Pixel Scroll 3/24/16 The Game-Players of Bitin’

octarine

(1) IT’S TIME TO PLAY: NAME THAT ELEMENT. You might remember the petition to honor the late Terry Pratchett by giving element 117 the name Octarine — “the color of magic” from Pratchett’s fiction. An article at Nature Chemistry reviews the competing names up for consideration for element 117 — and others.

SB: Petitions like this provide a lot of insight into how people grieve the loss of public figures, but it’s hard, if not impossible, to associate Lemmy with the periodic table or even chemistry and physics. While Lemmy’s death is still fresh in people’s minds, one has to wonder if future generations of scientists would have any connection to him. The petitioners also reference the large mass and expected metallic properties to connect the element with heavy metal music, which is clever on one level, but Lemmy considered Motörhead hard rock not heavy metal. Besides, lemmium would not fall under any of the acceptable categories outlined by IUPAC for naming elements.

KD: You’re probably right, although the petitions have turned out to be a fun way to get people from all areas of life talking about the new elements. We’ve also seen ‘starduston’ and ‘bowium’, in honour of David Bowie. Another example is the one I set up, to name element 117 ‘octarine’, after the colour of magic in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. Obviously I’m biased, but I still maintain that it would be rather appropriate for element 117, which will fall into the halogen group. Octarine is famously described as a sort of greenish-yellow purple, and these are, of course, all halogen colours. It even has the correct -ine ending for the group. According to the mythology of the books, it’s only visible to wizards, witches and cats, which also seems appropriate for an element that’s only been observed by a select few. The odds of IUPAC agreeing to this are probably a million to one but, as Pratchett himself wrote in several Discworld books, million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.

SB: Once you described octarine, I can see how it fits into the halogen family. For an idea like this to gain traction though, someone on the research teams would need to be a fan of Discworld and advocate for it. So far, the mythological concepts used for element names have come from Greek, Roman and Norse sources. These classic mythologies tend to have more universal recognition. Is modern fiction the same as cultural traditions used to explain nature in the ancient world?

KD: Well, all stories have to start somewhere. IUPAC’s rules don’t put an age on the mythology rule, and indeed cobalt, named after the sprites that apocryphally lived underground where its ores were mined, might arguably be considered to be more recent. There are forty-one Discworld books, which have been translated into thirty-seven languages; I’m certain they’ll be remembered for many years to come. Likewise, the periodic table will probably be around for a while; any story we reference now will eventually be old…

(2) A VISIT TO THE SIXTIES. The keen-eyed Traveler at Galactic Journey argues that 55 years ago women were having an impact on the field greater than their numbers suggest.

1961. The year that an Irishman named Kennedy assumed the highest office in the land.  The year in which some 17 African nations celebrated their first birthday.  The air smells of cigarette smoke, heads are covered with hats, and men run politics, industry, and much of popular culture.

In a field (and world) dominated by men, it is easy to assume that science fiction is as closed to women as the local Elks Lodge.  Who are the stars of the genre?  Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Sheckley; these are household names.  But if there is anything I have discovered in my 11 years as an avid science fiction fan (following another 20 of casual interest), it is that there is a slew of excellent woman authors who have produced a body of high quality work.  In fact, per my notes, women write just one ninth of the science fiction stories published, but a full fourth of the best works.

(3) AND TODAY? This past year, according to William Shaw’s “The top 5 science fiction stories of 2015” in The Oxford Student, women wrote most of the best sf stories. (Three were published by Apex Magazine, and the other two by Uncanny Magazine.)

3. Pocosin by Ursula Vernon [http://www.apex-magazine.com/pocosin/]

The tone of story is best summarised by its central image of drinking whisky with Death. A contemplative tale about an old woman who takes in a dying swamp god, this is a slow, sad little number which nevertheless sparkles with the sense of wit and worldly wisdom that a story involving passive-aggressive banter with the devil really ought to have. Melancholy without being mawkish, funny without being daft, this is a gem of a story that highlights some important environmental concerns.

(4) WHAT MAKES A NOMINEE A NOMINEE. Brian Paone seems to be getting ahead of himself, but perhaps that’s an occupational hazard for the author of a time travel novel. See “Being nominated for a Hugo award is winning in itself”.

I found out this week that my time-travel romance novel, “Yours Truly, 2095” has been nominated by Hugo Award board member Christopher Broom for the most prestigious award a science fiction novel can receive: a Hugo Award. When I first started outlining the book, back in 2012, my goal was just to finish the book, without making it sound like a big pile of smoldering poo. I never expected 1) how happy I am with the finished product 2) then how many people have bought or read the book in the only 9 months its been out 3) then how many positive 4 & 5 star reviews its consistently receiving and finally 4) that I would ever be nominated for anything, never mind a Hugo!

When I told a friend, and fellow author Randy Blazak, his response was, “this will shoot you into the stratosphere.” I appreciate his enthusiasm for what this might do for my career, but honestly, I’m just on cloud nine that I was even nominated. I’m not even thinking of the future yet.

The award ceremony is in Kansas City during the weekend of August 17. For the first few seconds, I contemplated not going, since being at the ceremony is not a prerequisite, but it was my wife (who I always say might be my worst critic, but my number one supporter) told me, in not so many words, not going wasn’t an option.

So now I will be planning (airfare, hotel, etc) over the next few week to attend an award ceremony–not only any award ceremony, but the most prestigious award ceremony of the year–waiting with bated breath to hear my name and book title called out from the podium. And if it doesn’t win, it will not be a loss. It’s already been a greater win for me than I could ever have imaged 4 years ago when I started writing the book.

Sounds like he poured a bit too much of that timey-wimey stuff into his coffee… The nominations won’t be known til after the first round of voting closes March 31.

(5) SUPERHERO MOVIE MAKERS MAY BOYCOTT GEORGIA. Variety reports “Disney, Marvel to Boycott Georgia if Religious Liberty Bill Is Passed”

The Walt Disney Co. and Marvel Studios indicated opposition to a Georgia religious liberty bill pending before Gov. Nathan Deal, saying that they will take their business elsewhere “should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law.”

With generous tax incentives, Georgia has become a production hub, with Marvel currently shooting “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” at Pinewood Studios outside Atlanta. “Captain America: Civil War” shot there last summer.

“Disney and Marvel are inclusive companies, and although we have had great experiences filming in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law,” a Disney spokesman said on Wednesday.

(6) THE TITANOGRAPHY OF TOLKIEN. NASA has updated the Mountains of Titan Map.

This map of Saturn’s moon Titan identifies the locations of mountains that have been named by the International Astronomical Union. The map is an update to a previous version published in 2012 (see Mountains of Titan), and includes an additional mountain area (Moria Montes), along with several “colles” which are collections of hills.

By convention, mountains on Titan are named for mountains from Middle-earth, the fictional setting in fantasy novels by J.R.R. Tolkien. Unfortunately for “Lord of the Rings” fans, Titan’s highest peak is not Doom Mons (see Radar View of Titan’s Tallest Mountains).

(7) DOG HOUSE RULES. Kate Paulk’s latest policy statement, in “Why The Internets No Can Has Nice Things” at Mad Genius Club.

Those who have asked to be removed are being asterisked instead to indicate that they asked to be taken off. My perspective is that this is a list of people’s recommendations. There is no need to ask for permission, any more than anyone needs to ask for permission to post a review or purchase the work. Frankly, I think asking to be taken off anyone’s list of award-worthy pieces is an insult to the people who genuinely believe the work is that good, so unless someone asking to be removed is prepared to institute a policy that requires prior approval before purchasing their work, reviewing it, and so forth, they stay on the list.

If someone wants their very own asterisk on the list, they need only ask me. I’m not that difficult to get hold of, and I am asterisking those who ask on the two list posts. I’ll asterisk someone who asks here, too. There may be a delay, since I do have a rather demanding full time job, but it will happen.

(8) NOTHING SUCCEEDS LIKE SUCCESSION. In the Playpen at Ferretbrain, Arthur B. asks:

How do you become the Sad Puppies organiser anyway? Divine right? Killing and eating the heart of your predecessor? Satanic pacts? Who gets to choose who drives the clown car?

(9) DOUBLE-THREAT. How It Should Have Ended not only corrects the illogical events in the The Force Awakens but does it with Lego characters.

(10) COVER LETTER. Karen Junker provided the text of the email she sent to We Are ALL SF members.

Dear We Are ALL SF patrons, I want to apologize to you personally for not getting in touch with you sooner regarding the cancellation of We Are ALL SF Con. Frankly, I have been very ill and I have not known what, exactly, to say.

The con was cancelled after I resigned from the convention board and without the knowledge or consent of the board. There was a lot of confusion and things became too difficult to save the situation. I was re-appointed back to the board and since my name was still on the legal docs, the bank, and the Paypal account, it fell to me to send refunds. I did so by selling a personal investment so that the funds would be covered. I got the refunds out, but was not able to do much more than that, and it has been so emotionally grueling for me to see a project that I had worked on for over a year and poured much of my own personal money into to be destroyed, out of what amounts to petty nonsense.

If you see any public statements about me, please disregard. They are patently untrue. I have a proven track record over the past 15 years in the literary and SFF community. Why someone would attack me or an organization I am attached to is beyond me. I have spent a large sum of my own money in the past few years, putting on writers’ events and workshops and conventions and conferences. We Are ALL SF was no different. I am heartbroken that this great con, which would have been so much fun, was destroyed. I hope to see you again at another thing, some day, somewhere. I wish you well in your work and in your life. Yours, Karen Junker, Chairman, We Are ALL SF Foundation

(11) GIVE THEM LIBERTY. As always, plenty of Baen authors will be attending Libertycon 29 (July 8-10) — Griffin Barber, Rick Boatwright, Walt Boyes, Robert Buettner, David B. Coe, Larry Correia, Kacey Ezell, Bill Fawcett, Charles Gannon, Sarah A. Hoyt, Les Johnson, Mike Massa, Jody Lynn Nye, Gray Rinehart (Master of Ceremonies), John Ringo, Tedd Roberts, Chris Smith, Brad Torgersen, David Weber, Toni Weisskopf, and Michael Z. Williamson.

(12) MISSED ONE. I could have included John Scalzi on the list of “Science Fiction Writers Who Were Never Drunk on Saint Patrick’s Day”. Here’s an excerpt from his post “Why I Don’t Drink or Use Drugs” at Whatever.

It’s true: I don’t drink alcohol except in very rare circumstances (like, half a glass of champagne at my wedding), I’ve never smoked cigarettes, I’ve never taken an illegal drug, and outside of Novocaine at the dentist’s office, I’m generally reluctant to take legal drugs either; my wife always expresses surprise if I go to the medicine cabinet for ibuprofen, for example.  So what’s the story there?

(13) MOST FUN SINCE ADAM. Tor.com collects their favorite tweets from #TheInternetNamesAnimals in “Boaty McBoatface Inspires An Epic Naming Battle on Twitter!”

(14) AN INDISPENSIBLE CULTURAL LANDMARK. The Ukulele Batman vs Bagpipe Superman – Theme Song Battle.

(15) IT WAS BARELY MADE TO START WITH. A remake of Plan 9 From Outer Space? Too late! It was released in the US as video-on-demand last month.

Now the long awaited remake of the classic film is here! In this edge-of-your-set, visually stunning, re-imagination of the original story, “Plan 9” is a spectacular sci-fi/horror adventure with jaw-dropping effects and zombies galore! It’s the film Ed Wood wished he made!

No matter what they say, I was not waiting for this.

And despite all that’s holy, a novelization also came out in February.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Janice Gelb, Mark-kitteh, Hampus Eckerman, Taral, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Pixel Scroll 11/22 The Lurking Fear Supports Me In Email

(1) David G. Hartwell posted his photo with the comment, “Signs of the cultural times: NYC subway cars entirely decorated in PKD.”

PKD in the subway, NYC

(2) “Red, Reich and Blue: Building the World of ‘The Man in the High Castle’”, a New York Times article:

Early production art for the Times Square sequence included billboards for beer and sausages, but Mr. Spotnitz had them changed to signs promoting the value of work and duty. A scene in the home of a Nazi Party boss emblematically named Obergruppenführer John Smith (Rufus Sewell) was shot as if it were a vintage family sitcom, the son complaining over the breakfast table about a self-promoting Hitler Youth chum at school. His father patiently explains that his son will be a greater credit to his country, because selfishness is what ruined America before the war.

“If you squint and ignore the fact that the guy has a swastika on his arm,” Mr. Spotnitz said, “it looks a lot like ‘Father Knows Best.’”

(3) John King Tarpinian shot this photo at an exhibit of Michael C. Gross’ work a few days before the artist died.

 

(4) WIRED’s Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy” podcast  is talking about the new anthology of best American science fiction and fantasy with commentary by Joe Hill and John Joseph Adams. Also brief comments by Jess Row, Seanan McGuire, and Carmen Maria Machado.

The prestigious anthology series The Best American Short Stories tends to eschew science fiction and fantasy, except at the behest of unusually sympathetic guest editors like Michael Chabon or Stephen King.

But things are changing fast. The genre took a major step toward respectability this year with the release of the first-ever Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by John Joseph Adams. Adams feels the book is long overdue.

“The instruments of science fiction and fantasy—the tools in that genre toolbox—have been out there in the literary world and being explored for at least a decade now, in work by people like Jonathan Lethem, Michael Chabon, Margaret Atwood, and Cormac McCarthy,” [John Joseph Adams] says. “Science fiction and fantasy is part of the literary mainstream, and has been for a while now.”

Adams hopes The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy will prove that readers don’t have to choose between wild concepts and literary quality. Good sci-fi and fantasy deliver both, which is what makes them so hard to write.

“You have to create the compelling characters and have the beautiful prose and everything, but a science fiction story has to do all that and also build an entire world for you, or come up with some mind-blowing idea on top of all that,” he says.

(5) David Gerrold on Facebook:

I was reading an article about “the battle for the soul of science fiction” and I had to laugh.

Science fiction has no soul. We sold it a long time ago. About the time we started worrying about shelf space in the bookstores, share-cropping in other people’s universes, writing for franchises because they were guaranteed NY-times bestsellers, and campaigning for awards like a high-school popularity contest. Not to mention all those who talked about breaking out of the “ghetto” so they could have mainstream credibility.

If science fiction still has anything resembling a soul — it’s not going to be found in arguments about the soul of science fiction.

As I have said elsewhere, there is no single definition for science fiction. Every author who sits down at the keyboard defines it for himself or herself. Every author is his/her own definition of SF — and the genre continues to reinvent itself with every new author who arrives on the scene.

The idea that there is a specific definition for SF … well, we’ve been having that argument since Jules Verne and H.G. Wells got into a bitch fight at the 1902 Philcon. Okay, I exaggerate. Neither one of them were there. But they did hate each other because Verne’s view of science was optimistic and Wells’ view was dystopic — he didn’t think the human species was ready for high tech. He might have been right, but we’re here anyway….

(6) Winter is coming – on Titan

(7) Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories calls it “Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mistake”.

Kim Stanley Robinson published a major buzzkill on BoingBoing this week, essentially declaring that all of us science fiction nerds ought to give up on our dreams of visiting other stars (colonizing the galaxy…galactic empire…space marines…space pirates…discoveries of long dead highly advanced alien civilizations…discoveries of technological alien civilizations that want to be our friends…or eat us…incomprehensible artifacts…intriguingly bizarre ecosystems…) and instead focus our attentions on Earth and solar system centric futures.

There’s been a fair amount of pushback on this (we do love our space pirates after all), with the primary arguments being that –

KSR is being too pessimistic

KSR is making the cliched mistake of assuming that future technological growth won’t include unforseen breakthrus

KSR is not projecting far enough into the future

Those may all be true, but I have one other “mistake” to add to his thoughtful but bitter article:

KSR is making the mistake of trying to predict what will NOT happen in the future, as opposed to trying to predict what WILL happen in the future.

(8) Billy Dee Williams tells Parade that his Star Wars role keeps him in the spotlight – but it’s not always easy!

Fans have always wanted to talk about who Lando is and why he did what he did. Back when my daughter was in elementary school, I would go pick her up—this was right after The Empire Strikes Back came out—and I’d find myself in the middle of the schoolyard justifying Lando’s actions to a bunch of little kids. They’re all yelling at me saying I betrayed Han Solo. (By the way, I never auditioned for the Han Solo part and I’ve never not gotten along with Harrison Ford, who is a dear friend. Those rumors are completely false.)

Over the years, I’d be on airplanes and a flight attendant would accuse me of betraying Han Solo. I would just say, “Look, I—er, Lando—was just trying to prevent everyone’s complete demise and had to come up with a plan. Lando ended up losing and he had a lot to lose.”  Then I’d say, “Well, nobody died.”  That’s how I’d finalize it.

(9) Well, my eyes sure weren’t dry after watching this ad…

(10) Diana Pavlac Glyer is now in the author database at Worlds Without End, as is her forthcoming book about the Inklings, Bandersnatch, which you should unhesitatingly rush out and order.

(11) “Gal Gadot is adding to her fans’ building anticipation for the 2017 release of Warner Bros.’ superhero movie Wonder Woman,says The Hollywood Reporter.

(12) Peter Finocchiaro, in an article about the Lovecraft controversy for Salon, volunteers an answer for the question “of what to do with rejected or discarded ‘Howard’ trophies:”

Send them to Providence, Rhode Island. Providence – founded in 1636; 2010 population: 178,038 – was Lovecraft’s hometown, and it’s where I’m currently teaching a semester-long class on the author at the Rhode Island School of Design. And no object better embodies the complexity of his legacy than these now-outdated trophies. They are the perfect teaching tool.

After all, Providence plays a major role in the Lovecraft story. It’s where he spent all but a couple years of his life. It’s a playground for the slithering, malevolent creatures he imagined. (See “The Shunned House” and “The Haunter of the Dark.”) And it’s a place that he loved with such fervency that he once declared in a letter “I Am Providence” – a quote now etched on his tombstone, in the city’s Swan Point Cemetery.

Lovecraft’s racial views are not irrelevant to his civic pride. In one letter, he wrote “New England is by far the best place for a white man to live.” In another, he added, “America has lost New York to the mongrels, but the sun shines just as brightly over Providence.”

For decades after his death, Lovecraft’s hometown love was mostly unrequited. But recent years have brought a long-delayed love-fest. Drive through Providence today and you’ll see “H.P. Lovecraft Memorial Square,” two plaques in his honor, and a Lovecraft bust in the city’s famed Athenaeum library. The city has Lovecraft-themed read-a-thons, walking tours, research fellowships, apps, writing contests, and bars that serve Lovecraft-inspired drinks like the “Bittersweet Tears of Cthulhu” and “Lovecraft’s Lament.”

(13) We have met the aliens, and they is us. Certainly some of the time.

There are a few known cosmic objects capable of producing bursts of radio waves. For instance, dense remnant stars called pulsars produce them, just not with such regularity or with as much power as observed in FRBs. Still, perhaps there are some undiscovered superdense stars that operate according to an underlying physics we don’t yet understand, which are spitting these radio waves across the cosmos. That’s one possible natural explanation, though mere conjecture at this point.

Some other scientists have theorized that FRBs could come from what is known as a “contact” binary star system, two stars orbiting each other at an extremely close distance.

It’s also possible that the signals are coming from something human. Perhaps an unmapped spy satellite is hovering about, appearing to send signals from deep space.

Human sources can be difficult to rule out. For instance, back in 2010 the Parkes Observatory picked up 16 pulses with similar characteristics to FRBs that turned out to be signals generated from microwave ovens operated at the Parkes facility. Though these signals were clearly of terrestrial origin, unlike FRBs, it goes to show that there may well be a simpler, human explanation for FRBs that has yet to be identified.

(14) “Reason enough to buy a Harley,” John King Tarpinian says about these Star Wars –themed motorcycle helmets described by BoldRide’s Jonathon Klein.

First-Order

Currently, a host of DOT-approved and other motorcycle helmets are being sold on eBay for all your cosplaying and motorcycling needs. You have everything from an almost perfect Darth Vader helmet to the all-new First Order Storm Trooper.

(15) Robert Altbauer, Fantasy Cartographer, has a series called “The Crusades and Lovecraft’s Monsters”.

This is a series of illustrations that imitates the style of old medieval paintings and adds a macabre flavour by incorporating some of H.P. Lovecraft’s famous monsters. The text is mostly medieval Middle High German.

robert-altbauer-furchtbar-drachengezucht COMP

(16) Phil Nichols of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies noted on Facebook:

R Is For Rocket (Doubleday hardcover, 1962) was a compilation of previously-collected Bradbury short stories put together for a young adult audience.

The cover art by Joe Mugnaini relates to the story “Icarus Montgolfier Wright.” If you look at the body of the spaceship, you will see the Montgolfier’s balloon, the Wright brothers’ plane, and a winged Icarus.

Curiously, “Icarus Montgolfier Wright” isn’t included in the book!

(17) Ray Bradbury wrote in Fahrenheit 451:

If you don’t want a man unhappy politically, don’t give him two sides to a question to worry him; give him one. Better yet, give him none. Let him forget there is such a thing as war. If the government is inefficient, top-heavy, and tax-mad, better it be all those than that people worry over it. Peace, Montag. Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of noncombustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely ‘brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change.

(18) Uh-oh! [SPOILER WARNING!] This is the week they bumped her off!

Why Does Clara Face The Raven?

Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat talk about that big moment in the latest episode.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Josh Jasper. ]

Tolkien Names Mark Faraway Places

“Gandalf on Titan” may sound like the title of an Ace Double but as of today it’s a map feature on Saturn’s largest moon.

The IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature has just announced that Titan has Mountains of Moria and Gandalf Hills.

The IAU convention is that mountains on Titan are named after mountains in Middle Earth, and hills are named after Tolkien’s characters. See the rules here.

Some of these hills are called by the Latin word colles.

The previously named Bilbo Colles, photographed by Cassini.

The previously named Bilbo Colles, photographed by Cassini.

[Thanks to Bill Higgins for this story.]

Lakes on Titan

Yes, JPL says there are lakes on Titan, but they are lakes of a kind that would be more at home in Dante’s Inferno than here on Earth:

Scientists positively identified the presence of ethane, according to a statement from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, which manages the international Cassini spacecraft mission exploring Saturn, its rings and moons.

Liquid ethane is a component of crude oil.