Pixel Scroll 7/2/18 Bring Me The Pixel Of Scroll Charming!

(1) KLAATU BARADA UFO. The Independent celebrates World UFO Day with a roll-call of alien encounter films: “World UFO Day 2018: Top 10 alien encounter B-movies from the golden age of schlock sci-fi”.

World UFO Day is being observed around the galaxy on Monday.

The occasion is held on 2 July in memory of the US Army Air Forces weather balloon crash in Roswell, New Mexico, that many believe was really a flying saucer landing covered up by the Pentagon.

It is marked by sky-watching parties as keen ufologists survey the heavens in search of fresh evidence of alien life.

Others prefer to mark the day on 24 June, the date on which American aviator Kenneth Arnold reported spotting a fleet of nine spaceships over Mount Rainier, Washington, in 1947….

(2) HOT READS. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak says these are “12 fantastic science fiction and fantasy novels that you should check out this July”.

July 10th

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Naomi Novik earned a Nebula Award for her fairy tale-inspired novel Uprooted. She’s back with an new book that similarly delves into folklore, Spinning Silver. In this book, a girl named Miryem is the daughter of moneylenders, but her family has fallen onto hard times. She takes their predicament into her own hands, turning silver into gold. Her abilities attract the attention of the Fey king of the Staryk, who gives her an impossible challenge, and accidentally spins a web that draws in the daughter of a local lord, angering the Tsar who had pledged to wed her.

Read an excerpt here.

Game of the Gods by Jay Schiffman

Set in the future, Jay Schiffman’s debut novel Game of the Gods follows a Federacy military commander named Max Cone, who just wants to be left alone. When war breaks out, he becomes an unwitting pawn in a global game to try to get him into the fight once again. He’s given a device that allows him to predict the future, and when his wife and children are kidnapped, he’s drawn in to rescue them, aided by a band of unlikely allies — a 13-year old girl with special abilities, a mathematician, a religious zealot, and a drug addict who was once a revolutionary

(3) SUPERHERO, SUPER REVIEWER. Luke Cage is back, and so is Abigail Nussbaum: “Five Comments on Luke Cage, Season 2”.

I don’t have that much to say about the second season of Luke Cage.  Which is actually a shame, because despite some problems, I’d say that it’s the strongest and most consistently entertaining season of television the Netflix MCU has produced since the first season of Jessica Jones.  It’s just that the things I’d have to say about it are basically a combination of my review of the first season, and my review of the second season of Jessica Jones.  The stuff that worked in season one is back here, but better–the strong visuals, the amazing music, the thrilling fight scenes, the palpable sense of place.  And like Jessica Jones, coming back for a second season seems to have freed Luke Cage from the burden of having to justify its own existence as a superhero show about X (a woman, a black man), and allowed it to simply tell a story in which most of the characters are people of color (and some of them have superpowers).  At the same time, a lot of the problems that plagued the first season, and suggested that the Luke Cage concept might not be as durable as we could hope, are back in force here, with little indication that the show is interested in addressing them.  Here are a few thoughts I had at the end of the season, though the bottom line is that it is definitely worth watching….

(4) TAFF RINGS THE REGISTER. Jim Mowatt has enriched the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund by completing his trip report Wherever I Lay My Hat!

I have recently sent copies of my 2013 TAFF report to SCIFI and FANAC and both happily paid 500 dollars each into the TAFF coffers, so helping us to keep sending more delegates across the ocean to strengthen the science fictional bonds that enhance our community. Many thanks to both these fine organisations for their encouragement and support for the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund

Find out how to get a copy here.

(5) HE’S NOT BUGGED. NPR’s Glen Weldon says you won’t demand your 2 hours back: “Flyweight: Wee, The People: ‘Ant-Man And The Wasp'”.

It’s fine.

Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to 2015’s feather-light and perfectly forgettable Ant-Man, is just fine.

It does what it sets out to do, which, by all readily legible indicators, is to be … fine. Agreeable. Inoffensive. A good way to pass a couple of hours in air-conditioned darkness. Jokes. Car chases. Fight scenes. Michelle Pfeiffer, briefly, in a hoodie and a chalk-white wig and, for some reason, fingerless gloves. A gruff Michael Douglas, less briefly, as the resident goateed genius of this particular corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Tony Stark and Doctor Strange having their attentions turned elsewhere).

Also: Evangeline Lilly as badass superhero The Wasp, kickin’ thoraxes and takin’ names and even crackin’ the occasional joke, thank God. The always-winning Michael Peña as voluble sidekick Luis, whose presence in any given scene amps up its charm factor. Phrases like “We have to adjust the refractors on the regulator!” (LOTS of those.)…

(6) ADAMS OBIT.

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The original time machine from the 1960 movie was sold at the MGM studio auction in 1971, the same auction that originally sold the Ruby Slippers (The Wizard of Oz (1939)). The winner of the auction was the owner of a traveling show. Five years later the prop was found in a thrift store in Orange, CA. Film historian Bob Burns purchased it for $1,000. Using blueprints his friend George Pal had given him years earlier, he and a crew of friends restored it. The restoration crew included D.C. Fontana script consultant and writer on Star Trek (1966) and Michael Minor art director on Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 2 – Margot Robbie, 28. The Legend of Tarzan was her first genre film (maybe) followed by Suicide SquadGoodbye Christopher Robin, an animated Peter Rabbit, more DCU announced films than bear thinking about and intriguingly she’s announced to be Marian in Marian, a telling of her life after the death of Robin.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian was surprised to see who is the pitchman for retirement plans in the Star Trek universe: Brevity.
  • Chip Hitchcock calls this one Arctic Circle meets Connie Willis.

(10) SUPERHERO CHOW. The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore boasts a ”DC Comics Superhero Café”. Here’s the real menu [PDF file.]

Dine in, take-away, save the day – at this immersive café-retail experience, home to the DC Comics universe.

Find apparel, accessories and gifts to unleash the DC super hero within you. Chill out at the Superman-inspired café; sip the Batman’s Late Night Summer Latte or get buzzed from The Flash’s Espresso. Grab a Green Lantern pizza to go.

At our Justice League tribute diner – eat-in for a serious scoffing of Batman’s epic Dark Knight charcoal-brioche-bun burger or battle out with The Flash Mushroom Linguine. Feeling villainous? Get your “just desserts” from the Joker.

(11) SEQUEL SUCCESS. Camestros Felapton finds time to “Review: The Incredibles 2”.

…At the time Pixar eschewed sequels (with the exception of Toy Story) and despite the implications of the end of the film, a second Incredibles movie seemed unlikely. Time moves on and Disney-Pixar is keen to capitalise on the IP it owns. Could a sequel possibly manage that same balance of action and character?

Absolutely….

(12) YOU HAVE TO WONDER. Given the 80’s setting of the upcoming Wonder Woman film, digital artist Bosslogic has populated his Instagram feed with reimaginings of the alter egos fo other superheroes as they might have looked if they were in 1984 continuity. Take a look for the   “WW84” posts scattered among the entries at Bosslogic. Here, for instance, is Henry Cavill as Clark Kent — if he were plopped down in 1984…

Credit to SYFY Wire for tipping us to this art with their story “B-Boy Batman Meets Superman’s Sweet Mullet in Awesome ’80S Fan Art for Wonder Woman 2”.

(13) INFREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS. This job is not that f**king easy!

(14) FUTURE STUNTS. TechCrunch goes behind the scenes:  “Disney Imagineering has created autonomous robot stunt doubles”.

Disney it taking their robotics to new heights… at least for a few seconds. Born out of an experiment called Stickman, the new development “Stuntronics” can fling articulated robot figures into the air. The bots control their orientation and poses to nail the same tricks — such as a superhero pose — time after time after time. According to project personnel Tony Dohi (Principal R&D Imagineer) and Morgan Pope (Associate Research Scientist):

“So what this is about is the realization we came to after seeing where our characters are going on screen,” says Dohi, “whether they be Star Wars characters, or Pixar characters, or Marvel characters or our own animation characters, is that they’re doing all these things that are really, really active. And so that becomes the expectation our park guests have that our characters are doing all these things on screen — but when it comes to our attractions, what are our animatronic figures doing? We realized we have kind of a disconnect here.”

…“So often our robots are in the uncanny valley where you got a lot of function, but it still doesn’t look quite right. And I think here the opposite is true,” says Pope. “When you’re flying through the air, you can have a little bit of function and you can produce a lot of stuff that looks pretty good, because of this really neat physics opportunity — you’ve got these beautiful kinds of parabolas and sine waves that just kind of fall out of rotating and spinning through the air in ways that are hard for people to predict, but that look fantastic.”

…“One of our goals of Stuntronics is to see if we can leap across the uncanny valley.”

 

(15) EVIL DEAD AUCTION. Bloody Disgusting points the way: “The “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Prop and Costume Auction is the Coolest, Most Gruesome Auction We’ve Ever Seen”.

…A final attempt to make some money off the show, the official “Ash vs. Evil Dead” Series Finale Auction just launched this week, and it’s continuing through August 17. Don’t worry about showing up anywhere in person to get in on the bidding, as it’s taking place entirely online.

Modern technology, am I right?!

The auction features over 1,000 screen-used costumes, props, prosthetics and set decorations from all three seasons, all of them direct from the studio and coming with Certificates of Authenticity. If you saw it on the show, it’s probably up for grabs, with the auction including Ash’s chainsaw, the Season 3 demon baby, Ash’s wardrobe and TONS of gory practical effects.

Check out some highlights below and head over to VIP Fan Auctions to see more!

(16) FIRMIN RESUME. When SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie learned that Peter Firmin died, he rounded up some links to help me appreciate the loss: “His co-creations (with Oliver Postgate) of The ClangersNoggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine wowed generations of Brits.  Arguably worth checking out and if fans have young kids then sharing.”

  • The Clangers were an alien race who live on the Moon.

The Clangers are peacefully building a house. We hear a whistling sound and down comes something. The Clangers run for cover. The thing is a terrestrial space-probe vehicle with large initials on it.

  • Noggin the Nog was a fantasy series set in Viking times with dragons etc. (eat your heart out Martin).

  • Ivor the Engine was an almost living steam locomotive.

“Wonderful stuff,” Jonathan concludes.

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

Origins of Project Bluebook

By Carl Slaughter: On July 29, 1952, the Pentagon held a press conference about flying saucers.

The flying saucer phenomenon began on June 24, 1947, after Kenneth Arnold reported to his airport tower sighting nine saucer-shaped vessels flying at extremely fast speed in echelon formation over the mountains of Washington state. When Arnold landed, the local media was waiting for him. The wire services picked up the story. Within 24 hours, newspapers all over the country ran front page headlines about the Arnold report. Suddenly more and more people claimed flying saucer sightings. UFOs had entered American culture.

On January 7, 1948, Kentucky Air National Guard pilot Captain Thomas Mantell crashed and died while in pursuit of a UFO. The public and the military began to take flying saucer sightings much more seriously because Mantell’s death indicated a possible alien hostile presence on Earth. (Another concern was that the vessels might be Soviet. This was at the beginning of the Cold War.) On October 1, 1948, North Dakota Air National Guard second lieutenant George Gorman engaged in an extended chase with a UFO that had speed and maneuverability far beyond any human vessel at the time.

In response to these and other UFO encounters, the Pentagon launched Project Bluebook and other investigation projects. The CIA launched the Robertson Panel and Congress launched the Condon Committee. Project Bluebook was finally shut down in 1970.

Whether or not you believe in UFOs, this documentary is an excellent history of the UFO phenomenon.

What Is the Destiny of the World’s Largest UFO Archive?

We’re accustomed to hearing about “the graying of fandom,” Apparently Sweden’s UFO enthusiasts face the same problem. A recent Swedish-language article asked what is going to happen to the world’s largest UFO archive? (Hampus Eckerman kindly translated the piece into English.) Here is an excerpt.

…The world’s largest UFO archive can be found in Norrköping. But the enthusiasts are getting older and older. Who will take over all handwritten saucer sightings, shaky video footage and previously classified documents? …

20,000 Swedish observations

The history of the archive began in 1973 when Anders Liljegren and his two ufo obsessed librarian friends Kjell Jonsson and Håkan Blomqvist decided to start collecting UFO literature. At first, the initiative was mainly a way to get their own opportunity to immerse themselves in the subject. The books they got their hands on they made available for borrowing over mail for people around Sweden. After a year they received a large donation of 400 books from a famous ufologist. And since then it has just rolled on. Over the years, the focus has broadened. In AFU [Archives for the Unexplained], there is beside the UFO literature, also books on a variety of other paranormal phenomena.

– That is why we are planning to change the name, says Anders Liljegren, smiling.

Archives and libraries are scattered in twelve cellars in the Norrköping district Ljura. The collections has n addition to several meters of shelved audio and video tapes more than 25,600 book titles, 70 000 Journals and 250 000 digitized press clippings from around the world. But not only that. There are also some 20 000 reports made in connection with the Swedish UFO sightings, as well as similar national report archives from Denmark, England and Spain. Anders Liljegren takes out a white folder from one of the cluttered bookshelves and fish up a report authored by a woman who had seen a gray, spinning, discus-shaped object that hovered above her car. Anders Liljegrens colleague Johan Gustavsson, who sits rapt in front of a computer, is employed as a researcher at the AFU and examines, on behalf of the national organization UFO Sweden, all of the approximately 250 UFO sightings coming in each year….

…We walk to another room across the courtyard, where among other things, UFO Sweden’s association and personal archives are kept. The shelves are cluttered and it smells heavily of paper and dust. There are also parts of journal collections, sorted by country. We sit squatting and checking out a colorful fanzine with UFO sightings from the then Rhodesia. When AFU has more than three copies of the same book or magazine, it happens that Anders Liljegren sellis the titles on Ebay as a way to get money into the business. The Foundation has also started the second-hand bookshop AFU Shop with customers from all over the world.

– About a year ago I sold stenciled UFO booklets from Tasmania that I received several hundred dollars apiece for, he says.

…DN-journalist [Translator’s note: Sweden’s largest newspaper Dagens Nyheter] Clas Svahn, vice chairman of the national organization UFO Sweden, is the one who today leads all collection of materials to the archive. Anders Liljegren has retired but remains as a foreman on a volunteer basis. During his 43 years on the AFU, he has been involved in a number of memorable moments. An experience that will never fade was when he and his colleague Håkan Blomqvist at the end of the 80’s drove in panic to Bromma [translaters note: Suburb of Stockholm] to retrieve the famous ufologist Gösta Rehn’s private correspondence.

– We managed to save 32 binders that lay buried under potties and broken portfolios in a garbage room. We were there just before garbage collectors came, says Anders Liljegren.

What has kept you going during all these years?

– I like to build things up and do not really care about what the UFO phenomenon may have as explanations. This work also invites surprises every day.

Hand on your heart. Do you think that there are civilizations in other solar systems which sometimes makes detours to greet us?

– It is unlikely, but not impossible. If someone could explain all the observations based on scientific arguments, I would buy it. AFU Foundation does not run this archive based on some believed aspects.

What is the future of the AFU?

– We of course want everything to be preserved for posterity. But we are getting older and older. A multi-million donation would have been fine now. We would have had a room where we could gather everything under one roof. We also need volunteers with knowledge of the paranormal phenomena that can continue to work with the archives and library.

We bid farewell to the UFO-gang, leaving the fluorescent bleach archive. The skewed evening sun reflected in rental buildings windows. The propeller plane is gone. In the sky, nothing can be seen. Or what is that?

Pixel Scroll 7/8/16 Scrolled Pixels Are All Alike; Every Unscrolled Pixel Is Unscrolled In Its Own Way

(1) BRIANNA WU’S BOSTON GLOBE OP-ED. “We can all do something to stop this cycle of violence”.

It feels obscene to stare at these videos of black Americans being killed by police. It feels obscene to ignore them. It’s also vital to honor the police who were gunned down in Dallas, and yet I worry that retaliation will cost even more black lives. I feel overwhelmed by conflicting emotions — a sense of powerlessness and an urge to somehow stop this wave of violence.

But the stakes are too high to indulge in white guilt. This isn’t about our feelings, it’s about our responsibility. As noted feminist Ijeoma Oulo said, white people have to act today, and we have to act tomorrow. We have to act like our lives depend on it, because black lives actually do.

Given the carnage in Dallas, it’s important to note that the vast majority of police are willing to give their lives to protect the communities they serve. Rather than disparage law enforcement as a profession, our anger should be levied at the political systems that continually erase the wrongdoing of the small minority of police who dishonor their badge. Police operate in the framework we the citizens have built. They act in our name, according to the laws we ask them to enforce.

(2) COMMENT ON DALLAS. If not for the title, “4GW in Dallas”, would you have guessed the author of this analysis is Vox Day?

As of November, 1024 people were killed by police in 2015, 204 of them unarmed. For all that the police almost uniformly claimed to have been fearing for their lives, only 34 police were shot and killed during the same period. The public may be collectively stupid, but they’re not incapable of recognizing that statistical imbalance or that the police are trained to lie, obfuscate, and pretend that they are in danger when they are not.

Unless and until the police give up their military-style affectations, “us vs them” mentality, and most of all, their legal unaccountability, they’re going to find themselves fighting a war against the American people. And it is a war they simply cannot win.

What happened in Dallas may be shocking, but it isn’t even remotely surprising. Many people have seen it coming; what will likely prove the most surprising aspect of this incident is how many people will remain utterly unsympathetic to the Dallas police and their bereaved families. The police may consider themselves above the law, but they are not beyond the reach of an increasingly outraged public.

(3) I’M SORRY, I’LL READ THAT AGAIN. However, the post evidently didn’t set well with a lot of his followers, so Vox wrote a follow-up characterizing his position as merely a prediction fulfilled.

In the aftermath of the Dallas police shooting, it is understandable that many Americans are shocked, scared, and upset. The post-Civil Rights Act America has not turned out to be the society they thought it was, indeed, it is becoming increasingly obvious that those terrible racist Southern segregationists were correct all along. Targeted assassinations of authority figures are not a sign of a stable, well-ordered society.

But I have neither patience nor sympathy for those who have been emailing, commenting, and Tweeting to say that they are shocked by my comments with regards to Dallas and the overly militarized US police. I have said nothing I have not said many times before. My position has not changed one iota on the subject for over a decade. I have repeatedly predicted such events would take place, nor am I alone in that, as William S. Lind repeatedly warned about it as a consequence of 4GW coming to America in his book of collected columns, On War.

(4) THE SULU REVEAL. Adam-Troy Castro makes a case for “Why George Takei, Of All People, Is Now Wrong about Hikaru Sulu”.

George is absolutely right to have his preferences, ironic as they are. And I absolutely understand why he takes it so seriously. For an actor to do his job well, the role must hijack some of his gray matter, becoming a virtual person inside the real one; a person who may be evicted when the role goes away and another one must be prepared for. Part of George Takei has been Hikaru Sulu for decades; it is likely impossible, and to a large degree undesirable, for the scrutable helmsman he imagined to be evicted, in any real way, now. This is why he famously took a genuine, personal pride in the revelations over the years that Sulu’s first name (never mentioned on the original series) was officially Hikaru, or that he had advanced in his career to become Captain in the Excelsior, or that he had a daughter who also joined Starfleet. This is why Jimmy Doohan felt violated when the screenplay of a late STAR TREK film required Scotty to do a slapstick head-bonk in the corridor. The actors know the difference between reality and fantasy, but characters that near and dear to their hearts blur that line mightily, and this is for the most part a good thing.

However, he’s wrong on this, and this is why….

(5) CANON VOLLEYED AND THUNDERED. Peter David affirms the idea of making Sulu gay, while offering a lighthearted explanation why that fits the canon.

Some fans are crying foul, including George himself, declaring that it flies in the face of Trek continuity. Well, as the guy who wrote “Demora” in which Sulu is most definitely not gay, I’m here to say:

The fans are wrong. Even, with all respect, George is wrong.

In 79 episodes and all the movies, there is simply nothing to establish that Sulu is hetero. Yes, he has a daughter. Neil Patrick Harris has kids, too, so so much for that argument. He only displayed hetero leanings in exactly one episode: “Mirror Mirror” in which he is coming on to Uhura. But that wasn’t our Sulu. That was the Sulu of the mirror universe, and if the mirror Sulu is aggressively straight, then I suppose it makes sense that our Sulu would be gay, right? He’s the opposite, after all.

(6) A FORCE FOR GOOD? Peter Grant argues against “Publishing’s scary self-delusion” at Mad Genius Club.

I wasn’t surprised (but I was disappointed) to read this statement from Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle:

“Publishing is undeniably a force for good. But working in an industry that is inherently a service to society, we risk subscribing to the notion that this is enough. It’s not. We ought to do more—and we can—by taking advantage of our capacity as Penguin Random House to drive positive social, environmental, and cultural change, locally and globally.”

The statement was accompanied by a video message to PRH employees.

The scary thing is, Mr. Dohle undoubtedly believes his statement – yet, equally undoubtedly, it’s catastrophically wrong…..

There’s also the question of why PRH (and, by extension, other publishers) should do more.  Surely their emphasis, their focus, should be on increasing their profitability, and thereby the returns to their shareholders and investors?  The latter could then use some or all of the profits on their investments to support causes, activities and individuals  with whom they agree or are in sympathy.  For a corporation to play fast and loose with its owners’ money, in order to undertake or promote activities that have little or nothing to do with its core commercial activities, is, to put it mildly, disingenuous…..

(7) THE MAP OF LOST DISNEY ATTRACTIONS. Yahoo! Movies has a gallery of “22 Lost Disney Rides, From the Maelstrom to Mission To Mars”.

When the new Disney World attraction Frozen Ever After opened at Epcot Center recently in Orlando, eager families waited in line for up to five hours for their turn to see Anna and Elsa in the animatronic flesh. But sprinkled in amongst the jubilant throngs were some unhappy faces mourning the loss of the ride that the Frozen gang replaced: the Maelstrom, a log flume that had entertained visitors since 1988. It’s a reminder that almost every time a new ride debuts at the Happiest Place on Earth, another one twinkles out of existence. From Phantom Boats and Flying Saucers to a World of Motion and an ExtraTERRORestrial Encounter, we’ve assembled this gallery of some rides that are no longer in operation at Disney World and/or Disneyland in Anaheim.

(8) PORTRAIT COMPETITION. Nick Stathopoulos points out that critic Christopher Allan of The Australian predictably hated his entry in the annual Archibald Prize competition. (Can’t figure out why Nick’s link from FB to The Australian works, and the direct link hits a paywall, so I’ll link to him.) Nick has been a finalist several times, and anyway has a thick hide.

At least the massively oversized heads remain, like last year, in retreat. There are a few horrors, such as massive works by Abdul Abdullah, Nick Stathopoulos and Kirsty Neilson, which also reveal the nexus between size and the other bane of the Archibald, the reliance on photography. Stathopoulos’s work is suffocating in its obsessive rendering of the inert photographic image, and Neilson in her portrait of actor Garry McDonald has painstakingly rendered each hair in her sitter’s beard while failing to deal adequately with the far more important eyes.

(9) MY GOSH SUKOSHI. Another conrunner-for-profit has bit the dust, reports Nerd & Tie.

Sukoshi Con’s “Louisville Anime Weekend” was originally scheduled for July 29th-31st at the Ramada Plaza Louisville Hotel and Conference Center in Louisville, KY. With less than a month to go before the convention though, on Tuesday Sukoshi Con deleted their Facebook pages, pulled down their websites, and announced via Twitter that the event (and all future Sukoshi Con events) were cancelled.

https://twitter.com/sukoshicon/status/750419804234756096

It’s been a strange year and a half for James Carroll’s Sukoshi Con. Some of you may remember the weird saga of their Anime Southwest convention (in Denver oddly enough), where the con had to relocate hotels, multiple guests cancelled, and drama abounded — but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In the last year and a half, the organization has cancelled four of their eleven planned events — including last years Louisville Anime Weekend.

We’ve heard rumblings of financial issues within the convention, though they have yet to be confirmed. It’s safe to say though that none of Sukoshi Con’s events are likely to come back.

(10) TWO HERMIONES. Emma Watson posted photos of her with Noma Dumezweni on Facebook of the two Hermiones meeting at a preview of the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child stageplay.

Yesterday I went to see the Cursed Child. I came in with no idea what to expect and it was AMAZING. Some things about the play were, I think, possibly even more beautiful than the films. Having seen it I felt more connected to Hermione and the stories than I have since Deathly Hallows came out, which was such a gift. Meeting Noma and seeing her on stage was like meeting my older self and have her tell me everything was going to be alright, which as you can imagine was immensely comforting (and emotional)! The cast and crew welcomed me like I was family and Noma was everything I could ever hope she would be. She’s wonderful. The music is beautiful

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 8, 1947 – The first press reports were released on what has become known as the  Roswell UFO incident.

The sequence of events was triggered by the crash of a Project Mogul balloon near Roswell. On July 8, 1947, the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) public information officer Walter Haut, issued a press release stating that personnel from the field’s 509th Operations Group had recovered a “flying disc”, which had crashed on a ranch near Roswell.

The military decided to conceal the true purpose of the crashed device – nuclear test monitoring – and instead inform the public that the crash was of a weather balloon.

(12) STUNT DOUBLE BUILDINGS. “Ivan Reitman Looks Back at the Original Ghostbusters ‘ L.A. Locations”in LA Weekly.

There’s no doubt that the attitude of the original Ghostbusters is inherently New York (though you could certainly imagine the scenario at Tavern on the Green playing out that way at certain Los Angeles restaurants). The truth, however, is that only about 35 minutes of what appears on screen in Ghostbusters was filmed in Manhattan. The remaining 1 hour and 10 minutes of screen time of the beloved movie that asked “Who Ya Gonna Call?” was shot on a Burbank studio lot and at practical downtown L.A. locales, including one of the most famous movie locations of all time: the Ghostbusters firehouse.

Now, before you start thinking, Wait a minute, I’ve visited that firehouse in New York. Yes, you may have stood outside Hook & Ladder 8, that mecca of movie locations on N. Moore Street in Lower Manhattan. The interior of the Ghostbusters firehouse, however, is old Fire Station No. 23, a decommissioned firehouse located at 225 E. Fifth St. in downtown Los Angeles.

(13) THE FUNNIES. The Wizard hits the celebrity autograph line at Wizardcon in yesterday’s Wizard of Id comic strip.

And today, the Wizard got taken in the dealer’s room.

(14) NONE IS THE LONELIEST NUMBER. Critic Jon Jon Johnson’s review implies a play aimed at the general public mentioned the Puppies. “The Greatest Science Fiction Show (No One’s Ever Seen)” was produced for the 2016 Capitol Fringe.

The Greatest Science Fiction Show (No One’s Ever Seen) provides no shortage of giggles, paired with some heartwarming moments. Part love letter to a old-school science fiction, part middle finger to the Sad Puppies of the Hugo awards, and part affection for geek culture, Grain of Sand’s show serves as a pleasant Fringe offering to delight fans of the genre and fans of the theatre.

(15) VANDYKE REPLIES. Peter J. Enyeart ranks the Hugo-nominated novelettes on the Stormsewer LiveJournal. Number Five wrote back.

  1. “What Price Humanity” by David VanDyke Space pilots fighting a war against invading aliens wake up in a strange simulation. Well, these military SF stories start to blur together after a while, don’t they? This was very Ender’s Gamey, with stylistic hallmarks reminiscent of Brad Torgersen (I’m thinking specifically of “The Exchange Officers,” which has a female character named “Chesty;” this one has a black character named “Token” (just because it was funny in South Park doesn’t mean it will work for you, bud)). It does have a bit of twist- a twist that you can see coming an astronomical unit away. And having an infodumpy prologue to a story this length is just narrative sloth. Boo.

David VanDyke, author of “What Price Humanity,” responded in a comment.

Kudos for you noticing “Token,” which is meant as a piece of deliberately painful, somewhat underhanded satire. My son-in-law of African ancestry, who flies fighters for the U.S. military, was given that nickname in training, as the only person of color in his class.

It’s both an indication of how far our society has come (the class members were well aware of the irony and were supportive, in the usual needling manner of combat operators) and an indictment of how far we have to go (if we could find 992 Tuskeegee Airmen, why can’t we recruit more minorities into the elite strata of today’s military?).

Placing such a subtle and unexplained item in a shorter story has its risks, particularly if a reader is predisposed to believe ill of an author, especially one that happens to have been published through Castalia House, but I try to start from a position of faith in the intelligence, imagination and good will of the reader, and hope for the best.

(16) COMPUTER-ASSISTED COMICS. M. D. Jackson’s wonderful series on comic book publishing technology continues at Amazing Stories — “Why Was Early Comic Book Art so Crude? Part 5: The Digital Revolution”.

Apple’s Macintosh was immediately adopted by graphic artists. With such programs as MacPaint and MacDraw, computer assisted art and design was born. The next year saw the introduction of the very first major comic book to be produced on a computer.

First Comic’s Shatter was created by writer Peter B. Gillis and artist Mike Saenz. Shatter was the story of a cop named Sadr al-Din Morales. The storyline of the comic was much in-line with works like Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner and Gibson’s Neuromancer. Threads of the story, such as distrust of corporations, the Film Noir feel of the project, and especially the artwork, would place it firmly in the genre of ‘cyberpunk.’

More importantly, the comic title, however much of a gimmick it may have started out as, showed that the potential for computer assisted comic book art was real. Using MacPaint and a mouse (this was before the invention of the tablet and stylus interface) artist Mike Saenz created each image as well as the lettering. The resulting pages were printed on a dot-matrix printer and then colored in a traditional way, but only because at the time the Macintosh was strictly a black and white machine.

(17) THE ARABELLA TRAILER. David D. Levine’s new novel, unveiled in a one-minute video.

Since Newton witnessed a bubble rising from his bathtub, mankind has sought the stars. When William III of England commissioned Capt. William Kidd to command the first expedition to Mars in the late 1600s, he proved that space travel was both possible and profitable. Now, one century later, a plantation in a flourishing British colony on Mars is home to Arabella Ashby, a young woman who is perfectly content growing up in the untamed frontier. But days spent working on complex automata with her father or stalking her brother Michael with her Martian nanny is not the proper behavior of an English lady. That is something her mother plans to remedy with a move to an exotic world Arabella has never seen: London, England. However, when events transpire that threaten her home on Mars, Arabella decides that sometimes doing the right thing is far more important than behaving as expected. She disguises herself as a boy and joins the crew of the Diana, a ship serving the Mars Trading Company, where she meets a mysterious captain who is intrigued by her knack with clockwork creations. Now Arabella just has to weather the naval war currently raging between Britain and France, learn how to sail, and deal with a mutinous crew…if she hopes to save her family remaining on Mars. Arabella of Mars, the debut novel by Hugo-winning author David D. Levine offers adventure, romance, political intrigue, and Napoleon in space!

 

[Thanks to Steven H Silver, Michael J. Walsh, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stoic Cynic.]

Pixel Scroll 6/18/16 By The Pixels At My Thumbs, Something Scrolling This Way Comes

(1) MORE THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS. Fantasy-Faction ponders “Character Group Dynamics”.

One of the most important tasks of a writer is to get the reader to engage with their characters, but almost as important is how your characters engage with each other. Their interactions are what make up the narrative and drama of the book, bringing the story to life. How can your hero show off his quick wit if there’s no one around to impress, how can your villain be cruel if there’s nobody to terrorise? It’s only in concert with each other that the characters really start to shine.

There are a number of memorable partnerships and groupings throughout fiction, think of Sherlock and Watson, Han and Chewie, or the entire Fellowship of the ring. The success of these characters isn’t just down to the individual protagonists, but also to how well they work together, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

(2) NOT FLORIDA MAN, BUT IN FLORIDA. Access Atlanta has the story: “Man traveled country stealing Star Wars Legos, police say”.

The Force was not strong with this one.

A man suspected of stealing thousands of dollars worth of Star Wars Lego items from Toys R’ Us stores across the country was arrested Tuesday in Florida.

Shannon Kirkley, 35, of New Jersey, hid 12 Star Wars Lego items valued at $300 in a cardboard treasure chest, paid for the toy chest box and walked out of a Toys R Us in Wesley Chapel, Florida, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said.

(3) KRAMMPSTEIN TONIGHT. I’m sitting here finishing the scroll while across town people are attending an LA performance by Krammpstein, the Krampus-themed band.

krammpstein-PR

(4) SPY ARTIST EXHIBIT. “Spy guy: Dumbo exhibit shows range of Mad magazine cartoonist”, covered in the Brooklyn Paper.

The cartoonist behind the iconic Mad magazine comic strip “Spy vs. Spy” will unveil the full range of his illustrations, paintings, and graphic novels at the Scott Eder Gallery in Dumbo on June 16. Illustrator Peter Kuper says that the roughly 60 pieces of artwork in the “Outside the Box” exhibit represent the “cream of the crop” of his work.

“It’s sort of a walk through my brain and its many different areas,” Kuper said. “This is probably the biggest and broadest exhibition I’ve had since around 2001 — it’s definitely the biggest show I’ve had for sale.”

The retrospective will feature 26 years of Kuper’s work, including his vibrant cover illustrations for national magazine such as Newsweek and Time, the “Spy vs. Spy” comics he has drawn since 1997, and work from his dozens of graphic novels. The founder of the comics anthology “World War 3 Illustrated” will also include some “valued treasures” that have been little-seen, including three personal sketchbooks he filled with while traveling in 2010–2012, and some autobiographical work he said he should be “embarrassed to show.”

Art gallery exhibit for the Spy-Vs-Spy cartoonist is open through August 19th.

Has he been doing it since 1997? Time flies. I always identified “Spy vs. Spy” with Sergio Aragones, whose professional cartoonists guild rented the LASFS clubhouse for meetings decades ago.

(5) RACISM. Charles Stross calls it “The unspeakable truth”. (Warning for n-word.)

British people don’t like to talk about racism, much less admit that their fellow Brits—much less they, themselves—are racists. It’s far too easy to point to other bad examples in foreign lands, from Jim Crow and segregation in the Deep South to men with Hugo Boss uniforms and gas chambers in the Nazi Reich. But racism is a thing in the UK, with deep-running currents that occasionally bubble to the surface. And right now we’re getting a most unwelcome but richly deserved reminder of what it’s about.

(Text below the cut contains strong language)

British racism is subtly different from American racism, because there is no long-standing internal sub-population who are visually distinctive and the target for racist hatred. One can point to the traditional English hatred and contempt for the Irish—it’s still within living memory that boarding houses proudly displayed signs saying “no dogs or Irishmen”—but people of Irish descent aren’t visually identifiable at a distance, unlike African-Americans. So the most visible expression of racism wears a different name: the primary epithet isn’t “nigger” but “immigrant”.

(6) WALDO OBIT. Janet Waldo, the voice of Judy Jetson, died June 12 at home in Encino, California. She was 96. Her other credits included Josie in Josie and the Pussycats and Fred Flintstone’s mother-in-law in The Flintstones.

(7) BLUMBERG OBIT. The New York Times reports “Rhoda Blumberg, Whose Children’s Books Brought History to Life, Dies at 98”.

…She showed little interest in reading until she was 10, when she was beguiled by L. Frank Baum’s Oz novels….

Ms. Blumberg began writing books in the 1960s, including “First Travel Guide to the Moon” and “First Travel Guide to the Bottom of the Sea.” By the early 1970s, when her youngest child started college, she had pivoted to history, and then went on to see more than 25 books published.

See Goodreads for more about The First Travel Guide to the Moon: What to Pack, How to Go, What to See When You Get There.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 18, 1983 — Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space when the space shuttle Challenger launched on mission STS-7 from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The STS-7 crew consisted of astronauts Robert Crippen, commander, the first two-time space shuttle astronaut; Frederick H. Hauck, pilot; and three mission specialists — Ride, John M. Fabian and Norman E. Thagard.

(9) DOCTOR WHO UP FOR FIRST EMMY. Variety has its eye on “2016 Emmy Ballot Oddities: ‘Doctor Who’ in the Running, ‘Game of Thrones’ Finale Goes Down to the Wire”.

BBC America’s “Doctor Who” has been submitted for Emmy consideration for the first time ever. Now that the American cabler has come aboard as a co-producer, the venerable Brit series is finally eligible for consideration. Although it was not submitted as a drama series, star Peter Capaldi is on the lead actor ballot, showrunner Steven Moffat and director Rachel Talalay are on the writing and directing ballots for the episode “Heaven Sent” and the series is a possible nominee for costumes, production design, prosthetic makeup, and visual effects.

(10) GARRISON KEILLOR AUTOGRAPHED A ROTSLER BADGE. The New York Times ran a profile “The Garrison Keillor You Never Knew”. Andrew Porter left this comment:

I have a name badge, created by the brilliant and alas late artist William Rotsler, who used rub-off lettering to create a badge that states, “Honorary Important Person,” with the words below, “Verified by” and a blank line. When I was at an American Booksellers Association convention in the 1980s, Keillor, there promoting a book, walked by and I impulsively had him sign it.

Why do I suspect that the power of this unique artifact grows greater the nearer I am to the Twin Cities?

(11) RIPPLES IN A SPACETIME POND. Astronomers are doing the wave. “’New era of astronomy’: Gravitational waves detected for 2nd time, backing up theory of relativity”.

Scientists from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) have announced they have detected gravitational waves from a pair of colliding black holes for the second time, thus backing up the theory of general relativity.

The international collaboration LIGO, with nearly 1,000 scientists working together, made the breakthrough announcement during a media conference taking place simultaneously in Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU) and the San Diego Astronomy Association on Wednesday.

Detecting the gravitational waves from the merger of two black holes by LIGO’s detectors for the second time is highly important,” said MSU physics department professor Valery Mitrofanov, adding that this underpins gravitational wave astronomy.

 

(12) MAKING FRANK R. PAUL COVERS REAL. Bloomberg bids you “Welcome to Larry Page’s Secret Flying Car Factories”.

Three years ago, Silicon Valley developed a fleeting infatuation with a startup called Zee.Aero. The company had set up shop right next to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., which was curious, because Google tightly controls most of the land in the area. Then a reporter spotted patent filings showing Zee.Aero was working on a small, all-electric plane that could take off and land vertically—a flying car.

In the handful of news articles that ensued, all the startup would say was that it wasn’t affiliated with Google or any other technology company. Then it stopped answering media inquiries altogether. Employees say they were even given wallet-size cards with instructions on how to deflect questions from reporters. After that, the only information that trickled out came from amateur pilots, who occasionally posted pictures of a strange-looking plane taking off from a nearby airport.

Turns out, Zee.Aero doesn’t belong to Google or its holding company, Alphabet. It belongs to Larry Page, Google’s co-founder. Page has personally funded Zee.Aero since its launch in 2010 while demanding that his involvement stay hidden from the public, according to 10 people with intimate knowledge of the company. Zee.Aero, however, is just one part of Page’s plan to usher in an age of personalized air travel, free from gridlocked streets and the cramped indignities of modern flight. Like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, Page is using his personal fortune to build the future of his childhood dreams.

(13) QUESTION AUTHORITIES. Exemplore, assuming the government has something to disclose, lists “5 Possible Downsides to the UFO Disclosure”.

1. Cultural shock and disruption of the social order

Although most people have if not a conviction, at least a sneaking suspicion that there is more to the story than weather balloons or military tests, disclosing the extraterrestrial reality will still result in a great shock.

Some will have their most cherished beliefs shattered in a matter of seconds, others will feel frightened and even terrified in the most primal, overwhelming way.

The shock will be exacerbated by the realization of the UFO cover-up. People will have to come to terms with the fact that they’ve been lied to for 60+ years, if we consider the Roswell crash to be the triggering event that created the need for the cover-up.

Essential information that was meant for the entire human race was concealed for far too long. In all likelihood, there will be a public outcry against the government(s). The authorities will try to frame the disclosure in their favor, posing as the caretakers of humanity, but it will take a long time before people can trust them again.

(14) SNAPS FROM DENVER. If you’ve been looking for your daily ration of cosplay photos, ScienceFiction.com is happy to tip you this set from the Denver Comic Con.

I had never given much thought to the risks Wolverine runs when taking a selfie….

denver-comiccon-cosplay-20 COMP

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rev. Bob.]

Pixel Scroll 7/29 To Scroll in Italbar

American exceptionalism, Madeleine L’Engle, sci-fi music, and another trailer about a movie you’re likely to skip, all in today’s Scroll.

(1) Did an American manhole cover beat Sputnik into space? While Superman was fictional, a super-manhole-cover may actually have flown “faster than a speeding bullet.”

The next month, in [an underground nuclear bomb] test codenamed Pascal B, the team wanted to experiment with reducing the air pressure in the explosives chamber to see how that affected the explosion and radiation spread. A four-inch-thick concrete and metal cap weighing at least half a ton was placed over a 400ft-deep borehole after the bomb was installed below. The lid was then welded shut to seal in the equipment.

Before the experiment, Dr Brownlee had calculated the force that would be exerted on the cap, and knew that it would pop off from the pressure of the detonation. As a result, the team installed a high-speed camera to see exactly what happened to the plug.

The camera was set up to record one frame every millisecond. When the nuke blew, the lid was caught in the first frame and then disappeared from view. Judging from the yield and the pressure, Dr Brownlee estimated that it left the ground at more than 60 kilometres per second, or more than five times the escape velocity of our planet. It may not have made it that far, though – in fact the boffin, who retired in 1992, believes it never made it into space, but the legend of Pascal B lives on.

“I have no idea what happened to the cap, but I always assumed that it was probably vaporized before it went into space. It is conceivable that it made it,” he told us.

(2) And after reading that story, I’m certain everyone can see why the Mutual UFO Network’s “Track UFOs” tool is indispensable. 😉

(3) SF Signal’s always-interesting Mind Meld feature asks “What Books Surprised You the Most and Exceeded Your Expectations?” of Renay from Lady Business, Marc Turner, Ilana C. Myer, Kenny Soward, Marion Deeds, Eric Christensen, and Delilah S. Dawson.

One of the books singled out as a pleasant surprise is a Hugo nominee. Ahh – but which one?

(4) Today’s birthday boy – Ray Harryhausen!

Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury, Forrest J Ackerman and Diana Harryhausen.

Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury, Forrest J Ackerman and Diana Harryhausen.

(5) Madeleine L’Engle deserves the accolades paid by the writer in the body of this post for Mental Floss. Not so much the editor’s headline “How ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Changed Sci-Fi Forever” – because it didn’t.

The book, published at the beginning of the second wave of feminism, also carried a groundbreaking message: Girls could do anything boys could do, and better. A year later, The Feminine Mystique, written by L’Engle’s former classmate Betty Friedan, would emerge as a platform for the frustrated American housewife, and Congress would pass the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal to pay a woman less than what a man would earn for the same job. To some extent, Mrs. Murry in A Wrinkle in Time is already living the future: She’s a brilliant scientist who works alongside her husband and in his absence, too; later in the series, she wins a Nobel Prize. (Math whiz Meg would grow up to follow similar pursuits.) And Meg, a girl, is able to succeed where the men and boys—Calvin, Charles Wallace, and her father—cannot.

With that character so like herself, L’Engle struck back against the 1950s ideal of the woman whose duty was to home and family (the same expectations that conflicted the author in her thirties). Instead of staying at home, Meg goes out into the universe, exploring uncharted territories and unheard-of planets.

At the time, science fiction for and by women was a rarity. There was no one like Meg Murry before Meg Murry, though she left a legacy to be picked up by contemporary young adult heroines like The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen and the Harry Potter series’ Hermione Granger. Beyond creating this new type of heroine, A Wrinkle in Time, along with Norton Juster’s 1961 book The Phantom Tollbooth, changed science fiction itself, opening “the American juvenile tradition to the literature of ‘What if?’ as a rewarding and honorable alternative to realism in storytelling,” writes Marcus. This shift, in turn, opened doors for writers like Lloyd Alexander and Ursula K. Le Guin. In these fantasy worlds, as in the real world, things can’t always be tied up neatly. Evil can never be truly conquered; indeed, a key to fighting it is knowing that. It’s a sophisticated lesson children thrill to, and one in which adults continue to find meaning.

I remember enjoying L’Engle’s book – which I heard read aloud a chapter a day by a teacher in elementary school. A Wrinkle in Time, published in 1963, was received as a children’s book. Women who did groundbreaking work in the adult science fiction genre like Judith Merril and Andre Norton had already been writing for years by then. And when Ursula Le Guin and Anne McCaffrey first appeared in the late 1960s, their emergence was facilitated by the New Wave.

(8) There will be a live showing of 2001: A Space Odyssey at the Hollywood Bowl in LA on August 18 with the musical soundtrack performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Recognized as one of the greatest works of science fiction cinema, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 is acclaimed for its technological realism, creative audacity and inspired use of music. Behold the film’s visual grandeur on the Bowl’s big screen while the soundtrack is performed live, including Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra, music by György Ligeti, and the “Blue Danube” Waltz.

The Hollywood Bowl will give E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial the same treatment on Saturday, September 5, with the Los Angeles Philharmonic performing John Williams’ entire Academy Award-winning score.

(9) H.P. in his post “On the Hugo Awards controversy” on Every Day Should Be Tuesday draws this conclusion  —

The big difference comes down to matters of style and subject preference. The Puppy nominees show a pretty heavy thumbprint of Larry Correia, Brad Torgersen, and Vox Day’s tastes. They run heavy to kaiju, superficial noir elements, and religious themes. They don’t align well with my own tastes, but then neither do the tastes of the recent Hugo electorate. If the Hugos are to be the sort of elite fan award that they purport to be, and once were, then they shouldn’t display such narrow tastes, whether of Puppies or anyone else. To that end, my hope is that all of this will draw more people into the process and lead to a more diverse electorate; my fear is of that electorate being dominated by factions. We will see (always end with a super strong closing line).

Yes! The solution is — fire the voters!

(10) “Do you believe in miracles?” This time it’s not Al Michaels asking the question but Jason Sanford.

All of which brings up an interesting coincidence — the 2016 DeepSouthCon has been cancelled. According to an announcement on their website, the people running the con “decided that it was no longer feasible to host the convention.”

I have no proof the selection of Wright as guest of honor and the cancelling of the convention six months later are in any way related. These facts may simply be two isolated events swirling in the chaos we delightfully call existence.

But this is still an interesting coincidence. Or miracle, depending on your worldview.

Some say that Outlanta picking the same May 13-15, 2016 weekend weighed heavily in the decision. If so, I agree it’s logical that a con with Wright as GoH would have trouble competing for Outlanta’s fan base….

cat calendar

(11) Samuel Delany, interviewed in The New Yorker, was even asked about the topic du jour —

In the contemporary science-fiction scene, Delany’s race and sexuality do not set him apart as starkly as they once did. I suggested to him that it was particularly disappointing to see the kind of division represented by the Sad Puppies movement within a culture where marginalized people have often found acceptance. Delany countered that the current Hugo debacle has nothing to do with science fiction at all. “It’s socio-economic,” he said. In 1967, as the only black writer among the Hugo nominees, he didn’t represent the same kind of threat. But Delany believes that, as women and people of color start to have “economic heft,” there is a fear that what is “normal” will cease to enjoy the same position of power. “There are a lot of black women writers, and some of them are gay, and they are writing about their own historical moment, and the result is that white male writers find themselves wondering if this is a reverse kind of racism. But when it gets to fifty per cent,” he said, then “we can talk about that.” It has nothing to do with science fiction, he reiterated. “It has to do with the rest of society where science fiction exists.”

The interview is behind a paywall, nevertheless the Google cache file revealed all.

(12) American Ultra comes to theaters August 21. With luck, you’ll have something better to do that evening.

[Thanks to David K.M. Klaus and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to Brian Z.]

Flying Saucer Archive at Georgetown

The very thing fans were worried about....

The very thing fans were worried about….

It seems perfectly reasonable today that a winner of the Philip K. Dick Award might have a collection of UFO and alien contact literature named after him, as is the case with the Jack Womack Flying Saucer Library at Georgetown University.

It was not always so. Science fiction fans spent decades craving respectability in a world prone to dismiss their favorite reading as “That crazy Buck Rogers stuff.” One of the cornerstones of respectable fan culture was an interest in science, how future technology might lead to starships and encounters with alien civilizations. To be scrupulously avoided was any taint of flying saucers or alien abductions.

As Patrick Nielsen Hayden phrased it when he asked Womack a question on The Well in 2001 —

Science fiction insiders are, of course, habitually sniffy about this stuff. I am; and I remember being a kid in the 1960s with my own copy of Flying Saucers: Serious Business [by Frank Edwards]. Probably that’s why.

Womack took that as his cue to reassure fans he still walked their side of the street:

When it comes to woo-woo, I believe in the people who believe in and write about woo-woo; I don’t believe in the woo-woo itself.

Let me repeat that. I don’t believe in the woo-woo itself.

In certain times and places, studying the woo-woo was as close as a person could get to that sought after Sense of Wonder. There was no one more respectable than Takumi Shibano, co-founder of Japanese fandom, who said his fascination with sf drew him to join the UFOs Flying in Japan’s Skies Research Group in 1956. “It wasn’t that I was so enamored of UFO research, but that I was interested in those basic, fantastical science ideas, so I wanted to do sf.”

However, in Womack’s case it wasn’t a placebo, but one of many interests attached to his wide-ranging curiosity about the weird. At the time of the interview in 2001 the “Womack Collection of the Human Mind at Work and Play” included thousands of items cataloged in a variety of topics:

“Beginning with Advertising, going on through Amusements, Animals (in relation to people)Anthropology, Archeology, Architecture, Art, Assassinations, Astronomy, Atrocities, Bibliographic, Bibliophilic, Cannibalism, Cities, Comics, Cranks, Crime, Cryptobotany, Cryptozoology(including sea & lake monsters, yetis, yowies, bunyips, Surrey panthers, ghostly mongeese, Owlman (Mothman falls under UFOs), Cults (including Scientology, People’s Temple, Elvis), Death(including Forensics and Funerals), Disasters, Disappearances, Drugs, Eccentrics, Fairies (traditional sort), Film, Forteana, Frauds, Gastronomy, History, Hoaxes, Holocaust, Japan, Kentucky, Literature (outre/puzzling/incomprehensible), Lost Continents, Lycanthropy, Magic (stage, cultural), Manias, Medicine, Military Blunders, Mind (altered states), Music, Nature, Nazis, Occult, Pets, Photography, Popular Culture, Propaganda, Racism, Rumors, Russia,  Satanism (pro and con), Science (so-called i.e. Tesla et. al.) Sea Mysteries, Sex, Skepticism, Stripping, Subcultures, Teeth, Teratology, Transgender, Travel, UFOs & related (cattle mutilation, crop circles et. al.), Vampires, Witches, Women (badly behaved), Zombies.”

The Flying Saucer archive at Georgetown is just a fraction of that — 242 books, typescripts, pamphlets, tracts and magazines published primarily from 1948 to 1980.

The collection includes most of the major 1950s works on flying saucers, the works of all major contactees, bibliographies, compilations of so-called photographs, and a number of publications from the Saucerian Press. 19 of the books in the collection are inscribed or signed by their authors. Several books have supporting letters, ephemera, and press materials laid in.

Some of the most amusing visuals from the UFO publications in Womack’s collection can be seen on Boo-Hooray’s Tumblr page. And Boo-Hooray will publish a visual history of the genre, written by Womack himself, later this year.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh for the story.]

Best President in Case of Alien Attack?

Take a presidential election year, stir it together with the debut of National Geographic Channel’s Chasing UFOs series and — voilá! — you get a press release declaring that more people think Obama is better suited to handle an alien invasion than Romney.

I’m used to hearing that elections will be swung by the undecided. Now it seems the unidentified will play a role too.

Two-thirds (65%) of Americans prefer Barack Obama over fellow presidential candidate Mitt Romney when it comes to handling an alien invasion. Obama has a commanding lead no matter how you slice it – among women, men, the elderly and citizens aged 18 to 64.

Surprisingly, however, most Americans evidently don’t expect this hypothetical alien invasion to look like a scene out of War of the Worlds, Independence Day or Falling Skies:

According to a new U.S. extraterrestrial survey from National Geographic Channel (NGC), more than 80 million Americans are certain that UFOs exist. In fact, many believe in tangible proof that aliens have landed on Earth and think that government officials are involved in covering up paranormal activities. Moreover, most citizens would not mind a minor alien invasion, because they expect these space-age visitors to be friendly—like the lovable character depicted in Steven Spielberg’s popular film “E.T.”

So do these responses, taken together, mean that most people believe an alien invasion will be a social occasion calling for a terrific speech?

Romney shouldn’t feel too bad about being named by less than 35% of the 1,114 Americans who took NatGeo’s “Aliens Among Us” survey. That’s still a better number than some very well-known superheroes pulled —

Furthermore, if aliens attacked our planet, more than one in five (21%) would most likely call on the Hulk to deal with the havoc. Far fewer would most trust Batman (12%) or Spiderman (8%) to step in.

It makes sense to me that so many would choose the Hulk. Remember what the irascible Admiral King supposedly said when Roosevelt made him Commander-in-Chief of the Navy after Pearl Harbor — “When they get in trouble they send for the sons-of-bitches” — a quality Admiral King and Bruce Banner (the Hulk’s secret identity) have in common. As Banner says in The Avengers movie, “That’s my secret, Cap: I’m always angry.” And one of Admiral King’s daughters (perhaps the one Ensign Heinlein dated?) joked about her father, “He is the most even-tempered person in the United States Navy. He is always in a rage.”

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster for the story.]

Historic Marker for UFO Abduction?

(L) Betty and Barney Hill. (R) The historic marker.

The internet is abuzz with reports that New Hampshire has put up an official historic marker for the first widely reported alien abduction. A prominent example is “Betty And Barney Hill UFO Abduction Story Commemorated On Official N.H. Highway Plaque” at Huffington Post:

New Hampshire — the “Live Free or Die” state — has done something that may surprise UFO believers as well as skeptics. It has just erected a historical marker commemorating the 50th anniversary close encounter of Betty and Barney Hill.

Curiously, this marker is unacknowledged by the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources official website. Another page on the site sorting the markers by town yields the same negative result.

We can only hope that the truth is out there!

[Thanks to Janice Gelb for the story.]

Update 09/03/2011: The New Hampshire state list now includes the Betty and Barney Hill Marker, #224, in Lincoln.

UFOs on the Ballot

Denver voters will have a chance next year to create a seven-member UFO commission that will study visitors from space. A proponent of the idea, Jeff Peckman, succeeded in getting enough signatures to place an initiative on the ballot.

Peckman made the news a year ago when he held a news conference to release images of what he said is an alien peeking through a window at a home in Nebraska.

Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown says a commission would be a waste of time and money. Its estimated cost is $100,000. Peckman claims it will be funded all by gifts and grants.

Meanwhile, he contends a commission will get “The federal government … to come clean on what they know,” to help open secret UFO files.