Pixel Scroll 9/29/19 My Room In The Luna Hotel Had A Harsh Mattress

(1) ALL’S WELLS THAT ENDS WELLES. This meeting between H.G. Wells and Orson Welles was broadcast on Radio KTSA San Antonio on October 28, 1940.

(2) DIFFERENCE DECIDERS. Rochelle Spencer assesses “A New Hope: Ebony Elizabeth Thomas’s Vision for “The Dark Fantastic”” at LA Review of Books.

…Thomas’s investigation leads to one of the most radiant and thought-provoking descriptions of the potentials of fantastic literature. In particular, what Thomas terms “the dark fantastic” — fantasy that includes but hinders or stereotypes people of color — is problematic. Still, if we’re to write what Thomas terms “an emancipatory dark fantastic” — stories that break the cycle of the tragic, sacrificial Dark Girl, and instead, reveal her as complex, defiant, central, and vibrant — we may ultimately succeed in “decolonizing our fantasies and our dreams.” And, as Thomas suggests, the ability to reconsider and reinterpret “the crisis of race in our storied imagination has the potential to make our world anew.”

…Thomas wants us to consider difference as relative and circumscribed by power. Who has the power to label someone as different or monstrous?

(3) FINALLY RETURNING TO LONG FORM. Only her second, Susanna Clarke’s next novel will be sff and appear next fall.

Bloomsbury nabbed world English rights to the sophomore novel by the author of the 2004 bestseller Jonathan Strange & Mr. NorrellSusanna Clarke’s Piranesiis slated for a global laydown in September 2020. A Bloomsbury spokesperson said the novel is set in “a richly imagined, very unusual world.” The title character lives in a place called the House and is needed by his friend, the Other, to work on a scientific project. The publisher went on: “Piranesi records his findings in his journal. Then messages begin to appear; all is not what it seems. A terrible truth unravels as evidence emerges of another person and perhaps even another world outside the House’s walls.” Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has, per Bloomsbury, sold more than four million copies worldwide. Clarke, who’s won both a Hugo Award and a World Fantasy Award, was represented by Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown.

(4) FATHOM EVENTS. “‘Twilight Zone’ Anniversary Show Set for Nov. 14”Variety has the story. The Fathom Events info is here.

Fathom Events and CBS Home Entertainment have scheduled a Nov. 14 showing for “The Twilight Zone: A 60th Anniversary Celebration” at more than 600 North American cinemas.

The shows will combine digitally restored versions of six episodes with an all-new documentary short titled “Remembering Rod Serling” about the life, imagination and creativity of the show’s creator. It’s the first time that original episodes of the series, which ran from 1959 to 1964, have been presented on the big screen.

Fathom Events CEO Ray Nutt said, “‘The Twilight Zone’ has inspired many filmmakers and storytellers, so it is a great honor to be able to bring these classic stories to the big screen, and to offer such an incisive look into the mind of the man who created them.”

(5) 2020 ACCESSIBILITY. CoNZealand asks those coming to the 2020 Worldcon: “Let us know if you have accessible accommodation needs”.

Do you have disability or accessibility requests for your accommodation in Wellington? We are busy confirming hotel information to share with our members later this year, and need to know your current accessibility requests as part of this planning by 15 October 2019.

If you have hotel accessibility needs, please email access-hotels@conzealand.nz with details of your hotel accessibility requests and an indication of the number of nights you think you will be staying as well.

(6) PRISING OFF THE LID. Alasdair Stuart previews this week’s Full Lid (27th September 2019). It opens with —

— the UK strand of Netflix’s new anthology show [Criminal UK] which is massively impressive and COLD in a way very little drama manages to be.  Then it’s a very welcome return for Warren Ellis, Jason Howard and co’s Trees from Image Comics. The third series is a Strugatskian deep dive into one of the oddest places in the scarred and painfully human world of the series and it’s off to a great start. Finally, I take a look at Ad Astra, equal parts towering spectacle, moments of surprising emotion and near total tonal misfire. 

(7) NELSON OBIT. VentriloquistJimmy Nelson, Jimmy Nelson – known for his Farfel and Danny O’Day characters – died September 24 at age 90.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 29, 1967 Trek aired the “The Changeling” episode. When Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered in 1979, many fans suggested that the plot was simply a remake of this episode. 
  • September 29, 1967Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons first premiered into Supermarionation. This process was used extensively in the puppet series of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 29, 1873 Theodore Lorch. He might have the earliest birthdate in these Birthday Honors so far. He’s the High Priest in 1936’s Flash Gordon serial. He’s also shows up (uncredited originally) as Kane’s Council Member in the 1939 Buck Rogers serial as well. (Died 1947.)
  • Born September 29, 1930 Naura Hayden. Her best-known film appearance is a starring role in The Angry Red Planet where she was Dr. Iris “Irish” Ryan. Yes, she was a redhead. Unless you can her uncredited appearance as a harem girl in Son of Sinbad, this is her only film or series genre role. Though in 1955, she joined a Canadian musical cast of Li’l Abner. This was made possible by Sidney W. Pink who wrote the script for The Angry Red Planet. (Died 2013.)
  • Born September 29, 1942 Ian McShane, 77. Setting aside Deadwood, which is the favorite series of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, where he’s Al Swearengen, he portrays Mr. Wednesday in American Gods.and it turns out, although I don’t remember it, he was Dr. Robert Bryson in Babylon 5: The River of Souls film. And he’s Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Now you tell me what your favorite genre role is by him. 
  • Born September 29, 1944 Isla Blair, 75. Her first credited film appearance was in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as an art gallery assistant.  She was Isabella in The King’s Demons, a Fifth Doctor story. She’s in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the wife of her real-life husband Julian Glover, and credited as Mrs. Glover. 
  • Born September 29, 1952 Lou Stathis. During the last four years of his life, he was an editor for Vertigo. He had a fascinating work history including collaborating with cartoonist Matt Howarth by co-writing the first few issues of Those Annoying Post Bros. (Kindle has them available.) He was also a columnist and editor for Heavy Metal and a columnist for Ted White’s Fantastic magazine during the late Seventies through early Eighties. His fanwriting included the “Urban Blitz” column for OGH’s Scientifriction (the first installment appearing in 1977, Issue 9, page 29). (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 29, 1959 Scott MacDonald, 60. He’s been on four Trek shows:  Next GenerationVoyager, Deep Space Nine, and Enterprise. He’s also up on Space Above and Beyond, Babylon 5X-Files, Stargate: SG-1, Carnivale and Threshold. He was also in Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman, a film which you can guess the rating at Rotten Tomatoes is. 
  • Born September 29, 1961 Nicholas Briggs, 58. A Whovian among Whoians. First off he’s the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the new series of shows. Second he’s the Executive Producer of Big Finish Productions, the audioworks company that has produced more Doctor Who, Torchwood and other related works that you’d think possible. Third he’s appeared as himself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. 
  • Born September 29, 1969 Erika Eleniak, 50. Her film debut was a small part in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial as one of Elliott’s classmates.  Her first film role as an adult was as Vicki De Soto, a victim of the creature in the 1988 horror remake The Blob. She’s Vice-Captain Aurora in Dracula 3000, a film that had to have a disclaimer that it wasn’t a sequel to Dracula 2000
  • Born September 29, 1981 Shay Astar, 38. At age eleven, she portrayed Isabella, the imaginary friend of a young girl aboard the Enterprise in the Next Generation episode “Imaginary Friend”. She’s best known for her work as August Leffler, a recurring character on 3rd Rock from the Sun. Her only other genre role is as Mary Elroy in the “A Tale of Two Sweeties (February 25, 1958)” episode of Quantum Leap.

(10) FUR CHRONICLES. The late Fred Patten’s nonfiction book Furry Tales: A Review of Essential Anthropomorphic Fiction is now available from McFarland.

Tales featuring anthropomorphic animals have been around as long as there have been storytellers to spin them, from Aesop’s Fables to Reynard the Fox to Alice in Wonderland. The genre really took off following the explosion of furry fandom in the 21st century, with talking animals featuring in everything from science fiction to fantasy to LGBTQ coming-out stories.

In his lifetime, Fred Patten (1940–2018)—one of the founders of furry fandom and a scholar of anthropomorphic animal literature—authored hundreds of book reviews that comprise a comprehensive critical survey of the genre. This selected compilation provides an overview from 1784 through the 2010s, covering such popular novels as Watership Down and Redwall, along with forgotten gems like The Stray Lamb and Where the Blue Begins, and science fiction works like Sundiver and Decision at Doona.

(11) EMSH EXHIBITION. “Dream Dance: The Art of Ed Emshwiller”, the first major monographic exhibition of the artist’s groundbreaking work in film, video, and visual art, will be presented at the Lightbox Film Center in Philadelphia from October 18-December 7. Full details and ticket information at the link. See Vimeo preview here.

With an immensely diverse body of creative work, Ed Emshwiller (1925-90) is perhaps one of the most significant yet under-recognized artists of the latter half of the 20th century. 

Emshwiller’s career spanned abstract expressionist painting, commercial illustration, film, video and computer art, and collaborations with dancers, choreographers, and composers.  Dream Dance includes the preservation of two of Emshwiller’s earliest films, Dance Chromatic (1959) and Lifelines (1960), which will be screened at Lightbox along with 19 of his other films—some of which have never been publicly presented in Philadelphia—as well as notable films by other filmmakers for which he served as cinematographer. 

A concurrent exhibition at the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery highlights Emshwiller’s visual and fine art background, including video works, early paintings, notes, sketches, ephemera, and many early science fiction cover paintings. Dream Dance is a full scale investigation of the artist’s legacy, presenting his multidisciplinary oeuvre to a new generation of audiences.

(12) VOYAGE TO THE INDIES. Cora Buhlert signs in with the highlights of “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for September 2019”.

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have epic fantasy, urban fantasy, military fantasy, dark fantasy, Arthurian fantasy, Asian fantasy, Wuxia, paranormal mystery, space opera, military science fiction, time travel romance, Steampunk, LitRPG, horror, ghosts, fae, pirates, space marines, conscientious objectors, traffickers, trailblazers, time travel, crime-busting witches, crime-busting werewolves, literary characters come to life, Arthur and Merlin, defiant empires and much more.

(13) THOSE DARN REPLICANTS. By the time you reach the end of this list — “Blade Runner: 10 Things That Make No Sense”ScreenRant will have you thinking the whole movie makes no sense. (Maybe it doesn’t?)

10 IDENTIFYING A REPLICANT

In the beginning of the film, it’s established that in order to retire a replicant, they must be subject to a VK test to determine their empathy levels. When Holden is sent to give the test to Leon, why doesn’t he recognize him? It’s established that all replicants have dossiers, because we see their mugshots lined up later on in the film. This proves there’s a unique database that exists of every replicant’s face on record.

Also, if it comes to identifying replicants in the streets, why can’t Deckard or other Blade Runners use an EMF reader to locate them? They have machine components under their synthetic flesh, so their electromagnetic impulses would assuredly register on such devices.

(14) STARSHIP NEWS.  “SpaceX knows what a rocket should look like!” says John King Tarpinian, who sent in this photo. Meanwhie,BBC reports “Elon Musk upbeat on Starship test flights”.

The American entrepreneur Elon Musk has given a further update on his Starship and Super Heavy rocket system.

He plans to use the new vehicles to send people to the Moon and Mars, and also to move them swiftly around the Earth.

The SpaceX CEO is in the process of building prototypes and plans to start flying them in the coming months.

…Both parts of the new rocket system, which together will stand 118m tall on the launch pad, are being designed to be fully reusable, making propulsive landings at the end of their mission.

Mr Musk is well known for his aggressive scheduling, which even has a name: “Elon time”.

The scheduling often slips, but eventually he does tend to deliver.

(15) MARS SOCIETY. The organization has posted the “2019 Mars Society Convention Schedule Online”.

The full itinerary for the 22nd Annual International Mars Society Convention is now available for viewing online. Please visit https://bit.ly/2kPIDqa to see the four-day conference schedule, running from October 17-20 at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles).

The Mars Society convention program includes a series of plenary talks, panel discussions and public debates on important issues related to planning for a human mission to the Red Planet and general space exploration.

Conference highlights will include an update about NASA’s Curiosity rover with Ashwin Vasavada, a talk about SpaceX and its mission to Mars by Paul Wooster, a debate about NASA’s proposed Lunar Gateway project, an update about the Mars InSight mission by Tom Hoffman, a review by Shannon Rupert of her experiences with Mars analog research, the finals of the Mars Colony Prize Contest involving student teams from around the world and, as always, an address by Mars Society President Robert Zubrin.

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

Starship Century Symposium: Robert Zubrin

Robert Zubrin

Robert Zubrin

[This post is part of a series about the Starship Century Symposium held May 21-22, 2013.]

Robert Zubrin is President of Pioneer Astronautics and the founder and President of the Mars Society, and was responsible for developing the Mars Direct mission plan.

With the zeal of a prophet, Zubrin made fiercely anti-Malthusian arguments that the goal of building a starship in the coming century is attainable.

What are the requirements for a starship? He postulates a 1000-ton ship that travels at 10% light speed. What resources will society need for the mission? Zubrin said that to keep the cost from exceeding Apollo levels in proportion to society’s wealth, humanity will need a gross global domestic product (GDP) of 1000 times greater than existed in 1968, or 200 times greater than exists today.

To achieve a 200-times increase over today’s GDP, we will need a population of 54 billion. We will need energy of 2500 terawatts by the year 2200.

Pounding away at the opposite conclusions reached in Paul Ehrlich’s famous book The Population Bomb, Zubrin said, “If humans destroyed more than they made, the earth would be barren already. The real resource is human creativity.” Every mouth comes with a pair of hands and a brain. If we accept Malthusian advice, and act to reduce the world’s population, we will impoverish the future by denying it the contributions the missing people could have made.

For one thing, the more people, the larger the market, the easier to justify investments. For another, technological progress is cumulative.

Zubrin’s historical graph showed that GDP/per capita has increased with total global population over the years. This is because productivity depends upon technology, which is the cumulative result of human effort. For example, he pointed to the jump in worldwide wealth in the 1500s, something he credited to the development of sailing ships which unified the world and allowed inventions to be disseminated more rapidly than ever before.

Humanity’s escape from poverty depends upon energy use – GDP/per capita is a function of carbon use. Rising levels of energy consumption have correlated directly with rising living standards. Zubrin does not consider that this has been accomplished at the cost of a climate catastrophe. “The weather is about the same as when I was a boy,” he said dismissively.

In the future our energy resources will be (1) The sum of known and unknown Terrestrial fossil fuels, plus (2) local planetary He3.

He speculated that a winged transatmospheric vehicle that can use a gas giant’s atmosphere for propellant, heating it in a nuclear reactor to produce thrust (Nuclear Indigenous Fueled Thermal rockets) could be used to transport He3 from the planet to an orbiting tanker, which would deliver it to Earth orbit.

This would provide fuel for fusion reactors. A fusion configuration could theoretically yield exhaust velocities of 5% the speed of light. The thrust level would be too low for in-system travel, but would make possible voyages to a nearby star with trip times of less than a century.

Zubrin is counting on human wanderlust as the motive for colonizing the nearby planets, and in time the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud. “Why go? Why stay? Why live on a planet whose laws and social possibilities were defined by generations long dead, when you can be a pioneer and help shape a new world according to reason as you see it?” The need to create is fundamental. “Once outward move begins, it will not stop,” Zubrin promised, “We can make it to the stars provided we remain free.”

A question session followed which might have veered onto unpacking the speaker’s data and endlessly processing his analysis, except that Zubrin, with a verbal flourish, used the first question to point to the fuller support in his book Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism (2011) – a bit of verbal judo that gained applause from the many authors in the audience. Remember: Always Be Closing…

Mars Exploration Not for Profit?

The U.S. Tax Court has ruled that Donald Carl Barker, a former NASA systems manager, isn’t allowed to deduct expenses for his space exploration activity because he didn’t engage in it for profit.

The Tax Court thought the activity was commendable (“We do not fault petitioner’s strong passion for Mars exploration and its related technology. We believe he pursues a noble cause that one day could provide benefits to all humanity.”) The problem, in the Court’s view, was that Barker didn’t show he was still regularly and actively involved in his business activity in the year of the deductions, 2006. So they ruled against him.

Barker was developing a “Mars audio system” for use with the Martian surface suit. Derived from the Mars Polar Lander flight hardware, his audio system incorporated low power, low cost, off-the-shelf components including an intelligent sound processing chip, hearing-aid style electric microphones, and miniaturized speakers.

His system was field tested in 2002 at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, a reference that caught my eye because File 770 covered David Levine’s stint at the MDRS in 2009. (See ”Meanwhile, Back on Mars…”)

The full opinion was posted March 20 at the Tax Court website — Donald Carl Barker v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2012-77 [PDF file]

Meanwhile, Back on Mars…

MDRS upper floor.

David Levine had just reached Mars before my health problems distracted me from his adventures.

Since I last checked in the crew of the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) has been suffering problems of its own, only one of them medical, though it can’t be overlooked that the engineering problem would have been fatal had it actually occurred on Mars.

The least of these problems was the difficulty of getting to sleep in a strange place. David wrote

The hab is full of strange noises at night — whirs and thumps and gurgles — making sleep difficult, but eventually I put in earplugs and got a pretty solid night’s rest, finally getting out of bed around 7:00. I understand the ISS is also very noisy.

(Then add to that — getting into bed the next night David banged his toe so badly that he became he became the Health & Safety Officer’s first patient. Fortunately peroxide and mercurochrome, then a bandage, set all to right.)

Noise at night had been a problem. Sudden quiet was the problem by day. Everything dependent on electrical power went silent. When the crew couldn’t get a generator to restart after a diagnostic shutdown — and discovered the auxiliaries had a problem too — they were forced to send for help from Earth, er, Hollow Mountain.

With the Internet out, we had no way to contact Mission Support, and none of us have cell phone service here. Steve tried walking up to Observatory Ridge in hopes of catching a signal, but no dice. Finally Steve, Laksen, and Paul took V’ger into town in hopes that they’d be able to find DG at Hollow Mountain.

(Sidebar: V’ger is our Plymouth Voyager “pressurized rover” and DG is a Hanksville local who is absolutely essential to the continued operation of MDRS.)

DG came and diagnosed the trouble (it’s all in the journal).

Now the crew was free to fulfill its mission, right? Oops, no, make that — to fix the plumbing! Here, David’s home-owner skills helped them avoid a simple solution that would have been worse than the problem.

Anytime David is unleashed on Mars, however, he’s having plenty of success solving the mission’s technological problems, patching helmets, working on power packs, and getting webcams back online:

While lunch was cooking, I also ran up to the Musk Observatory to see if I could fix the #1 webcam there, which was completely washed out even when the sun wasn’t shining directly into its eye. Poking around at the computer there, I stumbled into a deeply-buried settings screen where all the contrast, brightness, and gamma controls were seriously messed up. A simple press on the Restore Defaults button brought the camera back to life. Go me!

I am not a number...
I am not a number…

Those power packs have big red numbers. Somebody with a science fictional sense of humor posted a snapshot of Number 6 and Number 2 walking companionably up the arroyo.

Whether that was David’s idea I don’t know. I see there are others in the crew with a sense of humor. A glance at Executive Officer/Engineer Laksen Sirimanne’s blog revealed that meal time brings out his comic side:

0800: Breakfast of instant oatmeal did not work out well. It ended up very sticky and I tossed it away although I should have used it to insulate the water pipes under the Hab.

1400: Lunch was Raman instant noodles and tea. I had two packets which had enough Sodium to Terraform most of Mars.

All this stuff is great raw material for a story. And who better to write it than…

The first sf writer on Mars

The first sf writer on Mars

Levine Reaches Mars

David Levine, faned, Hugo-winning author, and now simulated Mars explorer, has posted his first journal entry from the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station.

David begins by admitting that finding the MDRS is almost as hard as working the ballistic math in a Heinlein novel:

We did get slightly lost in that last stretch — we were following a vague and extremely sketchy map drawn on the back of a cash register receipt by the clerk at the Hollow Mountain — but we were only half an hour behind schedule when the white cylinder of the hab, familiar to all of us from photographs even though we’d never been here before, peeked out from behind a rust-colored rock formation.

There’s a break in the simulation while the old and new crew are in transition, for orientation, move-in and setup:

The current crew (MDRS-87) greeted us warmly and gave us a whirlwind tour of the hab, complete with safety instructions, an EVA suiting demo, a short hike to a nearby fossil bed, and instructions on dealing with the temperamental ATVs (every one different from the others).

As you might expect, it’s by far the most colorful post from anyone in the crew (links to the others are here.)

David says the Martian simulation will resume on Monday:

We aren’t really on Mars yet. But we’re definitely a long way from home.

P.S. David is also doing updates via Twitter: @MDRSupdates

Space Shuttle’s Computer
Is How Many Dog Years Old?

The Mars Society’s San Diego chapter gives a surprising answer to the question “Does the Space Shuttle’s Computer Really Run on Just One Megabyte of RAM? “

It’s true: The brain of NASA’s primary vehicle has the computational power of an IBM 5150, that ’80s icon that goes for $20 at yard sales.

… Besides, a complete overhaul would be horrendously expensive. The GPC’s oftware would have to be completely reconfigured for a modern computer and tested until proven flawless.

For proof that you shouldn’t fix a space computer if it ain’t broke, consider Russia’s Soyuz space capsule, which since 1974 has been running Argon-16 flight-computer software with just six kilobytes of RAM. In 2003 the Russians rewrote some of the spacecraft’s software, which experts suspect led to its subsequent crash-landing in a desert in Kazakhstan.

[Via Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol]