Pixel Scroll 8/31/19 A Scroll Title Named Desire

(1) TIPTREE AWARD CONTROVERSY. While I can’t say I located the ultimate roots of the discussion, I found Carrie Cuinn’s thread, which starts here.

There are more comments in Natalie Luhrs’ thread, starting here.

Today Sweden’s John-Henri Holmberg countered challenges raised about continuing the James Tiptree Award under its existing name in his review of the history of the award and its namesake on Facebook. He asks in conclusion:

…What has changed in the last few months? As far as I know, nothing. The award given not even in her own name, but in the name of her pseudonym, celebrates work of imaginative fiction exploring the territory she made her own over her twenty-years long writing career. She explored it more deeply, searchingly, critically and imaginatively than anyone before her had ever come close to doing, and her work remains startlingly fresh, moving, and thoughtful. We owe it to her to celebrate her heritage, not to obliterate it. Her death, as that of her husband, was a tragedy, but not by any reasonable standard an erasure of her life or her literary heritage.

(2) CARRYING THE BANNER. Travis Corcoran’s Prometheus Award acceptance speech has been posted on the Libertarian Futurist Society blog:

Here is the acceptance speech by Travis Corcoran for 2019 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for Causes of Separation.  (Corcoran could not attend the Dublin Worldcon but wrote this acceptance speech to be read there at the ceremony.)

…Chapman’s essay and Pournelle’s and Conquest’s laws are three observations of a single underlying phenomena: the collectivists always worm their way in and take over. We know THAT this happens, but WHY does it happen? How can we model it and understand it?

(3) WHAT, IT’S NOT CHEESE? Space.com reports “China’s Lunar Rover Has Found Something Weird on the Far Side of the Moon”.  

China’s Chang’e-4 lunar rover has discovered an unusually colored, ‘gel-like’ substance during its exploration activities on the far side of the moon.

The mission’s rover, Yutu-2, stumbled on that surprise during lunar day 8. The discovery prompted scientists on the mission to postpone other driving plans for the rover, and instead focus its instruments on trying to figure out what the strange material is.

…So far, mission scientists haven’t offered any indication as to the nature of the colored substance and have said only that it is “gel-like” and has an “unusual color.” One possible explanation, outside researchers suggested, is that the substance is melt glass created from meteorites striking the surface of the moon. 

(4) EL-MOHTAR REVIEW. NPR’s Amal El-Mohtar says “‘Palestine + 100’ Explores Contested Territory, Past And Future”

A few years ago I reviewed Iraq + 100, a project which invited its contributors to write stories set 100 years in Iraq’s future. It was conceived as an imaginative springboard for Iraqi writers to potentially launch themselves beyond the enduring trauma of waves of invasion and devastation — but because science fiction stories set in the future are always in some way about our present, the collection became a multi-voiced testament to the fact that you can’t project a future without first reckoning with the past.

Comma Press has followed that collection up with Palestine + 100, an anthology edited by Basma Ghalayini in which twelve Palestinian authors write stories set 100 years after the Nakba — Arabic for “catastrophe” — during which, as Ghalayini writes in her moving, thoughtful introduction, “Israel declared itself a new-born state on the rubble of Palestinian lives.” Thus where Iraq + 100 looked towards the year 2103, the stories in Palestine + 100 look towards 2048, and the bulk of the work isn’t about extrapolating a future so much as recognizing, fighting, and establishing narratives about the past. The choice of subtitle — “stories from a century after the Nakba” — exemplifies this, drawing attention to the fact that for Palestinians (and many Israelis), May 15, 1948 is not a date to celebrate, but to grieve.

In Palestine + 100, memory and imagination are contested territories. Samir El-Youssef’s “The Association,” translated by Raph Cormack, kicks off with the murder of a historian; the narrator observes that “Since the 2028 Agreement, the people of the country — all the different sects and religions, Muslim, Christian and Jewish — had decided that forgetting was the best way to live in peace.” In Saleem Haddad’s “Song of the Birds,” a young girl lives in a beautiful simulation haunted by the vicious, broken reality it obscures. In Ahmed Masoud’s “Application 39,” two young men imagine a Palestinian bid for the Olympics as a joke — and find themselves in the tormented midst of trying to make that a reality, with all the consequences it entails. In Tasnim Abutabikh’s “Vengeance” the plot is evenly divided between one man’s elaborate pursuit of revenge against a neighbor he thinks has wronged him — and that neighbor’s heartbroken revelation that the man had the past all wrong. In almost all these stories there is a doubled, troubled vision, that never resolves so much as it fractures further.

(5) MICHAELS OBIT. Melisa Michaels (1946-2019) died August 30 of complications amid efforts to treat her lung cancer. (Condolences to filer Xtifr, her nephew.)

Michaels was known for her series about Skyrider, a woman space combat pilot. She also wrote urban fantasies including “Sister to the Rain” and “Cold Iron.” Her novel Skirmish was nominated for a Locus Award for Best First Novel in 1986. SFWA presented her with a Service Award in 2008.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 31, 1914 Richard Basehart. He’s best remembered as Admiral Harriman Nelson in  Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He also portrayed Wilton Knight in the later Knight Rider series. And he appeared in “Probe 7, Over and Out”, an episode of The Twilight Zone. (Died 1984)
  • Born August 31, 1933 Robert Adams. He’s best remembered for the Horseclans series which became his overall best-known works though he wrote other works.  While he never completed the series, he wrote 18 novels in the Horseclans series before his death. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 31, 1949 Richard Gere, 70. Lancelot in First Knight starring Sean Connery as King Arthur. And was Joe Klein in The Mothman Prophecies. That’s it. First Knight for me is more than enough to get Birthday Honours!  
  • Born August 31, 1958 Julie Brown, 61. Starred with Geena Davis in the cult SF comedy, Earth Girls Are Easy. She’s actually been in genre films such as The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Bloody Birthday (a slasher film), Timebomb and Wakko’s Wish. She’s had one-offs in TV’s Quantum Leap and The Addams Family. She’s voiced a lot of animated characters included a memorable run doing the ever so sexy Minerva Mink on The Animaniacs. She reprised that role on Pinky and The Brain under the odd character name of Danette Spoonabello Minerva Mink. 
  • Born August 31, 1969 Jonathan LaPaglia, 50. The lead in Seven Days which I’ve noted before is one of my favourite SF series. Other than playing Prince Seth of Delphi in a really bad film called Gryphon which aired on the Sci-fi channel, that’s his entire genre history.
  • Born August 31, 1971 Chris Tucker, 48. The way over the top Ruby Rhod in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, a film I really, really like. His only other genre credit is as a MC in the Hall in The Meteor Man.
  • Born August 31, 1982 G. Willow Wilson, 37. A true genius. There’s her amazing work on the Hugo Award winning Ms. Marvel series starring Kamala Khan which I recommend strongly, and that’s not to say that her superb Air series shouldn’t be on your reading list. Oh, and the Cairo graphic novel with its duplicitous djinn is quite the read. The only thing I’ve by her that I’ve not quite liked is her World Fantasy Award winning Alif the Unseen novel.  I’ve not yet read her Wonder Women story but will soon.
  • Born August 31, 1992 Holly Earl, 27. She’s been in a number of British genre shows such as playing Kela in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, Agnes in Humans, and yes, Doctor Who in the “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”, an Eleventh Doctor story in she was Lily Arwell.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro lives up to its name with this idea about collaborative effort.

(8) ONE TO BEAM UP. Camestros Felapton’s incredible “tweetfilk” of Star Trek and Bowie, featuring science officer Ziggy!! Thread starts here.

(9) PLEASE DON’T JOKE ABOUT THIS. Variety: “‘Joker’ Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying”.

Critics are raving for Warner Bros. latest comic book installment.

Todd Phillip’s “Joker” opened Saturday at the Venice Film Festival to effervescent reviews, with many critics highlighting an Oscar-worthy appearance from star Joaquin PhoenixVariety‘s own Owen Gleiberman praised Phoenix’s performance, emphasizing his physical acting and emotional control:

“He appears to have lost weight for the role, so that his ribs and shoulder blades protrude, and the leanness burns his face down to its expressive essence: black eyebrows, sallow cheeks sunk in gloom, a mouth so rubbery it seems to be snarking at the very notion of expression, all set off by a greasy mop of hair,” he wrote. “Phoenix is playing a geek with an unhinged mind, yet he’s so controlled that he’s mesmerizing. He stays true to the desperate logic of Arthur’s unhappiness.”

(10) VERY LEAKY ESTABLISHMENT. NPR asks “Have You Seen Any Nazi Uranium? These Researchers Want To Know”. (The photo makes it look like a Borg spaceship.)

Timothy Koeth’s office is crammed with radioactive relics – old watches with glowing radium dials, pieces of melted glass from beneath the test of the world’s first nuclear weapon.

But there is one artifact that stands apart from the rest: a dense, charcoal-black cube, two-inches on a side. The cube is made of pure uranium metal. It was forged more than 70 years ago by the Nazis, and it tells the little-known story of Germany’s nuclear efforts during World War II.

“From a historical perspective this cube weighs a lot more than five pounds,” Koeth, a physicist at the University of Maryland, says as he holds it in his hand.

…At the time of Hitler’s rise, Germany was actually at the cutting edge of nuclear technology. “Nuclear fission was discovered in Berlin in late 1938,” says Alex Wellerstein is a historian of science at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. “They were the first team of people who figured out how to split the atom, and figured out that when you split the atom, a lot of energy was going to be released.”

That basic idea of splitting atoms to release energy is what’s at the heart of all of today’s nuclear power plants and all the world’s nuclear weapons.

But back during World War II, it was all theoretical. To find out how it could work, the Germans devised strange looking experiment. Scientists strung together 664 cubes of uranium with aircraft cables and suspended them. The result looked “kind of like a very strange modernist chandelier of cubes,” Wellerstein says.

The chandelier was dipped into a cylindrical tank of heavy water, which contains special isotopes of hydrogen that make it more conducive to nuclear reactions.

The setup was known as the B-VIII reactor. The Germans were experimenting with it inside a cave in the southern town of Haigerloch. They were still trying to get it to work when the allied invasion began. As Allied forces approached, the German scientists disassembled the reactor and buried the cubes in a field.

The first wave of Allied troops to arrive included a task force known as Alsos, which was seeking to seize as much of the Nazi program as they could.

The Nazi scientists quickly disclosed the location of the buried cubes to the Allies, Wellerstein says. The Alsos team boxed up the cubes, to send them back to America, but what happened after that is not entirely clear.

(12) UK BIOBANK. “Geneticists To Cooperate, Not Compete”NPR has the story.

There’s an astonishing outpouring of new information linking genes and health, thanks to the efforts of humble Englishmen and women such as Chritopeher Fletcher. The 70-year-old man recently drove 90 miles from his home in Nottingham to a radiology clinic outside the city of Manchester.

He is one of half a million Brits who have donated time, blood and access to their medical records to a remarkable resource called UK Biobank. The biobank, in turn, has become a resource for more than a thousand scientists around the world who are interested in delving into the link between genes, behaviors and health.

Popularity of the resource is snowballing. Just this week, a major study using the data explored the genetics of same-sex sexual behavior. And as researchers discover the biobank’s value, there’s a strong incentive to add to the database to make it even richer.

…What makes UK Biobank valuable is not only the half-million volunteers, whose health will be followed for decades, but also its community-spirited scientific strategy. Chief scientist Dr. Cathie Sudlow says the organizers, in a break from their usual ways, aren’t out to answer their own scientific questions, but to serve their colleagues.

“I’ll freely admit that when I first started out in the biobank I couldn’t really believe that we were all going to work really hard to make data available for other people,” she says. “And that is because I came from this traditional, kind of slightly paranoid, somewhat territorial, academic background.”

The scramble for research funds creates competitive incentives in much of academic science today. This biobank is different.

(13) JUST A FEW MORE HOURS. Readers of Camestros’ Felapton’s blog have entertained each other today with some last-minute speculation about the winners: “Just for fun, some Dragon Award predictions”.

Best Science Fiction Novel: A Star-Wheeled Sky by Brad Torgersen is a plausible winner. If it does then we can assume other works in the Brad Puppies list got lots of votes. I think Tiamat’s Wrath is a likely winner given the popularity of The Expanse TV series and the Dragon Con audience. However, Becky Chambers has a wide and devoted set of fans and I wouldn’t be astonished if Record of a Spaceborn Few won. If any of the others won, that would be interesting but I don’t know what it would mean.

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

Brad Linaweaver (1952-2019)

Brad Linaweaver in 1989 holding his Prometheus Award. Photo by and (c) Andrew Porter.

Prometheus Award-winning author Brad Linaweaver died August 29 after a long battle with cancer. He would have been 67 on Sunday.

I met Brad long ago through other Libertarian fans and knew about his good sense of humor – he attended the satirical Hogu Ranquets organized at Worldcons by Elst Weinstein and John Novak. His goal was a pro writing career and he made his mark with some noteworthy sff.

The novella version of his novel Moon of Ice was a Nebula Award finalist (1983) and the novel length version won a Prometheus Award (1989). Linaweaver shared a second Prometheus Award (1998) with Ed Kramer for co-editing Free Space, a libertarian science fiction anthology from TOR books. His novels Anarquia with J. Kent Hastings, and Sliders (based on the television series) were also Prometheus nominees.

Linaweaver’s other novels include The Land Beyond Summer, four Doom novels with Dafydd ab Hugh, and three Battlestar Galactica novels with actor Richard Hatch.

He had original story credits on a number of films, including The Brain Leeches and Jack-O for Fred Olen Ray.

He was proud to add, in the bio he sent me when I ran program at the 2000 Loscon, “Besides playing a werewolf in the upcoming Vampire Hunters Club, his media credits include story adaptations for radio, and cameo appearances in almost a dozen feature films, including Attack of the Sixty Foot Centerfold. Brad even did a scene with Kato Kaelin before he because America’s most famous houseguest (Kato, not Brad).” Kaelin was a witness in the OJ Simpson trial (1995).

His nonfiction appeared in National Review, Chronicles, Reason, The Agorist Quarterly,and Famous Monsters of Filmland.

In 2004, he co-authored Worlds of Tomorrow with Forrest J Ackerman, a hardcover coffee table book that spotlights science fiction cover art from the Golden Age.

He was the publisher of Mondo Cult Magazine and its associated website, edited by Jessie Lilley Campbell.

One of Linaweaver’s proudest possessions was a small brass cannon once owned by Robert and Virginia Heinlein. For nearly 30 years they fired it every July 4 at the Heinlein residence. Virginia bequeathed to Linaweaver when she died in 2003. He restored it and in 2007 made a video of it being fired several times (with very small charges). (Cannon discharges begin around 6:41.)

Pixel Scroll 8/11/19 Where Are We Going? Pixel 10!

MONDAY. My mother is having her pacemaker battery replaced tomorrow and I’ll be going along with her to the hospital. I don’t know how that will affect my plans for the Scroll. A day off? A relief to come home and work on it? If you don’t see one, that’ll be why.

(1) UNEXPECTED PARTY. If there had been op-eds in Lord of the Rings… David Howard tells “We Need a Wizard Who Can Appeal to the Moderate Orc Voter” at McSweeney’s.

I may be just an ordinary orc, but I wasn’t at all surprised when the Dark Lord Sauron became the leader of Mordor. A lot of my smart, liberal friends, though, reacted as if Middle-earth was coming to an end. Dwarves in the barroom of the Prancing Pony said it was the pride of the High Elves. Ravens twittering under the eaves of Mirkwood blamed the cunning of dragons. The Steward of Gondor, posting on FacePalantir, said it was because of Sauron’s hatred for the heirs of Isildur.

I’m here to tell you: it’s the economy, stupid.

It’s all very well for those of you who dwell in the Shire, the haven of Rivendell, or the quiet forests of Lothlórien. You live in a bubble. You don’t know what life is like for the average orc, in depressed areas like the Trollshaws, the Misty Mountains, or the Dead Marshes. Let me tell you, it’s hard out here for an orc….

(2) THE YA AUDIENCE. Q&A with YA author Kate Marshall, “Interview: Graduate Kate Marshall (Part 1 of 2)”, at Odyssey Writing Workshops.

Congratulations on the upcoming September release of Rules for Vanishing, a YA novel about local ghost legend Lucy Gallows! What are some of the unique challenges of writing for a YA audience?

One of the tricky things about the YA audience is that it’s not very young adult! Most YA readers aren’t teenagers, but not by a huge margin—which means that you’re writing both for actual teens and for adult fans of the category. There’s a lot of crossover in expectations and preferences between the two sets of readers, but there are differences you have to navigate. What teens find unrealistic in a teenage character and what adults find unrealistic in a teen character are often quite different. And the online conversation and community is dominated by that older set of readers, which makes it important to seek out teens’ reactions and opinions, whether that’s through school visits or teen reader programs at libraries. And of course, it helps to actually know some teens. And to like them! There’s a lot of disdain out there for young adults, and it’s absolutely antithetical to the pursuit of writing YA. I started writing YA when I was a teenager, but when I picked it up again as an adult I made sure I was interacting with my target audience—in this case, through a mentorship program at a local high school, where I hung out twice a week one-on-one just to chat about my mentees’ lives.

(3) ONE FAN’S VIEW. Europa SF hosts an analysis of two bids for Eurocon in 2021: “COUNTERCLOCK SF: EUROCON 2021 BID EVALUATION – Wolf von Witting”. The site will be chosen during Titancon in Belfast, this year’s Eurocon.

Let’s compare the upcoming bids for 2021.

The Italian Eurocon in Fiuggi 2009 was a disappointment. A thin program, good food, but low attendance. Not the best publicity for Italian fandom.

At the time, I decided to oppose another Italian Eurocon.

In particular, if they were pitched against a Polish, Croatian or Romanian bid, since these fandoms participate to a wider extent in building bridges across their borders in Europe. Perhaps you recall Tricon 2010, which was a Polish-Czech and Slovakian collaboration?

Romanians are making more efforts to be part of the
European sf-community. I was inclined to throw myself into the blend with long smoffing experience, helping the Romanians to make their event a success. What I found was they don’t need me!

More Italians have to realize, that Europe is no longer an archipelago of isolated language islands. …

(4) SCHULMAN OBIT. Author and part of the early Libertarian movement, J. Neil Schulman (1953-2019) died August 11 of a pulmonary embolism reports John DeChancie.

Schulman’s The Rainbow Cadenza won the Prometheus Award for Best Novel (1984). His book Alongside Night was voted a Prometheus Hall of Fame Award (1989) and produced as a movie (2014).

His third novel, Escape from Heaven, was also a finalist for the 2002 Prometheus Award. His fourth and latest novel, The Fractal Man, is a finalist for the 2019 Prometheus Award.

He wrote the “Profile in Silver” segment for a 1986 episode of the revived Twilight Zone, about a future historian who creates a disastrous alternate timeline when he time travels back to November 22, 1963 and prevents JFK’s assassination.

Neil’s other projects included writing, producing and directing the suspense comedy, Lady Magdalene’s, starring Nichelle Nichols, which won two film-festival awards.

I think I first met Neil at the same time as Sam Konkin III, aboard the riverboat cruise organized by the Louisville NASFiC (1979), all part of a group of New York fans relocating to Southern California.

Schulman had already made his mark in fandom by getting a long interview with Robert A. Heinlein (1973), the most revealing ever, on assignment from the New York Daily News. (The interview would reappear as a serial in New Libertarian magazine, and as a book.)

He became part of Konkin’s Seventies sf club the Science Fiction Association of Long Beach, along with Victor Koman and others.

On his website Rational Review Schulman mixed political commentary — he styled himself a libertarian anarchist — with good anecdotes, such as the one about the time he was a witness to a practical joke played on Leonard Nimoy was speaking to an NYU audience in 1974.

(5) COLÓN OBIT. Prolific comic book artist Ernie Colón has passed away at the age of 88 after a battle with cancer reports SYFY Wire.

…Colón began his career in the 1960s as a letterer for Harvey Comics, where he worked as an uncredited penciler on Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost. While at Harvey, Colón met Sid Jacobson, who became his longtime friend and creative partner. In 2006, the pair teamed up on the graphic adaptation of the 9/11 Commission Report. The two would continue to release additional historical graphic works, like their 2010 graphic biography about Anne Frank.

.. Many, however, know him best from his work with the late Dwayne McDuffie on Marvel’s Damage Control. He’s equally well known for co-creating DC’s Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld and Arak, Son of Thunder. Colón’s distinctive style lent itself well to DC’s 1980s science fiction mainstays.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 11, 1923 Ben P. Indick. A member of First Fandom and prolific fanzine publisher. He wrote a handful of short genre fiction but is better remembered for his two non-fiction works, The Drama of Ray Bradbury and George Alec Effinger: From Entropy to Budayeen. (Died 2009.)
  • Born August 11, 1928 Alan E. Nourse. His connections to other SF writers are fascinating. Heinlein dedicated Farnham’s Freehold to Nourse, and  in part dedicated Friday to Nourse’s wife Ann.  His novel The Bladerunner lent its name to the movie but nothing else from it was used in that story. However Blade Runner (a movie) written by, and I kid you not, William S. Burroughs, is based on his novel. Here the term “blade runner” refers to a smuggler of medical supplies, e.g. scalpels. (Died 1992.)
  • Born August 11, 1932 Chester  Anderson. His The Butterfly Kid is the first part of what is called the Greenwich Village Trilogy, with Michael Kurland writing the middle book, The Unicorn Girl, and the third volume, The Probability Pad, written by T.A. Waters. I can practically taste the acid from here… (Died 1991.)
  • Born August 11, 1936 Bruce Pelz. He was highly active in the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society (LASFS) co-chairing the 30th World Science Fiction Convention. He also wrote filksongs and was a master costumer. Mike has a remembrance of him here. (Died 2002.)
  • Born August 11, 1942 Laurel Goodwin, 77. She starred as Yeoman J. M. Colt in the Trek pilot, and after the series was picked up, the episode became the first season two-part episode entitled “The Menagerie”.  She also played Phoebe on the “Anatomy of a Lover” episode of Get Smart! 
  • Born August 11, 1949 Nate Bucklin, 70. Musician who has co-written songs with Stephen Brust and others. He’s a founding member of the Scribblies, the Minneapolis writer’s group, and is also one of the founding members of the Minnesota Science Fiction Society, better known as Minn-stf. He spent four years as a member of the National Fantasy Fan Federation or N3F, and his correspondents included Greg Shaw, Walter Breen, and Piers Anthony. He’s been a filk guest of honor at five cons.
  • Born August 11, 1959 Alan Rodgers. Author of Bone Music, a truly great take off the Robert Johnson myth. His “The Boy Who Came Back From the Dead” novelette won the Bram Stoker Award for Best Long Fiction, and he was editor of Night Cry in the mid-Eighties. Kindle has Bone Music and a number of his other novels, iBooks has nothing available. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 11, 1961 Susan M. Garrett. She was a well-known and much liked genre writer, editor and publisher in many fandoms, but especially the Forever Knight community. (She also was active in Doctor Who and The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne fandoms.) She is perhaps best known for being invited to write a Forever Knight tie-in novel, Intimations of Mortality. It, like the rest of the Forever Knight novels, is not available in digital form. (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 11, 1983 Chris Hemsworth, 36. Thor in the MCU film franchise and George Kirk in the most recent Trek film franchise. Other genre performances include Eric the Huntsman in the exemplary Snow White and the Huntsman and The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Curt Vaughan in Cabin in the Woods and Agent H in Men in Black: International. Ok who’s seen the latter? 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) FULL LID. In Alasdair Stuart’s last Full Lid before Worldcon (“The Full Lid 9th August 2019”), “we take a look at Vera Greentea and Yana Bogatch’s superb magical noir graphic novel Grimoire Noir. We also dive deep into the strange and wonderful world of Middle: Below from TinCan Audio and examine how She-Ra Season 3 may have cracked (one) of the problems many Netflix shows face. Oh and in ‘My Event Horizon Fever Dream’ I have ENTIRELY too much fun thinking about where I’d take the upcoming Amazon show.”

…Netflix have two terrible habits; cancelling a show two seasons in (Tuca and Bertie and The OA most recently) and chopping a 13 episode production order into two six episode ones and claiming they’re whole seasons. This really hurt the middle seasons of Voltron but it’s something She-Ra turns not just into a feature but a driving force….

(9) THIS OLD HOLE. “NASA discovers “cloaked” black hole from earliest days of the universe”The Indian Express has the story.

Astronomers from American space agency NASA have discovered evidence for the farthest “cloaked” black hole found so far. The discovery was made by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The astronomers have claimed the clocked black hole at only 6 per cent of the current age of the universe.

NASA says that this is the first indication of a black hole hidden by gas at such an early time in the history of the cosmos. Supermassive black holes are often millions to billions of times more massive than our Sun and typically grow by pulling in material from a disk of surrounding matter.

(10) BACKWARDS TO THE FUTURE. In “H. G. Wells and the Uncertainties of Progress” on the Public Domain Review, Peter J. Bowler, an emeritus professor at Northern Ireland’s Queen’s University, looks at how H.G. Wells’s sf novels were grounded in a critique of the Victorian “inevitability of progress.”

…The Darwinian viewpoint is more clearly visible in Wells’ hugely successful non-fiction work The Outline of History, originally published in fortnightly parts in 1920. The survey starts from the development of life on earth and the evolution of the human species. Progress had certainly happened both in evolution and in human history from the Stone Age onward, but Wells shows that there was no predetermined upward trend. His exposure to the Darwinian vision of biological evolution (which continued in his collaboration with Julian Huxley to produce The Science of Life some years later) showed him that there were multiple ways of achieving a more complex biological structure — or a more complex society. Truly progressive steps in both areas were sporadic, unpredictable, and open-ended. When progress did occur in human society, Wells was certain that the driving force was rational thinking, science, and technological innovation. Yet history showed how all too often the benefits of creativity had been undermined by conservatism and social tensions, culminating in the disaster of the Great War….

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

2019 Prometheus Novel and Hall of Fame Winners

The Libertarian Futurist Society announced the 2019 winners of the Prometheus Awards for Best Novel and Hall of Fame (Best Classic Fiction) on July 6.

The winner of the Best Novel category is Causes of Separation by Travis Corcoran.

LFS members also voted to induct “Harrison Bergeron,” a dystopian 1961 short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., into the Hall of Fame.

The citation says about the winning works:


In Causes of Separation, renegade lunar colonists fight for independence and a free economy against an Earth-based invasion that seeks to impose authoritarian rule and expropriate their wealth, while the colonists strive to prevail without relying on taxes or declaring emergency war powers. The panoramic narrative encompasses artificial intelligence, uplifted dogs, combat robots, sleeper cells and open-source software while depicting the complex struggle on the declining Earth and besieged Moon from many perspectives. The novel is a sequel to The Powers of the Earth, the 2018 Prometheus winner for Best Novel.

This is the first Prometheus Awards recognition for Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007). In “Harrison Bergeron,” first published in 1961 in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Vonnegut blends a satirical and tragic tone in depicting a dystopian future in the United States where constitutional amendments and a Handicapper General mandate that no one can be stupider, uglier, weaker, slower (or better) than anyone else. Vonnegut dramatizes the destruction of people’s lives and talents and the obliteration of basic humanity via a denial of emotions and knowledge that leaves parents unable to mourn a son’s death. “Harrison Bergeron” exposes and mourns the chilling authoritarian consequences of radical egalitarianism taken to an inhuman and Orwellian extreme that denies individuality, diversity and the opportunity to excel.

LFS members John Christmas and Fred Moulton plan to present the Prometheus Awards in a ceremony at Dublin 2019 – An Irish Worldcon, to be held August 15-19 in Dublin, Ireland.

The other Best Novel finalists were Kingdom of the Wicked (including Order: Book One and Rules: Book Two), by Helen Dale (Ligature Pty Limited); State Tectonics, by Malka Older (TOR Books); The Fractal Man, by J. Neil Schulman (Steve Heller Publishing); and The Murderbot Diaries (All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol and Exit Strategy, by Martha Wells (TOR Books).

The other Hall of Fame finalists were “Sam Hall,” a novelette (1953) by Poul Anderson; “As Easy as A.B.C.,” a novelette (1912) by Rudyard Kipling; “Conquest by Default,” a novelette (1968) by Vernor Vinge; and The Universe Next Door, a novel (1979) by Robert Anton Wilson.

The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), is celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2019, having been first presented in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf.

Presented annually since 1982 at the World Science Fiction Convention, the Prometheus Awards include a gold coin and plaque for the winners – with a one-ounce gold coin for Best Novel and a smaller gold coin for the Prometheus Hall of Fame (for Best Classic Fiction in all written and broadcast/on-screen media) and the occasional Prometheus Special awards.

In the words of the LFS:

The Prometheus Awards recognize outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, champion cooperation over coercion, expose the abuses and excesses of government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or uphold individual rights and freedoms as the mutually respectful foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, and civilization itself.

For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in all categories, visit www.lfs.org.

2019 Prometheus Award Best Novel Finalists

The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced the finalists for the Best Novel category of the 2019 Prometheus Awards.

The Best Novel winner will receive a plaque with a one-ounce gold coin. Plans are under way, as in past years, to present the 2019 awards at the 77th Worldcon (World Science Fiction Convention): “Dublin 2019 – An Irish Worldcon,” set for Aug. 15-19, 2019 in Dublin, Ireland.

Here are the five Best Novel finalists, listed in alphabetical order by author:

  • Causes of Separation, by Travis Corcoran (Morlock Publishing):

In this sequel to The Powers of the Earth, the 2018 Prometheus winner for Best Novel, the renegade lunar colonists of Aristillus fight for independence and a free economy against an Earth-based invasion that seeks to impose authoritarian rule and expropriate their wealth, while the colonists struggle not to adopt taxation or emergency war powers. The panoramic narrative encompasses artificial intelligence, uplifted dogs, combat robots, sleeper cells and open-source software while depicting the complex struggle on the declining Earth and besieged Moon from many perspectives.

  • Kingdom of the Wicked by Helen Dale (Ligature Pty Limited) including Order: Book One and Rules: Book Two

The author, a legal scholar, creates a world inspired by comparative law, rather as Middle-Earth was inspired by comparative linguistics. In an alternative Roman Empire, an early scientific revolution and expanding free markets led to industrialization, the abolition of slavery, increasing wealth, and modernity – and to clashes with more traditional societies. In one such clash, a Jewish preacher, Yeshua ben Yusuf, is arrested and tried on charges of terrorism in a narrative that makes ingenious use of the Gospels to reach an unexpected outcome.

  • State Tectonics, by Malka Older (TOR Books)

This story explores questions of governance and legitimacy in a future world shaped by technology-driven “infomocracy” and subdivided into centenals – separate micro-democracies, each an electoral district with a population of 100,000 or less. A multitude of political parties vie for control of each centenal, as well as global supermajority status in a problematic system where access to approved news is ensured by Information, which also oversees elections. In this third novel in Older’s Centenal Cycle, various parties struggle not only over election outcomes, but also whether Information’s monopoly will and should continue.

  • The Fractal Man, by J. Neil Schulman, (Steve Heller Publishing)

The Prometheus-winning author (The Rainbow Cadenza, Alongside Night) offers a fanciful and semi-autobiographical adventure comedy about the “lives he never lived,” set in multiple alternate realities where people and cats can fly but dogs can’t, which in one world casts him as a battlefield general in a war between totalitarians and anarchists. The space-opera-redefined-as-timelines-opera romp, full of anarcho-capitalist scenarios, also celebrates the early history of the libertarian movement and some of its early pioneers, such as Samuel Edward Konkin III.

  • The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells (TOR Books) (including All Systems Red, Artificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, and Exit Strategy)

– The tightly linked series of four fast-paced novellas charts the emergence of humanity, empathy, self-awareness and free will in an android, whose origins are partly biological and partly cybernetic. The android, who guiltily dubs himself “Murderbot” because of his past acts of violence while enslaved, fights for his independence but also is motivated to save lives by growing awareness of the value of human life and human rights in an interstellar future of social cooperation through free markets driven by contracts, insurance-bond penalties, and competing corporations.

(Note: Under a recently adopted LFS award-eligibility rule, two or more books can be nominated together as one novel if the judges determine that the stories are so tightly linked and plotted, with continuing characters and unifying conflicts/themes, that they can best be read and considered as one work. Applied this year, that rule combined the two Kingdom of the Wicked volumes into one nomination and the four sequential novellas in The Murderbot Diaries into one nomination.)

All LFS members have the right to nominate eligible works for the Prometheus Awards. LFS members also nominated these 2018 works for this year’s Best Novel category: Exile’s Escape, by W. Clark Boutwell (Indigo River Publishing); Gnomon, by Nick Harkaway (Alfred Knopf); Mission to Methone, by Les Johnson (Baen Books); Anger is a Gift, by Mark Oshiro (TOR); and Crescendo of Fire and Rhapsody for the Tempest, by Marc Stiegler (LMBPN Publishing.)

The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established and first presented in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf.

Presented annually since 1982 at the World Science Fiction Convention, the Prometheus Awards include a gold coin and plaque for the winners – with a one-ounce gold prize for Best Novel and smaller gold coins for the Prometheus Hall of Fame (for Best Classic Fiction in all written and broadcast/on-screen mediums) and the occasional Prometheus Special awards.

The Prometheus Award finalists for Best Novel are selected by a 10-person judging committee, and the winners are chosen by vote of “LFS upper-level members.”

The LFS says these are the kinds of work recognized by the Prometheus Award –

For close to four decades, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, favor cooperation over coercion, expose the abuses and excesses of coercive government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or champion individual rights and freedoms as the mutually respectful foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, mutual respect and civilization itself.

For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in all categories, visit www.lfs.org.

2019 Prometheus Hall of Fame Finalists

The Libertarian Futurist Society has selected five finalists for the 2019 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award

  • “As Easy as A.B.C.,” by Rudyard Kipling (first published 1912 in London Magazine), the second of his “airship utopia” stories, envisions a twenty-first century world founded on free travel, the rule of law, and an inherited abhorrence of crowds. Officials of the Aerial Board of Control are summoned to the remote town of Chicago, which is convulsed by a small group’s demands for revival of the nearly forgotten institution of democracy.
  • “Sam Hall,” a short story by Poul Anderson (first published 1953 in Astounding Science Fiction): A story set in a security-obsessed United States, where computerized record-keeping enables the creation of a panopticon society. The insertion of a false record into the system leads to unintended consequences. Anderson, the first sf author to be honored with a Special Prometheus Award for Lifetime Achievement, explores political implications of computer technology that now, decades later, are widely recognized.
  • “Harrison Bergeron,” by Kurt Vonnegut (first published 1961 in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction), a dystopian short story, set in a United States where constitutional amendments and a Handicapper General mandate that no one can be stupider, uglier, weaker, slower (or better) than anyone else, satirizes the authoritarian consequences of radical egalitarianism taken to an extreme that denies individuality and diversity. Vonnegut dramatizes the destruction of people’s lives and talents and the obliteration of basic humanity via a denial of emotions and knowledge that leaves parents unable to mourn a son’s death.
  • “Conquest by Default,” by Vernor Vinge (first published 1968 in Analog), Vinge’s first exploration of anarchism, offers a story about human civilization being overwhelmed by a superior alien force, told from the point of view of an alien sympathetic to the underdogs, who finds a way to save the humans by breaking up governments into much smaller components. The alien culture uses a legal twist to foster extreme cultural diversity, as characters draw explicit parallels between the plight of humanity in the face of superior alien tech and the fate of Native Americans faced with European invaders. 
  • Schrödinger’s Cat: The Universe Next Door, by Robert Anton Wilson (first published 1979 by Pocket Books), a parallel-worlds novel, draws upon theories from quantum mechanics to explore themes about the evil of violence, particularly political coercion and the carnage of the Vietnam War. The speculative fantasy features alternate versions of characters from the Illuminatus! trilogy by Wilson and Robert Shea, which won the Hall of Fame Award in 1986. 

In addition to these nominees, the Hall of Fame Committee considered nine other works: “The Man Who Sold the Stars,” by Gregory Benford; “ILU-486,” by Amanda Ching; The Mirror Maze, by James P. Hogan; That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis; A Mirror for Observers, by Edgar Pangborn;  A Time of Changes, by Robert Silverberg; Demon and Freedom, by Daniel Suarez, as a combined nomination; The Once and Future King and The Book of Merlyn, by T.H. White, as a combined nomination; and “Even the Queen,” by Connie Willis.

The LFS says the purpose of the Prometheus Awards is to recognize

…outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, favor private social cooperation over legalized coercion, expose abuses and excesses of obtrusive government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or champion individual rights and freedoms as the mutually respectful foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, mutual respect, and civilization itself.

The final vote will take place in mid-2019. All Libertarian Futurist Society members are eligible to vote. The award will be presented at the Dublin Worldcon.

Nominations for the 2019 Hall of Fame Award can be submitted to committee chair William H. Stoddard (halloffame@lfs.org) at any time. All LFS members are eligible to nominate. Nominees may be in any narrative or dramatic form, including prose fiction, stage plays, film, television, other video, graphic novels, song lyrics, or epic or narrative verse; they must explore themes relevant to libertarianism and must be science fiction, fantasy, or related genres.

The Libertarian Futurist Society also presents the annual Prometheus Award for Best Novel. More information is available at their website, www.lfs.org.

Pixel Scroll 9/2/18 Elvish Has Left The Building

(1) DECOPUNK CITATION. Language Log quotes Cat Valente today in “Decopunk and other quasicompositional compounds”.

Complex lexical items generally have analogical historico-semantic accretions similar to those in the X-punk domain. This includes phrases like red tide, solar energy, or historical fiction,  as well as compounds like jumpsuitski lift, or break room. In the other direction, proper names are far from being semantically arbitrary in practice — to quote from a Decopunk work, Catherynne Valente’s Radiance

(2) THE MATTER OF ENGLAND. One people, divided by a common tongue…

https://medesha.tumblr.com/post/131750372841/altarandwitchinghour-kingfucko-gollyplot

(3) PETER CAPALDI, VENTRILOQUIST. This caught my eye –

(4) AND THEN, AT DRAGON CON. Remember what they said about “Inconceivable”?

(5) THE MEANING OF IT ALL. Bow Tie Writer asked an array of fans at Worldcon 76 to answer his question. I recognized Judy Bemis, Kevin Standlee, and Michelle Pincus among them.

Worldcon 2018 was held in San Jose August 15th – 20th. I went around and I asked people one simple question: What does Worldcon mean to you. This video is my homage to fandom, to internet friends, and to all the good people who come together to celebrate the things we love.

 

(6) RSR’S WORLDCON REPORT. At Rocket Stack Rank, Greg Hullender has an interesting set of “WorldCon 76 Takeaways” (including coverage of the Filer meetups).

…The audience for this panel had lots of people with many decades of experience with fanzines, so we had a lively but always cordial discussion. I was pleased to learn that even the folks who’d done fanzines back in the days of mimeograph machines all seemed to agree that online publications were definitely the future, particularly in terms of their ability to immediately involve fans via comments that don’t need to wait a month or more for publication. They worried that blogs in particular lack some of the feel of a fanzine, which has an arrangement of related stories. (At RSR, we’ll think about how a content-management system might capture that for an online publication.)

I was very pleased when someone in the audience told me that Rocket Stack Rank fit into a long tradition of “Review Fanzines,” of which Tangent is another surviving example. That made me feel a lot less like an impostor….

(7) TRUESDALE’S WORLDCON 76 PHOTO GALLERY. Dave Truesdale’s Worldcon 76 report for Tangent, “Photos from Worldcon 76, the 76th World Science Fiction Convention”, begins with coverage of Saturday’s alt-right demonstration, and ends by explaining what a raw deal he got when his 2016 Worldcon membership was revoked. In between there are a quite a few fine author photos. Here are the captions from one set —

Below Left: Lezli Robyn, helping out at the Galaxy’s Edge dealer’s table. Below Right: Galaxy’s Edge Publisher Shahid Mahmud. Both Lezli and Shahid are two of the most delightful people I’ve met in a long time. Shahid’s enthusiasm and love of SF is infectious. We talked for quite some time about this and that, and his intelligence and sense of humor shone through everything. I can’t imagine anyone not liking Shahid once they’ve met him.

(8) PROMETHEUS SPEECH. The Libertarian Futurist Society presented the Prometheus Awards at Worldcon 76. The author of the Prometheus Award-winning novel, Travis Corcoran, was unable to attend, so his acceptance speech for Powers of the Earth was read by Chris Hibbert. Its message is conveyed with classic libertarian subtlety.

…Since the first Worldcon in 1939 science fiction has been a libertarian territory under attack from authoritarians. Futurian Donald Wollheim was a communist, and argued that all of science fiction “should actively work for the realization of the . . . world-state as the only . . . justification for their activities”.

Wollheim failed with his takeover in 1939—he was physically removed from Worldcon—but he started a Gramscian long march through the institutions, and it worked. In the current year conventions, editors, and publishing houses are all cordy-cepted. The sociopaths have pushed the geeks out and have taken over the cultural territory.

“You made this? <pause> I made this.”

When the state tries to take your home, they come with guns, and you have to fight them with guns, if at all.

When a subculture tries to take your home, they come with snark and shame and entryism . . . and you fight them by making better art….

(9) DIRT FARMING. James Davis Nicoll has a long fannish exploration of “Science Fiction’s Trouble with Terraforming” at Tor.com.

Terraforming is, of course, the hypothesized art of converting an uninhabitable rock into a habitable world. Jack Williamson coined the term in his Seetee-related short story, “Collision Orbit”, published under the pen name Will Stewart in the July, 1942 issue of Astounding Magazine. While Williamson invokes non-existent super-science in order to make the task seem doable, he probably felt confident that terraforming would someday make sense. In the short run, we have seen humans shaping the Earth. In the long run—well, Earth was once an anoxic wasteland. Eons of life shaped it into a habitable planet. Williamson suspected that humans could imitate that process elsewhere…and make it happen in centuries rather than eons. Perhaps in even less time!

(10) AUGUSTULUS: With the help of a belated July issue, Jason has compiled a diminutive list of notable reading in Summation: August at Featured Futures:

This month has been doubly strange. Despite reading 42 stories of about 201K words from the August magazines, I’m in the unprecedented and unpleasant position of only being able to note one story (and that’s not even fully recommended). Counting a late July story and things for a couple of Tangent reviews, I read 59 stories of about 324K words this month and can at least add two recs and another honorable mention, all from the July/August Black Static, but only one of those is even speculative with the other two being straight horror.

(11) GIDDINGS OBIT. Sff writer and critic Joseph “Joe” Giddings passed away from ALS at the age of 45 on August 16. He was born April 6, 1973. His criticism appeared in Bull Spec and Tangent Online (among others). His fiction appeared in Mystic Signals and Dark Stars (more information in his entry at Internet Science Fiction Database.) Giddings blogged at “The Clockwork Pen”.

Joseph Giddings

(12) TODAY’S MEMORIAL DAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge. Who looked at the wrong ISFDB page today — but waste not, want not!]

  • Died September 2, 1973. J.R.R. Tolkien. It’d be extremely silly of me to list what he’s done given what the group knows, so instead I’ll ask instead what’s your favourite work by him. Mine’s still The Hobbit, a book I delight in re-reading in the Autumn as I think of him as being of that season.
  • Died September 2, 2000 – Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in the horror and science fiction film genres, with such films as The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain with the latter being adapted from his novel of the same name. Siodmak is credited with creating the legend that only silver can kill a werewolf. He also wrote the screenplays for include Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, I Walked With a Zombie and The Beast With Five Fingers.
  • Died September 2, 2013 – Frederik Pohl. Obviously needs no introduction here. His first published was a 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna”. Noted work include the Heechee series whose first novel, Gateway, was the winner of the Campbell Memorial, Hugo, Locus SF, and Nebula Awards, Man Plus , and The Space Merchants with Cyril M. Kornbluth. I won’t say that any of the short story collections thrill me but Platinum Pohl is a decent collection. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) HOGWARTS EXPRESS. More “Back to Hogwarts” hype: “Eddie Redmayne and Jude Law were at Kings Cross for the Hogwarts Express”.

As every good Harry Potter fan knows, the Hogwarts Express departs from Kings Cross station, London, platform nine and three-quarters at 11.30am on September 1. This year Professor Dumbledore and Newt Scamander themselves, aka Hollywood stars Jude Law and Eddie Redmayne, were there to kick off the new year.

(15) AND WHILE WE’RE HOGWARTING. Gwynne Watkins, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “A ‘Harry Potter’ neophyte watches all 8 movies for the first time: Here’s what happened”  says that “my cred as a film nerd and a nerd nerd has been threatened by a shameful omission”– she had never seen a Harry Potter movie (not literally – she’d seen the first one in its initial theatrical release.)  So she decided to watch them all over a 24-hour binge. Some notes are better than others. Is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix really about the problems of standardized testing? On the other hand, she had an interesting response to this 20-years-after rewatch of the very first movie —

What surprised me most on my second viewing of Sorcerer’s Stone was how much I loved Emma Watson’s Hermione. The first time around, I remember thinking that her show-offish, know-it-all nature was borderline unbearable. Now I love how unapologetic she is about her intelligence, how confidently she wields it in a room full of boys. (Seriously, where are the Hogwarts girls? Hermione needs some female friends!) Maybe as a girl who grew up downplaying her intelligence, Hermione made me uncomfortable in some primal, fourth-grade part of my subconscious. If that’s true, it only makes me more grateful that my daughter will grow up in a post-Hermione world.

(16) THE HORROR. From Agouti (@bitterkarella) comes news of the horror genre’s Midnight Society of writers. Dean Koontz, HP Lovecraft, Clive Barker, Edward Lee, Stephen King, and Edgar Allen Poe trade inspirations for their next novels. The thread starts here.

(17) NED KELLY AWARDS. My internet wanderings brought me the results of the Australian Crime Writers Association’s 2018 Ned Kelly Awards, and far be it from me to turn down literary award news…

2018 Ned Kelly Awards

Best Crime

  • Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill

Best First Crime

  • The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

Best True Crime

  • Unmaking A Murder: The Mysterious Death of Anna Jane Cheney by Graham Archer

(18) NGAIO MARSH. Likewise, I learned the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards for the “very best in Kiwi Crime” were recently presented in New Zealand.

Best Crime Novel

  • Marlborough Man by Alan Carter (Fremantle Press)

Best First Novel

  • All Our Secrets by Jennifer Lane (Rosa Mira Books)

(19) RENAME THAT TUNE. The IAU will probably decide that Hubble needs to share credit – The Conversation has the story: “Game-changing resolution: whose name on the laws of physics for an expanding universe?”

Astronomers are engaged in a lively debate over plans to rename one of the laws of physics.

It emerged overnight at the 30th Meeting of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), in Vienna, where members of the general assembly considered a resolution on amending the name of the Hubble Law to the Hubble-Lemaître Law.

The resolution aims to credit the work of the Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaître and his contribution – along with the American astronomer Edwin Hubble – to our understanding of the expansion of the universe.

While most (but not all) members at the meeting were in favour of the resolution, a decision allowed all members of the International Astronomical Union a chance to vote. Subsequently, voting was downgraded to a straw vote and the resolution will formally be voted on by an electronic vote at a later date.

(20) BEWARE BENNU. The NASA mission to visit and sample Bennu — a “potentially hazardous asteroid” — has entered a new phase (“NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Begins Asteroid Operations Campaign”). The spacecraft has begun approach operations:

After an almost two-year journey, NASA’s asteroid sampling spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx, caught its first glimpse of asteroid Bennu last week and began the final approach toward its target. Kicking off the mission’s asteroid operations campaign on Aug. 17, the spacecraft’s PolyCam camera obtained the image from a distance of 1.4 million miles (2.2 million km).

…The spacecraft has traveled approximately 1.1 billion miles (1.8 billion km) since its Sept. 8, 2016, launch and is scheduled to arrive at Bennu on Dec. 3.

…During the mission’s approach phase, OSIRIS-REx will:

  • regularly observe the area around the asteroid to search for dust plumes and natural satellites, and study Bennu’s light and spectral properties;
  • execute a series of four asteroid approach maneuvers, beginning on Oct. 1, slowing the spacecraft to match Bennu’s orbit around the Sun;
  • jettison the protective cover of the spacecraft’s sampling arm in mid-October and subsequently extend and image the arm for the first time in flight; and
  • use OCAMS to reveal the asteroid’s overall shape in late-October and begin detecting Bennu’s surface features in mid-November.

Ultimately, the craft will map the asteroid, then perform a sampling “touch-and-go” maneuver. The sample will be dropped off at Earth in a Sample Return Capsule in September 2023. OSIRIS-REx itself will end up in a solar orbit.

(21) LOX WARNING. It used to be a thing — and may still be in some fannish circles — to whip up fresh ice cream at room parties using liquid nitrogen. The US Food and Drug administration has issued a safety alert about the danger of drinks and food prepared with LN2 at the point of sale (CNN: “FDA issues warning about liquid nitrogen on food”):

“The FDA has become aware of severe — and in some cases, life-threatening — injuries, such as damage to skin and internal organs caused by liquid nitrogen still present in the food or drink,” the FDA said in issuing its safety alert. “Injuries have occurred from handling or eating products prepared by adding liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption, even after the liquid nitrogen has fully evaporated due to the extremely low temperature of the food.”

In its warning, the FDA said inhaling the vapor “released by a food or drink prepared by adding liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption may also cause breathing difficulty, especially among individuals with asthma.”

…The FDA did not say how many reports of injuries it has received or provide details on life-threatening cases.

(22) MOON WALKER. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber gives “Five Stars for First Man”

The life story of Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, is so full of astounding courage, tragedy and triumph that it is just begging for an old-school Hollywood biopic, with all the inspiring speeches, swelling orchestras and grand themes that the genre entails. First Man is not that biopic.

Directed by Damien Chazelle (La La Land) and scripted by Josh Singer (Spotlight), the film is an understated, economical drama which, like a rocket that has to escape from the Earth’s gravity, jettisons absolutely everything it doesn’t need. Dialogue is kept to a minimum. Exposition is edited out. Extraneous characters are stripped away to the point that you see almost nothing of Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll), who moonwalked with Armstrong, and even less of Mike Collins (Lukas Haas), who piloted the orbiting craft. You don’t hear about Armstrong’s Korean War heroics, for that matter, and the space-race politics that were behind Nasa’s Apollo programme remain in the background. And yet, as restrained as First Man is, this riveting, exhaustively researched and utterly believable film manages to shake you, take your breath away and even pull a few tears from your eyes.

(23) SCREEN PLAY. “Movie Madness: Why Chinese cinemas are empty but full”. Speculators think buying seats (to fake up hits, to push stock prices) is cheaper than making good movies.

For a country which will soon assume the mantle of the world’s largest cinema audience, China comes out with a surprising number of big budget B-grade flops.

Some blame this on censorship, others on a lack of creativity but there are also those who see a more sinister force at work, which has nothing to do with film-making.

It also has nothing to do with selling tickets: at least not real ones.

Some investors are apparently financially backing movies with the sole goal of boosting their stock price that can shift on the perception of a movie’s performance, irrespective of its true popularity.

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Bridge Tongues” on YouTube is a look back at our times from the 25th century, where no one argues with each other and everyone lives in their own digital bubble.

[Thanks to JJ, Mark Hepworth, John King Tarpinian, Samuel Montgomery-Blinn, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Gregory Benford, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill Burns, Dann, James Davis Nicoll, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

2018 Prometheus Award Winners

The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced the 2018 Prometheus Award winners for Best Novel and the Prometheus Hall of Fame – Best Classic Fiction.

Best Novel

  • The Powers of the Earth, by Travis Corcoran

The Powers of the Earth (Morlock Publishing), the first volume in The Aristillus Series, is set in a near-future ungoverned lunar settlement, developed while Earth leaders ignored and denied its existence. The settlement struggles to retain its independence from Earth’s invading force in Corcoran’s panoramic story about people carrying on their lives in liberty. Corcoran’s novel is both a tribute to Robert Heinlein’s classic The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and a re-examination of its assumptions about how such a lunar colony would function, and what kinds of people would live there.

Other Best Novel finalists:

  • Drug Lord: High Ground by Doug Casey and John Hunt (High Ground Books);
  • Torchship, Torchship Pilot, and Torchship Captain, by Karl Gallagher (Kelt Haven Press);
  • Darkship Revenge, by Sarah Hoyt (Baen Books);
  • The Corporation Wars: Emergence by Ken MacLeod (Orbit); and
  • Artemis, by Andy Weir (Crown Books).

Prometheus Hall of Fame – Best Classic Fiction. 

  • With Folded Hands …” by Grand Master Jack Williamson (1947 short story)

Williamson (1908-2006) was the second writer after Robert Heinlein to be named Grand Master of Science Fiction (in 1976) by the Science Fiction Writers of America. His novelette “With Folded Hands …”, inspired by Williamson’s lifelong distrust of “benevolent” but intrusive paternalism and published in 1947 in Astounding, launched his Humanoids Series (including the 1949 novel The Humanoids and the 1980 sequel The Humanoid Touch) which explored the disastrous and authoritarian implications of powerful new technology (robots with an imperative to control and protect humans) to undermine individual liberty and moral autonomy.

Other Hall of Fame finalists:

  • “Starfog,” a short story (1967) by Poul Anderson;
  • “As Easy as A.B.C.,” a short story (1912) by Rudyard Kipling;
  • The Island Worlds, a novel (1986) by Eric Kotani and John Maddox Roberts; and
  • “Conquest by Default,” a short story (1968) by Vernor Vinge.

The annual Prometheus Hall of Fame award is open to works published or broadcast at least five years ago in any narrative or dramatic form, including novels, stories, stage plays, film, television, other video, graphic novels, song lyrics, or epic or narrative verse.

The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established and first presented in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf.

The Prometheus Awards include a gold coin and plaque for the winners – with a one-ounce gold prize for Best Novel and smaller gold coins for the Prometheus Hall of Fame and the occasional Prometheus Special awards.

For close to four decades, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, favor cooperation over coercion, expose the abuses and excesses of government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or champion individual rights and freedoms as the mutually respectful foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, mutual respect, and civilization itself.

The LFS will hold this year’s Prometheus Awards ceremony at 4 p.m. Friday, August 17, in the San Jose McEnery Convention Center during San Jose Worldcon 76.

2018 Prometheus Award Best Novel Finalists

The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced six finalists for the Best Novel category of the 2018 Prometheus Awards, presented annually at the World Science Fiction Convention.

  • Drug Lord: High Ground by Doug Casey and John Hunt (High Ground Books) – The near-future adventure thriller offers an unconventional hero challenging the government’s War on Drugs by promoting a new rationality/lucidity drug that lets people see through deception, fake news and government propaganda – thereby posing a dire and unforgiveable threat to politicians, bureaucrats and the very foundations of corruption and unjust power. (Note: Drug Lord, Volume 2 in the co-authors’ projected seven-part High Ground series, is the sequel to Speculator, nominated the previous year for the Prometheus Award.)
  • The Powers of the Earth, by Travis Corcoran (Morlock Publishing) – A near-future ungoverned lunar settlement, developed while Earth leaders ignored and denied its existence, struggles to retain its independence from Earth’s meddling bureaucracy in this panoramic story about people carrying on their lives in liberty. (Note: This finalist is the first volume of The Aristillus Series; the sequel Causes of Separation will be published in May 2018.)
  • Torchship, Torchship Pilot and Torchship Captain, by Karl Gallagher (Kelt Haven Press) – The space-opera – tightly written and plotted enough to count as one three-part novel –follows the adventures and intrigues of a smart but secretive woman who signs on as pilot of a free-enterprising interstellar freighter and becomes a player in humanity’s survival in a dangerous region of space with conflicting planetary governments and solar-system-devouring artificial intelligences that threaten the divided human colony worlds.
  • Darkship Revenge, by Sarah Hoyt (Baen Books) – This rapid-paced adventure dramatizes the heroism of an angry mother who risks herself, her child and kidnapped husband to fight a bio-engineered plague, genetically modified tyrants, and a fearful slavery centuries from now on and around Earth. (Note: This book is the latest in the Darkship series, which began with the 2011 Prometheus winner Darkship Thieves and continued with Darkship Renegades, a 2013 Prometheus finalist, and A Few Good Men, a 2014 Prometheus finalist.)
  • The Corporation Wars: Emergence by Ken MacLeod (Orbit) – In the suspenseful but humor-laced conclusion to The Corporation Wars trilogy, MacLeod weaves a cyberpunk-style AI-versus-human space opera that explores the foundations of self-awareness, autonomy, rights and liberties as newly sentient “freebots” battle for colonial-planet survival in a multi-sided interstellar 32nd-century war against threats in the real and virtual worlds from different factions of uploaded humans and rogue robots. (Note: The Corporation Wars: Dissidence and The Corporation Wars: Insurgence were 2017 Best Novel finalists.)
  • Artemis, by Andy Weir (Crown Books) – In this second novel by the bestselling author of The Martian, Weir offers a noir adventure and near-future heist thriller set on humanity’s first and only lunar colony, a market-oriented city in which a poverty-stricken but resourceful young smuggler must use her guts and skills to survive and thrive while discovering a dark conspiracy that threatens the colony’s freedom and future.

Thirteen 2017 novels were nominated by LFS members for this year’s award. (Note: Under a recently adopted new LFS award-eligibility rule, similar to one recently added for the Worldcon’s Hugo Awards, two or more novels can be nominated together as basically one novel if the judges determine that the books are so tightly linked and plotted, with continuing characters and a unifying conflict and theme, that they can be best read as one work.)

The other 2017 nominees, alphabetized by author: Walkaway, by Cory Doctorow (Tor Books), The Alexander Inheritance by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett (Baen Books), Luna: Wolf Moon: A Novel by Ian McDonald (Tor), Autonomous, by Annalee Newitz (Tor), The Braintrust, by Marc Stiegler (LMBPN Publishing), Change Agent, by Daniel Suarez (Dutton, a Penguin Random House imprint) and The Genius Plague, by David Walton (Pyr Books)

The Prometheus Award, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established and first presented in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf.

Presented annually since 1982 at the World Science Fiction Convention, the Prometheus Awards include a gold coin and plaque for the winners – with a one-ounce gold prize for Best Novel and smaller gold coins for the Prometheus Hall of Fame (for Best Classic Fiction in all written and broadcast/on-screen mediums) and the occasional Prometheus Special awards.

The Prometheus Award finalists for Best Novel are selected by a 10-person judging committee, and the winners are chosen by vote of “LFS upper-level members.”

The LFS says these are the kinds of work recognized by the Prometheus Award –

For close to four decades, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, favor cooperation over coercion, expose the abuses and excesses of coercive government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or champion individual rights and freedoms as the mutually respectful foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, mutual respect and civilization itself.

For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in all categories, visit www.lfs.org.

[Based on a press release.]

2018 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award Finalists

The Libertarian Futurist Society has selected five finalists for their 2018 Hall of Fame Award.

  • “As Easy as A.B.C.,” a short story by Rudyard Kipling (first published 1912 in London Magazine)
    — In the second of his “airship utopia” stories, an unpopular minority in a future society calls for the revival of democracy, and a largely hands-off world government is called in to protect them from mob violence.
  • “With Folded Hands . . .,” a short story by Jack Williamson (first published 1947 in Astounding Science Fiction)
    — A cautionary tale of a future society under the control of entirely benevolent AIs.
  • “Starfog,” a short story by Poul Anderson (first published 1967 in Analog)
    — An agent of a mutual aid association spanning many solar systems seeks a way to carry out a large-scale project without taxation or central planning.
  • “Conquest by Default,” a short story by Vernor Vinge (first published 1968 in Analog)
    — Vernor Vinge’s first exploration of the possible form of an anarchistically organized society, set on a post-nuclear war Earth visited by an alien culture.
  • The Island Worlds, a novel by Eric Kotani and John Maddox Roberts (first published 1986 by Baen Books)
    — A libertarian independence movement in the asteroids struggles against domination by an Earth-based bureaucracy — and its own disagreements over strategies for attaining freedom.

In addition to these nominees, the Hall of Fame Committee considered six other works: “ILU-486,” by Amanda Ching; That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis; 2112, by Rush; A Time of Changes, by Robert Silverberg; “Harrison Bergeron,” by Kurt Vonnegut; and The Once and Future King and The Book of Merlyn, by T.H. White, as a combined nomination.

The final vote will take place in mid-2018. All Libertarian Futurist Society members are eligible to vote. The award will be presented at a major science fiction convention.

Nominations for the 2019 Hall of Fame Award can be submitted to committee chair William H. Stoddard (halloffame@lfs.org) at any time. All LFS members are eligible to nominate. Nominees may be in any narrative or dramatic form, including prose fiction, stage plays, film, television, other video, graphic novels, song lyrics, or epic or narrative verse; they must explore themes relevant to libertarianism and must be science fiction, fantasy, or related genres.

The Libertarian Futurist Society also presents the annual Prometheus Award and welcomes new members who are interested in science fiction and the future of freedom. More information is available at our website, www.lfs.org.