Pixel Scroll 10/2 The Roads Must Roll Over

(1) Shea Serrano at Grantland asks “Which Movie Astronauts Would You Want To Be Stranded With In Outer Space?”

And which ones would you definitely not want to be with in outer space?

This doesn’t necessarily presume that you and your astronaut friend will definitely face a life-or-death situation, but it does consider how that astronaut would navigate any life-or-death situation that might arise. Other things involved: How would he or she handle the mental punishment that being in space inflicts upon the brain? How would he or she deal with the possibility of having to spend the rest of his or her life in space? How would he or she react should aliens turn out to be real? And so on.

Normally, these sorts of conversations require rules to function efficiently, but really there’s only one that needs to be instituted here. It’s easy: We need to get rid of the astronauts from movies in which people live in space full time (or mostly full time), because those characters are already comfortable with the unnaturalness of Being In Space. So let’s consider only those who have traveled to space or been placed into space in a temporary context.

His article lists lots of obvious favorites, and others I’d never thought of in those terms.

(2) ”Skin Feeling” , Sofia Samatar’s beautifully-written essay on what it is like to be an African-American professor (she teaches at the University of California Channel Islands) covers a lot of ground, and one of her points is this:

In the logic of diversity work, bodies of color form a material that must accumulate until it reaches a certain mass. Once that’s done, everyone can stop talking about it. For now, we minimize talk by representing our work with charts that can be taken in instantly, at a glance. In her book On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life, Sara Ahmed writes of diversity workers of color: “We are ticks in the boxes; we tick their boxes.” The box is the predictable form, the tick the sign of how quickly you can get past it. Get past us.

Well, you ask, should we dissolve all the committees, then? Keep faculty of color off them? What’s your solution? Try to read the demand for solutions and your frustration for what they are: products of the logic of diversity work, which wants to get the debt paid, over with, done. Diversity work is slow and yet it’s always in a rush. It can’t relax. It can’t afford the informal gesture, the improvised note, the tangential question that moves off script, away from representation into some weird territory of you and me talking in this room right now. Diversity work can’t afford to entertain the thought that some debts can’t be paid, that they might just be past due. With agonizing slowness, this work grinds on toward payment—that is, toward the point where it will no longer exist. It’s a suicidal project.

(3) The sf magazine field is probably about to experience a contraction, says Neil Clarke in “Editor’s Desk: The Sad Truth About Short Fiction Magazines” at Clarkesworld.

  1. Quality

If the number of quality stories isn’t growing as fast as the number of stories publishers need to fill all their slots, then quality must dip to fill the void.

  1. Sustainability

If the number of readers willing to pay for short fiction isn’t growing as fast as the financial need of the publishers, the field begins to starve itself.

…But what can any of us do about it? Here’s a few suggestions:

  • Subscribe to or support any magazine that you’d be willing to bail out if they were to run aground. Just-in-time funding is not a sane or sustainable business model. If you want them to succeed, then be there before they need you.
  • If a magazine doesn’t offer subscriptions or have something like a Patreon page you can support them financially through, encourage them to do so.
  • Encourage SFWA to raise their qualifying rate for short fiction. Why? Given the small explosion in markets that are paying that rate, it’s clearly too easy for publishers to earn that badge. Yes, that rate is a badge of honor for publishers. Seriously though, the authors deserve better.
  • Don’t support new (or revival) projects until they clearly outline reasonable goals to sustain the publication after their initial funding runs out.
  • Introduce new readers to your favorite stories and magazines. This is particularly easy with so many online magazines being freely available at the moment. We need more short fiction readers if all this is to remain sustainable. This plays into my comments on short fiction reviews last month.

(4) Neal Stephenson has been named a Miller Distinguished Scholar at the Santa Fe Institute. He visited SFI this week and will return for periodic visits through the end of 2016.

The Miller Distinguished Scholarship is the most prestigious visiting position at SFI, awarded to highly accomplished, creative thinkers who make profound contributions to our understandings of society, science, and culture.

Stephenson will be the sixth SFI Miller Scholar since SFI Board Chair Emeritus Bill Miller conceived and underwrote the scholarship in 2010. Stephenson follows philosopher of science Daniel Dennett (2010), quantum physicist Seth Lloyd (2010-2011), actor/playwright Sam Shepard (2010-2011), philosopher/author Rebecca Goldstein (2011-2012), and author/narrative historian Hampton Sides (2015-2016).

(5) George R.R. Martin describes his fascination with the red planet for the Guardian in “Our long obsession with Mars”.

Once upon a time there was a planet called Mars, a world of red sands, canals and endless adventure. I remember it well, for I went there often as a child. I come from a blue-collar, working-class background. My family never had much money. We lived in a federal housing project in Bayonne, New Jersey, never owned a car, never saw much of anywhere. The projects were on First Street, my school was on Fifth Street, and for most of my childhood those five blocks were my world.

It never mattered, though, for I had other worlds. A voracious reader, first of comic books (superheroes, mostly, but some Classics Illustrated and Disney stuff as well), then of paperbacks (science fiction, horror and fantasy, with a seasoning of murder mysteries, adventure yarns, and historicals), I travelled far and wide while hunched down in my favourite chair, turning pages.

… Growing up, I think I went to Mars more often than I went to New York City, though Manhattan was only 45 minutes and 15 cents away by bus.

Mars, though … I knew Mars inside and out. A desert planet, dry and cold and red (of course), it had seen a thousand civilisations rise and fall. The Martians that remained were a dwindling race, old and wise and mysterious, sometimes malignant, sometimes benevolent, always unknowable. Mars was a land of strange and savage beasts (thoats! Tharks! sandmice!), whispering winds, towering mountains, vast seas of red sand crisscrossed by dry canals, and crumbling porcelain cities where mystery and adventure lurked around every corner.

(6) “Still not a reason to start drinking coffee,” says John King Tarpinian. Star Wars Spiced Latte.

Star Wars spiced latte

(7) Today in History:

October 2, 1950 —

  • The “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles M. Schulz was published for the first time.

 

October 2, 1959 —

Twilight zone earl holliman

  • Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone debuts on TV with the episode Where Is Everybody? in which a man finds himself alone in the small town and without any recollection of where or who he is.

(8) Today’s birthday boy –

(9) Kevin J. Anderson recommends the Superstars Writing Seminar, to be held February 4-6, 2016.

If you’re serious about taking your writing career to the next level, this business seminar is a must—three days and nights immersed in a heightened atmosphere of real-world wisdom and professional advice dispensed by best-selling authors Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, David Farland, Eric flint, and James A. Owen. Some of the guest speakers for the 2016 Seminar include Jody Lynn Nye, Penguin/Putnam editor Ann Sowards, and some urban fantasy author named…Bisher…Bonger…no, uhm…Butcher. Yeah, that’s it. Jim Butcher.

There are five scholarships available from the Don Hodge Memorial Scholarship Fund.

(10) Harrison Ford will be honored by BAFTA on October 30 at the Britannia Awards.

Ford will receive the Albert R. Broccoli Britannia Award for Worldwide Contribution to Entertainment at the ceremony to be held at the Beverly Hilton.

“It is impossible to imagine the past 40 years of Hollywood history without Harrison Ford, and his performances are as iconic as the films themselves,” BAFTA Los Angeles chairman Kieran Breen said in a statement.

The ceremony, hosted by actor-comedian Jack Whitehall, will air Nov. 6 on Pop. The Britannia Awards had aired on BBC America in recent years but were carried by TV Guide Network, the predecessor of Pop, in 2010 and 2011.

Other Britannia honorees this year include Orlando Bloom, who will receive the Britannia Humanitarian Award, and Meryl Streep, who will receive the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film. Sam Mendes, James Corden, Amy Schumer and event production company Done + Dusted will also be recognized.

(11) Here’s a list of “The Best Haunted House for Adults in Los Angeles”.

Though there are nearly 5,000 professional haunted attractions operating nationwide every Halloween, there’s never a guarantee when it comes to true, bone-chilling quality. From haunted mansions and abandoned asylums to old prisons or open fields, you want the haunts that’ll scare you the most. They provide visitors with a horror experience that just makes you feel like you’re in your favorite horror movie. Given its close ties to the entertainment industry, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Los Angeles is home to some of the best haunted houses for adults. This Halloween, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to face your fears at the five best haunted houses for adults in Los Angeles.

(12) A new film clip from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – “Star Squad”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Will R., Mark sans surname, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

2015 APF Awards for Most Significant Futures Works

The Association of Professional Futurists has named the winners of its Most Significant Futures Works Awards.

The award is given for the “purpose of identifying and rewarding the work of professional futurists and others whose work illuminates aspects of the future.”

Category 1: Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies 

thing from the futureThe Thing from the Future (link) The Situation Lab, game 

The Thing from the Future is an imagination game that challenges players to collaboratively and competitively describe objects from a range of alternative futures. The object is to come up with the most entertaining and thought-provoking descriptions of hypothetical objects from different near-, medium-, and long-term futures by playing a card game. The four types of cards are: arc cards (possible futures), terrain cards (contexts, places, and topics), object and mood cards.

Research Foresights: The Use of Strategic Foresight Methods for Ideation and Portfolio Management (link) Ted Farrington, Keith Henson, & Christian Crews, article: Research-Technology Management, March/April 2012, pp.26-33

The authors describes a massive project that used a potpourri of strategic foresight methods – including an Internal Futures Audit, Weak Signals Environmental Scan, Implications Wheels,  Technology Forecast , Inductive Scenarios, Participatory Futures, and Point of View Options — carried out by a network of futurists to influence the strategic research agenda at Pepsico.

Category 2 Analyze a significant future issue 

Mutative Media: Communication Technologies and Power Relations in the Past, Present, and Futures; (link) James A. Dator, John A. Sweeney, and Aubrey M. Yee, monograph: Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

A monograph-length investigation into the nature of social change through the lens of how a range of communication technologies in a variety of cultural contexts has (and has not) impacted the mechanisms and flow of power. It offers four alternative futures, including narrative scripts used for experiential scenarios, and outlines the prototype of a hybrid, mixed-reality game within four very different environments and conditions.

Category 3:  Illuminate the future through literary or artistic works

about1Byologic/Zed.TO (link1 & link2) Trevor Haldenby, cross-platform narrative

“An 8-month narrative told in real-time through an integrated combination of interactive theatrical events and online content. It told the story of the beginning of the end of the world, from a viral pandemic created by ByoLogyc, a fictional Toronto-based biotech company.” They had 8 live events, involved 75 performers, 333 crowdfunders, 3,500 event participants, and 35,000 online engagements. The combination of live events, a fictional website (that looks quite “real”) and the use of social media, brought the future to life in a stunning fashion.

The Museum of Future Government Services (link) Noah Raford, Exhibit

The Museum of Future Government Services, launched at the Government Summit in Dubai, 2014, was perhaps the largest concerted effort by a public institution to create images of the future explicitly designed to shift policy conversations and accelerate innovation. The Museum was structured as an immersive, interactive experience that explored the future of key government services. Museum may be the world’s largest “design futures” exhibition to date (not counting Disney’s Epcot, for example).

hieroglyphProject Hieroglyph, Hieroglyph: Stories & Visions for a Better Future (link) Kathryn Cramer, Ed Finn, and Neal Stephenson; project

Project Hieroglyph at Arizona State University Center for Science and Imagination was inspired by Stephenson’s call for positive science fiction futures and resulted in this first anthology of short stories. Authors include Elizabeth Bear, Cory Doctorow, Bruce Sterling, and Karl Schroeder who aimed to write works of “techno-optimism” that “challenge us to do Big Stuff.”

The award judges are: Bob Treadway, Paul Tero, Oliver Markley, Elizabeth Rudd, Peter Bishop, Bob Frame, Josh Calder, Sam Miller, Kristin Alford, Terry Grim, Natalie Ambrose, Peter Padbury, and Devin Fidler.

[Via Michael J. Walsh.]

Pixel Scroll 7/27 Riffing on AD&D

A long-eared geezer, eight stories and an embarrassing admission in today’s Scroll.

(1) Today’s birthday boy is… Bugs Bunny. He’s 75 years old.

(2) David Steffen answers “Why Do I Value The Hugos?” on Diabolical Plots.

[Excerpt is the second of seven points.]

I’ve been following the Hugos closely for several years, trying to read and review as many of the nominated works as I can digest between the announcement of the ballot and the final deadline.  I also follow the Nebulas, and I glance at the results from other SF genre awards, but for me the Hugos take up most of my attention come award season.  With this eventful Hugo year, it crossed my mind to wonder why the Hugos specifically, and whether I might perhaps be better off devoting more of my attention to awards that don’t collect controversy the way the Hugo Awards always seem to do, and in escalating fashion these last few years….

  1.  The Hugos Have a Long Reading Period

The Nebulas and the Locus awards have very short reading periods (the period of time between the announcement of the ballot and the voting deadline) of only about a month.  If I want to read as much of the fiction as possible, that’s not nearly enough time–I can’t finish all the short fiction, let alone start the novels.  The Hugo ballot is announced around Easter weekend (usually early April or so) and the voting deadline is at the end of July, so there are nearly four months to try to do all the reading.  The Hugo Packet isn’t released right at the beginning of the reading period, but usually enough of the short fiction was published in online venues so that I can fill my reading time with Hugo material.

https://twitter.com/LisaR_M/status/625448045316943872

(3) Then maybe Lisa would rather hear about – Worldcon site selection?

Spacefaring Kitten thinks it’s only fair that Helsinki win the right to host 2017 because all the other contenders have already had a turn…or seven.

A few facts to consider:

Five last countries that have hosted a Worldcon: United States (2015), United Kingdom (2014), United States (2013), United States (2012), United States (2011). Next year, the Worldcon will be in United States. In case the bid for Washington DC in 2017 (that is sort of a favorite at the moment, I guess) is successful, that’s third United States year in a row, and given the fact that there are only US bids for 2018 at the moment, it’s quite probably going to be four years of back-to-back United States Worldcons and seven United States Worldcons in eight years. That’s a lot of United States in one paragraph.

Competing for the 2017 Worldcon location, there are also bids for Montreal (in Canada) and Shizuoka City (in Japan). After 2000, the Worldcon has been in Canada twice (2009, 2003) and in Japan once (2007). Now, I’m sure that all proposed locations would hold a wonderful convention, but Helsinki would certainly be something new.

worldcon(4) Toymakers have got to protect the brand. Or, “Why Thomas the Tank Engine Doesn’t Kill Anybody in Ant-Man.

“I believe in Edgar [Wright] and Joe Cornish’s original drafts it was a train set,” Reed recalls. “At some point in the process that predated my involvement it became Thomas. As I came on, they had not secured the rights to Thomas. We had to do this whole thing where we did this presentation for the people who own the rights to Thomas. Thank God they agreed and found it funny, but there were definite stipulations. For example, nobody could be tied to the tracks and run over by Thomas. Thomas couldn’t be doing anything that could be perceived by children as evil Thomas. Thomas had to stay neutral in the battle, which was always our intention. Like anybody, they’re protective of their brand. I didn’t know what we were going to do if we didn’t get the rights to that. There are certain things I was going to be devastated about if we couldn’t have them. Thomas was one, because… you could do any kind of toy train, but the personality of that thing and the eyes moving back and forth give it a whole vibe and took it to another level.”

(5) Another Castalia House child prodigy! Jeffro Johnson reports in “First Session Report for my Daughter’s Dungeon Design!”

At the age of nine, my daughter has designed a 15 level dungeon, gotten paid for her work, and received back playtest report. It doesn’t get any better than that…!

It’s true – and entertaining, too.

(6) The Official Tolkien Calendar 2016 featuring artwork by Tove Jansson will be released on July 30. The cost is £9.99.

Jansson, who passed away in 2001, is well-known worldwide as the author and artists behind the popular Moomin series. As an accomplished artist, she provided the artwork for the Swedish editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Hobbit (also later used in Finnish editions). In Boel Westin’s autobiography of Jansson, she is quoted as saying “The figures are banal: dwarves, gnomes, fairies, dark-elves. But the scenery is luring in its macabre cruelty … Haunted woods, pitch-dark rivers, a moon-lit moor with burning wolves.

2016 Tolkien Calendar(7) Ursula K. Le Guin is offering writing advice through an “Online Fiction Workshop” at Book View Cafe. Use the form at the post to submit your question.

I have enough vigor and stamina these days to write poems, for which I am very thankful. It takes quite a lot of vigor and stamina to write a story, and a huge amount to write a novel. I don’t have those any more, and I miss writing fiction.

Reliable vigor and stamina is also required to teach a class or run a workshop, and so I had to give up teaching several years ago. But I miss being in touch with serious prentice writers.

So in in hope of regaining some of the pleasures of teaching and talking about writing fiction with people who do, I’m going to try an experiment: a kind of open consultation or informal ongoing workshop in Fictional Navigation, here on Book View Café.

I hope it will work its own process out as we go along, but here’s how I plan to start:

I invite questions about writing fiction from people who are working seriously at writing fiction.

(8) Explore the author’s earliest novels in Part I of SF Signal’s Interview with Samuel R. Delany.

Q: Your new book, A, B, C: THREE SHORT NOVELS, takes the reader back to the beginning of your career by offering up your first three novels. What is it about these works that impelled you to offer them up again?

Samuel R. Delany: With all these books’ clumsinesses and immaturities, I think—I hope—I was trying for something that is probably harder and harder to see with time’s passing. Indeed, it may never have been there. The only thing that might have thrown some highlighting onto it at the time they were published were slight differences between them and what was then coming out in the genre. Because so many changes have taken place in the background against which individual works now register, however, it’s harder and harder to read the signals.

(9) The Guardian included Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves on its 70 title longlist for the “Not The Booker prize”.

If you want to become part of this noble process, all you have to do is vote for two books from the longlist, from two different publishers, and accompany those votes with a review of at least one of your chosen books in the comments section below. This review should be something over 100 words long, although, as the rules state, we probably won’t be counting all that carefully.

Readers have until August 2 to vote titles onto the shortlist.

(10) After using geometric logic to deduce the wrong writer behind “Ray Blank’s” real-life identity, I was informed by a friend that it’s not even a secret. Eric Priezkalns says it’s him:

Ray Blank is the pen name I use when submitting speculative fiction to publishers.

And just in case I needed more convincing, my friend also ran comparative text samples through IBM Watson Personality Insights. Because science!

Really, though, it’s just not any kind of a secret.

[Thanks to JJ, Mark, Will R., Jonathan Olfert, and John King Tarpinain for some of these stories. Title credit to Soon Lee]

Snapshots 151 Bacardi

Here are 26 developments of interest to fans.

(1) There’s been a lot of reaction to File 770’s latest motto, including a suggestion that I put it on a badge ribbon for distribution at the Worldcon.

But it’s too long to fit on one ribbon, and it might be a little presumptuous to ask people wear a set — “The 770 Blog, that Wretched Hive” “continued next ribbon” “of Scum and Villainy.” “continued next ribbon” “John C. Wright”…

(2) Meanwhile, Bronycon is pushing the envelope of convention socializing with a set of color-coded bages:

We’ve adapted the color-coded badges popularized by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) and made them available for people who want to express their communication preferences quickly and non-verbally. By doing this, you can notify everyone whether you want to be approached for interactions or not.

Here’s what the badges look like and what they mean:

  • “Come Talk To Me!” A person wearing a green badge is actively seeking interaction. They may have trouble initating conversations, but it’s okay to come up and start a conversation with them.
  • “Do I Know You?” A yellow badge means its wearer only wants to talk to people they recognize. Unless you’ve met this person face-to-face before, don’t start a conversation with them. If they start talking to you, you’re welcome to talk back.
  • “Not Right Now.” If a person has a red badge showing, they do not want anyone to talk to them. They may approach others to talk, in which case it’s okay to respond. But unless you’ve been told you’re on someone’s “red list”, don’t start interacting with them.

(3) Lou Antonelli visited Heinlein’s birthplace and blogged about it in a post titled “Pilgrimage to Butler (or how Robert Heinlein’s ghost pranked me)”:

When I drove on Friday Kansas City to attend ConQuest, I noticed that Butler, Missouri – the birthplace of Robert Heinlein – was on the way. I decided that on the way back I would stop and visit the house where he was born in 1907. Monday morning I pulled off southbound Hwy. 71 and drove into Butler. The city has a few small signs noting the direction to the house, and I found it fairly easily. It is located at 805 North Fulton Street; a sign – which apparently once hung from a post – marking the spot (“Birthplace of Robert Heinlein, Dean of Science Fiction writers”) was propped up against the bottom of the porch. I took the obligatory selfie – which was hard to do because the sign was so low to the ground – and then hopped back into my car to continue the journey home. Crank. Grind. It wouldn’t turn over! I was completely shocked, because the car hadn’t given me a lick of trouble all weekend. It sounded fine, but wouldn’t kick in. I said, “Bob, if this is a prank, it’s not funny!”

(4) Adam Nimoy had planned to make a documentary called For The Love of Spock even before his dad, Leonard Nimoy, passed away. He has launched a Kickstarter appeal to help pay for it.

The funding of this film through Kickstarter will enable us to continue with production — which will mostly take the form of filming interviews of Dad’s friends, colleagues and family members. It will also enable us to license the hundreds of film clips and still photographs of Mr. Spock as he has appeared on television and in feature films over the last fifty years. Funding will then buy us time in the editing room, where I will be poring over the film clips and photographs and never-before-seen home movies as well as Star Trek artifacts — some of which have not seen the light of day for nearly fifty years!

As of this writing there has been $400,448 pledged of the $600,000 goal.

(5) Actor Lon Chaney Jr. is the only person to play all of the classic Hollywood movie monsters — the Wolf Man (“The Wolf Man”), Frankenstein’s monster (“The Ghost of Frankenstein”), Kharis, The Mummy (“The Mummy’s Tomb”) and Count Anthony Alucard, Dracula’s son (“Son of Dracula”).

(6) Alex Pappademas on Grantland makes some novel comparisons between pop and high culture in his review “’Mad Max’ As Hell: The Masterful, Maniacal, Surprisingly Feminist ‘Fury Road’”

J.G. Ballard — who knew a thing or two about speed, wastelands, the human death drive, and the mortification of flesh by flying auto parts — once described 1981’s The Road Warrior, the second of George Miller’s Mad Max movies, as “punk’s Sistine Chapel.” Ballard was not as big a fan of 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. But even Michelangelo wasn’t immune to the impulse to sequelize, returning to the Apostolic Palace after nearly 25 years (and the Sack of Rome) to paint The Last Judgment above the chapel’s altar. It features a buff, wrathful Jesus, tons of un-fig-leafed full-frontal nudity, chaotic composition that rejected all notions of universal hierarchy, two-fisted angels clobbering wretched sinners, demons dragging the condemned down into hellfire, a likeness of one of Michelangelo’s critics with a snake’s jaws clamped on his nuts, and a cameo by the artist himself as a face on some flayed skin. The lesson here: If you have to come back, it’s best to come back hard-core.

(7) Trek-themed garden gnomes from ThinkGeek will give the Little People a laugh

Did you realize there’s a whole subculture of Star Trek horticulturists? There are daylilies named after Trek, a handful of hostas, and even a Star Trek begonia.

The perfect statuary to go with your newly-acquired Star Trek plants? Why, that would be the Star Trek Garden Gnomes, of course! They come in four flavors. Here’s how the base reads on each:

  • Kirk – To boldly go where no man has gone before
  • Kirk & Gorn – I shall be merciful and quick – Gorn
  • Redshirt – Join Starfleet they said. It’d be fun they said
  • Spock – Live long and prosper

hujt_trek_garden_gnomes(8) The star of Hannibal is a huge draw at the Shanghai Comic Convention?

Unlike many of her counterparts at the first Shanghai Comic Convention, she had decided to forgo a costume. But the 23-year-old automotive quality-control clerk nevertheless was living out her personal fantasy, plunking down $115 — 20% of her monthly salary — for a fleeting meeting with her idol, Mads Mikkelsen of the NBC show “Hannibal.”

Bashfully clutching photographic proof of her star encounter (“I look terrible next to him,” she lamented), Yang struggled to compose herself. She seemed unsure of whether she had just made the best decision of her life — or the worst.

“All fans are idiots, in a way,” she said, laughing at her profligate ways. “We will do anything to meet him, to talk to him, even for a few seconds.”

(9) Very amusing artwork by Murray Groat showing what it would be like if the adventures of Hergé’s classic comic character Tintin took place in a universe created by H.P. Lovecraft.

(10) Who ya gonna call? The firehouse from Ghostbusters will close for renovation,

The  Ladder 8  company firehouse at  14 North Moore Street  in Tribeca is about to be closed for a three-year gut renovation, despite having a received a perfectly good renovation circa 1984 from Drs. Venkman, Stanz, and Spengler,  in the movie Ghostbusters . A  Fire Department spokesperson claims  that the renovation is being done so that the house will be better able to accommodate modern firetrucks, which are larger and heavier than they used to be.

But we know the real reason:  Walter Peck from the Environmental Protection Agency  tipped somebody off to the fact that there are dangerous and possibly hazardous waste chemicals, in the form of liquified ghosts, being stored in the basement.

(11) Anne Lamott, the writer’s writer, turned 61 and decided to share everything she’s learned with her Facebook followers:

  1. Chocolate with 70% cacao is not actually a food. It’s best use is as bait in snake traps.
  2. Writing: shitty first drafts. Butt in chair. Just do it. You own everything that happened to you. You are going to feel like hell if you never write the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves in your heart–your stories, visions, memories, songs: your truth, your version of things, in your voice. That is really all you have to offer us, and it’s why you were born

(12) Amy Sterling Casil’s business is perfecting a system for producing fixed format and flowable ePubs and perfect print books. Here’s her argument why it matters:

I just happened to buy the Stephen Jay Gould book not long after finishing the Bone Music ePub, and we spent plenty of time on that. I knew exactly what was wrong with the Gould book (W.W. Norton) and could tell the exact errors they made in producing it. Errors they would have seen immediately if they’d spent 1 second testing it on an actual device! And there are editing errors like typos etc. For $9.99. A disgrace.

(13) Doug Faunt, who was among those rescued when the HMS Bounty went down in a storm in 2012, is back at sea aboard a new tall ship.

(14) Larry Correia has a good cover story:

People ask me how much say an author has over their cover. At first? Zip. And by the time you are successful enough that your opinion actually does count, that means you’ve sold enough books that you trust the people who sell them for you.

(15) In Kenneth Turan’s coverage of the Cannes Film Festival includes interesting observations about the host city.

It’s not just the films that change here from year to year here, it’s the city as well.

The oldest gay bar in the south of France is now a gelato emporium. The once-spacious post office is now a luxury hotel. And the Cannes English Bookshop, a landmark for three decades, is going to be sold and possibly go out of business.

(16) Nick Mamatas on Storify shares some wisdom about short stories:

I’ve been reading a few short stories from students lately, and this is what I have noticed about them.

(17) Murray Leinster’s “Runaway Skyscraper” is coming back as a fancy hotel. Andrew Porter observes, “Rooms starting at $500 a night, so maybe not a good venue for an SF convention.”

(The Wikipedia can fill you in about the original 1919 Murray Leinster story.)

(18) Daniel Dern sends along a brief rumination on Neal Stephenson’s new book Seveneves. (The title of which, a friend pointed out, is a palindrome.)

I
have been reading Seveneves,
The new big book from Neal Stephes[1]:
The moon
breaks in seven peaze,
Each piece has seven paths,
Each path has seven maths.
Some maths are delta-Vs, and
The plot has many keys[2].
Characters,
sub-plots and lots of peaze,
Many pages is Seveneves.
[1] Stephenson, that is, of course
[2] Including hams doing Morse code, and some, cough, paper pads

(19) John J. Miller would like to tag some newly discovered planetoids with Lovecraftian names:

I’m starting to think of the places we haven’t reconnoitered. Last year, when astronomers announced the existence of 2012 VP113 — a tiny planetoid well beyond the orbit of Pluto — I took to the website of National Review and made a suggestion: “Its name should be Yuggoth, in tribute to the writer H. P. Lovecraft.” I e-mailed the idea to Leslie S. Klinger, editor of The New Annotated Lovecraft. He replied that this wasn’t quite right, because Lovecraft clearly defined Yuggoth as Pluto, rather than as another thing. Then he mentioned an overlooked line from a fevered passage in “The Haunter of the Dark,” the last story Lovecraft ever wrote: “I remember Yuggoth, and more distant Shaggai, and the ultimate void of the black planets.” It recalled something that the astronomer Gerard P. Kuiper (of Kuiper-belt fame) once said to Clyde Tombaugh: “The finding of Pluto was an important discovery, but what you did not find out there is even more important.” Pluto may come into the clutches of our scientists and engineers, but the rest of us can always dream of Shaggai — a permanently undiscovered country.

(20) Alastair Reynolds may yet get the hang of writing filksongs.

(21) A Canadian library has documentary evidence that Han Solo shot first.

According to CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), while trying to digitize the University of New Brunswick Library’s science fiction collection, librarian Kristian Brown stumbled upon an early draft of the “Star Wars” script.

The script, which is marked as a “fourth draft,” is dated March 15, 1976, well ahead of the film’s eventual 1977 release.

The most striking revelation centers around one of the most famous scenes in the film.

While at the Cantina Bar, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is confronted by Jabba the Hutt’s henchman Greedo, who demands Han finally pay Jabba the money he owes him. The two of them come to blows, and Han Solo emerges as victorious. While that isn’t disputed, the real debate lies in whether Han or Gredo shot first.

 

(22) CBS Sunday Morning did a nice profile of the person who sat-in for Ray at the last Ray Bradbury Creativity Award — Bo Derek.  Bo gave the award to Kirk Douglas.  Bo and Ray were lifelong friends, who met in France.

By the way, Bo Derek will be in Sharknado 3. (So added to the Ray Bradbury reference this paragraph counts as a score for two File 770 narratives… )

(23) The LA Weekly enthusiastically reviewed Universal Studios’ new Simpsons-themed Springfield Area

Built to surround and enhance the Simpsons Ride, which opened in 2008, the fully-immersive environment includes over a hogshead’s worth of living references. Some of them as huge and obvious as the Duff Brewery, Moe’s Tavern and Krusty Burger. Others are smaller and subtler, the kind of nerdy nuggets that give us geeks an extra special spring in our steps (Smilin’ Joe Fission!? Stools around Moe’s pool table in a nod to Uncle Moe’s Family Feedbag!? Yes.)

….Things just went full bizarro from there. We walked into a perfectly recreated Moe’s Tavern behind producer/animator/director David Silverman and the theme-park bartender asked him if he wanted a Duff…and he had one.  All we could think was, “It’s the local lug who fills your mug with the drug you chug! And the guy who conceived it….drinking it….in it…b-b-but what about the dank? If Uncle Moe threatens ya, do you get a free steak?” Words can’t describe the feeling of self-referential meltdown that happened in that moment — so we won’t even try.

Universal’s food folks took their best shot at the artery-clogging victuals of Springfield (“The World’s Fattest Town”) with Krusty Burgers, Ribwiches, donuts and even Cletus’ Chicken Shack. Cletus’ employees didn’t know if they had anything that could flash-fry a buffalo in forty seconds, and that’s ok. All the food was awesomely outrageous (and full of secret hobo spices). Just don’t get on that gut-buggering jumble of a ride right afterward, you’ll probably regret it.

Besides the food, the gallons of Duff and the non-alcoholic (and presumably cough syrup-free) Flaming Moe’s, they packed the place with all sorts of crazy crap, a further immersive Krustyland, a Kwik-e-Mart and, yes, even a Disco Stu’s Disco (facade only, sadly). For the folks who might not get everything, or for those folks who need the reassurance, screens throughout the are played carefully curated snippets of Simpsons episodes. Satire piled upon satire, surrounded by hints and attribution…wrapped in riddles…wrapped in unexplained bacon.

On our way out, we were invited to take one of the larger-than-life-but-actually-real giant iconic pink donuts. To keep us in the spirit, and as if on cue, some slack-jawed yokel asked if these donuts, branded as Lard Lad, came in a “gluten free form.” No. No they do not. Where’s a good satirist when you need one?

(24) On the opposite coast, Anthony Bourdain plans to open a giant Blade Runner-themed food market in NYC.

Hidden throughout New York City are bustling food halls like Gansevoort Market or Smorgasburg. But for those who ever said, “I had in mind something a little more radical,” Anthony Bourdain has the solution. The celebrity chef will soon open a 100,000-square-foot International Food Market at the newly renovated SuperPier on Pier 57. Oh, and did I mention it’s inspired by Blade Runner?

Yes, the chaos and clamor of the market place from Ridley Scott’s dystopian masterpiece will be coming to Manhattan’s West Side. “It is meant to be crowded and chaotic because that’s what hawker centres should be,” said Bourdain’s partner Stephen Wether at the 2015 World Street Food Congress in Singapore. “It should activate all of your senses.”

Plans for the space, which eats up pretty much all of the SuperPier’s retail allotment, include a farmers market, hawker-style street food stalls, a 1,500-square-foot oyster bar, a bakery, butchers, a tapas bar, a tea shop, a pastry shop, and potentially even an outdoor Asian-themed beer garden. As Bourdain put it, foodies will be able to enjoy “expertly sliced Iberico ham and some Cava or Kuching-style laksa [soup], Chinese lamb noodles, Vietnamese pho or a decent barbecue brisket all in one place.”

(25) Whatever happened to “No shirt, no pants, no service”?

I guess the rules are different for Spartans:

Fortunately, during this unusual detachment no one fought and all survived. In the subway, “Spartans” advertised access to DVD movie “300: Dawn of empire.”

(26) Harlan Ellison was interviewed by The Jewish Advocate on the occasion of his 81st birthday.

Like any good Jewish son, Ellison had a Jewish mother. Serita Ellison survived her husband by 27 years, all of which were spent trying to figure out her increasingly famous author-screenwriterlecturer son.

“If something happened that was adventurous,” he says, “I would tell my mother. My mother would be very pleased, but I’m not quite sure she realized what it meant. She was more concerned with ‘Was I healthy? Was I working? Was I happily married? Was I unhappily married?’ She would come and visit me and tidy up the house. She was a regular Jewish mama.”

An autodidact, Ellison took pleasure in lecturing at hundreds of colleges that he never attended. The only person happier at his countless college appearances was Serita. “The moment I made my mother proud of me was when she came up from Florida in the middle of winter and was sitting in when I spoke at Yale. People would come up and present one of my books to her and would say, ‘Would you sign my book?’ My mother was in heaven. Afterward, we walked in the snow to a luncheon with a group of eminent scientists and she said, ‘I’m very proud of you.’ I swelled twelve times my size. I had made my mother proud.”

[Credit for these links goes out to Andrew Porter, Amy Sterling Casil, David K.M. Klaus,Martin Morse Wooster,  and John King Tarpinian.]

Stephenson and Krauss in L.A. at MOCA 9/15

Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson

“Can Science Fiction Revolutionize Science?” will be discussed by sf author Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon) and ASU physicist Lawrence Krauss (The Physics of Star Trek) during Zócalo at MOCA in L.A. on September 15.

Isaac Asimov’s robots. Robert Heinlein’s rocket ships. William Gibson’s cyberspace. Before they vacuumed our houses, put a man on the moon, and changed the way we access information, these inventions were the stuff of science fiction. But today, in an era where it seems we have all the technology we could possibly need, science fiction has taken a dystopian turn. Artificial intelligence turns on its human creators. Genetic engineering causes civilizations to collapse. But what if we created and used science fiction to solve our most intractable problems? How can this genre of literature stoke the ambitions of scientists, engineers, and inventors? Science fiction writer Neal Stephenson and Arizona State University physicist Lawrence M. Krauss, both of whom contributed to the new anthology Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future, visit Zócalo to discuss whether science fiction can truly change contemporary science, and what the alternative futures we imagine mean for present-day innovation.

There is no separate charge for the event but attendees must pay the museum’s admission charge and make a reservation. General admission is $12. Tickets can be purchased online through MOCAstore.

The discussion runs from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Monday, September 15 at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) 250 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA.

2013 Prometheus Award Winners

The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced the winners of the Prometheus Awards for 2013.

Best Novel
Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow.

Hall of Fame
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

At LoneStarCon 3 during the Prometheus Award ceremony on August 30, the LFS will present Cory Doctorow with a plaque and one-ounce gold coin. A smaller gold coin and a plaque will be presented to Neal Stephenson.

[Via Amazing Stories blog.]

Starship Century Symposium: Neal Stephenson

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

Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson

The words “THINKING BIG” covered the screen at the beginning of Neal Stephenson’s segment, where he was joined on stage by four scientists and engineers.

Lately Stephenson has been active in the Hieroglyph, a collaboration with Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, working to make it a place where authors and scientists Think Big.

Stephenson told the audience he had made a soapbox speech at a conference about the decline of the space program, then pivoted to the gulf oil spill as a way of indicating the real issue isn’t about space launch. It’s our inability as a society to do big things, to execute big plans. The theory of the Hieroglyph is that good science fiction can help change that. Sf supplies a plausible, fully thought-out picture of an alternate reality in which some sort of compelling innovation has taken place, presented in a way that makes sense to a scientist or engineer, and around which they can organize their work. The ideal subject matter is an innovation that a young, modern-day engineer can make substantial progress on during his or her career.

Stephenson’s contribution is The Tall Tower. Inspired by Geoffrey Landis’ papers on the subject, Stephenson began wondering how tall we could build a structure using mundane materials – things available now, because if you have to develop special new materials then people push you off into the future, saying go play in the sandbox and come back in 15 years.

Stephenson discussed the question with Dr. Keith Hjelmstad, a professor of structural engineering at Arizona State University, and learned it might be possible to build a very large structure using high-grade steel.

Hjelmstad proceeded to take up the story about how the two now envision a 20km tall steel tower able to cope with cold temperatures and 480 mph jetstream winds.

Hjelmstad says what interested him in the project was the need to design from first principles — like back in the days before lawyers dominated the conversation. Lots of geometry of structure. A base covering 11 square miles. Using 430 million tons of steel, a significant portion of the world’s production.

Jenny Hu and Daniel MacDonald followed with a media presentation, “Accessible Tower Model,” exploring the structural requirements of such a tower. One of the recurring challenges is that solutions to recognized engineering problems end up adding weight to the tower. One CAD display footed to 985 million tons of steel and a budget of nearly a trillion dollars

The final presenter, Kevin Finke of the Furlong/Fortnight Bureau, presented the fascinating challenge of wind forces — the drag equation.

The density of the air falls off with altitude, but the velocity of the wind increases with altitude. In the worst case, winds will be greater than 300 mph in the jetstream.

He has considered various solutions. One is mounting airfoils and essentially flying The Tower through the wind. Alternatively, they might counter the drag with the thrust of attached jet engines. Adhering to the vision of using off-the-shelf technology, he calculated that would require about 22,300 of the most powerful jet engines made. Alternatively, Finke looked at the specifications for Pratt & Whitney F-1 engine used by the Saturn V — he would still need 700 of those.

Finke assured listeners they are serious about building the Tall Tower. In any case it is a great thought experiment that allows people to practice visualizing huge projects that will be the necessary forerunners of a starship. If actually built, the tower might facilitate the launching of spacecraft. However, in Stephenson’s story “Atmosphæra Incognita” for Starship Century (click to read an excerpt), by the time the tower is finished it is being used for technologies as yet unimagined or undeveloped when the project was first conceived.

Gregory Benford closed the presentation on a light note saying the Clarke Center is trying to get people to think big again because too many have become limited to ideas the size of their phone.

Clarke Center Lifts Off With Public Events

The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination will launch this month with a series of free events on the UC San Diego campus. 

May 1 through 31, 2013

“Remembering Sir Arthur C. Clarke”
Remembering and celebrating the diverse genius and joie de vivre of Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Artifacts and items are from the collection of Wayne and Gloria Houser. During the May 21 reception only: Special display of original paintings of Clarke book cover art on loan from Naomi Fisher, and space science posters by Jon Lomberg. Curated by Carol Hobson, and co-sponsored by the UC San Diego Library.
Seuss Room Foyer, Geisel Library, UC San Diego

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

1-5 p.m., “Visions of the Future”
An afternoon of conversations and presentations featuring Clarke Center affiliates on their visions of science and culture 33 years into the future (in honor of Clarke’s imagining of 2001 in 1968).
Calit2 Auditorium, Atkinson Hall, Qualcomm Institute, UC San Diego

7 p.m., “The Literary Imagination”
A conversation between authors Jonathan Lethem and Kim Stanley Robinson presented by the Helen Edison Lecture Series, UC San Diego Extension and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination
Price Center West Ballroom, UC San Diego

Tuesday and Wednesday, May 21 and 22, 2013

“Starship Century Symposium”
A two-day event devoted to an ongoing exploration of the development of a starship in the next 100 years. Scientists will address the challenges and opportunities for our long?term future in space, with possibilities envisioned by Freeman Dyson, Paul Davies, Peter Schwartz, John Cramer and Robert Zubrin. Science fiction authors Neal Stephenson, Allen Steele, Joe Haldeman, Gregory Benford, Geoffrey Landis and David Brin will discuss the implications that these trajectories of exploration might have upon our development as individuals and as a civilization.
Calit2 Auditorium, Atkinson Hall, Qualcomm Institute, UC San Diego
Note: Seating is limited, but the two-day event will be offered via live streaming video at http://imagination.ucsd.edu.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Reception 6-8 p.m., “Remembering Sir Arthur C. Clarke”
Remembering and celebrating the diverse genius and joie de vivre of Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Artifacts and items are from the collection of Wayne and Gloria Houser. During the May 21 reception only: Special display of original paintings of Clarke book cover art on loan from Naomi Fisher, and space science posters by Jon Lomberg. Also screening of documentary film, “Arthur C. Clarke: The Man Who Saw the Future,” a BBC/NVC ARTS Co-Production in association with RAI Thematic Channels, 1997. Curated by Carol Hobson, and co-sponsored by the UC San Diego Library.
Seuss Room Foyer, Geisel Library, UC San Diego

Created by UCSD and the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation, the Clarke Center “will honor the late author and innovator through activities that will focus on cultural, scientific and medical transformations that can occur as we increase our understanding of the phenomena of imagination and become more effective at harnessing and incorporating our imaginations in our research and daily lives.”

UCSD’s Sheldon Brown, professor of computing in the arts in the department of visual arts, is the director of the center. The center’s associate director is David Kirsh, professor and former chair of the department of cognitive science.

In addition to drawing upon a wide range of disciplines and collaborations, the Clarke Center will engage the creative worlds of media, the arts and literature to help with discovery. UC San Diego’s unique relationship with speculative fiction and science fiction authors, including Kim Stanley Robinson, David Brin, Nancy Holder, Greg Benford, Vernor Vinge, Greg Bear and Aimee Bender, will allow the center to dismantle traditional boundaries and forge new ways of thinking about the future.

Amazon Starts SF Line

Amazon, rapidly becoming a major publisher of paper-and-ink books, now has moved into the sf, fantasy and horror genres with its seventh new imprint, 47North.  

Among its first 15 titles will be a paper edition of The Mongoliad, currently being produced online a chapter at a time as a serial novel designed to be read with a browser, smart phone, or tablet. The writers are Erik Bear, Greg Bear, Joseph Brassey, E. D. deBirmingham, Cooper Moo, Neal Stephenson and Mark Teppo. The book version will be released April 24, 2012.

In The Mongoliad: Book One, it is the spring of 1241. The Mongol takeover of Europe is almost complete. The hordes commanded by the sons of Genghis Khan have swept out of their immense grassy plains and ravaged Russia, Poland, and Hungary… and now seem poised to sweep west to Paris and south to Rome. King and Pope and peasant alike face a bleak future–until a small band of warriors, inheritors of a millennium-old secret tradition, conceive of a desperate plan to kill the Khan of Khans.

Their leader, an elder of the order of warrior monks, will lead his elite group on a perilous journey into the East. They will be guided by an elusive and sharp-witted young woman, who believes the master’s plan is insane. But this small band is the West’s last, best hope to turn back the floodtide of the Mongol Empire.

As you probably already guessed, 47North is the latitude of Seattle, Washington where Amazon was founded.

[Via Michael J. Walsh, John Mansfield and Andrew Porter]

Endeavour Award Photos

James W. Fiscus has sent along several of his photographs taken at the Endeavour Award presentation on November 27 during OryCon in Portland, Oregon.

(1) Group shot of the finalists and presenter: Ken Scholes, Lou Anders, David D. Levine, Kay Kenyon, and  Dave Duncan.  Anders presented the Award.  (Finalist Neal Stephenson was not present.)

(2) Endeavour Award Winner David D. Levine

(3) Finalists Kay Kenyon and  Dave Duncan with Endeavour Award committee member Page Fuller.

(4) Shows finalist Ken Scholes with Award presenter Lou Anders.