(1) ALL KNOWLEDGE. TASAT (There’s a Story About That) is a new community hub for applying science fiction to solve real world problems.
Accessing more than a hundred years of science fiction thought experiments, TASAT will tap into a passionate, global community of writers, scholars, librarians, and fans to crowdsource science fictional stories (across media) that may provide applicable insight into the problems we face today and anticipate facing tomorrow.
Applying Science Fiction to Solve Real World Problems
Envision: You work at an agency, corporation, or NGO, or you’re a citizen who has come across something… unusual. You’ve gathered a team to make recommendations. There seems to be a clear explanation. And yet, you wonder…
…might someone have thought about this very situation, in the past? Perhaps with an alternative idea your team missed? What if, already in some archive, There’s A Story About This?
As TASAT founder David Brin explains here, far-seeing tales can help us avoid mistakes, or at least give us a wider selection of scenarios to think about.
Accessing more than a hundred years of science fiction thought experiments, TASAT taps into a passionate, global community of writers, scholars, librarians, and fans. We aim to curate a reading list applicable to problems and possibilities of tomorrow. TASAT operates on two levels…
(2) MORE LIKE A BIG GULP. Quick Sip Reviews’ Charles Payseur unveils “THE SIPPY AWARDS 2017! The ‘There’s Something in My Eye’ Sippy for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF”. I don’t quite understand all of it – perhaps you can explain it to me!
The 3rd Annual Sippy Awards keep right on moving! That’s right, the SFF awards that no one asked for and few pay attention to is back! I’ve shipped my favorite relationships, and I’ve cowered in fear before my favorite horror stories. Which means that it’s week it’s time to reduce myself to a small puddle of tears somewhat resembling a functioning human being. yes, it’s time for…
The “There’s Something in My Eye” Sippy Award
for Excellent Making Me Ugly-Cry in Short SFF
I’m something of an emotive reader, which means that there are times when reading that a story just hits me right in the feels and I need to take a moment to recover. These are stories that, for me, are defined most by their emotional weight. By the impact they have, the ability to completely destroy all the careful emotional shields we use to keep the rest of the world at bay. These are the stories that pry open the shell of control I try surround myself in and leave me little more than a blubbering mess. So joining me in smiling through the tears and celebrating this year’s winners!
(3) BRIDGE PARTY. ConDor joins forces with SanDiegoLan.net to host the Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator game at ConDor 25, to be held January 19-21 — “Artemis Bridge Simulation at ConDor”.
Artemis is a multiplayer, multi-computer networked game for Windows computers.
Artemis simulates a spaceship bridge by networking several computers together. One computer runs the simulation and the “main screen”, while the others serve as workstations for the normal jobs a bridge officer might do, like Helm, Communication, Engineering, and Weapon Control.
Artemis is a social game where several players are together in one room (“bridge”) , and while they all work together, one player plays the Captain, a person who sits in the middle, doesn’t have a workstation, and tells everyone what to do.
San Diego LAN is a group of people who love getting together and playing PC games over LAN. We always balance the teams and we have a very friendly bunch, (typically ages 18 to 45).
(4) SF IN SOCAL. The Pasadena Museum of History will host the free exhibition “Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction & Southern California” from March 3 through September 2.
Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction, & Southern California… explores the history of science fiction in Southern California from 1930 to 1980, and how it interacted with the advances of science, the changes in technology, and shifts in American society. Curated by Nick Smith, president of Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, the exhibition will feature historic artifacts, fine and graphic art, books and ephemera, and historic photographs. This project was made possible with support from California Humanities, a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The museum is at 470 W. Walnut St. , Pasadena, CA 91103.
(5) DEEP DISH. The next Great Deep Dish SFF reading in Chicago will be on March 1, 7 p.m.
The inaugural event in December at Volumes Bookcafe was reported by Mary Anne Mohanraj at the Speculative Literature Foundation.
…thanks again to all the readers and speakers (Mary Robinette Kowal, Stephen Segal, Michi Trota, Michael Moreci, Angeli Primlani, Dan Gonzalez, Sue Burke, Valya Dudycz Lupescu) and everyone else who worked to make it a success, esp. my co-host, Chris Bauer.
(6) DOCUMENTING JDA’S TROLLING. Jim C. Hines has written a lengthy summary of “Jon Del Arroz’s History of Trolling and Harassing”.
Del Arroz’s defenders claim he’s a nice guy, and accusations that he harasses or trolls people are absurd. Del Arroz told me on Facebook that he doesn’t “escalate feuds.” He claims he’s just the victim of blackballing, harassment, threats, and so on.
I’m not saying nobody has ever given Del Arroz shit online. He alleges that people once doxxed his children and sent a glitterbomb to his house. Both were done anonymously. I have no problem condemning both incidents, whoever was responsible. I’ve also heard that people mocked him for his last name, which…yeah, that just seems racist to me.
But if you look through Jon Del Arroz’s interactions with others… Well, here’s a sampling of what people are talking about when they say Del Arroz harasses, insults, and trolls others, and distorts things for publicity and what someone once described as martyrbatiuon.
My goal isn’t to trash Del Arroz, but to document a pattern of behavior.
Warning: there’s a lot of material here….
Hines does an excellent job of mapping many of JDA’s acts of harassment and misogyny over the past year.
(7) LEST WE FORGET. Hines also noticed —
(8) NUSSBAUM BRANCHES OUT. Abigail Nussbaum has launched a new series of articles at Lawyers, Guns & Money — “A Political History of the Future: Introduction”.
My plan is to devote each installment to a particular work and discuss how its themes reflect current issues. Even more importantly, I want to talk about how science fiction imagines ways of ordering society that are different from the ones we know, that offer alternatives to the existing social order.
That’s by no means the norm. A lot of the time, when science fiction tries to engage with hot-button political issues, it does so in the terms of post-apocalypse or dystopia. Most climate change novels, for example, can more accurately be described as climate catastrophe novels. That’s not unjustified, obviously, but my interest is in stories that imagine functional societies, even if those societies are also flawed or predatory. And while talking about accuracy and realism in the context of science fiction worldbuilding is often just an excuse to be nitpicky and dismissive, I’m more interested in stories that show their work, that think through how a policy or an institution would come into being, and how it would affect society as a whole.
To give an example from the negative, while I enjoyed it very much as a piece of TV-making and a feminist statement, I’m not planning to write about Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale (though that might change according to how the second season shakes out). When Margaret Atwood published the original novel in 1985, she constructed its gender-dystopia world in response to forces she saw around her, a combination of anti-feminist backlash, Phyllis Schlafly’s Christianist anti-women doctrine, and the Iranian revolution. That this was an incoherent patchwork didn’t matter because the focus of the novel was on Offred’s mental state, and its scope rarely extended past her confined viewpoint. The television series recreates that world more or less uncritically, and even with the gloss of topicality it layers over, the result doesn’t really hold water. That’s not a criticism of the show, which to my mind is one of the most essential pop culture artifacts of the current era. But it means that I don’t have much to say about it as a piece of political worldbuilding.
(9) PENROSE ON DARK MATTER. On January 19, The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego and the Penrose Institute present a “Roger Penrose Lecture: New Cosmological View of Dark Matter”.
Sir Roger Penrose will give a talk on his latest research and provide an insight into the thinking of a modern day theoretical physicist. Is the Universe destined to collapse, ending in a big crunch or to expand indefinitely until it homogenizes in a heat death? Roger will explain a third alternative, the cosmological conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC) scheme-where the Universe evolves through eons, each ending in the decay of mass and beginning again with new Big Bang. The equations governing the crossover from each aeon to the next demand the creation of a dominant new scalar material, postulated to be dark matter. In order that this material does not build up from aeon to aeon, it is taken to decay away completely over the history of each aeon. The dark matter particles (erebons) may be expected to behave almost as classical particles, though with bosonic properties; they would probably be of about a Planck mass, and interacting only gravitationally. Their decay would produce gravitational signals, and be responsible for the approximately scale invariant temperature fluctuations in the CMB of the succeeding aeon. In our own aeon, erebon decay might well show up in signals discernable by gravitational wave detectors. The talk will blend Roger’s accessible style with an unapologetic detailed look at the physical principles. It should be of interest to practicing physicists and lay people who enjoy taking a more detailed look at physics.
Sir Roger Penrose, Emeritus Professor at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford, winner of the Copley Medal and the Wolf Prize in Physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking, has made profound contributions encompassing geometry, black hole singularities, the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity, the structure of space-time, nature of consciousness and the origin of our Universe. In 1989 Penrose wrote The Emperor’s New Mind which challenged the premise that consciousness is computation and proposed new physics to understand it.
On January 19, 2018, 3 p.m. in Liebow Auditorium, UC San Diego. Free and open to the public (seating first-come, first-served).
(10) OUTWORLDS LIVE. Fanac.org is the place to find “Outworlds Live! The 50th issue of Outworlds”, performed at the 1987 Corflu. Not sure if I’ve covered this before, so I’ll link to it now —
Bill Bowers was one of the most respected fanzine editors of his time. He started publishing fanzines in the 1960s. His most notable fanzines were Double-Bill, edited with Bill Mallardi, and Outworlds. Outworlds was published for 70 issues. Bill chaired Corflu IV, Cincinnati (1987). A highlight of the convention was this performance of the 50th issue of Outworlds, Outworlds Live! It featured readings and performances by Bill Bowers, Art Widner, Richard Brandt, Gary Hubbard, Al Curry, Bernadette Bosky, Arthur Hlavaty, Ted White, and Stephen Leigh. Featured is art by Steve Stiles and Joan Hanke-Woods.
Here’s the beginning of a 13-video playlist:
(11) TODAY IN HISTORY
- January 14, 1959 — Journey to the Center of the Earth premiered.
- January 14, 1981 — David Cronenberg’s Scanners debuted.
- January 14, 1976 — The Bionic Woman aired its first episode.
- January 14, 2005 — The first probe to land on Saturn’s moon, Titan, signaled it survived its descent. The Huygens space probe was designed to last only minutes on Titan’s surface, but surpassed the expectations of mission managers. Huygens descended the atmosphere, contacted the surface, and transmitted for at least an hour and a half.
(12) COMICS SECTION.
- Mike Kennedy can see how this might be a very short game — In the Bleachers.
- Mike Kennedy and John King Tarpinian both demand to know “How dare they go out of business!” after viewing Pearls Before Swine.
- John King Tarpinian finds aliens have changed their plans for the Earth in Frank and Ernest.
(13) FLOWER POWER. The BBC tells “How flowering plants conquered the world” (albeit after butterflies appeared):
Scientists think they have the answer to a puzzle that baffled even Charles Darwin: How flowers evolved and spread to become the dominant plants on Earth.
Flowering plants, or angiosperms, make up about 90% of all living plant species, including most food crops.
In the distant past, they outpaced plants such as conifers and ferns, which predate them, but how they did this has has been a mystery.
New research suggests it is down to genome size – and small is better.
“It really comes down to a question of cell size and how you can build a small cell and still retain all the attributes that are necessary for life,” says Kevin Simonin from San Francisco State University in California, US.
(14) CROWDSOURCED ASTRONOMY. They hit the jackpot: “Citizen science bags five-planet haul”.
A discovery by citizen scientists has led to the confirmation of a system of five planets orbiting a far-off star.
Furthermore, the planets’ orbits are linked in a mathematical relationship called a resonance chain, with a pattern that is unique among the known planetary systems in our galaxy.
Studying the system could help unlock some mysteries surrounding the formation of planetary systems.
The results were announced at the 231st American Astronomical Society meeting.
The system was found by astronomy enthusiasts using Zooniverse, an online platform for crowdsourcing research.
(15) THE ILLUSION OF DEPTH. From Germany, “The animation genius you’ve (probably) never heard of” (videos at the link.)
The charming story of how Lotte Reiniger became one of the great pioneers of early animation.
(16) ERROR OF THE DAY. Christopher Hensley shared a discovery of Facebook.
So, while doing a legitimate work thing I found out about the greatest HTTP error code ever invented: 418 Error – I am a Teapot. It was issued in RFC 2324 (https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2324) by the IETF as part of an April Fool’s day gag in 1998. But here we are, 20 years later. We are living in an age of the Internet of Things, with networked devices of all kinds in their home. Including, internet enabled electric kettles. And, if you attempt to make an HTTP connection to that electric kettle on the TCP port it uses to communicate with the world the the standards dictate the response code 418 Error – I am a Teapot.
(17) DR. DEMENTO The Doctor has a theme album reports the LA Times — “Dr. Demento, comedic song hero and unsung punk rock legend, gets his due on new album”.
The punk connection takes center stage with “Dr. Demento Covered in Punk,” an exceedingly ambitious and densely packed double album — triple in the vinyl edition — being released Jan. 12.
The album comprises 64 tracks spread over a pair of CDs, pulling together new recordings of “mad music and crazy comedy” songs long associated with the quirky radio emcee. Participants include Yankovic, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, William Shatner, Adam West, the Vandals, Fred Schneider of the B-52’s, the Misfits, Japan’s Shonen Knife, Los Straitjackets, Missing Persons, the Dead Milkmen and at least a dozen more.
(18) BAD ROBOT. Quartz reports how “This robotics hobbyist makes a living creating shitty robots” —
Simone Giertz’s morning routine involves a lot of really bad robots. They fail miserably at waking her up, brushing her teeth and making her breakfast. The 25-year-old Swedish robot enthusiast has parlayed their failures into a very successful YouTube channel, and full-time job.
Quartz’ video compilation is at the link. Here’s the introductory video from her channel:
[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]