, 45, Actor and Producer from England who played Ellaria Sand in Game of Thrones and was Captain Jack’s second in the TV series Torchwood, in addition to doing numerous voice acting roles for videogames including World of Warcraft, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age.

Payment in thanks for not inflicting the trailer for Ewoks: The Battle for Endor on you today can be sent to JJ’s P.O. Box in Schenectady, NY.

(11) ANCIENT WORD BALLOONS. A Smithsonian post “Ancient Comics Line This Roman-Era Tomb in Jordan” shows that speech bubbles (more or less) are not a modern invention.

When people talk about old comics, strips like Little Orphan Annie or Nancy probably come to mind. But archaeologists in Jordan recently uncovered a truly old incarnation of the form. Painted on the walls inside a 2,000-year-old Roman-era tomb, Ariel David at Haaretz reports that there are nearly 260 figures featured in narrative scenes, with many speaking via comic-style speech bubbles.

The tomb was discovered during road construction in 2016 near the town of Bayt Ras, north of Irbid, Jordan….

(12) REVIEWING THE NEW DOCTOR. BBC collated the reviews: “Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who: What do the critics think?”

Jodie Whittaker’s first episode of Doctor Who has received broadly positive reviews from critics.

Her performance, those of her co-stars, and the production values of The Woman Who Fell To Earth came in for particular praise.

But some critics felt there was still room for improvement.

In his four-star review for The Sun, Rod McPhee said Whittaker “may be the breath of fresh air needed to revive a flagging franchise”.

“She doesn’t always strike the right balance between quirky geek and masterful Time Lord. And at times she comes across as irritatingly childlike.

“But the highest praise is that you quickly forget you’re watching a female Doctor and just accept you’re watching THE Doctor.”

(13) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Lost, stolen, or strayed? “Philip Pullman loses His Dark Materials ballpoint pen”.

The Oxford-based writer has turned to Twitter in the hope that his pen case, a Montblanc ballpoint pen and a pencil can be tracked down.

“I’m particularly attached to the pen, because I wrote His Dark Materials with it,” he tweeted.

The author does not remember when he last had his lost materials.

(14) DARK PHOENIX TRAILER. The next X-Men movie, in theaters February 14, 2019.

In DARK PHOENIX, the X-MEN face their most formidable and powerful foe: one of their own, Jean Grey. During a rescue mission in space, Jean is nearly killed when she is hit by a mysterious cosmic force. Once she returns home, this force not only makes her infinitely more powerful, but far more unstable. Wrestling with this entity inside her, Jean unleashes her powers in ways she can neither comprehend nor contain. With Jean spiraling out of control, and hurting the ones she loves most, she begins to unravel the very fabric that holds the X-Men together. Now, with this family falling apart, they must find a way to unite — not only to save Jean’s soul, but to save our very planet from aliens who wish to weaponize this force and rule the galaxy.

 

(15) MEXICANX SAGA CONTINUES. Hector Gonzalez reaches the deadline – for the food he’s serving: “My Road to Worldcon 76. Part 6: My Love Language is Tacos”.

… John had planned something during the opening ceremony. All the Mexicanx recipients in attendance would be present for it. That caused some issues with my timing, specifically getting the food ready for the reception. “A couple of degrees more in the oven will be needed,” I mused….

(16) DEAD MEN DO TELL TALES. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett is people’s go-to consultant for more issues than you’d guess.

On a more supernatural note somebody who would prefer to remain anonymous asked me my opinion on the topic of vampiric tumescence. Surprisingly they didn’t seem to regret reading what I had to say. Hopefully none of you do either.

His answer appears in: “The Case of the Vampire Erect”.

…The initial question when framed as basically as possible is as follows. Are all vampires, some vampires, or indeed any vampires capable of achieving tumescence?…

(17) BLACK PANTHER’S QUEST. Thanks to SYFY Wire we know — “Marvel’s Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest – You can now watch the first episode online”.

A rogue splinter cell of Atlanteans attempt to take over the surface world in the first episode of Marvel’s Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest on Disney XD — and you can watch the entire episode now online.

 

(18) OUTRO. Kim Huett remembers: “Years ago SBS, an Australian TV channel used fr a while a very charming set of SF themed bumpers. I recently found a set of them on YouTube” —

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

Pixel Scroll 6/29/18 My Pixel’s Back, It’s Going To Save My Reputation, If I Were You, I’d Take An Internet Vacation

(1) ‘TIS THE SEASON. It’s time now for yard signs to sprout on neighborhood lawns as Brianna Wu’s campaign stands up for the September 4 primary.

(2) SMALL PLEASURES. N.K. Jemisin is right about that —

(3) MATTHEW KRESSEL. Scott Edelman entreats you to share BBQ brosket with Matthew Kressel in episode 70 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

This episode’s guest is Matthew Kressel, whose short story “The Last Novelist (or A Dead Lizard in the Yard)” was one of the finalists this year. He was a previous finalist twice before in the same category for “The Sounds of Old Earth” in 2014 and “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” in 2015. His short stories have appeared in Lightspeed, Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Analog, Interzone, and many others, as well as in anthologies such as Mad Hatters and March Hares, Cyber World, The People of the Book, and more. His novel, King of Shards, was praised by NPR as being “majestic, resonant, reality-twisting madness.”

He was also nominated for a World Fantasy Award for his work editing the speculative fiction magazine Sybil’s Garage, and is the co-host—along with former Eating the Fantastic guest Ellen Datlow—of the Fantastic Fiction reading series held at the KGB Bar.

Our dinner Friday night that weekend was at Pork & Beans, which has been voted best BBQ in Pittsburgh.

We discussed the story of his accepted by an editor within an hour and then praised by Joyce Carol Oates, the ways in which famed editor Alice Turner was the catalyst which helped turn him into a writer, why after publishing only short stories for 10 years he eventually published a novel, how comments from his Altered Fluid writing workshop helped make his Nebula-nominated “The Sounds of Old Earth” a better story, why a writing self-help book made him swear off those kinds of self-help books, the secrets to having a happy, heathy writing career, why he’s grown to be OK with reading bad reviews, what he learned from reading slush at Sybil’s Garage, and much more

(4) FINNEGAN BEGIN AGAIN. Fatherly tells how “You Can Now Get Drunk Like Captain Kirk From ‘Star Trek’”.

This week, Silver Screen Bottling Co. announced an “official” James T. Kirk Straight Bourbon Whiskey. You can’t order this in a bar, yet, but you can pre-order a bottle right here, where they’re also selling signature glasses, and showing the whiskey next to cigars, even though Kirk never really smoked. (Except for that one time he was in a space prison in Star Trek VI.)

If you don’t want to order Star Trek whiskey online, the James T. Kirk Straight Bourbon Whiskey will also be on sale at San Diego Comic-Con, starting on July 19. At that point, Silver Screen Bottling Co. will announce other Star Trek-themed spirits.

(5) GORTON OBIT. Bob Gorton, former chairman of Pulpcon, passed away on May 31. Mike Chomko wrote a brief tribute.

A retired mathematics professor at the University of Dayton, Bob was known for his dry sense of humor. He served as an important bridge between the lengthy term of Rusty Hevelin as Pulpcon chairman and the founding of PulpFest in 2009. A quiet man, Bob was the winner of the Lamont Award in 2002, presented at Pulpcon 31 in Dayton, Ohio. He will be missed.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 29, 1979 Moonraker premiered on this day theatrically

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 29 – Sharon Lawrence, 57. Amelia Earhart in Star Trek: Voyager, Maxima in the animated Superman series, and Vivian Cates in Wolf Lake, a short lived werewolves among us series.
  • Born June 29, 1920 – Ray Harryhausen.

Ray and Diana Harryhausen with Steve Vertlieb in 1990.

Steve Vertlieb invites you to hop over to The Thunder Child and read his “Ray Harryhausen Tribute”.

Ray Harryhausen remains one of the most revered figures in fantasy/sci-fi motion picture history. Born June 29th, 1920, Ray was not only a childhood hero, but became a dear and cherished friend of nearly fifty years duration. His work in films inspired and influenced generations of film makers, and garnered him a special Academy Award, presented by Tom Hanks, for a lifetime of cinematic achievement. Steven Spielberg joyously proclaimed that his own inspiration for directing “Jurassic Park” was the pioneering special effects work of Harryhausen. Published after his death several years ago, here is a celebration and loving remembrance of the life and work of cinematic master, and special effects genius, Ray Harryhausen. It is also the tender story of a very special man, as well as an often remarkable personal friendship. I love you, Ray. You filled my dreams, my life, and my world with your wondrous creatures.

Ray would have turned 98 years young had he lived. In remembrance of this wonderful soul, here is my affectionate tribute to my friend of nearly fifty years, and boyhood hero of interminable recollection and duration…the incomparable Stop Motion genius, and Oscar honored special effects pioneer, Ray Harryhausen. Journey with me now to a “Land Beyond Beyond” where dreams were born, Cyclopian creatures thundered across a primeval landscape, mythological dragons roared in awe struck wonder, and magical stallions ascended above the clouds…Once Upon A Time.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) FARCE FIELD. Steven Levy in WIRED profiles Palmer Luckey, founder of Anduril Technologies, which aims to install a virtual surveillance system on the U.S.-Mexico border. “Inside Palmer Luckey’s Bid to Build a Border Wall”.

…Palmer Luckey—yes, that Palmer Luckey, the 25-year-old entrepreneur who founded the virtual reality company Oculus, sold it to Facebook, and then left Facebook in a haze of political controversy—hands me a Samsung Gear VR headset. Slipping it over my eyes, I am instantly immersed in a digital world that simulates the exact view I had just been enjoying in real life. In the virtual valley below is a glowing green square with text that reads PERSON 98%. Luckey directs me to tilt my head downward, toward the box, and suddenly an image pops up over the VR rendering. A human is making his way through the rugged sagebrush, a scene captured by cameras on a tower behind me. To his right I see another green box, this one labeled ANIMAL 86%. Zooming in on it brings up a photo of a calf, grazing a bit outside its usual range.

The system I’m trying out is Luckey’s solution to how the US should detect unauthorized border crossings. It merges VR with surveillance tools to create a digital wall that is not a barrier so much as a web of all-seeing eyes, with intelligence to know what it sees. Luckey’s company, Anduril Industries, is pitching its technology to the Department of Homeland Security as a complement to—or substitute for—much of President Trump’s promised physical wall along the border with Mexico.

Anduril is barely a year old, and the trespassing I’d witnessed was part of an informal test on a rancher’s private land. The company has installed three portable, 32-foot towers packed with radar, communications antennae, and a laser-­enhanced camera—the first implementation of a system Anduril is calling Lattice. It can detect and identify motion within about a 2-mile radius. The person I saw in my headset was an Anduril technician dispatched to the valley via ATV to demonstrate how the system works; he was about a mile away….

…Middle-earth buffs will recognize Anduril as the enchanted blade that was Aragorn’s go-to lethal weapon…”All of us are Lord of the Rings fans, so it was a pretty fun name,’ Luckey says. ‘Also, I have Anduril the sword hanging on my wall.  (Luckey procured a collector’s version, not the original movie prop.)…

Another fannish connection:  Anduril Industries has hired former MythBusters co-host Jamie Hyneman to develop an “autonomous firefighting machine’ called Sentry designed to put out California wildfires.  Hyneman, Levy reports, ‘built one of the fiercest battlebots in Robot Wars history.”

(10) THE STARS HIS DESTINATION. His facial expression is disturbingly like that of  Autopilot in the movie Airplane! — “Floating robot Cimon sent to International Space Station”.

An experimental robot with an animated cartoon face has been sent to the International Space Station (ISS) on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Dubbed Cimon (Crew Interactive Mobile Companion), the device is intended as an “an AI-based assistant for astronauts”.

Cimon weighs 5kg but in zero gravity it will float move around thanks to 14 internal fans.

It is an attempt to find out whether robots and astronauts can collaborate.

To this end, Cimon is equipped with microphones and cameras that help it recognise Alexander Gerst, the German astronaut with whom it will work.

(11) SAFETY FIRST. Adweek tells why “This Lovable Aardman Animation Is a Cautionary Tale and a ‘Dam’ Good Lesson”.

Dammy, a Canadian beaver, learns vital safety lessons in this tuneful Aardman-animated video from Ontario Power Generation.

Our anthropomorphized hero—his big, flat tail jutting out from the seat of his pants—loves to fish from a rowboat, and dreams of landing “the big one.” Alas, his quest takes him perilously near a massive hydroelectric dam.

“Don’t ignore that warning sign, your life could be on the line,” croons Canadian folk and bluegrass singer Ken Whiteley on the campfire-song soundtrack he helped compose.

Hey, listen to the lyrics and steer clear of those turbines because the fur could really fly! Of course, Dammy dodges the whammy by the skin of his teeth.

 

(12) OUR FOREFATHERS, AND FOREMOTHERS. “Partaaaaay like it’s the 60’s. The 1860s, that is,” says Mike Kennedy. “This is cosplay like you’ve never seen before.”

An episode of the Vice video series, American Conventions, takes you inside the annual meeting of the Association of Lincoln Presenters in Freeport IL—which features more than a score of Abraham Lincolns, over a dozen Mary Todd Lincolns, and multiple other period costumers. Each of them seems dedicated to not just dressing the part, but being the part. The 12 minute video is interrupted by two short commercial breaks, but may should be worth your time. And, the ghods know we could use more people in this world with the ethics of Honest Abe (or at least those of his best nature; all people are flawed in some way). The video host—Darlene Demorizi—even gets into the spirit as she dresses as Lincoln and makes a heartfelt toast to the gathered crowd.

(13) ORGANIC INVENTORY OF ENCELADUS. Behind the paywall at Nature: “Macromolecular organic compounds from the depths of Enceladus”.

Saturn’s moon Enceladus harbours a global water ocean1, which lies under an ice crust and above a rocky core2. Through warm cracks in the crust3 a cryo-volcanic plume ejects ice grains and vapour into space4,5,6,7 that contain materials originating from the ocean8,9. Hydrothermal activity is suspected to occur deep inside the porous core10,11,12, powered by tidal dissipation13. So far, only simple organic compounds with molecular masses mostly below 50 atomic mass units have been observed in plume material6,14,15. Here we report observations of emitted ice grains containing concentrated and complex macromolecular organic material with molecular masses above 200 atomic mass units. The data constrain the macromolecular structure of organics detected in the ice grains and suggest the presence of a thin organic-rich film on top of the oceanic water table, where organic nucleation cores generated by the bursting of bubbles allow the probing of Enceladus’ organic inventory in enhanced concentrations.

The popular science version of this story is free on BBC: “Saturn moon a step closer to hosting life”.

Scientists have found complex carbon-based molecules in the waters of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Compounds like this have only previously been found on Earth, and in some meteorites.

They are thought to have formed in reactions between water and warm rock at the base of the moon’s subsurface ocean.

Though not a sign of life, their presence suggests Enceladus could play host to living organisms.

The discovery came from data gathered by the Cassini spacecraft….

(14) A WORLDWIDE REACH. Jeff VanderMeer shares his appreciation for “The International Covers of The Southern Reach Trilogy”. See the images at the link.

Ever since FSG Originals came out with the now-classic Southern Reach covers, there has been what seems like an ongoing competition to create amazing original art and design for other editions, from the somber grace of the original UK hardcovers to, well, the neon color of the UK paperbacks, which riffed off of FSG’s gutsy X hardcover design. An incredible amount of creativity has gone into these other editions. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but the Turkish, South Korean, and Spanish covers (Pablo Delcan!) are right up there. Not to mention the lovely Hungarian cut-out covers and a Ukrainian Brutalist Rubic’s Cube with a tiny cute bunny clinging to one of its levels.

(15) YOUTH WANTS TO KNOW. Yahoo! Entertainment listens in while “Mark Hamill and Chris Evans Discuss Whether a Lightsaber Could Break Captain America’s Shield”.

Mark Hamill and Chris Evans have answered a question that kids everywhere want to know: if Luke Skywalker and Captain America got into a fight, could Luke’s lightsaber break through Cap’s vibranium shield?

(16) INFINITY WAR IMPROVED. Carl Slaughter declares this is “Probably the best How It Should Have Ended episode yet.”

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

Pixel Scroll 4/23/18 It Was Me Who Ate All The Cupcakes In The File770 Office IN SELF DEFENCE!

(1) 100 LOVED BOOKS. PBS series The Great American Read premieres May 22. One hundred books, one winner:

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ is an eight-part series that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey).  It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.

(2) AMAZING OPENS SUBMISSIONS WINDOW. Steve Davidson announced “General Submissions for Amazing Stories Opens Today”. See detailed guidelines at the link. Davidson had more to say on Facebook:

(3) COMPTON CROOK AWARD. Nicky Drayden announced on April 19 that her book Prey of Gods won the 2018 Compton Crook Award. [Via Locus Online.]

(4) RINGO’S WORLD. John Ringo’s April 16 Facebook post about his withdrawal as ConCarolinas special guest continues gathering moss, now with over 900 likes. Today Ringo showed everyone what they’ll be missing with a new comment that explains to his sycophants why ConCarolina’s Guest of Honor can’t compete with him.

No. Because nobody but people who pay close attention to the industry and awards has ever heard of her.

Her Amazon rankings are pretty low. Her bookscan ratings are low. That indicates she’s not particularly popular just heavily promoted and ‘popular’ with the ‘right crowd’. (Which is a very small crowd.)

James Patterson is a big name. JK Rowling is a big name. Hell, China Meville is a big name.

Seanan McGuire is not ‘a big name’.

I have no clue where we stand representationally in sales comparison to me but I suspect I sell more books. Just a suspicion, though, and it probably depends on the series.

Honestly, I suspect A Deeper Blue sold more books than all of hers combined.

(5) ENCHANTED MUSEUM. Atlas Obscura reveals the “Hidden Elves at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science”.

Back in the 1970s, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science hired artist Kent Pendleton to paint the backdrops for many of the museum’s wildlife dioramas. Little did it know that Pendleton’s penchant for hiding tiny mythical creatures in these paintings would add a whole new dimension to the museum experience.

It all began with eight elves—or gnomes, or leprechauns, depending who you ask—hidden in Pendleton’s wildlife dioramas. An elf hiding in the lowland river. An elf riding a dinosaur along a cretaceous creekbed. Another elf sat on a rock in the Great Smoky Mountains. And others, hard to spot but definitely there, in various backdrops throughout the museum.

In 2018, Pendleton told the Denverite: “It was just kind of my own little private joke. The first one was so small that hardly anyone could see it, but it sort of escalated over time, I guess. Some of the museum volunteers picked up on it and it developed a life of its own.”

(6) THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE. Kevin Standlee is running for office in his home town:

I’m Kevin Standlee, and I’m running for a seat on the Board of Directors of the North Lyon County Fire Protection District, which serves the city of Fernley, Nevada.

I grew up in a fire station. As the child of a US Forest Service officer, I lived a lot of my formative years on a series of fire outposts in the Sierra Nevada….

June 12 is Election Day.

(7) HISTORIC DUNES. ABC News tells about “Visiting the desert where ‘Star Wars’ was filmed”.

There’s a reason the original “Star Wars” movie was filmed in the deserts of southern Tunisia. This stark, remote landscape looks like another planet.

One of Tunisia’s vast desert regions is even called Tataouine (ta-TWEEN), like Luke Skywalker’s home planet, Tattoine.

And the underground home where Luke Skywalker first appeared living with his uncle and aunt is a real hotel in the town of Matmata, one of various desert locations used in the movies.

Masoud Berachad owns the Hotel Sidi Driss. He says visitors have dropped off since Tunisia’s democratic revolution in 2011 and attacks on tourists in 2015.

Still, devoted “Star Wars” fans keep the hotel in business….

(8) CURSED CHILD IN NEW YORK. David Rooney goes into great detail – perhaps too much – in his “‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’: Theater Review” for The Hollywood Reporter. Here’s a relatively spoiler-free excerpt:

…Pockets of racist outrage exploded online when it was first announced that a black actress had been cast as Hermione, which Rowling shot down in her no-nonsense style by pointing out that the character’s ethnicity was never mentioned in the books. In any case, only the most bigoted idiot could find fault with the brilliant Dumezweni’s performance, her haughtiness, quicksilver intellect and underlying warmth tracing a line way back to the precociously clever girl Harry first met on the train all those years ago.

Thornley’s Ron, too, is readily identifiable as the perennial joker of the trio. He’s acquired substance and a charming mellowness over the years, though a glimpse of him in a time-warped present tells a heartbreakingly different story. Miller takes the early indicators of Ginny’s strength and builds on them, shaping a smart, grounded woman capable of handling Harry’s complicated baggage. And Price’s Draco is still peevish and moody, his bitterness exploding in an entertaining clash of wands with Harry, but he’s found a softer side in maturity as well.

At the center of it all is Parker’s Harry, grown up and more confident but still pensive and troubled as ever, plagued by memories of the orphaned boy who slept under the stairs at his aunt and uncle’s home, and the reluctant hero he was forced to become. It’s a finely nuanced performance, with gravitas and heart, particularly as he wrestles with and eventually overcomes his struggles as a parent. Even with the sweet sentimentality of the closing scenes, what lingers most about Parker’s characterization is the stoical knowledge he carries with him that every moment of happiness contains the promise of more pain to come.

Of equal importance in the story are Albus and Scorpius, and while Clemmett is affecting in the more tortured role, at war with himself as much as his father, the discovery here is Boyle. His comic timing, nervous mannerisms and endearing awkwardness even in moments of triumph make him a quintessential Rowling character and a winning new addition. “My geekness is a-quivering,” he chirps at one point, probably echoing how half the audience is feeling. It’s stirring watching these two young outsiders conquer their self-doubt to find courage and fortitude….

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Daniel Dern doesn’t want Filers to miss xkcd’s cartoon “Misinterpretation.”
  • Lise Andreasen asks, “Things men weren’t meant to know?”

(10) GENESIS. In “How Stan Lee Became the Man Behind Marvel” Chris Yogerst of the LA Review of Books reviews Bob Batchelor’s biograpahy of the comics icon.

STAN LEE WAS FINISHED with comics. “We’re writing nonsense,” he once told his wife Joan. “It’s a stupid business for a grownup to be in.” After riding the early success of comic books, Lee was concerned about the future of the medium. He wanted to write more intelligent stories, something adults could connect to.

Following his wife’s advice, Lee decided to write one last story. With characters that were grounded in reality, stories that channeled Cold War tensions, and a narrative influenced by popular science fiction, Lee created the Fantastic Four. This was the type of story Lee would have wanted to read. If it was successful, maybe he would stick with comics a little longer.

Popular culture historian Bob Batchelor’s latest book turns a critical eye on the life of Lee, who ultimately became “the man behind Marvel.” Batchelor’s Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel focuses on where Lee came from, what influenced him, and how he became the immortal face of the comic book industry. In other words, to use the vernacular of the superhero genre, Batchelor gives us Lee’s origin story.

(11) AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #800.Here’s another variant cover for the upcoming milestone issue.

It’s all been building to this – the biggest Peter Parker and Norman Osborn story of all time, and the first Marvel comic EVER to hit 800 issues! In celebration of the 800th issue of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and the now historic run of Dan Slott, Marvel is excited to show a variant cover from legendary artist Frank Cho and colorist David Curiel!

Witness the culmination of the Red Goblin story as Slott is joined for his final issue by epic artists such as Stuart Immonen, Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli and Nick Bradshaw!

(12) SKYWATCH. Bill Gates among backers of proposed live-video-from-space satellite constellation called EarthNow:

EarthNow takes advantage of an upgraded version of the satellite platform, or “bus,” developed originally for the OneWeb communications service. Each satellite is equipped with an unprecedented amount of onboard processing power, including more CPU cores than all other commercial satellites combined. According to Greg Wyler, Founder and Executive Chairman of OneWeb, “We created the World’s first lowcost, high-performance satellites for mass-production to bridge the digital divide. These very same satellite features will enable EarthNow to help humanity understand and manage its impact on Earth.”

Use cases are said to include:

  • Catch illegal fishing ships in the act
  • Watch hurricanes and typhoons as they evolve
  • Detect forest fires the moment they start
  • Watch volcanoes the instant they start to erupt
  • Assist the media in telling stories from around the world
  • Track large whales as they migrate
  • Help “smart cities” become more efficient
  • Assess the health of crops on demand
  • Observe conflict zones and respond immediately when crises arise
  • Instantly create “living” 3D models of a town or city, even in remote locations
  • See your home as the astronauts see it—a stunning blue marble in space

(13) TODAY’S COPYEDITING TIP. From Cherie Priest:

(14) LOSING FACE. Motherboard says “This Is the Facial Recognition Tool at the Heart of a Class Action Suit Against Facebook”.

On Monday, a federal judge ruled that a class action lawsuit against Facebook can move forward, paving the way for what could turn out to be a costly legal battle for the company.

As Reuters reports, the lawsuit alleges that Facebook improperly collected and stored users’ biometric data. It was originally filed in 2015 by Facebook users in Illinois, which passed the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) in 2008. The law regulates the collection and storage of biometric data, and requires that a company receive an individual’s consent before it obtains their information.

According to the lawsuit, Facebook ran afoul of BIPA when it began using a tool called Tag Suggestions, which was originally rolled out in 2011. Like many Facebook features, it’s designed to make your user experience better while also providing the company with your data—in this case, very specific facial features.

(15) KNOT OF THIS WORLD. Gizmodo’s Kristen V. Brown advises “Forget the Double Helix—Scientists Discovered a New DNA Structure Inside Human Cells”.

The double helix, though, is not the only form in which DNA exists. For the first time ever, scientists have identified the existence of a new DNA structure that looks more like a twisted, four-stranded knot than the double helix we all know from high school biology.

The newly identified structure, detailed Monday in the journal Nature Chemistry, could play a crucial role in how DNA is expressed.

Some research had previously suggested the existence of DNA in this tangled form, dubbed an i-motif, but it had never before been detected in living cells outside of the test tube. Researchers at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia, though, found that not only does the structure exist in living human cells, but it is even quite common.

(16) ROCKET MAN. In his book What Were They Thinking? The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, author David Hofstede ranked William Shatner’s 1978 performance of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” at #17 on the list. Details from the Wikipedia —

At the 5th Saturn Awards Ceremony, which aired as the Science Fiction Film Awards in January 1978, Taupin introduced William Shatner’s spoken word[29] interpretation of the song. It used chroma key video techniques to simultaneously portray three different images of Shatner, representing the different facets of the Rocket Man’s character….

How can you not want to watch it after a build-up like that?

(17) MAKING A BIGGER BANG. Wil Wheaton has been having fun

Since last week, I’ve been working on the season finale of The Big Bang Theory, and today we shot Amy and Sheldon’s wedding.

It was an incredible day, and I am still in disbelief that I got to be in multiple scenes with Kathy Bates, Laurie Matcalf, Jerry O’Connell, Brian Posehn, Lauren Lapkus, Teller, Courtney Henggeler, and this guy, who is not only one of the kindest people I’ve ever worked with, but is also from a science fiction franchise, just like me!

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, JJ, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, Carl Slaughter, Lise Andreasen, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 4/18/18 Wanna Bees Pulling Gees Through The Trees

(1) LUKE SKYRANTER. Movie Banter brings you “10 minutes of Mark Hamill being HONEST about The Last Jedi.

No matter what you think of the film and the way Luke Skywalker was portrayed, thank goodness Mark isn’t afraid to speak his mind. He is sincere and cares about the franchise as much as he cares about the fandom.

 

(2) THE BREW THAT IS TRUE. Inverse explains that “Ewoks Are Coffee Farmers According to Star Wars Canon”.

The upcoming Han Solo movie will, no doubt, make all sorts of changes to Star Wars canon, but a just-released book about Han and Lando’s adventures quietly revealed that Ewoks are actually renown coffee farmers. Yep, those cute little Imperial-killing teddy bears are responsible for the best cup of java you’ll find outside of Dex’s Diner.

The book, Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel, came out earlier this week, and it follows the two coolest characters in the galaxy across three distinct time periods. In one of them, set after Return of the Jedi but well before The Force Awakens, baby Ben Solo kicks his dad in the face. Later in that scene, Han’s culinary droid, BX-778, brews up a mean cup of Endorian caf. (Coffee is called “caf” in the book because, well, that’s how Star Wars rolls).

(3) STURGEON ANALYSIS. At Rocket Stack Rank, Eric Wong’s analysis shows the Sturgeon Award nominees are highly correlated with other guides to outstanding short fiction: “Sturgeon Award Finalists Versus Other Top Stories of 2017”. Greg Hullender says:

Last year too, the Sturgeon Award Finalists were the most accurate guide to which stories would be broadly recommended (by serious reviewers, major anthologies, and prestigious awards). http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2018/01/2016-best-sff-short-fiction-guides.html

There’s definitely something special about this award. It should get more attention than it does.

(4) THESE POTATOES AIN’T GONNA PLANT THEMSELVES! Or will they? “All by Itself, the Humble Sweet Potato Colonized the World”.

Of all the plants that humanity has turned into crops, none is more puzzling than the sweet potato. Indigenous people of Central and South America grew it on farms for generations, and Europeans discovered it when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean.

In the 18th century, however, Captain Cook stumbled across sweet potatoes again — over 4,000 miles away, on remote Polynesian islands. European explorers later found them elsewhere in the Pacific, from Hawaii to New Guinea.

The distribution of the plant baffled scientists. How could sweet potatoes arise from a wild ancestor and then wind up scattered across such a wide range? Was it possible that unknown explorers carried it from South America to countless Pacific islands?

An extensive analysis of sweet potato DNA, published on Thursday in Current Biology, comes to a controversial conclusion: Humans had nothing to do with it. The bulky sweet potato spread across the globe long before humans could have played a part — it’s a natural traveler.

Likewise, ArsTechnica says “Sweet potatoes may have reached Pacific Islands 100,000 years ahead of Polynesians.”

“This finding is likely to be controversial because it calls into question the alleged contacts between Polynesians and Americans in pre-European times,” Oxford University botanist Pablo Muñoz-Rodriguez, who led the study, told Ars Technica. “[The] sweet potato was the only remaining biological evidence of these contacts.”

Muñoz-Rodriguez and his team sampled DNA from 119 specimens of sweet potatoes and all of their wild relatives, including a sweet potato harvested in the Society Islands in 1769 by the Cook expedition. With those samples, Muñoz-Rodriguez and his colleagues built a phylogenetic tree: a family tree that shows evolutionary relationships among organisms based on the differences in their DNA. For plants, researchers often build two phylogenetic trees: one for the DNA stores in the nucleus of the plant’s cells and one for the chlorophyll-producing organelles called chloroplasts, which have their own DNA. Genetic material doesn’t always get passed on in the same way for both, so it’s sometimes useful to compare the two.

The team used the phylogenetic trees to estimate how long ago each branch of the tree split off from the others. It turned out that the Society Islands sweet potato hadn’t interbred with Central and South American lines for at least 111,500 years…

(5) TODAY’S JOB LOST TO ROBOTS. WIRED Magazine reports “A Robot Does the Impossible: Assembling an Ikea Chair Without Having a Meltdown”. I’m beginning to suspect Brian Aldiss wrote the wrong ending for “Who Can Replace A Man.”

Researchers report today in Science Robotics that they’ve used entirely off-the-shelf parts—two industrial robot arms with force sensors and a 3-D camera—to piece together one of those Stefan Ikea chairs we all had in college before it collapsed after two months of use. From planning to execution, it only took 20 minutes, compared to the human average of a lifetime of misery. It may all seem trivial, but this is in fact a big deal for robots, which struggle mightily to manipulate objects in a world built for human hands.

(6) ALL IN A DAY. Initially, Patrick Nielsen Hayden made his feelings clear about a new book coming out which has the same title as an Emma Bull novel. (Jump on the thread here.)

Later he apologized. (Thread begins here)

(7) DOG DUTY. The New York Times inquires: “Do You Know Which Dog Breeds Are in a Mutt? Scientists Want to Find Out”.

One of the favorite pastimes of dog people is guessing a mutt’s ancestry.

Is that scruffy little guy in the dog park a mix of Afghan hound and Catahoula leopard dog? Is the beast that bit someone really a pit bull, or a cocker spaniel-beagle potpourri? And how about your aunt’s yippy pillow on paws — Maltese/poodle/peke?

If you’re wondering about your own dog you can, of course, get a DNA test. But there’s a lot of open territory for that familiar figure in the canine world, the dog guesser. You know who I mean, they’re like dog whisperers, but louder.

Now all self-proclaimed experts have a chance to prove their mettle or meet their comeuppance. The MuttMix survey debuted on Monday. It is citizen science for people who are willing to be proven terribly wrong, a dog quiz that tests how good you are at figuring out what a mutt is made of.

The survey is being run by the Darwin’s Dogs program at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., a center for genome studies, and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Fellow dog guessers (yes, I confess) proceed at the risk of your exceedingly high self-regard….

(8) THE MODERN PROMETHEUS. Mary Shelley biopic opening in theaters May 25.

Starring: Elle Fanning, Maisie Williams, Bel Powley, Douglas Booth, Joanne Froggatt & Stephen Dillane She will forever be remembered as the writer who gave the world Frankenstein. But the real life story of Mary Shelley—and the creation of her immortal monster—is nearly as fantastical as her fiction. Raised by a renowned philosopher father (Stephen Dillane) in 18th-century London, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (Elle Fanning) is a teenage dreamer determined to make her mark on the world when she meets the dashing and brilliant poet Percy Shelley (Douglas Booth). So begins a torrid, bohemian love affair marked by both passion and personal tragedy that will transform Mary and fuel the writing of her Gothic masterwork. Imbued with the imaginative spirit of its heroine, Mary Shelley brings to life the world of a trailblazing woman who defied convention and channeled her innermost demons into a legend for the ages.

 

(9) NEXT ON HIS AGENDER. Jon Del Arroz, worried there might still be a few people he hasn’t alienated this week, announced he is “Coming Out As A Woman” [Internet Archive link] – which is to say, adopting a pseudonym.

After serious deliberations, I will be only submitting short fiction to professional markets from a new female pen name. I’ve come up with the name, I’ve got the email address, it’s ready to go. I will be, for all intents and purposes, a female author. It’s the only way to get ahead in the business, and the smart thing to do. I won’t be broadcasting the name here in case of any inadvertent discrimination, but I will keep you informed as to how reactions change based on having a female name. It’ll be interesting to say the least.

(10) PRELUDE TO SPACE. NPR tells about “Antarctic Veggies: Practice For Growing Plants On Other Planets”.

…Now, the greenhouse project, called EDEN ISS, is fully operational. Bamsey’s colleagues in Antarctica harvested their first salads last week.

And while growing greens in Antarctica is exciting — for much of the year there’s no fresh produce at Neumayer Station III — Bamsey says the end goal of this project is much farther away. EDEN ISS is a practice round for cultivating food in space.

The eight-nation team of EDEN ISS researchers chose to grow “high-water-content, pick-and-eat-plants,” Bamsey says, “things that can’t normally be stored for long periods of time.” The crops include lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, swiss chard, and herbs — basil, chives, cilantro and mint. One-tenth of the yield will become research data, while the rest will help feed Neumayer Station III’s crew….

(11) SPACE DIAMONDS. “Inter Jovem et Martem”? “Meteorite diamonds ‘came from lost planet'”.

A diamond-bearing space rock that exploded in Earth’s atmosphere in 2008 was part of a lost planet from the early Solar System, a study suggests.

The parent “proto-planet” would have existed billions of years ago before breaking up in a collision and was about as large as Mercury or Mars.

A team has published their results in the journal Nature Communications.

They argue that the pressures necessary to produce diamonds of this kind could only occur in planet of this size.

Using three different types of microscopy, the researchers characterised the mineral and chemical make-up of the diamond-bearing rocks. The fragments were scattered across the Nubian desert of northern Sudan after the asteroid 2008 TC3 exploded 37km above the ground on 7 October 2008.

(12) MUSICAL INTERLUDE. Another Instant Classic by Matthew Johnson:

Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive

Well you tell by the way I use my spear
I’m a murder bear, I got no fear
Speeder bikes and Empire goons, I’ve been kicked around
My forest moon
And now it’s all right, it’s OK
I’ve got stormtroopers to slay
And way above, I think I spy
A Death Star hangin’ in the sky

Whether you’re a Jedi or just a little yeti
You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Feel the walkers breakin’, this tree trunk is a-shakin’
And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive

Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ alive

Well you might think I’m a teddy bear
My god’s a droid in a wooden chair
I may just have stone age tools
But I’m the end of those Empire fools
And now it’s all right, it’s OK
There’ll be some fireworks this day
And way above, I think I spy
A Death Star fallin’ from the sky

Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive
Yub nub, yub nub, stayin’ al-i-i-i-ve…

[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day A.G. Carpenter, Ingvar and Cassy B.]

Happy St. Patrick’s Day – Irish Eyes Are Smiling

Dave Lally and James Bacon.

By James Bacon: St Patrick’s day in Dublin is about the parade, enjoying the festivities and watching the floats, full of costumes, colour and hours of effort.

This year in Dublin, to mark the celebrations, Mark Hamill has been asked to be a special guest, joining the dignitaries in the President’s stand on O’Connell St.

Hamill has traced some of his Irish heritage, his great-grandmother Elizabeth Keating from Kilkenny, his grandparents John Keating married Margaret Foley in Carlow Cathedral in 1822 and Mary Harvey was his great-great-grandmother, from a Famine immigrant family that settled in America.

Mark Hamill encourages people to visit Ireland, and this week, I hope Dublin 2019 has done that too, and especially to join us at Dublin 2019 An Irish Worldcon.

Our prices are increasing on the 3rd of April, and that is also an important cutoff date for those who supported the bid, Bid backers and Bid pre-supporters, as their discount ends. Further details here. https://dublin2019.com/join-us/upgrade-options/

We are acutely aware that for some members the Dublin Worldcon will be more than a Bus, Dart or Luas into town, or a Train or Coach up to Dublin, and so we have initiated an instalment plan this week, to help everyone who wants to, to come along by spreading the membership cost over a number of payments.

Details on the instalment plan are here: https://dublin2019.com/instalment-plan/

We also have a ‘First Worldcon rate’ for fans who have never been to Worldcon, and we are pleased to be welcoming over 100 of those fans already. If this is you, do get your ‘First Worldcon’ membership at the cheapest it will be, it too will rise on the 3rd of April.

We will also be launching a family rate, before the price rise. Do watch our social media for that.

As ever, it is helpful to Worldcons that people sign up, join up, indeed the more people that join earlier, the better we can plan, and be more effective with your money.

There are plans and preparations that can be made: checking the Passport is in date, or indeed ordering one; thin?k?ing about how the trip to the Dublin Worldcon in Ireland, in August 2019 can be part of a larger adventure, going around the country,

Do join us –  https://dublin2019.com/join-us/

Once the parade is over, I will be joining our Dublin 2019 treasurer amongst other fans, for a few pints watching Ireland play England in the six nations rugby championship and hopefully have another reason to keep my Irish eyes smiling. I hope you have a great day, whereever you are.

Very best and I hope you have a wonderful day.

Pixel Scroll 3/8/18 Stay Tuned For Pixels As They Break

(1) ELVES FOREVER. Olga Polomoshnova explores Elves’ immortality in “Who wants to live forever?” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

By their nature the Elves are bound to Arda, with their bodies being made of  “the stuff of Earth”. They live as long as the world endures….

What Men crave for and desire with all their hearts is, in fact, a burden. More accurately, this serial longevity becomes a burden with time. The Elves age very slowly, but during the course of their long lives they know death of wounds or grief, though not, like Men, of old age, and they fear death, too. Elvish ageing shows in their ever-growing weariness of the world. One of the best descriptions of this state was provided by the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who experienced such longevity due to his possession of the One Ring. He compared his unnaturally long life with being “all thin, sort of stretched, […] like butter that has been scraped over too much bread” (Fellowship of the Ring, p. 42). So probably that is exactly how the Elves could feel many thousand years into their lives.

(2) HAMILL’S WALK OF FAME STAR DEDICATED. Star Wars icon Mark Hamill is now a star in the Hollywood firmament: “Mark Hamill Gets ‘Overwhelming’ Support From Harrison Ford & George Lucas at Walk of Fame Ceremony”.

On Thursday, some of the actor’s closest friends and colleagues came out to honor him as he was immortalized in Hollywood with the recognition befitting a cultural icon like himself.

Hamill got some sweet support from his former Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford, Star Wars creator George Lucas, recent Last Jedi co-star Kelly Marie Tran, as well as a pair of Storm Troopers and the iconic droid R2-D2. His wife of nearly 40 years, Marilou York, was also to celebrate the honor.

(3) CROWDFUNDING WILL REVIVE AMAZING. Steve Davidson has launched a Kickstarter to hasten “The Return of Amazing Stories Magazine!”

Amazing Stories is an institution. It is an icon of the field. Over the years it has represented both the best and the worst that this genre has to offer. It has inspired the careers of authors, artists, editors, academics, scientists and engineers. Its presence proved that there was a viable market for this kind of literature, a fact not lost on other publishers who quickly followed suit. By 1930 there were four magazines in the field, eventually many more. And the fans? They bought every single one of them.

Amazing Stories deserves to be an ongoing part of our community. It may be a bit worn around the edges, the spine may be cracked a little and it may shed bits of pulp here and there, but those are love scars. Amazing Stories is not just our progenitor, it is the embodiment of the heart and soul of the genre.

We love it. We love what it’s done for us, what it represents, what it created. How can we not, when we love Science Fiction?

We know you share that love. Please show that love. It’s time for Amazing Stories to live again.

On the first day Steve’s appeal brought in $5,079 of its $30,000 goal.

Here’s how the money will be used. (Experimenter Publishing is Steve’s company.)

Experimenter plans to publish its first new issue for a Fall 2018 release and will be distributing the magazine at Worldcon 76 in San Jose CA. Professional, SFWA qualifying rates of 6 cents per word will be paid and Experimenter intends to become a fully SFWA qualifying market within its first year of operation. Several stories by well known authors have already been contracted, as has cover art by a highly respected artist.

Following five years of growth and development as an online multi-author blog serving the interests of science fiction, fantasy and horror fans, the publication of well-regarded articles produced by over 175 contributors, read by over 40,000 registered members, and following the publication of three special editions, a comic book and a growing selection of anthologies, classic novels and facsimile reprints, Experimenter believes the time is right to launch the quarterly magazine.

(4) ABOUT THE BARKLEY PROPOSAL. What were signers of Chris Barkley’s YA Award name proposal told? One of them, Shawna McCarthy, wrote in a comment on Facebook:

I was a signatory and do not feel misrepresented to other than not knowing the name of the award had already been decided. It’s possible the sponsor thought I was more up on the state of WC business committee work than I was.

(5) COMIC-CON’S QUASI-MUSEUM. Kinsee Morlan, in “Don’t Call Comic-Con’s Balboa Park Digs A museum–At Least Not Yet” for Voice of San Diego, says that Comic-Con International is upholding its nonprofit status by building a museum in San Diego’s Balboa Park (which will replace the San Diego Hall of Champions) and is hiring British museum designer Adam Smith to create it.

Smith said specifics are still hazy, but a few things are starting to become clear. For starters, he’s not ready to dub the new space a museum just yet. He’s toying with calling it a center or something else that better communicates its mission of showcasing contemporary exhibits that focus on what’s happening now or in the future — think virtual reality demos or participatory immersive television experiences (yeah, that’s a thing).

Smith also obliterated the traditional curator-led exhibition model. Instead of experts organizing most of the shows, he said, super fans will be likely be generating exhibitions and events. That’s a move taken from Comic-Con’s convention playbook, where fan-generated panels have always been a big part of the offerings.

David Glanzer, Comic-Con’s director of communications who’s been with the nonprofit for decades, fielded some of my questions, too.

Civic leaders are perpetually terrified that Comic-Con will pack up its bag and head to Los Angeles or another city if San Diego doesn’t expand its Convention Center soon. Glanzer said folks should not assume that won’t happen now that Comic-Con’s new center is opening in Balboa Park. He said they’re two separate projects and the convention could still relocate in the future if its space problems start impacting the quality of the convention.

(6) LOVED THE BOOK, HATED THE FILM. LitHub list of “20 Literary Adaptations Disavowed by Their Original Authors” has plenty of sff:

  • Earthsea (2004) – Based on: Ursula K. Le Guin, Earthsea cycle (1968-2001)

Le Guin hated the Sci-Fi Channel’s adaptation of her books, and she had quite a lot to say on the subject, but the biggest problem was that the miniseries completely whitewashed the original text. Early on, she was consulted (somewhat) but when she raised objections, they told her that shooting had already begun. “I had been cut out of the process,” she wrote at Slate.

Also:

  • Mary Poppins (1964) – Based on: P. L. Travers’s Mary Poppins (1934)
  • Hellraiser: Revelations (2011) – Based on: Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart (1986)
  • A Wrinkle in Time (2003) – Based on: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (1962)
  • Charlotte’s Web (1973) – Based on: E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (1952)
  • Solaris (1972, 2002) – Based on: Stanis?aw Lem’s Solaris (1961)
  • The Last Man on Earth (1964) – Based on: Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971) – Based on: Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange (1962)
  • The Shining (1980) – Based on: Stephen King’s The Shining (1977)
  • The NeverEnding Story (1984) – Based on: Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story (1979)
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) – Based on: Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964)

(7) LOPATA OBIT. Steve Lopata’s daughter announced that he passed away March 5, peacefully, at the hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas. Sammi Owens said:

…I deeply regret to inform you that his heart was failing and Worldcon 75 Helsinki was his last trip. He had heart surgery and despite valiant efforts he succumbed to his heart disease on March 5, 2018…. My mom Frances and I want the scifi community and all his friends to know how much he dearly loved you all. His all time favorite activities were working Ops for Worldcons and having an audience for his tales- umm, I mean true stories…. Peace be with you all and thank you for your friendship to our beloved man.

Patrick Maher was one of many fans who worked Ops with Steve with good words about him:

I didn’t know Steve very long, only since he walked into Shamrokon in 2014 and offered to help out. We didn’t know who he was but, as he said he had just come from Loncon III, we asked James Bacon who he was. James described him as Steve ‘Awesome Ops Guy’ Lopata. He sat in Ops all weekend and offered sage advice. When I took over Ops for Worldcon 75 in Helsinki, he was the first person I went to for advice.

Lopata also did volunteer work with big cats, as he explained in an article for Mimosa in 2001.

One of the first questions I am asked when I tell people about working with lions and tigers is, “How did you get involved?” There are two answers. First the short, “I like kitties;” and the longer one, “I was at a convention and saw this guy walking a tiger on a leash. I asked if I could pet the tiger and about half an hour later, I was a volunteer at the breeding park.”

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock calls this too bad not to share: Arlo and Janis.
  • And here’s an International Women’s Day item from Bizarro.

(9) INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY. Headstuff’s Aoife Martin celebrated the day by analyzing “Author Pseudonyms” used by women. A couple of instances came from sff —

Closer to modern times we have the case of Alice Bradley Sheldon who wrote science fiction under the pen name of James Tiptree Jr. In an interview she said that she chose a male name because it “seemed like good camouflage. I had the feeling that a man would slip by less observed. I’ve had too many experiences in my life of being the first woman in some damn occupation.” It’s interesting that Sheldon should have felt the need to do this but she was a successful science fiction writer – so much so that she won several awards including a Hugo for her 1974 novella, The Girl Who Was Plugged In and several Nebula awards. Her secret wasn’t discovered until 1976 when she was 61. Throughout her career she was referred to as an unusually macho male and as an unusually feminist writer (for a male). Indeed, fellow writer Robert Silverberg once argued that Tiptree could not possibly be a woman while Harlan Ellison, when introducing Tiptree’s story for his anthology Again, Dangerous Visions wrote that “[Kate] Wilhelm is the woman to beat this year, but Tiptree is the man.” Suitably, the James Tiptree Jr. Award is given annually in her honour to works of science fiction and fantasy that expand or explore one’s understanding of gender.

(10) A NEW KIND OF BARBIE. The Huffington Post reports Mattel is honoring a few living legends this International Women’s Day: “Frida Kahlo And Other Historic Women Are Being Made Into Barbies”. Genre-related figures include Katherine Johnson and Patty Jenkins.

Kids around the world will soon be able to own a Barbie doll bearing the likeness of Frida Kahlo, Amelia Earhart or Katherine Johnson.

All three women made herstory in different industries: Earhart was the first female aviator to fly across the Atlantic Ocean; Mexican artist Kahlo was known for her unique painting style and feminist activism; and Johnson, who was highlighted in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures,” broke boundaries for black women in mathematics and calculated dozens of trajectories for NASA, including the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the moon.

The dolls, which are part of Mattel’s new series called “Inspiring Women,” will be
mass produced and sold in stores….

(11) ANOTHER STAR WARS SERIES. A well-known name in superhero movies will be responsible for a Star Wars series to appear on Disney’s new streaming platform: “Jon Favreau hired for ‘Star Wars’ series: Why fans have mixed feelings”.

The director whose film launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe is coming to a galaxy far, far away. Jon Favreau, the filmmaker behind Iron Man, Elf, and Disney’s live-action Jungle Book and Lion King, will write and executive-produce a live-action Star Wars series for Disney’s new streaming platform. Lucasfilm announced today that Favreau, who is also an actor with roles in the Clone Wars animated series and the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story,  will helm the new show. While Favreau has a strong fanbase (going all the way back to his 1996 debut film Swingers), many on social media are wondering why Lucasfilm has hired yet another white man to steer the diverse Star Wars universe — and announced it on International Women’s Day, no less.

(12) STORYBUNDLE. Cat Rambo curated The Feminist Futures Bundle, which will be available for the next three weeks.

In time for Women’s History Month, here’s a celebration of some of the best science fiction being written by women today. This bundle gathers a wide range of outlooks and possibilities, including an anthology that gives you a smorgasbord of other authors you may enjoy.

I used to work in the tech industry, and there I saw how diversity could enhance a team and expand its skillset. Women understand that marketing to women is something other than coming up with a lady-version of a potato chip designed not to crunch or a pink pen sized for our dainty hands. Diversity means more perspectives, and this applies to science fiction as well. I am more pleased with this bundle than any I’ve curated so far.

In her feminist literary theory classic How to Suppress Women’s Writing, science fiction author Joanna Russ talked about the forces working against the works of women (and minority) writers. A counter to that is making a point of reading and celebrating such work, and for me this bundle is part of that personal effort, introducing you to some of my favorites. – Cat Rambo

The initial titles in the Feminist Futures Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:

  • Happy Snak by Nicole Kimberling
  • Alanya to Alanya by L. Timmel Duchamp
  • Code of Conduct by Kristine Smith
  • The Birthday Problem by Caren Gussoff

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular titles, plus SIX more!

  • Starfarers Quartet Omnibus – Books 1-4 by Vonda N. McIntyre
  • The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein
  • Spots the Space Marine by M.C.A. Hogarth
  • The Terrorists of Irustan by Louise Marley
  • Queen & Commander by Janine A. Southard
  • To Shape the Dark by Athena Andreadis

(13) FAIL HYDRA. Cory Doctorow updated BoingBoing readers about a publisher accused of questionable practices: “Random House responds to SFWA on its Hydra ebook imprint”

Allison R. Dobson, Digital Publishing Director of Random House, has written an open letter to the Science Fiction Writers of America responding to the warning it published about Hydra, a new imprint with a no-advance, author-pays-expenses contract that SFWA (and I) characterize as being totally unacceptable. Dobson’s letter doesn’t do much to change my view on that:

(14) BEARING WITNESS. Lavie Tidhar has tweeted a noir Pooh adventure. Jump on the thread here:

(15) ANDROIDS AT 50. Here’s a clipping from Nature: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Ananyo Bhattacharya toasts Philip K. Dick’s prescient science-fiction classic as it turns 50.” [PDF file.]

When science-fiction writer Peter Watts first opened Philip K. Dick’s 1968 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a word caught his eye. It was “friendlily”. How had Dick got that past an editor? As Watts told me: “I knew at that point that Dick had to be some kind of sick genius.”

(16) CURRENT EVENTS. This sounds like a job for Doctor Who: “A Political Dispute Puts A Wrinkle In Time, Slowing Millions Of European Clocks”.

For the past few weeks, something strange has been happening in Europe. Instead of time marching relentlessly forward, it has been slowing down imperceptibly, yet with cumulatively noticeable results, so that millions of clocks the Continent-over are now running behind.

The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity released a statement Tuesday saying that since mid-January, Europe’s standard electrical frequency of 50 hertz has fallen ever so slightly to 49.996 hertz.

For electric clocks that rely on the frequency of the power system — typically radio, oven and heating-panel clocks — the cumulative effect was “close to six minutes,” according to the agency.

(17) TAINT FUNNY MCGEE. The BBC says “Amazon promises fix for creepy Alexa laugh”.

Amazon’s Alexa has been letting out an unprompted, creepy cackle – startling users of the best-selling voice assistant.

The laugh, described by some as “witch like” was reported to sometimes happen without the device being “woken” up.

Others reported the laugh occurring when they asked Alexa to perform a different task, such as playing music.

“We’re aware of this and working to fix it,” Amazon said.

(18) CUBE ROUTER. Meanwhile, at MIT, they’re wasting their time saving time: “Rubik’s robot solves puzzle in 0.38 seconds”.

Ben Katz, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, collaborated with Jared Di Carlo to create the robot.

“We noticed that all of the fast Rubik’s Cube solvers were using stepper motors and thought that we could do better if we used better motors,” said Mr Di Carlo in a blog post.

Mr Katz said in his blog the 0.38 seconds included “image capture and computation time, as well as actually moving the cube”.

Their contraption used two PlayStation Eye cameras from the old PS3 console to identify the configuration of the cube.

However, mistakes often resulted in a cube being destroyed.

(19) DARK MATTER. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination released a video of a recent guest presentation: “Sir Roger Penrose: New Cosmological View of Dark Matter, which Strangely and Slowly Decays”.

Sir Roger Penrose joined the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination on January 19, 2018, to give a talk on his latest research and provide an insight into the thinking of a modern day theoretical physicist. Is the Universe destined to collapse, ending in a big crunch or to expand indefinitely until it homogenizes in a heat death? Roger explains a third alternative, the cosmological conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC) scheme—where the Universe evolves through eons, each ending in the decay of mass and beginning again with new Big Bang. The equations governing the crossover from each aeon to the next demand the creation of a dominant new scalar material, postulated to be dark matter. In order that this material does not build up from aeon to aeon, it is taken to decay away completely over the history of each aeon. The dark matter particles (erebons) may be expected to behave almost as classical particles, though with bosonic properties; they would probably be of about a Planck mass, and interacting only gravitationally. Their decay would produce gravitational signals, and be responsible for the approximately scale invariant temperature fluctuations in the CMB of the succeeding aeon. In our own aeon, erebon decay might well show up in signals discernable by gravitational wave detectors.

 

(20) HANDY HINTS. And in case you ever have this problem: “Here’s How You Could Survive Being Sucked Into a Black Hole”. The article is honestly kind of useless, but I love the clickbait title.

OK, so maybe you aren’t going to get sucked into a black hole tomorrow. Or ever. Maybe even trying to imagine being in such a situation feels like writing yourself into a Doctor Who episode. But, for mathematicians, physicists, and other scientists attempting to understand cosmic strangeness in practical terms, these thought experiments are actually very useful. And they may be more practical in and of themselves than we’d realized.

At least, that’s what a team of researchers led by Peter Hintz at the University of California, Berkeley found through their study of black holes, recently published in the journal Physical Review Letters

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