Pixel Scroll 1/24/19 Scroll Up for the Mystery Tour

(1) APOLLO 11 FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY COINS. Today the U.S Mint began offering for sale coins from the “2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program”.

This year, we honor that historic achievement with the 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program, a collection of coins as unique in construction as they are stunning to behold. The program comprises curved coins in gold, silver and clad. The design of the coins’ obverse is a nod to the space missions that led up to the Moon landing, while the reverse features a representation of the famous “Buzz Aldrin on the Moon” photograph.

A collectSPACE article has the full list:

The 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary commemorative coins are being offered in seven editions:

  • An uncirculated-quality clad metal half dollar, limited to 750,000, for $25.95.
  • A proof-quality clad metal half dollar, limited to 750,000, for $27.95.
  • An uncirculated-quality silver dollar, limited to 400,000, for $51.95, with an order limit of 100 per household.
  • A proof-quality silver dollar, limited to 400,000, for $54.95, with an order limit of 100 per household.
  • A 5-ounce proof-quality silver dollar, limited to 100,000, for $224.95, with an order limit of 5 per household.
  • An uncirculated-quality $5 gold coin, limited to 50,000, for $408.75, with an order limit of one per household.
  • A proof-quality $5 gold coin, limited to 50,000, for $418.75, with an order limit of one per household.

The U.S. Mint has also produced an Apollo 11 50th Anniversary 2019 proof half dollar set, which includes one Apollo 11 50th Anniversary proof half dollar and one Kennedy enhanced reverse proof half dollar, “to commemorate the enduring relationship between President Kennedy and the American space program.” The set is a limited edition of 100,000 units and retails for $53.95.

The sale of the coins will benefit three foundations —

As authorized by Congress in 2016, proceeds from the sale of the U.S. Mint coins benefit three space-related organizations that preserve space history and promote science and engineering education: the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s “Destination Moon” gallery, scheduled to open in 2022.

If all of the Apollo 11 commemorative coins are sold, then they will raise a total of $14.5 million, with half going to the Smithsonian and the remaining funds divided between the two foundations.

(2) ARISIA. The Monday edition of Arisia’s daily newzine said the con’s total registration was 3,190.

Last year’s attendance was 3,930.

(3) HOPE. Leigh Alexander and John Scalzi did an Ask Us Anything session at Reddit today to promote The Verge’s “Better Worlds” project. Here’s an excerpt.

Q: Your most optimistic vision for the future comes true. What is it, and why is it actually awful in reality?

Leigh Alexander:

A: Optimism is biased data. Whatever I imagined as ‘ideal’ would have some kind of blind spot among the people I failed to consider. I don’t even care to speculate aloud, lest some celestial monkey’s paw shudders one more finger closed.

I really find Star Trek: The Next Generation soothing because you have Patrick Stewart, one of the world’s most brilliant actors, taking this little cardboard set, these goofy prosthetic aliens, with just the utmost sincerity — and in so doing, he represents what we think of as the ‘best’ of humanity in space.

But then of course there are all these times that the optimistic ‘ideals of the show reveal this provincial normativity that we wouldn’t expect to still exist in the fully automated luxury space future — so many of the aliens just have the same gender binary, same hierarchical titles, same everything as “the humans”. 

Whatever I can imagine would be good for us in the future won’t be relevant to all of us by the time we get there. But I do hope that being good to each other is an ongoing part of our evolution, that with each generation we get better at that. That’d be the dream.

John Scalzi:

My most optimistic vision is that people treat other people decently, and also incorporate the idea the planet will be here after they are, so maybe don’t trash the place. Neither of these require any SF concepts to be implemented, and honestly it’s difficult to see what the downside of these would be in tandem. 

(4) ACADEMY OVERLOOKS ANNIHLATION. Jeff VanderMeer has some thoughts about Oscar snubs. To begin with, he linked to Slate — “The Oscars Have Snubbed the Weird Annihilation Noise”.

For some unknown reason, voters chose to honor those movies and their music instead of Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow’s score and its magnificently spooky centerpiece, “The Alien,” home to a cluster of hypnotic notes that Slate has dubbed the weird Annihilation noise. (Listen at the 2:40 mark….)   

VanderMeer continues:

That was definitely a weird snub. But I really think the bigger snub is that Tessa Thompson wasn’t up for anything–whether for Annihilation or her other films from last year. Really truly mindboggling. Also, I thought Gina Rodriguez in Annihilation should at least have been considered–the performance was great and without her the whole thing would’ve been so understated as to be ridiculous.

(5) STUMPING THE HOST. Bradley Walsh, host of UK game show The Chase, claimed he couldn’t even understand this question. On the other hand, Filers should have no problem —

The 58-year-old presenter was hoping his team would be able to get through to the final chase, having already seen Richard the librarian go through with £6,000.

But as he read out the next question to Jo from Buckinghamshire, he could not make out what it was asking.

Baffled, he said: “In 2017, a special edition of what book was released that can only be read when the pages are burnt?

“What!? I don’t understand!”

The tricky puzzle had answers of A. Fahrenheit 451, B. Frankenstein, or C. Fifty Shades Of Grey.

(6) MEKAS OBIT. Experimental filmmaker Jonas Mekas died January 23 – Gothamist has the story: “Jonas Mekas, Avant-Garde Film Auteur & Co-Founder Of Anthology Film Archives, Has Died At Age 96”.  Andrew Porter realized this is genre news because “Jonas and his brother Adolfas appeared on the cover of the April 1963 F&SF, as depicted by artist and fellow filmmaker Ed Emshwiller.” The full story is online at Underground Film Journal.

To the moon, Jonas! The blog Potrzebie posted up this scan of the cover of a 1963 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science-Fiction featuring a dashing young Adolfas Mekas piloting a rocketship while his skeletal brother Jonas Mekas looms in the background. Apparently the cover is illustrating a tale of a spaceman who starves himself so his brother can pilot their lost ship back to civilization.

(7) PAVLOW OBIT. British actress Muriel Pavlow (1921-2019) died January 19, aged 97. Genre appearances included Hansel and Gretel in 1937, Project M7 in 1953 and one episode of R3 in 1965.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 24, 1911C.L. Moore.  Author, and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. Their work was written as a collaborative undertaking, resulting in such delightful works as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after he died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of Sugarfoot, MaverickThe Alaskans and 77 Sunset Strip, in the late Fifties and early Sixties. Checking iBooks, Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. Is their works in the public domain now? (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 24, 1917 Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. I’m  the same year, he’s nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years later, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in WonderlandMerlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind. Series wise let’s see…  it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get SmartFuture CopThe Ghost of Flight 401Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born January 24, 1942Gary K. Wolf, 77. He is best known as the author of Who Censored Roger Rabbit? which was adapted into Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It bears very little resemblance to the film. Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? which was written later hews much closer to the characters and realties of the film. He has written a number of other novels such as Amityville House of Pancakes Vol 3 which I suggest you avoid at all costs. Yes they are that awful. 
  • Born January 24, 1944 David Gerrold, 75. Let’s see… He of course scripted “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I still love, wrote the amazing patch up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his ongoing War Against the Chtorr series and wrote, with Robert Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Setting aside his work as a novel writer, he’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very impressive.
  • Born January 24, 1967 Phil LaMarr, 52. Best known I think for his voice work which, and this is a partial list, includes Young Justice (Aquaman among others), the lead role on Static Shock, John Stewart aka Green Lantern on Justice League Unlimited, Robbie Robertson on The Spectacular Spider-Man, various roles on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and T’Shan on Black Panther. Live roles include playing a Jazz singer in the  “Shoot Up the Charts” episode of Get Smart, a doctor on The Muppets in their ”Generally Inhospitable” segment, a lawyer in the “Weaponizer” episode of Lucifer and the voice Rag Doll in the “All Rag Doll’d Up” episode of The Flash. Oh I’ve got to see that! 
  • Born January 24, 1978Kristen Schaal, 41. Best known as Carol on The Last Man on Earth, the post-apocalyptic comedy. Other genre creds includes her role as Gertha Teeth in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, an adaptation of Darren O’Shaughnessy’s The Saga of Darren Shan, Miss Tree In Kate & Leopold, Pumpkin / Palace Witch in Shrek Forever After, Tricia in Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4, The Moderator in The Muppets film and the Freak Show series.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) MISSION POSSIBLE. The South FloridaSun Sentinel reported on January 18: “Holy heist, Batman! Thief drops through roof to nab $1.4 million in comics”.

A fortune in Batman comics has been stolen from a West Boca man and he is reaching out to the comic-collecting community around the world in the hopes of getting nearly 450 prized books back.

In a letter posted on social media sites, Randy Lawrence said his registered collection was valued at $1.4 million and that it was stolen from an indoor air-conditioned, double-locked storage unit.

A later Sun Sentinel story says that some of the collection has since been recovered: “Comic book collector ‘hopeful’ after small part of his stolen $1.4 million collection is found”.

It’s only a few checks off his list of missing pieces, but Randy Lawrence is hopeful he’ll get his $1.4 million in comic books back.

Police in Phoenix arrested a man who tried to sell four of Lawrence’s nearly 450 missing comic books.

(11) TOLKIEN’S FELLOWSHIP. Extra Credits continues its new season with episode 2 of “Extra Sci Fi” – “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.”

J. R. R. Tolkien wasn’t *just* a fantasy author–he was a mythology master. As a result, he ended up inventing some of the most popular genre tropes that science fiction heavily draws upon. Fellowship of the Ring introduces the theme of the “lessening of the world” and the decay of humanity.

(12) GERMAN CRIME FICTION AWARDS. The winners of the Deutscher Krimipreis, Germany’s oldest crime fiction award, have been announced. Cora Buhlert, who sent the link, adds: “One of the runners-up in the national crime novel category, Finsterwalde by Max Annas, is actually sort of science fictional.”

Winner national:

  • Mexikoring by Simone Buchholz

Runners-up national: 

  • Tankstelle von Courcelles by Matthias Wittekindt
  • Finsterwalde by Max Annas

Winner international:

  • 64 by Hideo Yokoyama

Runners-up international: 

  • Krumme Type, Krumme Type (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter) by Tom Franklin
  • Blut Salz Wasser (Blood, Salt, Water) by Denise Mina

(13) SPACE, THE FINAL FRONT EAR. Another day, another Star Trek opinion piece. Writing at FilmSchoolRejects.com, Charlie Brigden takes a turn “Ranking The ‘Star Trek’ Themes.”

Music has always been a huge part of Star Trek, from 1966 and that fanfare to the modern stylings of Star Trek: Discovery, which begins its second season this week. Over the course of 13 movies and seven television series, not to mention a boatload of video games, various composers have tried their best to musically represent Gene Roddenberry‘s vision of gunboat diplomacy and utopian societies. But which theme reaches maximum warp first? Which of the many pieces of music can deal with the most phaser hits and deciphering technobabble? Let’s find out.

Brigden says a good bit about each of the themes, but stripping it down to just the list:

15. Enterprise
14. The Animated Series
13. The Voyage Home
12. Deep Space Nine
11. Generations
10. Discovery
9. Nemesis
8. Star Trek ’09
7. The Undiscovered Country
6. Insurrection
5. Voyager
4. The Wrath of Khan
3. First Contact
2. The Original Series
1. The Motion Picture

(14) GOING TO THE WELLS ONCE TOO OFTEN. “War of the Worlds – as explained by Timothy the Talking Cat” is on feature at Camestros Felapton. It’s all amusing, and the ending is an especially droll bit of satire.

…Meanwhile, across the vast emptiness of space incredible minds were watching Earth and thinking “I know, let’s invade Surrey”. You have to remember that this wasn’t the 1950s when invading aliens preferred to target sleepy small towns in America. This was the nineteenth century and if you were an alien and you were thinking of making a trip to Earth, your first thought was “Surrey”. It’s a case of a local tourist board being just a bit too successful with their promotion of local sights. “Visit Sunny Woking” said the brochure that a Martian advance scout had picked up at Waterloo Station in an extremely brief visit in 1885…

(15) JEOPARDY! PATROL. Andrew Porter saw it on tonight’s Jeopardy!

Category: Potent Poe Tales

Answer: This Poe story’s title is realized as the narrator flees the “House” as it cracks and is torn asunder.

Wrong question: “What is the house with a crack in its wall?”

(16) PITCH MEETING. ScreenRant adds to its series with “Glass Pitch Meeting: Shyamalan’s Sequel To Split And Unbreakable.”

(17) FLY BY NIGHT. Where’s your flying car? Here’s your flying car… if you have a license to fly experimental aircraft and if you can settle for a few feet up for a few seconds. At least so far. Yahoo! Finance has the story (“Boeing’s flying car lifts off in race to revolutionize urban travel”).

Boeing Co said on Wednesday its flying car prototype hovered briefly in the air during an inaugural test flight, a small but significant step as the world’s largest planemaker bids to revolutionize urban transportation and parcel delivery services.

Boeing is competing with arch-rival Airbus SE and numerous other firms to introduce small self-flying vehicles capable of vertical takeoff and landing.

[…] Boeing’s 30-foot-long (9 meter) aircraft – part helicopter, part drone and part fixed-wing plane – lifted a few feet off the ground and made a soft landing after less than a minute of being airborne on Tuesday at an airport in Manassas, Virginia, Boeing said.

Future flights will test forward, wing-borne flight.

“This is what revolution looks like, and it’s because of autonomy,” John Langford, president and chief executive officer of Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, said in a news release announcing the test flight.

(18) CHINA BLOCKS BING FOR A DAY. The BBC found “Microsoft’s Bing search engine inaccessible in China” on Wednesday.

US tech giant Microsoft has confirmed that its search engine Bing is currently inaccessible in China.

Social media users have expressed concern that the search engine might be the latest foreign website to be blocked by censors.

Chinese authorities operate a firewall that blocks many US tech platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

Microsoft hasn’t said if the outage may be due to censorship, or is merely a technical problem.

“We’ve confirmed that Bing is currently inaccessible in China and are engaged to determine next steps,” Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement.

A BBC correspondent in China attempted to visit the site, and was able to access it through a Chinese internet provider on a desktop, but not on a smartphone.

Many US tech companies are keen to tap into the Chinese market, but have a difficult relationship with the authorities in Beijing.

The government’s internet censorship regime, often known as the “Great Firewall”, uses a series of technical measures to block foreign platforms and controversial content.

Chinese authorities have also cracked down on Virtual Private Networks, which allow users to skirt around the firewall.

NPR reports Bing was accessible again in China on Thursday.

The Microsoft search engine, Bing, is back online in China after apparently being blocked on Wednesday, a company spokesperson told NPR.

“We can confirm that Bing was inaccessible in China, but service is now restored,” the spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

…Microsoft President and Chief Legal Counsel Brad Smith explained that it’s not the first time the search engine has been blocked. “It happens periodically,” he said in an interview with Fox Business News from Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday.

(19) SPIRITS IN THE VASTY WOODS. See video of “The giant trolls hidden in the woods of Denmark”.

Cheeky trolls that tower over passers-by can be found in the Danish wilds. Constructed using wood found around the city, the sculptor behind them wants to bring people into nature.

Go for a walk in a Danish forest and you may spot a giant troll peeking out from behind a tree, or lounging luxuriously across the ground. These folkloric creatures are made by recycling artist, designer and activist Thomas Dambo, who sculpts the enormous beings from reclaimed wood.

(20) RED DWARF RETURNS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Red Dwarf is back, baby! Or anyway, it will be. Den of Geek had the story (“Red Dwarf Series 13 Confirmed”) all the way back in April 2018.

The boys from the Dwarf will be back for a thirteenth series…

Red Dwarf XIII is happening! Dave has ordered a brand new series of our favourite space sitcom, as confirmed by Robert Llewellyn and Danny John-Jules at Thames Con, and then duly reported by British Comedy Guide shortly thereafter.

Baby Cow Productions are set to start filming series XIII in the first few months of 2019, and Doug Naylor will be back to write all the new episodes. Robert Llewellyn, Danny John-Jules, Craig Charles and Chris Barrie will, of course, all be along for the ride.

Now there’s an update at Den of Geek (“Red Dwarf: the Dave era, Series XIII, and beyond”) which considers history and possible future projects.

With more Red Dwarf on the way, [columnist] Mark [Harrison] ponders how the sci-fi sitcom’s revival on Dave has secured its future…

For a show that’s three million and 31 years into deep space, Red Dwarf is in pretty rude health. It’s been just over a year since the programme came to the end of its 12th series, the second of a two-series production block shot in early 2016, on UK TV channel Dave, and it looks as if there’s still plenty more to come from Lister, Rimmer, Kryten and the Cat.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Your Cocoon” on Vimeo, Jerry Paper explains why you can’t have any fun if you’re a detached head.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, Steve Green, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Cora Buhlert, Martin Morse Wooster, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 4/21/18 If I Have Filed Further It Is Only By Scrolling On The Pixels Of Giants

(1) FIRST. Continuing the conversation about sff reviewing on his blog, Camestros Felapton offers this draft of “The Three Laws of Reviewbotics?”

…So here’s maybe a start for the hyper-critic oath (‘hyper’ because I’m overthinking this and ‘critic’ because ‘reviewer’ doesn’t work for the pun).

First, do no obvious harm. Don’t ever slander a writer. Avoid attacking them personally, even indirectly [that’s not always possible because writing is to varying degrees an extension of the self. In addition, some texts themselves are INTENDED to be harmful to others (I’ve reviewed many here over the years) BUT while we can all think of exceptions the norm should be to review texts, not people.] This does not mean treating all people the same – if you knew that somebody was currently in a vulnerable emotional state, then maybe reviewing their book isn’t a great idea. The flip side of that is you can’t reasonably tailor reviews around what a writer you don’t know might be feeling. And obviously don’t use slurs, stereotypes or language which we know to be harmful – such as overt racism, sexism etc. In an equitable society, some people are more vulnerable to others and if we KNOW that we have to be mindful of that while bearing in mind the points below as well.

(2) TO THE TUNE OF CORALINE. The opera based on Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is available on the BBC iPlayer for the next 29 days: “Mark-Anthony Turnage: Coraline”.

Kate Molleson presents the world premiere production of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Coraline – an operatic version of the dark fantasy tale by Neil Gaiman, directed by Aletta Collins with libretto by Rory Mullarkey. Soprano Mary Bevan sings the title-role with a cast including mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately and baritone Alexander Robin Baker who are making their Royal Opera debuts. Sian Edwards conducts the Britten Sinfonia.

During the interval, Kate is joined by guest Fiona Maddocks with contributions from Mark-Anthony Turnage and Mary Bevan.

Neil Gaiman has transformed the landscape of children’s literature with his highly inventive, atmospheric and otherworldly narratives. His prize-winning novella, Coraline is packed with astonishing imagery – a much-loved story about a girl who discovers a door in her parents’ house, leading to an entirely different place and family. For Mark-Anthony Turnage “the fundamental message beneath the story is that we shouldn’t be afraid to do what we believe is right. Coraline is brave, not because she doesn’t cry or get scared, but because despite these things she still tries her best and doesn’t give up. That’s why I wanted to write Coraline, because here’s a message well worth telling; through opera or in any other way.”

(3) FANTASTIC HOW MANY? A trailer advertising the Fantastic 4’s return to comics in August. But Carl Slaughter says, “Wait a minute.  Maybe I missed someone, but I saw only 3 members of the Fantastic 4 at the end of that teaser….” Actually, Carl, couldn’t that pillar of fire in the closing image be your missing fourth character?

(4) TRACK RECORD. A member of the Universal Fan Con committee – a con cancelled at the last minute — is alleged to have a problemactic past.

(5) SPOILER ALERT. Commentary on a recent Red Dwarf-themed word puzzle: “Inquisitor 1533: A Little Light Relief by Eclogue”.

There were enough clues that I could solve to get a firm foothold in the grid and start to see the message emerging.  It was the skeleton of the message that gave me the breakthrough.  I could see something like IT’S COLD OUTSIDE and THERE’S NO appearing and  those five words were enough to track down the theme to Red Dwarf, a cult television series which was still producing new episodes in late 2017

The theme tune can be found by by clicking here

The full message is IT’S COLD OUTSIDE THERE’S NO KIND OF ATMOSPHERE which are the opening lyrics to the show’s theme song.  The wording of the preamble was very precise when it stated ‘the correct letters from misprints in definitions provide the opening to the theme’.

I could see then that the unclued entries were going to be the characters from the show.  It was the one I didn’t really know that fell first – KOCHANSKI –  followed by HOLLY, LISTER, RIMMER, KRYTEN and CAT.  CAT came last because I nearly missed it.

(6) IT’S HUGE! In “Kickstarter Final Note”, Steve Davidson shares a bit of news about Amazing Stories’ next first print issue.

One thing of note:  we’ve gone way over our word count for the first issue and none of us have the heart to deny any of our authors and artists the opportunity to be in Amazing first new issue since 2005 (and not even that’s technically correct – we’ve published four issues since 2012 in point of fact), so, rather than disappointing a handful of authors and artists, we’ve chosen the high road and are biting the bullet on an extended page count – rather than our originally planned 192 pages, it looks like we’re going for 248…

Yes, it’s going to blow our budget out a little bit, but, well, we really want this first issue to be SPECTACULAR, AWESOME and REALLY GREAT!  And it’s going to be.  (Really Great Science Fiction magazine was rejected as a title….)

(7) HOW HARD CAN IT BE? Tough SF by “Matter Beam” says this is its mission:

… One genre defined by the struggle to create living settings in science fiction is Hard SF. ‘An emphasis on scientific or technical detail’ is a sure-fire way to create a realistic and functional universe, but often the need to adhere to realism slows creativity, stresses the narration, leads to improbable results or otherwise has negative effects. One of the biggest complaints is that it just isn’t ‘fun’….

…This blog therefore try to help authors, world-builders and game designers to create Tough Science Fiction. This is science fiction that is as resistant as Hard Science Fiction to criticism, review and general prodding and poking by the audience, but does not sacrifice the author’s vision or core concepts to pure, dry realism…

Here are a couple of illustrative posts:

Space Piracy is a common science fiction trope. It has been continuously derided in Hard Science Fiction as silly and a holdover of the ‘Space is an Ocean’ analogy.

But is it really that unrealistic to have space pirates? Let’s find out.

There’s more to piracy than just attacking a target and running away afterwards.

Put yourself in the shoes of a pirate, a merchant or the authorities. What would you do?

(8) BUNCH OF LUNCH. Why aren’t there more big mammals? We ate them.  “New Study Says Ancient Humans Hunted Big Mammals To Extinction”.

Over the past 125,000 years, the average size of mammals on the Earth has shrunk. And humans are to blame.

That’s the conclusion of a new study of the fossil record by paleo-biologist Felisa Smith of the University of New Mexico.

Smith studied fossils going back 65 million years, when dinosaurs died and mammals came into their own. Many of the early mammals went on to get big. Among the giant creatures: “Llamas and camels and sloths and five species of pronghorn [antelope] actually,” she says, “and certainly mammoths. And then lots of really cool predators, like Arctodus, the short faced bear.” The short-faced bear stood 11 feet tall, about the shoulder height of some species of ancient camel.

And that was just North America.

Being big was just as successful as being small, and had some advantages when it came to surviving big predators. “Taken as a whole, over 65 million years, being large did not increase mammals’ extinction risk. But it did when humans were involved,” Smith found.

Looking back over the most recent 125,000 years of the fossil record, Smith found that when humans arrived someplace, the rate of extinction for big mammals rose. She says it basically came down to hunger. “Certainly humans exploit large game,” she says, “probably because they are tasty”—and because a bigger animal makes for a bigger meal. …

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 21, 1997 — Ashes of Gene Roddenberry journeyed into space.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian shared this link with pun lovers in mind — Off the Mark.

(11) BRADBURY MUSEUM UPDATE. A proponent told the Chicago Tribune “Ray Bradbury Experience Museum planning start in smaller space, eventual move to old Carnegie Library”.

The multi-million dollar dream of renovating and redeveloping the childhood library of Ray Bradbury for a museum dedicated to the Waukegan author is still alive more than two years after a campaign was launched to make it happen.

But a team of Bradbury devotees, civic boosters and creative minds has decided it isn’t going to wait for that overall package to take shape at the historic but dormant Carnegie Library on Sheridan Road.

Instead, early next month, plans will be unveiled for a more modest Ray Bradbury Experience Museum (RBEM) with a goal of opening in a Genesee Street storefront in time for the 100th anniversary of the late author’s birthday in August 2020….

(12) WOTF. Kyle Aisteach posted a memoir about “My Writers of the Future Experience” in the 1990s. Aisteach was a paid add-on student of the workshop, not a contest finalist.

… The workshop itself was much like what others have described: A whirlwind of big names coming in to talk to us, intensely trying to churn out a complete short story in just a few days, a lot of theory, and a lot of making friends. I learned a tremendous amount, much of which I carry with me and still use to this day. The workshop was wonderful.

But the question everyone wants to ask is this: What about the Scientology?

Well, it was definitely there. The impression I had at the time was that L. Ron Hubbard founded Scientology and therefore Scientology loves L. Ron Hubbard and everything he was associated with, and therefore the Church of Scientology wanted to support us in any way it could. David Miscavige was there to welcome us all. L. Ron Hubbard’s name was not just mentioned frequently, it was extolled. We were clearly and obviously using Scientology property for both the workshop and the gala. I, personally, found it a little uncomfortable at times, but I’m always uncomfortable in someone else’s sacred space, so there was nothing weird about that to me. A couple of the texts we used were clearly Scientologist documents (the biography of Hubbard had him transcending instead of dying, and another essay – I don’t recall exactly what it was about – Budrys explained was written for Scientologists and he explained what terms like “clear” meant so we could follow it), but that didn’t faze me either, since texts that inform writing can come from anywhere and most of us pull from our own traditions when teaching.

Before anyone has a meltdown about any of this, remember that this was the 1990s. Scientology had some legal troubles as a young religion, but at this point the general feeling was that it had left them behind….

And former Writers of the Future winner J. W. Alden has written another thread – start here.

(13) BEWARE EVENTBRITE. Slashdot warns “Eventbrite Claims The Right To Film Your Events — And Keep the Copyright”.

But in addition, you’re also granting them permission to record and use footage of all your attendees and speakers, “in any manner, in any medium or context now known or hereafter developed, without further authorization from, or compensation to.” And after that Eventbrite “will own all rights of every nature whatsoever in and to all films and photographs taken and recordings made hereunder, including without limitation of all copyrights therein and renewals and extensions thereof, and the exclusive right to use and exploit the Recordings in any manner, in any medium or context now known or hereafter developed…”

(14) PERSISTENCE. At NPR, Genevieve Valentine analyzes Joanna Russ’ nonfiction classic: “‘How To Suppress Women’s Writing:’ 3 Decades Old And Still Sadly Relevant”:

…It’s hard not to get freshly angry at the status quo, reading this. But amid the statistics and the sort of historical pull quotes you’ll want to read out loud to horrified friends, Russ is also defying a literary tradition that, she points out again and again, wants to forget that women write. In so doing, she deliberately creates a legacy of women writers who came before. Well, white women. Russ mentions a few writers of color in the essay proper, and includes more in her Afterword, but this is a very white family tree. (It’s one of the ways the book shows its age; another is the way any genderqueerness is reduced to sexual preferences, which amid so much far-seeing commentary feels quaintly second-wave.)

And despite how much there is to be angry about, How to Suppress Women’s Writing is shot through with hope. There’s the energy of a secret shared in “the rocking and cracking of the book as the inadequate form strains or even collapses.” And beneath every denial of agency, there’s the obvious truth: For hundreds of years, despite those odds against them, the “wrong” writers still manage to write. Likely it won’t be remembered long enough or taken seriously enough, but to read this book is to admire this buried tradition, and realize how much there is to be discovered — and how there’s no time like the present to look at the marginalized writers you might be missing. “Only on the margins does growth occur,” Russ promises, like the guide in a story telling you how to defeat the dragon. Get angry; then get a reading list.

(15) MOVERS AND SHAKERS. In California, they’re “Betting On Artificial Intelligence To Guide Earthquake Response”.

A startup company in California is using machine learning and artificial intelligence to advise fire departments about how to plan for earthquakes and respond to them.

The company, One Concern, hopes its algorithms can take a lot of the guesswork out of the planning process for disaster response by making accurate predictions about earthquake damage. It’s one of a handful of companies rolling out artificial intelligence and machine learning systems that could help predict and respond to floods, cyber-attacks and other large-scale disasters.

(16) HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUBBLE. Great photo: “It’s The Hubble Space Telescope’s Birthday. Enjoy Amazing Images Of The Lagoon Nebula”.

The Hubble “has offered a new view of the universe and has reached and surpassed all expectations for a remarkable 28 years,” the agencies said in a statement, adding that the telescope has “revolutionized almost every area of observational astronomy.”

Hubble was launched on April 24, 1990, aboard the space shuttle Discovery as a joint project between NASA and the ESA. Each year, the telescope is diverted from important scientific observational duties to take an image of the cosmos in intense detail.

This year’s featured image, the Lagoon Nebula, is a colossal stellar nursery, 55 light-years wide and 20 light-years tall, that is about 4,000 light-years away from Earth.

 

(17) END GAME. Looper tries to explain the ending of Ready Player One. Watch out for spoilers, I assume!

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, David Langford, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Peter J, Mark Hepworth, Jim Meadows, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]