Pixel Scroll 11/16/16 I’ve Filed Through The Desert On A Scroll With No Name

(1) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. Professor Hawking did not say it’s time for us to start looking for the next planet to ruin, but that would be one way of looking at his prediction – “Stephen Hawking Puts An Expiry Date On Humanity”.

Stephen Hawking believes that humanity has less than a thousand years on Earth before a mass extinction occurs, the leading theoretical physicist said during a speech Tuesday at Oxford University Union, U.K.

According to Hawking, the only way humans can avoid the possibility of extinction was to find another planet to inhabit. At the talk, Hawking gave a one-hour speech on man’s understanding of the origin of the universe from primordial creation myths to the most cutting-edge predictions made by “M-theory,” which presents an idea about the basic substance of the universe.

“We must also continue to go into space for the future of humanity,” he said. “I don’t think we will survive another 1000 without escaping beyond our fragile planet.”

Earlier this year, the 74-year-old predicted that technology would lead Earth to a virtually inevitable global cataclysm.

“We face a number of threats to our survival from nuclear war, catastrophic global warming, and genetically engineered viruses,” he said in January. “The number is likely to increase in the future, with the development of new technologies, and new ways things can go wrong. Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time.”

(2) HEINLEIN IN DEVELOPMENT. Entertainment Weekly says Stranger in a Strange Land could become a TV series:

Valentine Michael Smith is heading to Earth — and now maybe to television.

Paramount TV and Universal Cable Productions are teaming up to develop Stranger in a Strange Land into a TV series on Syfy, the companies announced Tuesday. Robert Heinlein’s novel will be adapted by Mythology Entertainment, Scott Rudin Productions, and Vecchio Entertainment.

Ed Gross’ version of the news story includes this fascinating bit of Hollywood history:

A previous attempt at adapting Heinlein’s novel came in 1995, when Batman Returns’ Dan Waters penned a script designed for Tom Hanks and Sean Connery, which was for Paramount Pictures

The 1995 vintage Tom Hanks played Jim Lovell in Apollo 13 and seems to me too old for Valentine Michael Smith, though the Bosom Buddies Tom Hanks could have been a good pick. Connery, I assume, was destined to play Jubal Harshaw.

(3) GOING BI-BI. “Analog and Asimov’s Go Bimonthly” reports Locus Online.

SF magazines Analog and Asimov’s are switching to a bimonthly schedule beginning in January 2017. Both currently publish ten issues per year, with eight regular issues and two “double” issues.

Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams explains in a forthcoming editorial that the magazines will now publish “six 208-page double issues” per year, a 16-page increase over current double issues….

(4) LIGHTENING THE MOOD. John DeNardo recommends that we “Relieve Holiday Stress with One of These Lighter Science Fiction and Fantasy Reads”. Sure, Death and Hell – what could be jollier than that?

The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl

If you think your job is soul-sucking, don’t tell Charlie Dawson. He’s one of the ferrymen who’s been ushering dead people into the afterlife for hundreds of years in Colin Gigl’s supernatural adventure The Ferryman Institute. Let’s face it: centuries of drudge work tends to wear down one’s motivation. That’s certainly what happened to Charlie.  Despite his long history of success, he’s ready to hang up his robe. Charlie had given up all hope of escaping his boring existence until he did something unexpected: he saved Alice Spiegel from committing suicide. Let me tell you, something like that does not sit well with the department of Internal Affairs at The Ferryman Institute, and it especially does not make IA’s Inspector Javrouche happy at all. Charlie stands by his decision to save Alice and chooses to fight the system, even though that may put an end to the existence of mankind.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 16, 1984 — A comet wipes out most of life on Earth, leaving two Valley Girls to fight the evil types who survive in Night of the Comet, seen for the first time on this day in 1984. Joss Whedon has cited this film as a big influence for Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • November 16, 2001 – First Harry Potter film opens.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY PENGUIN

  • Born November 16, 1907 – Burgess Meredith

(6) TODAY’S WRITER BIRTHDAYS

  • Born November 16, 1952 – Candas Jane Dorsey
  • Born November 16, 1976 — Lavie Tidhar

(7) TODAY’S GUEST APPERTAINER. Don’t blame Carl, it was my mistake. I was just trying for a cute post title. Fixed now….

(8) WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF LIVING A TROPE. Saladin Ahmed hoped this would work:

(9) AN EXCEPTION TO EVERY RULE. In the end, Black Gate managing editor Howard Andrew Jones couldn’t help himself — “Seeking Solace”.

When assembling the first round of Black Gate bloggers one of the few rules I laid down was that we keep our personal politics and religion out of our posts. John and I both wanted to create a safe and welcoming space where people of all stripes could come together to discuss the genres we love.

Over the last week I’ve never found that admonition more of a challenge. You see, I’ve been grieving. Not for any one person’s loss, or even because the side I backed lost, but because it feels to me that an ideal has vanished. That ideal may not have been flawless, but I shudder at the manner in which the leading proponent of a replacement movement conducts himself. And for the first time in my life I’m not just disheartened by an election result contrary to my own wishes, I’m a little frightened….

(10) I HEARD THE NEWS TODAY. Auston Habershaw was inspired by events to write a primer on “Empires and Rebellions”.

(Looks out window) Whoah. Looking pretty ugly out there in the real world. Politics just got a bit scary, and a lot of people are pretty convinced a lot of bad things are about to happen. In this time of fear and anxiety, what is a person to do if they are expected to maintain their sanity in the face of catastrophe?

Well, that’s what fiction is for! Curl up with a good book or throw on the TV and try to escape for a few hours.

Of course, then you’re probably going to see or read something about empires. Or rebellions. Or both. …

…Now, opposed to [the Empire] you have the Rebellion. The Rebellion is the out-group – those bereft of power or wealth or (frequently) culture. They exist on the fringes or between the cracks of the Empire. If Empire is a force for stability and stasis, the Rebellion is a force for change. Their goal is to upset or subvert the social order. They are your outlaws, your ne’er do-wells, your poor, your vagabonds and wanderers. Your freaks and weirdos. The instinct, in the case of Rebellion, is one of sympathy. We have all felt marginalized in one sense or another in our lives, and our frequent desire is to see those who are harmed by the in-group find a way to subvert the power structure and have justice be served. This, of course, is not always the case: we revile rebels as often as we laud them. Take, by way of real-life example, global terrorism or ISIS. They are, by all measures, the out-group. We are not inspired by their underdog struggle to subvert the power of Empire (i.e. us) because we do not share their goals or morals. They are the barbarous hordes, not the inspiring resistance (even though, by the account of at least one CIA interrogator, they view themselves in this way).

Stories told with the Rebellion as heroic tend to emphasize the overthrow of dictatorial regimes through noble struggle and self-sacrifice. They value the individuality of their followers, they emphasize freedom and self-reliance over safety and wealth. When Han Solo tells his commanding officer on Hoth that he has to leave, the general gives him a handshake and a pat on the back, but when Captain Needa apologizes to Lord Vader, he is strangled to death for his efforts. Such is the narrative of the heroic Rebellion: we will save you from your oppressors. Look at any list of quotable lines from Firefly and you’ll see this sentiment played out in exhaustive detail. They might be filthy and rowdy and quirky and poor, but the crew of Serenity are the plucky underdogs we love and the Alliance are the soulless Imperial types we loathe.

(11) USING CLARKE’S LAW TO WRITE FANTASY. Bishop O’Connell has a guest post at Serious Reading  — “Quantum Magic”.

To me, this was an open door to a new kind of magic. I knew very early on that I wanted my main character, Wraith [in The Forgotten], to be a homeless teenager. After learning about the double-slit experiment, I decided to also make her a mathematical genius, and use that genius to perform her magic. But how? Well, the aforementioned experiment shows that observing can change the outcome. What if it was the observer, rather than just the act of observing, that caused this? That would mean that we’re actually, unconsciously, altering reality. The next logical question was: could someone do so consciously, and to what extent? And if they could, how would this be distinguishable from magic? After all, can’t every magical effect be explained scientifically? Teleportation? There is already teleportation on the quantum level, and on the macro level Einstein-Rosen Bridges (worm holes) are becoming increasingly common in science fiction. Throwing fireballs? Well fire is just an effect that happens when particles reach an energy level that generates sufficient heat to combust a fuel. Moving things with magic (telekinesis)? Electromagnetism is used all over the world to move trains without any physical contact. It’s all theoretically possible, or rather not theoretically impossible. Sure, some of those effects require vast amounts of energy, more than we can dream of generating. But there are unimaginable amounts of energy all around us; the gravitational force of dark matter, and dark energy for example. We just don’t know how to utilize them…yet.

I decided Wraith would see the waves of probability all around us in the form of equations and symbols (the quantum information of reality).

(12) CHARACTERIZATION. Sarah A. Hoyt tells why you should “Hang A Lantern on It — More Real Than Real” in a helpful column at Mad Genius Club.

This can also be used for stuff that you know is true, but which the reader will think is otherwise, because of books or — shudder — movies that portrayed the event wrong.  Or, of course, when you’re writing in someone else’s world and about to kick their world in the nadders.  I had to do this with Dumas, because in a picaresque adventure it’s perfectly fine to have a stupid character, but in mysteries I couldn’t have Porthos be dumb.  So I made him like my younger kid at the time, a visual/tactile thinker, who had issues with words.  To sell it, I hung a lantern on it.  I explained something like “Many people thought Porthos was a simpleton, but his friends knew better.  Indeed, none of them would be friends with an idiot.  The problem was that Porthos thought through his eyes and through his hands, and words often came lagging and contradictory to his lips.”  I did this at least once per book, but mostly when I was in his head.  Because people “know” Porthos is dumb.

(13) FILMATION’S ONE GOOD SERIES. Forbes writer Luke Y.Thompson falls in love — Star Trek: The Animated Series Beams Down To Blu-ray, Worth Any Sci-Fi Fan’s Time”.

If you’re familiar at all with TV animation, especially in the ’70s and ’80s, you probably know Filmation as the producers of He-Man, She-Ra, Flash Gordon, Tarzan, and any number of other slightly goofy-looking Saturday morning cartoons known for “limited” animating techniques that involve lots of re-use of cels and work-arounds to keep from having to draw and paint more than was affordable. It’s a bit like the way old horror movies kept the monster hidden in shadows because they didn’t have the special effects to create a good creature, except that those movies frequently won praise for leaving much to the imagination, while Filmation gets mocked for being sub-Hanna Barbera technical quality. As a kid raised on Disney, I frequently rejected shows that evinced such obvious cheats and workarounds, and often, it’s true, the writing isn’t great either (I love He-Man more than most, primarily for the toys, but I cannot defend it as any kind of masterpiece)….

Star Trek wound up being the only Filmation show to air for two consecutive, full seasons on NBC, and won the first Emmy for both Filmation and the Star Trek franchise, which bought it six extra episodes, though NBC ultimately decided it wasn’t kid-oriented enough, and passed on an additional year. They’re right: as seen in the new Blu-ray boxed set, these episodes may be crudely animated, but the stories are true, cerebral sci-fi. Mostly (there are Tribbles). And airing almost exactly halfway between the end of the original live-action series and the first movie, the animated episodes kept the property alive–yet because of the stigma of Filmation cartoons being formulaic and cheesy, there are a whole lot of fans today who haven’t seen them.

The new Blu-ray set, released today, is remastered in 1080p high definition with a 5.1 DTS-HD audio, which is arguably both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it’s the best version of every element available, but it’s so restored, and from cheap elements, that you can blatantly spot cels being pulled across the screen, see scratches and dust on the original material, and hear that the voice cast often sound like they’re in different rooms. A documentary featurette mentions the whole cast recording in the same studio for the first time, but it seems possible, if not likely, that this was not the case on many of the subsequent episodes. And if the limited animation weren’t already limited enough, one of Filmation’s directors was color blind, which is why the Tribbles are now pink. But it’s not like Trek fans are necessarily put off by such things–the original series, after all, is full of bad make-up jobs and obvious soundstages, but it doesn’t really affect our affection for them. Story-wise, they hold up, favoring clever reversals and moral dilemmas rather than the typical Saturday morning adventure schlock.

(14) DREAM A LITTLE DREAM. John Scalzi is not one to settle for success in just one field.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]