Pixel Scroll 5/4/19 Pixellation Of The Scroll Nation

(1) MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU. John Stratman posted a 16-bit “Super Nintendo inspired version of the trailer for Star Wars Episode 9.” SYFY Wire explains

His awesome contribution to May The 4th is a sly homage to old-school 16-bit video games of yore applied to the official trailer for Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker.  Stratman is notorious for his slick remastered trailers in 8-bit and 16-bit style,

(2) HE DIDN’T MEAN IT. WIRED’s “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy” podcast hastens to reassure us that “Ian McEwan Doesn’t Hate Science Fiction”. In case you care.

In a recent interview British novelist Ian McEwan seemed to suggest that science fiction is only about “traveling at 10 times the speed of light in anti-gravity boots,” in contrast to his own novel Machines Like Me, which he says explores the “human dilemmas” involved with artificial intelligence. Science fiction fans bristled, questioning whether McEwan had ever actually read any science fiction, but McEwan now insists that he’s been misunderstood.

“I was a little taken aback at how some rather offhand remarks of mine should cause such a storm,” McEwan says in Episode 359 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “And actually I’ve read a fair amount of science fiction over a lifetime.” …

“I actually put a nod towards Blade Runner in Adam’s final speeches, after he’s been attacked by Charlie,” McEwan says. “There’s a very self-conscious nod to that famous farewell in the rain.”

And while science fiction works like Blade Runner are a definite influence on Machines Like Me, McEwan notes that there are many other influences as well. “I’d be very happy for my novel to be called science fiction, but it’s also a counterfactual novel, it’s also a historical novel, it’s also a moral dilemma novel, in a well-established traditional form within the literary novel,” he says. “I’m very happy if they want to call my novel science fiction, even honored. But it’s much else, that’s all I’m trying to say.”

(3) MARVEL CONTENT FOR LIBRARIES AND SCHOOLS. Rakuten OverDrive now offers Marvel Digital Graphic Novels to public libraries and schools.

Marvel Entertainment has teamed up with Rakuten OverDrive, the leading digital reading platform for libraries and schools, to offer 600 graphic novel and comic collection titles to public libraries and schools worldwide. Library patrons and students of participating public libraries and schools can borrow digital versions of renowned titles including Avengers, Black Panther, Amazing Spider-Man, X-Men and more. Visit overdrive.com to find a library or school near you.

Marvel Entertainment joins OverDrive’s catalog of millions of ebooks and audiobooks including over 31,000 graphic novels and comics from prominent publishers such as DC Comics, Image Comics, IDW, Valiant, Izneo and Titan Comics. Libraries and schools can select from this catalog to build their individual digital collections.

…Readers can embark on the Marvel adventure in a variety of ways. Public library patrons may download Libby or choose to read on a computer browser. Libby provides an easy, user-friendly experience and is compatible with all major devices, including iPhone®, iPad®, Android™, Windows® and “send to Kindle®” [US only]. Students of participating schools can use Sora, the student reading app, or enjoy via computer browser. Through the Sora app, students have easy access to both the school’s and local public library’s digital collections anytime, anywhere. In both cases, the title will automatically expire at the end of the lending period and there are no late fees.

Daniel Dern notes/adds:

1, Good news, free!

2, Takes a little patience. It looks like each library has a finite # of concurrent per-item licenses, so you may have to search other library systems, and hope that your credentials will let you borrow from it.

3, The price is right.

4, Like all digital comic reading, works best on a big-enough display, either your desktop, or an iPad Pro 12.9. Probably good ’nuff on slightly smaller tablets, but (I suspect) often frustrating in terms of any tiny print, etc.

(4) CINEMATOGRAPHY AS GENRE. NPR’s Mark Jenkins reviews “‘Shadow’: An Epic Tale Of Feudal China That Gradually Shades Into Fantasy”.

…While Shadow is loosely based on historical events, the story’s mythic nature is announced not by the movie’s story but by its look. The ravishing costumes and sets are all in black, white, and watery shades of gray, as if they’d been conjured from Chinese calligraphy and ink paintings.

One of Zhang’s visual signatures is a billowing sheet of brightly colored cloth, a device that dates to 1990’s Ju Dou, set in a fabric dying plant. The closest equivalents in Shadow are seen in the king’s receiving chamber, outfitted with more than a dozen large banners. They’re emblazoned with black-on-white script, its loose penmanship as traditional as Lao Zai’s spare score, composed for venerable Chinese instruments.

In the film’s first half, the only bits of color are the characters’ pinkish skin and an occasional sprig of gray-green vegetation. Later, of course, there will be blood.

Shadow doesn’t rush to battle, unlike such earlier Zhang martial-arts spectaculars as Hero and House of Flying Daggers. The movie spends about an hour sketching the backstory and observing the machinations that will lead to war….

(5) CUMBERBATCH LENDS VOICE TO TOLKIEN PROJECT. The Express reports: “Benedict Cumberbatch waives £7m fee for charity film”.

The star stepped in at no cost – and at short notice – to narrate the film about the death of the great-grandson of Hobbit creator JRR Tolkien from the devastating disease. Cumberbatch, who starred in the film version of the classic fantasy novel, commands up to £7.5million a film. But after hearing from Royd Tolkien, whose brother Mike died aged 39, he waived his fee in a secret deal.

The film portrays Mike’s battle with the neurodegenerative disease and the bucket list he left for actor and film maker Royd, 49, which included a canyon swing tied to a chair.

“Benedict made the most noble, private and breathtaking tribute to my brother,” Royd said. “On his deathbed [Mike] told me he’d left a secret list with 50 challenges I had to complete around the world.

“We made a film of my journey and the detailed narration is a key part.

“The budget was finished and I was devastated. It needed a big name, but I felt Mike’s spirit and just rolled the dice.

“Benedict is my favourite actor so I simply emailed to ask a colossal and free favour.

“I was on urgent deadline and realistically expected nothing in return.”

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 4, 1858 E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on more than 60 books, forty of which were children’s literature, at least some of which are fantasy or supernatural horror. I strongly recommend The Complete Book Of Dragons, the 1975 edition which collection previously unpublished material, and Man and Maid which collects most of her short story horror. (Died 1924.)
  • Born May 4, 1940 Robin Cook, 79. Well he is genre, isn’t he? Or at least genre adjacent? I’ve never actually read any of his best selling books so one of y’all that has will need tell to me how truly genre friendly he is. 
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 76. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of early cons and published an APA, the Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Tell me about him. 
  • Born May 4, 1949 Kim Mohan, 70. Editor and author of the Cyborg Command RPG based on an outline by Gary Gygax. He was Editor of TSR’s The Dragon magazine for several years which led to his becoming editor of Amazing Stories from 1991 to 2000. 
  • Born May 4, 1974 James Bacon, 45. Editor along with more folk than I can possibly mention here of the Hugo-winning Journey Planet magazine from 2009 to the present. Also editor of Exhibition Hall, a Steampunk Zine he edited with Christopher J. Garcia and Ariane Wolfe for some years. 
  • Born May 4, 1977 Gail Carriger, 43. Ahhhh, lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moirai Cook does a delightful job of the audiobooks by the way. I also the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. 
  • Born May 4, 1995 Shameik Moore, 24. He voices Miles Morales, the teen-ager who would become Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which I review here.  It’s by far the best film I’ve seen this year and I urge you to go see it now. 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark remembers that Star Wars speed record a little differently.

(8) ISS BECOMES A GAS STATION. “Nasa instrument heads to space station to map CO2” – BBC has the story.

Nasa has sent up an instrument to the International Space Station (ISS) to help track carbon dioxide on Earth.

OCO-3, as the observer is called, was launched on a Falcon rocket from Florida in the early hours of Saturday.

The instrument is made from the spare components left over after the assembly of a satellite, OCO-2, which was put in orbit to do the same job in 2014.

(9) LIGO. Apparently there’s an app for that — “Gravitational waves hunt now in overdrive”.

…The alert on Mansi Kasliwal’s phone went off at two in the morning. Shrugging off the sleep, she squinted at the message. It was from LIGO, the Nobel Prize-winning scientific collaboration that operates gravitational wave detectors.

A far-off violent event had sent ripples in space-time through the Universe, to be picked up by LIGO’s sensor in Louisiana, and it looked from the data like there should be visible “fireworks”, too.

Thanks to the smartphone revolution, she could react without leaving her bed. A few taps on the screen, and the Zwicky Transient Facility, a robotic telescope on Mount Palomar, was reprogrammed to start the hunt.

LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, and its European counterpart, VIRGO, have just completed upgrades that mean they should be spotting space-distorting events several times each week – collisions of black holes, of neutron stars, and even more exotic phenomena.

And since they started running again at the start of April, expectations are holding up: two in the second week; three last week.

(10) MONOLITH. “How Avengers put Disney at the top of the charts” – and Chip Hitchcock wants to know, “Will Endgame take the title for all-time inflation-adjusted gross from Gone With the Wind?”

Avengers: Endgame broke all box office records last weekend and has confirmed Disney’s dominance in global cinema.

More than 90% of the value of all tickets sold in UK cinemas last weekend was for Avengers: Endgame.

Within five days it had become the fastest film to break the $1bn sales barrier worldwide.

(11) EVERMORE. It may not be quite as hot a ticket as Avengers:Endgame, but the Utah theme park is making sales says David Doering: “While some suggested the park opening would be delayed, they are now selling tix for opening day on Saturday, May 25th. The show, called World of Mythos, sells regularly for $29/adult, $16/child )<14).on Saturdays,  $19 and $9 on Thursdays and Fridays. Mondays are discount day with $14/adults, $9 for kids.”

(12) SLOW HAND. Did he hurt the hand he painted with? Just which hand was that anyway? Analysts speculate that “Leonardo’s ‘claw hand’ stopped him painting”.

Leonardo da Vinci could have experienced nerve damage in a fall, impeding his ability to paint in later life, Italian doctors suggest.

They diagnosed ulnar palsy, or “claw hand”, by analysing the depiction of his right hand in two artworks.

It had been suggested that Leonardo’s hand impairment was caused by a stroke.

But in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the doctors suggest it was nerve damage that meant he could no longer hold a palette and brush.

Leonardo da Vinci, who lived from 1452-1519, was an artist and inventor whose talents included architecture, anatomy, engineering and sculpture, as well as painting.

But art historians have debated which hand he used to draw and paint with.

Analysis of his drawing shows shading sloping from the upper left to lower right, suggesting left-handedness. But all historical biographical documents suggest Leonardo used his right hand when he was creating other kinds of works.

(13) SHOUT OUT/BLOT OUT. Vanity Fair: “Mike Pence Got an Insane Game of Thrones Shout-Out During the Battle of Winterfell”.

[…] co-creator/showrunner D.B. Weiss […] shared with Jimmy Kimmel some of the challenges of their extensive production [of “The Long Night” episode]. In particular, Weiss revealed the long hours and night-shoots took a toll on series star Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm), whose usual fluency with the “High Valyrian” language was reduced to improvising gibberish among his fellow Unsullied.

“At one point, Miguel [Sapochnik], the director, starts yelling at Jacob to improvise something in Valyrian … yell to your troops in Valyrian,” Weiss explained. “And Jacob was so tired and so delirious and so out of it that all he could think to yell was, ‘Mike Pence! Mike Pence! Mike Pence!’ So in one of those scenes when Jacob is yelling and pointing—whatever he was saying was dubbed over—but what he was actually saying was ‘Mike Pence! Mike Pence!’”

Not only were Anderson’s lines understandably dubbed in post, but Weiss noted the mask over Anderson’s mouth prevents any recognition of the “Mike Pence!” chant regardless. Probably for the best—Game of Thrones has a history of riling up Washington. […]

(14) COP ON A STICK. A new invention, still in development, promises to make the interaction between police and motorists they pull over safer for both sides. Gizmodo: “Imagine Getting Pulled Over By This Tablet on a Stick”.

Every year, millions of drivers are pulled over and during those stops thousands of assaults and physical altercations happen, resulting in injuries and even deaths to both police officers and suspects. On top of that, there’s also the risk from other vehicles when a stop is made on the side of a busy road. Reuben Brewer […] cobbled together [the first versions] in his garage, [but] he’s now developing his police robot for SRI International in the company’s Applied Technologies and Science Department.

[…] When officers pull over a vehicle,] the robot will help create a safe distance between suspects and the police while they both remain in their vehicles during testing. It’s a telepresence robot that extends on a long arm from a police cruiser to the suspect’s vehicle, facilitating two-way video and audio communications.

[… T]he robot is […] equipped with a barcode reader allowing a driver’s license to be quickly scanned, while a thermal printer can churn out tickets and citations that drivers can tear off like a receipt. As the robot moves alongside a vehicle it also subtly deploys a spike strip under the car, so should a suspect decide to flee, they’ll shred at least one tire in the process. […]

(15) KAMERON HURLEY. Paul Weimer considers the “genre conversation” that leads to Hurley’s new novel in “Microreview [book]: The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley” at Nerds of a Feather.

A future world where Corporations dominate the globe, have in effect become the superpowers that rule a rather tired Earth. For the lower classes, those who are not citizens, it’s a rather rough and precarious life. Dietz (who never gets a first name, and in a bit of ledgerdemain their gender is kept relatively unstated and understated) goes from a future and poor Sao Paulo, to fighting Martians on Mars, in what was once Canada, and far beyond. There’s just one problem: The lightspeed technology to move soldiers around has a strange effect on Dietz, and in short order starts to learn they are experiencing her future all out of order. Worse, thar futuie is a dark one in which the war they signed up for is far more terrible than they can imagine.

(16) GENRE IN NIGERIA. Charles Payseur visits a new frontier of sff in “Quick Sips – Strange Horizons 04/29/2019”.

It’s a special release from Strange Horizons to close out April, featuring two short stories and three poems celebrating Nigerian SFF. The works bring a fresh feel to fantasy that weaves magic and creation, persecution and resistance. It finds characters who just want to be free to live their lives being pulled into plots and intrigues that they want no part of but that threaten them all the same. And only through connecting to their power, their families, and the people they have chosen to surround themselves with can they fight back and perhaps fully embrace their potential. It’s a wonderful batch of short SFF, and a treat for readers hungry for more international SFF, so I’ll get right to the reviews!

(17) BEWARE SPOILERS. ScreenRant invites you to step inside the pitch meeting that led to Avengers: Endgame. (“Oh, it’s like Fanservice: The Movie!”) While amusing the viewers Ryan George pretty much gives everything away so BEWARE SPOILERS!

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

Pixel Scroll 9/18/18 When Lessa Told Me To Do It, I Succumbed To Weyr Pressure

(1) BIGFOOT’S POLITICAL OPINIONS. Registration is required to read Adweek’s article “Bigfoot Tries to Get Footage of an Elusive Congressman in This Enjoyably Odd Political Ad”. Fortunately, the commercial itself is available at YouTube.

Congressional hopeful Dean Phillips, a Democrat running in Minnesota, says Republican incumbent Erik Paulsen is so detached from his home district, he’s practically impossible to find.

 

(2) STORMY WEATHER. Mur Lafferty’s Hugo win (with Matt Wallace) for Ditch Diggers was not completely washed out by Hurricane Florence, but the news did get bumped to fifth place in her latest post at The Murverse Mothership (where you can also see a photo of her wearing a chicken hat at the Hugo Losers Party).

Florence: We are fine. Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina and South Carolina last weekend, and wandered slowly through the state, dumping lots and lots of rain. The flooding was catastrophic. Oddly enough, when we thought our area would get hit with the eye, the storm turned and moved south of us, then turned north. We got wind, rain, Fiona’s school lost a big tree, but our area is largely unscathed. We did have some excitement yesterday when the last tail end of the storm whipped around and smacked us, letting Durham get a taste of the flooding and tornadoes that the rest of the state has suffered, but that didn’t last too long. If you can give to hurricane relief to help the eastern part of the state, please do.

(3) OBSERVATIONS ABOUT SF IN FRENCH. Matthew Rettino reports on “Congrès Boréal 2018: Differences between Anglophone and Francophone SF” at Archaeologies of the Weird, including the panel “L’imaginaire a-t-il une langue? Différence culturelle dans l’imaginaire anglophone et francophone” (“Does the imagination have a language? Cultural differences in the anglophone and francophone imaginary.”)

…One interesting idea that arose: language does not inherently carry the values of a society. Rather, culture does. The different traumas and schisms that define a society do have a much greater influence on national literature. For example, Cixin Liu’s Three Body Problem, remarked one of the panelists, is marked by the impact of the Cultural Revolution in China. This echoes how French SF is marked by the policy of laïcité (state secularism), the origins of which go back to the French Revolution. There did seem to be truth to this observation, given how French-language SF is in a sense more “secular” in its embrace of violent and sexual themes that would religious people shiver. On the other hand, anglophone SF retains a more “puritanical” attitude in the literature it produces and censors, particularly in the United States.

This being said, certain attitudes to the French language itself do influence French SF. Patrick Senecal pointed out later in the discussion that French-language editors have a tendency to homogenize the different registers of the language, leading to less linguistic diversity. When editing dialogue, French publishers often edit out regional dialect in favour of “le Français internationale.” The result is a banal, grammatically correct French, where all characters sound the same. These editing decisions do not accommodate the regional French spoken in certain regions of Québec, for example, which leads to a more monovocal (as opposed to polyvocal) body of literature. This is not just unappealing; it’s unrealistic and unrepresentative of how French is actually spoken. As Senecal quipped, “Il n’y a personne qui parle comme Radio Canada!”

(4) BELGIAN INFLUENCE ON SPACE PROGRAM. “Elon Musk Says SpaceX’s BFR Design Is Inspired by Tintin Comics”Inverse has the story.

Elon Musk unveiled a new design for SpaceX’s BFR rocket on Thursday, and he’s taking inspiration from a famous series of Belgian comics. The CEO confirmed on Twitter that the new design “intentionally” bears resemblance to the vehicles depicted in The Adventures of Tintin, the whimsical series that depicts Tintin and his friends embarking on far-flung trips to find new stories.

…The redesign shared with the moon announcement bears similarities to rockets as featured in Hergé’s comic series. The 1950 comic Destination Moon shows a red-and-yellow checkered rocket with three giant fins on the base, elevating the rocket above the ground, which Tintin and his friends use to visit the moon and explore a secret government project.

(5) THE ACADEMY. At Quills, Fretful Porpentine’s new discourse is: “On the performativity of ‘What have you been reading lately?’” Here’s the kind of thing college professors are supposed to say when asked what they have been reading:

– If you are a humanities professor, you say something that is clearly pleasure-reading, but at least vaguely cerebral. Witty mysteries about British academics are good, or the sort of science fiction that doesn’t have aliens on the cover.

– If you work in tech support, you are allowed to read the kind of books with aliens on the cover.

(6) YOU ARE HERE. A new version of a reference frame for the universe is being released (Gizmodo: “Where Are We in Space? Astronomers Update Their Celestial Frame of Reference”). The third International Celestial Reference Frame is based with (0,0,0) at the center of mass of the Solar System, with the axes fixed in relation to a number of distant quasars.

“Nitty-gritty stuff like this is super important when you’re sitting on an Earth moving 70,000 mph around a star that is moving 450,000 mph around a galaxy center,” Grant Tremblay, astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Gizmodo.

…The ICRF-3 […] places the center of the reference frame at the Solar System’s center of mass, and is oriented based on the position of distant bright radio sources called quasars. Those measurements were made using Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), essentially a method of using the entire Earth as a telescope, collecting data from multiple radio telescopes and combining them to get the highest-resolution image possible.

This most recent frame derives from measurements of 4,536 quasars, all between 100 million and 10 billion light-years away. […] The most recent edition also takes the motion of our own Milky Way galaxy into account for the first time, according to a press release from the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam.

(7) MEXICANX INITIATIVE. The second installment of Hector Gonzalez’ report — “My Road to Worldcon 76. Part 2: Who the hell is John Picacio?”

I even remember the first conversation I had with my dad about being a Mexicanx recipient. He was initially wary, doubting a stranger on the internet would give away something like that. I explained the situation and mentioned John’s name. “¡Si! ¡John es un monstruo de la ciencia ficción!” Translation note: If I tried to literally translate what my dad meant to say, it would sound as if John was a monster. My dad meant it more as “He is HUGE in the science fiction world.” Bottom line, he knew more about John than me.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 18, 1964 The Addams Family premiered on television.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 18 – Lynn Abbey, 70. Author best known for her Thieves World fiction though her first works for was for TSR games including stories set in the Forgotten Realms and the Dark Sun games. Daughter of the Bright Moon was edited by Gordon R. Dickson and I’ll let someone here tell that  story.
  • Born September 18 – Caitlin Kittredge, 34. Author of the Black London urban fantasy series featuring Jack Winter and Pete Caldecott which I think is one is the finest such series ever done. Also wrote the Iron Codex, Nocturne City and Hellhound Chronicle series.  Currently writer on Witchblade series.

(10) W76 PANEL RESOURCES. Bogi Takács has released notes prepared for use when appearing on two panels at Worldcon 76.

I promised the writeups of my notes for Worldcon 2018 panels! The first one is for Queer Joy. I am honestly not sure which of these works I actually mentioned on the panel, these were my advance notes and I just tidied them up and hyperlinked them.

[At the post are lists of works under each of these categories — ]

  • Presents oppression / discrimination and/or suffering, but also joy:
  • Recent-ish anthologies with related material (not all stories might be related):
  • More grim SFF which is still queer-inclusive and queer people are not persecuted in-universe:

Queer Families

These are my advance notes, but I also mentioned on the panel how queer families seem to be non-multigenerational in SFF, and we had a fairly lengthy discussion about that. So I tried to add which of the works buckle that trend.

Contemporary work…

(11) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND THERE LIVED A WRITER. The latest Brandon Sanderson newsletter talks about constructing his office – which is epic, just like his books. (See photos at the link.)

I always like to include something about my life in these newsletters—something unrelated to the books. So today, I thought I’d post some updates on my office, which we’re building in the empty lot beside my house.

I’m building it underground, because…well, what else would you expect from a fantasy novelist? It’s been an interesting process, since the city really has no idea what to do with someone like me. I call it my Underground Supervillain Lair, something that the suburbs in Utah really aren’t that equipped to deal with. But, after some work, we’ve gotten permissions. Peter has been taking pictures of it.

First, we dug out a huge pit. I don’t go halfway on underground lairs—so we’re doing 20-foot ceilings. The kids had a wonderful time digging in this hole, and I’m convinced they’d have loved it if we never put anything in it.

(12) PUNCH-CARD-PUNK. Mary Robinette Kowal is writing two new lady astronaut novels. Andrew Liptak interviews the author for The Verge“Return to an alternate history space race with two new Lady Astronaut novels”

After signing a six-figure deal with Tor Books, author Mary Robinette Kowal will expand to her Lady Astronaut series over the next several years with two new novels, The Relentless Moon and The Derivative Base, as well as a standalone sci-fi murder mystery novel, The Spare Man. The new Lady Astronaut titles will join this summer’s fantastic The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, which followed pilot and mathematician Elma York through an alternate history 1950s space race aimed at sending humanity to off-world colonies after an extinction-level asteroid strike on Earth. The Relentless Moon is expected to drop in 2020, with The Spare Man to follow in 2021, and The Derivative Base in 2022.

Both novels are set in the “punch-card-punk” world that Kowal established in her 2013 novelette, “The Lady Astronaut of Mars.” The Calculating Stars begins in 1953, as the asteroid lands off of Washington, DC, devastating the US East Coast. York and her colleagues quickly realize that the incident has started a chain reaction that will change the climate of the Earth in decades, making it inhospitable to human life. In response, a coalition of nations forms the International Aerospace Coalition (IAC), which works to first reach space, and then figure out how to live there.

(13) WHEN PERFECTION ISN’T ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE. James Davis Nicoll discusses “Six Stories That Find the Drama in Utopian Settings” at Tor.com.

Tanith Lee’s classic duology Don’t Bite the Sun and Drinking Sapphire Wine is set on a desert world hostile to unprotected life. Not that this matters, because all of its human inhabitants live in one of three domed cities: Four BEE, Four BAA, and Four BOO. Within those cities, virtually every need and desire is met. Even death is only a momentary inconvenience before one is incarnated in a new designer body.

The nameless protagonist, offered material paradise, commits the unforgivable sin of realizing that while the options offered are pleasant, none of them are meaningful. That realization is the border between life in paradise and life in a cossetted hell. Unfortunately for our hero, the Powers That Be in the three cities are determined to maintain the status quo of their cozy societies, keeping them just as they are…which means crushing (by any means necessary) any pesky aspirations for personal fulfillment.

(14) YOUNG VETERAN ACTOR. Sandie Angulo Chen in the Washington Post interviews seventh-grader Owen Vaccaro, star of The House With a Clock in Its Walls, about how he became an actor and what it was like to work on the film: “Sports didn’t interest Owen Vaccaro, but a theater class sparked a passion for acting”

Soon, the theater classes led to his first auditions, which eventually landed him his first film gig, “A Product of Me,” at age 7. In the years since, Owen has been in eight more movies, most notably acting opposite A-list stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in the comedies “Daddy’s Home” and “Daddy’s Home 2.”

(15) BACK LOOKING FOR SUNSPOTS. In a September 16 press release (“AURA Statement about the Status of the Sunspot Solar Observatory at Sacramento Peak, New Mexico”), the sponsoring organizations (Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy and the National Science Foundation) have released some information on the mysterious closure of the Sunspot Solar Observatory.

On September 6th, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) made the decision to temporarily vacate the Sunspot Solar Observatory at Sacramento Peak, New Mexico as a precautionary measure while addressing a security issue. The facility closed down in an orderly fashion and is now re-opening. The residents that vacated their homes will be returning to the site, and all employees will return to work this week.

AURA has been cooperating with an on-going law enforcement investigation of criminal activity that occurred at Sacramento Peak. During this time, we became concerned that a suspect in the investigation potentially posed a threat to the safety of local staff and residents. For this reason, AURA temporarily vacated the facility and ceased science activities at this location.

The decision to vacate was based on the logistical challenges associated with protecting personnel at such a remote location, and the need for expeditious response to the potential threat. AURA determined that moving the small number of on-site staff and residents off the mountain was the most prudent and effective action to ensure their safety.

In light of recent developments in the investigation, we have determined there is no risk to staff, and Sunspot Solar Observatory is transitioning back to regular operations as of September 17th. Given the significant amount of publicity the temporary closure has generated, and the consequent expectation of an unusual number of visitors to the site, we are temporarily engaging a security service while the facility returns to a normal working environment.

We recognize that the lack of communications while the facility was vacated was concerning and frustrating for some. However, our desire to provide additional information had to be balanced against the risk that, if spread at the time, the news would alert the suspect and impede the law enforcement investigation. That was a risk we could not take.

(16) CAN’T SAY THAT. Ryan George discovers “Being a Motivational Speaker in the MCU Sucks.”

[Thanks to JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Michael J. Walsh, Alan Baumler, Andrew Liptak, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]