(1) VAN GELDER AUCTION BENEFITS PKD AWARD. Norwescon announced that Gordon Van Gelder, administrator for the Philip K. Dick Award, has put 18 sff books up for auction on eBay, including several first editions and signed editions (and some signed first editions), as a benefit for the award’s administrative fees. The Philip K. Dick Award, is presented annually to distinguished science fiction books published for the first time in the United States as a paperback original. The award ceremony is held each year at Norwescon.
(2) SECOND TAKE. Strange Horizons got some pushback about sexism in Adam Roberts’ review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and has now supplemented the original with an edited version —
Editor’s note: This review has been edited to remove sexist commentary about Carrie Fisher. The original version of this review can be read here. For additional background, please see this Twitter thread.
(3) TRUE GRIT. The BBC reports on “Transport Scotland’s fleet of gritters and their gritter tracker”. Contractors Bear Scotland ran competitions to name the various vehicles, and what roads they’re covering can be viewed online.
Thanks to social media, Transport Scotland’s fleet of light-flashing, salt-spraying kings of the road have become a bit of a sensation.
Followers have been glued to their screens following the roads authority’s Gritter Tracker.
They were surprised to find out the vehicles had humorous names like Sir Andy Flurry, Sir Salter Scott and Gritty Gritty Bang Bang….
The force was with the people of Ayrshire during Tuesday’s snow flurries, their roads were being protected by Luke Snowalker.
Along with strong snow-slaying names like the Ice Destroyer, Snow Queen and Ice Buster, more unassuming gritters like Fred, Jack and Frosty have also been out and about keeping the country moving.
Not forgetting Sprinkles, Sparkle and Ready Spready Go.
(4) ANOTHER HORRIFIC LESSON. Chloe N. Clark continues the excellent Horror 101 series with “Surrounded by Others–Anatomy of a Pod Person” at Nerds of a Feather.
As a child, two of my earliest film-related memories are watching the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and watching the John Carpenter version of The Thing. In both, what stuck with child me was the depiction of a monster who not only could be anyone, but also could be someone that you think you know so well: your crewmate, your friend, your lover. This early exposure to these two films led to a longtime obsession with pod people (which the Thing is not technically, but I’m extending my definition here to any monster who can appear in the exact visage of someone you know and trust). As a child, there was a visceral terror to the idea, because the world was one I trusted. As an adult, while I don’t think pod people are likely, they still strike a certain fear because the concept at the heart of pod people’s terror-making is very much real. In this edition of Horror 101, I’ll be diving into the anatomy of a monster (a thing I’ll do occasionally in this series).
(5) ABOUT THAT VENN DIAGRAM. Sarah at Bookworm Blues was caught up in a kerfuffle yesterday, and analyzes the underlying issues in “On Twitter and Representation”.
While most of the comments I received yesterday were displaying the righteous indignation I’m still feeling, there were a handful of others that made their way to me through various means that said something along the lines of, “I just love reading SciFi and Fantasy. I don’t pay attention to the gender of the author.” Or “Does the gender of the author even matter?”
Comments like that bother me about as much as, “I don’t see your disabilities.” Or “I don’t see color.”
As much as I don’t want to be defined by my chronic illness, or my disabilities, they absolutely are part of who I am, and by refusing to see them, you are, in a way, refusing to see me. You’re only seeing pieces of me. Not seeing my disability doesn’t make it go away. Putting me in a box will limit the reaches of my work, rather than expand it.
In another example, women tend to get paid less than men here in the good ol’ US of A, and not seeing the gender roles in that situation, is refusing to see the problem.
Representation matters. It matters for a hell of a lot of reasons. It is important to show young kids everywhere that they can be, do, accomplish whatever they set their minds to. Seeing disabled characters in literature normalizes disabilities in important ways. It provides education to those who might need it. It also gives me someone I can relate to in the books I read, and that right there is absolutely priceless.
This graphic that I posted yesterday doesn’t just have a dearth of female authors on it, but it also lacks any people of color, disabled authors, LGBTQ authors and basically any minority group at all. It’s a list of white male fantasy authors…
and Robin Hobb.
This is important because, I get pretty fed up with women authors putting out work that’s just as good, if not better, than their male counterparts and not getting equal recognition for it. This isn’t a Divide and Conquer thing, it’s a We’re all in it Together thing. Someone’s effort shouldn’t be seen or overlooked based on any of their minority or majority qualifiers. The fact that when asked for a list of fantasy authors the first ones someone gets are white male, says a whole lot. And the truth is, I think this inequality is so ingrained in our culture that it really isn’t even noticed until something like this happens. Maybe we don’t mean for this to happen, but in a way, the fact that this happens without malice or intent makes it just that much more insidious.
Women have basically cleaned the clock in the past few Hugo Awards, and where are they on charts like this? One of the most awarded, celebrated authors in our genre today is N.K. Jemisin, a black female fantasy author, and she deserves recognition for her accomplishments, but where is it in a list like this, and why in the world didn’t her name come up when someone was polling Twitter for fantasy authors? Nnedi Okorafor is getting her book Who Fears Death turned into a television show, and I’ve seen her name, her image, herself routinely cut off from many articles. Namely, when Vice News tweeted about this deal, and the graphic that followed wasn’t of the author who wrote the book, but of George R R Martin, and the book cover….
And today an alternate version is making the rounds –
(6) JACKET. Neil Gaiman’s cover reveal for the U.S. paperback.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY
- January 16, 1939 — The comic strip Superman first appeared in newspapers.
- January 16, 1995 — Star Trek: Voyager premiered.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY
- Born January 16, 1948 – John Carpenter celebrated his 70th birthday today – no matter what you may have read. Entertainment Weekly caught the competition’s mistake in listing him as deceased.
Happy birthday John Carpenter! Rotten Tomatoes has some bad news…
The mega-popular film review aggregation site mistakenly declared veteran film director dead Tuesday in a since-deleted tweet.
The 70-year-old horror icon is very much alive, though RT seemed to have a different impression when it honored the Halloween and The Thing director’s birthday…
(9) SEARCHING FOR A SIGN. Further Confusion was held this past weekend in San Jos and they have lost track of a convention icon —
(10) CATAPOSTROPHE. Apparently Kazakhstan is switching from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet, and the result is loaded with apostrophes, so the words look like they came from a bad SF novel. The New York Times has the story: “Kazakhstan Cheers New Alphabet, Except for All Those Apostrophes”.
In his 26 years as Kazakhstan’s first and only president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev has managed to keep a resurgent Russia at bay and navigate the treacherous geopolitical waters around Moscow, Beijing and Washington, keeping on good terms with all three capitals.
The authoritarian leader’s talent for balancing divergent interests, however, suddenly seems to have deserted him over an issue that, at first glance, involves neither great power rivalry nor weighty matters of state: the role of the humble apostrophe in writing down Kazakh words.
The Kazakh language is currently written using a modified version of Cyrillic, a legacy of Soviet rule, but Mr. Nazarbayev announced in May that the Russian alphabet would be dumped in favor of a new script based on the Latin alphabet. This, he said, “is not only the fulfillment of the dreams of our ancestors, but also the way to the future for younger generations.”
…The modified Latin alphabet put forward by Mr. Nazarbayev uses apostrophes to elongate or modify the sounds of certain letters.
For example, the letter “I” with an apostrophe designates roughly the same sound as the “I” in Fiji, while “I” on its own sounds like the vowel in fig. The letter “S” with an apostrophe indicates “sh” and C’ is pronounced “ch.” Under this new system, the Kazakh word for cherry will be written as s’i’i’e, and pronounced she-ee-ye.
(11) ON TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Rich Lynch says the game show Jeopardy! included an Asimov clue in the first round of tonight’s episode, mentioning the Hugo Award. The returning champ got it right!
(12) WHERE’S THE BEEF? Astronaut John Young, who recently died, once got in trouble for smuggling a corned beef sandwich on a space mission.
Gemini 3 had several objectives, from testing the effect of zero gravity on sea urchin eggs to testing orbital maneuvers in a manned spacecraft, which would aid the future moon landing. But another imperative was to test new space foods. Grissom and Young were sent up with dehydrated packets that they were meant to reconstitute with a water gun.
According to Young’s biography, “A couple of congressmen became upset, thinking that, by smuggling in the sandwich and eating part of it, Gus and I had ignored the actual space food that we were up there to evaluate, costing the country millions of dollars.” The House Appropriations Committee convened to mull over the sandwich incident, and one representative even harangued a NASA administrator, calling the sandwich stunt “just a little bit disgusting.”
Young was given a reprimand, the first ever for a member of a NASA space flight. He eventually regretted smuggling the sandwich into space, especially as the story came up over and over. But Grissom remembered it as “one of the highlights of the flight.” Grissom himself was in hot water for nicknaming Gemini 3’s spacecraft Molly Brown after the musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” (Grissom’s first space flight ended with his capsule sinking into the ocean after re-entry.) Grissom forced irritated NASA administrators to back down after he suggested the name “Titanic” as an alternative.
(13) STARGAZING. From the BBC, “Hubble scores unique close-up view of distant galaxy”.
The Hubble telescope has bagged an unprecedented close-up view of one of the Universe’s oldest known galaxies.
Astronomers were lucky when the orbiting observatory captured the image of a galaxy that existed just 500 million years after the Big Bang.
The image was stretched and amplified by the natural phenomenon of gravitational lensing, unlocking unprecedented detail.
Such objects usually appear as tiny red spots to powerful telescopes.
(14) RATS ACQUITTED! New simulations show “Black Death ‘spread by humans not rats'”.
“We have good mortality data from outbreaks in nine cities in Europe,” Prof Nils Stenseth, from the University of Oslo, told BBC News.
“So we could construct models of the disease dynamics [there].”
He and his colleagues then simulated disease outbreaks in each of these cities, creating three models where the disease was spread by:
- airborne transmission
- fleas and lice that live on humans and their clothes
In seven out of the nine cities studied, the “human parasite model” was a much better match for the pattern of the outbreak.
(15) RARE CASES. BBC considers “The mystery of why some people become sudden geniuses”. Chip Hitchcock notes, “Readers of old-time SF may recall H. L. Gold’s ‘The Man with English.’”
But until recently, most sensible people agreed on one thing: creativity begins in the pink, wobbly mass inside our skulls. It surely goes without saying that striking the brain, impaling it, electrocuting it, shooting it, slicing bits out of it or depriving it of oxygen would lead to the swift death of any great visions possessed by its owner.
As it happens, sometimes the opposite is true.
After the accident, Muybridge eventually recovered enough to sail to England. There his creativity really took hold. He abandoned bookselling and became a photographer, one of the most famous in the world. He was also a prolific inventor. Before the accident, he hadn’t filed a single patent. In the following two decades, he applied for at least 10.
In 1877 he took a bet that allowed him to combine invention and photography. Legend has it that his friend, a wealthy railroad tycoon called Leland Stanford, was convinced that horses could fly. Or, more accurately, he was convinced that when they run, all their legs leave the ground at the same time. Muybridge said they didn’t.
To prove it he placed 12 cameras along a horse track and installed a tripwire that would set them off automatically as Stanford’s favourite racing horse, Occident, ran. Next he invented the inelegantly named “zoopraxiscope”, a device which allowed him to project several images in quick succession and give the impression of motion. To his amazement, the horse was briefly suspended, mid-gallop. Muybridge had filmed the first movie – and with it proven that yes, horses can fly.
The abrupt turnaround of Muybridge’s life, from ordinary bookseller to creative genius, has prompted speculation that it was a direct result of his accident. It’s possible that he had “sudden savant syndrome”, in which exceptional abilities emerge after a brain injury or disease. It’s extremely rare, with just 25 verified cases on the planet
(16) KEVIN SMITH’S RATIONALE. Sebastian Paris, in “‘Star Wars’: Kevin Smith Weighs In On The Backlash Against ‘The Last Jedi’” on Heroic Hollywood, says that Smith, in his Fatman on Batman podcast, says that one reason many fans were disappointed with The Last Jedi was that they expected Luke Skywalker to be like Obi-Wan Kenobi and were disappointed when he turned out to be someone else.
(17) 2017 IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. Rich Lynch’s 19th issue of My Back Pages [PDF file] is now online at the eFanzines.com website:
Issue #19 absolutely deplores the undearly departed 2017 as one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year, and has essays involving historic mansions, convincing re-enactors, subway cars, Broadway shows, urban renewal, pub food, deadly duels, famous composers, iconic catchphrases, tablet computers, 1930s comic books, noir-ish buildings, foreboding edifices, unpaid interns, jams & singalongs, storm warnings, ancient palace grounds, Buddhist temples, worrisome fortunes, sushi adventures, retirement plans, and lots of Morris Dancers.
(18) MUNDANE COMMERCIALS, WHAT ELSE? Should you run out of things to watch, there’s always this collection of Dos Equis “The Most Interesting Man In the World” ads – at least 8 minutes worth.
(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Richard Williams–Animating Movement is a piece on Vimeo by the Royal Ocean Film Society that describes the techniques of the great Canadian animator whose best known work is the Pink Panther and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, IanP, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Greg Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Lynch, ULTRAGOTHA, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]