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 9/29/18 People Are Still Scrolling Pixels And Nothing Seems To Stop Them

(1) LOOK OUT BELOW. On S.T. Joshi’s blog, the sclerotic author posted the Table of Contents for his next book, 21st-Century Horror. The third section takes aim at these well-known writers —

III. The Pretenders

Laird Barron: Decline and Fall
Joe Hill: Like Father, Like Son
Brian Keene: Paperback Writer
Nick Mamatas: Failed Mimic
Paul Tremblay: Borrowing from His Predecessors
Jeff VanderMeer: An Aesthetic Catastrophe

(2) WORLDCON DOCUMENTS. Kevin Standlee reports the “Rules of the World Science Fiction Society” webpage has been updated with:

  • the 2018-19 WSFS Constitution
  • the Standing Rules
  • Business Passed On to the 2019 WSFS Business Meeting

You can also find there the —

  • Minutes of the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting
  • updated Resolutions and Rulings of Continuing Effect
  • the link to the recordings of the 2018 WSFS Business Meeting

(3) PLANETS ANNIVERSARY. NPR commemorates an influential musical work — “‘The Planets’ At 100: A Listener’s Guide To Holst’s Solar System”.

100 years ago, a symphonic blockbuster was born in London. The Planets, by Gustav Holst, premiered on this date in 1918. The seven-movement suite, depicting planets from our solar system, has been sampled, stolen and cherished by the likes of Frank Zappa, John Williams, Hans Zimmer and any number of prog-rock and metal bands.

To mark the anniversary, we’ve enlisted two experts to guide us on an interplanetary trek through Holst’s enduring classic.

First, someone who knows the music: Sakari Oramo, chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra…

Next, someone who knows the real planets. Heidi Hammel is a planetary astronomer who specializes in the outer planets, and the executive vice president of AURA, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy….

Filers will remember that Jubal Harshaw used the Mars movement as Valentine Michael Smith’s anthem in Stranger in a Strange Land.

“Mars is a war machine,” Oramo says. “You could refer to Mars as the forefather of music for films describing interstellar warfare.”

Since we’re talking movies, what about the “Imperial March,” perhaps the most recognizable music John Williams wrote for Star Wars? I played a clip of it for Oramo as we discussed Holst’s music.

“Yes, Star Wars. Oh, I love it!” Oramo says. But isn’t it a rip-off of “Mars?”

“I wouldn’t call it a rip-off,” Oramo answers. “It’s based on the principals Holst created for ‘Mars.’ And all composers steal from each other.”

(And some get caught. Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer was sued by the Holst Foundation for writing music an awful lot like “Mars” in his score for Gladiator.)

(4) SHORT FICTION MARKET, QUICK TURNAROUND. Over on Gizmodo, io9 is looking for short fiction on the subject of “the Future of Death.” They want pieces of speculative fiction (not horror) shorter than 2000 words and promise rates starting at 50¢ a word for first publication rights plus a 90-day exclusive window. The submission deadline is 25 October.

Perhaps death has become a thing of the past—for some humans, at least. Maybe a newly sentient AI must decide whether to program some form of death into its universe. Whatever the premise, we’re looking for creative takes on what it means for an object or entity to cease to be. We’re most interested in futuristic and science fiction-infused tales; no gore or straight horror, please.

…To submit, please email a short summary (a few sentences will do) of the scope and plot of the story, as well as links to any other published work you’d like for us to see, to fiction@io9.com. Please include your story as an attachment.

(5) PEOPLE AT NASA WHO LOVE SFF. In a lengthy (well, for today’s short attention spans anyway) article on CNET, Amanda Kooser talks to several NASA scientists, including an astronaut, about their connections to and love of science fiction (“When NASA meets sci-fi, space adventures get real”).

A love of science fiction threads through the space agency, and it’s also part of NASA’s public outreach. The agency has sought out exoplanets that mirror Star Wars planets, sent scientists to commune with fans at Comic-Cons and partnered with William Shatner, Capt. Kirk of the original Star Trek, to promote the Parker Solar Probe.

The love runs both ways. In a NASA video honoring Star Trek’s 50th anniversary in 2016, Shatner said, “It’s phenomenal what NASA’s doing with science that is, when you look at it, the equal of science fiction.”

I talked with some of the people of NASA who hunt for asteroids, study dwarf planets and actually step out into the blackness of space, and together we roamed across a shared universe of science fiction.

Kooser talks with astronaut Mike Fincke (381 days on orbit) who also has an appearance on Star Trek: Enterprise on his resume. Marc Rayman, director and chief engineer for the Dawn mission, talks of reading Asimov’s “Marooned off Vesta” as a child and now overseeing a spacecraft that has actually been to Vesta. Amy Mainzer, who was the principal investigator for the asteroid-hunting mission Neowise, says, “science fiction has always been about thought experiments and letting you see a vision of the future and trying out ideas.” Tracy Drain’s current focus is the upcoming mission to visit the metal asteroid Psyche; she’s a second-generation fan, getting the love of science fiction from her mother.

(6) SECOND CAREER CHOICE? Mashable has the clip from Wednesday’s episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert where Colbert has New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as a guest. Among other things, he asks  if she was in the Lord of the Rings or Hobbit movies (“Of course, New Zealand’s Prime Minister tried to get a role on ‘Lord of the Rings’”).

Jacinda Ardern dropped by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Wednesday night, revealing that she had been knocked back for a role on the movie, as she lived close to where the films were shot.

“I do find it slightly offensive that everyone thinks that every New Zealander starred in either Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit,” Ardern said. “Some of us auditioned but weren’t successful, OK? That’s all I’m going to say.”

The two also discussed whether Colbert could become a citizen of Hobbition. No key to the city is involved, but he’d get a mug. Ms. Ardern did say Colbert would need to visit New Zealand to make it official.

 

(7) NO SH!T SHERLOCK. Here’s a mystery – who cast Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in a Sherlock Holmes movie?

The Step Brothers are reunited – this time playing the world’s greatest consulting detective and his loyal biographer

 

(8) MARTIN-SMITH OBIT. New Zealand fan Sue Martin-Smith died September 23 reports SFFANZ’ Ross Temple.

Sue was a central figure in NZ fandom over a couple of decades starting in the late ’70s. She made very major contributions to conventions, the club scene, fanzines and other fannish activities. She founded the Phoenix SF Society in Wellington which is still running today (and was first editor of its magazine). She was also one of the founders of FFANZ which also continues to operate promoting fannish cooperation.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born September 29, 1810 – Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, Writer. Much to my surprise, this English author who was not known for her fantasy writing – to say the least – had two volumes of The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of Mrs. Gaskell published by Leonaur, a U.K. publisher more known for serious history works. Her The Life of Charlotte Brontë, published in 1857, was the first biography of Brontë, so these tales are quite unexpected.
  • Born September 29, 1927 – Barbara Mertz, Writer under her own name as well as under the pseudonyms Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels. While she was best known for her mystery and suspense novels and was awarded Grandmaster by both Bouchercon’s Anthony Awards and the Mystery Writers of America, a significant number of her works are considered genre, including the supernatural Georgetown Trilogy and the novel The Wizard’s Daughter.
  • Born September 29, 1940 – Peter Ruber, Writer, Editor, and Publisher of many works written by Arkham House founder August Derleth between 1962–1971, some under his own Candlelight Press imprint, and researcher of Derleth’s life and time for nearly forty years. He became the editor for Arkham House in 1997, after Jim Turner left to found Golden Gryphon Press.
  • Born September 29, 1942 – Madeline Kahn, Oscar-nominated stage and screen Actor, Comedian, and Singer who appeared in many Mel Brooks movies including Young Frankenstein, the sci-fi comedy Slapstick of Another Kind based on the Vonnegut novel, and several episodes of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, before her life was tragically cut short by cancer at the age of 57.
  • Born September 29, 1942 – Ian McShane, 76, Actor of English/Scottish heritage who has appeared in many genre TV series and movies, including the John Wick films, The Twilight Zone, Space: 1999, American Horror Story, Game of Thrones, and currently has a lead role as the con artist god Odin in the series based on Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.
  • Born September 29, 1944 – Mike Post, 74, Composer, winner of numerous Grammy and Emmy Awards and best known for his TV series theme songs (many of which were written with partner Pete Carpenter), including the themes for The Greatest American Hero and Quantum Leap.
  • Born September 29, 1954 – Cindy Morgan, 64, Actor best known for the dual roles of Lora and Yori in TRON, as well as roles in science fiction B-movies Galaxis and Amanda and the Alien.
  • Born September 29, 1971 – Mackenzie Crook, 47, British Actor, Comedian, Writer and Director known as the comic relief in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and the Warg Orell in Game of Thrones. He collected Star Wars figurines as a child, and is now immortalized in plastic as a six-inch-high pirate action figure.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SCIENCE FICTION FROM THE FRINGES. And now an entry from the “science fiction is d@mn near everywhere” department: Women’s Wear Daily brings news of two actors at the Elie Saab fashion show discussing their latest genre projects (“Roxanne Mesquida, Paz Vega Talk Science Fiction at Elie Saab”).

STRANGE ENCOUNTERS: The leading ladies sitting front row at Elie Saab may have been dolled up for the occasion, but their latest acting jobs are of a more alien kind. Roxanne Mesquida said she had lots of fun shooting the Steven Soderbergh-produced series “Now Apocalypse,” due out in April. […] Paz Vega’s latest project is of a similar genre. The Spanish actress stars in the second season of the Netflix series “The OA.”

(12) CAT SPACE. A pet adoption event in the LA today promoted itself with a space theme —

(13) CBS SHUTS DOWN TREK FAN PROJECT. Reports have surfaced that a fan-made VR recreation of the Next Gen era Enterprise has been scuttled by a legal threat (EuroGamer: “Cease and desist forces impressive fan recreation of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation to self destruct ‘The line must be drawn here. This far, no farther!’”).

A fan-made recreation of the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Next Generation has been pulled offline following a cease and desist.

Stage-9 was a two-year-old fan project that let users explore a virtual recreation of the Enterprise-D, the spaceship made famous by The Next Generation tv show.
The hugely-detailed virtual recreation was built using the Unreal game engine, and was available on PC as well as virtual reality headsets Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. […]

… Then, on 12th September, the cease and desist letter from CBS’ lawyers arrived. The decision was made to put all of the Stage-9 public-facing channels into lockdown while the team tried to convince CBS to change its mind. They suggested tweaking the project to ditch the inclusion of VR, ditch the use of the Enterprise-D specifically and even change the name, but CBS insisted Stage-9 end.

 

(14) HOTHOUSE. According to National Geographic, “Want to Find Alien Life? Look at Older, Hotter Earths.”

If alien astronomers are out there searching for signs of life on Earth, they might just find it in the telltale pattern of light reflected by our plants, from redwood forests to desert cacti to grass-covered plains. That reflected fingerprint has been visible since vegetation first began carpeting our rocky terrestrial landscape about half a billion years ago. And as Earth aged and evolution marched onward, the reflected signal strengthened.

Now, two astronomers are suggesting that plants could leave similar fingerprint-like patterns on distant exoplanets, and perhaps the first signs of life beyond our solar system could come from light reflected by forests covering an alien moon like Endor or cacti living in Tatooine’s deserts.

(15) THERE’S A HOLE IN THE ISS. RT sums up the latest developments — “ISS hole saga’s new twist: More drill scratches discovered on outside hull”.

…It was initially thought (let us leave conspiracy theories behind) that the air leak, which was discovered in late August on Soyuz spacecraft docked at the ISS was caused by a micrometeorite. Later on, Russian media revealed the drill hole was made on the ground by a reckless assembly worker – he was identified and properly sanctioned, we were told.

Yet, the story does not end there. “There are drilling traces not only inside the living module [of the ISS], but also on anti-meteorite plates,” a space industry source told TASS news agency. These plates are mounted outside of the station’s hermetic hull.

“The one who made the hole in the hull passed straight through it and the drill head hit external non-hermetic protection,” the source explained.

Judging by previous media reports, there is a high probability of negligence. The worker in question apparently accidentally drilled the hole, but instead of reporting it, simply sealed it, according to Russian media.

The makeshift sealant held for at least the two months the Soyuz spacecraft spent in orbit, before finally drying up and being pushed out of the hole by air pressure. The ISS crew had noticed the drop of pressure in late August.

Having found themselves in an emergency, the crew fled in the Russian segment of the station as soon as the alarm went off. They began locking down modules of the station one after another, and were eventually able to detect the source of the problem in the Soyuz spacecraft docked to the ISS.

The hole was located near the toilet and covered by decorative fabric. Using an ordinary toothbrush and an endoscope, they found that only one of the two-millimeter cracks had actually pierced the hull and was leaking air.

The Russian crew members used impromptu means of fixing the problem: epoxy-based sealant with metallic additives to plug the hole. Mission Control later advised the crew to place another patch on the crack, which was immediately done

(16) TIM ALLEN ON CONAN. Don’t go to a superhero movie with Tim Allen.

Tim doesn’t understand how the Hulk’s pants still fit when he grows.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 9/26/18 Ent Misbehavin’

(1) ROWLING STEPS IN IT AGAIN. Yahoo! Entertainment reports that “Cries of racism erupt over the casting of Nagini in latest ‘Fantastic Beasts’ installment”.

The final trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald contained a jaw-dropping character reveal that has some Harry Potter fans fuming. As it turns out, one of the prequel franchise’s “new” characters, played by Claudia Kim, is actually a familiar villain from the original series: Voldemort’s evil snake companion Nagini. Author and screenwriter J.K. Rowling tweeted that she’d been sitting on this secret “for around 20 years.” But social media skeptics say that Nagini’s shocking past as a Korean woman seems highly implausible and possibly racist.

Here is the trailer:

Rowling’s tweet in response to a critic —

Fans have pointed out many troubling implications. Here is one of the less-sexualized examples —

(2) SPINRAD ASKED FOR HIS VIEWS ABOUT ISLAM. Rachid Ouadah of motionXmedia interviewed the author of Osama the Gun — “Norman Spinrad: ‘There is a difference between the religion of islam by itself and middle-eastern politics’”.  (Spinrad sent the link.)

Considering that the whole world is in crisis – we would not have had Trump if the world was in a good shape – would it be correct to say that terrorism is an expression of the crisis in the islamic world ? I didn’t say “arabic” because they are such a small part of muslims compared to Indonesians.

Indonesia is very complicated situation so I won’t go into that. (…) Islam and democracy are deeply against each other ideologically. Democracy says that legitimacy of a government arises from the consent of the people as expressed in a vote. Traditional islam says legitimacy of a government arises from the Quran, that human beings have no right to change these rules because it’s the word of Allah. And you can have a country that’s a democracy with a majority of muslims but you can’t have an islamic republic. Iran is not a real republic. It’s a phoney republic. The ultimate word is the word of Khamenei. And not of the president, not of anybody who that’s been elected. It’s not that it is a dictatorship. The ideology of what’s a legitimate government is completely different between an islamic government and a democratic government. So their take on what’s a democracy is it’s evil because it says that the decisions of humans can overrule the word of Allah. On the other side, democracy says [islam] is evil because it doesn’t allow people to decide. There is no middle ground between a theocratic muslim state and an electoral democracy. And that’s the core of the whole thing.

(3) TWO TO GEAR UP. SYFY Wire has artwork from the latest genre crossover: “IDW’s Star Trek vs Transformers #1: Beam up and roll out with artist Philip Murphy”.

Geek galaxies collide in a cosmic crossover for the ages in IDW’s new Star Trek vs. Transformers series, and SYFY WIRE has an exclusive chat with artist Philip Murphy and a first peek inside the pages of this perfect pairing of beloved sci-fi properties.

(4) EIGHT GREAT TOMATOES…ARE NOT ENOUGH. Hector Gonzalez’ saga of cooking for MexicanX Initiative participants at Worldcon 76 continues: “My Road to Worldcon 76. Part 5: Best Laid Plans…”

…The plan was set to bring the items to the main kitchen, get the mushrooms carnitas started, then work on the salsas. The pork will cook overnight and things will be ready in the morning. All seemed perfect. However, Mexican Pollyanna counted her chickens too soon. When we got to Doc Doyle’s home I discovered the besides missing some of the pork I needed for the carnitas, they had shopped dramatically wrong on different things I required, namely tomatoes, tomatillos, and onions. I asked for 8 lbs of tomatoes and only bought EIGHT TOMATOES. This meant another trip to the store, which bothered me. The least time I had at the kitchen, the longer this would take. It was already 2:30PM….

(5) IMAGINATIVE MERGER THEORIES. With Disney and Fox joining up, there’s money to be made! Yahoo! Entertainment heard one fan’s idea for how to do it — “This Marvel Fan Theory Explains How X-Men and the Fantastic Four Will Be Introduced Through ‘Avengers 4′”.

As we know, Avengers 4 will likely require some tricky inter-dimensional manipulation and time travel to undo Thanos’ big snap that killed half the universe. As we also know, back in the real world, Disney and 21st Century Fox are completing a merger, which gives the Marvel Cinematic Universe access to properties that were formerly owned by a separate company, such as X-Men and Fantastic 4. And, as Disney CEO Bob Iger said earlier this year, the company plans to “expand iconic movie franchises like Avatar, Marvel’s X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Deadpool, Planet of the Apes, Kingsman, and many others.”

So, the gears are all in motion for this great meeting of the Marvel characters to happen as soon as Avengers 4. One interesting fan theory on Reddit explains how the reversal of Thanos’ snap could cause the introduction of both The Fantastic 4 and Mutants. If the snap can bring Captain Marvel back to Earth to help, certainly it could bring the Fantastic 4 back as well.

(6) VADER NEEDS YOU. SlashGear fills fans in on a new video game — “Star Wars: Vader Immortal trailer and release info revealed”.

This game will have the user – you – dropped out of hyperspace near the planet Mustafar. That’s the largely volcanic planet where Anakin Skywalker fought Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Vader was effectively born. There, Vader’s palace can be found. This is the palace we first saw in film form in the movie Star Wars: Rogue One.

 

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

The carpet in the house of Sid, the villain of the first “Toy Story” film, is the same pattern as the hotel carpet in “The Shining.” The character of Sid was also partially based on a former employee at Pixar studios. — Source: The Daily Dot

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 26, 2001 Star Trek: Enterprise premiered on this day.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled  by  Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born September 26, 1946 – Togo Igawa, 72, Actor and Producer. A Japanese actor who became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, his genre credits include a small role in The Last Jedi and playing the voice of Hiro the Wise Engine in many Thomas the Tank Engine TV episodes and movies.
  • Born September 26, 1948 – Olivia Newton-John, 70, Actor, Singer, Composer, and Producer from Australia who starred in the fantasy musical Xanadu as a muse sent to help struggling artists achieve their dreams.
  • Born September 26, 1956 – Linda Hamilton, 62, Actor, best known for playing Sarah Connor in the first two Terminator movies, and her lead role in the TV series Beauty and the Beast. She’ll be reprising her role in a Terminator reboot movie expected out next year.
  • Born September 26, 1957 – Tanya Huff, 61, Writer. Canadian author of several fantasy series, all superb, including the Valor Confederation, Enchantment Emporium and Keeper Chronicles. Her Blood Books series, which pairs a Detective removed from the Force for failing eyesight with a vampire, was adapted as a series by CBC Television. She lives in rural Ontario with her partner, six cats, and an “unintentional chihuahua”.
  • Born September 26, 1963 – Lysette Anthony, 55, Actor and Producer from England, known for genre roles in the movie Dracula: Dead and Loving It, the remake of the Dark Shadows TV series, and the classic epic sci-fantasy movie Krull (LALALALA ICantHearYou SHUTUPSHUTUPSHUTUP).
  • Born September 26, 1968 – Jim Caviezel, 50, Actor and Producer. Genre roles include the movie Frequency, the TV miniseries remake of The Prisoner, and 5 seasons in a lead role on Person of Interest.

I’m just going to leave this bit of craptastic birthday nostalgia here for your enjoyment:

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Superheroes helping each other out at The Argyle Sweater.
  • This is just the way I felt about the surveys we had to fill out at work — Bizarro.

(11) OH THE HUMANITY. Metro has coverage of the latest cultural crisis: “Library really needs people to stop sticking googly eyes on book covers”.

Library staff are pleading with people to stop attaching ‘googly eyes’ to book covers because the result will ‘haunt nightmares for all eternity’. Visitors to Alexandria-Monroe Public Library in Indiana, US, have apparently damaged a number of books by sticking the eyes to their covers. Bosses shared a picture of the library’s copy of The Turn of the Shrew to its Facebook page this week, on which a pair of ‘grotesque and haunting’ eyes were placed.

 

(12) PHONE HOME. JPL posted the Mars orbiter’s new photo of rover Opportunity. TechCrunch explicates: “Mars orbiter spots silent, dust-covered Opportunity rover as dust storm clears”.

The last we heard from the rover was on June 10, at which point the storm was getting so intense that Opportunity couldn’t charge its batteries any more and lowered itself into a hibernation state, warmed only by its plutonium-powered heaters — if they’re even working.

Once a day, Opportunity’s deeply embedded safety circuit checks if there’s any power in its battery or coming in via solar.

“Now that the sun is shining through the dust, it will start to charge its batteries,” explained Jim Watzin, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA. And so some time in the coming weeks it will have sufficient power to wake up and place a call back to Earth. But we don’t know when that call will come.”

That’s the hope, anyway. There is of course the possibility that the dust has obscured the solar cells too thickly, or some power fault during the storm led to the safety circuit not working… there’s no shortage of what-if scenarios.

(13) POPPING UP EVERYWHERE. BBC asks: “Are themed bars and pubs the future?” Half of the opening video covers a Potterverse bar in London, where Internet-of-Things wands manipulate toys and hooch; it’s doing well enough that a second one is opening. Chip Hitchcock also admires “The Bletchley”, which “Sounds to me like a great cutoff – ‘You’re not sober enough to have another if you can’t solve this puzzle.’”

…Many themed cocktail bars and pubs were originally pop-ups, such as The Cauldron and ABQ London.

Over the past decade, pop-ups have been increasingly used by new businesses to test out ideas, says Lucy Shaw, editor of alcohol trade magazine Drinks Business.

Pop-ups are hospitality events put on for a limited amount of time. They are held in temporary locations such as a tent or an existing venue.

“It makes business sense to have a pop-up, before you plough hundreds of thousands of pounds into a business,” Ms Shaw tells the BBC. “You want a litmus test, [you want] to test the water.”

Small businesses make up over 99% of all businesses in the hospitality industry, which made up 9.3% (£161bn) of the UK economy in 2016, according to the ONS….

(14) TECH IN SERVICE. “It’s Rice Vs. Seaweed Vs. Solar ATMs For A $1 Million Prize”:

…After the presentations, it was time for the judges to confer and decide. The prestigious group included former President Bill Clinton (the Hult Prize was previously associated with the Clinton Global Initiative); Earth Day Network president Kathleen Rogers; former U.N. assistant secretary general Elizabeth Thompson and a variety of business entrepreneurs, corporate executives and leaders of nonprofit organizations.

Finally, Clinton stepped to the podium to announce the winner. As he emphasized the urgency of responding to climate change, the implication was clear: These Hult Prize innovators better get to work. And the winner was …

SunRice, from University College, London, whose plan promises to increase rice production in Southeast Asia and raise the incomes of rice farmers. They would accomplish this through the use of energy efficient rice-drying and storage technology….

(15) 1976 TECH. “Original working Apple-I computer fetches $375,000 at auction” – article includes substantial history interview with Wozniak — video, much transcribed.

“Our experts tell us that there might be 15 in the world that work properly. You can power this thing up and behave like it’s 1976. It’s pretty fantastic.”

The Apple-I holds a place in technology history as the first computer to not require any assembly, other than to plug in a monitor and keyboard.

(16) BUMMER. It might violate a regulation! Or it might not…. NPR has the story — “Maine Asks Restaurant To Stop Giving Lobsters Cannabis Before Boiling Them”, the follow-up to a recent Pixel.

According to seafoodsource.com, Maine officials have asked — but “not commanded,” notes Gill on the restaurant’s website — the eatery to stop testing medical marijuana on the lobsters. While Gill is licensed to grow marijuana for medical use, state regulators cite a lack of legislation in this area and want to investigate whether administering cannabis to lobsters violates state regulations.

David Heidrich, spokesperson for the Maine Medical Marijuana Program, told the Portland Press Herald that “medical marijuana may only be grown for and provided to persons with a marijuana recommendation from a qualified medical provider. Lobsters are not people.”

(17) CAT ENVY. This fellow has recalibrated his life’s ambition —

(18) A WORD FOR OUR SPONSOR. John Hertz sent what I’d call a “state of the File” poem —

Seven Seventy Dotcom Glyer,
Migly or just Mike to thee,
Took great care of his Filers
Though no more Hugos he’d see.
Seven Seventy Dotcom Glyer
Said to his Filers, said he,
“If any of youse get some SF news,
I hope you’ll report it to me.”

(19) DEALING THE JOKER. The Hollywood Reporter has a short clip of Joaquin Phoenix both as “himself” and in full makeup (“See Joaquin Phoenix in His Joker Make-Up”). The clip morphs from the former to the latter… but don’t expect full-on SFX work. The movie, reportedly an origin film, is scheduled for an October 2019 release.

Here’s the first look of Joaquin Phoenix in makeup for his upcoming film about The Joker.

In a short screen test shared by director Todd Phillips, Phoenix is staring blankly into the camera before cracking a slight smile. The camera then flashes to Phoenix wearing clown makeup, but not the traditional Joker white face and green hair.

Aaaand cue Judy Collins

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

Pixel Scroll 9/16/18 Mother, Please! I’d Rather Scroll It Myself!

(1) VISUALIZING LE GUIN. Andrew Liptak interviews artist David Lupton, who is responsible for the art in The Folio Society’s new edition of The Left Hand of Darkness“Behind the gorgeous new illustrated edition of Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness”.

Tell me a little about adapting the scenes from the novel with your art. How did you go about capturing the characters?

My process for adapting scenes for a Folio Society edition always begins in the same way. I start by reading the book from beginning to end. Then I go back and re-read the book whilst making notes of the scenes that I’d like to illustrate. I also have to keep in mind that the illustrations need to be paced throughout the book and depending on the length it usually works out that an illustration is needed every 20 pages or so. Therefore I go through the book and note what occurs around these page numbers and begin to formulate ideas on how to interpret the imagery described.

For The Left Hand of Darkness, I initially chose approximately 20 scenes that I thought could help tell the story visually and then I worked with Sheri Gee (art director at Folio Society) and Ursula to whittle down what imagery would work and what wouldn’t. I also wanted to draw a variety of compositions from extreme close-ups of faces, to wider drawings of snowy mountains, and so had to balance that imagery throughout the whole sequence. In terms of the characters, I simply read the descriptions in the text, which are quite succinct and open for interpretation, and then talked with Ursula personally to get an understanding of what she wanted.

(2) MEXICANX SAGA. Hector Gonzalez takes the opening step on “My Road to Worldcon 76. Part 1: The Mexicanx Initiative” at Medium.

…I remember pedaling like crazy to get to La Casa de los Sabores (aka home) in time to talk to John. I made it back with 18 minutes to spare, which I invested in taking a quick shower and cutting some vegetables for dinner. I dialed at 7:01 PM and I heard John [Picacio]’s voice. He wanted to know more about myself, why me, as a fan, wanted to attend Worldcon and be part of this Mexicanx Initiative. I shared how sci-fi and comics were a big part of my history while growing up. How friends and family usually gave me books for my birthday as a child and how I devoured those stories. How my favorite encyclopedia was about a humanoid robot that was part comic and part in-depth information about different topics, from astronomy to biology.

“Who is a current creator that you admire?” John asked. Alejandro Jodorowski was my answer. I shared how his movies, books, and comics had influenced me….

(3) BOUND FOR MARS. Already showing on Hulu – The First.

Sean Penn leads an ensemble cast in this near-future drama about a crew of astronauts attempting to become the first humans on Mars. Under the direction of visionary aerospace magnate Laz Ingram (Natascha McElhone), the crew contends with peril and personal sacrifice as they undertake the greatest pioneering feat in human history.

 

(4) HOW BEER WILL HELP COLONIZE MARS. On Food & Wine, Mike Pomranz opines that “Beer Might Be the Key to Surviving on Mars, But Not for the Reasons You Think”. It seems that beer wort is being used as feedstock for bacteria that in turn create something that could be useful on Mars or other harsh environments:

“[We have] developed a super-insulating, ultra-light, and ultra-transparent aerogel film,” Ivan Smalyukh, a professor in the [University of Colorado] Department of Physics, explained to Digital Trends. “Aerogels are extremely porous solid objects that are made mostly from air, and are about 100 times less dense than glass panes. Our aerogel is made from nanocellulose, which is grown by bacteria that eat waste beer wort, a waste byproduct of the beer industry.”

…“Extraterrestrial habitats will face extreme temperature fluctuations which must be eliminated inside the habitat,” Smalyukh continued. “We see our aerogel product as a prime way to accomplish this, additionally allowing for the harvesting and storage of solar energy inside of habitats because these aerogels are transparent to sunlight. Because our aerogel can be made from waste, space colonizers wouldn’t necessarily have to bring the aerogel with them from Earth, which would be expensive. Instead, they could grow, from waste, [and] with the help of bacteria, aerogels to be used in habitats.”

Needless to say, Food & Wine is thrilled that culinary science could play a role in colonizing other planets. Not that at least some of the colonists would object to having beer available with or without the aerogel byproducts.

(5) INDIANA IS FROM ILLINOIS? You can buy the house where Indiana Jones and Han Solo grew up, in a manner of speaking – Harrison Ford’s boyhood home is for sale.

A Long Time Ago, in a Town Close to Chicago was a Storybook Tudor. Restore Harrison Ford’s Childhood Home to its Former Glory. 1st Time on the Market Since 1970.

(6) PRINCESS OR ACTION HERO? Fan art by Artemii Myasnikov reimagines Disney royalty as action heroes. Myasnikov’s Instagram feed also mixes in a lot of other genre work, but it was his Disney oeuvre that caught the eye of SYFY Wire’s Josh Weiss (“This fan art by Artemii Myasnikov turns Disney royalty into Disney action heroes”).

For too long, Disney’s pantheon of princesses were depicted as feeble damsels in distress that required handsome, horse-riding/sword-wielding princes to get them out of sticky situations. In recent years, however, the company recognized just how archaic this was and began to create strong, independent women who don’t need no men.

…They can all fend for themselves, kick butt and take names, but thanks to artist Artemii Myasnikov, they’ve become even more badass in art that turns them in all-out warriors. In a way, it gives a second chance to those old school princesses (Snow White, Aurora, and Cinderella) that were nothing more than foibles for the “big strong” princes.

(7) CLICKBAIT FOR CAVEMEN. NPR says “Researchers Discover Ancient ‘Hashtag'” – the oldest-found drawing dates back ~73k years.

Scientists working in South Africa say they’ve found the earliest known drawing. It was dug up in a cave where early humans apparently lived for thousands of years and left behind numerous artifacts.

The drawing isn’t what you’d call elaborate; it’s a row of crosshatched lines along the smooth face of a rock that may have been a tool for making ocher. In fact, the red lines were made with red ocher. The pattern (with a little imagination) resembles a hashtag. What’s remarkable is that it was apparently made about 73,000 years ago. That’s tens of thousands of years older than similar drawings made in European caves.

The researchers, led by Christopher Henshilwood of the University of Bergen in Norway, have previously found a sort of toolkit for making ocher at the site, known as Blombos Cave, that dates back 100,000 years. That evidence shows that early Homo sapiens were clearly making ocher a long time ago, though for what purpose is unclear. And they’ve found a piece of ocher from about 70,000 years ago with engraved crosshatching on it….

(8) WASHINGTON WONDERS. Michon Boston, in the Washington City Paper piece “Wonder Woman’s Version of 1984 D.C. Versus the Real Thing” looks at how the set designers for Wonder Woman 1984 turned the clock back in its Washington scenes, including building old-school phone booths, turning the facade of the long-closed Georgetown Theatre into a twin showing a double bill of Footloose and Ghostbuster, and resurrecting the AIDS activist slogan SILENCE=DEATH in front of the Hirshhorn Museum.

…Later, crews built a Commander Salamander façade over the former Appalachian Spring American craft storefront next door to Reddz and across the street from the original Commander Salamander, now an M&T Bank. The secret was out. The ’80s and Wonder Woman had arrived.

Operating under the working title Magic Hour, Fleischer and counterpart Matthew Noonan approached D.C.’s Office of Cable, Television, Film, Music, and Entertainment (OCTFME) to set the groundwork for filming a live-action period film in D.C.

“They approached us because they heard about the incentive program,” says OCTFME Associate Director Herbert Niles, describing the agency’s Entertainment Rebate Fund. Since 2016, productions have been able to apply for a refund of up to 35 percent of qualified production expenditures provided they spend at least $250,000 in D.C. and hire residents to work on the crew. Warner Bros. Pictures’ Wonder Woman 1984 “represents the largest and most impactful production footprint in the District of Columbia since the film office was established [in 1979],” Niles says….

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 16, 1963The Outer Limits premiered on television

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 16, 1932 – Karen Anderson. Author with Poul Anderson, King of Ys series, also The Unicorn Trade likewise with him. She’s also cited as doing a lot of essays, short fiction and poetry, some with him, some not. She’s also cited as the author of Henry Kuttner: A Memorial Symposium. And I’d love to see the maps she’s credited with having done!
  • Born September 16 – Lisa Tuttle, 66. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, received Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Bone Flute” which she refused, and a BSFA Award for Short Fiction for “In Translation”.  For novels, I’ll single out The Mysteries, The Silver Bough and Catwitch, a YA novel she co-wrote with Una Woodruff. I highly recommend Stranger in the House: The Collected Short Supernatural Fiction, Volume One.
  • Born September 16 – Jan Siegel, 63. She’s best known for the Fern Capel series which consists of Prospero’s ChildrenThe Dragon-Charmer and The Witch’s Honour. She also did the YA Sangreal trilogy and a number of other works which may or may not be genre.
  • Born September 16 – Mike Mignola, 58. Illustrator and writer, best known for his long running Hellboy series. Two novels with Christopher Golden, Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire and Joe Golem and the Drowning City, another with Thomas E. Sniegoski, Grim Death and Bill, the Electrocuted Criminal. Extensive comics work as well including one of my favorite undertakings, Gotham by Gaslight.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • At Farcus two guys try to get their carcass on Noah’s Ark-us.
  • Get Fuzzy makes very, very, very bad use of CCGs.

(12) SCALZI BREAKOUT. I liked this series of groanworthy puns –

(13) I’M MELTING. “ICESat: Space will get unprecedented view of Earth’s ice” — ultraprecise measures of what we’ve lost.

The American space agency has launched a laser into orbit to measure the condition of Earth’s ice cover.

The satellite mission, called ICESat-2, should provide more precise information on how these frozen surfaces are being affected by global warming.

Antarctica, Greenland and the ice floating on the Arctic Ocean have all lost volume in recent decades….

(14) MORE ABOUT BEER. “‘World’s oldest brewery’ found in cave in Israel, say researchers” — pushes date from 5K to 13K years ago, and suggests beer may not have been a side-effect of making bread.

Researchers say they have found the world’s oldest brewery, with residue of 13,000-year-old beer, in a prehistoric cave near Haifa in Israel.

The discovery was made while they were studying a burial site for semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers.

Brewing beer was thought to go back 5,000 years, but the latest discovery may turn beer history on its head….

(15) COLD BALLOONS. Read about “The giant hangar built for an Arctic airship”:

In the photo, a huge silver airship floats over a large snowfield. On the sides of the airship are stamped in black capital letters, one word: ITALIA.

The machine itself is dwarfed by the snow-covered mountains that surround it on three sides. Their glaciers glisten in the spring sunshine. In front of it is the sea, full of floating chunks of ice.

Cables hang down from the sides of the craft like the antenna of an insect. A multitude of tiny stick-like figures await their orders below.

In front of the dirigible is a very large, strange-looking construction. It has no roof, but two sides that look like the giant wooden trestle bridges that you see in Westerns movies. It is clad in green canvas.

But what exactly is it?

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Escape (2018) a man realizes he is living in a simulation, in a short film narrated by Stephen Fry — “Stephen Fry Voices a New Dystopian Short Film About Artificial Intelligence & Simulation Theory”.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/15/18 It’s The Wrong Pixel, Gromit, And It’s Scrolled Wrong

(1) WHAT GEEZERS SAY. James Davis Nicoll’s twist on his previous series theme, Old People Read New SFF, finds the panel assigned “Carnival Nine” by Caroline M. Yoachim.

This month’s installment of Old People Read New SFF is Caroline M. Yoachim’s award nominated Carnival 9, an endearing tale of clockwork people second cousin to children’s toys and inevitable, implacable mortality. The Hugo nominated it garnered suggests reader appeal and the fact that it was also nominated for a Nebula means professionals enjoyed (or at least appreciated) it was well. But will my Old People find it worth reading?

Carnival 9 can be read here.

(2) CSI MARS. The Atlantic is already worried about “How Will Police Solve Murders on Mars?”

Christyann Darwent is an archaeologist at the University of California at Davis. Darwent does her fieldwork in the Canadian High Arctic, a place so frigid and remote that it has been used as a training ground to prepare astronauts for future missions to Mars. Darwent’s expertise in how organic materials break down in extreme environmental conditions gives her unique insights into how corpses might age on the Red Planet.

As we speculated about the future of Martian law enforcement, Darwent emphasized that her expertise remains firmly terrestrial; her husband, she joked, is the one who reads science fiction. Nevertheless, Darwent brought a forensic angle to the subject, noting that nearly everything about a criminal investigation would be different on the Red Planet. She described how animal carcasses age in the Arctic, for example: One side of the body, exposed to high winds and extreme weather, will be reduced to a bleached, unrecognizable labyrinth of bones, while the other, pressed into the earth, can often be almost perfectly preserved. Think of Ötzi, she said, the so-called “Iceman,” discovered in a European glacier 5,300 years after his murder. Ötzi’s body was so well preserved that his tattoos were still visible. Murderers on Mars might have their hands full: The bodies of their victims, abandoned in remote canyons or unmapped caves, could persist in the Martian landscape “in perpetuity,” Darwent suggested.

(3) TAKING THE INITIATIVE. The Hugo Award Book Club reviews a book delivered at Worldcon 76 in “Showcasing the strength of Mexicanx Science Fiction”.

In a time where the American government separates and imprisons migrant families, hearing from those who live and engage with the Mexico-US borderlands on a personal level couldn’t be more relevant.

Fresh off the presses in time for WorldCon76, the Mexicanx Initiative’s bilingual anthology Una Realidad más Amplia: Historias desde la Periferia Bicultural/A Larger Reality: Speculative Fiction from the Bicultural Margins celebrates the diversity of Mexicanx writers who create science fiction, fantasy and horror. Born of a Kickstarter project, the book includes twelve short stories and one comic in both Spanish and English, with an ebook version on the way.

(4) POWER OF WORDS. Simini Blocker’s site includes a series of posters about reading that use quotes from George R.R. Martin, C.S. Lewis, Lemony Snicket, Albert Einstein, Annie Dillard, Anna Quindlen, Cassandra Clare, etc.

(5) LALLY IN CHINA. At Vector, a photo gallery of Dave Lally’s visit to Chengdu, China: “Dave in Chengdu”.

This July, our roving Membership Officer Dave Lally spent four days Chengdu, Sichuan province, China, participating in the Science Fiction Sharing Conference. Here are just a few snaps from the trip.

(6) LISTENING TO THE GOLDS. LASFSians and renowned filkers Lee and Barry Gold were intereviewed by Edie Stern for Fanac.org. Hear the audio and see illustrative photos at YouTube.

Lee and Barry Gold tell stories about Los Angeles fandom and filking in the 1960s. In this audio recording enhanced with images, there are charming anecdotes about Poul and Karen Anderson, LASFS, and a great story about Bruce Pelz and Ted Johnstone obtaining permission from John Myers Myers to print the “Silverlock” songs. Lee and Barry tell how they got into fandom, and the interview also includes snatches of song from filks of the time as well as a discussion on where the word “filk” came from. The audio was captured in San Jose at Worldcon 76, and is enhanced with 35 images.

 

(7) ASHES SCATTERED. Martin Tays posted a photo of the moment on Facebook.

A final farewell to Poul Anderson and Karen Anderson. Their ashes were scattered today in Puget Sound from on board the Schooner Zodiac, sailing out of Bellingham, Washington.

(8) MERTON OBIT. Actress Zienia Merton (1945-2018) passed away September 13. She memorably played Space: 1999’s Sandra Benes, Data Analyst on Moonbase Alpha. See photos at Moonbase Central.

(9) SUTTON OBIT. Dudley Sutton (1933-2018): British actor, died September 15, aged 85. Genre appearances include The Avengers (one episode, 1968), Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (two episodes, 1970 and 2000), The Devils (1971), The Glitterball (1977), The Island (1980), Brimstone & Treacle (1982), The Comic Strip Presents… (‘Slags’, 1984), The House (1984), A State of Emergency (1986), Screen One (‘1996’, 1989), Orlando (1992), Delta Wave (two episodes, 1996), Highlander (one episode, 1997), The Door (2011), Ripper Tour (2018), Steven Berkoff’s Tell Tale Heart (completed 2017, but not yet released), A Midsummer Night’s Dream and When the Devil Rides Out (both currently in post-production).

(10) BLAY OBIT. The New York Times says the creator of the videocassette movie industry has died:

Andre Blay, 81, whose innovative idea of marketing Hollywood movies on videocassettes sparked an entertainment industry bonanza and a revolution in television viewing, died on Aug. 24 in Bonita Springs, Fla. He was 81….

But in 1977 Mr. Blay was able to persuade Fox to make a deal under which he would duplicate and distribute 50 of the studio’s most successful films, including “M*A*S*H” and “The French Connection.” The relatively high initial retail price of movies on videocassettes prompted an unexpected proliferation of video rental stores, from neighborhood businesses to sprawling chains like Blockbuster. As the price of recorders plummeted to about $500 from about $1,000, sales boomed, and so, to some people’s surprise, did rentals. By 1987 home video was generating more revenue than movie-theater ticket sales.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 15, 1949The Lone Ranger TV series debuted.
  • September 15, 1965 — The original Lost in Space premiered on television – theme by ”Johnny Williams.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 15, 1890 – Agatha Christie. Ok, according to Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction –

Christie wrote several short stories with supernatural elements – some collected, together with orthodox nonseries detections, in The Hound of Death (coll 1933) – and created a kind of sentimental Occult Detective [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] for The Mysterious Mr. Quin (coll 1930). In these stories the shadowy and elusive Harley Quin (the “harlequin” pun is deliberate and explicit) does not so much detect as use his presumably occult information to steer a mundane friend, Mr Satterthwaite, towards the insight required to explain a crime; the misleadingly titled The Complete Quin & Satterthwaite: Love Detectives (omni 2004) includes two long Hercule Poirot investigations featuring Satterthwaite but not Quin. Christie was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1971.

  • Born September 15, 1943 – John M. Faucette. Harlem born and raised genre writer who published four novels in the Sixties, two apparently as Ace Doubles. I wish I could tell you more about him but scant information now exists about him alas.
  • Born September 15 – Norman Spinrad, 78. Writer of many genre novels including Bug Jack BarronGreenhouse Summer and The People’s Police.  Wrote the script for “The Doomsday Machine” for Star Trek: The Original Series; also wrote episodes for Land of the Lost and Werewolf. His very early reviews are collected in Science Fiction in the Real World which was published in 1990.
  • Born September 15 – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, 76. Writer, composer, demographic cartographer. Genre works include the very long running Count Saint-Germain vampire series, the Vildecaz Talents series and a number of other works listed as genre but which I’m not familiar with so I’m not certain that they are. Her site notes that she’s ‘Divorced, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area – with two cats: the irrepressible Butterscotch and Crumpet, the Gang of Two.’
  • Born September 15 – Howard Waldrop, 74. Primarily a short story writer so much of his work is unfortunately out of print though iBooks lists ePubs for Horse of a Different Color right now along with two other Small Beer published collections. I rather like The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 novel he co-wrote with Jake Saunders. His “The Ugly Chickens” amusingly enough won a Nebula for Best Novelette and a World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction.
  • Born September 15 – Loren D. Estleman, 66. You’ll have noticed that I’ve an expansive definition of genre and so I’m including a trilogy of  novels by this writer who’s better known for his mainstream mysteries featuring Amos Walker which are set in the  Sherlock Holmes Metaverse, Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes and The Devil and Sherlock Holmes. I think it was Titan Book that maybe a decade ago republished a lot of these Holmesian pastiches of which there are more than I want to think about.
  • Born September 15 – Jane Lindskold, 56. Let’s see… I see a number of genre undertakings including Artemis, Athanor, Breaking the Wall and the Firekeeeper series. She’s done a lot of excellent stand-alone fiction novels including Child of a Rainless Year, Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls and The Buried Pyramid. She either edited or greatly expanded (depending on your viewpoint) two novels by Roger Zelazny, Donnerjack which I love and Lord Demon which thrills me less. Her latest I believe is Asphodel which she sent me an ebook to read and it is quite good.

(13) COMIC SECTION.

  • Over the Hedge explains how to get people interested in the space program.

(14) QUANTUM LEAP. That’s right, there could be a perfectly sensible explanation for a friend’s strange behavior, like this —

(15) BEHIND THE CURTAIN. Cora Buhlert visited 1963 to report on a recent East German/Polish movie based on one of Stanislaw Lem’s novels for Galactic Journey: “[September 15, 1963] The Silent Star: A cinematic extravaganza from beyond the Iron Curtain”.

Kurt Maetzig is not a natural choice for East Germany’s first science fiction movie, since he is mostly known for realist fare and even outright propaganda films. Though the fact that Maetzig is a staunch Communist helped him overcome the reservations of DEFA political director Herbert Volkmann, who doesn’t like science fiction, since it does not advance the Communist project and who shot down eleven script drafts as well as Maetzig’s plan to hire West European stars.

(16) IT’S A STRETCH. Marko Kloos’ post for the Wild Cards blog, “Coming Up Aces”, tells how hard it is to do something new in “a world with an established canon spanning 70 years, where hundreds of aces and jokers have already been put on the page by dozens of other writers.”

Wild Cards is up to twenty-six volumes now, and the Trust has more than forty members. Each of those writers has created multiple characters, so there are hundreds of aces, joker-aces, and jokers out in the Wild Cards world, each with their own distinct physical characteristics and abilities. And once they are on the page, they’re canon. Try coming up with an original ace who doesn’t duplicate something that’s already been done by someone else—I can assure you it’s not easy, especially if you’re new to the team and haven’t had your head in that world for the last few decades. The first few ideas I had were roundly shot down at the start because they had been used in some form already, or they brought abilities to the table that had been done too often.

For my first character that truly stuck, I came up with Khan, who makes his first appearance in LOW CHICAGO. Khan is a joker-ace, a 300-pound underworld bodyguard whose left body half is that of a Bengal tiger….

(17) STREE. In the Washington Post, Vidhi Doshi discusses the new Bollywood film Stree (“Woman”). a horror comedy about a vengeful female ghost where “the real fear is hidden in the jokes about the realities of being a woman in India.” — “In India’s new hit film, men — not women — are afraid to roam the streets”.

The success of “Stree” is due in part to how it flips Bollywood’s norms. The male protagonist is the opposite of Bollywood’s muscly, macho heroes — he spends most of the film trying to see things from the female ghost’s point of view. The women, on the other hand, are bold, educated and fearless.

The movie breaks rules of the horror genre: The scares and jolts are funny, while the real fear is hidden in the jokes about the realities of being a woman in India.

(18) MORE BROKEN CONVENTIONS. At Black Gate, Derek Kunsken recommends a YouTube podcast about comics — “Analyzing the Comics Story-Telling Process with Panel x Panel”.

Lately I’ve been watching a lot of the Youtube channel Strip Panel Naked, by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. In this extraordinary video podcast, Hassan analyses different techniques of pacing, page layout, color, positive and negative space, genre conventions and how they’ve been broken, stylistic choices and so on. I have lots of favourites, including the analysis of the use of time in Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye.

(19) THESE AREN’T THE SPOTS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR. Nobody’s getting excited about this. Everyone please remain calm. “The director of the Sunspot Observatory isn’t sure why the feds shut it down”.

The saga began to unfold on September 6, when authorities unexpectedly closed and evacuated Sunspot  Solar Observatory. Sunspot Solar Observatory is managed by a consortium of universities that provide funding to operate the telescope and adjoining visitor’s center. AURA (The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy) is a big site, tens to hundreds of acres, McAteer explained, and the observatory is used to study the sun in very specific ways.

McAteer said while the reason behind the closure is still unknown, he does not believe it is as strange as some believe.

“AURA deciding to close it is not an unusual event to me and I’m not going to jump to any unnecessary speculation,”  McAteer told Salon. “They [AURA] made the decision to close the site based on an internal decision, based on whatever they make their decisions on, and as they often make decisions to close remote sites this is not an uncommon thing to do.”

Alamogordo Daily News first reported the news on Sept. 7, when the observatory closed citing a “security issue” at the facility. Shari Lifson, a spokeswoman for AURA, said the closure was their decision.

“The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy who manages the facility is addressing a security issue at this time,” Lifson told the local newspaper. “We have decided to vacate the facility at this time as precautionary measure. It was our decision to evacuate the facility.”

(20) VIRTUAL HALLOWEEN. The LAist gets ready for the holiday at a SoCal mall: “We Tried Out 2 Halloween VR Experiences And Survived (After Some Screaming)”.

The Void’s trying to change that by throwing you into a real physical environment, which you can check out locally at the Glendale Galleria.

In the Void’s games, if you pick up a gun, you’re holding a physical weapon — if you sit on a bench, there’s an actual physical bench for you to sit on. We went to a demo of the Void’s new Halloween experiences and talked with the creators behind them — here’s what we learned, and what went down.

When you’re about to go into the Void, you’re fitted with a vest and a VR helmet. The vest vibrates when you get shot or attacked — or in the case of one of their new experiences, slimed. (Ew.)

The two new experiences are Nicodemus: Demon of Evanishment, and an enhanced version of one they’d previously released, Ghostbusters: Dimension.

 

(21) HIMMELSKIBET. Karl-Johan Norén has another sff link to in Denmark: “Himmelskibet is a Danish 1918 silent movie about a trip to Mars, 81 minutes long, that has been restored by the Danish Film Institute.”

Photos from the film and additional info are available via a Facebook photo archive.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/7/18 Pixel Yourself On A Spinning Space Station, With Alien Porters With Arthropod Eyes

(1) HAPPENS TO THE BEST OF US. Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes about battling website and ISP) problems in “Business Musings: Website Issues”. The post begins —

It’s tough to write my blog when my website is down…for the second time in two weeks. Both times had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the website hosting service, which is so monumentally incompetent that I’m speechless.

I learned a lesson during this incident. A big important lesson.

And it ends —

…And as I (and the kind folks at WMG) rebuild, we will be doing so with an eye to a 2018 website, not a 2010 website. We’ll make information easy to find. The weekly features will remain as well.

It’s going to take a bit of time, but it was something I needed to do. Bluehost forced me into it.

They also taught me a valuable lesson. Every few years, I need to re-evaluate every service that I hire to help with my business, not just to see if the service is doing well, but also to make sure the service itself is the same company that I hired a few years before.

Things change quickly in this modern world, and I really need to incorporate that awareness of change into my own business planning…

In between, Rusch explains how she learned the lesson the hard way.

(2) ABOUT GRIMDARK. Paul Weimer analyzes “The Fugue of Fantasy and the Grimdark Interregnum” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In the history of epic fantasy, following this analogy and paradigm, there has always been a voice in a minor key, a strain of fantasy with antiheroes, shades of dark grey and darkness, worlds where hope and optimism are not valued or are even punished. Violence is the name of the game, dystopic amorality the norm and the worlds are often the successor states or the  ruins of another, brighter time. The classical Western European model of the first few centuries after Rome fell is the historical ur-model, and indeed, many novels use thinly disguised or even explicitly set in that time period. The latest iteration of this minor-key fantasy, which had in recent years become a dominant theme in epic fantasy, is what we call Grimdark….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites you to share a steak dinner with legendary comics creator Don McGregor in episode 76 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

I reached out to Dauntless Don — we all had nicknames back them; he was Dauntless, I was Sparkling — and said, hey, how about if when I’m on the way back to the airport at the end of Readercon, I swoop down, take you out for dinner, and we chew over the old times. And that’s exactly what we did, at the Safehouse in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, along with Dauntless Don’s wife, the Marvelous Marsha, whose voice you’ll occasionally hear in the background of this episode.

Don started out his career in comics by writing some of the best horror stories to appear in the pages of Creepy and Eerie — and I remember well reading the first of them in the early ’70s. When he moved on to Marvel Comics, he did groundbreaking work with such characters as Black Panther, Killraven, and Luke Cage. In fact, his two-year “Panther’s Rage” arc was ranked as the third most important Marvel Comics storyline of the ’70s by Comics Bulletin. In 2015, he was awarded the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing at San Diego Comic-Con International.

We discussed how meeting Jim Steranko led to him selling his first comics story, why when he was 13 years old, he wanted to be Efrem Zimbalist Jr., what he learned from Naked City creator Stirling Silliphant, how his first meeting with future Black Panther artist Billy Graham could have been disastrous, why the comics he wrote in the ’70s wouldn’t have been able to exist two years later, the reasons Archie Goodwin was such a great editor, how he convinced Stan Lee to allow the first interracial kiss in mainstream comics, what life lessons he took from Westerns in general and Hopalong Cassidy in particular, why he almost stopped writing Lady Rawhide, and much more.

(4) ALIEN ENCOUNTER NUMBER CRUNCHING. James Davis Nicoll discourages the idea that we’ll be meeting aliens in reality: “Doing the Math: Aliens and Advanced Tech in Science Fiction”. After reading Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem, maybe that’s a relief?

Everyone loves them some aliens. But …if the encounter is to work out to the satisfaction of all concerned, it is best if the aliens not be too advanced (because they could brush us aside like ants) or too primitive (we might brush them aside like ants). No, there’s a Goldilocks zone for aliens, in which they are close to the same tech level as humans … and can interact peaceably with us.

Which leads me to wonder: just how likely is it that two unconnected civilizations could reach the same technological level (roughly) at the same time?

Time for some large, round numbers….

(5) EXCEEDING THE READ LIMIT. Walter Mosley declares, “Enough with the Victors Writing History”, at LitHub.

I have studied the great powers that vie to control what they want us to believe about the past; but I don’t identify with them. I identify with the librarians who, when asked by GW Bush to report on their visitors’ reading habits, held up a hand and said, “First Amendment.” I identify with outsider artists and labor organizers and autodidacts who either refuse to or are unable to believe in the lies foisted upon us by the conquerors. I identify with the belief that there exists a history out there just beyond the reach of our powers of cognition. And I believe that a lie is a lie; that if you coexist with a population that helped to build your house, your culture, your music, a population that helped to raise your children and fine-tune your language, and you deny that culture’s impact on who you are… then your knowledge of history will fail you and the past will devour you and your children.

If you deny your past your future will be a detour around your fondest hopes and dreams…

Daniel Dern sent the link with a note, “While best known for his detective fiction, Mosley has written a handful of sf… and is a big sf fan… I’ve got a photo from Millennial PhilCon (Worldcon 2001) of him and Orson Scott Card, just after they met and near-simultaneously said to the other ‘I’m a huge fan.’”

(6) WOMBAT TO RETURN TO ALBUQUERQUE. Kevin Sonney boosts the signal –

(7) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. Chabeli Herrera in the Orlando Sentinel reports that the Kennedy Space Center has opened up the Astronaut Training Experience, which simulates a trip to Mars by having visitors “strap onto a microgravity simulator: and then carry out a repair on the space station.  There’s also a simulation of Mars Base 1, where visitors can “work together to solve various technical problems” including “programming a team of robots to clean dust off the base’s solar panels.” — “Like real astronaut training, Kennedy Space Center’s new simulators let you work in zero gravity, drive Mars rover”.

Like a scene from “The Martian,” the botany lab in Mars Base 1 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex grows vegetables under the glow of fluorescent purple lights.

But it’s not all potatoes like in the 2015 film. This room can grow anything from cress to tomatoes, and all of the crops are planted and harvested by guests playing astronaut for the day.

The botany room is one of several new features at Kennedy Space Center’s Astronaut Training Experience Center, a two-year project designed to simulate astronaut training and work on Mars. The attraction opened in February, but officials gathered Thursday to officially kick off the opening of the ATX with representatives from its sponsor, aerospace company Lockheed Martin.

(8) SPEAK MEMORY. Hear the Harlan Ellison Memorial Panel at Worldcon 76:

(9) SHELLEY OBIT. Actress Carole Shelley (1939-2018), who appeared on stage in The Odd Couple and Wicked, and voiced characters in the Disney animated movies The Aristocats (1970) and Robin Hood (1973), died August 31 reports the New York Times:

A new generation of theatergoers knew Ms. Shelley for originating a less sympathetic character in the musical “Wicked,” a prequel of sorts to L. Frank Baum’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

The show opened in 2003 with Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda, the putatively good witch, and Idina Menzel as Elphaba, who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. (“Wicked” was still running on Broadway, with a different cast, when Ms. Shelley died.)

Ms. Shelley played Madame Morrible, a college official who pairs Glinda and Elphaba as roommates. She later helps arrange a series of events that push Elphaba toward wickedness.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 7, 1958  — Queen of Outer Space premiered.
  • September 7, 2017 – Jerry Pournelle died. Cat Eldridge notes: “Author, The Mote in God’s Eye with Larry Niven, numerous other works including the Janissary series, and superb tech commentary writer as well. His Byte column was something I very much looked forward to reading every month.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 7 – Karen Frenkel, 63. Author, Robots: Machines in Man’s Image (1985) with Isaac Asimov. Available on her website.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • A Hollywood in-joke you’ll all get – Long Story Short.
  • Scene from a comic con by Nigel Auchterlounie —

(13) HIGH CONCEPT. This December in Infinity Wars: Fallen Guardian #1.

(14) CATS IN THE VICINITY OF SFF. David D. Levine made a fan —

(15) ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Data from the Chandra X-ray telescope has been combined with optical data to image a distant galaxy that seems to be encircled by black holes and/or neutron stars (International Business Times: “Ring Made Of Black Holes? Massive Cosmic Structure Found Encircling Distant Galaxy”). Galaxy AM 0644-741 was involved in a recent (astronomically speaking) collision with another galaxy that boosted star formation. The most massive of those stars had a very short life and have since gone supernova, leaving behind black holes and neutron stars.

Out of the newborn baby stars, the most massive ones probably led a short life, spanning on the scale of millions of years. They lost their nuclear fuel with time and exploded as supernovae, where the majority of the stellar material is blown away, leaving black holes 5 to 20 times heavier than the sun or dense neutron stars carrying approximately same mass as the sun.

This indicates the ring is either made from stellar-mass black holes or neutron stars that are accompanied by close companion stars. The dense objects are drawing gas from their stellar counterparts, forming a super-hot spinning disk which acts as a detectable X-ray source for Chandra.

Though the researchers behind the discovery — a team from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, Italy — couldn’t confirm the identity of individual sources making up the ring, they believe this could either be a case of all black holes or all neutron stars, or a mix of both.

The NASA website (“Cosmic Collision Forges Galactic One Ring—in X-rays”) that AM 0644-741 is only one of several galaxies with such X-ray rings and adds a link to the pre-print article on the arXiv service.

The paper describing the study of AM 0644 and its sister ring galaxies appeared in the August 10, 2018 issue of the Astrophysical Journal and is available online. The co-authors of the paper are Antonella Fruscione from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., and Michela Mapelli from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova in Padova, Italy.

(16) PULPFEST DATES IN 2019. The dates for PulpFest 2019 are the same weekend at the Dublin 2019 Worldcon but that may not represent an actual conflict for more than a few fans.

PulpFest 2019 will take place from Thursday, August 15, through Sunday, August 18. We’ll be returning to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City.” PulpFest will be joined by FarmerCon. Hopefully, they’re not too hung over from this year’s Philip José Farmer centennial.

Start making your plans for the 48th convening of PulpFest and its celebration of mystery, adventure, science fiction, and more. Join us for “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories” at “Summer’s Great Pulp Con.” Please bring your friends!

(17) ALMOST. James Davis Nicoll credits John Varley for showing us “How to Make a Near-Utopia Interesting: John Varley’s Eight World Stories” at Tor.com.

Peace and prosperity sound like they’re good things, but perhaps not for authors. What kind of plots can be imagined if the standard plot drivers are off the table? How does one tell stories in a setting that, while not a utopia, can see utopia at a distance ? The premise seems unpromising, but thirteen stories and a novel argue that one can write absorbing narratives in just such a setting. So how did Varley square this particular circle?

(18) AN OSCAR ON HOLD. About that new “popular film” Oscar? Like the Magic Eight-Ball says – “Ask again later” — “Oscars postpone plans for new popular film category”.

…The award, which could have recognised films popular with audiences but not critics, was only announced last month.

In a statement, the Academy’s CEO said she had “recognised the need for further discussion” with its members about the proposal first.

…In previous years, films which have done well at the box office with audiences – including Mamma Mia, Avatar and the Mission Impossible franchise – have been snubbed by the Academy.

The Oscars’ organisers did not elaborate in their August announcement how eligibility for the new category would have been established.

Some Hollywood critics suggested the new category’s “popular” tag was confusing and could risk creating a two-tier system among films.

It was feared films praised by critics and audiences alike, such as Dunkirk and Get Out, would risk being relegated to the new category rather than standing a chance in the prestigious Best Film award category.

(19) MORE RUBY SLIPPER NEWS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Smithsonian has a little more info, including how the recovered shoes were authenticated, as well as more info about the ownership of this pair and the others pairs still extant: “After 13-Year Chase, F.B.I. Nabs Pair of Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers”.

…The slippers, it turns out, were not actually owned by the Judy Garland Museum. Instead, they were property of a collector named Michael Shaw, who purchased them in 1970 for a mere $2,000, reports Jennifer Medina for The New York Times. Shaw, who also owns one of Dorothy’s dresses, a witch’s hat and a munchkin outfit from the 1939 movie, was in the habit of loaning out the slippers to museums around the country, donating his display fee to children’s charities. The slippers were on display as part of a 10-week traveling tour when they were stolen on the night of August 28. According to a press release from the Grand Rapids police, a thief or thieves broke into the museum’s back door and smashed open the plexiglass case. There were no cameras on the premises and the museum’s alarm failed to sound.

…After the shoes were apprehended, the F.B.I. brought them to the Smithsonian, which owns another pair of slippers used in the filming, to confirm their ruby slippers were the real deal. For the last two years, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has been analyzing and conserving a different pair of slippers donated to the museum in the late 1970s as part of a Kickstarter campaign. The F.B.I. brought the purloined pair to objects conservator Dawn Wallace for a look.

“We were able to spend two days looking at them and doing close examination as well as some analysis,” Wallace tells Smithsonian.com. “Not only did we have a physical examination, but we were able to conduct some technical analysis of the material to confirm that they were in fact consistent.”

Wallace says two other details cinched the case: First, it’s difficult to fake 80 years of aging on a pair of shoes. Second, the pair in the Smithsonian’s collection is actually a mismatched pair of ruby slippers, with the left sized “5C” and the right sized “5BC.” The pair recovered by the F.B.I. turned out to be the mates of the museum’s shoes (which are set to go back on display in a climate-controlled case on October 19)….

Since Mr. Shaw had received an $800,000 insurance settlement quite some time ago, the shoes belong to the insurance company now.

(20) FOYLES SOLD:BBC reports “Waterstones buys Foyles to defend bookshops against Amazon” – the Foyles Charing Cross Road location hosted this year’s Clarke Award announcement.

Waterstones is buying the 115 year-old family-owned chain Foyles, saying the deal will help to “champion” real bookshops in the face of online rivals.

The sale includes Foyles’ well-known Charing Cross Road store in central London, which was relocated to larger premises in 2014.

Waterstones said the deal would help booksellers fight back against Amazon’s “siren call”.

The larger chain has 283 bookshops across the UK and northern Europe.

[Thanks to Scott Edelman, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 9/3/18 That Was The Scroll That Was

(1) CINERAMA. GeekWire’s Frank Catalano writes, “I thought you might like to know that I went behind the scenes at Seattle Cinerama, one of only three movie theaters left in the world that can show Cinerama-formatted films, and one of only two which still uses the ‘Cinerama’ name (the other one is in Hollywood)” — “Behind the scenes at Cinerama: Landmark movie house becomes an international pop culture draw”

“Seattle’s Cinerama has gone deeply into science fiction and fantasy pop culture, becoming something of a hub for new releases, including encouraging cosplay at premieres. Perhaps not a surprise, it’s owned by Paul Allen, former Microsoft co-founder and longtime science-fiction fan. The link above is to both my story, and a half-hour podcast walk-through of Seattle Cinerama with its manager.”

Walk into the theater with its wide curved screen, reclining red seats and star field-like ceiling panels and it, “just looks like a spaceship,” Caldwell said. “It truly does. You look at our screen when the curtains open and I like to think of it as the window looking out of the spaceship.” (You can take a virtual Google Maps tour here.)

But Cinerama has more than one screen. The one you see for most movies hides a second screen behind it, a deeply curved, two-thousand strip louvered Cinerama screen.

“We last brought it out in 2013,” Caldwell said. “It’s quite the undertaking actually. We have to tear down the existing screen, tear down the sound wall, and then erect the three panels of the 146-degree curved screen. And the sound wall for that curved screen.”

(2) WORLDBUILDING NEAR THE PRIMARY. Juliette Wade has an interview with Mimi Mondal at Dive into Worldbuilding. You can watch it on video, and read the synopsis:

…In 2013, Mimi wrote a self-contained story in the circus. She calls it her “most accepted story,” because it was published by Podcastle, and got her into Clarion West and into an MFA program.

I asked Mimi about the intersection between her stories and the science fiction/fantasy genre. The connection is actually quite fascinating. Mimi says she reads a lot of history and likes it. There was a big flourishing circus scene in India from the 1890’s to the 1930’s. Circus as a form was developing all over the world. In India, it took in many traditional performers. It has a Steampunk aesthetic to some degree, but is later than the Victorian period, because the values of the Victorians trickled into the colonies later. Mimi describes the circus as a very interesting social space, breaking traditional structures. There is space for mystery, and she uses it to explore Indian folklore. There are nonhumans here, pretending to be human. In the circus environment, you don’t ask questions because no one else is normal either. If you worked in an office, you would need paperwork, but the circus is not even grounded in one place because it travels. She started writing a long sequence of events, “chunk by chunk.” Her focus is on using parts of Indian mythology that are not well known. While she was writing these pieces, she was learning craft skills and working on her awareness of gaze….

 

(3) RADIO 4. Listen to the new Dangerous Visions drama on BBC Radio 4:

Resistance (3-part BBC radio play on BBC Radio 4)

Just broadcast this week and available on BBC i-Player for a month is a three-part radio play about antibiotic resistance.

Starting at a music festival with many from all over the globe, craft sausages from pigs fed with antibiotic growth promoters also contain more than anyone thought.

When a mysterious bacterial infection starts to spread, and then mutate, it becomes unstoppable.  When the deaths top a million, politicians start to worry…

 

SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie says, “This mini-series used a microbiologist endorsed by the Wellcome Trust (the world’s largest medical research funding charity) for its science. Scary.”

(4) A KIND OF GAS STATION ON MARS. A Yahoo! columnist says “NASA will pay you up to $750,000 to come up with a way to turn CO2 into other molecules on Mars”.

Missions to Mars will need to be as lean as possible, meaning that using any available resources on the Red Planet will be of utmost importance. With that in mind, NASA just announced the CO2 Conversion Challenge, which asks teams of scientists and inventors to come up with a way to turn CO2 into molecules that can be used to produce all manner of things. And there’s big prize money on the line.

To start, NASA is asking teams to focus on converting CO2 to Glucose, but the language of the challenge suggests you can approach that goal from any angle you wish:

Help us discover ways to develop novel synthesis technologies that use carbon dioxide (CO2) as the sole carbon source to generate molecules that can be used to manufacture a variety of products, including “substrates” for use in microbial bioreactors.

Because CO2 is readily abundant within the Martian atmosphere, such technologies will translate into in-situ manufacturing of products to enable humans to live and thrive on the planet, and also be implemented on Earth by using both waste and atmospheric CO2 as a resource.

(5) REMAKING IT SO. The Star Trek: TNG cast had a reunion over the weekend:

(6) NIMBY. It won’t be coming in for a landing after all — “Plans for U.F.O.-Like Home in Norway Are Rejected” reports the New York Times.

Controversial plans by the Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaardand the renowned architecture firm Snohetta to build a U.F.O-like home in the suburbs of Oslo have been rejected by the local authorities.

The project, which was generally known as “A House to Die In” and represented an ambitious attempt to turn expressive sketches by Mr. Melgaard into architecture, had aroused condemnation because of its location, near the former winter studio of Edvard Munch. Artists and preservationists had spoken out against the project, arguing that it represents a threat to the legacy of Munch, Norway’s best-known artist and the painter of “The Scream.”

The project had already been approved by local and national preservation authorities, but on Aug. 20, municipal lawmakers from several parties announced they would support a proposal to scuttle the plans, effectively dooming the project. A final vote by the Oslo City Council will be held next Wednesday….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 3, 1953Cat-Women of the Moon premiered

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 3, 1849 – Sarah Orne Jewett. Maine author whose fiction reflected her lifelong fascination with the supernatural. Ash-Tree Press in 1998 collected much of her short work together in Lady Ferry and Other Uncanny People.
  • Born September 3 – Alison Lurie, 92. Editor of the Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales, and has written to date a number of fantasy stories such as “Counting Sheep”, “Another Halloween” and “Something Borrowed, Something Blue”. Also wrote the excellent Don’t Tell the Grown-Ups: Subversive Children’s Literature.
  • Born September 3 – Faren Miller, 68. Writer of one novel, The Illusionist, she worked full-time for Locus from 1981 to 2000, and continues to review genre fiction to this day for Locus
  • Born September 3 – John Picacio, 49. Illustrator of many a genre work. Need I say that great cover art enhances any genre work? Among the works I’ve by him that are graced by his work arête 2003 Edition of Effinger’s Budayeen Nights, the 2004 edition of Pohl’s Gateways and Bowes’ From the Files of the Time Rangers. Much of his work is gathered in Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio.

(9) DRAGON AWARDS IN PERSPECTIVE. Doris V. Sutherland covers the third round of the award in “2018 Dragon Awards: Big-Name Winners and Little Controversy” at Women Write About Comics.

One noticeable thing about this year’s Dragon Awards is just how quiet they were. The awards made their debut in 2016, in the shadow of the right-wing Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies campaigns that had occurred at the Hugos. In their first two years, the Dragon Awards were something of a battlefield, with the Puppy campaigns inspiring multiple splinters and imitators—including the Red Panda Fraction, a left-wing group which, controversially, adopted the same tactics as the right-wing Puppies. Over time, however, the aftershocks from the Puppy campaigns quietened down, something that can be seen simply by comparing the ballots. The pro-Puppy authors John C. Wright, Brian Niemeier, and Declan Finn were finalists in both 2016 (when Wright and Niemeier won in their respective categories) and in 2017; and yet they are all missing from the ballot in 2018, despite each having at least one eligible novel.

This is not to say that pro-Puppy authors were completely absent this year. Most obviously Sarah A. Hoyt, a former leader of the Sad Puppies campaign, was amongst the winners. Also notable is that one of the Best Graphic Novel finalists, Brandon Fiadino and Djibril Morissette’s Chicago Typewriter: The Red Ribbon, was published by Rabid Puppies founder Vox Day. Day is one of the creators to have eagerly jumped aboard the current “Comicsgate” bandwagon—lending definite symbolic value to the female Thor’s victory in Best Comic Book.

In Sutherland’s view —

There is no reason for the Hugos and the Dragons to exist as rivals. They are different awards that utilise different systems. The Dragon Awards are looser and flashier, but this should not be a deal-breaker to anyone who approaches a science fiction and fantasy award as just a bit of fun.

(10) WORLDCON 76 INSIGHTS. Michael Lee’s thorough Worldcon 76 report, “In Spite of Setbacks, San Jose Comes Through for Worldcon 76”, ends with this paragraph:

Worldcon is the one convention where it’s not at all unusual to be at a stoplight with George R. R. Martin and an actual astronaut who has been in space. More than any other convention, this is one that gives you the excuse to travel to new places and meet people that you might not meet any other way, and it never really is the same convention twice. (Next year’s convention will be in Dublin, Ireland, and the year after that in New Zealand.) I enjoyed Worldcon 76, as it was a chance to connect and reconnect with friends and fans from around the world, and a chance to visit the Bay Area of California.

(11) MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE. New James Bond novels are still coming out in 1963, and Galactic Journey’s Ashley R. Pollard grabbed the latest.

With the success of last year’s film adaptation of Ian Fleming’s Dr. No., I continue to predict that the next James Bond film, From Russia With Love, which is coming this October, will further raise the public’s interest in the heady delights of techno-thrillers featuring spies. So far all I’ve seen are a couple of stills from the set, so it’s hard to make any judgment on the adaptation of the story by the filmmakers.

But until the film arrives on the big screen we have a new Bond novel to sate our appetites.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the tenth James Bond novel, a sequel to the previous novel (once removed), Thunderball. I was lucky to get hold of a copy of OHMSS when it came out at the beginning of April, because both the first and second print runs, totaling over 60,000 copies, sold out in the first month. This should give readers some insight into how popular James Bond has become in Britain.

…As is usual in an Ian Fleming novel, real places are used to add verisimilitude to the narrative, though some of the names are changed. In this case, the description of Piz Gloria makes clear that it is based on the Nazi German eugenic research facility Schloss Mittersill….

(12) RADIO ACTIVITY. The Book Smugglers features a talk with the creators of Dead Air, Gwenda Bond, Rachel Caine and Carrie Ryan: “Dead Air: Serialised Fiction, Podcast and Murder”.

Gwenda Bond: I’ll start us off! The process of creating Dead Air has been a fun whirlwind, a lot of work, and different than any other project I’ve done — even the collaborative ones. I originally came up with the idea of Macy (better known as Mackenzie to podcast listeners) as a character coping with a recent loss by indulging her interest in true crime on the radio, but who then gets drawn into an investigation that gets more and more personal. From the start, she was going to be a character with a lot of room to grow over the course of the story, and the radio show/podcast would be the driving force of that growth. I wanted to use Kentucky as a setting and immediately thought the thoroughbred horse-racing community would be a great backdrop for the old murder she ends up looking into.

(13) QUIRK FACTOR. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky reports on crowdfunded comics that are out there: “From A Read-Along Record To A Profane Tarot: The Year’s Quirkiest Crowdfunded Comics”.

There’s something about crowdfunding and comics: They just taste great together. Maybe that’s because, as Iron Circus Comics publisher Spike Trotman points out, artists were crowdfunding before it was even called that. “It was something cartoonists had been doing for years: Taking our lives in our hands and asking people to PayPal us enough money to print the book,” she says. Kickstarter’s Senior Director of Publishing Margot Atwell calls comics “small but mighty,” noting that comics campaigns on the platform succeed at a 20 percent higher rate than average. This year has seen some spectacular crowdfunding efforts, like the Trogdor!! The Board Game Kickstarter, which racked up an eye-popping $1,421,903 in pledges.

(14) SMALL ROYALTY. Being stark doesn’t pay: “Richard Madden ‘not paid much’ for Game of Thrones role”.

Richard Madden has revealed he wasn’t paid that much for his role as Robb Stark in Game of Thrones.

Not that he feels hard done by, as he admits he had nothing on his CV that deserved big money as a 22-year-old.

Despite that, he explained fans often thought he was rich anyway.

(15) THANOS EFFECTS. Weta Digital’s VFX supervisor Matt Aitken narrates an account of making VFX for Thanos’s home world (and the disintegration effect): “Avengers: Infinity War – How we made the VFX for Titan”

In Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel superheroes fight to stop the villain Thanos from wiping out half of all life.

Visual effects company Weta Digital worked on the scenes which take place on Thanos’s home planet, Titan.

BBC Click speaks to VFX supervisor Matt Aitken to find out more.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Frank Catalano, Carl Slaughter, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Ahrvid Engholm, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/10/18 This Pixel Scroll Title Has Been Used Before

(1) TARDIS MAKEOVER. Doctor Who Today has this leaked photo of a new TARDIS design.

(2) ANOTHER BIG $ALE. The Hipsters of the Coast report that the “Art for Chandra, Torch of Defiance SDCC Promo Sells for $35,000”.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance, the third of the five San Diego Comic Con promotional planeswalker paintings by Terese Nielsen, has sold for $35,000. The final bid all but doubled in the closing minutes of the auction that ended on eBay Sunday evening.

…Chandra, Torch of Defiance blew past the final prices of Liliana, Untouched by Death ($22,950) and Nissa, Vital Force ($25,600), eclipsing the highest total by almost $10,000. I did not expect Chandra to surpass these two, and I’m not sure that anyone, even Terese herself, might have guessed she would either.

(3) CHICAGO 8. The Book Smugglers feature an Uncanny Kickstarter promo about Chicago by the hosts-in-waiting of Uncanny TV: “Eight Nerdy Chicago People and Organizations We Love By Matt Peters and Michi Trota (Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter shout out)”

Our home nerd community in Chicago has countless examples of nerdy groups and individuals using their own geeky passions to inspire and shape incredibly diverse and wide-ranging projects. Their work reminds us why stories matter, and wanting to talk with creators like them and hear their own stories is a primary reason we’re so excited for the potential of Uncanny TV. Chicago is one home among many to geeky creators from all walks of life, and our hope is that Uncanny TV will have a chance to visit as many of those communities as possible. We couldn’t possibly name all of the nerds and geeks we know whose art and activism are fueled by their geeky loves, but here are eight based in Chicago who provide a snapshot of the inspiring work being created in fandom.

Acrobatica Infiniti Circus

“Cosplay” and “circus” aren’t two things we would have thought of putting together before but thankfully someone did! Acrobatica Infiniti Circus, also known as “the Nerd Circus,” was created several years ago by Tana “Tank” Karo, who had a background in dance and design but had wanted to create something that allowed her to merge her love for circus and geekery. The resulting collaboration among extraordinarily talented and undeniably nerdy jugglers, acrobats, aerial artists, contortionists, and object manipulators is delightful and surprising each time: Leeloo performing mind-boggling contortionist poses, Totoro juggling sootballs, Harley Quinn on a trapeze. The fact that the group has a rotating cast allows the performers to stay fresh and provides continuous opportunities for new performers to come in and join the show. And rather than approaching the performance scene as a competition, AIC often works in collaboration with similar performance groups to encourage more artistic development and positive ties within the community….

(4) LITTLE-KNOWN WORLDCON BUSINESS. I must have missed this on my first read-through of the agenda. The thread starts here.

(5) 2007 BUSINESS MEETING. Kevin Standlee has uploaded four videos of the 2007 WSFS Business Meeting in Yokohama.

It took him awhile to do it. Kevin says, “My upload bandwidth at home is so poor that I could only upload one file per night overnight.”

(6) SIMULATING MARS. NBC News posts a video (“The human factor: What it will take to build the perfect team for traveling to Mars”) about a simulated mission to Mars that didn’t turn out as planned.

Hi-SEAS in Mauna Loa, Hawaii is a simulated Mars habitat that’s meant to facilitate the study of human behavior. A group of four-to-six participants is selected from a pool of hundreds of astronaut aspirants to make up the crew for each mission. So far five missions have been conducted successfully. Mission VI began earlier this year but things didn’t go exactly as planned.

The Atlantic thoroughly reviews what happened in the article “When a Mars Simulation Goes Wrong”.

… In February of this year, the latest batch of pioneers, a crew of four, made the journey up the mountain. They settled in for an eight-month stay. Four days later, one of them was taken away on a stretcher and hospitalized….

(7) ACROSS THE WALL. Cora Buhlert writes from the divided Germany of 1963 at Galactic Journey“[August 10, 1963] The Future in a Divided Land, Part 3 (An Overview of Science Fiction in East and West Germany)”.

In the last two entries in this series, I gave you an extensive overview of West German science fiction. Now let’s take a look across the iron curtain at what is going on in East Germany. For while the inner German border may be nigh insurmountable for human beings, mail does pass through. A lot of us have family in the East, including myself, and are in regular contact with them via letters and parcels. Parcels from West to East Germany usually contain coffee, nylons, soap, canned pineapple and all sorts of other consumer goods that are hard to come by in Communist East Germany.

Unfortunately, we cannot send books and magazines, cause they will probably be seized at the border for fear of “dangerous” ideas spreading. East Germans, on the other hand, are free to send books and magazines to relatives and friends in the West. And since my love for reading in general and for “space books” in particular is well known to my aunts in East Germany, the occasional science fiction novel from beyond the iron curtain has found its way into my hands.

…However, the most exciting of those voice from beyond the iron curtain is not German at all, but a Polish writer, Stanislaw Lem, whose work I encountered via East German translations. I particularly enjoy Lem’s humorous stories about the adventures of a space traveller named Ijon Tichy, which have been collected as Die Sterntagebücher des Raumfahrers Ijon Tichy (The Star Diaries of the Spaceman Ijon Tichy).

Lem’s more serious works include the novels Eden with its fascinating portrayal of a truly alien society, Planet des Todes (Planet of Death), which was even filmed in 1960, and the generation ship story Gast im Weltraum (Guest in Space), which is currently being filmed in Czechoslovakia.

(8) MASSIVE ROUNDUP. Todd Mason has an ambitious collection of more than three dozen links to recent reviews and essays in “Friday’s ‘Forgotten’ Books and more: the links to the reviews” at Sweet Freedom.

(9) STEAMIN’ WORLDCON. Included in The Steampunk Explorer’s “Steampunk Digest – August 10, 2018”:

Worldcon, the World Science Fiction Convention, will be held August 16-20 in San Jose, within shouting distance of The Steampunk Explorer’s International Headquarters. The program lists several steampunk-themed panels, including “Carriger & Adina Talk Steampunk (tea and silliness optional)” with authors Gail Carriger and Shelley Adina; “The Victorian & Edwardian Tech Tree” with Steve Frankel; and “Defining Steampunk” with Elektra Hammond, Anastasia Hunter, William C. Tracy, Diana M. Pho, and Jaymee Goh. We plan to be there, and for the benefit of attendees, we’ll be posting stories about steampunk-related attractions in San Jose and elsewhere in Silicon Valley.

(10) LOOKING FOR BOOKS. Donations needed –

(11) WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AT WAR WITH EAST BAYSIA. The Digital Antiquarian remembers the big brawl between Apple and Microsoft in “Doing Windows, Part 8: The Outsiders”.

…Having chosen to declare war on Microsoft in 1988, Apple seemed to have a very difficult road indeed in front of them — and that was before Xerox unexpectedly reentered the picture. On December 14, 1989, the latter shocked everyone by filing a $150 million lawsuit of their own, accusing Apple of ripping off the user interface employed by the Xerox Star office system before Microsoft allegedly ripped the same thing off from Apple.

The many within the computer industry who had viewed the implications of Apple’s recent actions with such concern couldn’t help but see this latest development as the perfect comeuppance for their overweening position on “look and feel” and visual copyright. These people now piled on with glee. “Apple can’t have it both ways,” said John Shoch, a former Xerox PARC researcher, to the New York Times. “They can’t complain that Microsoft [Windows has] the look and feel of the Macintosh without acknowledging the Mac has the look and feel of the Star.” In his 1987 autobiography, John Sculley himself had written the awkward words that “the Mac, like the Lisa before it, was largely a conduit for technology” developed by Xerox. How exactly was it acceptable for Apple to become a conduit for Xerox’s technology but unacceptable for Microsoft to become a conduit for Apple’s? “Apple is running around persecuting Microsoft over things they borrowed from Xerox,” said one prominent Silicon Valley attorney. The Xerox lawsuit raised uncomfortable questions of the sort which Apple would have preferred not to deal with: questions about the nature of software as an evolutionary process — ideas building upon ideas — and what would happen to that process if everyone started suing everyone else every time somebody built a better mousetrap.

(12) NAVIGATING THE AMAZON. Peter Grant relates more “Lessons learned from a trilogy, Part 2: the impact on sales of rapid releases, and other factors” at Mad Genius Club. He discovered several benefits from releasing a trilogy of new novels in a short timeframe.

You can see at once that sales rose a little per volume after each launch, but not spectacularly so.  What did rise very strongly were KU [Kindle Unlimited] “borrows”.  The triple “bounce” is obvious to the naked eye, even without numbers.  It seems that, once they were aware of the series, KU readers jumped on it, and read each volume in turn (sometimes “binge-reading” all three within a week).  That drove the series’ sales ranks higher, and is still doing so, long after I’d have expected the earlier books’ ranks to drop by much more.  As I write these words, all three volumes are still ranked in the top three-tenths of one percent of all books in the Kindle Store.  Needless to say, I find that very satisfying.

(13) DID THEY GAME THE SYSTEM? Six writers who have been booted from Amazon say they can’t understand why: “Amazon self-published authors: Our books were banned for no reason” at Yahoo! Finance.

In recent weeks, Amazon (AMZN) has taken down e-books written by at least six self-published novelists who say they did nothing wrong and depend on the platform to make their living, those six novelists told Yahoo Finance.

The six authors published many of their books through Amazon’s online self-publishing platform Kindle Direct Publishing Select, and they expressed shock and frustration over losing their livelihoods without understanding why.

Amazon, for its part, has been cracking down on KDP Select authors who supposedly game the system in order to get paid more. But the authors Yahoo Finance spoke to insist they haven’t engaged in this kind of fraud, and that Amazon banned them without sufficient explanation of wrongdoing.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 10 — Rosanna Arquette, 59. Amazon Women on the Moon as well as voice work in Battle for Terra, appearances in Medium and Eastwick.
  • Born August 10 — Antonio Banderas, 58. Genre work in Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, the Spy Kids franchise, voice work in Puss in Boots and Shrek 2, appearances in the forthcoming The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle and The New Mutants.
  • Born August 10 — Suzanne Collins, 56. The Hunger Games trilogy which became a film series as well and The Underland Chronicles, a epic fantasy series.
  • Born August 10 — Angie Harmon, 46. Barbara Gordon in the animated Batman Beyond series and voice work in the current Voltron series, appeared on Chuck. 
  • Born August 10 — Joanna Garcia Swisher, 39. Quite a bit genre work including the From the Earth to The Moon miniseries, the animated The Penguins of MadagascarAre You Afraid Of The DarkThe Astronaut Wives Club,  Kevin (Probably) Saves the World and Once Upon a Time series. 

(15) SHORT FICTION REVIEWS. Charles Payseur sells Ceaseless Sips by the seashore: “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #257”.

I am sorely tempted to guess that the link between the two latest stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies is that their both authored by a Christopher. Because, at first glance, these two pieces are very different in terms of character, tone, and theme. Looking closer, though, and the stories seem paired not because of how well they work in harmony, but in how well they contrast, showing two sides of the same coin. On one, we get to see a man on a quest realize that he’s in danger of losing something of himself and pause, take stock, and find comfort and guidance in another person. In the other story, though, we find a man who has fully embraced his quest, regardless of who he needs to destroy or hurt. Both stories feature mostly conversations and philosophy, but in one a lesson is learned, and in the other it is utterly destroyed. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

(16) PICK SIX. Grow your TBR pile by reading “Six Books with Sam Hawke” at Nerds of a Feather.

  1. What upcoming book you are really excited about?Probably Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett is the one I’m looking forward to the most. He wrote one of my favourite fantasy trilogies of recent years (the Divine Cities) and Foundryside has the thieves and heists in city state, Locke Lamora kind of vibe that I dig. Special mention to The Monster Baru Cormorant (because the Traitor was amaaaaazing) though I am scared of how much it is going to hurt me.

(17) POWER ARRANGERS. Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams surprises with his deep interest in the meanings of Lord of the Rings: “Master of his universe: the warnings in JRR Tolkien’s novels” in New Statesman.

…Yes, Sam is an idealised version of a socially ambivalent and archaic stereotype. Forget this for a moment and look at his instinctive realisation that fantasies of high-octane power, celebrity and control are poisonous. He is anything but perfect: his stubborn parochialism and his taunting of Gollum are failings, with bad consequences. But he retains some fundamental instinct of moral realism. This helps him share Frodo’s burden without collapsing. Frodo’s empathy for Gollum (rooted in a shared understanding of the Ring’s terrible seduction), finally leads to a genuinely shocking denouement; but Gollum, furious, alienated by Sam, recklessly greedy for the Ring, saves Frodo from his self-inflicted catastrophe and dies as a result.

Somehow, the tangled web of interaction between these three ends in “salvation”. Some force overrules and rescues them – but only through the weaving together of a whole set of flawed agencies, mixed motives, compassion, prejudice, courage and craving. Tolkien is seeking to model the way in which the creator works not by intervening but by interweaving. It is this starkly unexpected conclusion to the quest and the journey that makes the book most clearly a Christian fiction.

But even for the non-religious reader, this diagnosis of power is a reason for treating Tolkien more seriously than many are inclined to. Look beyond the unquestionable flaws: the blandly patriarchal assumptions, the recurrent patronising of the less “elevated” characters, the awkwardness of the would-be High Style of narrative and dialogue, the pastiche of Scott or Stevenson at their worst; beyond even the fantastically elaborated histories and lores and languages of Middle Earth.

The work is ultimately a fiction about how desire for power – the kind of power that will make us safe, reverse injustices and avenge defeats – is a dream that can devour even the most decent. But it is also a fiction about how a bizarre tangle of confused human motivation, prosaic realism and unexpected solidarity and compassion can somehow contribute to fending off final disaster. Not quite a myth, but something of a mythic structure, and one that – in our current climate of political insanities and the resurgence of varieties of fascistic fantasy – we could do worse than think about.

(18) UP YOUR UPLOAD. BBC discovered “This rigged charger can hijack your new laptop”. “Who ran a sewer through a recreation area?” is joined by “Who put charging on a data line?”

A neat feature of many modern laptops is the ability to power them up through the USB port. Unlike the rectangular USB ports of old, the newer type – USB-C – can carry enough power to charge your machine.

That’s great news: it means you don’t need to add a separate port just for charging. And when the USB port isn’t being used for power, it can be used for something useful, like plugging in a hard drive, or your phone.

But while you and I may look at that as an improvement, hackers see an opportunity to exploit a new vulnerability.

One researcher, who goes by the name MG, showed me how a Macbook charger could be booby-trapped. Modified in such a way it was possible to hijack a user’s computer, without them having any idea it was happening.

(19) SENT BACK LIKE GANDALF? “Gladiator 2: The strangest sequel never made?” — Maximus resurrected by Jupiter to fight a rebel god, then sent time-travelling through wars of the ages.

At the time, [Nick] Cave had written just one produced screenplay, John Hillcoat’s Ghosts… of the Civil Dead, and he was concentrating on his music career. But he couldn’t resist when Crowe offered him the Gladiator 2 job, despite one obvious misgiving. “Didn’t you die in Gladiator 1?” he asked. “Yeah, you sort that out,” replied Crowe.

And that’s what he did. Cave’s Gladiator 2 screenplay opens with Maximus waking up in the afterlife. To his disappointment, it isn’t the sun-kissed Elysium he dreamt of in Gladiator, but an endless rain-sodden netherworld where wretched refugees huddle on the shores of a black ocean. With the help of a ghostly guide, Mordecai, Maximus treks to a ruined temple where he meets Jupiter, Mars and five other diseased and decrepit Roman deities. Jupiter explains that one of their number, Hephaestus, has betrayed them, and is now preaching the gospel of another god who is more powerful than all of them. Just to quibble for a moment, Hephaestus is a Greek god, not a Roman one, so Cave should really have named him Vulcan. But the screenplay compensates for this slip with some writing to relish….

(20) DO YOU REMEMBER WHO KILLED SUPERMAN? At SYFY Wire“An oral history of the original Death and Return of Superman, 25 years later”.

…Jurgens fittingly enough would be the artist who drew that final image of a battle-weary Superman finally succumbing to battle with Doomsday, cradled in Lois Lane’s arms, with Jimmy Olsen forlorn in the background.

Jurgens: As for that final double page splash, well… it first appeared as a triple page spread at the end of Superman #75. I don’t think it has ever been reprinted that way, with a double page spread that then folds out into a triple pager. We spent an extraordinary amount of time getting it to work properly and I think it really helped bring Superman #75 to an appropriate close.

Superman #75 would go on to sell millions copies over multiple printings, reaching sales figure that were bolstered in no small part by the mainstream attention the death of this international icon had attracted.

Ordway: Coincidentally, the public’s actual reaction mirrored what we did in the comics — they suddenly came out in numbers, professing their love for Superman. That was what we wanted all along, though of course none of us had any idea it would sell. We had hopes that people would respond, maybe comic shops might order more Superman comics.

Jurgens: There is no way we, DC or anyone was prepared for the reaction to our story. We were simply trying to tell a good, dramatic story that said something about the nature of a great character.

Carlin: I still can’t believe people believed Superman would be gone forever. Reporter after reporter came up to DC and asked “Why are you killing Superman?” and my standard answer was “When was the last time you bought a Superman comic? Hell, when was the last time you bought ANY comic?” And every reporter said they hadn’t bought a Superman comic since they were kids, to which my response was: “Then you’re the one who killed Superman!” And most of these reporters, men and women, said that they were reporters because of Clark and/or Lois’s inspiration!

For the creative team, the story they yearned to tell was not the slugfest that led up Superman’s death, but the stories of loss afterward.

Bogdanove: In what seemed like no time, we’d written most of “Funeral for a Friend,” which was where the real meat of the story was. I think we accomplished exactly what Louise spoke of. Through the eyes of Metropolis and the world, via the reactions of heroes, villains and the friends and family he knew, I think we got to say a lot about why Superman matters.

Certain scenes stand out in my memory: Bibbo (Bibowski, a supporting character who idolized the Man of Steel) saying, “It shoulda’ been me!” Ma and Pa Kent watching the funeral of their own son on television, all alone by themselves. Some of these scenes we talked about that day still make my eyes tear up just thinking about them.

(21) JOIN THE SPACE FORCE. Commander Fred Willard comes out of retirement to enlist in Trump’s Space Force.  “We’re going to build a big, beautiful wall and those filthy Neptunians are going to pay for it.”  “When there’s trouble in space, we’re on the case.” From the Jimmy Kimmel Show. Fast forward to 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Kevin Standlee, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, David Doering, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and Hyman Rosen for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 7/26/18 What Is The Law? Not To Reuse Titles, That Is The Law

(1) GOOD THOUGHTS ON BAD PRACTICES. Kristine Kathryn Rusch comments on historic efforts to game Amazon’s algorithms. “Business Musings: Sometimes I Just React…”

…Back when I started blogging on publishing in 2010 (after writing The Freelancer’s Survival Guide on this site in 2009), I had the lovely experience of being trashed repeatedly by the Kindle Unlimited folks. Only there wasn’t Unlimited—not yet. There was just the Kindle Boards, where writers gathered to talk.

And what they talked about was what professional writers everywhere talk about—how to make money. (We don’t dare discuss craft with each other for fear that we’ll insult our peers. We all have friends who have great writing careers, whom we believe {in our heart of hearts} can’t write their way out of a paper bag. And, we know, that some of our friends think the same thing about us. It’s better to discuss quantifiable things, like money, instead of qualitative things, like craft. {See my post on “Taste” from last week.})

That “how to make money” thing took on a life of its own on the Kindle Boards. It wasn’t about how to improve your storytelling to make money. It wasn’t about those old-fashioned systems like agents or traditional publishers or contracts, although there occasionally was talk like that.

Instead, it was about which subgenres sold, and how many books you had to write and publish each month to stay ahead of the algorithms. It was about writing short so that you had more books published (in the early days) or putting the table of contents at the end so that the algorithm would think someone who clicked there had read the whole book….

(2) RUNNING DARMOK. Whew, people really took off with this meme game….

For example (the second is what I have in mind) —

JJ suggests, “Breq, outside a tavern in snow.”

(3) AT THE CORE. Scientific American tells how “Milky Way’s Black Hole Provides Long-Sought Test of Einstein’s General Relativity”.

Genzel and his colleagues have tracked the journey of this star, known as S2, since the early 1990s. Using telescopes at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, the scientists watch it as it travels in an elliptical orbit around the black hole, which lies 26,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation Sagittarius. With a mass of 4 million times the Sun, the black hole generates the strongest gravitational field in the Milky Way. That makes it an ideal place to hunt for relativistic effects.

On 18 May this year, S2 passed as close as it ever does to the black hole. The researchers pointed instruments including GRAVITY, an instrument called an interferometer that combines light from four 8-meter telescopes and became operational in 2016. “With our measurements the door is wide open to black-hole physics,” says team member Frank Eisenhauer, an astronomer at the Max Planck institute.

GRAVITY measured S2’s movement across the sky; at its fastest, the star whizzed along at more than 7,600 kilometres a second, or nearly 3% the speed of light. Meanwhile, a different instrument studied how fast S2 moved towards and away from Earth as it swung past the black hole. Combining the observations allowed Genzel’s team to detect the star’s gravitational redshift—its light being stretched to longer wavelengths by the black hole’s immense gravitational pull, which is consistent with the predictions of general relativity.

“What we measured cannot be described by Newton any more,” says Odele Straub, an astrophysicist at the Paris Observatory. Future observations of S2 might confirm other Einstein predictions, such as how the spinning black hole drags space-time around with it.

(4) SFWA MENTEE PROGRAM. The deadline to apply is July 31.

(5) UNCANNY KICKSTARTER. Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas have launched a Kickstarter for Year Five of their 2016 and 2017 Hugo Award-winning professional online SF/F magazine: Uncanny Magazine. The funds will cover some of its operational and production costs for the fifth year, with an initial goal of $18,700. plus an added stretch goal of launching a new Uncanny TV video magazine. The Kickstarter runs through August 24: “Uncanny Magazine Year Five: I Want My Uncanny TV!”

For Year Five, Uncanny has solicited original short fiction from Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Award-winning and nominated authors and bestselling authors including: Ursula Vernon, Mary Robinette Kowal, Kelly Robson, Maurice Broaddus, Fran Wilde, Ellen Klages, Naomi Kritzer, Greg van Eekhout, John Chu, Sarah Pinsker,  Rebecca Roanhorse, and Delilah S. Dawson.  There will also be numerous slots for unsolicited submissions.

Uncanny Magazine Year Five plans to showcase original essays by Mark Oshiro, Zoë Quinn, Alexandra Erin, Tanya DePass, Jim C. Hines, and Diana M. Pho,  plus poetry by Beth Cato, S. Qiouyi Lu, Brandon O’Brien, Cassandra Khaw, Nicasio Reed, and Leah Bobet.

Uncanny Magazine Year Five will also feature cover art by John Picacio and Galen Dara.

This year, Uncanny is back with a new mission for the ranger corps: UNCANNY TV.

Hosted and produced by Michi Trota and Matt Peters, Uncanny TV will be the launch of our community-based vid channel, featuring exclusive geeky content related to Uncanny and the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps community. Matt Peters & Michi Trota will host a short (20-30 min) variety talk show Uncanny Magazine style: highlighting creators in SF/F working in a variety of art forms and projects, focusing on people building and nurturing their communities, particularly highlighting marginalized creators. They’ll talk about topics that can be serious, but the overall tone of the show will be to celebrate the things we enjoy and the people who make our communities good places to be in SF/F.

(6) DOES THIS WORK? Beatrice Verhoeven, in The Wrap’s story “‘Star Wars’ Director Rian Johnson Deletes 20,000 Tweets After James Gunn Firing in ‘Why Not?’ Move”, says that Johnson has deleted all his tweets before January 25 of this year, explaining, “if trolls looking for ammunition is the new normal, this seems like a ‘why not’ move.”

On Tuesday, The Mary Sue tweeted a story that said, “it’s also possible that Disney has issued some sort of directive to their talent about social media post-Gunn situation, suggesting caution or deletion.” In response, Johnson tweeted, “No official directive at all, and I don’t think I’ve ever tweeted anything that bad. But it’s nine years of stuff written largely off the cuff as ephemera, if trolls scrutinizing it for ammunition is the new normal, this seems like a ‘why not?’ move.”

(7) NO BUCKS AND NO BUCK ROGERS. The Hollywood Reporter has the latest about the Buck Rogers rights litigation: “Judge Directs Government Intervention in “Buck Rogers” Bankruptcy”.

The audacious plan to use a bankruptcy court to auction off “Buck Rogers” rights despite lingering ownership challenges appears to have backfired on those ostensibly serving the interests of heirs of John Dille, who published the fictional space hero in magazines in the early-to-mid 20th century. On Wednesday, a Pennsylvania bankruptcy court issued an extraordinary decision that faulted the Dille Family Trust with a number of sins. As a result, the Office of the U.S. Trustee has been directed to appoint a Chapter 11 Trustee in what could ultimately result in a long anticipated film adaptation of Armageddon 2419 A.D., the 1929 novella by Philip Francis Nowlan that introduced the Buck Rogers character.

The background of what happened is detailed much more extensively here, but in November 2017, the Dilles declared bankruptcy in the midst of litigation with Nowlan’s heirs about trademark rights and in the middle of fighting with producer Don Murphy about whether Armageddon 2419 A.D. was in the public domain. Filing for bankruptcy meant a pause on litigation, and the Dilles wanted to liquidate their interests in Buck Rogers rights — whatever those might be — through Heritage Auctions. Since the filing of bankruptcy, Murphy and the Nowlans have pounded the table that this proceeding was all a farce.

Now, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jeffery Deller has seen enough.

In a memorandum opinion (read here), he writes that it is undisputed that the Dille Family Trust has no business operations, has no meaningful income, is liquidating as opposed to reorganizing, has incurred administrative expenses with no liquid assets available to satisfy these debts, and has invoked the automatic stay for the primary purpose of avoiding a trial regarding an alleged interest in various intellectual property.

(8) WORLDCON WOES. John Scalzi delivers “A Little More On Recent Worldcon Stuff”.

Also, while I’m on the subject of the Hugo and Worldcon, I see some various turdlings out there are gleeful about the recent dustup re: the Worldcon program. “The SJWs are eating themselves!” is the basic line of the turdlings. In fact, something entirely different happened.

Which was: When the problems cropped up (and they did) and people started to complain (and they did), the Worldcon, within a day, acknowledged that various mistakes had happened and actively moved to correct those mistakes. Not perfectly or instantly, but it still happened.

Which is what you want to happen! In an ideal world, mistakes don’t get made, but we don’t live in an ideal world and none of us is our ideal self. The next best thing is, when mistakes are pointed out, you move to fix them and to learn from them.

The turdlings who are gleeful at the Worldcon’s temporary woes don’t care about anything other than an institution they dislike and tried (or are still trying) to sabotage having a stumble. That’s because they’re basically awful, whiny menchildren. No surprise there.

(9) TAKE ME OUT TO THE BOT GAME. Flippy the Robot, from Miso Robotics, will be “wearing” Dodger blue this summer (Food & Wine: “Flippy the Robot Is the Tater Tot-Making Boyfriend I Deserve”) and manning (robotting?) the fry basket:

In 2017, Miso Robotics introduced the world to Flippy, a jaunty new robot that can make food alongside humans, prepping fried chicken and tater tots and burgers with ease. And this summer, Flippy will be gainfully employed at Dodgers Stadium to make concessions, working the frying station. This follows a successful stint flipping burgers at a Pasadena CaliBurger earlier this year.

“Adapting Flippy into a fryer assistant … has been a great opportunity to demonstrate the scale of Miso’s platform,” Miso Robotics CEO David Zitosaid in a statement. “[T]his technology [is] a win-win — improving working conditions for stadium employees and improving the game experience for fans.” In February, Flippy raised $10 million from investors.

(10) ROBOTS OVER THE MILLENNIA. A Nature open-access PDF article, “Ancient dreams of intelligent machines: 3,000 years of robots”, in which “Stephen Cave and Kanta Dihal revisit the extraordinary history of cultural responses to automata.”

The word ‘robot’ was born in Czech writer Karel ?apek’s 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). In the very work coining the term, the robots rebel against and destroy their creators. And that narrative of rebellion has proved to be the most potent of all our AI fears, retold repeatedly as technology evolves.

During the cold war space race, the film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) gave us HAL 9000, the murderous spaceship supercomputer. With the rise of the Internet, we got Skynet — a defence network that becomes self-aware in the Terminator films (starting in 1984) — and The Matrix (1999), featuring intelligent machines that farm humans whose minds unknowingly inhabit a virtual reality. Now, with AI dominating headlines, we have sophisticated robots again overthrowing their wetware masters, from Ava in the 2015 film Ex Machina to the android amusement-park hosts in the Westworld television series.

The persistent trope of robot revolts reveals the paradox at the heart of our relationship with intelligent machines. We want to create clever tools that can do everything we can do, and more. They will be the perfect oracles, servants, soldiers, even lovers. To fulfil our hopes, they must have attributes such as intellect and agency — minds of their own, superior to ours. But, paradoxically, that is also why we fear HAL and Skynet. The tension lies in our conflicted desire to create beings superhuman in capacity, but subhuman in status.

(11) PETERSEN OBIT. Andrew Petersen, a student I met at Azusa Pacific University’s Yosemite Semester in 2001, has died. One of his ambitions was to captain a Jungle Cruise boat at Disneyland and he not only did that, he went to work at the Park, along the way running the Indiana Jones ride and the Enchanted Tiki Room. What a character he was, what a great guy.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 26, 1894 – Aldous Huxley. Swap two numbers in the year and you have another dystopian author’s book.
  • Born July 26, 1928 – Stanley Kubrick.
  • Born July 26 – Helen Mirren, 73. Genre work includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, the classic Twilight Zone, Faerie Tale Theatre and as Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy film.
  • Born July 26 – Sandra Bullock, 54. First genre role was in, I kid you not, Bionic Showdown: The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman, also Demolition Man and Gravity to name but two of her other genre appearances.
  • Born July 26 – Jeremy Piven, 53. Jeffrey Tanner in the quickly and mercifully canceled Wisdom of the Crowd series, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde, the Hercules animated series, the Cupid series as well and a lot of voice work.
  • Born July 26 – Olivia Williams, 50. Adelle DeWitt in Dollhouse and Emily Burton Silk in Counterpart, also the Jason and the Argonauts series in a recurring role as Hera, yet another Peter Pan  film, and apparently an uncredited appearance in X-Men: The Last Stand.
  • Born July 26 – Kate Beckinsale, 45. Selene in the Underworld film franchise, also Van HelsingAlice Through the Looking Glass, Haunted and a recurring role in the Elder Scrolls Online video game franchise.
  • Born July 26 – Eve Myles, 40. Gwen Cooper in both the Doctor Who and Torchwood series, and voice performer in the Big Finish series of audiobooks including Golden Age, a splendid story involving Torchwood India.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) A CAREER, JUST NOT THE ONE PRESENTED. Her history of crowdsourcing funds, promoting literary events, and tendency to not deliver made the LA Times ask “Who Is Anna March?”

…Anna March whisked in and out, a flash of pink hair in a polka-dot dress. The 2015 party at the Ace’s mezzanine bar, serving free drinks, was packed to overflowing.

March had never published a book but had been quietly working literary Los Angeles’ social media connections for months. A spunky, unapologetic, sex-positive feminist ready to raise hell, she was supportive and flattering. She was also conspicuously generous — concerned about the line of people waiting to get into the party, March asked a pair of new acquaintances if she should give $20 bills to those stuck on the sidewalk. The bill for the night would total more than $22,000.

Why is she doing this? people asked, stealing glances at March.

Some had a larger question:

Who was Anna March?

That was a harder question to answer than you might think. Anna March first appeared around 2011, when she started publishing online. Before that, she was known by different names in different cities. In researching this story, The Times found four: Anna March, Delaney Anderson, Nancy Kruse and Nancy Lott.

In three places — Los Angeles, San Diego and Rehoboth Beach, Del. — March became a part of the literary community. She won over new friends, even accomplished authors but especially writers trying to find a way into that world, with her generosity, her enthusiasm and apparent literary success — only to leave town abruptly…

(15) DOUBLE JEOPARDY. No sooner had Jon Del Arroz started an Indiegogo to fund a comic book project than somebody unveiled a bogus Kickstarter featuring an image of the same character. JDA has gotten the hoax Kickstarter taken down.

Fake fundraiser screencap

JDA knows his audience — his announcement of the real Indiegogo appeal on his blog is sandwiched between a post gloating about Worldcon 76 program travails and another post complaining that Tor Books is attacking him — and the Indiegogo appeal is closing in on its $6,000 goal.

(16) ALAN MOORE. Paste Magazine says these are “The 10 Best Alan Moore Comics of All Time”.

  1. A Small Killing
    Artist: Oscar Zarate
    Publisher: Avatar Press
    Here’s the landmark which stands nearest to Moore. Allow me to explain: I don’t think A Small Killing is the work that means the most to Moore emotionally, or that it shows some never-revealed Rosebud, or that it amounts to autobiography by code. What I mean is that A Small Killing is the work I see as somehow closest to the heart of the creator, the way the Book of Job is central to any exegesis of the Tanakh. A Small Killing is a story that unconsciously comments on Moore’s anxiety. (This is all rabid hearsay, of course, and should not be aired in a legitimate court of law.)

(17) IN UNIFORM. People.com shows how “Natalie Portman Transforms Into NASA Astronaut in Pale Blue Dot. Natalie Portman plays a NASA astronaut in Pale Blue Dot, a fictional story said to be based loosely on the Lisa Nowak -Bill Oefelein-Colleen Shipman “astronaut love triangle” of 2007.

In the early morning hours of that day, Nowak was wearing a black wig and trench coat when she approached Colleen Shipman’s car in the parking lot of Orlando International Airport. She banged on the Shipman’s window and begged for a ride. When Shipman rolled down her window, Nowak sprayed her with pepper spray and tried to get in the car.

Shipman fled the scene, shaken but unhurt. Police arrested Nowak on attempted murder and kidnapping charges.

The resulting case was dubbed the “astronaut love triangle.”

(18) DOOR-TO-DOOR.

(19) ON THE BEACH. “Liquid water ‘lake’ revealed on Mars” — ESA’s Mars orbiter finds something too big (12 miles across) to be just sub-ice meltwater — probably very cold and briny, and a mile under the ice, but definitely a lake.

Marsis wasn’t able to determine how thick the layer of water might be, but the research team estimate that it is a minimum of one metre.

“This really qualifies this as a body of water. A lake, not some kind of meltwater filling some space between rock and ice, as happens in certain glaciers on Earth,” Prof Orosei added.

(20) MARSWARD BOUND. Here’s The First Teaser. The series comes to Hulu September 14.

The First is created by Beau Willimon (House of Cards) and stars Sean Penn. Set in the near future (2030), this groundbreaking story explores the challenges of taking the first steps towards Mars. Viewers will get an intimate look at the dedicated characters trying to reach the unknown while dealing with the psychological and physical toll it takes to achieve the impossible.

 

(21) NOT ALONE. The last man on earth was alone in his room. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. – Oops, sorry, this is not the Fredric Brown story, it’s the I Think We’re Alone Now teaser trailer.

Del (Peter Dinklage) is alone in the world. After the human race is wiped out, he lives in his small, empty town, content in his solitude and the utopia he’s methodically created for himself – until he is discovered by Grace (Elle Fanning), an interloper whose history and motives are obscure. Worse yet, she wants to stay.

 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Joel Zakem, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and John  King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 7/5/18 Trigger Scrollfile – Pixelman

(1) AVENGERS REASSEMBLE. The Society of Illustrators in New York will display “The Art of The Avengers and Other Heroes” from July 5 through October 20.

The Museum of Illustration at the Society of Illustrators is pleased to present an exhibition of original artwork showcasing characters from the Marvel Universe featuring the Avengers and other heroes. Artists include John Buscema, John Cassaday, Don Heck, Joe Jusko, Jack Kirby, George Perez, John Romita, Marie Severin, Walt Simonson, Barry Windsor Smith, Jim Steranko, Herbe Trimpe, and others, on display from July 5th through October 20, 2018.

The exhibition includes vintage, original comic artwork from all years of Marvel Comics history. The selections illustrate how Marvel’s innovative creative teams initially led by legendary creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, kept the Marvel Universe evolving with the times.

(2) B&N EXEC GONE, BUT WHY? On July 3, Barnes and Noble announced it had fired CEO Demos Parneros for unspecified policy violations, adding that he would not receive any severance package. Publisher’s Weekly has the story.

In a brief statement released late Tuesday afternoon, the retailer said CEO Demos Parneros was terminated for “violations of the Company’s policies.” While not saying what policies Parneros violated, B&N said his termination “is not due to any disagreement with the Company regarding its financial reporting, policies, or practices or any potential fraud relating thereto.” In addition to being fired immediately, Parneros will not receive any severance, B&N said. B&N said Parneros’s removal was undertaken by its board of directors, who were advised by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.

(3) CAUTION, I BRAKE FOR SINGULARITIES. When Daniel P. Dern read that “SpaceX delivers AI robot, ice cream, mice to space station” he immediately thought, “Boy, that sounds like a ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ tv episode waiting to happen…”

The International Space Station got its first robot with artificial intelligence Monday, along with some berries, ice cream and identical brown mice.

SpaceX’s capsule reached the station three days after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Station astronaut Ricky Arnold used a large mechanical arm to grab the Dragon capsule as the spacecraft soared above Quebec, Canada.

The nearly 6,000-pound (2,700-kilogram) delivery includes the round robot Cimon, pronounced Simon. Slightly bigger than a basketball, the AI robot from the German Space Agency is meant to assist German astronaut Alexander Gerst with science experiments. Cimon’s brain will constantly be updated by IBM so its intelligence — and role — keep growing.

(4) SMOFS ON THE AIR.  Bids for future Westercons, Worldcons, and NASFiCs gave presentations and answered questions at Westercon 71 in Denver on July 5.

Kevin Standlee sent a link to the YouTube playlist of videos where you can watch the appearances of representatives from the SeaTac in 2020 Westercon, Utah in 2019 NASFiC, New Zealand in 2020 Worldcon, and DC in 2021 Worldcon bids.

(5) RHYSLING AWARD FOLLOW-UP. In the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association press release about the winners of the 2018 Rhysling Awards, SFPA President Bryan Thao Worra said:

My deep and personal congratulations to all of the winners and all of the nominees. The SFPA thanks everyone who nominated these poets and those who took the time to vote this year. Every year the awards are filled with great excitement, even as it is often deeply challenging to choose the best poem among so many styles and talented voices from around the world.

We’re looking forward to many more decades ahead of our members celebrating profound possibility, inquiry and imagination through verse.

First established in 1978, the Rhysling Award is now in its 40th year. Science Fiction fans may recognize the name. The Rhyslings were named for the blind poet Rhysling in Robert A. Heinlein’s short story “The Green Hills of Earth.” Rhysling’s skills were said to rival Rudyard Kipling’s. In real life, Apollo 15 astronauts named a crater near their landing site “Rhysling,” which has since become its official name.

The Rhysling Awards will be formally presented at DiversiCon 26 on Saturday, July 28th at 3:00pm in St. Paul (Bandana Square Best Western) by SFPA President, Bryan Thao Worra and other members of the SFPA executive committee. All members of the SF community are welcome to attend the ceremony. For scheduling at updates, visit www.diversicon.org.

(6) CALLING DESMOND MORRIS. How did Bambi’s distant ancestors bite the dust? Ars Technica turns to the professionals for an answer: “Archaeologists armed with spears demonstrate how Neanderthals hunted”.

Pleistocene CSI

At the Neumark-Nord site in Germany, Neanderthals 120,000 years ago hunted along the shores of a lake surrounded by dense forest. It’s a tough environment to make a living in, even for modern hunter-gatherers.  Here, archaeologists found two textbook examples of hunting-spear trauma. A fallow deer vertebra bore a circular wound from what Gaudzinski-Windheuser and her colleagues described as “a well-placed lethal injury” to the deer’s neck, not far from the trachea—probably from a spear thrust.

A pelvic bone from another fallow deer had a circular hole punched through the thinnest part of the bone, toward the front and close to the spine. The bone hadn’t begun to heal, so the injury, although likely not fatal in its own right, probably happened in the moments before death.

In micro-CT images, Gaudzinski-Windheuser and her colleagues could see that the wound had a tapered shape, wider on the outer face of the bone where the spear had entered. This pushed bone fragments inward, but things were narrower on the inner surface where the spear tip had come out the other side and pushed bone fragments outward. Such a clear injury is a rare find, and it offered Gaudzinski-Windheuser and her colleagues a chance to analyze Neanderthal hunting methods in detail.

(7) AND HAVING WRIT, MOVES ON. Someone corrected this blue plaque in Cambridge.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mike Kennedy learned from Basic Instructions (a rerun from 2011) how to bring science fiction characters back to life.

(9) FLIPSIDE. At Galactic Journey The Traveler fills in some missing info about his friend the Australian computer: “[July 4, 1963] Down Under to the Worlds of Men (Woomera, Part 2)”.

A few months ago I wrote about my friend Mary Whitehead, who works as an Experimental Officer in Australia. She recently wrote me back with some corrections, that I will pass on to you, in order not to mar the historical record.

For example, I said that Mary lived at Woomera, which was not the case. I was conflating the rocket testing range with the place where most of the computing work got done. She actually lives near the Weapons Research Establishment (WRE), which is located in Salisbury, a small town about 15 miles north of the big city of Adelaide. Woomera Rocket Range is in the isolated outback another 300 miles north of that.

In 1949, Mary, who studied mathematics in college, got a job in the Bomb Ballistics Section of the WRE. At that time, Mary was the only professional woman at Salisbury. Her first work was to lead a team of female Computers. At first, they used mechanical calculators like the noisy Friden’s and then Marchant’s like we used at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory.

(10) HE’S MAD. In “A new editor. A new home. But Mad magazine still takes sharp aim at Trump and Roseanne”, the Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviews MAD editor Bill Morrison, formerly with Bongo Comics, about how he is keeping his magazine fresh and topical after it moved to Los Angeles last year.

“We wanted to come up with a ‘summer fun’ cover and looked to things like beach parties, county fairs and amusement arcades for inspiration,” Morrison says of the cover illustrated by Mark Fredrickson. “Art director Suzy Hutchinson thought an image of [Mad mascot] Alfred playing Whac-A-Mole would be fun, and mocked up a surreal cover of Alfred whacking mini-versions of himself.

“Then,” the editor says, “we turned on the news and decided that taking a whack at some notorious celebrities would be not only fun, but therapeutic.”

(11) LITIGATION. Don Quixote is feeling better. “Terry Gilliam: Legal Battle Over ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ Won’t Stop Film’s Release”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Terry Gilliam says the legal battle over the rights to The Man Who Killed Don Quixote will not prevent the film’s long-awaited release.

Nearly a quarter of a century in the making, the film that premiered at Cannes and screened out of competition Wednesday at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic, has been dogged with challenges worthy of Cervante’s noble hero.

After false starts and many rewrites, ex-Monty Python member Gilliam finally completed the film only for a legal dispute with a now former Portuguese producer Paolo Branco to threaten to derail it.

Branco’s threats were sufficient for Amazon to pull out of a deal that would have ensured a 90-day cinematic release in the U.S. before it was available for streaming. Even Cannes chief Jerome Paillard was rumored to have had the jitters before its festival screening in May.

But that decision, Karlovy Vary’s screening and an upcoming competition screening at the Munich film festival appear to have strengthened the French distributors Kinology’s hand, despite a Paris court ruling last month granting the film’s rights to Branco.

“It is about to be released broadly in Holland and Belgium,” Gilliam told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday. “I think Cannes changed things. Paolo just went too far – ‘I will tell the festival not to show it’… It seems things are floating along nicely, although he did scare a lot of people away at one point.”

(12) NOT CANALS, BUT… From Nature: “Mars’s river valleys whisper of a rainy past”.

Fast-flowing waterways on ancient Mars carved river valleys much like those on modern Earth.

Although Mars is cold and dry today, channels on its surface look as if running water shaped them, leading researchers to think the planet was warm and wet in the past. But scientists have struggled to determine whether that water fell from the sky as rain or seeped upward from the ground.

To discern the water’s source, Hansjoerg Seybold at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich and his colleagues analysed the geometry of Martian valley channels. The channels branch off at relatively narrow angles, as do waterways in arid landscapes on Earth, such as the US Southwest. More-humid landscapes with a lot of groundwater — the Amazon rainforest, for example — host river channels that branch at wider angles.

(13) BELATED BIRTHDAY. Born on the Fourth of July – no, not George M. Cohan. ScreenRant celebrated with its post: “Today is MCU Captain America’s 100th Birthday”.

We know Cap’s exact date of birth thanks to a scene early on in Captain America: The First Avenger, when pre-serum Steve Rogers attempts (not for the first time) to sign up for the army. The doctor dismisses him due to his long list of ailments, and in the process gives the audience a look at his medical records, which include his date of birth. Naturally, he was born on Independence Day.

The comic book version of Captain America, meanwhile, is actually 101 years old, having been born on July 4, 1917. His birth date is often incorrectly cited as being July 4, 1920, since that’s the date given on his Wikipedia page. However, The Adventures of Captain America #1 (the source for Wikipedia’s claim) states that he was born in 1917.

(14) JULY 4TH LEFTOVERS. NPR’s astronomical salute to the holiday: “LOOK: Hot, Young Stars Form ‘Celestial Fireworks'”.

If you squint, the image above bears a pretty strong resemblance to what you might see at a July 4 fireworks display.

But it’s actually, dare we say, far cooler. Or hotter: The image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope is a cluster of “huge, hot” stars called NGC 3603, about 20,000 light years away in the constellation Carina.

The glittery image was captured in 2009, and NASA posted it on its website on the eve of today’s Independence Day celebrations. The swirling purple clouds of gas and dust, it says, are the “raw material for new star formation.”

(15) DISSERTATION DEFENDER. Congratulations to Shaun Duke, of Skiffy and Fanty, who earned his Doctorate today.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchock, JJ, Daniel P. Dern, Steven H Silver, Eric Franklin, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]