Pixel Scroll 10/2/18 I’ve Got Two Pixels To Paradox

(1) SETTING THE SCENE. For the premiere of First Man they turned the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood into the moon.

(2) TERRESTRIAL RAYS. The versions available today are much too big to work as phasers, however, Cosmos assures readers that “The ray-gun is no longer science fiction”.

In the last decade we’ve seen spectacular advances in laser technology that may make the ray-gun practical again.

The Laser Weapons System (LaWS) is one of the first of a new breed of more compact systems based on the fibre laser. Fibre lasers can generate laser beams at efficiencies of 40%, far higher than conventional lasers, and achieve kilowatt powers. High power fibre lasers are already used in industrial cutting and welding machines, some with laser power of 100 kW and capable of welding blocks of metal parts 30 cm thick.

A 100 kW infra-red laser is exactly the ‘heat-ray’ that Wells imagined—equivalent to using a giant, kilometre-wide magnifying glass to focus the sun’s heat energy onto a single point the size of your fingernail.

The objective for LaWS is to affordably shoot down cheaply made insurgent rockets and drones, without wasting absurdly expensive missiles. While an anti-air cruise missile might cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, a single shot from LaWS works out at about $1 in energy cost. In 2014, a LaWS prototype installed on the USS Ponce demonstrated it could shoot down drones and disable boats. The US Air Force plans to put a similar device, developed by Lockheed Martin, on a fighter jet by 2021.

One difference from movie sci-fi, these real ray-guns don’t emit exciting ‘Pew! Pew!’ sound effects when they fire. They’re silent. Wells’ ominous words are more apt: “this invisible, inevitable sword of heat.”

(3) CASTING CALL. For a Dublin 2019 production —

(4) CAMPAIGNING AGAINST THE JEDI. The Hollywood Reporter boosts the signal — “‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Negative Buzz Amplified by Russian Trolls, Study Finds”. Or as Rainbow Rowell puts it —

An academic paper finds that half of criticism aimed at director Rian Johnson was politically motivated.

Did Star Wars: The Last Jedi destroy the franchise and permanently rupture the fandom as its critics (melodramatically) have accused it of doing? According to a new academic paper by researcher Morten Bay, the answer is clearly no.

The paper, titled Weaponizing The Haters: The Last Jedi and the strategic politicization of pop culture through social media manipulation, examines the online response to 2017’s Last Jedi, a movie that has come to be considered controversial amongst the larger fanbase of the franchise.

Bay suggests that reputation may not be earned, and instead “finds evidence of deliberate, organized political influence measures disguised as fan arguments,” as he writes in the paper’s abstract. He continues, “The likely objective of these measures is increasing media coverage of the fandom conflict, thereby adding to and further propagating a narrative of widespread discord and dysfunction in American society. Persuading voters of this narrative remains a strategic goal for the U.S. alt-right movement, as well as the Russian Federation.”

(5) BLEAK GEEK. Variety discovered “The Connection Between the Brett Kavanaugh Hearings and Gamergate”.

…Following the revelations regarding his potential involvement in the allegations against Kavanaugh, Judge deleted his Twitter account. However, what remains via screenshots and tweets from others shows regular interaction with other prominent figures in the alt-right, including Chuck Johnson and actor Adam Baldwin, who helped coin the term Gamergate.

In his first Gamergate story for the publication in 2015, Judge exclusively takes aim at Feminist Frequency founder Anita Sarkeesian, a frequent target of Gamergate harassment, labeling her arguments as “overly broad.” While he suggests that the harassment campaign against Sarkeesian was “disgusting, sad, and intolerable,” he quickly pivots to talk about how “gamers have absolutely demolished” her points….

(6) S&S. DMR begins a Wollheim retrospective with “The Sword and Sorcery Legacy of Donald A. Wollheim: Part One”.

From the day he published the first part of Robert E. Howard’s “The Hyborian Age” in the Spring 1936 issue of The Phantagraph, Donald A. Wollheim–at the ripe old age of twenty-one–began making his mark as an editor in the field of sword and sorcery literature. REH died soon after and Wollheim never published the entire essay, but his S&S cred had been established. To be able to claim the honor of publishing something Conan-related straight from the typewriter of Howard while he was still alive would be a horn on the helm of any heroic fantasy editor, but Don had much more to contribute in the decades to come.

(7) PIONEERING CHARACTERIZATION. Ira Galdkova’s self-revelatory literary exploration, “Miles Vorkosigan and ‘Excellent Life Choices’: (Neuro)Divergence and Decision-Making in Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga”, is featured at Uncanny.

But that very preoccupation with appearance is what I want to talk about. Miles spends so much more time and energy working to normalize the way he looks than normalizing the way he thinks that he can come off as downright anosognosic when it comes to his own neurodivergence. It is only halfway through the series, when Miles makes a disastrous decision while neither manic nor depressed, that he truly grapples with how he makes decisions and weighs choices. Miles is clearly meant to be seen as nonnormative, and psychological treatments are explicitly available in his world. His mother Cordelia advocates therapy in cases such as trauma but doesn’t seek to pathologize Miles’s brain or suggest any form of professional psychological treatment. Other characters also comment on Miles’s mental state(s) but eschew the idea of therapy: “You mean psychiatric? Absolutely not. Real bad idea. If the psych boys ever got hold of him, they’d never let him go. No. This is a family matter.”  In other words, Miles may not be aware of his own neurodivergence, but the text explicitly is, and the way Bujold plays with Miles’s decision making is worth examining.

The narrative thrust of the Vorkosigan Saga is predicated largely on Miles’s many questionable decisions, and decision making is a classic casualty of both bipolar disorder and ADHD. In sharing those conditions, I find Miles fascinating as a protagonist—as subject rather than object. Although recent works like Mishell Baker’s Borderline and Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghosts feature neurodivergent protagonists, Miles predates them by decades. Society, and by reflection literature, has long framed neurodivergence as a problem to be solved, as a topic rather than a subjective experience. It’s unclear how intentional Bujold was in her portrayal of Miles’s psyche vis-a-vis our pathologized categorizations of conditions such as bipolar and ADHD, but she has consistently captured how those conditions affect the ability to make decisions, and the ability to live with them.

(8) DWYER OBIT. Award-winning set decorator John M. Dwyer has died at the age of 83. The Hollywood Reporter obituary recollected his work on Star Trek, crediting him with the creation of the tribble. (We’ll set aside the role of David Gerrold and Robert Heinlein til another day…)

The 6-foot-6 Dwyer joined the original Star Trek for its second season in 1967, and the first episode on which he was employed was the legendary “The Trouble With Tribbles,” where he got creative using puffy blobs of fur.

He went on to dress up sets for 38 installments of the NBC series, earning an Emmy nomination (shared with Walter M. Jefferies) in 1969 for their art direction and scenic design on the episode “All Our Yesterdays.”

“In the original series we had to be really inventive, because we were dealing with stuff that nobody knew anything about,” he said in “Designing the Final Frontier,” a featurette for a Star Trek DVD. “There was no space shows, and we didn’t have any money, so you had to scrounge; in effect, scrounge everything that you got.”

Dwyer once noted that his budget was usually $500 per show, so he would squirrel away money from one episode to another when he could and picked through trash to use items like packing materials and plastic coffee lids for the Enterprise and alien environments.

“I’m not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination, but I keep in touch with materials that are going around,” he said in 2002. “On the original series, we were the first ones to use refractive Mylar, because it had just come out … and I went crazy with the stuff. In those days, nobody cared what you put on the set, so long as there was something that looked right. I’d take a piece of Masonite and cover it with some adhesive Mylar, put a two-by-four on the backside of it and hang it on a wall.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • October 2, 1955Alfred Hitchcock Presents made its television debut.
  • October 2, 1959 — The world was changed with the first aired episode of The Twilight Zone

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 2, 1906 – Willy Ley, Writer, Cryptozoologist, and Spaceflight Advocate who helped to popularize rocketry, spaceflight, and natural history in both Germany and the United States. He wrote a handful of SF stories as Robert Willey, but was best known for his non-fiction science articles for Astounding and Amazing Stories, and later for Galaxy Science Fiction, where he was the science editor for the 16 years before his death. He won two Hugo Awards and a Retro Hugo, and two International Fantasy Awards, for his space-related non-fiction writing. The crater Ley on the far side of the Moon is named in his honor.
  • Born October 2, 1909 – Alex Raymond, Artist, a cartoonist generally only known for creating Flash Gordon for King Features in 1934. The strip has been adapted into many media, from a series of movie serials in the 30s and 40s, to a 70s TV series and the 80s feature film — not to be confused with the American-Canadian TV series of the same vintage. Radio serials, myriad films, comic books, novels — any medium that exists has seen Flash Gordon fiction. There are at least fifteen authorized strips and a number of bootleg strips as well. Needless to say, there are bootleg films and serials too.
  • Born October 2, 1911 – Jack Finney, Writer of many short stories who had great success with the time-travel novel Time and Again, but is best remembered for The Body Snatchers, which has inspired numerous alien possession movies including Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a finalist for the 1979 Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. About Time is a collection of his time stories from The Third Level and I Love Galesburg in the Springtime. He was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1987.
  • Born October 2, 1944 – Vernor Vinge, 74, Writer and Mathematician whose numerous short stories and two novel series, both of which I consider excellent, Realtime and Zones of Thought, have garnered many Hugo, Nebula, Campbell, Clarke, Prometheus and Kurd Laßwitz Awards and nominations. He’s done a handful of stand-alone novels; I’ve very fond of Tatja Grimm’s World and Rainbow’s End which won a Hugo. His novellas Fast Times at Fairmont High and The Cookie Monster also won Hugo Awards. He was Writer Guest of Honor at ConJosé, the 60th World Science Fiction Convention, in 2002.
  • Born October 2, 1948 – Persis Khambatta, Actor, a former Miss India who became famous for playing the bald Deltan Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a role which garnered her a Saturn nomination. In 1980 she became the first citizen of India to present an Academy Award. Sadly, she died from cardiac arrest two months short of her 50th birthday.
  • Born October 2, 1948 – Avery Brooks, 70, Actor and Director best known to genre fans for playing Captain Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and lending his majestic voice to videogames in that franchise.
  • Born October 2, 1951 – Gordon Sumner, better known as Sting, 67, Actor, Composer and Musician from England who played Feyd-Rautha in David Lynch’s version of Dune and Baron Frankenstein in The Bride, appeared in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and has lent his voice to several animated movies and TV episodes including The Simpsons, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, and Peter and the Wolf.
  • Born October 2, 1967 – Lew Temple, 51, Actor who has played numerous roles in supernatural and horror movies, including The Visitation, Deja Vu, Silent Night, Zombie Night, the reboots of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, and more recently, a part in the TV series The Walking Dead.
  • Born October 2, 1986 – Camilla Belle, 32, Actor who started young, playing genre roles in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Annie: A Royal Adventure, Practical Magic, and A Little Princess and Back to the Secret Garden, the movie versions of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s well-known childrens’ fantasies.

(11) VINGE. Rich Horton celebrates with a post at Strange at Ecbatan“Birthday Review: A Deepness in the Sky, by Vernor Vinge”.

…As I said, I found the plot inspiring as well. This is a very long book, about 600 pages, but I was never bored. Moreover, as Patrick Nielsen Hayden has taken pains to point out, the prose in this book is quite effective. I believe Patrick used some such term as “full throated scientifictional roar”. Without necessarily understanding exactly what he meant by that, the prose definitely works for me, and in ways which seem possibly particularly “scientifictional” in nature….

(12) WELLEN. Steven H Silver’s winner in today’s birthday sweepstakes was – “Birthday Reviews: Edward Wellen’s ‘Barbarossa’”.

Most of Wellen’s publications were short stories and he was more active in the mystery field than in science fiction, although he began publishing in the genre in 1952 with the non-fact article “Origins of Galactic Slang” in Galaxy.  In 1971, he published his only science fiction novel.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) KEEP BIG BANGING ON. In “The Fourth Copernican Revolution” on Nautilus, Sir Martin Rees, in an excerpt from On the Future: Prospects for Humanity, speculates on if we are living in a multiverse, and if we are, why that would be “the fourth and grandest Copernican revolution.”

At first sight, the concept of parallel universes might seem too arcane to have any practical impact. But it may (in one of its variants) actually offer the prospect of an entirely new kind of computer: the quantum computer, which can transcend the limits of even the fastest digital processor by, in effect, sharing the computational burden among a near infinity of parallel universes.

Fifty years ago, we weren’t sure whether there had been a big bang. My Cambridge mentor Fred Hoyle, for instance, contested the concept, favoring a “steady state” cosmos that was eternal and unchanging. (He was never fully converted—in his later years he espoused a compromise idea that might be called a “steady bang.”) Now we have enough evidence, especially from measurements of the primordial background radiation and the relative abundances of hydrogen, helium, and deuterium created in the first three minutes, to delineate cosmic history back to the ultradense first nanosecond—and to do this with as much confidence as a geologist inferring the early history of Earth. So in 50 more years, it is not overoptimistic to hope that we may have a “unified” physical theory, corroborated by experiment and observation in the everyday world, that is broad enough to describe what happened in the first trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second—where the densities and energies were far higher than the range in which current theories apply. If that future theory were to predict multiple big bangs we should take that prediction seriously, even though it can’t be directly verified (just as we give credence to what Einstein’s theory tells us about the unobservable insides of black holes, because the theory has survived many tests in domains we can observe).

(15) ABOUT THE FANTASTIC BEASTS 2 PUSHBACK. The Washington Post’s Mili Mitra says in an opinion piece that the controversy over Nagini in Fantastic Beasts 2 shows that “fans are also right to ask for thoughtful representation that does more than haphazardly introduce underrepresented caricatures.” — “Is ‘Fantastic Beasts 2’ racist? Not quite.”

Twenty years after the first Harry Potter book was released in the United States, the franchise still has the power to amaze — and offend. To this day, J.K. Rowling’s series is still banned in some schools and libraries for promoting “witchcraft.” But with the release last week of a new trailer for the next film in the fictional universe, “Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” Rowling is facing a different sort of backlash. This one shouldn’t be dismissed so easily.

(16) ANOTHER CENTURY OF AVENGERS. It’s issue #700, and the story’s set in another timezone “as the mystery of the 1M BC Avengers continues!”

There’s no rest for the heroes who protect Earth…not even when it comes to the Avengers! Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will find themselves facing some of their harshest battles yet – including Namor’s fearsome new Defenders of the Deep and the reimagined Russian Super-Soldiers of the Winter Guard!

To celebrate this jam-packed, landmark 700th anniversary issue, Marvel is excited to reveal an all-new cover by legendary artist David Finch!

(17) FIRST OF THE UNCANNY AVENGERS. They’re back….

This November, UNCANNY X-MEN returns with a new ongoing series, bringing together nearly every mutant left on earth in a story that threatens to destroy them. It’s an epic tale of mystery and tragic disappearance, with an adventure so earth-shattering, it could very well be the X-Men’s FINAL mission!

In celebration of the much-anticipated launch of UNCANNY X-MEN #1, Marvel is excited to reveal a new Hidden Gem variant cover from very own Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, with colors by Richard Isanove!

(18) WONDER WOMAN VARIATION. LAist studies “Wonder Woman’s Latest Enemies: Nazis, The Patriarchy, And Pick-Up Artists” because Earth One, Volume 2 is being released this week.

WONDER WOMAN VS. PICK-UP ARTISTS

One of the book’s villains, codenamed Doctor Psycho, was presented in his 1940s origins as an obvious bad guy. This time, Morrison’s taken that early interpretation and infused it with the modern idea of the pick-up artist community.

Morrison spoke with a female expert on pick-up artist techniques to use them in the new interpretation of the character.

“The Doctor Psycho sequence where he sits and talks to Diana [Wonder Woman] is actually based on the script used by pick-up artists,” Morrison said. “Even the movements he makes — he mirrors all her gestures, he makes these casting off gestures every time he talks about something that he wants her to perceive as negative.”

Today’s LAist post is based on a DC Comics blog interview published in April, “Morrison and Paquette Discuss Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol. 2”

For those of you unfamiliar, the Earth One graphic novels are special out-of-continuity stories that reimagine some of the DC Universe’s most familiar heroes in a totally unfamiliar light, whether it’s stripping Green Lantern of his willpower or imagining Bruce Wayne getting kidnapped for ransom rather than orphaned in an alleyway.

For Diana Prince, Earth One means a brand-new look at both the origin story of Wonder Woman, the culture of Themyscira altogether and her role as an Amazon ambassador to the world of man, something that gets further explored under the highest of stakes in the upcoming, eagerly anticipated WONDER WOMAN: EARTH ONE VOL. 2….

(19) THE HORROR. Are you and Goodreads still on speaking terms? If so, ‘tis the season to find out if you’ve read the “50 Most Popular Horror Novels on Goodreads”. I’ve only read 5 of these, so you’re bound to score much higher.

From literal monsters to purely psychological terrors, these are tales of madness and pandemonium, retribution and absolution. Long heralded as the “Master of Horror,” Stephen King reigns supreme, with five books on our list, but his son Joe Hill is not far behind, nabbing four spots. And along with classics from Mary Shelley and Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Kirkman‘s end-of-the-world comic, The Walking Dead, made the cut as well as an award-winning children’s ghost story, The Graveyard Book, from Neil Gaiman.

And now we present the top horror books on Goodreads in alphabetical order. Proceed at your own risk—and then tell us how many you’ve read in the comments.

(20) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. It’s being eaten alive! — “Is this the last chance to see the Titanic?” Rust-forming bacteria are rapidly consuming the Titanic. Experts predict it will last only a little more than 20 years. This is especially a problem if you were planning to visit in person.

At least 1,500 people died. Engulfed by deep-sea darkness, the wreck sat for more than 70 years while bacteria ate away at its metal hull, leaving behind millions of delicate, icicle-shaped formations.

“Now, there’s more life on Titanic than there was floating on the surface,” says Lori Johnston, microbial ecologist and a six-time visitor of the wreck.

These ‘rusticles’ are the by-products of bacteria that oxidise the iron they consume. The acidic, oxidised fluid oozes downward with gravity, forming fragile branches of rust. “The rusticles are unique because they’re kind of the dominant species down there,” Johnston says.

(21) WOMAN WINS NOBEL PRIZE. BBC brings word of “First woman Physics Nobel winner in 55 years”“Donna Strickland: The ‘laser jock’ Nobel prize winner”.

Donna Strickland, from Canada, is only the third woman winner of the award, along with Marie Curie, who won in 1903, and Maria Goeppert-Mayer, who was awarded the prize in 1963.

Dr Strickland shares this year’s prize with Arthur Ashkin, from the US, and Gerard Mourou, from France.

It recognises their discoveries in the field of laser physics.

Dr Ashkin developed a laser technique described as optical tweezers, which is used to study biological systems.

(22) THEY BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE. On the frontiers of research….

ULTRAGOTHA sent the background to the link: a New Scientist article about Gelada monkeys and wolves — “Monkeys’ cosy alliance with wolves looks like domestication” — basically boils down to: (1) the wolves catch more rodents when the monkeys are present and (2) the monkeys will swarm a wolf that attacks a monkey and drive it away, so it behooves the wolf to not eat the monkeys. “Whether this is a precursor to domestication, I leave up to more research,” says ULTRAGOTHA.

(23) ROSARIUM COMICS. Coming from Rosarium on October 16 – Super Sikh #3 – “If this is your vacation, then your job must be really crazy…”

The Sikh superhero comic book from Eileen Kaur Alden, Supreet Singh Manchanda, and Amit Tayal is now being published by Rosarium Publishing!

Meet Deep Singh. He loves Elvis and hates bad guys. By day he works at a tech company and lives with his parents. But that’s just a front. For Deep Singh is really a top secret agent for the United Nations, fighting terrorism all around the world.

(24) STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Season 2 poster –

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

Pixel Scroll 4/29/18 First Step On Our New Homeworld. That’s One Small Pixel For A Fan, One Giant Scroll For Fankind

(1) AVENGERS KEEP THE REGISTER RINGING. The Hollywood Reporter has the numbers: “Box Office: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Passes ‘Star Wars: Force Awakens’ With Record $250M U.S. Bow”

Disney and Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War kicked off the summer box office in high style over the weekend, opening to a record-setting $250 million in North America and $380 million overseas for a global total of $630 million, the top worldwide debut of all time. The superhero mashup accomplished the feat without China, where it doesn’t unfurl until May 11.

(2) HAPPY CUSTOMER. Doc at Sci-Fi Storm praises the new MCU film: “Avengers: Infinity War breaks records, looks at $250M opening; Non-Review”.

There is very little I can say about the movie that isn’t a spoiler, so I’ll limit myself to what little there is that isn’t. This movie is practically non-stop, with powerful action sequences and emotional points throughout. There are so many characters we know I’m amazed they were given the amount of time that they could!

(3) END OF A LUCKY STREAK. Abigail Nussbaum tells Asking the Wrong Question readers why Avengers: Infinity War” doesn’t work for her.

…So even though I wouldn’t say that I walked into Avengers: Infinity War with high hopes, I had certain expectations from it.  I’m not a great fan of any of the MCU’s team-up movies–I think Avengers is more impressive for being attempted than for its limited success; I get more annoyed with Age of Ultron whenever I think about it; and though I praised Civil War when I first watched it, it has aged very poorly for me, and I now remember mainly its risible politics and the fact that it has made me dislike Steve Rogers.  But for all that, I still believed that the question aroused by the Infinity War concept–how can Marvel rope together dozens of characters from multiple storylines into a battle against a single universe-destroying villain, and make a successful and entertaining movie out of it?–would be answered with the same definitive success as previous ones.  I didn’t expect to love Infinity War, but I expected it to work.

Instead, it is barely even a movie.  The answer to “how can you give each of these lovingly crafted characters the space and attention they deserve” turns out to be “you can’t”….

(4) KERMODE ON AVENGERS. Mark Kermode’s review for the BBC is spoiler free. But IanP notes: “However as he is not a dyed in the wool comic fan he didn’t manage to fully engage emotionally with the film, while fully understanding while fans will. Overall I think he admired what they’d managed to do without it actually working for him.”

(5) ALONG FOR THE RIDE. A Blue Origin New Shepard space vehicle was launched Sunday on a suborbital hop carrying a dummy astronaut. His name?  Mannequin Skywalker. Cnet has the story: “Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin launch used rocket, and fleas, to space”.

After a number of delays Sunday morning, a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket blasted off from the west Texas desert just after noon Central Daylight Time, sending a crew capsule carrying a dummy named “Mannequin Skywalker” on a brief trip to space.

For the eighth time, Jeff Bezos’ commercial space company successfully tested the system it hopes to use to send paying passengers on suborbital flights in the coming months.

The spacecraft reached an altitude of 350,000 feet (106,680 meters), or about 5 percent higher than previous New Shepard test flights. That height sent the rocket beyond the internationally accepted boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space, called the Karman Line.

(6) SATURN TESTS. In 1963, Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus wonders why it’s taking so long to get to the moon. Who knew we’d be asking that question again in 2018. “[Apr. 29, 1963] When a malfunction isn’t (the flight of Saturn I #4 and other space tidbits)”.

Enter the two-stage Saturn I, whose first stage has eight engines, like the Nova, but they are much smaller.  Still, altogether, they produce 1.5 million pounds of thrust — that’s six times more than the Atlas that will put Gordo Cooper’s Mercury into orbit next month.  The Saturn I’s second stage will likely also be the third stage on the Saturn V.

The Saturn I has had the most successful testing program of any rocket that I know of.  It’s also one of the most maddeningly slow testing programs (I’m not really complaining — methodical is good, and it’s not as if Apollo’s ready to fly, anyway).

(7) NEW VORKOSIVERSE NOVELLA ON THE WAY. Lois McMaster Bujold read part of this story on her last tour says ULTRAGOTHA – “The Flowers of Vashnoi bloom in May”.

I am pleased and somewhat surprised to report that a new Vorkosiverse novella is upcoming, probably in late May.

Title is “The Flowers of Vashnoi”, cover label is going to be “an Ekaterin Vorkosigan novella”, and the length is about 22,400 words, roughly the same as “Winterfair Gifts”.

As usual, no pre-order will be set up; you can just buy it when it goes live, at our usual three online vendors Kindle, iTunes, and Nook. I will certainly post the news when that occurs.

Final revisions are almost complete – it’s down to the stage where I spend all morning adding two sentences and all afternoon taking them back out, which is generally a sign to stop. The other part to be nailed down is the e-cover, still in development, so no sneak peek yet.

Possibly my shortest novella, this one has, oddly, taken the longest of anything to complete. My computer files claim I started the first draft back in November, 2011. (I could not even remember.) It ran along well for a while, then hit a brick wall and died on impact, I thought. I believed it was buried forever, but apparently it was just cryofrozen, because it came back to life a couple of months ago when I was trying and failing to boot up a new adventure for Penric and Desdemona. When my backbrain hands me a gift like that, I’ve found it’s better not to refuse it.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MOGUL

  • Born April 29, 1923  — Irvin Kershner. The Force was with him.

(9) MYTHIC CHOW. Atlas Obscura’s Anne Ewbank ponders “Why Do Fantasy Novels Have So Much Food?”.

Food in fantasy dates back to early myths and legends, which are full of symbolic, often menacing fare. The Greek goddess Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds in the underworld, consigning her to spend six months of the year with Hades, the god of death. European tales and poems abound with mystical fairies or elves using food to lure humans. In the poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” written in 1819 by Romantic poet John Keats, a knight falls in love with a fairy girl, who feeds him “roots of relish sweet, And honey wild, and manna-dew.” But one day, the knight wakes up to find himself abandoned and half-mad for what he lost. In 1859, poet Christina Rossetti wrote “Goblin Market,” about eerie, otherworldly creatures that sell fruit that, once tasted, drive people crazy for more.

The trope of dangerous fairy food still exists in modern fantasy, says Dr. Robert Maslen. Maslen is a senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow, where he founded one of the world’s first master’s degrees in fantasy literature. He gives two modern examples: the film Pan’s Labyrinth and Ellen Kushner’s novel Thomas the Rhymer. When food comes with consequences, it’s a sign that “we’re in a world where the rules are very different.”

(10) TAFF REPORT. Now you can pick up Jim Mowatt’s 2013 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund trip report – Where I Lay My Hat. Let Jim tell you about it —

After years of desperate procrastination the Taff report of my 2013 Taff trip to North America is now complete. It tells the tale of my visits to Toronto, Abingdon, Seattle, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Antonio (Worldcon) and New Orleans. It features art from (in order of appearance) Alan White, Al Sirois, Stu Shiffman, Carrie Mowatt, D. West, Taral Wayne, Brad Foster, Allison Hershey, Ulf Skei, Valeri Purcell, Julie McMurray and Anne Stokes. There are many fine full colour photos of frolicking fans and I’ve even shoved a few words in there. I’m recommending a donation to Taff of about 20 pounds (28 or 29 dollars) and you can donate using the Taff donations buttons at taff.org.uk. Email me,  jim (at) umor.co.uk or John Purcell at 2017taff2019 (at) gmail.com and we’ll post out a copy.

(11) CONTASTROPHE. Aja Romano’s “Great Con Disasters Of The Past: A Thread” begins here:

(12) DON’T BLOW YOUR CHANCE. Atlas Obscura shares “The Uncanny Delights of the World Balloon Convention”.

…This year’s WBC was held in mid-March, in San Diego, California. According to the official website, close to 900 people attended, from 52 countries. The best of the best participated in the Convention’s nine separate competitions, battling to take home titles in everything from “Large Sculpture” to “Balloon Hat.”

The competitors are incredibly skilled. (Most are “Certified Balloon Artists,” which means they have passed a qualifying exam.) Several categories require creating entire landscapes out of gas and latex. Incredible details are achieved with a limited palette of shapes. Sometimes the juxtapositions are funny: The winner of the “Fashion & Costume” category has reimagined a lightsaber as a long, floppy balloon. In the “Large Sculpture” winner, a tiger sports armor that, if you zoom in, looks like sausage links….

(13) APRIL SUMMATIONS BRING MAY FEATURES: Jason has summed Summation: April 2018 over at Featured Futures.

Ten of this month’s eleven noted stories (five recommended) come from the 50 (of just over 200,000 words) that I’ve read with a publication date between April 1 and April 28. Nature and Terraform had a good month with a recommended story and an honorable mention each. Some venues appeared for just the first or second time this year (Grievous Angel, On Spec (reviewed for Tangent), and Strange Horizons (with an especially strong story)), though some of the usual suspects (BCS, Clarkesworld, and Lightspeed) also pitched in. Aside from unusual venues, this month’s wombat is a relatively large number of SF (and no fantasy) honorable mentions.

The eleventh noted story is another first-time appearance. It comes from Slate’s “Future Tense Fiction” department and coverage of that is one of three changes in Featured Futures to report. The latest “Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up” caught up on the stories already released this year and future stories will be continue to be covered there.

Meanwhile, Lightspeed and Nightmare have been covered in the “Wrap-Ups” but will be covered as monthly issues beginning in May.

Lastly, Featured Futures is going to the final frontier: coverage of  short fiction in books. So far, there are a couple of collections and maybe an anthology I’ll see about covering in May.

(14) SHARKTICLE. Another Shadow Clarke juror tells what they will be reading: “Negotiating Cartography by Samira Nadkarni”.

 …As a small cross-section: I started reading Sami Schalk’s Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)Ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction—whose introduction discusses Jasbir Puar whose work I’m following for another project on queerness and warfare— while waiting for Janelle Monàe’s Dirty Computer to drop. Monàe’s vehemently queer 44-minute emotion picture will locate itself around a technocratic society in which citizens are termed “computers,” a section of whom are now on the run from an authoritarian government. Based on what we’ve seen of the three tracks dropped so far, the project is also fiercely Black, and strongly rooted in the political. It’s impossible not to think back to Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures: The Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race (followed by a film of the same name starring Monàe, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer) which made evident the links between women (Black women in particular) and the history of computers. Knowing that early production units were called “kilo-girls” to denote the number of hours worked and that these women were called “computers,” Monàe’s choice of a return to “computers” as words for people in videos peopled almost exclusively by Black people, and heavily peopled by Black women in this futuristic melding of technology, activism, and talking back to an authoritarian regime feels poignant and part of an evolving expression of futurity located in historicity.

… All of this was with me when I sat down to make this shortlist. I’m hoping the explanation helps contextualise my interest in books that not only talk about power, but also may talk about the complications of power that may come even with resistance and reclamation.

(15) RON HOWARD EXPLAINS IT ALL. …In a new Solo: A Star Wars Story “Becoming Solo Featurette.”

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, ULTRAGOTHA, Mark Hepworth, Steve Bartlett, Jim Mowatt, Carl Slaughter, Jason, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mister Dalliard.]

Pixel Scroll 3/20/18 If You Are Stuck In A Kerfuffle, Pixel A Trench And Scroll Your Way To Freedom

(1) #METOO. Pat Cadigan opened up about her #metoo experiences in a public post on Facebook.

Heard Germaine Greer on BBC Radio 4 this morning, disparaging #metoo

Germaine should also talk about welding, engineering, astrophysics, and brain surgery, because she knows as much about them as #metoo

And just for the record: #metoo

I’ve talked about the first job I ever had after I graduated from high school. I lasted a week cold-calling people, trying to sell the photographic packages for a photography company. My supervisor was a woman struggling to be a single parent after her divorce. Her supervisor, who was onsite almost all the time literally chased me around the office, trying to get his hands on me.

When I complained to my supervisor, she said, “You better keep running, because if he catches you, it will be your fault.”…

(2) THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED. National Air and Space Museum will mark the 50th Anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey with an immersive art exhibit celebrating the film’s impact on culture and technology.

This spring, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum will host a special temporary exhibition of the immersive art installation “The Barmecide Feast,” a fully realized, full-scale reflection of the iconic, neo-classical hotel room from the penultimate scene of Stanley Kubrick’s and Arthur C. Clarke’s landmark film, 2001: A Space OdysseyOpen to the public April 8 – May 28, the installation will be the centerpiece of the Museum’s celebration of the film’s 50th anniversary. Museum visitors will be able to enter the re-created room in small groups for short periods to experience the surreal environment depicted in the film. The public will get its first chance to see the installation as part of the Museum’s Yuri’s Night celebration, a ticketed, 21-and-over evening event presented with Brightest Young Things Saturday, April 7

National Air and Space Society members will get a special sneak peak of the exhibition on April 5. There is no charge for this members-only event, but advance reservations are required.

(3) SIAM SOUVENIRS. A Filer’s relative actually attended the Siam Sinfonetta concert!

She said, “It was a great concert – ran about 3 hours. During the various pieces they had different characters wandering through the concert hall and sometimes lightsaber fighting. They all came out at the end (except the little ones who had probably already left to go home to bed).”

(4) STEM, STEP BY STEP. BBC reports a study: “Children drawing more women in science”, from 1% in 1960’s and 70’s to 28% today.

Children in the US are drawing more women scientists than in previous decades, according to a new study.

The “Draw A Scientist” test has been administered by sociologists in various studies since the 1960s.

Researchers at Northwestern University, US, analysed five decades of the test.

When asked to draw a scientist, less than one per cent of children in the 1960s and 1970s drew a woman. This rose to 28% between the 1980s and present day.

However, children are still far more likely to draw a traditionally male figure when asked to depict a scientist.

…Yet, the study highlights, by 2013 women were 49% of biological scientists, 35% of chemists, and 11% of physicists and astronomers in the United States.

(5) IN THE MIX. Camestros Felapton gives us a “Review: Black Lightning”.

I’m up to episode 8 of a 13 episode season and I think I can pull apart what I like and don’t like about it.

I’ll start negative. I don’t think it has yet managed to find the right mix of humour, gritty crime drama, family drama, superhero-antics. That’s not a surprise, as all superhero shows and movies struggle to find that sweet spot (and the right spot is going to vary among viewers). At times the show is quite violent (or suggestive of extreme violence) but within a show that feels more like it has been written for a more general audience. Like the Marvel Netflix shows, the central character regularly beats up criminals to get information but unlike those shows, the behaviour feels at odds with Black Lightning’s non-superhero persona.

However, there is also a lot to like about this show. The central character, Jefferson Pierce, is unusual for a superhero. He is an older man with a successful career as a high school principal. He has a family and responsibilities and ‘Black Lightning’ is something from his past. By having him as a superhero who is coming out of retirement (due to gang violence initially) is a clever way of avoiding a protracted origin story, while giving viewers an introduction to the character. We have not, as yet, been given an explanation for the source of his electrical powers – although there are hints in a subplot around the death of his journalist father some years ago.

(6) SENSITIVITY. The Washington Post’s Everdeen Mason looks at how Keira Drake changed her forthcoming Harlequin Teen novel The Continent in response to sensitivity readers, which included changing the name of one clan from “Topi” to “Xoe”  to remove any comparisons to the Hopi, making another clan less Asian-looking, and eliminating “savage,” “primitive,” and “native” from the text. The article includes many examples contrasting the original and revised text.

Drake and Wilson maintain that the book was never supposed to be about race. “The main theme of ‘The Continent’ is how privilege allows us to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others,” Drake said in a phone interview in February.

Wilson explained that when she originally edited the novel, she was looking for potential problems with pacing, plot and dialogue. “I was simply not thinking about things like racial stereotypes,” she said. “It’s almost mortifying to say that because it was so blatantly obvious when it was pointed out.”

The Washington Post compared the old advance copy with a newly revised copy received in 2018 and spoke with Drake about changes she made.

(7) BLOCK AROUND THE CLOCK. The Paris Review quotes Ray Bradbury: “On Writer’s Block: Advice from Twelve Writers”.

“I have three rules to live by. One, get your work done. If that doesn’t work, shut up and drink your gin. And when all else fails, run like hell!” —Ray Bradbury

(8) PARTY MAVEN. The website Gastro Obscura records Stephen Hawking’s champagne-laden effort to prove whether time travel exists or not:

It was a little unusual that when he threw a party in 2009, not a single guest attended.

A film of the event depicts a dismal cocktail party. Three trays of canapes sit uneaten, and flutes filled with Krug champagne go untouched. Balloons decorate the walls, and a giant banner displays the words “Welcome, Time Travellers.”

…By publishing the party invitation in his mini-series Into the Universe With Stephen Hawking, Hawking hoped to lure futuristic time travelers. You are cordially invited to a reception for Time Travellers, the invitation read, along with the the date, time, and coordinates for the event. The theory, Hawking explained, was that only someone from the future would be able to attend.

(9) COOLEY OBIT. Texas fan Earl Cooley III died March 20, his sister announced on Facebook:

Earl Cooley III

I am Earl’s sister, Dot Cooley. Earl left this world early this morning. He moved back to the San Antonio area 3 years ago when his health started getting worse and because of that Earl got to spend so much more time with me and our brother, Paul. Mom recently discovered Skype, so she got to visit with him more. We would love for you to share any thoughts or stories with us. Rock on ArmadilloCon!

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian encountered a Biblical joke in Shoe.

(11) MARVEL AT MOPOP. The Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle unveiled the official poster artwork for its upcoming exhibition Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes.

Designed by Marvel artist Nick Bradshaw, the illustration depicts some of the most iconic characters created during Marvel’s nearly 80 year history including Spider-Man, Thor, Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, Captain America, and others. Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes is the first and most extensive exhibition celebrating the visual and cultural impact of Marvel Entertainment. The exhibition will debut at MoPOP on April 21, 2018. Tickets are on sale now at MoPOP.org.

Organized by the Museum of Pop Culture, SC Exhibitions and Marvel Entertainment, Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes will feature more than 300 original artifacts, including some of Marvel’s most iconic and sought-after pages, costumes and props, many of which have never-before been seen by the public. The exhibition will tell the Marvel story through comics, film and other media, taking place as it celebrates 10 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and ahead of the 80th anniversary in 2019.  The exhibition will trace the story of the company and its influence on visual culture – including how it’s responded to historical events and addressed wider issues such as gender, race and mental illness – as well as uncovering the narratives of individual characters such as Captain America, Spider-Man, Black Panther and Doctor Strange. Immersive set pieces will bring the comic book world to life, and the exhibition will be accompanied by an immersive soundscape created by acclaimed composers Lorne Balfe and Hans Zimmer.

(12) DO-IT-YOURSELF. Lucy A. Snyder’s satirical “Installing Linux on a Dead Badger: User’s Notes” appeared on Strange Horizons in 2004, but it’s news to me. Very funny!

Reanimation puts most creatures in a foul mood, and the test badger woke up murderously angry, requiring a hasty launch of FleshGolem to get the beast under control. It is highly recommended to have the computer close at hand during the incantation.

(13) VACUUMING UP THE BITS. Via today’s Boston Globe: “Data storage beyond the clouds: Wasabi promises a super-secure system in space”. “…Which sure sounds like the start of a ‘what where they thinking/yeah sure’ techno-heist thriller,” says Daniel Dern.

In space, no one can steal your data.

Well, that’s the theory, anyway — one that the Boston data storage company Wasabi Technologies Inc. hopes to help prove.

Wasabi is partnering with a California company to create a database from outer space. The system, called SpaceBelt, will feature orbiting data centers capable of storing thousands of terabytes of information. SpaceBelt will be marketed to businesses and corporations that need instant access to their most valuable data, but who are also desperate to keep that data from being stolen or corrupted.

(14) ALL STROSS CONSIDERED. Joe Sherry describes a mixed bag in “Microreview [book]: Dark State, by Charles Stross” at Nerds of a Feather.

My experience of reading Charles Stross is a persistent struggle between the quality of his ideas and my perception of the quality of his writing, which is to say that I seldom find that the writing lives up to the promise of the ideas.

When I wrote about Empire Games (my review), I noted “the level of Stross’s writing is actually beginning to rise to the level of his ideas” and that once Stross got the story rolling, nothing distracted from the cool ideas of the world walking between the worlds we’ve already known and the opening up of new worlds and the drama of the how the United States interacts with the world walkers from a parallel universe.

Dark State picks up almost immediately after the conclusion of Empire Games, and despite the increasingly breakneck pace of the second half of that novel, Dark State suffers from some of the same issues that Empire Games did. Stross spends at least a third of Dark State resetting the playing field and planting the seeds for where the rest of the novel and trilogy will go. That’s fine, as far as narrative conventions go, but Stross is not at his best as a writer when working with a more deliberate pace.

(15) CHARACTER IN CRISIS. Adrienne Martini reviews The Genius Plague by David Walton at Locus Online.

In Walton’s hands, what could be a straight­forward “we must save humanity with science” thriller (not that there’s anything wrong with that), becomes, at times, a meditation on what makes us human and why that alone is a survival advan­tage. Those moments offer a chance to catch your breath before the next calamity, some of which our hero brings on himself. Walton makes Neil into a layered character, one who is frequently torn between family bonds and saving the world – and, frequently, making the situation worse because he is still working out that other people are also torn by their own layers. He’s also still learning that NSA security is never f-ing around.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was gazing at the tube during Jeopardy! and spotted this stfnal clue:

Answer: “Kardashians are reality TV stars; Cardassians are an alien culture in this sci-fi universe.”

No one got the question, “What is Star Trek”?

(17) YOU CAN GET THERE FROM HERE. You can now get to Gotham City, the Emerald City, Neverland, Middle Earth, and other places via roundabouts on the A4130 in Didcot, Oxfordshire reports the BBC.

A county council statement read, in part:

“We will investigate as soon as the weather improves. While on the surface amusing, it is vandalism and a potential distraction for drivers.”

The story also mentions:

Local resident Charlotte Westgate said she saw a hooded man in his 20s adding “Gotham City” to a sign on Friday afternoon.

She said: “He was on his own, and didn’t seem worried that anyone might be looking at him, but no one driving past did anything to stop him.”

(18) BARRAYAR BOY. Miles Vorkosigan posted the lyrics to “Dendarii’s Privateers” on Facebook. The first verse is —

Oh the year was 2978
(How I wish I’d stayed on Barrayar!)
When I flunked my military test
By breaking my legs, as I do best

(19) HOW IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN PLAYED FOR LAUGHS. From the folks at HISHE, “A Comedy Recap / Review of Pacific Rim voiced by How It Should Have Ended.”

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and MT Davis for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Elisa.]