Pixel Scroll 9/20/18 The Mad Pixels Have Kneed Us In The Scroll

(1) SAN DIEGO 2049. The School of Global Policy and Strategy is celebrating its 30th anniversary by partnering with the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination to produce San Diego 2049, “a series of programs through 2018-19 that will use the imagination and narrative tools of science fiction to stimulate complex thinking about the future and the ways we could shape it through policy, technology, innovation, culture, and social change.”

If we are to leave the earth in better shape than we found it, successful social choices will require us to imagine distant alternate futures that reflect our best knowledge about how humans behave and evolve socially, politically, and cognitively. Science fiction gives us the needed space for long-range speculation and the complex interactions of technological, political, and social change.

Imagining the future helps us react to unanticipated situations–futures that we did not imagine. This competition and event series foster diverse visions for San Diego in 2049 from UC San Diego graduate students and draws on research by faculty across divisions. By bringing together students, science fiction writers, faculty, policy makers, and industry experts, we aim to foster the kind of multi-modal, boundary-crossing thinking that we need today to anticipate the potential shape of the world thirty years from now.

The Opening Events include a lecture by Vernor Vinge that is free and open to the public, and a workshop with Ann Pendleton-Jullian that is limited to participating UCSD graduate students.

Opening Events:

WORLDBUILDING: SCENARIOS, FOR FUN AND FOR SURVIVAL

PROGRAM KICKOFF PUBLIC LECTURE WITH VERNOR VINGE

October 12, 5 – 7pm, Robinson Auditorium, UC San Diego

Free and open to the public; RSVP required (click here)

Light reception to follow

Learn about the complex process of science fiction worldbuilding to construct a dynamic future scenario with one of the masters of the field, Vernor Vinge.

The much acclaimed science fiction writer Vernor Vinge is author, among other books, of Rainbows End, which takes place, in part, on a future UC San Diego campus. Vinge has won five Hugo Awards, including one for each of his last three novels, Upon the Deep (1992), A Deepness in the Sky (1999), and Rainbows End (2006). Known for his rigorous hard-science approach to his science fiction, he became an iconic figure among cybernetic scientists with the publication in 1981 of his novella “True Names,” which is considered a seminal, visionary work of Internet fiction and cyberspace. Dr. Vinge is Emeritus professor of mathematics and computer science at San Diego State University and also noted, among other things, for introducing the term “the singularity.”

(2) HARD SF 2017. Rocket Stack Rank has compiled its annual short story selection of “Outstanding Hard Science Fiction” from 2017.

There are 33 outstanding stories of hard science fiction from 2017 that were either finalists for major SF/F awards , included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies , or recommended by prolific reviewers  in short fiction (see Q&A). That’s 33 out of 95 hard science fiction stories from that year, and out of 279 outstanding SF/F stories from 2017.

Observations:

(3) HELP WANTED. Social media help, that is. SF2 Concatenation is seeking to approach scientists (those with a BSc degree in science, technology, engineering, maths/medicine [STEM]) who are also professional SF authors: those published by a commercial SF/F genre imprint, to contribute to a special series of articles — “SF authors who are scientists wanted”.

We at SF2 Concatenation have been running a series of short articles by SF authors (folk who have had at least two or more SF books commercially published) who have a degree in science, engineering, mathematics of medicine.  These identify the top ten scientists born in the 20th century that have inspired the scientist SF authors (and by implication perhaps part of their science fiction writing?).

…What we would like you – our readers – to do is to let any SF authors you know who have a science/maths etc, degree know of this series by sending them the link to this page and then they can get in touch with us.  And/or you can get in touch with us yourself and nominate a potential contributor to this series.

You can also spread the word on your social media linking to this article.

Potential scientist authors need not currently be working in science but must have a science degree.

(4) MOOMIN PICTURES. Nicholas Whyte tells why he enjoyed “Five Moomin books, by Tove Jansson”, including Comet in Moominland —

This was the first full Moomin novel, pubished in 1946 but written in the shadow of war, and it’s not too difficult to see the metaphor of the world-altering disaster threatened here in the shape of a comet aproaching the Earth. Against this ominous background, Moomintroll, who is the central character of most of the Moomin books, along with Sniff (who fulfills a younger sibling role) and Snufkin (the Best Friend) go to the Observatory to ask advice from the Astronomer. On the way they make friends with two more siblings, the Snork and the Snork Maiden. After a series of adventures (including a dragon and a carnivorous tree), they get to the Observatory and there the Astronomer nonchalantly informs them that there is no hope – the comet will destroy everything. They return home across a devastated landscape with scurrying refugees, and at the last moment as they prepare for the end, all comes right and the world is saved.

(5) DO MORE THAN JUST RUB TWO STICKS TOGETHER. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog’s Ross Johnson declares that How to Invent Everything Is a Hilariously Essential Guide for Would-Be Time Travelers”.

…The book is purportedly a guide for time travelers, made from futuristic materials and discovered embedded in pre-Cambrian rock. At some point in the future, a Chronotix Solutions will invent the FC3000(tm) personal time machine. Individuals may lease the machine for travel to any point whatsoever in history and, given the particular theory of time travel at play here, do whatever they wish in the past. Since visits to the past generate alternate timelines, there’s no conceivable way to do any damage to the traveler’s original timeline. Successful journeys return the Traveller to their original frame of reference, but the stranded will find themselves stuck in a newly created timeline branching off from the moment of their arrival.

The book suggests a novel solution for the stranded: figure out when you are, and then rebuild civilization from the literal ground up as a means of making life bearable…

(5) PUMPING THE BRAKES. ScreenCrush says “Disney Plans Star Wars Franchise ‘Slowdown’”:

[CEO] Iger says he now believes Disney’s approach to Star Wars was “too much, too fast.” And there will be an adjustment moving forward:

I made the timing decision, and as I look back, I think the mistake that I made — I take the blame — was a little too much, too fast. You can expect some slowdown, but that doesn’t mean we’re not gonna make films. J.J. [Abrams] is busy making [Episode] IX. We have creative entities, including [Game of Thrones creators David] Benioff and [D.B.] Weiss, who are developing sagas of their own, which we haven’t been specific about. And we are just at the point where we’re gonna start making decisions about what comes next after J.J.’s. But I think we’re gonna be a little bit more careful about volume and timing. And the buck stops here on that.

(6) KGB READINGS. Ellen Datlow has posted photos from Fantastic Fiction at KGB’s September readings:

Patrick McGrath read from his most recent novel, a ghost story titled THE WARDROBE MISTRESS and Siobhan Carroll read excerpts from a short story she recently finished.

 

Patrick McGrath and Siobhan Carroll 2

(7) GETTING READY FOR IRELAND. Something of general interest, and possibly a bit of prep a person might do before traveling to Dublin 2019 — “Free Online Course on the Book of Kells starts next month”.

A new, free, online course developed by Trinity College Dublin will allow learners worldwide to explore the history of Ireland through the remarkable Book of Kells — one of  the world’s most famous medieval manuscripts.

… Now members of the public around the world will have the opportunity to learn more about this precious manuscript through a new four-week online course. The “Book of Kells: Exploring an Irish Medieval Masterpiece” course will start on October 8th, 2018 and is run in partnership with Futurelearn, the social learning platform. The free online course is aimed at anyone with an interest in Ireland, medieval studies, history, art, religion and popular culture.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 20, 1878 – Upton Sinclair. Writer of — and would I kid you? — The Gnomobile: A Gnice Gnew Gnarrative With Gnonsense, but Gnothing Gnaughty. They’re gnomes which makes them genre. And Walt Disney himself produced it as a film shortly before his death. Mind you it was released as The Gnome-Mobile. 
  • Born September 20, 1916 – Bradford M. Day. He’s best known as an early bibliographer of science fiction and fantasy. Some of his pubs which are archived in the University of Texas System include The Complete Checklist of Science-Fiction Magazines which is complete up to the late 50s, Edgar Rice Burroughs Biblio: Materials toward a Bibliography of the Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Talbot Mundy Biblio: Materials toward a Bibliography of the Works of Talbot Mundy. Anyone recognize the last author?
  • Born September 20, 1935 – Keith Roberts. Best known I think for Pavane where the Catholic Church holds brutal rule over England after the assassination of Queen Elizabeth I. It like most of his novels were a series of linked short stories. There’s a rather good collection of ghost stories by him, Winterwood and Other Hauntings, that has an introduction by Robert Holdstock.
  • Born September 20 – George R.R. Martin, 70. Setting aside A Game of Thrones which is hardly limited to those novels, there’s The Armageddon Rag and Dying of the Light set in his Thousand Worlds universe which I really l like among his myriad novels. There’s a very nice compilation of his excellent short fiction, Dreamsongs: A RRetrospective (not a typo) and I recommend A Song for Lya as well as it’s a collection focused on his early short fiction. Awards? Hugos and  Nebulas, Bram Strokers and so forth almost beyond count.
  • Born September 20 – James P. Blaylock, 58. Writer of the Balumnia trilogy which the author says was inspired by The Wind in The Willows and The Hobbit. Other works include the Narbondo series which has two Victorian London steampunk novels which are wonderful. All of the these stories are collected in The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives. He won World Fantasy Awards for his “Thirteen Phantasms” and “Paper Dragons” stories.

(9) MAJOR PICTURES. Michael Dooley publicizes the just-released DC Comics Before Superman: Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson’s Pulp Comics in his post “Pulp Fiction Facts: the Secret Origin of Comic Books”:

If you’re a fan of Golden Age comic book stories with plenty of action thrills, you should know about the military intelligence officer Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. Here’s how Jim Steranko, Silver Age superstar artist on Captain America and Nick Fury, describes him: “He adventured around the globe, from hunting Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa with famed General John Pershing to fighting with Cossack warriors across Russia during WWI. … As one of the youngest cavalry members serving his country, Wheeler-Nicholson faced enemies from the Philippines to Siberia.” This character could have been the star of his own comics during those early, anything-goes 1930s and ’40s, or the hero of numerous 1920s and ’30s pulp fiction tales. And in a way, he was both….

Most of the first comics publishers came from a background in pulps, but as salesmen. The Major was the only one with the kind of creative background that greatly enhanced his understanding of genre fiction and story structure. It also gave him empathy for his artists and writers, as he crusaded for their financial equality and ownership rights. Nicky’s text provides background details as seen through her eyes and research. They’re interspersed throughout the book, which primarily displays the Major’s seldom-seen comics, drawn by a variety of artists including Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, whose careers he was instrumental in launching….

“Jerry Siegel was submitting the Superman story in many different places in the attempt to get it published. … Many people in the burgeoning and close-knit industry knew about the comic, and several had turned it down. There was only one person in that publishing arena who believed in Superman from the very beginning: Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. … Jerry Siegel would later remark, ‘And so, because Nicholson had not tossed away the wrapping paper sketches, Joe and I broke into print.’”

(10) SET PHASERS TO EPONYMOUS. Space.com makes note that a planet has been found in the canonical place for Mr. Spock’s home (“Hey, Spock! Real-Life ‘Planet Vulcan’ Orbits Sun Featured in ‘Star Trek’“).

“Star Trek’s” planet Vulcan, ancestral home of Spock and his species, just became a little more real, thanks to a team of exoplanet scientists.

Because “Star Trek” creators eventually associated planet Vulcan with a real star, called 40 Eridani A, scientists have wondered for years whether a factual equivalent of the beloved science fiction planet exists, with or without pointy-eared inhabitants. And now, a team of scientists has said that the star really does host at least one planet.

“This star can be seen with the naked eye, unlike the host stars of most of the known planets discovered to date,” Bo Ma, lead author of the new research and an astronomer at the University of Florida, said in a statement. “Now, anyone can see 40 Eridani A on a clear night and be proud to point out Spock’s home.” …

(11) CONGRATULATIONS. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus takes time out for “A Word From Our Sponsor”.

Last month, I transitioned from amateur author to professional.  My first published short story, Andy and Tina, is the lead novelette in the anthology, Tales from Alternate Earths 2 (sequel to the Sidewise Award-winning Tales from Alternate Earths).

My piece starts in 1963 and features some fascinating elements of the Space Race.  I’m told by folks who aren’t even related to me that it’s a great read, as are the other nine stories in the volume.  I would be absolutely delighted (and I think you will be, too) if you would purchase a copy.  If you like my prose, and you must if you’re still here, you’ll love this book.

So go get yourself a copy!  You’ll be supporting the Journey, and you’ll be the proud owner of a fantastic book.

(12) INSPIRED HOMAGES. Scott Edelman’s “Tell Me Like You Done Before” is on sale from Lethe Press:

Wonderful and wry pastiches! Scott Edelman’s newest collection brings together his fiction inspired by master storytellers – Edgar Allan Poe, John Steinbeck, Alice Sheldon among others. Herein can be found the Shakespearean riff of a living son of the mayor of New York City falls in love with the daughter of the zombie king, a Bradburyesque aged carnival attraction who promised patrons immortality, and a Wellsian figure deals with the impossibility of miracles. The collection features notes by Edelman that offer insight into each story’s birth and the importance of the storyteller he sought to emulation.

I’m confident in guessing “The Final Charge of Mr. Electrico” is the Bradbury one.

(13) THE ATLANTIC’S DOPEST CRUSTACEANS. My question is how somebody who’d worry about this could convince themselves to eat a lobster at all — “Maine restaurant sedates lobsters with marijuana”.

A growing body of scientific findings suggest that not only lobsters but other invertebrates, such as crayfish and crabs, are able to feel pain.

The owner of Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound, Charlotte Gill, says eating the sedated lobster will not make customers high and using marijuana leads to better quality meat, as the animal is more relaxed when it dies.

(14) ANOTHER REEFER PLAN. “Jellyfish robots to watch over endangered coral reefs” — can look for reef damage without doing damage itself the way a drone with a propeller would.

A fleet of robotic jellyfish has been designed to monitor delicate ecosystems, including coral reefs.

The underwater drones were invented by engineers at Florida Atlantic University and are driven by rings of hydraulic tentacles.

The robots can squeeze through tight holes without causing damage.

One expert praised the design but warned that the man-made jellyfish might be eaten by turtles.

(15) APEX MAGAZINE. They need a basic number of subscribers to keep their print edition going – if you want to be one of them see details here.

(16) LET ROVER COME OVER. BBC reports “Hayabusa-2: Japan’s rovers ready for touchdown on asteroid”.

Japan’s space agency is preparing to deploy two robotic explorers to the surface of an asteroid.

On Friday, the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft will despatch a pair of “rovers” to the 1km-wide space rock known as Ryugu.

Rover 1A and Rover 1B will move around by hopping in Ryugu’s low gravity; they will capture images of the surface and measure temperatures.

Hayabusa-2 reached the asteroid Ryugu in June this year after a three-and-a-half-year journey.

(17) SORTING OUT SESAME STREET. John Scalzi analyzes the perpetual Bert and Ernie controversy as part of “The Whatever Digest, 9/20/18”.

I posted the tweet above the other day about the recent contretemps regarding whether Bert and Ernie are a gay couple, which was prompted by one of Sesame Street’s former writers noting he always wrote them as if they were a gay couple, which in turn prompted but Sesame Workshop and Frank Oz (creator of Bert) to aver that they were not, which in turn made Twitter explode, because, well, Twitter….

It can be truly said that Frank Oz, when he created him, did not think of Bert as being gay; it can also be truly said that at least one writer on Sesame Street, when writing Bert and Ernie, wrote them as a gay couple; it can also be truly said that the Sesame Workshop, at least publicly, doesn’t want Bert and Ernie to be considered as beings with sexuality at all….

(18) TO BE NAMED LATER. SYFY Wire brings news of a new female led ABC series from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (“Marvel is developing a female-centric superhero show at ABC”)—they just don’t know what superhero will take the lead.

…Marvel is apparently looking for more female heroes on the small screen. Now, with the MCU currently thriving on Netflix, Hulu, and Freeform, an all-new female-fronted Marvel series is in the works at ABC.

According to Deadline, a new superhero show is being developed by the network, which launched the TV side of the MCU with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. back in 2013. Allan Heinberg, who wrote DC’s big screen adaptation of Wonder Woman, will be writing the series. Details are still scarce, but it’s reported to be an hour-long drama focusing on lesser-known female superheroes in the Marvel canon.

The complete lack of info on the lead didn’t stop the article’s writer, Christian Long, from taking a few guesses:

An obvious guess would be A-Force, the first all-female Avengers team that resulted from a Secret Wars crossover in 2015. They were also led by She-Hulk, who would certainly be a welcome addition to the MCU. Another possibility is Lady Liberators, who, despite a tone-deaf one-off appearance in Avengers #83 in 1970, was re-launched in 2008. It’s worth noting that they were also led by She-Hulk.

There’s also the Fearless Defenders, though they were led by Misty Knight and Valkyrie. The former is a major character in Netflix’s Luke Cage, played by Simone Missick, while the latter is portrayed on the big screen by Tessa Thompson, so neither character would likely be available.

(19) CUMBERBATCH VOICES DR. SEUSS CHARACTER. The Grinch Movie comes to theaters November 9.

The Grinch tells the story of a cynical grump who goes on a mission to steal Christmas, only to have his heart changed by a young girl’s generous holiday spirit. Funny, heartwarming and visually stunning, it’s a universal story about the spirit of Christmas and the indomitable power of optimism. Academy Award® nominee Benedict Cumberbatch lends his voice to the infamous Grinch, who lives a solitary life inside a cave on Mt. Crumpet with only his loyal dog, Max, for company.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 9/13/18 A Pixel Without A Scroll Is Like Leslie Fish Without A Bicycle Card

(1) COMING DISTRACTIONS. Space.com presents a gallery of photos of Hurricane Florence taken from space.

With Hurricane Florence dominating this view from the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst warns the East Coast to get ready, “this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you.” Click through this gallery to see the latest images of Hurricane Florence.

(2) SF CONCATENATION. The new issue of SF Concatenation is up “Science Fiction News & Recent Science Review for the Autumn 2018”. Jonathan Cowie outlines what’s in store for readers —

Most recently added (mid-September) is our autumnal edition of news and reviews.  As usual its news page has sections on film, books and publishing, TV, as well as the season’s forthcoming books listing of new titles (also fantasy and non-fiction) from the major SF/F imprints in the British Isles, many of which will soon be available elsewhere in the world.  (A great way to see what will be coming out and ideas for your Christmas shopping.)  And then there is the news page’s science consisting of short paragraphs on the season’s key, primary research papers that are cited so our scientist regulars can Google Scholar the papers for themseleves (and our non-scientist regulars can see that we don’t do fake news).  Plus there’s the news page’s science-and-SF-interface section where yesterday’s SF is becoming today’s fact.

Other content includes articles and convention reports. Here there is another in our series by scientists are also SF authors as to their science heroes born in the 20th century.

The issue delivers over 40,000 words of selected news. That selection includes not reporting most of the Hugo winners:

…We continue (from last year) to define the Hugo ‘principal categories’ as those that had over a thousand nominating in that category (down from two thousand as our definition in 2016 as the numbers involved in Hugo nominating have declined since 2016).  The 1,813 number nominating was down on last year’s number (2,464) (the second year of decline).  The 2,828, voting on the final shortlist was down on the 3,319 voting in 2017 which in turn was marginally up on the number voting in 2016 (3,130).
So not surprisingly, the principal Hugo categories (those categories with over one thousand nominating) were markedly fewer than last year. Indeed, for the first time in many years we are not counting the ‘Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form’ as principal category (it only saw 819 nominating ballots and just a paltry 87 nominating the programme that went on to win). The principal category Hugo wins this year therefore were:-

Best Novel: The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin (fantasy) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the ‘best books’ of 2017. This is the third consecutive win for ‘best novel’ for Jemisin something that has never happened before in this category.
Best Novella: All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form: Wonder Woman (Trailer here) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the best SF/F/H films of 2017.

(3) THE MILITARY USES OF VENTRILOQUISM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Bluetooth earpieces have made people apparently talking to themselves normal—at least sort of. But at least one can spot the earpieces if you look carefully. A product in development for military use could change that, moving the mic and speaker inside the mouth (Smithsonian: “Military Invests in ‘Molar Mic’ That Can Route Calls Through Your Teeth”).

Communications devices have taken over our pockets and our wrists, but soon the gadgets may go even deeper. Patrick Tucker at Defense One reports that the Air Force has signed a $10 million deal with a California company to continue development of a communication device that is fitted to a users’ teeth.

Dubbed the “Molar Mic,” the gadget is being designed by San Mateo-based Sonitus Technologies  Officially called the ATAC system, the two-way communication system consists of a small microphone that clips to a users back teeth. This enables them to hear communications through their cranial bones which transmit the sound to the auditory nerve. Users also wear a low-profile transmitter loop around their neck that connects to the Molar Mic via near-field magnetic induction, a system similar to Bluetooth that can be encrypted and also passes through water. The loop then connects with with a phone, walkie-talkie or other communications device.

The device has seen field testing—albeit not in combat—with good results reported according to the contractor:

Tucker reports that airmen in Afghanistan tried it for 14 months while deployed, though not in active missions. Pararescuemen from the Air National Guard’s 131st Rescue Squadron based at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, also tested the device in Houston last year during Hurricane Harvey. The team faced high water, noisy helicopters and other external noises that make traditional communication difficult.

“This guy is standing in neck-deep water, trying to hoist a civilian up into a helicopter above. He says, ’There is no way I would be able to communicate with the crew chief and the pilot if I was not wearing your product,” [Sonitus CEO Peter] Hadrovic tells Tucker.

Might you ever see a civilian walking around with a “molar mic”? Gizmodo weighs in on that question (“Weird Tooth Phone Wins Millions in Pentagon Funding”):

A spokesperson for Sonitus told Gizmodo the company won’t speculate about when the technology will be available for commercial, industrial, or consumer markets—and the company won’t scale beyond military use until it completes the contract the Department of Defense just awarded them.

So, we probably have at least a few years before civilians start lodging phones into their throats.

(4) FRESH COMPETITION. Deadline is determined not to be left behind: “Former Hero Complex Columnist Geoff Boucher Joins Deadline As Genre Editor”.

Veteran journalist Geoff Boucher, best known for launching the Hero Complex column in the Los Angeles Times that built a vast following, has joined Deadline in the newly created post of Genre Editor. He will be based in Los Angeles and specialize in breaking news, features and analysis of “Comic-Con culture.” His stomping ground will encompass superhero fare, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and animation, the hottest film and television sectors in today’s Hollywood.

(5) CONSPIRASKI. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A conspiracy theory promoted by Russian media have it that a NASA astronaut deliberately damaged the docked Soyuz that was leaking air from the International Space Station. A joint NASA/Roscosmos statement reported in The Verge (“NASA is trying to squash conspiracy theories about the space station leak”) tries to quash that rumor… this despite earlier media reports that Roscosmos personnel are feeding those rumors through back channels.

Wild theories of sabotage still persist two weeks after a mysterious pressure leak occurred on the International Space Station, and the gossip has gotten so nonsensical that both NASA and Russia’s state space corporation, Roscosmos, are now trying to quell the rumors.

In a joint statement released today, NASA and Roscosmos claim that the US space agency is working closely with Russia to figure out the cause of the leak. The statement also notes that no information will be released until the Russian-led investigation is over, despite rampant speculation in the Russian press that the leak was possibly caused by one of NASA’s astronauts in space.

…the gossip over the leak seems to have only grown in the last couple of weeks. As first reported by Ars Technica, a story published in Russia’s Kommersant cited anonymous sources from Roscosmos, who claimed that investigators were looking into the possibility that the hole was caused by a NASA astronaut. The theory was that one of the three American crew members had gotten sick, so one of the astronauts caused the leak in order to force a quick evacuation to Earth.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

Setting aside his technical first appearance in 1981’s Donkey Kong, today is a fun anniversary to take note of for fans of the Super Mario video game franchise. The fat plumber who sports the iconic overalls and red cap debuted as a titular video game hero 33 years ago today, in Super Mario Bros. which was released in Japan on Sept. 13, 1985.

Not that anyone needs to be reminded, but when the game made its way over to North America and started selling here, it became one of the best-selling video games of all time. With some 40 million copies sold for the original NES.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 13, 1894 – J.B. Priestley. Who apparently wrote SF but I’ll admit that even after reading his page at the Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction that I’ll be buggered if I can figure out precisely what that means. One of y’all will need to explain what sort of genre fiction he did.
  • Born September 13, 1916 – Roald Dahl. Writer, though how much of his work I’d consider genre is a good question, Witches certainly as well as Gremlins, James and the Giant Peach and Fantastic Mr Fox but what else are genre to your thinking? He would win the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, so I may be being overly fussy tonight.
  • Born September 13 — Bernard Pearson, 72. Discworld specialist. Would I could kid you? He wrote the Compleat Discworld Atlas with Ian Mitchell and Isobel Pearson and Terry Pratchett and Bernard Pearson and Reb Voyce; Also such works (and for sake of brevity I’m skipping co-authors though you can assume Pratchett was listed as being involved though how involved he was is a good question) as the Discworld Almanak: The Year of the PrawnDiscworld Diary: A Practical Manual for the Modern Witch and Miss Felicity Beedle’s The World of Poo.
  • Born September 13 – Bob Eggleton, 58. He has won the Hugo for Best Professional Artist an amazing eight times, he also won the Hugo for Best Related Book for his art book Greetings From Earth. He has also won the Chesley Award for Artistic Achievement. He was the guest of honor at Chicon  in 2000.
  • Born September 13 – Tom Holt, 57. Humorous fantasy such as Expecting Someone Taller and Who’s Afraid of Beowulf?  One of his latest works, The Good, the Bad and the Smug is roughly a take on Rumplestiltskin based economies where Evil goes for modern, hopefully appealing appearance.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Over the Hedge strip is not what Kirk had in mind when he asked for more power:

(9) DRIVERLESS MOTORCYCLE ON THE WAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Don’t worry, this is probably not going to develop into the first Terminator. BMW has taken the wraps off a research project — said to be more than two years old — and has published video of a self-driving motorcycle (Mashable: “BMW’s riderless motorcycle can handle curves, obstacles”). In the video, the cycle is shown driving both with and without a rider along. What appears to be an early version has wide outrider wheels, but the current prototype looks pretty much lke a regular motorcycle with extra metal boxes attached that presumably contain the electronics.

This week BMW Motorrad — the motorcycle division of the German car company — showed a prototype driverless bike on a test track accelerating, navigating curves, and braking all on its own. In Munich, safety researchers have been using the autonomous motorcycle to test out features for its real motorcycles to handle dangerous situations.

(10) MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE UNCANNY SLUSHPILE. You can’t say they don’t know what they missed.

(11) ESCAPE POD OPENING FOR SUBMISSIONS. On September 16.

(12) ST. KOONTZ. Benedictine College English professor Stephen Mirarchi, reviewing Dean Koontz’s new novel The Forbidden Door, says that Koontz is an orthodox Catholic who is “a wildly successful writer who has infused his art with God’s grandeur.” National Review Online has the story: “The Transcendent Dean Koontz”.

… To take a wider view, Koontz is presenting in the series a large-scale defense of the ability to choose meaning and virtue. One of his recurring characters is an anxiety-prone latter-day Puritan, while another is an intellectually and physically domineering hulk straight out of a Max Weber tract. Koontz fairly and logically shows the necessary consequences of these characters’ thoughts and actions by creating storylines of such accessibility that the general reader can see how their ideologies contradict any coherent notion of the good life. The modern Puritan, for instance, moves nervously from scene to scene, constantly seeking perfection and never finding it, unjustly critiquing others while placating his own ego. The ideologies Koontz critiques inevitably lead to disaster — not just for the characters, but for the societies built on such chimeras.

Hawk, on the other hand, embraces the natural religion to which Koontz’s wide fan base responds with awe. She finds solace in the wonder of creation while calling out evil for its supernatural maliciousness, ever uniting reason with hope against secular hedonism. Koontz does “diversity” the right way, too: He features an autistic character in this series who is a compelling hero because he faces down his particular suffering by accepting grace. And as Flannery O’Connor and Léon Bloy before her have shockingly reminded us, the reception of grace usually hurts — badly.Speaking of the reception of grace, I am going to prognosticate: There is one mesmerizing scene in The Forbidden Door, an explicitly Catholic one, that many readers may wildly misinterpret….

(13) THOSE MISTY WATERCOLOR MEMORIES. Jason Heller intended to write an evocative, nostalgic tribute to the world of Piers Anthony – until he reread A Spell for Chameleon: “Revisiting the sad, misogynistic fantasy of Xanth” at AV Club.

I know other people who have read Anthony’s Xanth books. All of them did so in their youth—and like me, they drifted away from them long before graduating high school. There’s something inherently juvenile about the Xanth series, even though it wasn’t marketed as young adult, a distinction that didn’t exist as such back then. Even worse, as the series progressed it became increasingly reliant on really bad puns. That was more of a turnoff than any perceived lady hating, at least when I was a teenager and less attuned to such things. I do wonder how much of the books’ warped view of women trickled into my sensibility back then. Or other readers’ sensibility.

I grew up to be involved deeply in science fiction and fantasy, but it doesn’t take an insider to know that those genres have trouble with gender issues—both on the page and in real life, where sexual harassment at sci-fi conventions is an ongoing problem. Anthony’s books were huge in their day, and their influence runs deep; dozens of similarly humorous series, from Robert Lynn Asprin’s Myth Adventures to Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger, popped up in Xanth’s wake. I read and loved them, too, when I was a kid. But they don’t evoke an icky feeling the way Xanth does—a creepiness that retroactively corrodes any lingering nostalgia.

(14) LUNCH WAS SERVED. Can you guess “Who killed the largest birds that ever lived?” Bones show that humans lived beside “elephant birds” on Madagascar for millennia before wiping them out for food.

Prehistoric humans are under suspicion of wiping out the largest birds that ever lived after fossilised bones were discovered with telltale cut marks.

According to scientists, it’s evidence that the elephant birds of Madagascar were hunted and butchered for food.

The remains have been dated to about 10,000 years ago.

Until now, the first settlers were thought to have arrived on the island about 2,500 to 4,000 years ago.

“This does push back the date of human arrival by 6,000 years, at least,” says Dr James Hansford, a scientist at Zoological Society London, UK.

(15) WALLACE WINS. “Smarty pants: Robot trousers could keep the elderly mobile” — linings of legs fitted to act as supplementary muscles.

Johnathan Rossiter proudly displays his new trousers. Brightly coloured and fit for the running track, but packing more than just Lycra. They’ll be robotic.

“We are all going to get older and our mobility is going to reduce,” he says. “What we want to do is give people that extra bit of boost, to maintain their independence as long as possible.”

A team of British researchers thinks the future lies in wearable soft robotics. They’ve developed robotic muscles; air-filled bubbles of plastic that can raise a leg from a seated to a standing position.

(16) FLY ME TO THE MOON. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SpaceX is up to something… the Moon. Or, at least they want to be. They’ve announced (via a tweet) that they have signed their first customer to take a trip around the Moon (The Verge: “SpaceX says it will send someone around the Moon on its future monster rocket”):

SpaceX has signed its first customer to fly on the company’s huge new rocket, the BFR, the company says. The passenger will fly on the monster ship around the Moon, though there are no details yet regarding when the trip will happen. SpaceX says it will announce who is flying — and why — on Monday, September 17th.

The BFR, or the Big Falcon Rocket, is the giant rocket that SpaceX is currently developing to send humans to the Moon and Mars. The BFR design, [presented] by CEO Elon Musk last year, consists of a combined rocket and spaceship, called the BFS for Big Falcon Spaceship. The main rocket will have 31 main Raptor engines and be capable of sending up 150 tons to low Earth orbit, according to that presentation.

(Yeah, yeah, BFR stands for “Big Falcon Rocket.” Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Say no more, say no more.)

SpaceX had already announced (in early 2017) plans for two people to take such a trip; it’s not immediately not clear if this new announcement is one of those or yet a third person. The tweet does say that the name of the person as well as the reason for the trip will be announced Monday 17 September.

(17) MESSAGE FROM A CRYPTIC KRYPTONIAN. Erin Donnelly, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Henry Cavill Posts Complex Superman Vibe as Reports Claim He’s Leaving Superhero Role” says that Henry Cavill posted a video on Instagram wearing a “Krypton Lifting Team” and waving a Superman action figure around, leaving his 6.4 million followers wondering what this means.

View this post on Instagram

Today was exciting #Superman

A post shared by Henry Cavill (@henrycavill) on

(18) DAREDEVIL. Nextflix release the Daredevil Season 3 teaser trailer.

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