Pixel Scroll 9/12/18 Pleonasmatic

(1) MAGIC ON DISPLAY. Sean McLachlan reviews the exhibit of “Magical Items at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum” for Black Gate.

A new exhibition at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum showcases 180 real-life magical items.

Spellbound: Magic, Ritual & Witchcraft explores the history of magic from the early modern era to the present day through objects ranging from Renaissance crystal balls to folk charms against witchcraft. It looks at basic human needs such as fear of death and desire for love, and how people have used magic to try to get what they need.

The exhibition also turns the question of magic and superstition back on the viewer. In the entrance hallway, you are invited to step under a ladder or go around it. The museum is counting how many people dare to tempt fate. I did, and I hope they post the statistics when the exhibition is over!

(2) WHEEL OF TIME TV. Adam Whitehead shares his notes at The Wertzone: “WHEEL OF TIME TV showrunner hosts Q&A”.

Wheel of Time showrunner Rafe Judkins has hosted a Q&A on Twitter, where he invited fans to pitch him questions about the show. Given that the project is still in an early stage of pre-production, a lot of questions couldn’t be answered, but some interesting tidbits were dropped about how he sees the project moving forwards.

The current status of the project:

Judkins confirmed that the show is in development at with Amazon (via, as we know already, Sony TV Studios) but it has not yet been formally greenlit, either for a full first season or a pilot. As such, things like production timelines, timetables for casting and when we might get to see the show all remain up in the air.

Judkins notes that he is now able to talk about the show in a way he couldn’t a couple of months ago, and that indeed something has changed to facilitate this….

(3) QUITE A BUNCH. At NYR Daily, “David Bunch’s Prophetic Dystopia”, an overview adapted from Jeff VanderMeer’s introduction to the new Bunch collection.

…That these tales come off as a seamless meld of the eccentric poetics of E.E. Cummings, the genius-level invention of Philip K. Dick, and the body horror of Clive Barker perhaps explains both why they remain vital today and why they were characterized as “fringe” during Bunch’s career. They are wild, visceral, and sui generis, without the signifiers of a particular era that might provide anchors for mystified readers. Popular contemporaries like Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin, and even James Tiptree Jr. ameliorated the strangeness of their work with the scaffolding or appearance of more familiar plotlines, even as they wrote stories generally from the point of view of marginalized groups. Bunch, by contrast, foregrounded lyricism over plot and chose to write from the potentially unsympathetic viewpoint of a hyper-aggressive warmonger—a viewpoint clearly quite far from his own. Even his authorial stand-in, the nameless writer of the fictional introduction to this volume, has monstrous qualities.

Nothing quite like the Moderan stories had been written before and nothing like them has been written since….

(4) NARNIA LETTER. Brenton Dickieson spotted a bit of literary history on sale: “For £5,000 You Can Own A Piece of Narnia: New C.S. Lewis Letter Surfaces”.

That’s right, Dominic Winter Auctioneers is putting a newly surfaced letter from C.S. Lewis on the auction block. It is a great artifact, as The Daily Mail reports, a generous and light bit of Narnian delight as Lewis answers some questions from schoolchildren at Grittleton House School in Wiltshire. The auctioneers have made photographs of this short, two-page 22 May 1952 letter. The children of Grittleton House–who Lewis calls Grittletonians–were no doubt curious after the release of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) and Prince Caspian: Return to Narnia (1951). Not only did Lewis assure them that The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader (1952) would be out in a few months, but that there would be seven stories in all.

Although the letter is very much like one sent to Michael Irwin just a couple of months previously (25 Mar 1952), there are a couple of things really worth noting here….

His post includes stats of the letters.

(5) SUPERMAN OUT, SUPERGIRL IN. Tatiana Siegel and Borys Kit, in The Hollywood Reporter’s story “Henry Cavill Out as Superman Amid Warner Bros.’ DC Universe Shake-Up”, say that Warner Bros. has removed Henry Cavill from any future movies as Superman because a cameo by him in Shazam! didn’t work out and DC wants to do a Supergirl origin movie next and put off doing anything with Superman for several years.

Warners had been trying to enlist Cavill, who most recently co-starred in Mission: Impossible — Fallout, for a Superman cameo in Shazam!, which stars Zachary Levi and will bow April 5. But contract talks between Cavill’s WME reps and Warners broke down, and the door is now closing on other potential Superman appearances.

That’s because the studio has shifted its focus to a Supergirl movie, which will be an origin story featuring a teen superheroine. This effectively removes an actor of Cavill’s age from the storyline’s equation given that Superman, aka Kal-El, would be an infant, according to DC lore.

Furthermore, Warners isn’t likely to make a solo Superman film for at least several years, according to another source. “Superman is like James Bond, and after a certain run you have to look at new actors,” says a studio source.

(6) VEGGIE OVERLOAD. Laura Anne Gilman makes a simple request at Book View Café: “A Meerkat Rants: No More Kale, Please.”

Let me admit this shameful fact up front.  I like kale. No, really, I do.  It’s not an easy-to-love vegetable, I’ll agree, but if you know how to buy and handle it, you can get tender, sharp-yet-tasty roughage that serves a variety of salads (including my fave: baby kale and pear with white wine vinaigrette).

But I don’t want it every week. Hell, I don’t want anything food-wise, every single week without fail.

But then I went and joined a CSA.

CSA, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, stands for community supported agriculture.  Basically, you pay a set fee, and get a box of whatever the local farms have on-offer, on a seasonal basis….

(7) VERSE THE CURSE. Charles Payseur interviews Aidan Doyle — “Quick Questions – Aidan Doyle of Sword and Sonnet”. Doyle co-edited the Sword and Sonnet anthology with Rachael K. Jones and E. Catherine Tobler.

So why battle poets?

AD: I liked the idea of poetry being used as a magic system. Sei Sh?nagon was one of the original inspirations for my idea of what a battle poet could be. She wrote The Pillow Book, one of the classics of Japanese literature and was renowned for intimidating the men of Heian-era Japan with her knowledge of poetry. I hadn’t seen any other anthologies that covered a similar theme. After we announced the Kickstarter, there were many writers who told us they were particularly excited by the theme.

(8) DIY STEAMPUNK DÉCOR. Clickbait time at Homedit“21 Cool Tips To Steampunk Your Home”.

The steampunk style is not one of the most well known in terms of interior design. Maybe that’s because many of us don’t even know which are the basic details that define this concept. When I say steampunk, I remember about the Victorian era, with all the inventions back then, but the meaning of this word would be incomplete without the industrial details.

In essence, this trend is a mixture between elegant Victorian interior accessories and the strength of industrial elements. Maybe you remember about Joben Bistro, that beautiful pub from Romania. It’s an inspiration for us….

The fifth tip is –

  1. Buy a terrestrial globe (in case you don’t have one already)

Make sure it’s old and very used. It would be one of the most popular items in the house, and kids would love to spin it over and over again.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The town of Santa Claus, Indiana, changed its name in 1856 from Santa Fe, which was already taken, to get its own post office. As a result many of the town’s street names are Christmas-themed, including Sled Run, Blitzen Lane and Melchior Drive. Source: Wikipedia

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 12, 1958 The Blob got loose in theaters.
  • September 12, 1993Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” premiered on TV.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 12, 1921 – Stanislaw Lem. Polish writer whose The Man from Mars was a first contact novel, other genre works include Solaris, and two short story collections, Fables for Robots and The Cyberaid. His later years are marked by his anti-technological views including outright opposition to the internet. In 1973, he was made an honorary member of SFWA (later rescinded).
  • Born September 12 —John Clute, 78. Critic, reviewer and writer. Some of his reviews are in his early collection, Strokes. I’ll  single out The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction which he co-edited with Peter Niicholls and The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (John Grant, co-editor) which I think are still really awesome. Oh and The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror is fucking amazing! I’ve not read his fiction so I welcome your opinions on it.
  • Born September 12 – William Goldman, 87. Writer of The Princess Bride which he adapted as a screenplay. He also wrote the screenplays for Misery and The Stepford Wives. His late brother is James Goldman who wrote The Lion in Winter and Robin and Marian.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) BOOKSTORE ON WHEELS. The thread starts here.

(14) PHILOSOPHICAL DILEMMAS. Eric Schwitzgebel’s guest post for Cat Rambo’s blog deals with an episode of The Good Place: “Eric Schwitzgebel Gives One-Point-Five Cheers for a Hugo Award for a TV Show about Ethicists’ Moral Expertise”.

When The Good Place episode “The Trolley Problem” won one of science fiction’s most prestigious awards, the Hugo, in the category of best dramatic presentation, short form, I celebrated. I celebrated not because I loved the episode (in fact, I had so far only seen a couple of The Good Place’s earlier episodes) but because, as a philosophy professor aiming to build bridges between academic philosophy and popular science fiction, the awarding of a Hugo to a show starring a professor of philosophy discussing a famous philosophical problem seemed to confirm that science fiction fans see some of the same synergies I see between science fiction and philosophy.

I do think the synergies are there and that the fans see and value them – as also revealed by the enduring popularity of The Matrix, and by West World, and Her, and Black Mirror, among others – but “The Trolley Problem”, considered as a free-standing episode, fumbles the job. (Below, I will suggest a twist by which The Good Place could redeem itself in later episodes.)

(15) A MEXICANX INTIATIVE LOOK AT W76. Alberto Chimal, part of the MexicanX Initiative at Worldcon 76, has written up his experience for Literal Magazine: “Fui a otro mundo y me traje esta camiseta” . (Here’s a link to a Google Translate English language versioncaveat emptor.)

….La delegación en la que estuve, compuesta por casi cincuenta artistas, escritores y lectores mexicanos y mexicoamericanos, pudo inscribirse y figurar en el programa de la convención gracias a un proyecto de fondeo y apoyo entre el propio fandom que se llamó The Mexicanx Initiative. Éste fue idea del artista John Picacio, ilustrador y portadista de larga carrera a quien se nombró invitado de honor de la Worldcon: es la primera vez que una persona de origen mexicano recibe esa distinción. Picacio, como muchas otras personas, ha observado la postura abiertamente racista y antimexicana del gobierno actual de los Estados Unidos, y cómo los exabruptos y tuits de su presidente, Donald Trump, están “normalizando” formas de odio y extremismo que hace menos de una década hubieran sido condenadas sin vacilación….

(16) OVER THE TRANSOM. JDA submits to Uncanny. Surprised it’s lasted this long — the title phrase is really too well-known to be called a dogwhistle.

(17) SPECIAL ISSUE. Charles Payseur finds an extra big serving of short fiction on his plate: “Quick Sips – Uncanny #24 Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! [September Fiction]”.

Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! is here!!! And with it comes a whole heck of a lot of fiction and poetry. To be specific, ten stories and ten poems. But, because this is also a regular issue of Uncanny, the work will be released publicly over two months. And so, to keep things manageable for me, I’m going to be tackling this extra-big issue in four parts—September fiction, September poetry, October fiction, and October poetry. So let’s dig in! The first half of the issue’s fiction is up and features five short stories touching on aliens, assistive devices, families, and a whole lot of disabled characters getting shit done. The work in these focuses primarily (for me, at least) on occupations and growing up. About facing down intolerance and violence and finding ways to find community, hope, and beauty in a universe that can often be ugly and cruel. So let’s get to the reviews!

(18) D&D MANGA. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog enumerates “14 Graphic Novels & Manga for Dungeons & Dragons Fans”.

Comics and fantasy role-playing games have shared a similar trajectory as of late: once considered distinctly nerdy pursuits and viewed as mildly disreputable by the broader culture (when they weren’t the subject of full-blown moral panics, anyway), they both have recently been thrust into the mainstream, whether via big budget movies or name-dropping teens on Netflix. Yet somehow, both forms of entertainment have maintained their legit geek cred.

The recent release of the graphic novel The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins illustrates (heh) the intersection perfectly: a number one New York Times’ bestseller based on a popular podcast that’s all about a family sitting around playing Dungeons & Dragons. With that in mind, we rolled a d20 to perform a skill check on the 13 great graphic novels below, and discovered they are all highly proficient in satisfying tabletop gamers looking for a fantasy fix between play sessions.

(19) NOVELLAS. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy reviews two novellas published by The Book Smugglers: “Microreview [Books]: A Glimmer of Silver by Juliet Kemp and Accelerants by Lena Wilson”.

The Book Smugglers’ Novella Initiative line was a highlight of my novella reading in 2017, bringing a set of diverse, different stories with some interesting romance and a more YA sensibility to some of the entries than I’ve seen in other fiction of this length. I’ve been hoping throughout this year that we’d see more from the line, and in August my waiting was rewarded with this pair – with some bonus theming around the classical elements to really seal the deal!

Both Accelerants and A Glimmer of Silver deal with people on the cusp of adulthood in their own societies, whose choices are immediately constrained by the societies they live in.

(20) THREE ON A MATCH. Nerds of a Feather’s Joe Sherry gives quick verdicts on three books including Adrian Tchaikovsky’s latest: “Nanoreviews: The Skaar Invasion, Phoresis, The Expert System’s Brother”.

(21) BUY YOUR OWN HAMMER. Bonobos won’t share tools. Now I want to know what their policy is on books: “What’s Mine Is Yours, Sort Of: Bonobos And The Tricky Evolutionary Roots Of Sharing”.

An intriguing study published this week suggests that bonobos, among the closest relatives to humans, are surprisingly willing to hand over food to a pal. But they didn’t share tools.

The discovery adds a new wrinkle to scientists’ efforts to understand the evolutionary origins of people’s unusual propensity to help others.

“One of the things that is really striking about humans is how cooperative or helpful we are,” says Christopher Krupenye, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. “It’s just a really pervasive element of our behavior.”

Common chimpanzees (a related species that diverged from bonobos about 2 million years ago) do engage in some altruistic behavior. For example, it’s been shown that chimps will hand a tool that’s out of reach to a person who clearly is trying to get it — as will human children. So Krupenye and some colleagues recently repeated that experiment with bonobos in a sanctuary.

“Bonobos didn’t help at all,” says Krupenye. Instead, sometimes they would retrieve the tool but still keep it out of reach, showing it off in a teasing way. “They didn’t help, in this particular context.”

(22) PUTTING HUMANITY TO THE TEST. In fact, Margaret Atwood called on the internet for some help with a tool just yesterday. Is social media more or less evolved than bonobos? The thread starts here.

(23) SPARE CHANGE. Meanwhile, I will gladly pay you Tuesday for an Apple today: “6-Figure Price Tag Expected For Rare Apple-1 Computer At Auction”.

Before Apple was a trillion-dollar company, before its phones and laptops came to dominate the tech industry, it was just a California startup working out of a garage. Now, one of the first products the company ever made — the Apple-1 computer — is about to be the star of a live auction on Sept. 25 in Boston.

“The Apple-1 is so iconic of that era, of the garage era of Silicon Valley, that I think there is almost no other object that really encapsulates what it does culturally and technologically,” says Dag Spicer, senior curator for the Computer History Museum, which has an Apple-1 in its collection. Spicer says it’s one of their most popular pieces.

(24) LARPING. A photo essay about costumes, including some genre, at the Washington Post: “Inside the fantastical world of live-action role playing”:

What is LARP? It is an acronym for live-action role playing, a phenomenon inspired by fantasy board games, films, literature and computer games. People who are into LARP outfit themselves as their favorite characters such as orcs, dwarfs, zombies and vampires, among others. Photographer Boris Leist takes us into this world with his latest book, “LARP,” which will publish this year by Kehrer Verlag.

A few years ago, Leist met a man in the LARP community. The man was dressed as a dwarf, and Leist was impressed by the quality of the man’s costume and the passion he had for role playing. Although the man was an IT professional in real life, he was so committed to LARPing that he was taking a welding class so that he could build armor for himself. This passion and commitment inspired Leist to go deeper into the LARP community and meet more of its members. Leist ended up spending three years delving into that world and compiling portraits.

(25) SCARY GOOD. The Guardian has a great gallery of international posters from Harryhausen films: “A monster talent: Ray Harryhausen movie posters – in pictures”.

From roaring dinosaurs to clashing titans and flying saucers, the stop-motion genius made audiences gasp, shriek and doubt their eyes. Here are the best posters his groundbreaking movies inspired

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Lise A., Norman Cook, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Bill, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, StephenfromOttawa, David W., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day John Hertz.]

Pixel Scroll 9/8/18 Space Zamboni!

(1) WHO TO LISTEN TO. Nicholas Whyte enthusiastically reviews four audio Doctor Who stories in “Jenny – the Doctor’s Daughter”.

Big Finish have scored a major coup by persuading Georgia Tennant to return to her brief role as Jenny, the Tenth Doctor’s cloned daughter, for more sfnal adventures across space and time, flanked by Sean Biggerstaff as the innocent but mysterious Noah, and both pursued by Siân Philips (who was Livia in I, Claudius forty years ago) as a vengeful cyborg, the Colt-5000. (Georgia Moffatt, as she then was, had a part in a Big Finish audio back in 2000, when she was only 16.)

 

(2) EVERMORE. Utah’s VR theme park Evermore opens today: “Evermore Park immersive experience from former Disney Imagineer invites you to enter fantasy world”.

Walt Disney Imagineers work diligently to create the most incredible experiences in the world. Sometimes, however, they take their immeasurable talents and create these experiences elsewhere. That’s the case for former Imagineer Josh Shipley.

According to his LinkedIn page, Shipley started with the Walt Disney Company in 1992 and became an Imagineer in 1996. He left Disney Imagineering in 2017 and began working on an immersive new experience park (located in Pleasant Grove, Utah) known as Evermore.

 

(3) ALL YOUR BASE. The Hugo Awards official site now has some very nice photos of the 2018 Hugo Award base created by Sara Felix and Vincent Villafranca, including closeups of the figures, inscriptions, and other details.

(4) STILL TIME TO HELP. A GoFundMe created to help Samanda Jeude is still open for donations. It’s received only a little over $1,000 so far. One of the incentives was a 1986 Hugo Award trophy.

“Helping The Helper -Electrical Eggs”

Science Fiction Fandom lost a long time friend and organizer in January, in the form of Donald (Dea) Cook. He left behind another well-known fan, his wife of over 30 years, Samanda Jeude.  Samanda is best known for establishing the organization Electrical Eggs, the first Disability Access organization in the Science Fiction community. Don was Sam’s sole career. She had polio as an infant, and that was complicated later in life by a couple of strokes. She now resides in a nursing home in Canton, Georgia. We helped to clear out the house to get it sold, and are now selling all of the contents to pay for Samanda’s ongoing care needs. How does any of this involve a Hugo, you might ask, and rightfully so!

Marcia Kelly Illingworth organized the appeal, and says the Hugo will stay in the fannish family, so to speak:

Update #2

The votes are in! The people have spoken! You have voted overwhelmingly to donate the Hugo to Fandom. I think I always knew that you would. Samanda thanks you, and I thank you!

We are leaving the fund open for a while longer for those who still wanted the opportunity to donate. Thank you again for all of your support.

Since donors have voted to donate the Hugo to fandom rather than have it be auctioned off to the highest bidder, that means less money raised for Samanda’s ongoing care. Given her service to fandom, it would be great to see further donations from fans.

(5) HIS PREFERRED WINNER. Nicholas Whyte has one thing in common with all Hugo voters – he thinks sometimes the wrong book loses — in this case, “Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson”.

Second paragraph of third chapter:

But there are worse places to live. There are much worse places right here in this U-Stor-It. Only the big units like this one have their own doors. Most of them are accessed via a communal loading dock that leads to a maze of wide corrugated-steel hallways and freight elevators. These are slum housing, 5-by-10s and 10-by-10s where Yanoama tribespersons cook beans and parboil fistfuls of coca leaves over heaps of burning lottery tickets.

This popped to the top of one of my lists just at the moment that I have been reading some of the other award winners from 1994. Snow Crash was shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award (won by Jeff Noon’s Vurt) and the BSFA Award (won by Christopher Evans’ The Aztec Century); also on both of those shortlists was Ammonite by Nicola Griffith, which won the Tiptree. The Hugo for Best Novel was shared between A Fire On The Deep and Doomsday Book, the latter winning the Nebula as well; Snow Crash was on the Hugo long-list, but nowhere for the Nebula. (It did win two awards in French translation, and one in Spanish.)

This is surely one of those cases where the awards in general (and particularly across the Atlantic) failed to spot the classic in the making: Snow Crash now has more owners on LibraryThing than any two of the other books named above combined (which is why I read it; see below). I think it’s much the best of them.

(6) YOUR DIGITAL GOOD PLACE. Courtesy of io9, (“Google Chrome Has a Forking Clever Good Place Extension”) I learned about Google Chrome’s The Good Place extension:

Replace new tab page with a personalized dashboard that brings your very own version of The Good Place right to your desktop.

Calling all Good Place fans! Make The Good Place your Chrome home with an all-new tab page that features your favorite characters, quotes and photos from the show. Complete with weather updates, calendar reminders, and daily “inspiration” from Eleanor and the crew, you can become more productive and feel like you’re getting into The Good Place every single time you go online.

FEATURES:

-Replace curse words from your Chrome with the Obscenities Censor

-Search the web using your very own Janet

-Pry yourself away from the internet with the “Joy of Missing Out” built-in break reminders

-Replace “Thumbs up” and “Thumbs down” buttons on YouTube with “Good Place” and “Bad Place”

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 8, 1966  — A little TV show, Star Trek, aired its first episode, “The Man Trap,” written by George Clayton Johnson.

And earlier this week The Hollywood Reporter reprinted the show creator’s article about his new series: “When Gene Roddenberry Explained ‘Star Trek’ in 1966”.

Just over two months after Star Trek first beamed up to audiences on NBC during the 8:30 p.m. hour on Sept. 8, 1966, creator Gene Roddenberry wrote a column explaining the scope of his ambitious space series — and why it aimed for much more “science” than “fiction.” His original column in The Hollywood Reporter, “Science Fiction Thing of Past,” is below: 

Imagine a space vessel, larger than any naval vessel known, crossing our galaxy at a velocity surpassing the speed of light. Fourteen decks, a crew of over 430 persons. A whole city afloat in space.

Science fiction? Absolutely not. Rather, real adventure in tomorrow’s space. Based upon the best scientific knowledge and estimates of what our astronauts of the future may face when they move out of our own solar system and into the vastness of our galaxy. Other worlds like ours? Other peoples? What?

Our starship, designed with the help of space experts, is the United Space Ship Enterprise. The place — NBC-TV, Thursday nights. In full color, this new action-adventure format boasts flesh and blood stars like talented William Shatner playing Ship’s Captain Kirk; love Grace Lee Whitney playing Yeoman Janice Rand; and Leonard Nimoy in an unusual new role as the half-alien Mister Spock. Plus talents such as DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Jimmy Doohan and Nichelle Nichols.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 8 – John Boardman, 85. Editor, fanzine Knowable; his Diplomacy zine, Graustark turned fifty a few years ago. Active in civil rights as a student as Florida State University which got him expelled from his doctoral studies program there.
  • Born September 8 – Michael Hague, 70. Illustrator of his own work including The Book of Dragons, Michael Hague’s Magical World of Unicorns,  The Book of Fairies, The Book of Wizards and Michael Hague’s Read-to-Me Book of Fairy Tales; also interior and cover art for such genre works as The Hobbit, The Wizard of Oz and The Wind in The Willows. 
  • Born September 8 – Gordon Van Gelder, 54. Editor, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, The New York Review of Science Fiction and a smattering of anthologies including Go Forth and Multiply and Welcome to the Greenhouse. Reviewer as well.
  • Born September 8 – Matt Ruff, 53. Author of quite a number of genre novels including Fool on The Hill, Lovecraft Country which was nominated for a World Fantasy Award, and Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls which may or may not be genre fiction but never-the-less won a James Tiptree Jr. Award.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cutting-edge humor: Bizarro
  • Copernicus’ theory of SJW credentials: Free Range.
  • They’re not phoning home: Bliss

(10) GAP IN EXHIBIT. Holly Ordway, in “The Maker of the Maker of Middle-earth” at Christianity Today, reviews the Bodleian Tolkien exhibit and examines why it says little about Tolkien’s strong religious faith.

…There are many ways that Tolkien’s Christian faith could have been represented, even in the relatively limited space available. One item already on display was a 1914 letter to Edith. The display label transcribes, from Tolkien’s small and difficult-to-read handwriting, a paragraph about officer-training maneuvers on Port Meadow.

Immediately following this portion of the original letter is Tolkien’s comment that the next day “I got up at 7.40 and just reached church on time, and went to Communion.” Just one more sentence on an already existing display label would have given a glimpse of Tolkien’s faith in practice. As it is, nearly all visitors will miss this reference entirely; I very nearly did.

Other extracts from letters could have been shown, such as the 1956 letter in which Tolkien relates Frodo’s failure to give up the Ring to the petition in the Lord’s Prayer “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Or perhaps the 1944 letter in which Tolkien discusses modern healing miracles and describes the Resurrection as the “happy ending” of human history.

Several examples of his Elvish calligraphy were displayed; one could have been selected from the prayers that Tolkien translated into Elvish, such as the Lord’s Prayer. Both the 1956 letter and this translation show the way that Tolkien’s faith, and indeed specifically his prayer life, had an influence on his writing—exactly the kind of influence we would hope to see emphasized in an exhibit on an author.

…These references, if they had been included, need not have been emphasized, but for one who knows of Tolkien’s faith, the absence of any such small detail is striking.

Playing It Safe

Why might the Tolkien Estate and the Bodleian have chosen to downplay Tolkien’s faith? And why does it matter? …

(11) FUTURE FICTION AUTHOR. Listen to “Nexhuman, an interview with Francesco Verso” conducted by Filer Mlex at Yunchtime.

In this free-form interview, Francesco Verso, explores the topics of transhumanism, consumer culture, and the philosophical aspects of Nexhuman. He also discusses his work in the context of English language publications and the emergence of global voices in Science Fiction, including his own anthology, called Future Fiction, which was co-edited by Bill Campbell and published by Rosarium Press.

(12) NZ NATCON REPORT. SF Concatenation has posted a report on the New Zealand national sf convention by Lee Murray (with an assist from Simon Litten) — “Conclave III”. The convention was held the weekend of March 30-April 2, 2018 in Auckland.

Then we were on to Norman Cates’ WETA presentation to get the skinny on all the new techniques making our movie viewing epic. As is customary with Norman’s presentation, I could tell you about all the wonderful clips he showed us, but then I’d have to kill you, or Norman would, or WETA’s lawyers would have to engage a hitman. In any case, it was cool.

Next up, was the Other Voices panel, moderated by Stephen Litten, where we were joined by Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body author Simon Petrie and Indiana fantasy writer, Laura VanArendonk Baugh. It’s a lively discussion, with some great insights from my fellow panellists around the definition ‘other’ and the value of including marginalised and foreign-to-us voices on our reading lists. We discussed the vagaries of translation and the layering of culture that occurs when works are translated by a second voice. We touched on appropriation and the discourse surrounding Aboriginal and Maori mythologies. Panellists and audience members raised some seminal works from other cultures, including French, Italian, Japanese titles, which we all felt should be included on our must-read lists.

(13) UNKEPT ROBOTIC PROMISES. On Gizmodo, Matt Novak lists (and links) “99 Things That Robots Were Supposed to Be Doing by Now” (though many of the linked “predictions” aren’t really “by now”).

Below is a list of just some of the things people of the past said robots would do in the near future. Many of them are fun or weird, while others are downright scary. But they’re all still “futuristic.” For now.

  1. Robots were supposed to replace school teachers.
  2. Robots were supposed to be professional boxers.
  3. Robots were supposed to pay taxes.

[…]

  1. Robots were supposed to pull off their heads and become the sickest drum set you’ve ever seen.
  2. And by 2076, robots were supposed to run for president.

(14) WINTER IS COMING FOR AI, MAYBE. Popular Science looks at the idea that Artificial Intelligence may — once again — be overhyped, which could lead to a collapse in research/support (“Another AI winter could usher in a dark period for artificial intelligence”).

Artificial intelligence can take many forms. But it’s roughly defined as a computer system capable of tackling human tasks like sensory perception and decision-making. Since its earliest days, AI has fallen prey to cycles of extreme hype—and subsequent collapse. While recent technological advances may finally put an end to this boom-and-bust pattern, cheekily termed an “AI winter,” some scientists remain convinced winter is coming again.

The article goes on to discuss the first “winter” that occurred during the early Cold War when natural language translation proved to be a much more difficult task that anticipated and another beginning in the 70s/80s when the Lisp machine didn’t live up to its hype as an AI solution. Author Eleanor Cummins expresses concern that, among other things, self-driving cars are over-promised and may be under-delivered, then concludes that:

Much like actual seasonal shifts, AI winters are hard to predict. What’s more, the intensity [of] each event can vary widely. Excitement is necessary for emerging technologies to make inroads, but it’s clear the only way to prevent a blizzard is calculated silence—and a lot of hard work. As Facebook’s former AI director Yann LeCun told IEEE Spectrum, “AI has gone through a number of AI winters because people claimed things they couldn’t deliver.”

(15) AI PRIORITY. DARPA doesn’t seem worried by that weather forecast: “DARPA announces $2B investment in AI”.

At a symposium in Washington DC on Friday, DARPA announced plans to invest $2 billion in artificial intelligence research over the next five years.

In a program called “AI Next,” the agency now has over 20 programs currently in the works and will focus on “enhancing the security and resiliency of machine learning and AI technologies, reducing power, data, performance inefficiencies and [exploring] ‘explainability’” of these systems.

“Machines lack contextual reasoning capabilities, and their training must cover every eventuality, which is not only costly, but ultimately impossible,” said director Dr. Steven Walker. “We want to explore how machines can acquire human-like communication and reasoning capabilities, with the ability to recognize new situations and environments and adapt to them.”

(16) FOUNDATION ORDERED. Ars Technica says that, “Apple confirms TV series order of Asimov’s Foundation” for their nascent streaming service.

In April, we reported that Apple was working on developing a TV series based on Isaac Asimov’s highly influential Foundation series of science fiction novels. Today, Ars has confirmed not only that Foundation was in development, but it has now been given a full series order—meaning we’re definitely going to see it.

As previously reported, David Goyer (screenwriter for The Dark Knight and Batman Begins) and Josh Friedman (creator of the TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and screenwriter for Steven Spielberg’s 2005 War of the Worlds film) will be the showrunners and executive producers. The series is being produced by Skydance Television, and Skydance CEO David Ellison will be an executive producer for the series (he is the son of famed Oracle executive Larry Ellison). Isaac Asimov’s daughter, Robyn Asimov, will also executive produce, along with Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross.

(17) THE LIGHTS IN THE SKY ARE…UHH. NPR says this wouldn’t be news if anyone besides photographers had been paying attention: “Scientists Are Puzzled By Mysterious Lights In The Sky. They Call Them STEVE”.

There’s a light in the night sky over Canada that’s puzzling scientists. It looks like a white-purple ribbon. It’s very hot, and doesn’t last long. And it’s named STEVE.

STEVE: as in, Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.

Naturally.

Scientists don’t actually know what’s causing the atmospheric phenomenon, which has been known to amateur photographers of the night sky for decades but only recently came to the attention of researchers.

But in research published this week in Geophysical Research Letters, they pin down what it definitely isn’t. It’s not an aurora….

(18) HYBRID HUMAN. Nature reports: “Mum’s a Neanderthal, Dad’s a Denisovan: First discovery of an ancient-human hybrid”

Genetic analysis uncovers a direct descendant of two different groups of early humans.

A female who died around 90,000 years ago was half Neanderthal and half Denisovan, according to genome analysis of a bone discovered in a Siberian cave. This is the first time scientists have identified an ancient individual whose parents belonged to distinct human groups….

(19) BEFORE MARVEL WAS A SURE THING. Looper has a roster of Marvel TV Shows You Completely Forgot About. Or in my case, never heard of to begin with….

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