Pixel Scroll 12/11/18 For The World Is Hollow And I Have Scrolled The Pixel

(1) PICARD. Entertainment Weekly got the word from Alex Kurtzman: “Star Trek producer explains how Picard spin-off will be ‘extremely different'”.

“It’s an extremely different rhythm than Discovery,” [writer-director Alex] Kurtzman told EW exclusively. “Discovery is a bullet. Picard is a very contemplative show. It will find a balance between the speed of Discovery and the nature of what Next Gen was, but I believe it will have its own rhythm.”

Continued Kurtzman: “Without revealing too much about it, people have so many questions about Picard and what happened to him, and the idea we get to take time to answer those questions in the wake of the many, many things he’s had to deal with in Next Gen is really exciting. ‘More grounded’ is not the right way to put it, because season 2 of Discovery is also grounded. It will feel more…real-world? If that’s the right way to put it.”

(2) NO BUCKS, NO BUCK ROGERS. Also,Variety says the Picard series will be made in California to take advantage of state tax benefits: “New‘ Star Trek’ Series to Shoot in California, Selected for Tax Credit”.

CBS’s new “Star Trek” series, with Patrick Stewart reprising the role of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, will shoot in California and receive a $15.6 million production tax credit.

The California Film Commission announced Monday that the untitled “Star Trek” series and eight other TV series have been selected for the latest tax credit allocations totaling $90 million under the state’s expanded Film & TV Tax Credit Program 2.0.

Six recurring series already in the tax credit program and picked up for another season of in-state production have also been set for allocations — Fox’s third season of “The Orville” with $15.8 million, CBS’s second season of “Strange Angel” with $10 million, Fox’s ninth season of “American Horror Story” ($8.9 million),  and the second seasons of “MayansMC” ($7.6 million), “Good Trouble” ($6.6 million) and “The Rookie” ($4.5million).

(3) LULZINE. John Coxon and España Sheriff have launched a new online fanzine called Lulzine, focused on comedy, and comedy in science fiction and fantasy. Check out Lulzine Issue 1. The editors are still looking for material that suits the first issue’s theme. (Adding stuff makes sense because Lulzine presents as a blog. But don’t tell anyone I said so.)

We’re hoping to add more articles to the first issue before we start the second issue just before Ytterbium (the next Eastercon). The theme of the first issue is comedy in television, so if anyone wants to pitch us articles, they can contact us at editors@lulzine.net.

(4) BREAKFAST WITH EINSTEIN. At Whatever, Chad Orzel explains “The Big Idea” behind his book Breakfast with Einstein: The Exotic Physics of Everyday Objects.

Quantum mechanics is one of the most amazing theories in all of science, full of stuff that captures the imagination: zombie cats, divine dice-rolling, spooky actions over vast distances. Maybe the single most amazing thing about it, though, is that we think it’s weird.

That probably seems a strange thing to say, because quantum physics is so weird, but that’s exactly the point. These are the fundamental principles governing the behavior of everything in the universe, and yet they run completely counter to our intuition about how the world works. If these are the basic rules underlying everything, shouldn’t they make sense? How can the entire universe behave according to strictly quantum laws, and yet we’re not intuitively aware of it?

(5) GLOBAL VIEW. Here’s Mortal Engines’ fascinating “Explore London 360” video –

(6) STUDY IN THIS WORLD’S HOGWARTS. Buzzfeed displays photos of “16 Libraries That Look Like Hogwarts IRL”. One of them is —

2.The University of Washington Library in Seattle, Washington

(7) CREATING AN IMPRESSION. Dave Addey takes up book covers as part of his column’s “Typeset in the Future” sub theme at Tor.com: “Designing the Future: Deconstructing Five Sci-Fi Book Covers”. He doesn’t restrict the conversation to Tor publications, I just thought this one made a good excerpt for the Scroll —

“Loss of Signal” by S. B. Divya (A Tor.com Original,2018)

…The cover’s inverted planetary relationship evokes “Earthrise”, a famous NASA photograph taken onboard Apollo 8 by astronaut Bill Anders….

Like “Earthrise” and Loss of Signal, 2001’s intro shows our home planet far in the distance, small and insignificant when compared to the moon’s barren surface in the foreground. Both images require viewers to consider their place in the universe from an entirely alien vantage point, far from the comforts of home. It’s an entirely appropriate feeling for S. B. Divya’s story of the first human mind to circle the moon without a body in tow.

(8) UNSTINCTION. Shelf Awareness calls attention to Torill Kornfeldt’s “The Re-Origin of Species: A Second Chance for Extinct Animals”.

“There is no way in which a lost species can really be brought back to life,” writes Swedish science journalist Torill Kornfeldt in her fascinating debut, The Re-Origin of Species: A Second Chance for Extinct Animals. “The nearest thing we can manage is a substitute.” But as each chapter reveals, the “substitutes” that many scientists think are possible would be nearly identical to–and just as astonishing as–the originals.

Kornfeldt travels the world to meet scientists who are attempting “de-extinction,” the practice of bringing extinct animals back to life. In Siberia, she meets Sergey Zimov, a Russian scientist attempting to revive mammoths. And in California she speaks with Ben Novak, a young scientist trying to resurrect the passenger pigeon. Other scientists are working on the northern white rhino, a Spanish ibex called a bucardo and, yes, even a dinosaur. There are still advancements to be made in genetic research before any of these experiments could result in actual resurrected animals but, according to the scientists Kornfeldt interviews, breakthroughs are happening at an unprecedented pace. De-extinction is only a few years away from becoming reality.

(9) BUT THEN I TURNED ON THE TV, AND THAT’S ABOUT THE TIME SHE WALKED AWAY FROM ME. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Looks like Gerard Way’s The Umbrella Academy won’t be the only science fiction TV show based on a comic book by a famous Emo band member. Blink 182 guitarist Tom DeLonge’s sci-fi graphic novel Strange Times is being turned into a show for TBS. The show will follow all-American teen Charlie Wilkins who starts investigating when his dad is abducted by aliens. He’s helped by his skateboarding friends and the ghost of a girl. Of the show, DeLonge says: “My love for all things paranormal and skateboarding are sometimes only superseded by my love for offensive humor. This series combines them all into one.” “Blink 182’s Tom DeLonge is making his own sci-fi TV series”NME has the story:

…The show is in development at US network TBS and will follow “five dirty teenage skateboarders who solve paranormal mysteries while being chased by Deep State government agents.”

(10) WHEN IT ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY HAS TO BE THERE OVERNIGHT. “Mark Hamill reveals script for Star Wars IX will be flown to him and then immediately taken back amid intense plot leak fears”Daily Mail has the story.

If you can’t trust a Jedi Master, who can you trust? Mark Hamill has revealed the script for Star Wars Episode IX will be flown to him and he must immediately hand it back after reading it.

Security around the finale is so tight that the 67-year-old is no longer allowed to keep a copy. He has yet to shoot his scenes.

The actor, who plays Luke Skywalker in the sci-fi saga, is currently in Prague where he is shooting the History Channel’s Knightfall. 

(11) LIGHTSABER AUCTION CANCELLED. Profiles in History responded to the controversy reported in an earlier Scroll by withdrawing the item: “Star Wars lightsaber auction pulled over origin dispute”.

…However, the Original Prop Blog posted a series of videos raising doubts about the weapon, including alleged discrepancies between the lightsaber shown in that letter and the lightsaber in the auction catalogue.

There were also claims this might be a replica or prototype prop.

But Mr Roger Christian told the BBC it was one of five original lightsabers made for the film, saying: “It is real – I’ve got the Oscar to prove it.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 11, 1957 – William Joyce, 61. Author of the YA series Guardians of Childhood which is currently at twelve books and growing. Now I’ve no interest in reading them but Joyce and Guillermo del Toro turned them into in a rather splendid Rise of the Guardians film which I enjoyed quite a bit. The antagonist in it reminds me somewhat of a villain later on In Willingham’s Fables series called Mr. Dark. 
  • Born December 11, 1959  — M. Rickert, 59. Usually I don’t cotton with listing Awards but she’s rather unusual in she’s has won or been nominated for several major awards despite working largely in short fiction with I believe The Memory Garden being her only novel. “Journey into the Kingdom” was nominated for the 2006 Nebula Award for Best Novelette and an International Horror Guild Award, and won the 2007 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction Her Map of Dreams won a World Fantasy Award for Best Collection and a Crawford Award, and the collection’s title story was nominated for the 2007 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella. 
  • Born December 11, 1962Ben Browder, 56. Actor of course best known for his roles as John Crichton in Farscape and Cameron Mitchell in Stargate SG-1.  One of my favorite roles by him was his voicing of  Bartholomew Aloysius “Bat” Lash in Justice League Unlimited “The Once and Future Thing, Part 1” episode. He’d have an appearance in Doctor Who in “A Town Called Mercy”,  a Weird Western of sorts. His most recent genre appearance was as a character named Ted Gaynor on Arrow
  • Born December 11, 1965 Sherrilyn Kenyon, 53. Best for her Dark Hunter series which runs to around thirty volumes now. I confess I’ve not read any, so I’m curious as to how they are. Opinions? (Of course you do. Silly me.)  She’s got The League series as well which appears to be paranormal romance, and a Lords of Avalon series too under the pen name of Kinley MacGregor. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • This is no job for the sommelier: Bizarro
  • Frosty the UFOman at Bizarro.
  • Why can’t Santa guest on Star Trek? Meme will explain.

(14) TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter has his eye on the tube. Tonight’s Jeopardy!, in the category “Posthumous Books,” gave the answer as: “After death, this horror author still talked about the Necronomicon in his novel, ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.'”

Wrong question: “Who is Asimov?”

(15) SKY’S THE LIMIT. In his latest Nerds of a Feather contribution,“Microreview [Book]: The Fated Sky, by Mary Robinette Kowal”, Joe Sherry declares —

The Fated Sky stands well on its own but, when coupled with The Calculating Stars, is a masterpiece.

After reading The Calculating Stars (my review) earlier this year, I wrote about how Mary Robinette Kowal did more than achieve a sense of wonder, she brought the dream of spaceflight beyond the page and directly into readers hearts. The Calculating Stars was a masterful novel that will surely find a place on many Year’s Best lists and a number of awards ballots. It’s a lot to live up to, but the near perfection of The Calculating Stars only serves to whet the appetite for The Fated Sky.

The Fated Sky picks up a few years after the end of The Calculating Stars. There is a fledgling base and colony on the moon, regular round trip missions from the earth to the moon, and the IAC (International Aerospace Coalition) is planning for its first Mars mission. Each of the two books are tagged as “Lady Astronaut” novels and Mary Robinette Kowal won a Hugo Award for her story “The Lady Astronaut of Mars“. We know how the progression of Elma’s story, where she ends up. It isn’t about spoiling the ending, the beauty of The Fated Sky is in the journey. In this case, a journey to Mars.

(16) BATWOMAN IN CW CROSSOVER. The Hollywood Reporter tells“How Batwoman Fit Into The CW’s DC Comics World in ‘Elseworlds'”.

Batwoman has finally arrived on The CW. Ruby Rose’s iconic lesbian superhero officially made her debut during Monday’s Arrow, part two of The CW’s three-part superhero crossover “Elseworlds.” 

With Earth-1 impacted by a magical book that altered reality, Monday’s Arrow installment of The CW’s big “Elseworlds” superhero crossover found The Flash’s Barry (Grant Gustin), Arrow’s Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Supergirl’s Kara (Melissa Benoist) in Gotham to try and get to the bottom of things. Unfortunately for the heroes, a mugging (and their inability to stand down) landed the trio in jail, where they were bailed out by a mysterious figure — Kate Kane (Orange Is the New Blackgrad Rose), aka Batwoman.

(17) JUST DO IT. Mars Society president Robert Zubrin argues in the Washington Post that “We have the technology to build a colony on the moon. Let’s do it.” The author of The Case For Mars takes aim at current NASA plans to build a mini-space station that would orbit the moon, and instead suggests that the time has come to set up a permanent habitable structure on the lunar surface.

…As for landing people on the moon, NASA is vague about that, too. Apparently, if we wanted to build a lander sometime in the future, it would rendezvous with the Gateway for some reason and then attempt a landing.

This is all just plain weird. It’s like building a big, expensive aircraft carrier, positioning it off the European coast and requiring passengers going from New York to Paris to land there first and do something (although what isn’t known) until another airplane is built to pick them up to carry them to their destination. This, we suspect, is not the best way to get to France.

Rather than build this murky Gateway, which we frankly doubt the American people will understand or support, we believe the best expenditure of time and money is to simply make it a national goal to build a base on the lunar surface. Such a base would be similar to the U.S. South Pole Station and constructed for the same reasons: science, exploration, knowledge, national prestige, and economic and technological development for the benefit of the U.S. taxpayer.

…If we’re serious about going to the moon, let’s just go there. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, reminding us of the sort of things we as a nation once accomplished. We should resolve now to do no less.

(18) STOP AND GO. First story isn’t good news: Himalayan glaciers are slowing because they’ve thinned enough that there’s less mass to move them downhill, and their outflows provide inland water. Second story also isn’t good news: Satellite images show Antarctic glaciers getting more lubrication on their way to the ocean, where they’ll melt and raise ocean levels.

The glaciers that flank the Himalayas and other high mountains in Asia are moving slower over time.

Scientists have analysed nearly 20 years of satellite images to come to this conclusion.

They show that the ice streams which have decelerated the mostare the ones that have also thinned the most.

The region has long been considered stable and unaffected by some of the more dramatic changes occurring elsewhere on the continent.

But satellites have now shown that ice streams running into the ocean along one-eighth of the eastern coastline have thinned and sped up.

If this trend continues, it has consequences for future sea levels.

There is enough ice in the drainage basins in this sector of Antarctica to raise the height of the global oceans by 28m – if it were all to melt out.

(19) GAME CENSORS. From BBC we learn that “China’s new games censors take tough stance”.

A panel of censors set up to vet mobile video games in China has signalled it will be hard to please.

State media reports that of the first 20 titles it assessed, nine were refused permission to go on sale.

The Xinhua news agency added that developers of the other 11 had been told they had to make adjustments to remove “controversial content”.

There has been a clampdown on new video game releases in the country since March.

The authorities have voiced concerns about the violent nature of some titles as well as worries about the activity being addictive.

President Xi Jinping has also called for more to be done to tackle a rise in near-sightedness among the young – something that the country’s ministry of education has linked to children playing video games at the cost of spending time on outdoor pastimes.

(20) FILMING IN NEW ZEALAND. The Hollywood Reporter shows how Peter Jackson’s pioneer efforts have paid off for New Zealand: “‘Avatar’ to ‘Mulan’: Hollywood Movies Are Keeping New Zealand Busier Than Ever”.

…In addition to recently hosting summer blockbusters like Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible — Fallout and the giant shark thriller The Meg, the New Zealand production uptick is indeed evidenced by the volume of high-profile projects that are in varying stages of production right now.

James Cameron is gearing up for the monumental task of shooting all three of the Avatar sequels there simultaneously early in 2019. The films were brought to New Zealand via a government deal that requires 20thCentury Fox to spend no less than NZ $500 million (about $345 million)in-country and to hold at least one of the world premieres there.

Meanwhile, Disney is just wrapping production on its live-action adaptation of Mulan, with a budget north of $100 million and Kiwi director Niki Caro at the helm. The project shot on the new stages at Kumeu Film Studios in West Auckland as well as on locations across the country. Netflix, of course, also is active in New Zealand, having recently begun filming the family fantasy series The Letter for the King in Auckland; Amazon Studios, meanwhile, is shooting the YA series The Wilds in Auckland nearby. Also courtesy of Amazon, the franchise that made New Zealand synonymous with Middle Earth is tipped to be coming back to the island nation — for many in the local industry, it’s simply unthinkable that the streamer’s Lord of the Rings TV series, with a rumored budget of $500 million, won’t shoot there.

(21) BEST RESOURCE. Congratulations to Mark Kelly who has added contents of 15 best-of-year anthology series to his Science Fiction Awards Database site, with single-page composite tables of contents for each series, and all stories included on their authors’ individual pages. (He still has more such series yet to do, for example, the Datlow/Windling series.) See “Anthologies & Collections Directory”. The first 15 “bests” include–

1939 – 1963  • Asimov/Greenberg • The Great SF Stories (DAW, 1979 – 1992)

1948 – 1957  • Bleiler/Dikty • The Best Science-Fiction Stories and Novels (1949 – 1958)

1955 – 1967  • Judith Merril • Year’s Best S-F (1956 – 1967)

1964 – 1970  • Wollheim/Carr • World’s Best Science Fiction (Ace, 1965 – 1971)

1967 – 1975  • Harrison/Aldiss • Best SF (1968 – 1976)

1974 – 1975  • Lester del Rey • Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year (Dutton, 1972 – 1976)

1971 – 1989  • Donald A. Wollheim • Annual World’s Best SF (DAW, 1972 – 1990)

1971 – 1986  • Terry Carr • Best Science Fiction of the Year + Fantasy (1972 – 1987)

1976 – 1980  • Gardner Dozois • Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year (Dutton, 1977 – 1981)

1983 – 2017  • Gardner Dozois • Year’s Best Science Fiction (St. Martin’s, 1984 – 2018)

1995 – 2012  • Hartwell/Cramer • Year’s Best SF, Year’s Best Fantasy (1996 – 2013)

2001 – 2004  • Silverberg/Haber/Strahan • Science Fiction Best of, Fantasy Best of (ibooks: 2002 – 2005)

2003 – 2017  • Jonathan Strahan • The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year (2004 – 2018)

2005 – 2017  • Rich Horton • The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy (Prime, 2006 – 2018)

2015 – 2017  • Neil Clarke • The Best Science Fiction of the Year (Night Shade, 2016 – 2018)

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

Pixel Scroll 5/23/17 Pixel, Pixel, Scroll, Scroll, Know What I Mean? Say No More

(1) ZENO’S MARTIAN THEOREM. You can’t get to Mars before you…“The first trip to Mars will come with the longest layover ever”

Nobody likes layovers, but the first astronauts heading to Mars will get to experience one of the longest such experiences of their lives. They’ll have to spend one year going around the moon, which will probably be a very annoying wait for the first people heading to the red planet. It’s not all bad news, however, as they won’t just wait for time to pass by. NASA actually wants to make sure that the round trip to Mars, a 1,000-day endeavor, is carefully planned during the time.

NASA’s Greg Williams, revealed that the agency’s Phase 2 of its plan to send humans to Mars includes a one-year layover in orbit around the moon in the late 2020s, Space reports..

Williams, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for policy and plans at the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, revealed that NASA wants to build a “deep-space gateway” around the moon that would serve as the testing ground for the first Mars missions.

(2) ZUBRIN’S MARTIAN KERFUFFLE. Joel Achenbach’s article for the Washington Post, “Mars Society founder blasts NASA for ‘worst plan yet’”, reports on a space exploration conference sponsored by The Atlantic in which Robert Zubrin said NASA’s plan to build a space station orbiting the moon is a giant waste of money because no one before this suggested Mars expeditions needed to have a midway stop before.

Until recently, NASA branded virtually everything it was doing as part of a “Journey to Mars,”and Mars remains the horizon goal. The destination was even mandated in a recent congressional authorization act for NASA that was signed by President Trump.

In the meantime, NASA has more modest plans — and these plans don’t please Zubrin, for one.

NASA wants to put a “spaceport”in orbit around the moon. It would be a habitat for astronauts on long-duration missions. You could call it a “space station”if you wanted, though it wouldn’t be nearly as big as the one that’s circling the Earth right now. NASA refers to it as the Deep Space Gateway and describes it as “a crew tended spaceport in lunar orbit.

…After the presentations, Zubrin gave The Post some additional thoughts on what he perceives as NASA’s failure to come up with a bold and coherent plan. He said that in the long history of NASA studies on the future of human spaceflight — and there is a long list of these lengthy reports — no one ever suggested that an orbital lunar outpost was a necessary part of an exploration program. Part of the problem, as he sees it, is the agency’s recent announcement that the first, uncrewed flight of the Space Launch System rocket will be delayed again, to 2019: “The tragedy of SLS is not that it is being delayed. The tragedy is that it doesn’t matter that it’s being delayed, because there’s nothing for it to launch anyway.”

(3) BACK IN ACTION. After an 8-year break, Elizabeth Moon relaunched her Vatta’s War series in April with Cold Welcome.

(4) EMERGENCY BACKUP. “Justice League director Zack Snyder steps down due to family tragedy”. Joss Whedon comes off the bench to finish the picture.

Zack Snyder, who has acted as DC Comics’ directorial visionary on a number of its most ambitious film projects, is stepping down from Justice League due to a family tragedy. The news, announced in an interview published today by The Hollywood Reporter, means Snyder will be handing the reins over to Avengers director and writer Joss Whedon, who will ferry the project through its remaining post-production stage before its November 17th release later this year.

‘Justice League’ is now in Joss Whedon’s hands

Snyder, whose daughter committed suicide in March at the age of 20, admits that he originally misjudged how the loss would affect his work. “In my mind, I thought it was a cathartic thing to go back to work, to just bury myself and see if that was way through it,”Snyder told The Hollywood Reporter. “The demands of this job are pretty intense. It is all consuming. And in the last two months I’ve come to the realization…I’ve decided to take a step back from the movie to be with my family, be with my kids, who really need me. They are all having a hard time. I’m having a hard time.”

(5) DANCING IN THE SAND. A ballet adaptation of Dune will be performed August 4-6 by the Vaught Contemporary Ballet at the Baltimore Theater Project (45 West Preston Street, Baltimore, MD 21201):

Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, Dune, is widely recognized as the best selling science fiction novel of all time. It’s exploration of politics, religion, sexism and ecology set against an interstellar backdrop allows the reader a reflection on the human condition in the modern era. Herbert’s Fremen of Arrakis provide a counterpoint to a culture consumed by avarice — the desire for melange.

Join us as we depict Herbert’s illustrative words through the art of ballet. Movement will be on full display in its varied definitions as we follow Paul Atreides in his rise to power as both royalty and the prophet of the Fremen.

Keep track of the event on Facebook.

(6) GO GO GO. I don’t pronounce it, I just report it. “Google’s AlphaGo AI defeats world Go number one Ke Jie”The Verge has the story.

Google’s AI AlphaGo has done it again: it’s defeated Ke Jie, the world’s number one Go player, in the first game of a three-part match. AlphaGo shot to prominence a little over a year ago after beating Korean legend Lee Se-dol 4-1 in one of the most potent demonstrations of the power of artificial intelligence to date. And its defeat of Ke shows that it was only getting started.

“I think everyone recognizes that Ke Jie is the strongest human player,”9th-dan professional and commentator Michael Redmond said before the match. And despite defeat, Ke’s strategy suggested that the 19-year-old Chinese prodigy has actually learned from AlphaGo’s often unorthodox approach. “This is Master’s move,”said Redmond of one of Ke’s earliest plays, referring to the pseudonym that AlphaGo used for a recent series of online matches in which it racked up a 60-game winning streak.

(7) COMIC SECTION. A commenter seeing yesterday’s news item about someone in a T-rex costume scaring horses in Charleston aptly contrasted the episode with the comic “Menace” at Hyperbole and a Half.

(8) THE PHENOMENON. Carl Slaughter has an update about prolific YA author Bella Forrest:

 

When we last checked in on Bella Forrest, she had just launched her dystopian Gender Game series and was continuing her longrunning Shade of Vampire series. In June 2017, she will wrap her Gender Game series. In March 2017, she launched her magic academy Spellshadow Manor series. Shade of Vampire is at #45. With all 3 series, she cranks out a book per month. Meanwhile, the first Gender Game novel has received 1500 Amazon reviews, over 90% of them 4 and 5 star.

(9) PUSHME PULLYU. “Oh, your tractor beam is so itty bitty.” “Oh, your imagination is so itty bitty.” —“Physicists sketch plans for a matter-wave tractor beam”.

A team of physicists have outlined a means of making tractor beams to push and pull objects at a distance using “matter waves” those strange analogues of light waves that underlie quantum mechanics.

Tractor beams, staple tools of science fiction for remotely pulling in space shuttles and yanking away incoming space debris, have been edging into reality in recent years.

The first real-life tractor beams were made of photons. It is easy to imagine a stream of photons carrying a particle of matter along like a river picking up a leaf and carrying it downstream. What is astounding about tractor beams is that by skilfully manipulating the transfer of momentum from the beam, physicists do not have to rely only on pushing particles, but can make light pull particles of matter, like a tractor. Beams made of sound waves have also been demonstrated in the lab.

(10) LEST PAYDAY FAIL. At Tor.com, Jo Walton asks “Why is Genre Fiction Obsessed with Belisarius?”.

I once wrote jokingly here that there are only three plots, and they are Hamlet, Pride and Prejudice, and Belisarius, because those are the ones everyone keeps on reusing.

There is a conference in Uppsala in Sweden the weekend before the Helsinki Worldcon called “Reception Histories of the Future“which is about the use of Byzantium in science fiction. The moment I heard of it, I immediately started thinking about our obsessive reuse of the story of Belisarius. (I’m going. Lots of other writers are going. If you’re heading to Helsinki, it’s on your way, and you should come too!)

It’s strange that science fiction and fantasy are obsessed with retelling the story of Belisarius, when the mainstream world isn’t particularly interested. Robert Graves wrote a historical novel about him in 1938, Count Belisarius, and there’s Gillian Bradshaw’s The Bearkeeper’s Daughter (1987), but not much else. Whereas in genre, we’ve had the story of Belisarius retold by Guy Gavriel Kay, David Drake (twice) and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and used by L. Sprague de Camp, John M. Ford, Jerry Pournelle, Robert Silverberg, and Isaac Asimov. So what is it about this bit of history that makes everyone from Asimov to Yarbro use it? And how is it that the only place you’re likely to have come across it is SF?…

(11) ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. Trae Dorn at Nerd & Tie says a Chicago convention is pivoting to serve a different market and adopting a new name — “Kollision Con Calling it Quits, Organizers Launching GEM Expo Chicago Gaming Con in Its Place”.

After six conventions, Chicago based anime convention Kollision Con€˜s organizers have decided to call it quits. They made the announcement on the con’s official Facebook page late last week, citing venue issues and an overcrowded Anime con scene as their primary reasons for ending the show.

The organizers aren’t giving up on running conventions though, as in that same post they announced the GEM Expo Chicago, a gaming convention that will occupy the dates originally reserved for Kollision Con 2017.

(12) FLYING OFF THE SHELVES. Last year toy sales received a boost and the reason is clear — “Year-round ‘Star Wars’ toy sales boost entertainment merchandise revenue” reports the LA Times.

Year-round “Star Wars” hype is giving a boost to Hollywood’s merchandising business.

Licensed goods based on movies and other entertainment properties generated $118 billion in global retail sales last year, up 5% from 2015, according to a new report.

Toys, apparel and other wares tied to movies such as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” helped propel the increase, the Licensing Industry Merchandisers’ Assn. said Monday.

The year benefited from two “Star Wars” installments as bookends: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which was released in December 2015, and “Rogue One,” which came out a year later, said Marty Brochstein, senior vice president of the association.

“In 2016, you had a full year of sales of ‘Star Wars’ merchandise,” Brochstein said. “Obviously that helped on the entertainment side.”

(13) DON’T STIFF THE STAFF. Are you a bad tipper? You’re a science fiction fan, of course you’re a bad tipper. Okay, maybe not you personally. But ever been out to dinner with a group of fans? It can be excruciating! Here’s one commentator’s advice about “How to Tip in All Situations”.

Tipping has been known to divide families, ruin relationships, and even start wars. Not really. But tipping is an issue that brings out all sorts of passionate opinions.

Who should you tip? How much should you tip? When is it appropriate to leave a bad tip? And is the whole idea of tipping flawed in the first place?

If you’ve ever asked those questions, then we’re here to provide a little clarity on the all-important subject of tipping etiquette.

When in doubt about whether or not to leave a tip, always err on the side of generosity. Remember, your tip says more about you than the person you’re leaving a tip for.

So let’s take a look at some of the people you should tip. Then we’ll give you a general idea of how much to tip them.

(14) FEELINGS OF INSECURITY. Yahoo! News lists major cyber attacks over the past 10 years.

A huge range of organisations and companies around the world have been affected by the WannaCry ransomware cyberattack, described by the EU’s law enforcement agency as “unprecedented”.

From “cyberwar” to “hacktivism”, here are some of the major cyberattacks over the past 10 years: …

…In November 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment became the target of the biggest cyberattack in US corporate history, linked to its North Korea satire “The Interview”.
The hackers — a group calling itself Guardians of Peace — released a trove of embarrassing emails, film scripts and other internal communications, including information about salaries and employee health records…

(15) STATE OF THE ART. Carrie Vaughn’s Amaryllis and Other Stories was named winner of the Colorado Book Award in the Genre Fiction category on May 21. [Via Locus Online.] (See, proper attribution can be done. It hardly hurts at all.)

 

(16) WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY. The latest explanation for bee colony collapse — “How beekeepers help deadly parasites thrive” in Cosmos.

Deadly mite infestations considered a leading cause of the continuing collapse of the global commercial honey-bee industry are being abetted by modern bee-keeping practices, new research suggests.

The research, published in the journal Environmental Entomology, points the finger at the practices of siting commercial hives too close to each other, and of thwarting the bees’ swarming behavior, for creating conditions ideal for the rapid growth and spread of the parasitic Varroa mite.

The mite (Varroa destructor) is a text-book example of zoonosis — a predatory or parasitic species that has “spilled over” from its traditional host into a new species which, not being adapted to it, suffers catastrophic consequences.

Varroa’s natural host in the Asian honey-bee (Apis cerana). Co-evolution has resulted in the two species being able to live in balance.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Kreiri, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 1/16/17 I’m A Boxticker, Jim, Not A Pixel!

(1) DEDICATED TO MEREDITH. It’s ”Appreciate a Dragon Day”.  According to the Donita K. Paul website:

Appreciate a Dragon Day was started in 2004 by Mrs. Paul to celebrate the release of DragonSpell. We encourage you to join us as we celebrate literacy and have some fun!

appreciate-a-dragon-day-e1421395592126-808x380

(2) NEANDERTHALS. Jon Mooallem delivers a thoroughly fascinating account of paleoanthropological research in “Neanderthals Were People, Too” at the New York Times.

For millenniums, some scientists believe, before modern humans poured in from Africa, the climate in Europe was exceptionally unstable. The landscape kept flipping between temperate forest and cold, treeless steppe. The fauna that Neanderthals subsisted on kept migrating away, faster than they could. Though Neanderthals survived this turbulence, they were never able to build up their numbers. (Across all of Eurasia, at any point in history, says John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “there probably weren’t enough of them to fill an N.F.L. stadium.”) With the demographics so skewed, Stringer went on, even the slightest modern human advantage would be amplified tremendously: a single innovation, something like sewing needles, might protect just enough babies from the elements to lower the infant mortality rate and allow modern humans to conclusively overtake the Neanderthals. And yet Stringer is careful not to conflate innovation with superior intelligence. Innovation, too, can be a function of population size. “We live in an age where information, where good ideas, spread like wildfire, and we build on them,” Stringer told me. “But it wasn’t like that 50,000 years ago.” The more members your species has, the more likely one member will stumble on a useful new technology — and that, once stumbled upon, the innovation will spread; you need sufficient human tinder for those sparks of culture to catch.

I picked that paragraph because it reminds me of Robert Zubrin’s argument about the need for population growth as a prerequisite in developing a starship.

To achieve a 200-times increase over today’s GDP, we will need a population of 54 billion. We will need energy of 2500 terawatts by the year 2200.

Pounding away at the opposite conclusions reached in Paul Ehrlich’s famous book The Population Bomb, Zubrin said, “If humans destroyed more than they made, the earth would be barren already. The real resource is human creativity.” Every mouth comes with a pair of hands and a brain. If we accept Malthusian advice, and act to reduce the world’s population, we will impoverish the future by denying it the contributions the missing people could have made.

(3) THE AI TROPE. Ann Leckie’s “Vericon 2016 GoH Speech” overflows with interesting ideas, just like her fiction.

The very first robot story–the first ever use of the word “robot” in fact–is a robot uprising story. But when Karel ?apek wrote RUR he wasn’t worried about artificial intelligence. The robots of his story aren’t mechanical, they’re made of some sort of synthetic biological material. And the word “robot” which ?apek famously coined, comes from a Czech word for “slave.” It’s a story about the revolt of people made on an assembly line (the first actual assembly line had debuted just ten years earlier). It’s a story about the rebellion of people who were built to be the cheapest, most efficient workers possible, workers you didn’t have to pay, or feed anything in particular, or take any notice or care of. In other words, slaves. And ?apek ‘s story hit a nerve. It didn’t just give us the word for robot, it is the ultimate model for nearly all the robot uprising stories since. So that model–robots as slaves, with all the assumed dangers attendant on enslaving people who outnumber you–is the model we’re using when we think about super smart machines. This has not been lost on any number of science fiction writers, who have used robot and AI stories to comment explicitly on oppression and racism. But just personally–well, I won’t go into my problems with the whole “slaves in my allegory are machines and the masters are human beings” bit, though that’s kind of icky when you think about it, but on top of that I think it’s a dangerous model to use as a basis for actual, serious real world predictions about artificial intelligence.

(4) AUSSIE FANHISTORY. Now available at eFanzines.com, issues of iOTA, a fanzine with news of Leigh Edmonds’ Australian fandom history project.

Here are a pair of excerpts from iOTA #2:

  • The purpose of this little efanzine is to serve as a progress report on my current history project which is to research and write a history of Australian fandom, focusing on the period between 1956 and 1975. It is also a place where I can publish little bits and pieces of the writing and art of Australia’s fan past to help introduce you to the rich vein of material that previous generations of fans have left us.
  • Fanzine Review what you missed in 1939. Our friend Robin Johnson turns up with the most interesting things at times.  Usually it is old airline timetables – and we share an interest it air transport so we can find hours of harmless interest and amusement in airline timetables – but not on this occasion. This time it was a little fanzines with a pink cover produced in the old fashioned way using carbon paper.  (If you are not aware of this form of reproduction, I’m thinking about writing a little series called something like ‘Reproductive Pleasures’ in some future issues.  Some people have never heard of carbon paper, which means that they are young and happy folk.) This little pink and carbon paper produced fanzine is Ultra 1, produced by Eric Russell in Sydney, bearing the date October 1939.  It is probably the fourth fanzine title to be published in Australia after John Devern’s single issue of Science Fiction Review published in February 1939, Australian Fan News, a single issue of which was published by William Veney, Bert Castellari and Eric Russell in May 1939 and three issues of the JSC Bulletin (Junior Science Club) published by Vol Molesworth and Ken Jeffreys in June 1939.  (Thanks to Chris Nelson for his extensive research in this area.)  Of these early titles Ultra was among the early successful Sydney fanzines, seeing fourteen issues published between October 1939 and December 1941 when the commencement of the Pacific War brought an end to most of this kind of frivolity in Australia.

(5) GERONIMO! Neil Clarke has quit his day job and gone into editing full-time.

I’m quite excited—and a little terrified—by the prospect of taking the leap. There are a bunch of uncertainties, like healthcare costs and filling the income gap between Lisa’s new job and my old one, but we’re close enough to give this career switch a try. As some of you know, this has been a major goal of mine since my heart attack four years ago. At age fifty, and after ten years working part-time, I’m finally going to be a full-time editor!

Naturally, my first priority has to be those uncertainties I mentioned: income gap and insurance. As I see it, I have a few things to target:

  1. I’ve altered the Clarkesworld Patreon goals to include direct salary and healthcare expenses. Would be nice if it was that simple, but I figure it’s worth putting out there….

(6) HOW TO MAKE IT TO THE FINISH LINE.  The New York Times tells “Obama’s Secret to Surviving the White House Years: Books”. Some of these titles are of genre interest.

Even books initially picked up as escape reading like the Hugo Award-winning apocalyptic sci-fi epic “The Three-Body Problem” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, he said, could unexpectedly put things in perspective: “The scope of it was immense. So that was fun to read, partly because my day-to-day problems with Congress seem fairly petty — not something to worry about. Aliens are about to invade!”

…To this day, reading has remained an essential part of his daily life. He recently gave his daughter Malia a Kindle filled with books he wanted to share with her (including “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” “The Golden Notebook” and “The Woman Warrior”). And most every night in the White House, he would read for an hour or so late at night — reading that was deep and ecumenical, ranging from contemporary literary fiction (the last novel he read was Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad”) to classic novels to groundbreaking works of nonfiction like Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Sixth Extinction.”…

(7) CERNAN OBIT. “Gene Cernan, last man to walk on Moon, dies aged 82” reports the BBC.

Captain Cernan was one of only three people to go to the Moon twice and the last man to leave a footprint on the lunar surface in 1972.

The final words he spoke there were: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return with peace and hope for all mankind.”

He was the commander of the Apollo 17 mission at the time.

Twelve people have walked on the Moon, and only six of them are still alive today

(8) THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Neil Armstrong, recalling how it felt to look back at Earth from the surface of the moon: “I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 16, 1948 – John Carpenter.

(10) QUOTABLE QUOTE: “In England, I’m a horror movie director. In Germany, I’m a filmmaker. In the US, I’m a bum.” – John Carpenter.

(11) BRANDON EASTON INTERVIEW. From Motherboard, “How Diversity Writing Programs Can Help Sci-Fi Live Up to Its Ideals”.

Motherboard: What do you think is really the problem that people aren’t talking about?

Brandon Easton: A lot of the reason why white writers who are entry level aren’t getting work has nothing to do with diversity programs. It’s because showrunners are hiring their buddies who are also EP’s [executive producers] and co-producer level who have these immense salaries that eat up the budget, so that they can’t hire anybody underneath a story editor level. This is what’s going on. Everyone knows this, yet still you have all these disgruntled writers scapegoating diversity programs instead of talking about the real issue at hand, which is nepotism. If you look at how many people graduate from these programs every year that number is so fucking low, it doesn’t even register as a percentage.

Motherboard: Science fiction has a long history of being open-minded about multiculturalism. Some argue that it’s the most open-minded of the genres. Do you think that’s true?

Brandon Easton: Science fiction as a literary genre, in theory, has open-minded concepts. And the fact is that historically, black writers have not been allowed in because for a while the editors, the people who controlled it, the publishing industry itself, even if someone had a great story – once racial politics were revealed, those people didn’t get to work. Now, if you’re talking about TV and film, there has been some really cool stuff that has progressive undercurrents thematically, but, when it comes to hiring practices we still revert back to straight white men as writers and creators of science fiction. Again, I do believe science fiction in its content itself can be extremely progressive and extremely life affirming, but we’re talking about the content versus the content creators. And I think that’s the issue.

Motherboard: I still think science fiction is special versus the other genres. Not only historically in terms of casting, but because when I read the genre, I don’t care what the race of the writer is. I just want to be blown away. Show me a new way of thinking.

Brandon Easton: I don’t think anyone would disagree with that. What I’m saying is that it helps when people get the opportunity. That’s where the problem is. If you want to be really serious about it, the only genre that’s really helped black people more than anything else has been comedy. Historically, I’m going back to the early 1900s, comedy was the only place where black writers could get a chance to write. Several generations of mainstream black stars came out of comedy: Will Smith, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Jamie Fox, Bill Cosby, Chris Tucker, Eddie Murphy, Steve Harvey, Tyler Perry, Wanda Sykes, Whoopi Goldberg and so many others. Comedy is where African Americans have had a shot, as opposed to science fiction, particularly television, has almost been completely closed to black writers.

(12) PRIZEWORTHY. Jonathan Edelstein’s picks in short fiction – “Another year of awards” at Haibane.

I’ll start with novelettes rather than short stories, because that way I can start with my favorite story of 2016: Polyglossia by Tamara Vardomskaya (GigaNotoSaurus, March 2016). GigaNotoSaurus doesn’t usually get much attention from reviewers and critics, but this is a rich, multi-layered story that is well deserving of an award.

Polyglossia is a story of linguistics, cultural survival, family and resistance to oppression – not necessarily in that order – set in a low-magic fantasy world that suggests the early twentieth century. I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of good world-building, and the world of this story is intricately detailed and plausible; more than that, the world-building is integrated into the plot and informs the characters’ actions such that no detail is wasted. The linguistics are also tightly integrated into the plot – the author is a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics with an interest in the philosophy of language, and it shows – and the politics of language and cultural preservation come to play a key part in its resolution. At the same time, the story calls into question what we call family, what duties we owe to our ancestors, and how to balance those duties against the exigencies of politics. Polyglossia is rewarding on several levels – thus far, I’ve never failed to get something new out of it with each rereading – and if I had to pick one story that defined speculative fiction for me in 2016, it would be this one.

(13) STEALING A MARCH. Dan Wolfgang very carefully avoids stepping on Sarah A. Hoyt’s Sad Puppies turf while offering slates for the Dragon Awards and Hugo Awards in “A Very Special Message About Pooka Related Sadness”.

Sad_Pookas--678x381

The post is labeled “satire,” but here are typical examples of the names and works populating the slates:

Best Editor, Long Form

Best Semiprozine

Best Fanzine

(14) ROCKET RESOURCE. Greg Hullender sends word that Rocket Stack Rank has posted its page to help people pick artists for the 2017 Best Professional Artist Hugo.

We’ve added some features to make this easier to use, based on our own use (we’ve both already used it ourselves to make our own nominations) but we’ve realized that Eric and I use it very differently, so we’d welcome feedback from others. As with much else involving awards, there’s no one “right” way, so it’s good to support a number of different ways.

Eric is the artistic one (he can actually draw), so he wants to see several pieces by the same artist and makes judgments on that artist’s style overall. When he sees things he likes, he wants to visit that artist’s site, look at their gallery—even read interviews with the artist.

I don’t know art, but I know what I like. I want to quickly flip through all the pictures, extract the ones that I like, and then winnow down the list. (“Extract” means “Press ctrl-click on the author’s name at the top of the lightbox.” That opens a new tab, with that author’s work at the top of it.)

So this year the list contains eligible pictures as well as some that aren’t eligible (either they’re from last year or else they’re from semiprozines). The award is for an artist, not a particular work, after all, and this provides a bit more context on many of the artists. No one is listed who doesn’t have at least one eligible work, though, and those are highlighted.

Since the usual way to use the list is by opening the lightbox and then flipping through the pictures, we inserted an image of the Hugo rocket to separate artists. Eric found that useful, but I discovered that I paid almost no attention to which artist was which until after I’d selected about fifteen pictures I liked.

Winnowing the list wasn’t that hard (for me—Eric’s process was more sophisticated). I looked at all fifteen just at the thumbnail scale, and dropped three or four that I decided weren’t really as good. I dropped a few more because they really only had one picture I’d liked and the rest looked different. (In one case, I went to the artist’s home page to confirm that other pics in his/her gallery really did look like the single picture I was using to judge.) When I had six, I eliminated one because I didn’t like any of that artist’s pictures that were actually qualified for 2016. (So much for the idea that it’s about the artist, not the art.)

To fill out the Hugo Ballot, I copy/paste the author’s name from the web site and for the example of that author’s work, I use a link to that artist’s place on the main Professional Artists’ page. For example, http://www.rocketstackrank.com/2017/01/2017-professional-artists.html#JulieDillon points to Julie Dillon’s work on our page. (It’s what you get when you click on her name in the lightbox.)

We’d love to know how well this works for other filers and what we might do to make it better.

(15) HIDDEN HISTORY. Lauren Sarner, in “Tim Powers Loves Conspiracies” at Inverse, interviews the author of The Anubis Gates, Last Call and Declare about hanging out with Philip K. Dick and the allure of conspiracy.

What was Philip K. Dick like?

Since his death, there has arisen a kind of caricature of him. If you just read casually, you’d get the impression that he was this drug addled, crazy visionary who imagined God spoke to him. Actually he was a very sociable, funny, realistic, generous, gregarious friend. Not at all the William Blake crazy mystique the general impression has become. If you read his last few books, like VALIS and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, you can see that this was a rational, skeptical, humorous person. But it always does annoy me when people say, ‘Didn’t he like live in a cave and wander up and down the street talking to himself?’

(16) YOU CAN TELL A BOOK (COVER) BY ITS COVER. JJ sent this link — “The Cover of Each Max Gladstone Book Has Predicted the Cover of the Next One” from Tor.com — with a recommendation:

Okay, this is not new, but it is too fucking funny (you have to read all the way to the end for the final cover).

I say it lives up to the hype…

(17) RESURRECTED TALENT. IMDB shows some pretty hefty credits for Citizen Vader (2014):

A lonely widower stalks his deserted mansion, gloomily contemplating ending his own life. His last word may hold the key to what has sent him down this dark path.

 

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)

Aidan Duffy
George Lucas (characters)
Orson Welles (characters)

Music Department

Bernard Herrmann original score music
John Williams original score music

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Aziz H.Poonawalla, Cat Rambo, Andrew Porter, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

Space Brain – Fact or Myth?

By the time astronauts reach Mars will they forget why they are there?

A recent study argues radiation exposure en route to Mars may cause the mission crew to develop brain damage.

“What happens to your brain on the way to Mars”, a paper in Science Advance, by a group of radiation researchers, reports memory loss to mice caused by administering very large doses of galactic cosmic ray (GCR)-like high-energy radiation. They contend that long-term galactic cosmic ray exposure leads to dementia-like cognitive impairments, with serious implications for human Mars explorers.

The lead author of the study, Charles Limoli of the University of California Irvine, adds in a university press release:

The researchers found that exposure to these particles resulted in brain inflammation, which disrupted the transmission of signals among neurons. Imaging revealed how the brain’s communication network was impaired through reductions in the structure of nerve cells called dendrites and spines. Additional synaptic alterations in combination with the structural changes interfered with the capability of nerve cells to efficiently transmit electrochemical signals. Furthermore, these differences were parallel to decreased performance on behavioral tasks designed to test learning and memory.

However, Mars mission crusader Robert Zubrin challenges several components of the study in “Debunking the invalid claims of a space radiation paper” in The Space Review.

The four-millionfold difference in dose rate between the lab study and spaceflight is of critical importance. It is a well-known finding of both chemical and radiation toxicology that the effects of large doses of toxins delivered suddenly is entirely different from the effect of the same amount of toxin delivered in very small amounts over a long period of time. The difference is that the body’s self-repair systems cannot deal with a sudden dose, but can easily manage the same dose if received over an extended period. For example, if an individual were to drink one shot of vodka per second for 100 seconds, he would die. But if the same person drank one shot of vodka a month for 100 months, he would experience no ill effects at all. This is about the same ratio of dose rates as that separates the invalid work reported in the paper (1.6 rad per second) from what astronauts would actually experience in space (1 rad per month.)

It is shocking that the authors neglected to caveat the significance of their results by admitting these differences. Not only that, they kept the information about actual dose rates employed buried deep within the paper (it can be found in the middle of a text paragraph towards the end entitled “Animals, heavy ion irradiation, and tissue harvesting”), thereby allowing it to easily be missed by popular science writers duped into reporting the allegedly sensational implications of their irrelevant work.

But one commenter on the article asked, if the study is as bad as Dr. Zubrin states, why did NASA recently give these researchers $9 million to follow up on their work?

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

Starship Century Symposium: Robert Zubrin

Robert Zubrin

Robert Zubrin

[This post is part of a series about the Starship Century Symposium held May 21-22, 2013.]

Robert Zubrin is President of Pioneer Astronautics and the founder and President of the Mars Society, and was responsible for developing the Mars Direct mission plan.

With the zeal of a prophet, Zubrin made fiercely anti-Malthusian arguments that the goal of building a starship in the coming century is attainable.

What are the requirements for a starship? He postulates a 1000-ton ship that travels at 10% light speed. What resources will society need for the mission? Zubrin said that to keep the cost from exceeding Apollo levels in proportion to society’s wealth, humanity will need a gross global domestic product (GDP) of 1000 times greater than existed in 1968, or 200 times greater than exists today.

To achieve a 200-times increase over today’s GDP, we will need a population of 54 billion. We will need energy of 2500 terawatts by the year 2200.

Pounding away at the opposite conclusions reached in Paul Ehrlich’s famous book The Population Bomb, Zubrin said, “If humans destroyed more than they made, the earth would be barren already. The real resource is human creativity.” Every mouth comes with a pair of hands and a brain. If we accept Malthusian advice, and act to reduce the world’s population, we will impoverish the future by denying it the contributions the missing people could have made.

For one thing, the more people, the larger the market, the easier to justify investments. For another, technological progress is cumulative.

Zubrin’s historical graph showed that GDP/per capita has increased with total global population over the years. This is because productivity depends upon technology, which is the cumulative result of human effort. For example, he pointed to the jump in worldwide wealth in the 1500s, something he credited to the development of sailing ships which unified the world and allowed inventions to be disseminated more rapidly than ever before.

Humanity’s escape from poverty depends upon energy use – GDP/per capita is a function of carbon use. Rising levels of energy consumption have correlated directly with rising living standards. Zubrin does not consider that this has been accomplished at the cost of a climate catastrophe. “The weather is about the same as when I was a boy,” he said dismissively.

In the future our energy resources will be (1) The sum of known and unknown Terrestrial fossil fuels, plus (2) local planetary He3.

He speculated that a winged transatmospheric vehicle that can use a gas giant’s atmosphere for propellant, heating it in a nuclear reactor to produce thrust (Nuclear Indigenous Fueled Thermal rockets) could be used to transport He3 from the planet to an orbiting tanker, which would deliver it to Earth orbit.

This would provide fuel for fusion reactors. A fusion configuration could theoretically yield exhaust velocities of 5% the speed of light. The thrust level would be too low for in-system travel, but would make possible voyages to a nearby star with trip times of less than a century.

Zubrin is counting on human wanderlust as the motive for colonizing the nearby planets, and in time the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud. “Why go? Why stay? Why live on a planet whose laws and social possibilities were defined by generations long dead, when you can be a pioneer and help shape a new world according to reason as you see it?” The need to create is fundamental. “Once outward move begins, it will not stop,” Zubrin promised, “We can make it to the stars provided we remain free.”

A question session followed which might have veered onto unpacking the speaker’s data and endlessly processing his analysis, except that Zubrin, with a verbal flourish, used the first question to point to the fuller support in his book Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism (2011) – a bit of verbal judo that gained applause from the many authors in the audience. Remember: Always Be Closing…