Pixel Scroll 9/13/18 A Pixel Without A Scroll Is Like Leslie Fish Without A Bicycle Card

(1) COMING DISTRACTIONS. Space.com presents a gallery of photos of Hurricane Florence taken from space.

With Hurricane Florence dominating this view from the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst warns the East Coast to get ready, “this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you.” Click through this gallery to see the latest images of Hurricane Florence.

(2) SF CONCATENATION. The new issue of SF Concatenation is up “Science Fiction News & Recent Science Review for the Autumn 2018”. Jonathan Cowie outlines what’s in store for readers —

Most recently added (mid-September) is our autumnal edition of news and reviews.  As usual its news page has sections on film, books and publishing, TV, as well as the season’s forthcoming books listing of new titles (also fantasy and non-fiction) from the major SF/F imprints in the British Isles, many of which will soon be available elsewhere in the world.  (A great way to see what will be coming out and ideas for your Christmas shopping.)  And then there is the news page’s science consisting of short paragraphs on the season’s key, primary research papers that are cited so our scientist regulars can Google Scholar the papers for themseleves (and our non-scientist regulars can see that we don’t do fake news).  Plus there’s the news page’s science-and-SF-interface section where yesterday’s SF is becoming today’s fact.

Other content includes articles and convention reports. Here there is another in our series by scientists are also SF authors as to their science heroes born in the 20th century.

The issue delivers over 40,000 words of selected news. That selection includes not reporting most of the Hugo winners:

…We continue (from last year) to define the Hugo ‘principal categories’ as those that had over a thousand nominating in that category (down from two thousand as our definition in 2016 as the numbers involved in Hugo nominating have declined since 2016).  The 1,813 number nominating was down on last year’s number (2,464) (the second year of decline).  The 2,828, voting on the final shortlist was down on the 3,319 voting in 2017 which in turn was marginally up on the number voting in 2016 (3,130).
So not surprisingly, the principal Hugo categories (those categories with over one thousand nominating) were markedly fewer than last year. Indeed, for the first time in many years we are not counting the ‘Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form’ as principal category (it only saw 819 nominating ballots and just a paltry 87 nominating the programme that went on to win). The principal category Hugo wins this year therefore were:-

Best Novel: The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin (fantasy) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the ‘best books’ of 2017. This is the third consecutive win for ‘best novel’ for Jemisin something that has never happened before in this category.
Best Novella: All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form: Wonder Woman (Trailer here) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the best SF/F/H films of 2017.

(3) THE MILITARY USES OF VENTRILOQUISM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Bluetooth earpieces have made people apparently talking to themselves normal—at least sort of. But at least one can spot the earpieces if you look carefully. A product in development for military use could change that, moving the mic and speaker inside the mouth (Smithsonian: “Military Invests in ‘Molar Mic’ That Can Route Calls Through Your Teeth”).

Communications devices have taken over our pockets and our wrists, but soon the gadgets may go even deeper. Patrick Tucker at Defense One reports that the Air Force has signed a $10 million deal with a California company to continue development of a communication device that is fitted to a users’ teeth.

Dubbed the “Molar Mic,” the gadget is being designed by San Mateo-based Sonitus Technologies  Officially called the ATAC system, the two-way communication system consists of a small microphone that clips to a users back teeth. This enables them to hear communications through their cranial bones which transmit the sound to the auditory nerve. Users also wear a low-profile transmitter loop around their neck that connects to the Molar Mic via near-field magnetic induction, a system similar to Bluetooth that can be encrypted and also passes through water. The loop then connects with with a phone, walkie-talkie or other communications device.

The device has seen field testing—albeit not in combat—with good results reported according to the contractor:

Tucker reports that airmen in Afghanistan tried it for 14 months while deployed, though not in active missions. Pararescuemen from the Air National Guard’s 131st Rescue Squadron based at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, also tested the device in Houston last year during Hurricane Harvey. The team faced high water, noisy helicopters and other external noises that make traditional communication difficult.

“This guy is standing in neck-deep water, trying to hoist a civilian up into a helicopter above. He says, ’There is no way I would be able to communicate with the crew chief and the pilot if I was not wearing your product,” [Sonitus CEO Peter] Hadrovic tells Tucker.

Might you ever see a civilian walking around with a “molar mic”? Gizmodo weighs in on that question (“Weird Tooth Phone Wins Millions in Pentagon Funding”):

A spokesperson for Sonitus told Gizmodo the company won’t speculate about when the technology will be available for commercial, industrial, or consumer markets—and the company won’t scale beyond military use until it completes the contract the Department of Defense just awarded them.

So, we probably have at least a few years before civilians start lodging phones into their throats.

(4) FRESH COMPETITION. Deadline is determined not to be left behind: “Former Hero Complex Columnist Geoff Boucher Joins Deadline As Genre Editor”.

Veteran journalist Geoff Boucher, best known for launching the Hero Complex column in the Los Angeles Times that built a vast following, has joined Deadline in the newly created post of Genre Editor. He will be based in Los Angeles and specialize in breaking news, features and analysis of “Comic-Con culture.” His stomping ground will encompass superhero fare, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and animation, the hottest film and television sectors in today’s Hollywood.

(5) CONSPIRASKI. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A conspiracy theory promoted by Russian media have it that a NASA astronaut deliberately damaged the docked Soyuz that was leaking air from the International Space Station. A joint NASA/Roscosmos statement reported in The Verge (“NASA is trying to squash conspiracy theories about the space station leak”) tries to quash that rumor… this despite earlier media reports that Roscosmos personnel are feeding those rumors through back channels.

Wild theories of sabotage still persist two weeks after a mysterious pressure leak occurred on the International Space Station, and the gossip has gotten so nonsensical that both NASA and Russia’s state space corporation, Roscosmos, are now trying to quell the rumors.

In a joint statement released today, NASA and Roscosmos claim that the US space agency is working closely with Russia to figure out the cause of the leak. The statement also notes that no information will be released until the Russian-led investigation is over, despite rampant speculation in the Russian press that the leak was possibly caused by one of NASA’s astronauts in space.

…the gossip over the leak seems to have only grown in the last couple of weeks. As first reported by Ars Technica, a story published in Russia’s Kommersant cited anonymous sources from Roscosmos, who claimed that investigators were looking into the possibility that the hole was caused by a NASA astronaut. The theory was that one of the three American crew members had gotten sick, so one of the astronauts caused the leak in order to force a quick evacuation to Earth.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

Setting aside his technical first appearance in 1981’s Donkey Kong, today is a fun anniversary to take note of for fans of the Super Mario video game franchise. The fat plumber who sports the iconic overalls and red cap debuted as a titular video game hero 33 years ago today, in Super Mario Bros. which was released in Japan on Sept. 13, 1985.

Not that anyone needs to be reminded, but when the game made its way over to North America and started selling here, it became one of the best-selling video games of all time. With some 40 million copies sold for the original NES.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 13, 1894 – J.B. Priestley. Who apparently wrote SF but I’ll admit that even after reading his page at the Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction that I’ll be buggered if I can figure out precisely what that means. One of y’all will need to explain what sort of genre fiction he did.
  • Born September 13, 1916 – Roald Dahl. Writer, though how much of his work I’d consider genre is a good question, Witches certainly as well as Gremlins, James and the Giant Peach and Fantastic Mr Fox but what else are genre to your thinking? He would win the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, so I may be being overly fussy tonight.
  • Born September 13 — Bernard Pearson, 72. Discworld specialist. Would I could kid you? He wrote the Compleat Discworld Atlas with Ian Mitchell and Isobel Pearson and Terry Pratchett and Bernard Pearson and Reb Voyce; Also such works (and for sake of brevity I’m skipping co-authors though you can assume Pratchett was listed as being involved though how involved he was is a good question) as the Discworld Almanak: The Year of the PrawnDiscworld Diary: A Practical Manual for the Modern Witch and Miss Felicity Beedle’s The World of Poo.
  • Born September 13 – Bob Eggleton, 58. He has won the Hugo for Best Professional Artist an amazing eight times, he also won the Hugo for Best Related Book for his art book Greetings From Earth. He has also won the Chesley Award for Artistic Achievement. He was the guest of honor at Chicon  in 2000.
  • Born September 13 – Tom Holt, 57. Humorous fantasy such as Expecting Someone Taller and Who’s Afraid of Beowulf?  One of his latest works, The Good, the Bad and the Smug is roughly a take on Rumplestiltskin based economies where Evil goes for modern, hopefully appealing appearance.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Over the Hedge strip is not what Kirk had in mind when he asked for more power:

(9) DRIVERLESS MOTORCYCLE ON THE WAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Don’t worry, this is probably not going to develop into the first Terminator. BMW has taken the wraps off a research project — said to be more than two years old — and has published video of a self-driving motorcycle (Mashable: “BMW’s riderless motorcycle can handle curves, obstacles”). In the video, the cycle is shown driving both with and without a rider along. What appears to be an early version has wide outrider wheels, but the current prototype looks pretty much lke a regular motorcycle with extra metal boxes attached that presumably contain the electronics.

This week BMW Motorrad — the motorcycle division of the German car company — showed a prototype driverless bike on a test track accelerating, navigating curves, and braking all on its own. In Munich, safety researchers have been using the autonomous motorcycle to test out features for its real motorcycles to handle dangerous situations.

(10) MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE UNCANNY SLUSHPILE. You can’t say they don’t know what they missed.

(11) ESCAPE POD OPENING FOR SUBMISSIONS. On September 16.

(12) ST. KOONTZ. Benedictine College English professor Stephen Mirarchi, reviewing Dean Koontz’s new novel The Forbidden Door, says that Koontz is an orthodox Catholic who is “a wildly successful writer who has infused his art with God’s grandeur.” National Review Online has the story: “The Transcendent Dean Koontz”.

… To take a wider view, Koontz is presenting in the series a large-scale defense of the ability to choose meaning and virtue. One of his recurring characters is an anxiety-prone latter-day Puritan, while another is an intellectually and physically domineering hulk straight out of a Max Weber tract. Koontz fairly and logically shows the necessary consequences of these characters’ thoughts and actions by creating storylines of such accessibility that the general reader can see how their ideologies contradict any coherent notion of the good life. The modern Puritan, for instance, moves nervously from scene to scene, constantly seeking perfection and never finding it, unjustly critiquing others while placating his own ego. The ideologies Koontz critiques inevitably lead to disaster — not just for the characters, but for the societies built on such chimeras.

Hawk, on the other hand, embraces the natural religion to which Koontz’s wide fan base responds with awe. She finds solace in the wonder of creation while calling out evil for its supernatural maliciousness, ever uniting reason with hope against secular hedonism. Koontz does “diversity” the right way, too: He features an autistic character in this series who is a compelling hero because he faces down his particular suffering by accepting grace. And as Flannery O’Connor and Léon Bloy before her have shockingly reminded us, the reception of grace usually hurts — badly.Speaking of the reception of grace, I am going to prognosticate: There is one mesmerizing scene in The Forbidden Door, an explicitly Catholic one, that many readers may wildly misinterpret….

(13) THOSE MISTY WATERCOLOR MEMORIES. Jason Heller intended to write an evocative, nostalgic tribute to the world of Piers Anthony – until he reread A Spell for Chameleon: “Revisiting the sad, misogynistic fantasy of Xanth” at AV Club.

I know other people who have read Anthony’s Xanth books. All of them did so in their youth—and like me, they drifted away from them long before graduating high school. There’s something inherently juvenile about the Xanth series, even though it wasn’t marketed as young adult, a distinction that didn’t exist as such back then. Even worse, as the series progressed it became increasingly reliant on really bad puns. That was more of a turnoff than any perceived lady hating, at least when I was a teenager and less attuned to such things. I do wonder how much of the books’ warped view of women trickled into my sensibility back then. Or other readers’ sensibility.

I grew up to be involved deeply in science fiction and fantasy, but it doesn’t take an insider to know that those genres have trouble with gender issues—both on the page and in real life, where sexual harassment at sci-fi conventions is an ongoing problem. Anthony’s books were huge in their day, and their influence runs deep; dozens of similarly humorous series, from Robert Lynn Asprin’s Myth Adventures to Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger, popped up in Xanth’s wake. I read and loved them, too, when I was a kid. But they don’t evoke an icky feeling the way Xanth does—a creepiness that retroactively corrodes any lingering nostalgia.

(14) LUNCH WAS SERVED. Can you guess “Who killed the largest birds that ever lived?” Bones show that humans lived beside “elephant birds” on Madagascar for millennia before wiping them out for food.

Prehistoric humans are under suspicion of wiping out the largest birds that ever lived after fossilised bones were discovered with telltale cut marks.

According to scientists, it’s evidence that the elephant birds of Madagascar were hunted and butchered for food.

The remains have been dated to about 10,000 years ago.

Until now, the first settlers were thought to have arrived on the island about 2,500 to 4,000 years ago.

“This does push back the date of human arrival by 6,000 years, at least,” says Dr James Hansford, a scientist at Zoological Society London, UK.

(15) WALLACE WINS. “Smarty pants: Robot trousers could keep the elderly mobile” — linings of legs fitted to act as supplementary muscles.

Johnathan Rossiter proudly displays his new trousers. Brightly coloured and fit for the running track, but packing more than just Lycra. They’ll be robotic.

“We are all going to get older and our mobility is going to reduce,” he says. “What we want to do is give people that extra bit of boost, to maintain their independence as long as possible.”

A team of British researchers thinks the future lies in wearable soft robotics. They’ve developed robotic muscles; air-filled bubbles of plastic that can raise a leg from a seated to a standing position.

(16) FLY ME TO THE MOON. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SpaceX is up to something… the Moon. Or, at least they want to be. They’ve announced (via a tweet) that they have signed their first customer to take a trip around the Moon (The Verge: “SpaceX says it will send someone around the Moon on its future monster rocket”):

SpaceX has signed its first customer to fly on the company’s huge new rocket, the BFR, the company says. The passenger will fly on the monster ship around the Moon, though there are no details yet regarding when the trip will happen. SpaceX says it will announce who is flying — and why — on Monday, September 17th.

The BFR, or the Big Falcon Rocket, is the giant rocket that SpaceX is currently developing to send humans to the Moon and Mars. The BFR design, [presented] by CEO Elon Musk last year, consists of a combined rocket and spaceship, called the BFS for Big Falcon Spaceship. The main rocket will have 31 main Raptor engines and be capable of sending up 150 tons to low Earth orbit, according to that presentation.

(Yeah, yeah, BFR stands for “Big Falcon Rocket.” Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Say no more, say no more.)

SpaceX had already announced (in early 2017) plans for two people to take such a trip; it’s not immediately not clear if this new announcement is one of those or yet a third person. The tweet does say that the name of the person as well as the reason for the trip will be announced Monday 17 September.

(17) MESSAGE FROM A CRYPTIC KRYPTONIAN. Erin Donnelly, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Henry Cavill Posts Complex Superman Vibe as Reports Claim He’s Leaving Superhero Role” says that Henry Cavill posted a video on Instagram wearing a “Krypton Lifting Team” and waving a Superman action figure around, leaving his 6.4 million followers wondering what this means.

View this post on Instagram

Today was exciting #Superman

A post shared by Henry Cavill (@henrycavill) on

(18) DAREDEVIL. Nextflix release the Daredevil Season 3 teaser trailer.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/11/18 The Pixellist’s Scroll Is Missing

(1) LEVAR BURTON. The good news is: Episode 32 of LeVar Burton Reads features the actor’s voicing of “Jackalope Wives” by Ursula Vernon.

(2) FLORENCE. The bad news is, the hurricane is bearing down on Oor Wombat –

(3) DOMINOS START TO FALL. Tampa Bay Online reports: “In wake of San Diego Comic Con trademark case, Tampa Bay Comic Con changes name”.

Tampa Bay Comic Con has changed its name to Tampa Bay Comic Convention.

The change comes less than two weeks after a federal judge in California ordered organizers of Salt Lake Comic Con to pay nearly $4 million in attorneys’ fees and costs to San Diego Comic Convention in a trademark infringement suit.

With the award, judge Anthony J. Battaglia affirmed a December 2017 jury verdict that Dan Farr Productions infringed on San Diego Comic Con’s trademarks by operating conventions under the name “Salt Lake Comic Con.”

Tampa Bay Comic Con co-founder Stephen Solomon, a manager at Imaginarium, the company that has run Tampa Bay Comic Con and similarly-branded comic conventions around the U.S. since 2010, confirmed the name change Wednesday after re-branded images appeared on the convention’s social media. Solomon declined to comment on whether that ruling had anything to do with the Tampa Bay Comic Con name change.

(4) SPECIAL CLARION WEST WORKSHOP. Fireside Magazine’s Elsa Sjunneson-Henry will teach a Clarion West One-Day Workshop on “Worldbuilding for Disabled Characters” in Seattle on October 7. Registration info at the link.

The world as it is now, is not what we would call disability friendly. The social model suggests that disability has little to do with one’s medical condition, and everything to do with how society reacts to disability. This class will go over both models of disability (social and medical) and talk about how theories of disability can be used to create your world to include disabled characters. How do magic systems work without creating loopholes to cure disabilities in your setting? How can disability exist on a space station?

This class will help you not only envision the contemporary setting of today with a better understanding of what disabled characters go through, but to create worlds without barriers (or with barriers that aren’t erasure.)

(5) LONDON’S FORBIDDEN PLANET. The Independent expresses its appreciation for Forbidden Planet, celebrating its 40th anniversary: “How cult comic book shop Forbidden Planet changed the way we consume geek culture”.

…Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, American comic books could be picked up in newsagents, often shelved alongside the home-produced titles such as Beano, Misty, Whizzer and Chips, and Warlord.

But while you could generally guarantee that your friendly neighbourhood newsagent would be able to procure for you British comics week in and week out, American titles such as Spider-Man were a different matter. Supply was random and the monthly comics would appear in uncertain quantities, and you could never guarantee that your newsagent would get the following month’s Uncanny X-Men, or even that they would get in any American comics at all….

Today, most towns have a specialist comic shop which works on this model, but one of the most venerable and successful brands is Forbidden Planet, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary and enjoying a position at the top of the market for not only monthly comics but the ever-growing world of geek culture that takes in action figures, toys and collectible movie merchandise.

(6) LE GUIN’S IMPACT. Becky Chambers explains “How The Left Hand of Darkness Changed Everything” at LitHub.

…I wasn’t around when the book made waves in 1969, but ripples remained in 2001, that most futuristic of years. I was in the thick of adolescence, and in a fit of who-cares-about-college rebellion, I’d abandoned Honors English. I was sick of morality tales about brooding men and tragic women, of five-paragraph essays and teachers who didn’t sympathize with my indignation toward how Odysseus treated Penelope. Instead, I enrolled in an elective course: Science Fiction and Fantasy. I walked in there, with my Star Wars notebook and my Star Trek sensibilities and my brain full of role-playing games, and I felt like I’d beat the system. Like I was getting cake for breakfast….

…I soon discovered that elective courses still meant book reports, and my teacher recommended me a title: The Left Hand of Darkness. I still have the copy I bought for class, acquired on a bookstore trip involving my parents’ car and my parents’ money. It’s sitting beside my keyboard now, dog-eared and scarred, full of acid green highlighter. The highlighter isn’t related to the book report. The highlighter came after, as I read the book again and again and again. I can’t say if I’d read any science fiction written by a woman before that point, but I’d certainly never read any science fiction like that. There were no lasers, no damsels, no chosen ones. There was war, yes, but a real war, a war not for the fate of the galaxy but for hatred and fear (things that rang true while living in America in late 2001). There was science, too, but it wasn’t the science of physics or technology. It was the science of culture. The science of bodies. These sciences were every bit as worthy, The Left Hand said, and writing fictions of them was powerful business….

(7) TOLKIEN IN THE FALL. Adam Roberts cannot resist — “J R R Tolkien, “The Fall of Gondolin” (2018)”. In fact, he really doesn’t want to.

…Tolkien’s son Christopher has, over the last four decades, edited eleven thousand (give or take) posthumous volumes of his father’s unpublished writing. The previous instalment in that endeavour, 2017’s Beren and Lúthien opened with him declaring: ‘in my ninety-third year this is presumptively the last book in the long series of editions of my father’s writings’. Such presumption evidently proved premature, for here is The Fall of Gondolin (HarperCollins 2018), plumped-up with eight full-colour Alan Lee illustrations and prefaced by Christopher Tolkien’s wryly revisited promise: ‘I must now say that, in my ninety-fourth year The Fall of Gondolin is (indubitably) the last’. This is the end/Beleriand friend/The end.

I didn’t need this book. I bought this book anyway. I already knew the story of the mighty human warrior, Tuor, beloved of the Vala Ulmo (a sea-god, Tolkien’s Poseidon), who travels through a Middle Earth occupied by the forces of darkness under the evil Vala Melko (in essence; an in-the-world Satan) and his armies of orcs, Balrogs, dragons and other nasties….

I still bought it, mind.

What did I buy? (Why did I buy it? Well, duh)….

(8) FAULTY APPEALS TO AUTHORITY. Annalee Flower Horne raises the point that arguments about historical accuracy may be undermined by the historical source they rely on. (Thread starts here.)

(9) 2018 HUGO ANALYSIS. Mark Kaedrin opines about “Hugo Awards 2018: The Results”.

The Stone Sky wins best novel and N.K. Jemisin becomes the first author ever to win three in a row. I have not been a particular fan of the series, but people seem to love these books. Too much misery porn for my liking, which always kept me at an arms length from the characters and story. Forcing myself to read the three books over the past few years (if I’m going to vote, I’m going to read the books; the authors deserve that much) probably doesn’t help. I don’t see why this series in particular deserved the three-peat, but this third book was actually my favorite of the series, so there is that (in fact, the only real baffling winner in the series was the second book, which suffered from clear middle-book-in-a-trilogy problems. I can definitely see why the first and third books won.) The other funny thing about this is that a few years ago, they created a whole award for “Best Series” that could have potentially cut down on the number of sequels in the Best Novel category, but that clearly isn’t happening. Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire came in second, and probably would have been my choice (though I certainly get the criticisms of it, it was a lot more fun and pushed my SF buttons more than most of the other nominees). New York 2140 came in last place, which also matches my preference…

(10) TODAY’S DAY

(11) QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I was continuing to shrink, to become… what? The infinitesimal? What was I? Still a human being? Or was I the man of the future? If there were other bursts of radiation, other clouds drifting across seas and continents, would other beings follow me into this vast new world? So close – the infinitesimal and the infinite. But suddenly, I knew they were really the two ends of the same concept. The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet – like the closing of a gigantic circle. I looked up, as if somehow I would grasp the heavens. The universe, worlds beyond number, God’s silver tapestry spread across the night. And in that moment, I knew the answer to the riddle of the infinite. I had thought in terms of man’s own limited dimension. I had presumed upon nature. That existence begins and ends is man’s conception, not nature’s. And I felt my body dwindling, melting, becoming nothing. My fears melted away. And in their place came acceptance. All this vast majesty of creation, it had to mean something. And then I meant something, too. Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God, there is no zero. I still exist!”  –  The Incredible Shrinking Man

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 11 – Sharon Lee, 66. She is the co-author with Steve Miller of the Liaden universe novels and stories, as well as other works including the Agent of Change and Great Migration series, and  the author by herself of two mystery novels. They strongly oppose fanfic written in their universe.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Pluto has a long memory at F Minus.

(14) JUSTICE FOR PLUTO. The University of Central Florida weighs in: “Pluto a Planet? New Research from UCF Suggests Yes”.

The reason Pluto lost its planet status is not valid, according to new research from the University of Central Florida.

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union, a global group of astronomy experts, established a definition of a planet that required it to “clear” its orbit, or in other words, be the largest gravitational force in its orbit.

Since Neptune’s gravity influences its neighboring planet Pluto, and Pluto shares its orbit with frozen gases and objects in the Kuiper belt, that meant Pluto was out of planet status.

However, in a new study published online Wednesday in the journal Icarus, UCF planetary scientist Philip Metzger, who is with the university’s Florida Space Institute, reported that this standard for classifying planets is not supported in the research literature.

The Daily Mail, in “Pluto SHOULD be a planet: Astronomers claim controversial demotion was based on ‘since-disproven reasoning'”, says this is the cruxof the controversy:

Since Neptune’s gravity influences its neighboring planet Pluto, and Pluto shares its orbit with frozen gases and objects in the Kuiper belt, that meant Pluto was out of planet status.

However, the new study reviewed scientific literature from the past 200 years and found only one publication – from 1802 – that used the clearing-orbit requirement to classify planets, and it was based on since-disproven reasoning.

IBTimes wants the decision overturned: “Planet Or Dwarf? Pluto Incorrectly Lost Planetary Status, Study Suggests”.

Apart from that, the researchers also noted scientists have been using the term planet to describe moons as well, like Jupiter’s Europa or Saturn’s Titan.

“We now have a list of well over 100 recent examples of planetary scientists using the word planet in a way that violates the IAU definition, but they are doing it because it’s functionally useful,” Metzger added.

The researchers added bodies, particularly those like Pluto, should be classified on the basis of their natural properties rather than features that could change – like their orbit.

The Universe Today, in “New Reasons why Pluto Should be Considered a Planet After All”, adds depth:

As an alternative, Metzger and his colleagues claim that the definition of a planet should be based on its intrinsic rather than extrinsic properties (such as the dynamics of its orbit), which are subject to change.  In short, they recommend that classifying a planet should be based on whether or not it is large enough that its gravity allows for it to achieve hydrostatic equilibrium (i.e. becomes spherical). As Metzger explained:

“Dynamics are not constant, they are constantly changing. So, they are not the fundamental description of a body, they are just the occupation of a body at a current era… And that’s not just an arbitrary definition. It turns out this is an important milestone in the evolution of a planetary body, because apparently when it happens, it initiates active geology in the body.”

(15) THE OPOSSUM FACTOR. Matthew Wills makes his case for Pogo being “The Most Controversial Comic Strip” at JSTOR Daily.

During the 1950s, Walt Kelly created the most popular comic strip in the United States. His strip was about an opossum named Pogo and his swamp-dwelling friends. It was also the most controversial and censored of its time. Long before Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury blurred the lines between the funny pages and the editorial pages, Kelly’s mix of satiric wordplay, slapstick, and appearances by Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Nikita Khrushchev, J. Edgar Hoover, and the John Birch Society, all in animal form, stirred up the censors.

Taking place in a mythic Okefenokee Swamp, Pogo satirized the human condition as well as McCarthyism, communism, segregation, and, eventually, the Vietnam War. The strip is probably best remembered today for Pogo’s environmentalist’s lament, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

(16) A BIG, SEXY DINOSAUR. A new book, The Dinosaur Artist, delves into the world of commercial fossil hunters, smuggling, and the international implications. Author Paige Williams is interviewed by Becky Ferreira for Vice’s Motherboard (‘The Bizarre True Crime Story Surrounding a ‘Big Sexy Dinosaur’”) about the book and the stories behind it.

Motherboard: What first inspired you to report on Eric Prokopi’s case, first for The New Yorker and now in a full-length book?
Paige Williams: In the summer of 2009, I happened to be home (I’m from Mississippi). I was sitting in a coffee shop reading the Tupelo Daily Journal, my hometown paper, and came across this little news brief about a dinosaur thief from Montana. His name is Nate Murphy, and he’s in the book—just barely.
But I couldn’t believe there was such a thing as a dinosaur thief. I didn’t understand how it was possible or why anyone would want to do it. I really like subcultures and understanding why people inhabit them, and it just seemed like a world that was fascinating and full of authentic characters—people who are aggressively themselves, who are irreverent, and who sometimes break the law, though most of them don’t.
Then, this Prokopi case came along. I liked it because had so many threads worth exploring—the international trade, the Gobi Desert, Mongolian culture and history, New York, Florida, Virginia, Tucson, and Denver, and every fossil zone in between. It just had a lot worth pursuing and following.

(17) A DIFFERENT KIND OF CLASS. No formal registration for this one:

(18) BROUGHT TO YOU BY. The Washington Post’s Christian Davenport says NASA is open to ideas for commercialization, including ads in space and having astronauts make commercial endorsements: “Why NASA’s next rockets might say Budweiser on the side”.

The constant creep of corporate America into all aspects of everyday life — from the Allstate Sugar Bowl to Minute Maid Park — may soon conquer a new frontier.

The final frontier.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has directed the space agency to look at boosting its brand by selling naming rights to rockets and spacecraft and allowing its astronauts to appear in commercials and on cereal boxes, as if they were celebrity athletes….

But during a recent meeting of a NASA advisory council made up of outside experts who provide guidance to the agency, Bridenstine announced he was setting up a committee to examine what he called the “provocative questions” of turning its rockets into corporate billboards the way advertisements decorate NASCAR race cars.

“Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to its spacecraft, or the naming rights to its rockets?” Bridenstine said. “I’m telling you there is interest in that right now. The question is: Is it possible? The answer is: I don’t know, but we want somebody to give us advice on whether it is.”

(19) MARVEL. X-Men: The Exterminated #1 arrives this December.

Cable has fallen, and the events of Extermination have left a hole in the X-Men family. What comes next??

In the wake of Cable’s death, his adopted daughter Hope Summers is attempting to deal with her loss – but a dark and terrifying path beckons her, and the X-Men’s own Jean Grey may be her only hope for survival!

This December, CABLE creative team Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler re-team for a special one-shot to say good-bye to the time-traveling, fan-favorite mutant – featuring covers by Geoff Shaw and a special back-up story that celebrates the life of Nathan Summers, from legendary X-Men series writer Chris Claremont!

“This issue is our chance to say a proper farewell to Cable, to honor his legacy, and to really see the immense impact the time travelling mutant had on those closest to him,” said Nadler. “Most importantly, it’s about how the Summers family copes with grief, and the difficulty of forging ahead. The issue is packed with fan favorite X-Men from all different eras, and we’re super excited to be bringing them together, despite the somber occasion.”

(20) BOUCHERCON. Tampa Bay Online’s Colette Bancroft had many kind words to say about last week’s Bouchercon: “It’s no mystery why fans, authors gathered for Bouchercon in St. Petersburg”.

…The 1,500 authors and fans (some from as far away as Japan) were in St. Petersburg for Bouchercon 2018, a.k.a. the World Mystery Convention. The annual gathering (named after influential mystery writer and editor Anthony Boucher) began in 1970 and is now one of the biggest mystery conventions in the world.

This was its first stop in St. Petersburg, with approximately 600 writers of crime fiction and true crime on hand to meet and mingle with fans, with many of the top names in the genre strolling the Vinoy’s halls. The event’s special guests were Mark Billingham, Sarah Blaedel, Sean Chercover, Tim Dorsey, Ian Rankin, Karin Slaughter and Lisa Unger. Other luminaries included Ace Atkins, Lawrence Block, Alafair Burke, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Laura Lippman and Sara Paretsky….

(21) WELCOME OUT-OF-TOWNERS. David Doering found a copy of the pitch made to attendees of the Pacificon (fourth Worldcon) in 1946 to visit the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. He notes, “Remarkably, don’t really need to change much at all to describe what I saw in Freehafer Hall the first time I went in 1985 forty years later. (For all I know, the “infamous” 4E trunk might still be in there somewhere…)”

LASFS OPEN HOUSE

CLUB ROOM OPEN FOR YOUR INSPECTION

That famous mecca for all fen, the LASFS CLUB ROOM, will most naturally be open at all times for the benefit of visiting fen, who will naturally be Interested In seeing this famous j?o?i?n?t? place.

You will see the (In) famous Ackerman trunk, repository of Ghu knows what; the fine library we maintain for the benefit of our members; the very spot where those wonderful (who said that?) meetings are held; the many fine original Illustrations which adorn the walls; that mighty project, Donald Warren Bratton’s cardfile of approximately 10,000 cards cross-indexIng all pro-mag stories and authors, as well as books pertaining to our field.

Indeed, lndeedy, your visit will not be complete until you have visited the LASFS Club Room. However, we think it only fair to warn you you will never be the same again after you have been there — in fact, YOU MAY NEVER BE SEEN AGAIN! So while you are more than welcome, you are also given fair warning in advance!

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Fern on Vimeo, Johnny Kelly looks at what happens to a grieving widow when her husband dies and is resurrected as a friendly houseplant.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/27/18 Pixelbot Murderscrolls

(1) ON THE GROUND AT WORLDCON 76. Raven Oak’s trip report about Worldcon 76 includes a fun photo of astronaut Kjell Lindgren posing with fans costumed (so I believe) as the GalaxyQuest alien crew members.

Kjell thanked me and said he was an astronaut because of science fiction authors like me. He read lots of sci-fi books as a kid, which made him dream of going into space. He signed the back of one of my coloring book pages, the one featuring Bay-zar from my sci-fi novella Class-M Exile.

Lots of good photos of hall costumes, too.

(2) RETRO HUGOS OF 1943. Chair Kevin Roche sent along a better photo of the Retro-Hugo award base he designed for Worldcon 76.

The block is solid cherry, in honor of the orchards once common in San Jose (cherries were still one of the top cash crops in the Valley of Heart’s Delight in the early 40s).  The backplane is a laser-etched image I created of our SJ Galactic Tower, which is itself an homage to the historic San Jose Electric Tower, erected in 1881 and making San Jose the first electrified downtown west of the Rockies (the historic tower, alas, collapsed in 1915. I have photos from 1910 showing buses driving under the tower where it stood over the intersection of Market and Santa Clara Streets.)

(3) CHILDHOOD’S BEGINNING. James Davis Nicoll gives his opinions about “SF Books That Did Not Belong in the Kids’ Section of the Library” at Tor.com. He’s talking about his childhood, however, not whatever the current situation may be.

How Norman Spinrad’s The Men in the Jungle, which features drugs, violence, and infanticide, made it into the children’s section, I don’t know. Is there anything by Spinrad that is child-friendly? That was indeed a traumatizing book to encounter when I was prepared for something more along the lines of Blast-off at Woomera. If I think about that Spinrad book now (even though I am older and somewhat hardened) I still feel queasy.

(4) CAMPAIGN TRAIL WOES. Congressional candidate Brianna Wu was quoted in the New York Times campaign coverage: “For Female Candidates, Harassment and Threats Come Every Day”.

A different kind of normalization happens at the other end of the spectrum, where the harassment is so vicious and constant that it overwhelms the ability to react.

As an independent video game developer in 2014, Brianna Wu was the subject of abuse during GamerGate, when women involved in gaming were targeted for harassment.

Now a Democrat running for Congress in Massachusetts, Ms. Wu, 41, said death and rape threats came so routinely that she had ceased to feel much in response. Even when people threw objects through her window. Even when they vandalized her husband’s car. Even when they emailed paparazzi-like photos of her in her own home.

“I often look at it and I’m like: ‘I know I should be feeling something right now. I know I should be feeling scared or angry or stressed.’ And it’s at a point where I can’t feel anything anymore,” Ms. Wu said. “It’s almost like fear is a muscle that is so overtaxed, it can just do nothing else in my body.”

Many said it was a point of principle not to be intimidated into silence. Others said their political ideals were simply more important.

“For good reason, there’s never any shortage of telling stories about women being harassed on the campaign trail,” Ms. Wu said. “But I cannot communicate to you strongly enough: Over all, this job is fun. This job is exhausting, but this job is amazing.”

(5) ANOTHER BORDER ISSUE. Some artists on their way to a Dungeons & Dragons concept push were stopped from entering the US because their Electronic System for Travel Authorization waiver was not accepted as they expected.

According to the government website about the ESTA program –

ESTA is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Authorization via ESTA does not determine whether a traveler is admissible to the United States. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers determine admissibility upon travelers’ arrival. The ESTA application collects biographic information and answers to VWP eligibility questions.

(6) VOTING WISDOM. Brandon Sanderson delivers a brief conreport and some classy advice in “Worldcon Wrap-up and Dragon Awards”.

The Hugo Awards ceremony was a delight. We didn’t win the Best Series award, but to be honest, at only three books into the Stormlight series it might have been a little preemptive to give it any awards. We’ll see how things go as the series progresses. Many congrats to Lois McMaster Bujold (the winner), who is a favorite around the Dragonsteel offices. She’s a fantastic writer, well worthy of the award.

Oathbringer still has one shot at an award, the Dragon Award, given out at Dragon Con. This is a newer award, one I’m not as familiar with, but man…the award itself is gorgeous. (Seriously, you guys should go have a look at the thing.)

…As always, however, I strongly urge you to be a thoughtful voter when it comes to awards. Don’t vote for Oathbringer just because I wrote it—only do so if you think this book, in specific, deserves the award. And there are some other excellent nominees, so if you enjoyed one of those more, then vote for it!

(7) IT’S NOT LOOKING GOOD. P.N. Elrod hopes people can help, especially those who like Elrod’s Patreon and Facebook entertainment.

Crap. Having a blubbing panic meltdown. In a month my rent goes up by 63 bucks. At this point I don’t have even half the rent for September. I’m facing the ugly reality of eviction.

The complex offered to get me into a different apartment with slightly lower rent, but that means moving. (Bureaucracy Stuff.) I can’t afford that, either, and most of all, I do not have the strength or mobility to move again. I just don’t. I am sick. I am tired.

The ONLY thing I can think of at this point to prevent that is to increase subscriptions to my Patreon page. Right now, that income isn’t enough to cover my bills, so some go unpaid until and unless I sell books from my library.

(8) VOX FEATURES JEMISIN. N.K. Jemisin guested on the latest episode of Vox’s podcast The Ezra Klein Show. You can access it at “N.K. Jemisin recommends stories from fellow groundbreaking sci-fi authors” — which lists two recommendations from her:

While Jemisin finds it hard to recommend books, she does offer up two recommendations from fellow award-winning female science fiction authors.

1) The Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells
Jemisin is “a giant fan” of Martha Wells’s Murderbot series, an “adorable little set of almost old-school science fiction.” The titular Murderbot is a rogue cyborg who works tirelessly to protect humans from themselves, though it would rather be watching soap operas. The latest novella in the series, Exit Strategy, will be released on October 2.

2) Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler
Groundbreaking science fiction author Octavia Butler died in 2006, but two of her stories were found posthumously and published as an e-book. One of the stories in the volume, “Childfinder,” was commissioned by writer Harlan Ellison to be included in a never-published anthology.

The podcast is available direct from Apple iTunes as well as many other sources.

(9) BALL OBIT. K.C. Ball died of a fatal heart attack on August 26 reports the SFWA Blog: “In Memoriam: K.C. Ball”.

…Ball attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in 2010 and Launch Pad in 2011.  She served as the publisher and editor of 10Flash Quarterly, an on-line flash fiction magazine.  She also won the Speculative Literature Foundation Older Writer Award….

Cat Rambo’s tribute is here.

And now she’s gone, fallen to another heart attack, and she never really got the chance to “break out” the way many writers do, which is through hard work, and soldiering on through rejection, and most of all playing the long game. If you want to read some of her kick-ass work, here’s the collection I edited, Snapshots from a Black Hole and Other Oddities.

I’m so sorry not to able to hear your voice any more, K.C. I hope your journey continues on, and that it’s as marvelous as you were.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 27 – Frank Kelly Freas, who won many Best Professional Artist Hugos, and drew Mad Magazine covers once upon a time.

[compiled by Cat Eldridge]

  • Born August 27, 1929 – Ira Levin. Author of many novels including The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby which of course became films.
  • Born August 27 – Paul Reubens, 66. Genre work includes GothamBatman:The Brave and the Bold, Tron: Uprising Star Wars Rebels and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Is Pee-wee’s Playhouse genre?
  • Born August 27 – Alex PenaVega 30. Spy Kids film franchise and apparently a Spy Kids tv series as well, also The Tomorrow People, Sin City: A Dame To Live For and The Clockwork Girl, an animated film where love conquers all differences.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) COLSON WHITEHEAD HONORED. “Writers with ties to Brooklyn named NYS author and poet” – the Brooklyn Eagle has the story.

Two renowned writers with Brooklyn ties have been appointed as the state’s official author and poet by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Colson Whitehead, Brooklyn resident for more than a dozen years, has been named New York’s 12th state author.

Alicia Ostriker, born in Brooklyn, has been named New York’s 11th state poet. Cuomo said the award recognizes their work “and the impact it has had on the people of New York and beyond.”

During their two-year terms the state laureates promote and encourage fiction writing and poetry throughout New York by giving public readings and talks.

(13) GATEKEEPING. I haven’t spent much time covering its peregrinations here, but in Camestros Felapton’s view, “’Comicsgate’ is the crappiest ‘gate’”.

The main focus of the campaign has actually been crowd-funding for comics by a rightwing creator, not all of whom use the term “Comicsgate” (Vox Day, for example, has been a bit more equivocal about the term because he thinks all these people should be joining his petty empire). So we have a ‘campaign’ that is just a collaboration of outrage marketing techniques following the standard Scrappy-Doo model: be as loud and as obnoxious as possible and then when people react, claim to be being persecuted.

(14) RAH IN CONTEXT. Charles Stross has a whole rant about what RAH was actually about, versus what his emulators seem to think he was about: “Dread of Heinleinism”.

…But here’s the thing: as often as not, when you pick up a Heinlein tribute novel by a male boomer author, you’re getting a classic example of the second artist effect.

Heinlein, when he wasn’t cranking out 50K word short tie-in novels for the Boy Scouts of America, was actually trying to write about topics for which he (as a straight white male Californian who grew up from 1907-1930) had no developed vocabulary because such things simply weren’t talked about in Polite Society. Unlike most of his peers, he at least tried to look outside the box he grew up in. (A naturist and member of the Free Love movement in the 1920s, he hung out with Thelemites back when they were beyond the pale, and was considered too politically subversive to be called up for active duty in the US Navy during WW2.) But when he tried to look too far outside his zone of enculturation, Heinlein often got things horribly wrong. Writing before second-wave feminism (never mind third- or fourth-), he ended up producing Podkayne of Mars. Trying to examine the systemic racism of mid-20th century US society without being plugged into the internal dialog of the civil rights movement resulted in the execrable Farnham’s Freehold. But at least he was trying to engage, unlike many of his contemporaries (the cohort of authors fostered by John W. Campbell, SF editor extraordinaire and all-around horrible bigot). And sometimes he nailed his targets: “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” as an attack on colonialism, for example (alas, it has mostly been claimed by the libertarian right), “Starship Troopers” with its slyly embedded messages that racial integration is the future and women are allowed to be starship captains (think how subversive this was in the mid-to-late 1950s when he was writing it).

(15) ROCKET MAN. In the wake of yesterday’s report that 10% of Hugo novel winners are named Robert, and someone else’s observation that being named Robinson helped, too, Soon Lee composed this filk:

So here’s to you Robert Robinson
Hugo loves you more than you will know,
Wo wo wo
Awards you heaps Robert Robinson
Rockets coming out your ears all day
Hey hey hey, hey hey hey

Then Cath could only exorcise the earworm by finishing the verse –

Hide your rockets in the hiding place where no cat ever goes
Put them on your bookcase with your cupcakes
It’s a little secret just the Robinsons’ affair
Most of all you’ve got to hide it from the pups

Sitting in the green room on a Sunday afternoon
Feasting from the finalists’ cheese plate
Laugh about it, shout about it
When Hugo’s got to choose
There’s no way that you can lose

Where have you gone, John Picacio
A Worldcon turns its lonely eyes to you
Wu wu wu
What’s that you say, Robert Robinson?
Diversity shall never go away

(16) SUBTRACTION. Robert/Rob/Bob may be a statistically lucky name for a Hugo nominee, however, the odds won’t soon be improving in the astronaut program. Ars Technica has the info that, “For the first time in 50 years, a NASA astronaut candidate has resigned” — one of a class of 12:

A little more than a year ago, NASA introduced its newest class of 12 astronaut candidates. These talented men and women were chosen from a deep pool of 18,300 applicants, and after two years of training they were to join the space agency’s corps for possible assignment on missions to the International Space Station, lunar orbit, or possibly the surface of the Moon.

However, one of those 12 astronauts, Robb Kulin, will not be among them. On Monday, NASA spokeswoman Brandi Dean confirmed to Ars that Kulin had resigned his employment at NASA, effective August 31, “for personal reasons.”

(17) NAUGHTY GOOGLE. Fingerpointing: “Google is irresponsible claims Fortnite’s chief in bug row”. “Bug row” – there’s the Queen’s English for you.

The leader of the firm behind the hit game Fortnite has accused Google of being “irresponsible” in the way it revealed a flaw affecting the Android version of the title.

On Friday, Google made public that hackers could hijack the game’s installation software to load malware.

The installer is needed because Epic Games has bypassed Google’s app store to avoid giving it a cut of sales.

Epic’s chief executive said Google should have delayed sharing the news.

(18) BAD LUCK AND TROUBLE. Beyond the Sky trailer (2018). The movie is coming to theaters this September.

Chris Norton has been hearing about alien abductions his entire life but, in his gut, he knows they are not real. Setting out to disprove the alien abduction phenomenon once and for all, he attends a UFO convention to meet alleged abductees and reveal the truth behind their experiences. It is only when he meets Emily, who claims to have been abducted every seven years on her birthday, that Chris realizes there may be more to these claims than meets the eye. With Emily’s 28th birthday only days away, Chris helps her to uncover the truth as they come face to face with the reality that we are not alone.

CAST: Ryan Carnes, Jordan Hinson, Peter Stormare, Dee Wallace, Martin Sensmeier, Don Stark

 

(19) AN INTERPLANETARY ROMANCE. The restored 1910 Italian silent film Matrimonio interplanetario (“Marriage on the Moon”) is now online. Its antique delights include a very strange space launch facility that looks suspiciously like a samovar or maybe an espresso machine.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/26/18 Pixels Of Unusual Size? I Don’t Think They Exist

(1) ALL SYSTEMS WIN. Martha Wells posted a Worldcon 76 report including her experiences at the Hugo Awards ceremony —

Then we got to novella, and I was extremely nervous. I felt like I had a strong chance and was hopeful, but it was still awesome to win. I managed to get up the stairs to the stage, give my speech without crying (After the Nebula Awards I didn’t want to be the author who cries all the time.) (I saved it all up for Monday, when every time anyone said anything nice to me, I would start crying.) Managed to get down the Stairs of Doom backstage with the help of about four people, got stopped to get a photo outside the auditorium in the reception area, went back in the wrong door and could not get it open and had to thump on it until the backstage people heard me, and then got back to my seat in time to see Nnedi Okorafor win for Best YA novel and N.K. Jemisin win for Best Novel!

And she has some Worldcon photos on her Tumblr.

(2) DIGBY IN ONE PLACE. The Golds reminded readers today about the extended electronic edition of Tom Digby’s amazing fanwriting that’s available online, “Along Fantasy Way”. Originally produced for the 1993 Worldcon where Tom was a guest of honor, the collection was expanded in its 2014 digital version. What a treasure trove of wonderfully creative idea-tripping. Delightful poetry, too – for example:

…OR MINERAL(2/07/76)

Pet rocks are OK, but some people prefer more variety.
The guy upstairs from me
Has a 1947 Chevrolet engine block.
I think his apartment is too small for it,
But there it is.
And the family down the street
With the goldfish pond in the yard
Has an old ship’s anchor
To keep the fish company.

But of all the inorganic pets in the neighborhood,
The happiest is an old beer can
Belonging to a small boy.
It would never win a prize at a show:
Too many dents
And spots of rust
And paint flaking off.
And besides, it’s a brand of beer
Most people don’t like.
But that doesn’t really matter.
What matters is FUN
Like afternoons when they go for a walk:
The can leaps joyously ahead
CLATTERDY RATTLEDY CLANG BANG!
Then lies quietly waiting for its master to catch up
Before leaping ahead again.
I may get a beer can myself some day.

But I still don’t think it’s right
To keep a 1947 Chevrolet engine block
Cooped up in such a small apartment.

The collection is illustrated by Phil and Kaja Foglio.

(3) ALL BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. A very nice set of Bradbury quotes at Blackwing666: “Ray Bradbury – Born August 22, 1920”

(4) GUNNED DOWN. You could see this coming. The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Production Put on Hold”. The studio still expects to make the movie later on.

Sources say that crewmembers, which is, at this stage, a small group that was prepping for preproduction, are being dismissed and are free to look for new work.

The Marvel project was originally to have been directed by James Gunn and was to have begun principal photography in the winter, either in January or February. The project was crewing up and was to have gone into full preproduction mode in the fall.

But Gunn was let go as the director in July when old tweets were resurfaced in response to his vocal political posts. While some held out hope that the director would be given a reprieve by Disney, a mid-August meeting with Disney chairman Alan Horn closed the door on that.

(5) LAST DAYS OF BANG ON EARTH. Big Bang Theory has started production of its final season.

Let What Culture tell you Why The Big Bang Theory Just Got Cancelled.

(6) HUGO STATISTIC. I don’t have time to check. Could be….

(7) HOW THEY STACK UP. Rocket Stack Rank’s Eric Wong writes:

With the recent release of the TOC for the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2018 (BASFF), I’ve updated RSR’s 2017 Best SF/F Anthologies article with the 20 stories in that anthology plus their honorable mentions.

The grand total from five 2017 “year’s best” SF/F anthologies is 114 stories by 91 authors, from which we can make the following observations:

o   Magazines: Asimov’s (12), Clarkesworld (9), Lightspeed (9)

o   Anthologies: Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities (3/7), Extrasolar(5/14), Infinity Wars (5/15)

o   Nancy Kress (3), Rich Larson (3), Robert Reed (3), Alastair Reynolds(3)

To see other outstanding stories that didn’t make it into the five “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, go to RSR’s 2017 Best SF/F article, which has also been updated with the BASFF stories for a total of 256 stories by 201 authors.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 26, 1953The War of the Worlds premiered. (“Welcome to California!”)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge]

  • Born August 26 — Katherine Johnson, 100. NASA mathematician and physicist awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom by Obama in 2015. Her work made space travel possible. And yes she’s African-American as well! (Makers has a post celebrating her birthday.)
  • Born August 26 — Barbara Ehrenreich, 77. Social activist and author of one genre novel, Kipper’s Game which gets compared to the works of Connie Willis.
  • Born August 26 — Stephen Fry, 61. Narrator, all of the Harry Potter audiobook recordings, Col. K. In the animated Dangermouse series and any number of other delightfully interesting genre related undertakings.
  • Born August 26 — Wanda De Jesus, 60. Genre work includes Robocop 2, SeaQuest 2032, Tales from The DarksideBabylon 5, and Ghosts of Mars
  • Born August 26 — Melissa McCarthy, 48. Now starring in The Happytime Murders which apparently is the first film from the adult division of Jim Henson Productions. Also Ghostbusters: Answer the Call.
  • Born August 26 — Chris Pine, 38. James T. Kirk in the current Trek film franchise; also Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman film franchise as well as A Wrinkle in Time and Rise Of The Guardians.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity shows some movie dinosaurs who keep comic back.

(11) SPACE ANNIVERSARY. JPL celebrates “15 Years in Space for NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope”, an instrument that has far outlasted its predicted useful life.

Launched into a solar orbit on Aug. 25, 2003, Spitzer was the final of NASA’s four Great Observatories to reach space. The space telescope has illuminated some of the oldest galaxies in the universe, revealed a new ring around Saturn, and peered through shrouds of dust to study newborn stars and black holes. Spitzer assisted in the discovery of planets beyond our solar system, including the detection of seven Earth-size planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1, among other accomplishments.

 

(12) OH NO, WHERE CAN THE MATTER BE. Gizmodo reports “Scientists Will Soon Drop Antimatter to See How It Behaves in Gravity”.

In a new study, physicists attempted to find differences between matter and antimatter—confusingly, also a kind of matter, but with the opposite charge and other differences. It’s like an evil twin. Confusingly, the universe has way more matter than antimatter, for no clear reason. Physicists haven’t found the specific differences they were looking for when studying the antimatter version of hydrogen, called antihydrogen, but they have demonstrated a way to study antimatter better than ever before.

Mike Kennedy forwarded the link with the note, “It’s a complicated story, and mostly about recent measurements of the Lyman-? emission lines of anti-hydrogen… in particular it being the same wavelength as for hydrogen <http://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0435-1>. The bit about laser cooling anti-hydrogen and dropping it to observe how it reacts to gravity is IIUC speculative at this point.”

(13) MORE ON NEXT SHATNER RECORD. SYFY Wire brings us news that William Shatner is releasing a holiday album (“William Shatner teases Christmas cover record: Shatner Claus”):

Set phasers to jolly.

The legendary actor and musician William Shatner is giving us another reason to be excited about the holiday season. Shatner tweeted the Amazon link to pre-order his first upcoming record: Shatner Claus The Christmas Album. You can add the self-described godfather of dramatic musical interpretation’s album digital audio, CD, or vinyl in your letter to the North Pole. With vinyl record sales on the constant rise, it’s exciting to see if this will find Shatner Claus’ sleigh riding its way to the top of the Billboard charts.

(14) JURASSIC BLETCHLEY PARK. In “Dinosaur DNA clues unpicked by researchers at University of Kent”, scientists are theorizing-from-clues that dinosaur DNA, like birds’, had many chromosomes, making mix-and-match easier.

Researchers at the University of Kent say their work uncovers the genetic secret behind why dinosaurs came in such a variety of shapes and sizes.

This variation helped the creatures evolve quickly in response to a changing environment – helping them to dominate Earth for 180 million years.

But the researchers behind the DNA work say they have no plans to recreate dinosaurs, Jurassic Park style.

(15) FLAME OFF. BBC assures us, “Yes, Antarctica has a fire department”.

But fighting fires in freezing temperatures also calls for some specialist equipment.

Surprisingly, water is still an option. McMurdo’s fire engine has a pump, which cycles water constantly through the vehicle to prevent it from freezing.

Remembering to set the pump going is, says Branson, a lesson quickly learned.

“You do not want to be the person who freezes all the water in the fire engine. Then you’re stuck with a 500 gallon engine with an ice block in it… and nobody on base is going to like you.”

(16) BEARLY VISIBLE. BBC has video: “Bear roams ‘The Shining’ hotel in Colorado”. It’s a good thing Jack Nicholson didn’t try swinging an axe at this guest….

A bear was filmed going through the lobby of the hotel that inspired Stephen King’s classic horror novel in Colorado.

(17) YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. While excavating on YouTube, Carl Slaughter found Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965): “Frankenstein, ie, Frank the android, does battle with a Martian beast to prevent a Martian princess from replenishing Mars with voluptuous and sometimes bikini-clad Earth women.  The Pentagon monitors the situation and tries to lend Frank a hand.  Turns out Frank wears an Air Force uniform and holds military rank  – like Data.  This is in the so bad it’s good category.”

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

Pixel Scroll 8/4/18 Your Pixeled Pal Who’s Fun To Scroll With!

(1) AMERICA HELD HOSTAGE, DAY FOUR. Crusading investigative fanwriter Camestros Felapton has been trying to find out why the Dragon Awards ballot wasn’t released August 1, the date posted on the site, and when it will come out. Here’s what he’s been told:

The latest report is this. I got an email saying that the finalists will be announced this upcoming Tuesday (presumably US time). Don’t all get too excited at once.

(2) COME BACK, JEAN-LUC. “Patrick Stewart to star in new Star Trek TV series”Entertainment Weekly has the story.

Stewart will reprise his iconic character, Jean-Luc Picard, for a CBS All Access series that “will tell the story of the next chapter of Picard’s life.”

Stewart himself just announced the news in a surprise appearance at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention.

“I will always be very proud to have been a part of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but when we wrapped that final movie in the spring of 2002, I truly felt my time with Star Trek had run its natural course,” Stewart said. “It is, therefore, an unexpected but delightful surprise to find myself excited and invigorated to be returning to Jean-Luc Picard and to explore new dimensions within him. Seeking out new life for him, when I thought that life was over.”

And Michael Chabon will be one of the executive producers reports Variety.

The untitled series hails from Alex Kurtzman, James Duff, Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, and Kirsten Beyer. Kurtzman, Duff, Goldsman, and Chabon will also serve as executive producers on the series along with Stewart, Trevor Roth, Heather Kadin, and Rod Roddenberry. CBS Television Studios will produce. The new series does not currently have a premiere date

(3) BOREANAZ ON BUFFY. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo Entertainment story “David Boreanaz has no plans to be in controversial ‘Buffy’ reboot: ‘I just let it be and lend my support from afar'” says that Boreanaz is too busy with SEAL Team to worry about the forthcoming Buffy reboot (which is controversial because showrunner Monica Owusu-Breen might find a new actor to play Buffy) but he doesn’t have any objections to it.

 “I think it’s great,” says David Boreanaz, who played the ensouled vampire Angel on Buffy for three seasons before graduating to his own self-titled spin-off. “I’m sure they’ll find the right storylines and the right people to fill shoes of whatever characters they want to portray. It was great to be a part of it when it first started, and now to see it being revived is just another testimony to the hard work that we did. I congratulate that, and applaud that.”

(4) KRESS REQUEST. Nancy Kress announced on Facebook:

A few people have asked if I will autograph their books at Worldcn San Jose. However, I was disappointed that Programming Reboot has given me no panels, no autographing session, and no kaffeklatch. I do have one reading, at 4:30 on Sunday, which I cannot linger afterwards because of a Hugo dinner. So if anyone wants anything autographed, I will hang around the Hyatt lobby at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.

(5) REACHING OUT TO HUGHART. Mike Berro, who runs the Barry Hughart Bibliography website is asking for help:

If anyone knows how to contact Barry Hughart, please let me know. I run a fan page, and would constantly get emails from people wanting to contact him, mostly about doing a movie or theatrical adaptation of Bridge of Birds. I would forward them to him, and he would always politely reply (with “no thanks”). I haven’t had a reply now for over a year, and just got an email from someone who reported that even his publishers cannot contact him. I fear something unfortunate has happened.

Berro says neither SFWA nor Subterranean Press have been able to offer any help.

Mike Berro’s contact email address is — hughart@collector.org

(6) PRO ADVICE. Not certain who Mary Robinette Kowal had in mind, although JDA was sure it was about him. (Of course, he thinks everything is.)

(7) CLOUDS OF WITNESSES. Crisis Magazine recalls “When C.S. Lewis Befriended a Living Catholic Saint”.

When Luigi Calabria, a shoemaker married to a housemaid, died in Verona, Italy in 1882, the youngest of his seven sons, Giovanni, nine years old, had to quit school and take a job as an apprentice. A local parish priest, Don Pietro Scapini, privately tutored him for the minor seminary, from which he took a leave to serve two years in the army. During that time, he established a remarkable reputation for edifying his fellow soldiers and converting some of them. Even before ordination, he established a charitable institution for the care of poor sick people and, as a parish priest, in 1907 he founded the Poor Servants of Divine Providence. The society grew, receiving diocesan approval in 1932. The women’s branch he started in 1910 would become a refuge for Jewish women during the Second World War. To his own surprise, since he was a rather private person, his order spread from Italy to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, India, Kenya, Romania, and the Philippines.

With remarkable economy of time, he was a keen reader, and in 1947 he came across a book translated as Le lettere di Berlicche by a professor at the University of Milan, Alberto Castelli, who later became a titular archbishop as Vice President of the Pontifical Council of the Laity. Berlicche was Screwtape and “Malacode” served for Wormwood. The original, of course, had been published in 1943 as The Screwtape Letters and Calabria was so taken with it that he sent a letter of appreciation to the author in England. Lacking English, he wrote it in the Latin with which he had become proficient since his juvenile tutorials with Don Pietro.

… Lewis’s correspondence with Calabria went on for about seven years, and after the holy priest died, Lewis wrote at least seven letters to another member of Calabria’s religious community, Don Luigi Castelli, who died in 1986 at the age of 96. Learning of Calabria’s death, Lewis referred to him in a message to Castelli with what I suspect was a deliberate invocation of the phrase about “the dearly departed” that Horace used to console Virgil on the death of Quintilius Varo: tam carum caput. It appears as well in Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley Novels. It was an unfortunate habit of Lewis to throw out letters he received when he thought he might otherwise betray confidences. So what we have are only what he sent. The letters are a radiant model of philia friendship that he described in his 1958 radio talks:

(8) WHO’S THE HERO? John Dilillo claims “Amazon’s Proposed ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series Misses the Point of Middle-Earth” at Film School Rejects.

…Every conventionally heroic duty performed by Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings is performed in service of a greater act of heroism by Hobbits, characters who choose their own destiny instead of following the path their bloodline lays out for them. Without Hobbits, Middle-earth is just another cliched fantasy tapestry, painting with the same old tired strokes. What makes Aragorn special is not his heritage or his backstory; it is that he recognizes that he is not the hero of this story. Aragorn is the king who bows to the Hobbits. Stripped of that identity, he is indistinguishable from any other gruff sword-wielding badass.

On top of all this, we’ve already seen the type of story that results from a Tolkien adaptation that loses sight of true heroism in favor of grand tales of redeemed sons and doomed kings. The great failing of the Hobbit trilogy is that it abandons its titular character all too often in favor of the gloomy angst of Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield. Armitage does a fine job projecting gloomy wounded pride, and whoever assumes the lead role in Amazon’s series will doubtless give just as effective a performance. But all of that is ultimately wasted when the real appeal of a Middle-earth story comes from the Shire, not the Lonely Mountain. A Hobbit story that isn’t about Bilbo Baggins is a failure, and it’s a failure that should be learned from….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 4 — Richard Belzer, 74. The Third Rock fromThe Sun series as himself, also the Species II film and an awful adaption of Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, along with series work too in The X-Files, The Invaders, Human Target, and acrecurring role in the original Flash series to name a few of his genre roles.
  • Born August 4 — Daniel Dae Kim, 50. First genre role was in the NightMan series, other roles include the Brave New World tv film, the second Fantasy Island series, recurring roles on LostAngel and Crusade, the Babylon 5 spinoff series, Star Trek: Voyager, Charmed and voice work on Justice League Unlimited.
  • Born August 4 — Abigail Spencer, 37. First genre role was in the Campfire horror anthology series, other roles include Ghost Whisperer, Jekyll, a film that’s an sf riff off that meme, Cowboys & Aliens, the Oz the Great and Powerful film and Timeless, the sf series recently allowed a proper ending
  • Born August 4 — Meaghan Markle, 37. Yes, Her Royalness. Appeared in Fringe and the newer Knight Rider. Also the near future legal drama Century City.

(10) INSTAPOLL. Survey says –

(11) KEN LIU TO TV. Andrew Liptak says an animated show is on the way: “AMC is developing a sci-fi show based on Ken Liu’s short stories”.

Ken Liu is one of science fiction’s most celebrated writers working today. In addition to translating Cixin Liu’s acclaimed Three Body Problem and Death’s End, he’s also earned numerous awards, most significantly for his short story, “The Paper Menagerie”. Now, it looks as though his works could reach a new audience: AMC is developing series based on his works called Pantheon, according to Deadline.

If it’s produced, Pantheon will be an animated show “based on a series of short stories by [Liu] about uploaded intelligence,” reports Deadline. Craig Silverstein, who created and produced AMC’s American revolution drama Turn, will serve as showrunner, producer, and writer.

(12) SOLO. Lela E. Buis points out the casting problems: “Review of Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

…The worst problem with this film, of course, was Alden Ehrenreich trying to step into Harrison Ford’s shoes. Ehrenreich did a workmanlike job with the character, but workmanlike just isn’t Han Solo. Donald Glover as Calrissian got glowing reviews, but it was really the charismatic Woody Harrelson as Beckett who lights up the film—an understated, low key performance notwithstanding. Also prominent was Lando’s co-pilot L3-37, an animated character fighting against the slavery of droids.

This brings up another question. Why isn’t Disney investing in flashier talent for these movies?

(13) BAEN CHALLENGE COINS. Baen Books is taking orders for the first pressing of its new Challenge  Coins commemorating iconic names or events in the books of Ringo, Williamson, Kratman and probably whoever else you’d expect to fill out a list that starts with those three names.

Each coin is $15. Buy all 13 author coins, and the “I Read Baen’d Books” coin comes free. Shipping and handling is a flat rate of $15, $45 international, for up to 13 coins. Write to info@baen.com for rates on bulk orders.

These coins were designed by Jack Wylder with the active participation of the authors. Here’s an example —

Front: I Read Baen’d Books

Reverse: RIP Joe Buckley

All profits from this coin will go to support two charities founded, supported, and run by Baen readers: Operation Baen Bulk, which provides care packages for deployed service members, and Read Assist, a 501c3 company that serves our disabled readers. http://www.readassist.org/ Each coin is $15. Buy all 13 author coins, and the “I Read Baen’d Books” coin comes free. “I read Baened Books” was first used by Chris French. “Joe Buckley” used courtesy of Joe Buckley. Don’t forget to duck

(14) A CENTURY OF STURGEON. Scott Bradfield tries to jumpstart the party — “Celebrating Theodore Sturgeon’s centenary – so should we all” in the LA Times. (Unfortunately, the Times initially failed to get David Gerrold’s permission to run his photo of Sturgeon with the post…)

I’ve always been a bit confused by these various centenary and multi-centenary celebrations that punctuate our discussions of literature, such as Thoreau’s recent 200th birthday (2017), or the centenary of James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” (first published in 1917), or even the fourth centenary of the death of Cervantes (d. 1616), etc. (By the way, celebrating the anniversary of someone’s death strikes me as pretty grisly.) But while some writers seem to continually receive such posthumous honors, others suffer unfairly in silence. No cake, no candles, no old friends leaping out of closets, no nothing. And this year, that seems to be the case for one of America’s greatest and most original short story writers, Theodore Sturgeon, who was born on Feb. 26, 1918. From what I can tell, nobody has yet to pitch in and even buy him a decent card.

…Take, for example, the opening of his brilliant (and often poorly imitated) 1941 novelette, “Microcosmic God”: “Here is a story about a man who had too much power, and a man who took too much, but don’t worry; I’m not going political on you. The man who had the power was named James Kidder, and the other was his banker.”

Or this, from the aforementioned “The Dreaming Jewels” (1950): “They caught the kid doing something disgusting under the bleachers at the high-school stadium, and he was sent home from the grammar school across the street.”

Or even this, from his haunting and beautiful story, “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959): “Say you’re a kid, and one dark night you’re running along the cold sand with this helicopter in your hand, saying very fast witchy-witchy-witchy.”

Every opening plops you down bang in the middle of a story that is already happening and in the life of a character it is already happening to. And while many of his stories were collected in “horror” or “suspense” anthologies, they are rarely shocking or violent or grotesque. Instead, they begin by introducing you to a slightly strange world and a slightly strange character who lives there; then, before the story is over, you both feel at home in the world and compassion for the character who now lives there with you.

The greatness of Sturgeon’s stories reside in their almost inflexible, relentless unfolding of strangely logical events and relationships; each sentence is as beautiful and convincing as the last; and the science-fictional inventions never rely on tricks or deus ex machinas to reach a satisfying resolution; instead, a Sturgeon story always resolves itself at the level of the all-too-human.

(15) ACCESS. At io9 Ace Ratcliff asks “Staircases in Space: Why Are Places in Science Fiction Not Wheelchair-Accessible?”

I never used to notice stairs. They were simply a way for me to get from one place to another. Occasionally they were tiresome, but they never actually stymied or stopped me entirely. Eventually, I managed to get where I needed to go.

Then I started using a wheelchair. Suddenly, stairs became a barrier that prevented me from getting from here to there. One step was often enough to stop me in my tracks. It turns out that when you start using a wheelchair, you quickly realize that there are a lot of staircases and steps in our world—and a lot of broken (or nonexistent) elevators and ramps….

Once you start realizing how many stairs there are stopping you in real life, it becomes impossible not to notice them existing in the sci-fi you adore. Turns out they’re everywhere, in all of our sci-fi. Whether it’s decades-old or shiny and brand-new, our sci-fi imitates a real-world reliance on steps and stairs in our architecture.

When we think of sci-fi that’s run the test of time, Doctor Who immediately springs to mind. The inside of the TARDIS is littered with steps—from Christopher Eccleston to Peter Capaldi, there’s no way a wheelchair using companion would be able to navigate that beautiful blue time machine. Prior to the 2005 reboot, previous embodiments of the spaceship were no less inaccessible. You’d think that a spaceship that is regularly re-decorated could easily manage ramps in at least one iteration, but no set designers seem bothered enough to make it happen. I was pleased to learn that a quick finger snap seems to occasionally unlock the TARDIS doors—a quirky replacement for the buttons that exist in real-life, usually installed near closed doors and pressed by disabled people to assist with automatically opening them—but trying to scootch through the narrow opening of that British police box with an accessibility device looks nigh impossible, even without the need for a key.

(16) KERMODE ON SF FILMS. On August 7, BBC 4 airs an episode of Mark Kermode’s Secrets of the Cinema about science fiction.

SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie says —

This is an excellent series for film aficionados but the August 7th edition will also appeal to SF fans as this episode will be on science fiction film.

Also the series is co-written by the genre critic Kim Newman whom,  some Worldcon fans will recall, with SF author Paul McAuley,  co-presented the last CalHab (formerly known as Glasgow) Worldcon Hugo Award ceremony (2005). So be assured this episode has a solid grounding.

Mark Kemode’s Secrets of the Cinema SF film episode should be available on BBC iPlayer for a few weeks after broadcast.

BBC 4’s intro reads —

Mark Kermode continues his fresh and very personal look at the art of cinema by examining the techniques and conventions behind classic film genres, uncovering the ingredients that keep audiences coming back for more.

This time Mark explores the most visionary of all genres – science fiction, and shows how film-makers have risen to the challenge of making the unbelievable believable. Always at the forefront of cinema technology, science fiction films have used cutting-edge visual effects to transport us to other worlds or into the far future. But as Mark shows, it’s not just about the effects. Films as diverse as 2001, the Back to the Future trilogy and Blade Runner have used product placement and commercial brand references to make their future worlds seem more credible. The recent hit Arrival proved that the art of film editing can play with our sense of past and future as well as any time machine. Meanwhile, films such as Silent Running and WALL-E have drawn on silent era acting techniques to help robot characters convey emotion. And District 9 reached back to Orson Welles by using news reporting techniques to render an alien visitation credible.

Mark argues that for all their spectacle, science fiction films ultimately derive their power from being about us. They take us to other worlds and eras, and introduce us to alien and artificial beings, in order to help us better understand our own humanity.

(17) GETTING BACK IN BUSINESS. “NASA Announces Crew For First Commercial Space Flights”NPR has the story.

NASA has announced the names of the astronauts who will be the first people in history to ride to orbit in private space taxis next year, if all goes as planned.

In 2019, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner are both scheduled to blast off on test flights with NASA astronauts on board. “For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Friday, standing in front of a giant American flag at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Since NASA retired its space shuttles, the agency has had to buy seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get its crews to the International Space Station.

(18) MUNG DYNASTY. FastCompany predicts “Plant-based eggs are coming for your breakfast sandwiches”.

When you order a breakfast sandwich or a scramble at New Seasons Market, a local chain in Portland, Seattle, and Northern California, you’ll bite into a yellow, fluffy food that tastes just like an egg, but did not, in fact, come from an animal. Instead, what you’re eating is a mung bean, a legume that people have been eating for thousands of years that, when ground into a liquid, happens to scramble and gel just like an egg.

Mung beans are the key ingredient in Just Egg, the latest product from Just, Inc.–the company formerly known as Hampton Creek, which manufactures plant-based alternatives to products like mayonnaise, cookie dough, and salad dressing. Just Egg, a liquid that scrambles in a way that’s eerily similar to an egg when cooked in a pan, is derived from mung bean protein, and colored with turmeric to mimic the light yellow of an egg. It’s slowly rolling out in stores and restaurants across the U.S., and New Seasons Market has gone as far as to entirely replace its regular eggs with the mung bean mixture.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/3/18 That’s The Pixel Scroll Eraser Button, You Fool!

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman serves up a Sunday brunch with JY Yang in Episode 73 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

JY Yang is the author of the Tensorate series of novellas from Tor.Com Publishing, which so far includes The Red Threads of Fortune, The Black Tides of Heaven, and The Descent of Monsters, with a fourth still to come. Their short fiction has been published in more than a dozen venues, including Uncanny Magazine, Lightspeed, and Clarkesworld. And not only had The Black Tides of Heaven been on the Nebula Awards ballot that weekend, but it’s also on this year’s Hugo Awards and World Fantasy Awards ballots as well.

In previous incarnations, they’ve been a molecular biologist; a writer for animation, comics and games; a journalist for one of Singapore’s major papers, and a science communicator with Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

We met for Sunday brunch that weekend at Casbah, which offered a Mediterranean-inspired menu filled with comfort food. I’d heard good things about those Sunday brunches, and what I’d heard turned out to be true, because that morning’s braised lamb and eggs was the most umami-filled meal I had all weekend, and probably my favorite dish while in Pittsburgh.

We discussed why they consider themselves “a master of hermitry,” the catalyst that gave birth to their award-nominated Tensorate Universe, why they think of themselves as terrible at world-building, how their dislike of the Matt Damon movie The Great Wall gave them an idea for a novel, the surprising results after they polled fans on which of their works was most award-worthy, their beginnings writing Star Trek and Star Wars fan fiction, why they never played video games until their 30s, the Samuel R. Delany writing advice they hesitated to share, and much more.

(2) UNTOLD AI. At Medium.com there’s an interview with Chris Noessel, creator of the “What Stories aren’t we Telling Ourselves About AI” info graphic, which analyzed the themes of a large number of movies and shows about AI — “Untold AI?—?A conversation with Chris Noessel of SciFi Interfaces”

It goes quite a bit into the process behind creating the poster, “Untold AI: Poster”.

The AP: This was a pretty massive project, what was the scope and parameters of what you were going to look at?

CN: Oh my yes it was. It took nights and weekends for several months after Juvet. (And it’s still going!)

The scope was big by design. I wanted it to be pretty comprehensive. My authority and expertise in this domain is built on screen sci-fi, since you need to see a thing in use before you can evaluate it. That means movies and TV shows. There’s a lot of sci-fi literature that investigates AI (for instance, I’m reading the Culture series right now by Ian Banks, and it’s got AI baked deep into its worldbuilding), but I just don’t have authority in that domain. But still, screen sci-fi is massive, and I like to be as comprehensive as possible. So I looked back through all the movies and TV shows I could find that had an AI component: A robot, a spaceship AI, a disembodied one. I looked at lists people had collected online. I looked for keywords on IMDb. I don’t think I got them all, but I think I got most.

I’d have liked to include more narrow AI, but that would have expanded the survey of shows by an order of magnitude, and ultimately, the purpose of the project is to help guide sci-fi to be in-line with the science so we hedge our bets in the right way. Narrow AI is already here in the world around us (and less of an existential threat) so there’s not as much need to address it at scope.

(3) CREWED TALK. On Twitter, Karen James, a biologist, points out that instead of saying space missions are manned, one should say “crewed”, as outlined in NASA’s actual style guide: “All references referring to the space program should be non-gender specific (e.g. human, piloted, un-piloted, robotic).”

Unsurprisingly, she gets a lot of pushback in the comments. She does have Phil Plait and Elizabeth Moon weighing in on her side. The thread starts here.

The Planetary Society wrote about non-gendered nomenclature in 2015: “Finding new language for space missions that fly without humans”:

Historically, human spaceflight was described using the words “manned” and “unmanned,” but NASA has shifted to using gender-neutral words to describe human space exploration. Since 2006, the NASA History Program Office Style Guide has stated:

All references referring to the space program should be non-gender specific (e.g. human, piloted, un-piloted, robotic). The exception to the rule is when referring to the Manned Spacecraft Center, the predecessor to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, or any other official program name or title that included “manned” (e.g. Associate Administrator for Manned Spaceflight).

(4) POOH CRACKDOWN. Winnie’s a controversial bear there: “Disney’s ‘Christopher Robin’ Won’t Get China Release Amid Pooh Crackdown”.

For only the second time this year, a Disney movie has been denied release in China. Christopher Robin, a live-action/CGI family film that stars Ewan McGregor, received a no-go from the country’s film authorities.

No reason was given for the denial, but a source pinned the blame on China’s crackdown on images of the Winnie the Pooh character, which is featured in a central role in Christopher Robin. Last summer, authorities began blocking pictures of Winnie the Pooh on social media given that the character has become a symbol of the resistance in China with foes of the ruling Communist Party, namely Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Bloggers have drawn comparisons between the pudgy bear and Xi, which has put the country’s censors in overdrive. In June, Chinese authorities blocked HBO after Last Week Tonight host John Oliver mocked Xi’s sensitivity over being compared to Winnie the Pooh.

But an insider counters that the decision likely has to do with the size and scope of the film given the foreign film quota and the fact that there are several new Hollywood tentpoles in the Chinese market right now.

The New York Times explains the political significance of Pooh in this February 2018 article — “China’s Censors Ban Winnie the Pooh and the Letter ‘N’ After Xi’s Power Grab”.

…But the move to abolish term limits, announced on Sunday, has resurrected deeper fears in Chinese society, where memories remain of the personality cult of China’s founding father, Mao Zedong, and the fevered emotions and chaos that it conjured.

Anxious to suppress criticism, and maintain an appearance of mass support, the Communist Party’s censors have scoured the internet and social media for content deemed subversive. The sanitizing has included many images of Winnie the Pooh — Mr. Xi is sometimes likened to the cartoon bear — and search terms like “my emperor,” “lifelong” and “shameless.”

For a short time, even the English letter “N” was censored, according to Victor Mair, a University of Pennsylvania professor, apparently to pre-empt social scientists from expressing dissent mathematically: N > 2, with “N” being the number of Mr. Xi’s terms in office.

(5) CON MARKETING. Savan Gupta can’t stand it anymore [Facebook link].

Okay. I am going to give away some advice that I usually charge HARD CASH for, as part of my consulting services, as I need to stop seeing such mediocrity glut my feed….

Branding – This is key. There are certain universal standards, of clean design. Your branding should reflect your event, your values, and your overall identity. It’s so much more than ‘just grab a font you like’. And yes, all of us have had a learning curve with this. Hell, I keep copies of my older foibles in my wallet, to remind me of where I’ve been, and the constant quest for improvement. The Key here is, you have to LOVE it. You and your team. Not ‘like’ it, LOVE it. To pine and suffer and STRIVE to bear that standard through thick and thin, and hold it above the dirt-and-water line, brandishing it. Without that, you WILL be surpassed by some upstart that simply CARES more about these things, and is willing to learn faster. Clean design be damned, speaking as that upstart that has repeatedly surpassed my contemporaries. Hell, we’ve seen “Fuzzy McDumpTruck” and his five-ring-Latrine fire parade march some EGREGIOUS HORSE SHIT, that disrespected his endeavors, his performers, and his vendors. To the point of getting names and web URLs wrong (having skipped and skimped on hiring the usual professionals who prevented him from looking *quite* like a bag of ass). And yet, the band played on, and he continued to fail upwards, due to some reject OSHO grade Cult-Leadership skills, and being zealously in love with every derpy idea his pop-rocks-and-soda brain excreted. Because yes, you can actually polish a turd with Heat and Pressure. It won’t be a diamond. But it will not longer be a turd.

I don’t know how much of this will be new to you, but it’s very lively writing….

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 3, 1904 – Clifford D. Simak
  • Born August 3 — Martin Sheen, 78. Uncle Ben in both the of The Amazing Spider-Man films. Roles also in Total Recall 2070Babylon 5: The River of Souls, The Outer Limits, The Dead ZoneBeyond the Stars (another riff on the Apollo mission), Spawn and voice work in the animated Captain Planet and the Planeteers series.
  • Born August 3 — John Landis, 68. Extensive genre work as producer or executive producer including the Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ video, Twilight Zone: The Movie, some episodes of the Honey, I Shrunk the KidsWeird Science and Sliders series, a one-off Munsters Christmas special, The Lost Worldgilm and series which are not related to each other and the forthcoming An American Werewolf in London. Oh and Clue which I adore even if it’s not genre.
  • Born August 3 — John C. McGinley, 59. Extensive voice work in such animated productions as Spider-Man, Justice League UnlimitedSuperman/Batman: Public Enemies and Justice League; live work in Highlander II: The QuickeningIt’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and the current demon hunting entered Stan Against Evil.
  • Born August 3 — Michael Ealy, 45. Dorian, an android police officer, in the short-lived Almost Human series, Leo the equally short-lived FlashForward series and the Underworld Awakening film in which vampires and werewolves team up to destroy humanity.
  • Born August 3 — Evangeline Lilly, 39. MCU films such as Ant-Man and the Wasp as The Wasp, two of the Hobbit films as Tauriel, and in the Lost series as Katherine ‘Kate’ Austen. Also in Freddy vs. Jason and in multiple nameless roles in the Smallville series.
  • Born August 3 — Hannah Simone, 38. A role in the film remake of The Greatest American Hero, The H+ series in which humanity is nearly wiped and addicted to the internet and host for several seasons of the WCG Ultimate Gamer series.
  • Born August 3 — Max Landis, 33. Son of Joe Landis. Wrote a run of Superman comics called ‘Superman: American Alien’, writer of the Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency series.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) THIRTEENTH DOCTOR LOOT. The Time Ladies will tell you about it: “Merchandise of the Thirteenth Doctor”. For example –

Titan Kawaii Thirteenth Doctor

If the adventure doll isn’t quite for you, then how about a cutesy, kawaii version of our first female Doctor? The Kawaii Thirteenth Doctor Titan figure is ADORABLE and brightens any shelf. With her huge painted eyes and exaggerated features, we couldn’t help but pop her straight into our basket. The 6” figure launched at SDCC a few weeks ago but is available to order from Forbidden Planet now.

Order Titan’s Kawaii Thirteenth Doctor figure here

(9) BEDROCK CONFIDENTIAL. NPR’s Mallory Yu reviews a comic-book reboot: “Yabbadabba-What? These Aren’t The Flintstones You Remember”.

…But before he could tackle that dark comedy, Russell says, he “really wanted to start with the characters and make them relatable and sympathetic, because they’re basically just living their lives.” He credits artist Steve Pugh with bringing humanity to his characters: “You can see the personalities, really, in their design. Fred’s a big beefy guy, looks like he played football in high school and has kind of let himself go since then, but he’s got a lot of love and sadness in his face.”

Fred’s an Everyman in Russell’s Bedrock, a veteran who’s haunted by his actions during the “Paleolithic Wars.” And remember his famous “Yabbadabbadoo?” Russell “sort of turned it into a nonsense mantra to help them deal with PTSD and stress of everyday life.”

Russell says he was able to bend and twist the Flintstones’ world because he didn’t have a lot of childhood nostalgia for the cartoons. “Nothing was sacred, in fact, that was kind of my mission. This was not going to be some reverential homage to The Flintstones.” So Fred works for a terrible boss at a terrible job, trying to make just enough money to afford the latest household appliance. Or, as Russell calls it, “the exploitation of animals as free labor, which to me it’s like they’re the interns of the prehistoric world.”

(10) HEAD SPACE. “Asgardia: the problems in building a space society” — liberal and not-so-liberal rules.

…The constitution also contains some other red flags for utopians:

“To ensure information security, the Government regulates the circulation of certain types of information”.

Asgardia’s “legal instruments” include not only “referendum decisions” and “Acts of Parliament”, but also “decrees of the head of nation”.

Also, Asgardia’s head of nation has the constitutional power to nominate his successor “on the basis of genealogy or on any other basis”. Candidates may also be nominated by the parliament and the Supreme Space Council”, but it’s the Head of Nation who appoints the Chairman of the Space Council, which “is a special governance body” that reports to, guess who, the Head of Nation.

The head of nation also “appoints and removes” the supreme justice of the court and the prosecutor general. Additionally, he or she “has the right to veto candidates” for other top positions, including the National Bank of Asgardia and justices of the court. And to “dissolve Parliament”.

(11) MORE FROM THE SHIRE. More from the Shire: “Small height evolved twice on ‘Hobbit’ island of Flores” – the island’s current short inhabitants are not descended from branch recently discovered.

Scientists decoded the DNA of modern-day “pygmy” people to find out if they might be partly descended from the extinct Hobbit species.

The remains of these Hobbits were found during an archaeological dig on Flores 15 years ago.

The new analysis, published in the journal Science, found no trace of the Hobbit’s DNA in the present-day people.

This is important because some scientists had wondered whether modern humans (Homo sapiens) could have mixed with the Hobbit population when they first arrived on the island thousands of years ago. In theory, this could have led to Hobbit genes being passed down into living people on the island.

(12) THUNDER TOES. Nature found a big foot, so to speak “A dinosaur that stomped the Jurassic scene on size XXXXL feet”.

Large reptile had bigger clodhoppers than any other dinosaur of its kind.

Enormous toe bones excavated in Wyoming belonged to a dinosaur whose feet were more than 1 metre wide — probably a record for dinosaur foot size.

The owner of the gargantuan feet was a sauropod, a group that includes the biggest known dinosaurs. No other known sauropod foot is bigger than the Wyoming animal’s, say Anthony Maltese at the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park, Colorado, Emanuel Tschopp at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and their colleagues. The fossils bear similarities to those of sauropods called brachiosaurs, which could measure 25 metres long.

The dinosaur, which lived roughly 150 million to 160 million years ago, walked on four legs, but the authors whimsically nicknamed it “the real Bigfoot”.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/19/18 And Then There Were 770

(1) DRAGON AWARDS. July 20 is the deadline to nominate for Dragon Con’s Dragon Awards. If you’re ever going to do it now would be a good time…. If you’re not, no hurry!

(2) “JUST WEAR CLOTHES, HONEY.” That’s the advice I got the time I called Arthur Bryant’s ribs place to ask if they had a dress code. I follow the same advice when I go to the Hugos.

(3) TOR TAKES LIBRARIANS BY SURPRISE. And not in a good way: “Tor Scales Back Library E-book Lending as Part of Test”Publishers Weekly has the story.

After years of relatively little change in the library e-book market, there has finally been some movement—unfortunately, librarians say, it is movement in the wrong direction. Leading Sci-Fi publisher Tor Books, a division of Macmillan, has announced that, beginning with July 2018 titles, newly released e-books, will be no longer be available to libraries for lending until four months after their retail on sale date.

In a statement to libraries through their vendors, Macmillan officials said the new embargo was part of “a test program” (although an “open ended” test, the release states) to assess the impact of library e-book lending on retail sales. But the statement goes on to say that the publisher’s “current analysis on eLending indicates that it is having a direct and adverse impact on retail eBook sales,” and that Tor will work with library vendors to “develop ongoing terms that will best support Tor’s authors, their agents, and Tor’s channel partners.”

…On July 19, American Library Association president Loida Garcia-Febo issued the following statement:

“The American Library Association and our members have worked diligently to increase access to and exposure for the widest range of e-books and authors. Over years, ALA made great strides in working with publishers and distributors to better serve readers with increasingly robust digital collections. We remain committed to a vibrant and accessible reading ecosystem for all.

I am dismayed now to see Tor bring forward a tired and unproven claim of library lending adversely affecting sales. This move undermines our shared commitment to readers and writers—particularly with no advance notice or discussion with libraries. In fact, Macmillan references its involvement with the Panorama Project, which is a large-scale, data-driven research project focused on understanding the impact of library holdings on book discovery, author brand development, and sales. For this reason, this change by Tor—literally on the heels of Panorama’s launch—is particularly unexpected and unwelcome.

“The ALA calls for Macmillan to move just as quickly to reverse its course and immediately lift the embargo while the Panorama Project does its work.”

(4) BIG REBOOTS TO FILL. Somebody thought this would be a good idea: “‘In Search Of’: Zachary Quinto Follows in Leonard Nimoy’s Footsteps… Again”.

We’re all very used to revivals and reboots these days but with the return of iconic sci-fi/mystery series In Search Of , one big reason to celebrate (besides its launch on the History Channel) is that actor Zachary Quinto is a part of this project.

Quinto, who first became known to TV fans for his role as the villainous Sylar on the original run of NBC’s Heroes, leapt to greater heights of fame in 2009 when he took over the role of the most famous Vulcan in the galaxy, Spock, in the updated Star Trek big-screen franchise. Of course, Spock was first played by Leonard Nimoy in the 1960s television series and, yes, Nimoy later hosted In Search Of.

 

(5) DROPPED IN POTTER’S FIELD. There’s an open question about why this happened: “London erects 25-foot Jeff Goldblum statue to commemorate ‘Jurassic Park’s 25th anniversary”.

They were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should build a 25-foot replica of Jeff Goldblum.

Londoners and tourists alike were puzzled Wednesday morning to find a statue of Goldblum, his shirt unbuttoned in a recreation of his famous “Jurassic Park” pose, staring seductively at them from the banks of the River Thames near Tower Bridge.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 19 – Benedict Cumberbatch, 42. Some of his sort-of genre and definitely genre roles include Stephen Hawking in HawkingThe Hobbit films as a certain cranky dragon, Star Trek into DarknessDoctor Strange, Sherlock, and possibly my fav role potentially by him as the voice of the title character in the forthcoming animated The Grinch film.
  • Born July 19 – Jared Padalecki, 36. Best known for his role as Sam Winchester on Supernatural, and not surprisingly, Supernatural: The Animation.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) OKAY. Mad Genius Club columnist Kate Paulk makes everything as clear as she usually does in “Eschew Claytons Diversity”.

…Take the Mad Geniuses. We’re Odds. We don’t fit in. But every last one of us fails to fit in in a different way than every other one of us….

(9) UNDER NEWTON’S TREE. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is getting to dislike F&SF’s 1963 incarnation almost as much as he loathes Analog“[July 18, 1963] Several bad apples (August Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.  

I’ve discussed recently how this appears to be a revival period for science fiction what with two new magazines having been launched and the paperback industry on the rise.  I’ve also noted that, with the advent of Avram Davidson at the helm of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the editorial course of that digest has…changed.  That venerable outlet has definitely doubled down on its commitment to the esoteric and the literary.

Has Davidson determined that success relies on making his magazine as distinct from all the others as possible?  Or do I have things backwards?  Perhaps the profusion of new magazines is a reaction to F&SF’s new tack, sticking more closely to the mainstream of our genre.

All I can tell you is that the latest edition ain’t that great, though, to be fair, a lot of that is due to the absolutely awful Heinlein dross that fills half of the August 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction.  See for yourself…

“Heinlein dross” turns out to be code for an installment of the novel Glory Road.

(10) SPACE SAILS. [Item by Mike Kennedy] An exploratory project at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville AL is examining metamaterials as the basis for a solar sail for CubeSat propulsion. The Near-Earth Asteroid Scout (NEA Scout) is being developed by Marshall and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a candidate secondary payload to launch with EM-1 the first uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System.

NEA Scout would be a robotic mission to fly by an NEA and return data “from an asteroid representative of NEAs that may one day be human destinations.” The asteroid chosen will depend on the launch date; the current target is  1991 VG. Though this is still only a candidate mission (and thus may never happen), NASA explains the mission like this:

Catching a ride on EM-1, NEA Scout will deploy from SLS after the Orion spacecraft is separated from the upper stage. Once it reaches the lunar vicinity, it will perform imaging for instrument calibration. Cold gas will provide the initial propulsive maneuvers, but the NEA Scout’s hallmark solar sail will leverage the CubeSat’s continual solar exposure for efficient transit to the target asteroid during an approximate two-year cruise.

Once it reaches its destination, NEA Scout will capture a series of low (50 cm/pixels) and high resolution (10 cm/pixels) images to determine global shape, spin rate, pole position, regional morphology, regolith properties, spectral class, and for local environment characterization.

Popular Science article looks a little closer at the use of metamaterials for the sail, talking with Dr. Grover Swartzlander (Rochester Institute of Technology) who is the lead for the project.

The metamaterial Swartzlander is proposing would have several advantages over the reflective materials of the past. Swartzlander’s sails would have lower heat absorption rates due to their diffractive nature which would scatter solar rays, and the ability to re-use what Swartzlander told NASA was “the abundant untapped momentum of solar photons” to fly through the cosmos.

Swartzlander is leading an exploratory study through NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program. With nine months and $125,000, his research team will work on a NASA satellite called the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, or NEA Scout for short. A robotic reconnaissance mission, NEA Scout is a CubeSat meant to explore asteroids. NEA Scout would be NASA’s first craft to be powered by sails.

(11) THEY SWORE A MIGHTY OATH. No “Second Variety”? “AI Innovators Take Pledge Against Autonomous Killer Weapons”.

The Terminator‘s killer robots may seem like a thing of science fiction. But leading scientists and tech innovators have signaled that such autonomous killers could materialize in the real world in frighteningly real ways.

During the annual International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Stockholm on Wednesday, some of the world’s top scientific minds came together to sign a pledge that calls for “laws against lethal autonomous weapons.”

“… we the undersigned agree that the decision to take a human life should never be delegated to a machine,” the pledge says. It goes on to say, “… we will neither participate in nor support the development, manufacture, trade, or use of lethal autonomous weapons.”

The moniker “autonomous weapons” doesn’t draw the same fear or wonder as a killer robot, but weapons that can function without human oversight are a real concern.

(12) NOT THE SIZE OF A PLANET. No one will ever be wondering this about sff fans. Gizmodo’s article “Did Neanderthals Go Extinct Because of the Size of Their Brains?” follows up a paper in Scientific Reports and a theory that Homo neanderthalensis may have gone extinct because their brains — though larger than that of Homo sapiens — had a cerebellum that was proportionately underdeveloped relative to H. sapiens.

Indeed, though scientists have many Neanderthal skulls to work with, none of them contain actual brains, making it difficult to know what the inside of their heads actually looked like. The next best option, therefore, is to look at their fossilized skulls and try to figure out the shape, size, and orientation of the Neanderthal brain.

To do this, Ogihara’s team created virtual three-dimensional “casts” of brains using data derived from the skulls of four Neanderthals and four early modern humans (the skulls used in the study dated from between 135,000 and 32,000 years ago). This allowed the researchers to reconstruct and visualize the 3D structure of the brain’s grey and white matter regions, along with the cerebrospinal fluid regions. Then, using a large dataset from the Human Connectome Project, specifically MRI brain scans taken of more than 1,180 individuals, the researchers modeled the “average” human brain to provide a kind of baseline for the study and allow for the comparative analysis.

Using this method, the researchers uncovered “significant” differences in brain morphology. Even though Neanderthals had larger skulls, and thus larger brain volume overall, H. sapiens had a proportionately larger cerebellum, the part of brain involved in higher levels of thinking and action. Modern humans also featured a smaller occipital region in the cerebrum, which is tied to vision. Looking at these differences, the researchers inferred such abilities as cognitive flexibility (i.e. learning, adaptability, and out-of-the-box thinking), attention, language processing, and short-term and long-term memory. Homo sapiens, the researchers concluded, had better cognitive and social abilities than Neanderthals, and a greater capacity for long-term memory and language processing.

(13) FORTNITE. Brian Feldman, in “The Most Important Video Game on the Planet” in New York Magazine, looks at how Fortnite. since its introduction in July 2017, “has risen to become the most important video game currently in existence…obsessed over by rappers and athletes, hotly debated in high school cafeterias, and played by 125 million people.”

Since it launched in July of last year, Fortnite has risen to become the most important video game currently in existence. The 100-player, last-man-standing video-game shooter is obsessed over by rappers and athletes, hotly debated in high-school cafeterias, and played by 125 million people. All this, not because of a major technical or graphical breakthrough, or for a groundbreaking work of narrative depth, but for, essentially, a simple, endlessly playable cartoon. On a colorful island peppered with abandoned houses, towns, soccer fields, food trucks, and missile silos, players don colorful costumes, drop out of a floating school bus, and begin constructing ramshackle forts that look like they’ve popped straight out of a storybook, before blowing each other to smithereens.

(14) TITANS. Official trailer —

TITANS follows young heroes from across the DC Universe as they come of age and find belonging in a gritty take on the classic Teen Titans franchise.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 7/17/18 Behold A Pale Pixel, And Its Scroller’s Name Was Cat

(1) 100 BELOVED BOOKS. PBS’ series The Great American Read will air it’s “Fall Kick Off” on September 11. The eight-part series explores the power of reading, told through 100 favorite American novels as determined by a national survey.

Promotion for the series includes an incredible set of travel poster-style ads for some of the titles, many of them genre works, like these —

PBS also has created a downloadable reading checklist of the hundred titles [PDF file].

(2) STRAIGHT OUTTA SWEDEN. Simon Stålenhag’s paintings will be the inspiration for a TV series: “Amazon Orders Sci-Fi Series ‘Tales From the Loop’”.

Amazon has given a series order to “Tales From the Loop,” a science fiction drama from “Legion” writer Nathaniel Halpern. The project is a co-production with Fox 21 Television Studios.

“Tales From the Loop” is based on the art of, whose paintings blend elements of futuristic science fiction with images of rural life in the Sweden.

“Simon Stålenhag’s paintings are renowned for their vision of a not-too-distant, futuristic landscape. We are looking forward to bringing that to life and sharing it with our Prime Video audience,” said Albert Cheng, co-head of television, Amazon Studios.

(3) GALILEO WOULD BE IMPRESSED. National Geographic explains the discovery of “12 New Moons Found Orbiting Jupiter”.

In a curveball of cosmic proportions, astronomers went looking for a hypothetical planet on the far fringes of our solar system, and instead found 12 new moons dancing around Jupiter.

To be clear, these moons are no Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system. They’re tiny, some barely a mile across, and they are tracing all kinds of weird paths around the giant world.

…Normally, spotting new moons around Jupiter is quite difficult. Anything small enough to still be hiding from our view is quite faint, and tracking those dim dots requires powerful telescopes that often have too small a field of view to capture the entire Jovian system. To make matters worse, Jupiter is quite bright, and its glare can obscure tiny moons.

But last year, the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Scott Sheppard and his colleagues were hunting a faraway planet rumored to orbit beyond Pluto—a planet so large its gravitational heft rearranges the orbits of smaller, distant objects. So, the team aimed a telescope at Chile’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory at the star fields surrounding our cosmic neighborhood, looking for faraway pinpricks of light moving in solar orbits.

(4) JAMES WEBB TELESCOPE COULD HAVE ROCKET ISSUES. The latest slips in the James Webb Space Telescope schedule have it launching no earlier than March 2021. The plan all along has been to use an Ariane 5 launch vehicle (in fact, key aspects of the JWST design were customized for the Ariane 5), which has a planned end of life in 2022. Ars Technica notes that any further slips in the JWST schedule could begin to threaten availability of the launcher. Quoting the article (emphasis added):

Back in 2015, when NASA formally reached an agreement with Arianespace to launch on the Ariane 5 rocket, the projected launch date was 2018. NASA partnered with the European Space Agency and its affiliated rocket company for the launch to keep costs down. Essentially, Europe provided a rocket in exchange for some of the observing time. The telescope’s massive heat shield was then designed to fold 12 times to fit within the Ariane 5’s payload fairing.

Last year […] the telescope’s launch date was delayed into 2019 […] [Now the] launch has since been delayed twice more: first into 2020 and then into 2021. The Ariane 5 can still launch during these years. Further delays, however, may prove problematic.
According to Alain Charmeau, who as the head of Ariane Group oversees a family of launch vehicles including the Ariane 5, European states have created a transition plan to the Ariane 6. A separate launch pad is being constructed at the European spaceport in French Guiana for the Ariane 6, and this will allow the Ariane 5 to continue flying for a few more years—but not indefinitely.

“One can back up the other one,” he told Ars. “We will have the Ariane 5 for at least until the end of 2022, but it’s not clear cut. If we need to have another launch in 2023, we can extend it, it is just a matter of maintaining the team and maintaining the infrastructure. But our plan today is to start Ariane 6 in 2020, and stop Ariane 5 at the end of 2022.”

(5) OVERLY FRESH PRINCE. Mashable reports “Will Smith tries to make out with Sophia the robot, and it does not go well”.

Budding YouTuber Will Smith isn’t afraid to churn out some weird content on his channel, including an attempt at getting frisky with a humanoid.

In his most recent clip, Smith sets himself on a date in the Cayman Islands with Sophia the robot, a humanoid robot from Hanson Robotics that uses artificial intelligence to interact with humans. After a few awkward moments and some burns from Sophia to Smith, he leans in for a kiss, and well, gets denied.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 17, 1955 — Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California.
  • July 17, 1987 Robocop debuted.
  • July 17, 1992 Honey, I Blew Up The Kid premiered.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 17 – Donald Sutherland, 83. Genre roles in the Hunger Games films, Billion Dollar BrainInvasion of the Body Snatchers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, And the Salem’s Lot series to name a few.  His first genre role was apparently in the 1964 Castle of The Living Dead.
  • Born July 17 – David Hasselhoff, 66. Genre roles in the Knight Rider franchise, Nick Fury: Agent of Shield film, as the title characters in Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical, and in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2.
  • Born July 17 – Jason Clarke, 49. Roles in the now filming version of Pet Sematary, Farscape series, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and it  First Man, a look at the life of Neil Armstrong.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit is getting a lot of mileage from making puns on the name Space Force, like here and here.

(9) NOT JUST A PIE IN THE SKY IDEA. John King Tarpinian urged me to give you enough notice of the time and date when Neil Armstrong took his first step on the Moon — Friday, July 20 @ 7:56 p.m. PDT.  (3:56 a.m. GMT) – so you can plan your own ceremonial observance for the anniversary. John’s already been doing his for years – eating a Moon Pie.

(10) NO PROBLEM, THEY’RE GOING AT NIGHT. NASA touts its “Parker Solar Probe: Humanity’s First Visit to a Star”.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will be the first-ever mission to “touch” the Sun. The spacecraft, about the size of a small car, will travel directly into the Sun’s atmosphere about 4 million miles from our star’s surface. Launch is slated for summer 2018.

  • Launch Window: July 31 – Aug.  19, 2018
  • Launch Site: NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida
  • Launch Vehicle: Delta IV-Heavy with Upper Stage

In order to unlock the mysteries of the Sun’s atmosphere, Parker Solar Probe will use Venus’ gravity during seven flybys over nearly seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun. The spacecraft will fly through the Sun’s atmosphere as close as 3.8 million miles to our star’s surface, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before. (Earth’s average distance to the Sun is 93 million miles.)

Flying into the outermost part of the Sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona, for the first time, Parker Solar Probe will employ a combination of in situ measurements and imaging to revolutionize our understanding of the corona and expand our knowledge of the origin and evolution of the solar wind. It will also make critical contributions to our ability to forecast changes in Earth’s space environment that affect life and technology on Earth.

(11) SHUT UP AND KEEP SWIMMING. “Rising Seas Could Cause Problems For Internet Infrastructure” — bad enough that your home is gone — you won’t be able to blog about it either.

…The dense network of cables that make up the Internet is likely to be inundated with saltwater as sea levels rise, a new analysis suggests, putting thousands of miles of critical infrastructure along U.S. coastlines underwater in the next 15 years.

“It is actually the wires and the hardware that make the Internet run,” explains Ramakrishnan Durairajan, a computer scientist at the University of Oregon and an author of the research. The analysis estimates under the most severe model for sea level rise that more than 4,000 miles of fiber optic cable along U.S. coastlines will be underwater by the early 2030s.

The Internet is particularly susceptible to flooding because data travels through underground cables buried along roadways and through tunnels. While the massive deep sea cables that carry data under the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are designed to be permanently underwater, other infrastructure such as copper wiring and power stations are not.

(12) LONG BEFORE THE EARL OF SANDWICH. “Prehistoric bake-off: Scientists discover oldest evidence of bread” — previous evidence was 9,000 years.

Scientists have discovered the earliest known evidence of bread-making, from a 14,000-year-old dig site.

The bake would have looked like a flatbread and tasted a bit like today’s multi-grain varieties, they say.

Our ancestors may have used the bread as a wrap for roasted meat. Thus, as well as being the oldest bread, it may also have been the oldest sandwich.

The find, from the Black Desert in Jordan, pushes back the first evidence for bread by more than 5,000 years.

(13) ROOTS. Popular Mechanics doubts these will ever be on the market, though — “Scientists Find ‘Quadrillions’ of Tons of Diamonds Beneath Earth’s Surface”.

Deep beneath the Earth’s surface, there’s a gigantic cache of diamonds, according to new research. While it’s unlikely that we’ll ever be able to obtain these diamonds, knowing that they’re there helps us learn more about our own planet and what it’s made of.

To discover what lies beneath the surface, scientists can’t simply look with their eyes. Instead, they use sound waves and listen. Unlike light, sound can travel through solid rock, and by listening closely scientists can learn a great deal about what the inside of the Earth is like.

Typically, these sounds come from earthquakes or volcanic explosions, and by studying the resulting seismic waves scientists can determine what materials lie underground. One group of scientists was studying a strange anomaly that occurs when these seismic waves pass through underground structures called cratonic roots. These structures are ancient, highly dense rock formations shaped like inverted mountains that lie hundreds of miles beneath most tectonic plates.

Because these rock formations are so dense, sound waves move much faster through thes cratonic roots than through most other rock. But for some reason, many of the seismic waves measured over the last few decades move even faster than predicted. A group of scientists, led by MIT scientist Ulrich Faul, suspected that some material inside the cratonic roots was speeding up these waves.

(14) DON’T WASTE THE OPPORTUNITY. NASA wants your help taking out the trash. Well, “you” if you’re an aerospace development company. SYFY Wire has an article (If we’re going to go to Mars, this is how we’ll have to deal with trash) discussing NASA’s initiative to get industry help with the trash issue:

NASA wants to figure out how to get rid of all those freeze-dried food wrappers (and everything else) way before we land on Mars or venture into deep space. The space agency just announced that it will be seeking concepts for trashing space garbage through its NextSTEP program, so they can find new ways to compact and process trash so the waste situation.

Using the ISS, which sees literally tons of trash every year, as a testing ground for methods of waste management is the most obvious way to prepare for extended stays away from Earth. The floating space station already receives around 13 tons of supplies from cargo resupply missions every year, and periodically sends around 2 tons back to Earth in a commercial supply vehicle that either brings it to the surface or lets it burn up in the atmosphere.

NASA’s announcement (NASA Seeks New Ways to Handle Trash for Deep Space Missions) says that development will be in two phases, but companies must be prepared to invest some of their own funds. Quoting the NASA announcement:

In Phase A, selected companies will create a concept trash compaction and processing system, conduct design reviews with NASA, and validate concepts through prototype ground demonstrations. Throughout this phase, the companies may request use of NASA facilities to conduct subsystem tests. In Phase B, a flight unit will be developed to demonstrate a system aboard the space station as early as 2022.

Inherent with the NextSTEP partnership model, private companies must contribute their own corporate resources toward the development of their trash compaction and processing systems. In this case, responders are required to show a minimum of 20 percent contribution toward the overall development cost, or 10 percent for small businesses.

(15) STRAIGHT ARROW. Robin Hood , in theaters November 21.

Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) a war-hardened Crusader and his Moorish commander (Jamie Foxx) mount an audacious revolt against the corrupt English crown in a thrilling action-adventure packed with gritty battlefield exploits, mind-blowing fight choreography, and a timeless romance.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 7/14/18 Did You Feed Them After Midnight? Well, I Gave Them Some Pixels

(1) STOKERCON 2020 AWARDED TO UK. The Horror Writers Association will hold StokerCon in the UK for the first time in 2020.

The Horror Writers Association is very happy to announce that the 2020 StokerCon™ will be held April 16-19 at the historic Royal and Grand Hotels in Scarborough, England. For the first time, HWA’s annual gathering will be held outside of the USA, but will continue to incorporate such popular StokerCon programming as Horror University, the Final Frame Short Film Competition, the Ann Radcliffe Academic Conference and the presentation of the iconic Bram Stoker Awards®. HWA’s President Lisa Morton noted: “HWA is committed to celebrating horror around the world, so I’m especially pleased that our fifth annual StokerCon will be held in the UK, where we have such a committed, strong chapter.” More information on StokerCon UK, including website and ticket sales portal, will be announced soon.

(2) BRADBURY MURAL. The Chicago Tribune interviews the creator: “Artist behind Ray Bradbury mural in Waukegan hopes his work will inspire kids who don’t have access to art”.

The little boy wore white-framed sunglasses, his stance confident as he stared into the sun.

Everett Reynolds, a 23-year-old Waukegan resident, stood on a stepladder, adding detail and depth to one of the boy’s hands.

The boy, wearing a homemade astronaut suit with a matching backpack made with two-liter bottles, was the center of Reynolds’ original concept for the mural, which he’s been painting on the side of the Zuniga Automotive Service and Towing building on Belvidere Road.

“I wanted to put up something that symbolized forward thinking and to dream big,” he said….

Everett Reynolds, a Waukegan artist, paints a mural Thursday, July 12, on the Zuniga Automotive Service and Towing building on Belvidere Road. The mural aims to inspire kids “to dream big” and pays tribute to Waukegan native Ray Bradbury. (Emily K. Coleman / News-Sun)

(3) YA HORROR. The Horror Writers Association has revived its YA blog. The first installment, “Q&A for The Frightful Ride of Michael McMichael”, features interviews with author Bonny Becker and the appropriately-named illustrator Mark Fearing.

Whether you write horror for young people, or want to share more horror stories with the kids in your life, check in every Monday for Young Horror Writing Prompts and every other Thursday for new articles and interviews. Managing members Ally Russell, Mac Childs, and Shanna Heath have each graduated from Children’s Literature professional programs, and are eager to let you pick (not eat) their brains about Young Horror.

Future Young Horror feature topics include: weekly writing prompts; best horror picture/board books; author Q&A’s and podcast episodes; diseases in horror tips and tricks; secrets of a horror-loving children’s librarian; why write short-form horror for kids and teens; and more.

(4) VENERABLE AUDIENCE. James Davis Nicoll flips the script in “Old People Read New SFF: Tongtong’s Summer by Xia Jia”.

For the second entry in Old People Read New SFF, I chose Xia Jia’s Tongtong’s Summer. I selected it because of the authors in Ken Liu’s exemplary anthology Invisible Planets, Xia Jia’s skillful combination of fantasy and science fiction—what the author called porridge fiction—was the fiction I liked best. Of the three Xia Jia works on offer in Invisible Planets, Tongtong’s Summer (available here) was by far my favourite. I grant “I liked it so surely my readers will too,” generally blew up in my face over on the Young People of the project but if there’s anything experiences teaches me, it is that I don’t learn from experience! Surely the Old People will like this example of recent speculative fiction! After all, I did.

(5) LESSONS FROM SPACE. As part of their One Strange Rock series, National Geographic has published an interview with Cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, who holds the record for most cumulative days (879) spent in space.

Q: What can we learn from the way the space station is run?

A: During the last 20 years, I’ve been working in an international project. I visited the U.S. several times per year. Canada, Europe, Japan—all the countries that participated in this project. I have lots of friends. And being in space, flying above, we knew that whatever the situation is, we knew that the life of your friend depends upon you, too.

The major thing, actually, that I have gained during space training was friendship. I started it in 1989, the end of Cold War, and our first project was the Mir shuttle project. We started to meet with the Americans and European space people. And then ISS project, it has brought us even closer to each other. And we are tied up so tightly that we can’t live in space without each other.

This is probably my best discovery, that the people of different nations, from different countries, under very severe conditions, can work very successfully, can be friendly all the time, understand each other, though their situations are sometimes really stressful.

But there’s something wrong in the fact that only such difficulties as I’ve just mentioned unite people. This is wrong. There should be something else.

(6) CONTINUED NEXT ROCK. Vice headline: “This Bizarre Monument Is All That Will Remain of Humanity in 4,000 Years”. Sub-head: “Jacques André-Istel has written the history of the world on stone in the middle of the desert.”

Just across the California border from Yuma, Arizona, lies the town of Felicity, established in 1986 by now 89-year-old Jacques André-Istel. Pretty much the only reason you’d ever visit the town is to see another creation of his, the Museum of History in Granite.

The outdoor museum is made up of a series of 100 foot-long granite panels engraved with a history of civilization as a record for future generations, sorted into categories like History of California and History of Humanity. According to Istel, they’re designed to last for 4,000 years, to serve as a record of our time for future beings, whether from Earth or elsewhere.

(7) SOMETIMES THEY DO GET FURRY. At Green Man Review, Cat Rambo branches out: “An Armload of Fur and Leaves”.

In the last year or so, I found a genre that hadn’t previously been on my radar, but which I really enjoy: furry fiction. Kyell Gold had put up his novel Black Angel on the SFWA member forums, where members post their fiction so other members have access to it when reading for awards, and I enjoyed it tremendously. The novel, which is part of a trilogy about three friends, each haunted in their own way, showed me the emotional depth furry fiction is capable of and got me hooked. Accordingly, when I started reviewing for Green Man Review, I put out a Twitter call and have been working my way through the offerings from several presses.

Notable among the piles are the multiplicity by T. Kingfisher, aka Ursula Vernon, and two appear in this armload. Clockwork Boys, Clocktaur War Book One (Argyll Productions, 2017) is the promising start to a fantasy trilogy featuring a lovely understated romance between a female forger and a paladin, while Summer in Orcus (Sofawolf Press, cover and interior art by Lauren Henderson) is aimed at younger readers and will undoubtedly become one of those magical books many kids will return to again and again, until Vernon is worshipped by generations and prepared to conquer the world. Honestly, I will read anything Kingfisher/Vernon writes, and highly recommend following her on Twitter, where she is @UrsulaV….

(8) JENSON OBIT. Oscar-nominated visual effects artist George Jenson (1930-2018) died May 25. The Hollywood Reporter profiled his career: “George Jenson, Illustrator on ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ and ‘Return of the Jedi,’ Dies at 87”.

George Jenson, an Oscar-nominated visual effects artist, illustrator and art director who worked on such films as Close Encounters of the Third KindReturn of the Jedi and Everybody’s All-American, has died. He was 87.

Jenson died May 25 in Henderson, Nevada, of complications from melanoma, publicist Rick Markovitz announced.

A native of Canada who specialized in science fiction, Jenson received his Oscar nomination for his visual effects efforts on the 1984 film 2010, Peter Hyams’ sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Jenson was hired by Steven Spielberg and served as the director’s production illustrator on Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and 1941 (1979), then worked on such films as 9 to 5 (1980), Looker (1981), Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi (1983), Christine (1983), Romancing the Stone (1984) and Red Dawn (1984).

(9) PERRY OBIT. Occasional genre actor Roger Perry died July 12: “Roger Perry, Actor on ‘Star Trek,’ ‘The Munsters’ and ‘The Facts of Life,’ Dies at 85”.

Also, on a 1965 episode of CBS’ The Munsters, Perry played a young man with admirable intentions who’s out to rescue the beautiful niece Marilyn (Pat Priest) from a band of ghouls. However, they are, of course, members of her loving family.

On the big screen, Perry appeared in not one but two Count Yorga movies; was a doctor in the infamous Ray Milland and Rosey Grier classic, The Thing With Two Heads (1972); and played the father of Linda Blair’s flautist character in the musical drama Roller Boogie (1979).

On the first-season Star Trek episode “Tomorrow Is Yesterday,” which debuted in January 1967, Perry starred as Capt. John Christopher, an Air Force pilot in the 1960s who is suddenly transported aboard the Enterprise in the future.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 14 – Joel Silver, 66. Producer of, among many projects, Weird Science, Streets Of Fire, Predator and Predator 2, Demolition ManTales from the Cryptkeeper and Tales from the Crypt animated series, The Matrix and Sherlock Holmes franchises, V for Vendetta and an apparent forthcoming reboot of Logan’s Run.
  • Born July 14 – Scott Rudin, 60. Producer of the forthcoming Justice League Dark live action film (this being Warner, there’s already a splendid animated one) plus Annihilation, The Addams Family Values, Jennifer 8, The Truman ShowA Series of Unfortunate Events, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs to name some of his work.
  • Born July 14 – Jackie Earle Haley, 57. Roles in RoboCop,  Watchmen and A Nightmare on Elm Street; series work in The Planet Of The Apes, The Tick, Human Target, Valley of the Dinosaurs and Preacher.
  • Born July 14 – Matthew Fox, 52. Lost and Lost: Missing Pieces, other genre work includes World War Z, Speed Racer and the Haunted series.
  • Born July 14 – Scott Porter, 39. Roles in Scorpion and Caprica, the X-Men and Ultimate Spider-Man animated series and myriad genre video games.
  • Born July 14 – Sara Canning, 31. Major roles in A Series of Unfortunate Events,  Primeval: New World and The Vampire Dairies, also appeared in Once Upon a Time, War for the Planet Of The Apes, Android Employed, Supernatural and Smallville to name some of her other genre work.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) LIFE EXPECTANCY OF COMICS. The Los Angeles Times’ Geoff Boucher analyzes why “Superheroes are thriving in movies and on TV — but comic books lag behind”.

Few people in Hollywood have more history with comic books adaptations than Michael Uslan, who began writing comic books in the 1970s and used that expertise as an executive producer on Tim Burton’s “Batman,” the 1989 hit that launched a new generation of superhero movies. Uslan recalled recently that top Marvel Comics executives treated him to a lavish Manhattan meal after the movie stirred fan interest in all comics and gave Marvel a hefty spike in sales.

“That was the case for years, big superhero movies brought new fans to comics, but it’s not the case now,” Uslan said. “The biggest comic book movies now have little or zero impact on the comics sales. The movies aren’t rescuing the comics; they’re replacing them. So now I really worry about comics. Any entertainment medium that can’t connect with new generations, doesn’t it have one foot in the grave?”

(13) 55 YEARS AGO. At Galactic Journey, Victoria Lucas celebrates a Presidential visit: “[July 14, 1963] JFK gets a Ph.D.”.

I really wish I had been able to be there.  Fortunately my friend in San Diego came through again, and I’ve been drooling over the prints and tape she sent.  She was at the commencement ceremonies on the 6th of June at San Diego State College (SDSC) when President John F. Kennedy was presented with an honorary doctorate in the Aztec Bowl.  Kennedy is one of my favorite people, and I look forward to voting for him when I vote in my first presidential election next year….

Well that’s staying in character.

(14) RESCUE ANIMAL. His employer went out of business, and he almost ended up in the street: “Giant Toys R Us mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe starts second career at children’s hospital”.

Geoffrey the Giraffe, the 16-foot-tall fiberglass Toys R Us mascot, has made a move to a new home less than two weeks after the retailer’s U.S. toy stores closed their doors.

At one point, the future of Geoffrey — about as tall as a real male giraffe — was in doubt as the 70-year-old company filed for bankruptcy and liquidated operations, including its corporate headquarters in Wayne, New Jersey. Because of Geoffrey’s size and the cost associated with transportation and installation, the company struggled to find someone to buy him.

No one made a bid.

As the June 30 deadline to clear out and clean up drew closer, the Toys R Us liquidation adviser, Joseph Malfitano of Boulder, Colorado, bought the giraffe and paid $10,000 to have Geoffrey packed and shipped the 50 miles here to Bristol-Meyers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Malfitano thought a children’s hospital would be an appropriate home for the beloved mascot.

(15) BET THE UNDER. It’s not being overlooked anymore: “In Ireland, Drought And A Drone Revealed The Outline Of An Ancient Henge”.

A drone flight and a lingering dry spell have exposed a previously unknown monument in Ireland’s Boyne Valley, forgotten for thousands of years and long covered by crops — which, struggling to cope with a lengthy drought, finally revealed the ancient footprint.

Photographer and author Anthony Murphy discovered the site. He was flying a drone near Newgrange, a famous prehistoric stone monument in County Meath, on Tuesday, taking pictures of the known archaeological attractions. Then he saw something strange — a perfect circle, etched in the color of the crops, in an otherwise unremarkable field.

Murphy runs the website Mythical Ireland (also the name of his latest book), which focuses on the megalithic monuments of the Boyne Valley. He knew the local sites well — every passage tomb, every banked enclosure, every archaeological dig. And he’d been flying drones here for months.

He’d never seen this.

(16) THIS JOB ISN’T EASY. Like you need teeny tiny branding irons…. BBC tells how “Source of cosmic ‘ghost’ particle revealed”.

Step One: Catch a neutrino

It all starts with IceCube, a highly sensitive detector buried about two kilometres beneath the Antarctic ice, near the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

“In order to get a measurable signal from the tiny fraction of neutrinos that do interact, neutrino physicists need to build extremely large detectors,” explains Dr Susan Cartwright, a particle physicist at the University of Sheffield.

Measuring cosmic neutrinos against those created closer to home is, she told BBC News, “like trying to count fireflies in the middle of a firework display”.

(17) THE TWO TOWERS. Long ad for a short clip of a bit of space history: “Nasa launch towers demolished in Florida”.

The two towers were used to assemble rockets for missions to Mars from 1957 until 2011.

(18) WHEDON’S NEXT. According to Variety — “HBO Lands Joss Whedon Sci-Fi Series ‘The Nevers’”.

HBO has given a series order to “The Nevers,” a science-fiction drama from Joss Whedon. The series is described as a sci-fi epic about a gang of Victorian women who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies, and a mission that might change the world.

Whedon will serve as writer, director, executive producer, and showrunner.

(19) MAN OF THE CLOTH. In Don Glut’s new Frankenstein film, Edward L. Green plays a Priest. Ed says, “While not as cool as a trading card, I guess ‘Father Florescu’ is worth his own postcard.” Order them from Pecosborn Press — “Tales Of Frankenstein Postcards (package Of 8)”.

(20) BE THE BEST VILLAIN. A new board game, Villainous (2–6 players, ages 10 and up), from Wonder Forge will let you play as one of six famous Disney villains (“Disney’s Villainous Board Game Debuts With Classic Characters”). The $35 game is expected to be in stores August 1. Quoting an io9 article:

In the game you can play as one of six infamous Disney villains: Captain Hook, Ursula, Maleficent, Jafar, Prince John, or the Queen of Hearts. The actual gameplay and goals mirror the events each character experienced in their corresponding movies: Peter PanThe Little MermaidSleeping BeautyAladdinRobin Hood, and Alice in Wonderland.

There aren’t any interactions between the various villains; each player remains on their own “realm” gameboard so it’s not like Captain Hook and Maleficent could team up to vanquish Robin Hood. […] But board games are really only fun when you can frustrate your fellow players, so Villainous includes hero cards featuring the protagonists that, at least in the original movies, foiled these villains’ plans. The hero cards allow other players to make it more difficult for your villain’s scheme to come to fruition […]

 

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

Pixel Scroll 7/8/18 My Friend, Can Your Heart Stand The Shocking Facts Of Pixel Scrollers From Outer Space?

(1) CASH THEFT AT MONTREAL COMIC CON. Peter Chiykowski, creator of Rock, Paper, Cynic, told fans that thieves took over $1,000 from his booth at Montreal Comic Con on July 7. He has written a long post on Facebook about the theft, its toxic emotional impact on him, plus a full description of the three perpetrators, who have hit other vendors, too.

Peter Chiykowski and Husein Panju at Montreal Comic Con booth.

Yesterday an organized group of thieves stole about $1,000 cash from my booth at comic con. (Fellow vendors: details at the bottom about how to recognize them and fight back.)

I’m feeling a lot of things right now. Angry. Hurt. Defeated. Spiteful. Grateful to all the people who helped me in the aftermath, including friends and fellow vendors and comic con staff.

…They stole $1,000 in 30 seconds.

I was one of about 4 booths they hit in an hour. I seem to have been hit the hardest. Apparently this is the 3rd con they’ve done this at.

This year has been personally terrible for me. There’s been a lot going in my personal and professional life that I haven’t discussed and that has made this by far the low point and most difficult and financially strained year of my career. On the way to this show I was very seriously questioning if I want to keep doing this.

I can’t help feel like yesterday was a sign. A big fuck you, because no matter how hard I work, there will always be shitty people who can take it away.

I am going to move on from this, because I have to move on from this, and in the grand scheme of my life, $1,000 is far from the biggest thing I’ve lost….

Rodney Valerio has set up a fundraiser with the goal of replacing the thousand dollars that was taken: “Peter’s Rock, Paper, Cyncic Dream”.

(2) SMOFCON SCHOLARSHIPS OFFERED. CanSMOF Inc. is taking applications for three scholarships for convention runners to be used towards the cost of attending SMOFcon 36, to be held in Santa Rosa, CA, November 30-December 2, 2018. SMOFCon is the annual convention about organizing Science Fiction conventions.

  • The first Scholarship of up to 500 CAD is open to a Canadian citizen or resident involved in running conventions with a preference for those who have not previously attended a SMOFCon.
  • The second scholarship of up to 1000 CAD is open to anyone not residing in North America, involved in running conventions with a preference for those who have not previously attended a SMOFCon.
  • The third scholarship of up to 500 CAD is open to anyone involved in running conventions, regardless of their place of residence with a preference for those who have not previously attended a SMOFCon.

Preference will be given to fans who have not previously attended a SMOFCon, but this is not necessary to be an applicant. The submission deadline is September 9.

To apply for a scholarship, follow this link: https://goo.gl/forms/4rNPJbZ7f2Vx1NMJ2

(3) KEPLER NEARS RETIREMENT. On July 6, NASA announced that they have put the Kepler space observatory in a “no-fuel-use safe mode” in preparation for downloading data from what may have been the final Kepler observational campaign. Kepler has been very successful at finding exoplanets (both confirmed and candidates) since commissioning in 2009. After 2 of the 4 reaction wheels failed (the second in 2013), the mission was replanned to use thrusters as well as the remaining reaction wheels to point the telescope. Now, however, thruster fuel is critically low. NASA currently “expects it to run out of fuel in the next few months.”

NASA plans to take Kepler out of safe mode on August 2. It will then be commanded to reorient and point its high-gain antenna at Earth so data currently stored onboard can be downloaded. This reorientation maneuver uses significantly more fuel than observation mode and NASA notes that, “Returning the data back to Earth is the highest priority for the remaining fuel.” If the download is successful, NASA will command one more observation campaign (the 19th), to begin 6 August.

(4) WONDER WOMAN DROPS BY. Syfy Wire, in “’Wonder’-ful surprise: Gal Gadot visited a children’s hospital in her full Wonder Woman costume”, reports Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot made a surprise appearance at Inova Children’s Hospital in Annandale VA on Friday 6 July… in her full battle armor costume.

Surgeon Dr. Lucas Collazo posted a photo to his Twitter account of Gadot posing with nearly a score of staff members and thanking her for brightening the day of many of the children (and staff).

Other pics were posted on Twitter (@WonderWomanHQ) and on Reddit (/u/oligarchyoligarchy). Gadot was apparently in the area while shooting Wonder Woman 1984, the upcoming sequel.

(5) PREMIERE. The Verge posted an excerpt of Rich Larson’s debut novel from Orbit: “A transgender girl rises up against alien invaders in Rich Larson’s novel Annex”. Previous work from Larson includes short genre fiction in Apex Magazine, in Clarkesworld Magazine, at Daily Science Fiction, on Tor.com, and in the anthology War Stories: New Military Science Fiction.

Later this month, Rich Larson will publish his debut novel, Annex, the start to his Violet Wars trilogy. The book is set in the aftermath of an alien invasion, and follows Violet, a transgender girl who has escaped capture and discovered that an alien parasite has given her strange powers. The aliens have tagged the adults of the world with a device that leaves them in a zombie-like state. She and a group of children called “Lost Boys” struggle to survive in order to take the fight back to the otherworldly invaders.

(6) SF V. LITERATURE. Gautham Shenoy interviews Adam Roberts in his 100th sff column for Factor Daily: “‘We’re Winning the War’: A Q&A with SF writer, critic and historian, Adam Roberts”.

Shenoy: I remember a few years ago, Kim Stanley Robinson angrily (I’d presume) calling the judges of the Man Booker Prize ignorant for ignoring science fiction, singling you out as the author who should’ve won that year, for your book, Yellow Blue Tibia. How did that make you feel? Which leads me to the second part of this question, where do you stand on this ‘literary apartheid’ if I can call it as such, where the ‘literary establishment’ tends to ignore if not sneer at ‘low brow’ science fiction, which in turn one could say has become ghettoised.

Roberts: Stan was being kind (really, incredibly kind and flattering) rather than wholly accurate when he said that. I’m never going to win the Man Booker, and I’m content with that. By the same token, I wonder if the ghetto doesn’t figure the opposite way to how it’s often invoked. It’s not that SFF is a ghetto inside the glorious city of ‘Literary Fiction’, but the reverse. “Literary” novels sell abominably badly, by and large; popular culture in the main belongs to SF and Fantasy, eighteen of the top twenty highest grossing movies of all time are SFF, everybody recognises SFF icons and memes, and not only popular bestsellers like Andy Weir’s The Martian but the best in contemporary experimental fiction is now SF. Nicola Barker’s Goldsmith’s Prize-winning H(a)ppy is SF; Kim Stanley Robinson’s own New York 2140 is as stylistically and formally innovative as Dos Passos, and so on. We’re winning the war.

(7) NEWS TO ME. Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research is “a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary academic journal published by the The Finnish Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy Research.”

Fafnir aims at serving as an international forum for scholarly exchange on science fiction and fantasy and for discussion on current issues on the field. Fafnir welcomes contributions from a wide range of perspectives.

(8) TRIBUTE TO DITKO. Sam Thielman, in “Steve Ditko’s Genius Made Him Something He Disdained–A Beloved Celebrity” in The Daily Beast, offers an appreciation of Ditko, and explains that many comics fans made the trip to 1650 Broadway, Suite 715 (an address that was in the phone book) only to find that Ditko refused to give interviews to anyone, including Neil Gaiman, who left Ditko’s office with a bag of comics and no interview.

For this beloved artist, the focus was entirely on his work, and he wanted other people’s focus there, too. “I never talk about myself,” he said when his own editors asked for a promotional interview after he’d created a new character, The Creeper, for DC Comics in 1974. “My work is me. I do my best, and if I like it, I hope somebody else likes it too.”

Pretty much everybody else did like it. There is a peculiar grammar to comics, a way that one panel suggests the next panel, that is ephemeral and hard to learn; some people intuitively understand it and reading their comics is like watching actual movement. Ditko is their patron saint.

(9) VANZINA OBIT. Carlo Vanzina (1951 – 2018): Italian screenwriter and director, died July 8, aged 67. Often collaborated with his brother Enrico. Genre work included Nothing Underneath (1985), A spasso nel tempo (1996), A spasso nel tempo – L’avventura continua (1997), 2061: Un anno eccezionale (2007).

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Why are UFO sightings down? Mike Kennedy learned the answer in Brewster Rockit.

(11) SHE LIGHTS UP THEIR LIVES. Mark Jenkins in the Washington Post reports on a forthcoming concert by Hatsume Miku, who is a hologram (her name means “first sound of the future” whose manga-loving fans have composed 100,000 songs in at least five languages for her, some of which have gotten 25 million hits on YouTube. “This singer is part hologram, part avatar, and might be the pop star of the future”.

When Japanese pop idol Hatsune Miku makes her Washington debut at the Anthem on Thursday, fans will be asked to use the official glow sticks for sale at the show instead of the regular brighter ones. The thing is, if too much light shines from the audience, Miku might simply disappear.

That’s because Miku is a hologram — at least when she performs in concert, backed by a quartet of flesh-and-blood musicians. She’s also an anime character, a video-game avatar, a bundle of sophisticated “vocaloid” code and a fascinating experiment in crowd-sourced pop art.

(12) AN INCREDIBLE NUMBER. ComicBook.com has pointed out that Incredibles 2 is about to set a record—the highest domestic gross for an animated film. According to BoxOfficeMojo’s Domestic Gross table, as of 5 July 2018, I2 was sitting at $475,361,414 (and #13 overall for all films), just behind Finding Dory at $486,295,561.

On the other hand, I2 would have a long way to go to gain the same distinction internationally. On BoxOfficeMojo’s Worldwide Gross chart, Frozen is the highest ranked animated film (#12 overall; $1,276.5 million) while I2 is way down the rank (#109 overall; $693.4 million). Animated films between them include Up (#96), Monsters University (#94), Madagascar 3 (#91), Shrek Forever After (#89), Maleficent (#85), Shrek the Third (#74), Coco (#73), Inside Out (#63), The Secret Life of Pets (#57), Ice Age: Continental Drift (#56),  Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (#52),  Shrek 2 (#49), Finding Nemo (#45), The Lion King (#38), Despicable Me 2 (#37), Zootopia (#32), Finding Dory (#29), Despicable Me 3 (#27), Toy Story 3 (#23), and Minions (#16).

Of course, when adjusting Domestic Gross for inflation, no animated film can beat out Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (#10 overall) or even 101 Dalmatians (#12 overall). And those two films together don’t add up to the inflation adjusted Domestic Gross for #1 Gone with the Wind. [Item penned by  Mike Kennedy.]

(13) SDCC PROGRAM. Comic-Con has released its program. They’ve finally found something for all the Hollywood lawyers to do.

(14) ELLISON TRIBUTE AT SDCC. San Diego’s Comic-Con International also will host a panel discussion about the late Harlan Ellison on Sunday at 3 p.m. in Room 6DE.

Josh Olson, Bill Sienkiewicz, William Stout, Erik Nelson, Steve Barnes, Nat Segaloff, Jude Meyers, Scott Tipton, J. K. Woodward, Christine Valada, Jason Davis will honor the memory of Harlan Ellison and the lasting effects of his work.

(15) PIERS ANTHONY ON ELLISON. Piers Anthony devotes a long section of his latest Newsletter to reminiscing about Ellison.

Yet there are limits. When Harlan made comments that could be dangerous to my career, I wrote to him privately saying in essence that I did not want trouble with him, as we were on the same side in so many cases, but if he repeated some of the things in print I would have to take legal action to protect my reputation. He was dismayed, listing three things that I should have said and had not. I replied by quoting all three things from the first page of my letter. Again he had accused me without cause. It was apparent that he was incorrigible, simply not capable of getting such things straight; he was a loose cannon, possibly more dangerous to friends than to enemies. Strike Three. I decided to disengage. “Fare well, Harlan,” I wrote, and cut him off.

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