(1) UNORTHODOX APPROACH. Beginning July 18, a weekly podcast will be hosted by Sixth & I in Washington DC — “Harry Potter and The Sacred Text”.
What if we read the books we love as if they were sacred texts? What would we learn? How might they change us? Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is a podcast the reads Harry Potter, the best-selling series of all time, as if it was a sacred text.
Just as Christians read the Bible, Jews the Torah, and Muslims read the Quran, Harvard chaplains Vanessa Zoltan and Casper ter Kuile embark on a 199 episode journey (one chapter per week) to glean what wisdom and meaning J.K. Rowling’s beloved novels have in store.
The chaplains read the beloved series through the lens of instructive and inspirational text and extract lessons that can be applied to our own lives.
At the end of 199 weeks will something more emerge from these readings?
(2) JUSTICE IS BLIND. At Sharps & Flatirons, Peter Alexander says blind orchestral auditions have leveled the playing field — “Women in Classical Music: Some Good News, Some Bad News” .
First the good news: professional orchestras are filled with women today, a vast contrast to 40 or 50 years ago when orchestras were almost entirely male. This is now a viable career for the most talented women instrumentalists.
The bad news is that the picture is not nearly as rosy for women composers, who are not well represented on orchestral programs. And women conductors are no better off than composers.
The growing numbers of women in professional orchestras at every level can be traced to a single innovation that began around 1970: “blind auditions,” where competing candidates for open orchestral jobs play behind a screen. The selection committee does not know if it is hearing a man or a woman. The rapid change in the makeup of orchestras since 1970—casually visible and backed up by the numbers—is compelling evidence of the opposition women orchestral players faced before that innovation.
… In an article titled “Orchestrating Impartiality,” published in 2000 in The American Economic Review, researchers Claudia Goldin and Cecilia Rouse concluded that “the screen increases—by 50 percent—the probability that a woman will be advanced from certain preliminary rounds and increases by severalfold the likelihood that a woman will be selected in the final round.” Their conclusion is backed up by 25 pages of charts, graphs and statistical studies.
(3) CON OR BUST AUCTION. The Con or Bust annual fundraising auction has begun and runs until May 7 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Con or Bust, Inc., is a tax-exempt not-for-profit organization that helps people of color/non-white people attend SFF conventions.
The available items include a signed galley of Ann Leckie’s next novel Provenance (to be published in October.) When I last looked, bidding was already up to $120.
Here are a few examples of the wide variety of auction items –
The whole list of auction tags is here.
(4) EMOJI CODE. There are four summaries, and I didn’t understand even one. Your turn! “Can you guess the Doctor Who episodes told in emojis?”
Test your Doctor Who knowledge by deciphering these emoji plots and guessing the episode!
If you’re stuck, answers are at the bottom of the page…
(5) LOOK, UP IN THE SKY. Talk about timing! Carl Slaughter referenced Larry Page in the other day’s flying car roundup, and today the news is “Larry Page’s flying car will be available to buy before the end of the year”
The Kitty Hawk Flyer is an electric aircraft that, in its current version, looks a bit like a flying Jet Ski. Cimeron Morrissey, who test flew the aircraft, wrote in a review that the final version would look quite different from the prototype, which doesn’t look all that practical.
A New York Times profile of the Flyer describes it as “something Luke Skywalker would have built out of spare parts.” The vehicle weighs about 100 kilograms and, according to Morrissey, can travel up to 25 mph. She likened the Flyer to “a toy helicopter.”
(6) PETER S. BEAGLE. Initially Barry Deutsch was signal-boosting an appeal for funds — “Peter S Beagle, author of ‘The Last Unicorn,’ is in dire need! Here are three ways you can help.” However, Beagle’s fans immediately came through on the short-term goal, which still leaves two longer-term needs:
Go to the Support Peter Beagle website and use the button there to contribute to a fund to help pay for Peter Beagle’s legal costs. You can leave a message for Peter in the paypal field; I am told he will receive and read all messages sent this way.
BUY THE HUMBLE BUNDLE!
Peter Beagle has curated a Humble Bumble of unicorn fiction, called “Save the Unicorns.” You can pay as little as $1 to get a ton of novels to read, and support Peter Beagle at the same time! Important: In “choose where your money goes,” pick 100% Tachyon Press. Peter Beagle will get royalties and such from Tachyon for these Humble Bumble sales.
To be kept up-to-date on Peter Beagle news, follow @RealPeterBeagle on Twitter.
(7) UNGRADED HATE MAIL. Margaret Atwood answers Patt Morrison’s questions in the LA Times.
I can imagine your fan mail. I can’t imagine your hate mail.
I’ve gotten lots of hate mail over the years. I’ll probably get more once the television series comes out. But I’m not advocating for one thing or the other. I’m saying that what kind of laws you pass — those laws will have certain kinds of results. So you should think carefully about whether you want to have those results or not.
If you’re going to ban birth control, if you’re going to ban information about reproduction, if you’re going to defund all of those things, there will be consequences. Do you want those consequences or not? Are you willing to pay for them or not?
Listen to the “Patt Morrison Asks” podcast and read the full interview at here.
(8) WHO’S THAT SHOUTING? Two writers here for the LA Festival of Books indulge in shenanigans. (Hm, just discovered my spellchecker has a different opinion of how shenanigans is spelled than I have – dang, it did it again!)
(9) CITIZEN SCIENCE. And they call the wind
aurora whatever-it-is… Steve? “Aurora photographers find new night sky lights and call them Steve”
Relatively little else is known about the big purple light as yet but it appears it is not an aurora as it does not stem from the interaction of solar particles with the Earth’s magnetic field.
There are reports that the group called it Steve in homage to a 2006 children’s film, Over the Hedge, where the characters give the name to a creature they have not seen before.
Roger Haagmans of the ESA said: “It is amazing how a beautiful natural phenomenon, seen by observant citizens, can trigger scientists’ curiosity.
“It turns out that Steve is actually remarkably common, but we hadn’t noticed it before. “It’s thanks to ground-based observations, satellites, today’s explosion of access to data and an army of citizen scientists joining forces to document it.”
(10) A CERTAIN GLOW ABOUT THEM. If you don’t already know this story, you should: “Dark Lives Of ‘The Radium Girls’ Left A Bright Legacy For Workers, Science”,an interview with the book’s author Kate Moore.
In the early days of the 20th century, the United States Radium Corporation had factories in New Jersey and Illinois, where they employed mostly women to paint watch and clock faces with their luminous radium paint. The paint got everywhere — hair, hands, clothes, and mouths.
They were called the shining girls, because they quite literally glowed in the dark. And they were dying.
Kate Moore’s new book The Radium Girls is about the young women who were poisoned by the radium paint — and the five who sued United States Radium in a case that led to labor safety standards and workers’ rights advances.
(11) WHILE YOU WERE OUT: One big step for…. “Astronaut Peggy Whitson breaks new space record”.
Peggy Whitson has broken the record for most days in space by a US astronaut.
Dr Whitson already holds records for the most spacewalks carried out by a woman astronaut and is the first woman to command the International Space Station (ISS) twice.
Now she’s beaten the record previously set by Jeff Williams, who had a total of 534 days in space.
President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka have called Dr Whitson to congratulate her.
(12) AN EYEFUL. Forbes has a gallery of “The Top Cosplayers From Silicon Valley Comic Con”.
This weekend the second Silicon Valley Comic Con took place, featuring robotics, virtual reality and a wax statue of Steve Wozniak. But everyone knows that Comic Con is really about one thing, and that’s the jaw dropping cosplay. From menacing Jokers to an adorable Hatsune Miku costume, enjoy this roundup of some of the most eye-catching costumes at the show…
(13) DOC WEIR AWARD. British Eastercon members voted the 2017 Doc Weir Award to Serena Culfeather and John Wilson.
The Doc Weir Award was set up in 1963 in memory of fan Arthur Rose (Doc) Weir, who had died two years previously. Weir was a relative newcomer to fandom, he discovered it late in life – but in the short time of his involvement he was active in a number of fannish areas. In recognition of this, the Award is sometimes seen as the “Good Guy” Award; something for “The Unsung Heroes”.
(14) SCIENCE QUESTION. I thought you could only get hit by a meteorite? (Unless it’s being smacked by a wet echinoderm he’s worried about.)
(15) TODAY IN HISTORY
- April 24, 1184 B.C. – Traditional date of the Fall of Troy, calculated by Eratosthenes.
- April 24, 1990 – Hubble Space Telescope launched.
(16) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY SCHLOCK MEISTER
- Born April 24, 1914 – Filmmaker William Castle
(17) CARTOON OF THE DAY. “Cat City” by Victoria Vincent on Vimeo explains what happens when a cat runs away from home to become a hairdresser and drinks too much!
(18) WILL WORK FOR CLICKS. Camestros Felapton renders another much-needed public service: “See how your favourite Games of Thrones Characters are related”. Go there to see the family trees.
(19) NOVELLA INITIATIVE. The Book Smugglers published the first 2017 entry in their Novella Initiative last week, Dianna Gunn’s novella Keeper of the Dawn.
In Keeper of the Dawn, the first novella from Book Smugglers Publishing, author Dianna Gunn introduces readers to strong-willed Lai. All her life she has dreamed of following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother and becoming a priestess in service to her beloved goddesses. But even after lifelong preparation, she fails trials and her next instinct is to run away.
Off in the north kingdom of Alanum, as she works to recalibrate her future, Lai becomes the bodyguard of a wealthy merchant, who is impressed by her strength and bravery. One night she hears stories about a mountain city where they worship the same goddesses she does. Determined to learn more about these women, these Keepers of the Dawn, Lai travels onward to find their temple and do whatever it takes to join their sacred order. Falling in love with another initiate was not part of the plan.
Keeper of the Dawn, rich with female empowerment, is a multi-layered LGBTQIA YA Fantasy story about fate, forgiving yourself, and the endurance of hope.
Gunn also wrote a post about her inspirations and influences.
In many ways Lai’s story also mirrors the story of my own career. I’ve dreamed about being an author since the age of eight, and as a child I stubbornly believed I would have my first novel published before my eighteenth birthday.
Well, my eighteenth birthday came and went some years ago, and only now is my first book coming out. But I have already been a working writer for six years, writing marketing materials for many different companies and non-profits. More importantly, my dream still came true—just a few years later than planned.
(20) CLARKE AWARD CONTENDERS. A couple of Shadow Clarke jurors take their turn discussing what have proven to be group favorites, while another visits less familiar ground.
Part of the way it reworks things is that it’s not about the Up and Out, but the ups and downs. The rigors of life are always present: people make decisions, those decisions impact life, and they rarely have anything to do with that giant monstrosity towering from the south that hurls people into outer space. The Central Station of Central Station is a mere landmark, an economic hub and cultural icon, but as Maureen K. Speller points out in her review, “…even in science fiction, that so-called literature of the future, nothing lasts forever. The symbolic tropes – space ships, robots, AIs – will all eventually be absorbed and become part of the scenery.” The Central Station of the future is the airport of today: not that big of a deal.
This is a difficult, intractable, Gordian knot of a novel, the kind you recommend to like-minded friends more out of curiosity to see what they’ll make of it than from any reasonable belief that they’ll enjoy the book. Whether this novel – formally and stylistically perfect though it is, a rare gem of a debut that hints at that rare beast, a writer who knows precisely where he’s going and what he wants – can be enjoyed on anything other than a purely intellectual level is a debatable point; whether it can be enjoyed as science fiction still more so.
The Underground Railroad is about as significant a novel as American literary culture is capable of producing in the first quarter of the 21st century.
If you care enough about books to be reading this kind of essay then chances are that you have either purchased or taken an interest in this novel. Far from being organic and spontaneous, your decision to purchase Colson Whitehead’s latest novel is the result of almost every facet of American literary culture coming into alignment and choosing to imbue a single work with as much cultural significance as those institutions can conceivably muster. Already a winner of many prestigious literary awards and a beneficiary of both the Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships, Colson Whitehead has now seen his sixth novel celebrated not only by Pulitzer and National Book Award judges but also by the – arguably more influential and economically important – face of Oprah’s Book Club.
(21) DOCTOR TINGLE AI. Applied Digital Studies Project uses a twitter bot to form new titles based on novels by Dr. Chuck Tingle. Not surprisingly, there is a good deal of butt and pounding in these titles. Still, some of them are funny.
(22) MYTHIC FIGURE. Today Chuck Tingle is busy burnishing his legend.
(23) READERCON. Tracy Townsend announced she will be at Readercon in Quincy, MA from July 13-16.
Guests of Honor:
Naomi Novik & Nnedi Okorafor
Memorial Guest of Honor:
Although Readercon is modeled on “science fiction conventions,” there is no art show, no costumes, no gaming, and almost no media. Instead, Readercon features a near-total focus on the written word….
(24) MOVIE RESTORATION. The Verge says those who have heard of it should be pleased — “Andrei Tarkovsky’s sci-fi classic Stalker is getting an HD restoration”. And those like me, who haven’t, will be intrigued.
Cinephiles, rejoice! Criterion Collection will be adding a major science-fiction classic to its roster this summer: a restored version of Stalker, directed by Solaris filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky.
Based off the 1971 Russian science-fiction novel Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Stalker was originally released in 1979. The film follows a man known as “the Stalker” as he leads an expedition into a mysterious, forbidden area known as “The Zone.” In the book, the mysterious Zone is the location of an alien visitation decades before the story, littered with fantastic pieces of technology and dangers; in the film, its origins are more obscure. But in both cases, reality there is distorted, and somewhere inside is a room that will grant visitors’ innermost desires. The journey to get there is physically and philosophically arduous, and it tests the trio of men traveling there.
(25) SUBTITLES IN I KNOW NOT WHAT LANGUAGE. The Justice League Official International Trailer dropped today.
Fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman’s selfless act, Bruce Wayne enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy.
(26) A VISIT TO MARVEL. SlashFilm leads readers on a “Marvel Studios Offices Tour: A Behind-the-Scenes Look”. (Photos at the site.)
The Marvel Studios offices are located on the second floor of the Frank G. Wells Building on the Walt Disney Studios lot. When you exit the elevators, you are greeted by a wall-to-wall mural featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy, and a big Marvel Studios logo.
Marvel Studios began in a tiny office in Santa Monica that they shared with a kite factory. After that, the company moved to an office above a Mercedes dealership in Beverly Hills. They were based out of Manhattan Beach Studios for a few years before Disney asked them to move onto the Burbank lot in 2014. But it wasn’t until a few months ago that Marvel fully decorated their offices….
(27) BOMBS AWAY. A new record for a domino toppling specialty was set in March.
A group of domino builders in Michigan created the world’s largest “circle bomb” using nearly 80,000 dominoes.
The Incredible Science Machine team broke the Guinness World Record for “Most dominoes toppled in a circle bomb/circle field” by creating a series of 76,017 dominoes that toppled from the center of a circle to its outer edge.
“The Incredible Science Machine Team is very passionate about domino art and sharing it with an audience to amaze and inspire them,” team leader Steve Price, 22, said.
A total of 18 builders from the United States, Canada, Germany and Austria spent 10 days constructing the domino formation at the Incredible Science Machine’s annual event in Westland, Mich.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mart.]