Pixel Scroll 9/18/18 When Lessa Told Me To Do It, I Succumbed To Weyr Pressure

(1) BIGFOOT’S POLITICAL OPINIONS. Registration is required to read Adweek’s article “Bigfoot Tries to Get Footage of an Elusive Congressman in This Enjoyably Odd Political Ad”. Fortunately, the commercial itself is available at YouTube.

Congressional hopeful Dean Phillips, a Democrat running in Minnesota, says Republican incumbent Erik Paulsen is so detached from his home district, he’s practically impossible to find.

 

(2) STORMY WEATHER. Mur Lafferty’s Hugo win (with Matt Wallace) for Ditch Diggers was not completely washed out by Hurricane Florence, but the news did get bumped to fifth place in her latest post at The Murverse Mothership (where you can also see a photo of her wearing a chicken hat at the Hugo Losers Party).

Florence: We are fine. Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina and South Carolina last weekend, and wandered slowly through the state, dumping lots and lots of rain. The flooding was catastrophic. Oddly enough, when we thought our area would get hit with the eye, the storm turned and moved south of us, then turned north. We got wind, rain, Fiona’s school lost a big tree, but our area is largely unscathed. We did have some excitement yesterday when the last tail end of the storm whipped around and smacked us, letting Durham get a taste of the flooding and tornadoes that the rest of the state has suffered, but that didn’t last too long. If you can give to hurricane relief to help the eastern part of the state, please do.

(3) OBSERVATIONS ABOUT SF IN FRENCH. Matthew Rettino reports on “Congrès Boréal 2018: Differences between Anglophone and Francophone SF” at Archaeologies of the Weird, including the panel “L’imaginaire a-t-il une langue? Différence culturelle dans l’imaginaire anglophone et francophone” (“Does the imagination have a language? Cultural differences in the anglophone and francophone imaginary.”)

…One interesting idea that arose: language does not inherently carry the values of a society. Rather, culture does. The different traumas and schisms that define a society do have a much greater influence on national literature. For example, Cixin Liu’s Three Body Problem, remarked one of the panelists, is marked by the impact of the Cultural Revolution in China. This echoes how French SF is marked by the policy of laïcité (state secularism), the origins of which go back to the French Revolution. There did seem to be truth to this observation, given how French-language SF is in a sense more “secular” in its embrace of violent and sexual themes that would religious people shiver. On the other hand, anglophone SF retains a more “puritanical” attitude in the literature it produces and censors, particularly in the United States.

This being said, certain attitudes to the French language itself do influence French SF. Patrick Senecal pointed out later in the discussion that French-language editors have a tendency to homogenize the different registers of the language, leading to less linguistic diversity. When editing dialogue, French publishers often edit out regional dialect in favour of “le Français internationale.” The result is a banal, grammatically correct French, where all characters sound the same. These editing decisions do not accommodate the regional French spoken in certain regions of Québec, for example, which leads to a more monovocal (as opposed to polyvocal) body of literature. This is not just unappealing; it’s unrealistic and unrepresentative of how French is actually spoken. As Senecal quipped, “Il n’y a personne qui parle comme Radio Canada!”

(4) BELGIAN INFLUENCE ON SPACE PROGRAM. “Elon Musk Says SpaceX’s BFR Design Is Inspired by Tintin Comics”Inverse has the story.

Elon Musk unveiled a new design for SpaceX’s BFR rocket on Thursday, and he’s taking inspiration from a famous series of Belgian comics. The CEO confirmed on Twitter that the new design “intentionally” bears resemblance to the vehicles depicted in The Adventures of Tintin, the whimsical series that depicts Tintin and his friends embarking on far-flung trips to find new stories.

…The redesign shared with the moon announcement bears similarities to rockets as featured in Hergé’s comic series. The 1950 comic Destination Moon shows a red-and-yellow checkered rocket with three giant fins on the base, elevating the rocket above the ground, which Tintin and his friends use to visit the moon and explore a secret government project.

(5) THE ACADEMY. At Quills, Fretful Porpentine’s new discourse is: “On the performativity of ‘What have you been reading lately?’” Here’s the kind of thing college professors are supposed to say when asked what they have been reading:

– If you are a humanities professor, you say something that is clearly pleasure-reading, but at least vaguely cerebral. Witty mysteries about British academics are good, or the sort of science fiction that doesn’t have aliens on the cover.

– If you work in tech support, you are allowed to read the kind of books with aliens on the cover.

(6) YOU ARE HERE. A new version of a reference frame for the universe is being released (Gizmodo: “Where Are We in Space? Astronomers Update Their Celestial Frame of Reference”). The third International Celestial Reference Frame is based with (0,0,0) at the center of mass of the Solar System, with the axes fixed in relation to a number of distant quasars.

“Nitty-gritty stuff like this is super important when you’re sitting on an Earth moving 70,000 mph around a star that is moving 450,000 mph around a galaxy center,” Grant Tremblay, astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Gizmodo.

…The ICRF-3 […] places the center of the reference frame at the Solar System’s center of mass, and is oriented based on the position of distant bright radio sources called quasars. Those measurements were made using Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), essentially a method of using the entire Earth as a telescope, collecting data from multiple radio telescopes and combining them to get the highest-resolution image possible.

This most recent frame derives from measurements of 4,536 quasars, all between 100 million and 10 billion light-years away. […] The most recent edition also takes the motion of our own Milky Way galaxy into account for the first time, according to a press release from the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam.

(7) MEXICANX INITIATIVE. The second installment of Hector Gonzalez’ report — “My Road to Worldcon 76. Part 2: Who the hell is John Picacio?”

I even remember the first conversation I had with my dad about being a Mexicanx recipient. He was initially wary, doubting a stranger on the internet would give away something like that. I explained the situation and mentioned John’s name. “¡Si! ¡John es un monstruo de la ciencia ficción!” Translation note: If I tried to literally translate what my dad meant to say, it would sound as if John was a monster. My dad meant it more as “He is HUGE in the science fiction world.” Bottom line, he knew more about John than me.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 18, 1964 The Addams Family premiered on television.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 18 – Lynn Abbey, 70. Author best known for her Thieves World fiction though her first works for was for TSR games including stories set in the Forgotten Realms and the Dark Sun games. Daughter of the Bright Moon was edited by Gordon R. Dickson and I’ll let someone here tell that  story.
  • Born September 18 – Caitlin Kittredge, 34. Author of the Black London urban fantasy series featuring Jack Winter and Pete Caldecott which I think is one is the finest such series ever done. Also wrote the Iron Codex, Nocturne City and Hellhound Chronicle series.  Currently writer on Witchblade series.

(10) W76 PANEL RESOURCES. Bogi Takács has released notes prepared for use when appearing on two panels at Worldcon 76.

I promised the writeups of my notes for Worldcon 2018 panels! The first one is for Queer Joy. I am honestly not sure which of these works I actually mentioned on the panel, these were my advance notes and I just tidied them up and hyperlinked them.

[At the post are lists of works under each of these categories — ]

  • Presents oppression / discrimination and/or suffering, but also joy:
  • Recent-ish anthologies with related material (not all stories might be related):
  • More grim SFF which is still queer-inclusive and queer people are not persecuted in-universe:

Queer Families

These are my advance notes, but I also mentioned on the panel how queer families seem to be non-multigenerational in SFF, and we had a fairly lengthy discussion about that. So I tried to add which of the works buckle that trend.

Contemporary work…

(11) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND THERE LIVED A WRITER. The latest Brandon Sanderson newsletter talks about constructing his office – which is epic, just like his books. (See photos at the link.)

I always like to include something about my life in these newsletters—something unrelated to the books. So today, I thought I’d post some updates on my office, which we’re building in the empty lot beside my house.

I’m building it underground, because…well, what else would you expect from a fantasy novelist? It’s been an interesting process, since the city really has no idea what to do with someone like me. I call it my Underground Supervillain Lair, something that the suburbs in Utah really aren’t that equipped to deal with. But, after some work, we’ve gotten permissions. Peter has been taking pictures of it.

First, we dug out a huge pit. I don’t go halfway on underground lairs—so we’re doing 20-foot ceilings. The kids had a wonderful time digging in this hole, and I’m convinced they’d have loved it if we never put anything in it.

(12) PUNCH-CARD-PUNK. Mary Robinette Kowal is writing two new lady astronaut novels. Andrew Liptak interviews the author for The Verge“Return to an alternate history space race with two new Lady Astronaut novels”

After signing a six-figure deal with Tor Books, author Mary Robinette Kowal will expand to her Lady Astronaut series over the next several years with two new novels, The Relentless Moon and The Derivative Base, as well as a standalone sci-fi murder mystery novel, The Spare Man. The new Lady Astronaut titles will join this summer’s fantastic The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, which followed pilot and mathematician Elma York through an alternate history 1950s space race aimed at sending humanity to off-world colonies after an extinction-level asteroid strike on Earth. The Relentless Moon is expected to drop in 2020, with The Spare Man to follow in 2021, and The Derivative Base in 2022.

Both novels are set in the “punch-card-punk” world that Kowal established in her 2013 novelette, “The Lady Astronaut of Mars.” The Calculating Stars begins in 1953, as the asteroid lands off of Washington, DC, devastating the US East Coast. York and her colleagues quickly realize that the incident has started a chain reaction that will change the climate of the Earth in decades, making it inhospitable to human life. In response, a coalition of nations forms the International Aerospace Coalition (IAC), which works to first reach space, and then figure out how to live there.

(13) WHEN PERFECTION ISN’T ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE. James Davis Nicoll discusses “Six Stories That Find the Drama in Utopian Settings” at Tor.com.

Tanith Lee’s classic duology Don’t Bite the Sun and Drinking Sapphire Wine is set on a desert world hostile to unprotected life. Not that this matters, because all of its human inhabitants live in one of three domed cities: Four BEE, Four BAA, and Four BOO. Within those cities, virtually every need and desire is met. Even death is only a momentary inconvenience before one is incarnated in a new designer body.

The nameless protagonist, offered material paradise, commits the unforgivable sin of realizing that while the options offered are pleasant, none of them are meaningful. That realization is the border between life in paradise and life in a cossetted hell. Unfortunately for our hero, the Powers That Be in the three cities are determined to maintain the status quo of their cozy societies, keeping them just as they are…which means crushing (by any means necessary) any pesky aspirations for personal fulfillment.

(14) YOUNG VETERAN ACTOR. Sandie Angulo Chen in the Washington Post interviews seventh-grader Owen Vaccaro, star of The House With a Clock in Its Walls, about how he became an actor and what it was like to work on the film: “Sports didn’t interest Owen Vaccaro, but a theater class sparked a passion for acting”

Soon, the theater classes led to his first auditions, which eventually landed him his first film gig, “A Product of Me,” at age 7. In the years since, Owen has been in eight more movies, most notably acting opposite A-list stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in the comedies “Daddy’s Home” and “Daddy’s Home 2.”

(15) BACK LOOKING FOR SUNSPOTS. In a September 16 press release (“AURA Statement about the Status of the Sunspot Solar Observatory at Sacramento Peak, New Mexico”), the sponsoring organizations (Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy and the National Science Foundation) have released some information on the mysterious closure of the Sunspot Solar Observatory.

On September 6th, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) made the decision to temporarily vacate the Sunspot Solar Observatory at Sacramento Peak, New Mexico as a precautionary measure while addressing a security issue. The facility closed down in an orderly fashion and is now re-opening. The residents that vacated their homes will be returning to the site, and all employees will return to work this week.

AURA has been cooperating with an on-going law enforcement investigation of criminal activity that occurred at Sacramento Peak. During this time, we became concerned that a suspect in the investigation potentially posed a threat to the safety of local staff and residents. For this reason, AURA temporarily vacated the facility and ceased science activities at this location.

The decision to vacate was based on the logistical challenges associated with protecting personnel at such a remote location, and the need for expeditious response to the potential threat. AURA determined that moving the small number of on-site staff and residents off the mountain was the most prudent and effective action to ensure their safety.

In light of recent developments in the investigation, we have determined there is no risk to staff, and Sunspot Solar Observatory is transitioning back to regular operations as of September 17th. Given the significant amount of publicity the temporary closure has generated, and the consequent expectation of an unusual number of visitors to the site, we are temporarily engaging a security service while the facility returns to a normal working environment.

We recognize that the lack of communications while the facility was vacated was concerning and frustrating for some. However, our desire to provide additional information had to be balanced against the risk that, if spread at the time, the news would alert the suspect and impede the law enforcement investigation. That was a risk we could not take.

(16) CAN’T SAY THAT. Ryan George discovers “Being a Motivational Speaker in the MCU Sucks.”

[Thanks to JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Michael J. Walsh, Alan Baumler, Andrew Liptak, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 9/14/18 Planetary Classification Just Ain’t About Sol Anymore

(1) MOON EXHIBITION IN DENMARK. Louisiana, the largest gallery of Modern Art in the Nordic countries, is holding an exhibition about The Moon from September 13-January 20. The themes are Moonlight, Selenography, The Moon of Myth, The Moon Landing, The Colonization of Space and Deep Time.

From painting to virtual reality, superstition to science, myths to missions, fantasies to space colonies, join Louisiana on a trip to the Moon – into space and into ourselves. ARTnews has already called THE MOON the most intriguing show of the season.

This large-scale exhibition at Louisiana highlights the role, the importance and the fascinating power of the Moon. The exhibition presents more than 200 works and objects—and show how the round white disc is reflected in our art and cultural history. From Galileo’s moon map to Norman Foster’s plans for 3D-printed moon bases.

The exhibition mixes art, film, music, literature, architecture, cultural history, design and natural science into a vibrant and diverse portrait of our closest neighbor in the sky. We encounter the Moon as a fundamental symbol and as a goal of romantic and artistic longings, scientific inquiry, existential issues—and the urge for political expansion.

With this exhibition, Louisiana commemorates the imminent 50th anniversary of man’s first steps on the Moon and also calls attention to a strong and renewed interest in the Moon both in art and as a springboard for a new Space Race with all its strategic and economic implications.

(2) CIXIN LIU. At The Paris Review, Amanda DeMarco’s overview “Cixin Liu, China, and the Future of Science Fiction” includes comments on the English translation of Liu’s Ball Lightning.

It’s been said that the past is a foreign country, and I’ve come to believe that the future is too. I’d just never been so immersed in it before. In Beijing this summer, I read about two thousand pages of work by Cixin Liu, possibly the world’s most important living science-fiction author and certainly among humanity’s most imaginative prognosticators. (A recent London Review of Books piece called his Three-Body trilogy, published in English in 2016, “one of the most ambitious works of science fiction ever written.”) Like life in Beijing, the experience was magnificent and exhausting and thrilling and flawed. Science fiction might be the genre best suited to Chinese society today; the breakneck pace of change becomes a constant, and to live in the present is to anticipate what is to come. When we told our acquaintance that we’d like to return next summer, she responded as many of our Chinese friends did: “You might not recognize it here.”

(3) BRADBURY STATUE ALMOST PAID FOR. In Waukegan, IL — “Ray Bradbury statue fundraising effort crosses $100,000 mark, enters final stretch”.

The fundraising effort behind a proposed 12-foot-tall statue honoring Waukegan native Ray Bradbury is in its final stretch, according to a library spokeswoman.

The group behind the campaign, now an official part of the Waukegan Public Library Foundation, has raised $107,000 of the $125,000 needed through a mix of individual, corporate and nonprofit donations and pledges, said Amanda Civitello, the library’s spokeswoman.

…The proposed 12-foot-tall, stainless steel statue, designed by artist Zachary Oxman, was inspired by Bradbury’s poem “If Only We Had Taller Been” and would show Bradbury astride a rocket ship, waving a book.

(4) INCURABLY VIRAL. Chuck Wendig explains how this movie got started: “You Might Be The Killer: The… Movie?”

So maybe you remember in the halcyon salad days of Summer 2017, one mister Sam Sykes and one mister, uhh, well, me, we got on The Twitters and we did an improvised horror story, kind of a riff on a slasher film, but in Twitter format. Shitposting, the kids call it!

(“Sam Sykes and Chuck Wendig Just Wrote Horror Movie Gold on Twitter.“)

(Or, read the whole thing starting here.)

Well, that went kinda viral.

And when a thing goes viral, it takes on a weird life of its own, meaning, we started fielding offers to make our Twitter thread into Something. Movies, YouTube series, cartoons — but at the end of the day, we had two guys, Craig Engler and Tom Vitale, say they had a vision for it, and it was a movie, and we said, HELL YEAH. Because, holy shit, a snarky slasher film from our tweets? Sign us up…

You Might Be the Killer will have its world premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin September 21.

And there’s what you could call a companion Twitter thread that got started by Myke Cole – begins here.

(5) PRO TIP. From SFWA — “Contracts Committee Alert – Failure to Finalize Contracts”.

The Contracts Committee has learned of recent cases in which a publisher did not routinely send authors a copy of the final contract signed by both the author and publisher.  The authors had made significant amendments to their contracts which the publisher ignored, publishing material in a format which the authors had crossed out in the contract they signed.  Our understanding is that the books were thus published without a fully executed contract.

Failure to return counter-signed contracts is a failure to finalize the contract and is not an acceptable business practice. A deal should not be considered final until the author has received the final, mutually agreed-to, counter-signed contract….

(6) ASK AN AGENT. Fantasy-Faction has lined up four agents willing to answer people’s questions during the week of September 24, John Jarrold, Julie Crisp, Jamie Cowen, and Harry Illingworth  — “Announcing Agent Week!”

…To many of us, agents are mythic beasts who guard the doors to fame, fortune and the realisation of our dreams. There are a thousand websites out there with advice, tips and tricks on how to discover an agent and, hopefully, entice them enough to take you on as client.

Should you wish to, on those websites, you can find information on the publishing industry, what happens when you’ve snagged an agent, how to tread the minefield of getting your book out there and then the hard bit, getting people to read it.

But better surely is to ask an agent yourself?

Which isn’t always an easy thing to do. Especially if your introverted Britishness prevents you even putting digit to keyboard… Well, fear no more, the struggle is over. We have, through the kindness of four world class agents of impeccable taste, organised a week in which you can ask the questions and get your answers.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 14 – Walter Koenig, 82. Obviously you know who he is. Author of Buck Alice and the Actor Robot which I assume is fiction, Chekov’s Enterprise: A Personal Journal of the Making of Star Trek-The Motion Picture and Warped Factors: A Neurotic’s Guide to the Universe. There’s also InAlienable, a SF film written and executive produced by him.
  • Born September 14 – Rowena Morrill, 75. Well-known for her genre illustration, and is one of the first female artists to impact paperback cover illustration. Her notable works include The Fantastic Art of Rowena, Imagine (France publication only), Imagination (Germany only), and The Art of Rowena.  Though nominated for the Hugo four times, she has not yet won, but has garnered the British Fantasy Award.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • It’s tough to be a schoolkid with an unusual name – Off the Mark.
  • A chance meeting with a dino pal from the neighborhood — Andertoons
  • WuMo raises the perpetual question – who decides where the story’s going, the writer or the characters?
  • We’ll let you be the judge of this joke — Andertoons
  • Yipes! Is that what we’re eating? — Scandiavia and the World

(9) WE MADE IT! MexicanX Initiative participant Iliana Vargas has reported on the experience of attending the Worldcon: “Hibridaciones sinápticas: Habitar la alteridad en todas sus posibilidades: TheMexicanxInitiative en la Worldcon 76” (There’s’ a Google Translate English language version here – as always with GT, buyer beware!)

Creo que si alguien me preguntara por los momentos más significativos de mi vida, sin duda diría que lo fue el entrar al centro de convenciones y ver a tantas personas con las que me identifiqué de inmediato, haciéndome sentir que estaba en un lugar en el que nadie me juzgaría por mi rareza, sino que la compartiría conmigo.Porque de eso se trata la Worldcon: es un ecosistema en el que uno no necesita usar la máscara del ser social con que interactúa cada día para funcionar en el mundo convencional; simplemente se es, con toda la libertad y con todo lo necesario para mostrarlo, lo que uno ha construido en su propio imaginario individual. Es una fiesta que dura cinco días, en la que uno puede encarnar todo aquello que ha abrevado de la literatura, el cine, el cómic, la exploración sonora, las artes visuales y multimedia, para crear su propia comunidadunderground;una comunidad en la que permea un ambiente de respeto, de asombro y de curiosidad, de expectativa constante por lo que uno encontrará cada día en los pasillos, lo que escuchará en cada panel, lo que descubrirá en la zona de vendimia, lo que aprenderá al final de cada día….

(10) NEXT GEN. Netflix picks up Chinese-Canadian animated genre film at Cannes — SYFY Wire has the story: “Next Gen: A Chinese meme, ghosting producer, and a lucky break led to Netflix’s biggest animated film”

The international sales market at Cannes generally runs on two parallel tracks: Big names make splashy deals for high-profile movies, while relatively unknown production companies hock not-so-high-profile projects to international distributors hungry for programming. So it created quite the stir and raised more than a few eyebrows online when, at this year’s festival, Netflix plunked down $30 million for Next Gen, a Chinese-Canadian animated sci-fi film from a pair of first-time feature directors and a studio that had never made a movie before.

…It began, as do seemingly all worthy modern stories, with a meme. Back in 2008, an artist in China named Wang Nima created his own riff on the American “Rage Comic,” a Reddit-grown comic form that couples consciously janky art and the hair-trigger anger inherent to the internet. The style, which became known as “Baozou,” was instantly popular in China, and Wang started up a site called BaozouManhua.com to build on his creation. Fast forward five years and the Baozou site had become a digital empire, with stand-up comedy, web series, and user-generated content, sort of a Chinese version of Funny Or Die.

 

(11) CRAIG MILLER. The latest Chatting With Sherri podcast is “with Producer; Craig Miller”.

Craig Miller is a well-known and respected writer/producer with over 300 credits but he began his Hollywood career as a specialist in motion picture publicity, promotion, and licensing. He started his marketing career fresh out of college, working for George Lucas on a science fiction movie nobody thought would break even: Star Wars. He was Producer-for-Lucasfilm on episodes of Sesame Street guest starring R2-D2 and C-3PO, the Star Wars robots, and other shows and projects.

Miller set up as an independent publicity consultant, working with most of the major studios and many independent companies through his company, Con Artists, and with creative forces of nature such as Stephen Spielberg and Jim Henson.  Films he’s worked on include The Dark Crystal, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Excalibur, Superman II, Altered States, Splash, The Black Cauldron, Real Genius, and dozens of others.

(12) CASTING CALL. If Henry Cavill is really out, Steven Colbert says he’s available.

(13) COMIC CON AFRICA. South Africa’s first Comic Con: “Tickets sold out for Africa’s first Comic Con show”. Yes, they’re calling it Comic Con; any bets SDCC will sue about use on another continent?

This will see thousands of gaming, pop culture, superhero comic fans descending on the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit and International Convention Centre, north of Joburg, this weekend.

Comic Con Africa will see the best of the best in the industry of superhero comics to gaming, and fans will get an opportunity to see some of their favourite international stars in person.

The build-up to the three-day event has been overwhelming for organisers, who did not expect a sold-out response from fans.

“What to expect at Comic Con Africa 2018” —  for example:

(14) BEFORE THERE WAS TINTIN. Murals Hergé did as an art student are crumbling: “Tintin and the vanishing murals: Brussels races to save art”.

He’s one of the best-known artists of the 20th Century but, before The Adventures of Tintin, the Belgian artist Hergé created art of a different kind – murals at the Brussels school where he once studied.

In the early 1920s Hergé, then a 15-year-old Georges Remi, was a scout and student at Institut St Boniface, in the Ixelles area of Brussels.

He adorned the walls of the old scout HQ with lovingly rendered art showing scouts and Native American Indians, as well as a map of Belgium.

But now the small garage is in disuse, the walls are in a poor state and many of his drawings have crumbled away.

(15) UNWINDING A MYSTERY. Chip Hitchcock asks, “Did this inspire de Camp’s The Clocks of Iraz?”: “Why Edinburgh’s clock is never on time”.

Arrive in Edinburgh on any given day and there are certain things you can guarantee. The fairy-tale Gothic of the royal castle, built on an extinct volcanic plug. The medieval riddle of alleys and lanes. The majesty of the churchyards and macabre spires set against a barb of basalt crags, all as if created by a mad god.

Yet there is one other given in the Scottish capital, and it is the hallmark of Princes Street, the city’s main thoroughfare that runs east to west joining Leith to the West End. The time on the turret clock atop The Balmoral Hotel is always wrong. By three minutes, to be exact….

“We look after 5,000 different clock towers around the world, and to say The Balmoral’s is peculiar is a massive understatement,” [maintainer Smith of Derby]’s Tony Charlesworth told me. “It’s hard to believe, but it’s the only one we’re paid to keep wrong.”

(16) THE HILLS ARE ALIVE. That’s pretty funny —

(17) SQUIRREL POWER. Marvel released a trailer for its full-length animated film Marvel Rising Secret Warriors:

In Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors, powered teens Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Quake, Patriot, America Chavez, and Inferno join forces as an unlikely, but formidable crew of aspiring heroes. When a threat no one could have expected bears down on the Marvel Universe, this ragtag, untrained band of teens have no choice but to rise together and prove to the world that sometimes the difference between a “hero” and “misfit” is just in the name.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Karl-Johan Norén, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Kendall, ULTRAGOTHA, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]

Pixel Scroll 9/12/18 Pleonasmatic

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

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

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

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

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

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

The current status of the project:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His post includes stats of the letters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then I went and joined a CSA.

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

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

So why battle poets?

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

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

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

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

The fifth tip is –

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

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

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

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

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rotsler Award Exhibit at Worldcon 76

By John Hertz: Andrew Porter shot these fine photos of the Rotsler Award exhibit at the 76th World Science Fiction Convention.

Some Worldcons have nicknames.  This year’s Worldcon was just “Worldcon 76” .

In fact I know people whose nickname is “Nick”.  Maybe you do too.

I digress.

The Rotsler is for long-time wonder-working with graphic art in amateur publications of the science fiction community.  The current judges are Sue Mason, Mike Glyer, and me.  It’s named for Bill Rotsler (1926-1997), a long-time wonder-worker.  It’s ordinarily announced at Loscon.

We try to put up an exhibit at the Worldcon showing sample work by all the winners to date.  The exhibits have been curated by me, recently with first-rate layout and electronics help from Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink.

In building the exhibit I try to choose images that are both representative of the artist, and visually interesting for themselves.  If you happen to know the context, or some of the in-jokes, that might be more fun, but (if I do it right) you needn’t.  The exhibit is designed (I hope) so you can look at it as you go by, or stop and study.

You’ll see from Brother Porter’s photos that winners each have a section, with their name and year at the top.  Also there’s a section about fanzines, and one about Brother Rotsler and the Award.  Many of the images appeared in fanzines.  There are a few other things, like cards from Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck.

The Award is sponsored by the Southern California Institute for Fan Interests, a California non-profit corporation (yes, its initials spell SCIFI – pronounced “skiffy”) – and, because this is fandom, where every day is Anything Can Happen Day, SCIFI the sponsor of the Award is not the sponsor of Loscon where it’s announced.  We are large, we contain multitudes.

Some but by no means all fanart (which, like “fanwriting”, I make one word; a loudspeaker is not the same as a speaker who is loud, a boyfriend or girlfriend is not the same as a boy or girl who is a friend) can be found in Electronicland; if you live there, Bill Burns’ Website eFanzines.com is worth a look.  As to the rest, seek and ye shall find.  If you have nothing better to do (and if you have, do that), you can always write to me, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057, U.S.A.

Photos taken by and (c) Andrew Porter. Click for larger view.

Pixel Scroll 9/7/18 Pixel Yourself On A Spinning Space Station, With Alien Porters With Arthropod Eyes

(1) HAPPENS TO THE BEST OF US. Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes about battling website and ISP) problems in “Business Musings: Website Issues”. The post begins —

It’s tough to write my blog when my website is down…for the second time in two weeks. Both times had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the website hosting service, which is so monumentally incompetent that I’m speechless.

I learned a lesson during this incident. A big important lesson.

And it ends —

…And as I (and the kind folks at WMG) rebuild, we will be doing so with an eye to a 2018 website, not a 2010 website. We’ll make information easy to find. The weekly features will remain as well.

It’s going to take a bit of time, but it was something I needed to do. Bluehost forced me into it.

They also taught me a valuable lesson. Every few years, I need to re-evaluate every service that I hire to help with my business, not just to see if the service is doing well, but also to make sure the service itself is the same company that I hired a few years before.

Things change quickly in this modern world, and I really need to incorporate that awareness of change into my own business planning…

In between, Rusch explains how she learned the lesson the hard way.

(2) ABOUT GRIMDARK. Paul Weimer analyzes “The Fugue of Fantasy and the Grimdark Interregnum” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In the history of epic fantasy, following this analogy and paradigm, there has always been a voice in a minor key, a strain of fantasy with antiheroes, shades of dark grey and darkness, worlds where hope and optimism are not valued or are even punished. Violence is the name of the game, dystopic amorality the norm and the worlds are often the successor states or the  ruins of another, brighter time. The classical Western European model of the first few centuries after Rome fell is the historical ur-model, and indeed, many novels use thinly disguised or even explicitly set in that time period. The latest iteration of this minor-key fantasy, which had in recent years become a dominant theme in epic fantasy, is what we call Grimdark….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites you to share a steak dinner with legendary comics creator Don McGregor in episode 76 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

I reached out to Dauntless Don — we all had nicknames back them; he was Dauntless, I was Sparkling — and said, hey, how about if when I’m on the way back to the airport at the end of Readercon, I swoop down, take you out for dinner, and we chew over the old times. And that’s exactly what we did, at the Safehouse in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, along with Dauntless Don’s wife, the Marvelous Marsha, whose voice you’ll occasionally hear in the background of this episode.

Don started out his career in comics by writing some of the best horror stories to appear in the pages of Creepy and Eerie — and I remember well reading the first of them in the early ’70s. When he moved on to Marvel Comics, he did groundbreaking work with such characters as Black Panther, Killraven, and Luke Cage. In fact, his two-year “Panther’s Rage” arc was ranked as the third most important Marvel Comics storyline of the ’70s by Comics Bulletin. In 2015, he was awarded the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing at San Diego Comic-Con International.

We discussed how meeting Jim Steranko led to him selling his first comics story, why when he was 13 years old, he wanted to be Efrem Zimbalist Jr., what he learned from Naked City creator Stirling Silliphant, how his first meeting with future Black Panther artist Billy Graham could have been disastrous, why the comics he wrote in the ’70s wouldn’t have been able to exist two years later, the reasons Archie Goodwin was such a great editor, how he convinced Stan Lee to allow the first interracial kiss in mainstream comics, what life lessons he took from Westerns in general and Hopalong Cassidy in particular, why he almost stopped writing Lady Rawhide, and much more.

(4) ALIEN ENCOUNTER NUMBER CRUNCHING. James Davis Nicoll discourages the idea that we’ll be meeting aliens in reality: “Doing the Math: Aliens and Advanced Tech in Science Fiction”. After reading Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem, maybe that’s a relief?

Everyone loves them some aliens. But …if the encounter is to work out to the satisfaction of all concerned, it is best if the aliens not be too advanced (because they could brush us aside like ants) or too primitive (we might brush them aside like ants). No, there’s a Goldilocks zone for aliens, in which they are close to the same tech level as humans … and can interact peaceably with us.

Which leads me to wonder: just how likely is it that two unconnected civilizations could reach the same technological level (roughly) at the same time?

Time for some large, round numbers….

(5) EXCEEDING THE READ LIMIT. Walter Mosley declares, “Enough with the Victors Writing History”, at LitHub.

I have studied the great powers that vie to control what they want us to believe about the past; but I don’t identify with them. I identify with the librarians who, when asked by GW Bush to report on their visitors’ reading habits, held up a hand and said, “First Amendment.” I identify with outsider artists and labor organizers and autodidacts who either refuse to or are unable to believe in the lies foisted upon us by the conquerors. I identify with the belief that there exists a history out there just beyond the reach of our powers of cognition. And I believe that a lie is a lie; that if you coexist with a population that helped to build your house, your culture, your music, a population that helped to raise your children and fine-tune your language, and you deny that culture’s impact on who you are… then your knowledge of history will fail you and the past will devour you and your children.

If you deny your past your future will be a detour around your fondest hopes and dreams…

Daniel Dern sent the link with a note, “While best known for his detective fiction, Mosley has written a handful of sf… and is a big sf fan… I’ve got a photo from Millennial PhilCon (Worldcon 2001) of him and Orson Scott Card, just after they met and near-simultaneously said to the other ‘I’m a huge fan.’”

(6) WOMBAT TO RETURN TO ALBUQUERQUE. Kevin Sonney boosts the signal –

(7) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. Chabeli Herrera in the Orlando Sentinel reports that the Kennedy Space Center has opened up the Astronaut Training Experience, which simulates a trip to Mars by having visitors “strap onto a microgravity simulator: and then carry out a repair on the space station.  There’s also a simulation of Mars Base 1, where visitors can “work together to solve various technical problems” including “programming a team of robots to clean dust off the base’s solar panels.” — “Like real astronaut training, Kennedy Space Center’s new simulators let you work in zero gravity, drive Mars rover”.

Like a scene from “The Martian,” the botany lab in Mars Base 1 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex grows vegetables under the glow of fluorescent purple lights.

But it’s not all potatoes like in the 2015 film. This room can grow anything from cress to tomatoes, and all of the crops are planted and harvested by guests playing astronaut for the day.

The botany room is one of several new features at Kennedy Space Center’s Astronaut Training Experience Center, a two-year project designed to simulate astronaut training and work on Mars. The attraction opened in February, but officials gathered Thursday to officially kick off the opening of the ATX with representatives from its sponsor, aerospace company Lockheed Martin.

(8) SPEAK MEMORY. Hear the Harlan Ellison Memorial Panel at Worldcon 76:

(9) SHELLEY OBIT. Actress Carole Shelley (1939-2018), who appeared on stage in The Odd Couple and Wicked, and voiced characters in the Disney animated movies The Aristocats (1970) and Robin Hood (1973), died August 31 reports the New York Times:

A new generation of theatergoers knew Ms. Shelley for originating a less sympathetic character in the musical “Wicked,” a prequel of sorts to L. Frank Baum’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

The show opened in 2003 with Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda, the putatively good witch, and Idina Menzel as Elphaba, who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. (“Wicked” was still running on Broadway, with a different cast, when Ms. Shelley died.)

Ms. Shelley played Madame Morrible, a college official who pairs Glinda and Elphaba as roommates. She later helps arrange a series of events that push Elphaba toward wickedness.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 7, 1958  — Queen of Outer Space premiered.
  • September 7, 2017 – Jerry Pournelle died. Cat Eldridge notes: “Author, The Mote in God’s Eye with Larry Niven, numerous other works including the Janissary series, and superb tech commentary writer as well. His Byte column was something I very much looked forward to reading every month.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 7 – Karen Frenkel, 63. Author, Robots: Machines in Man’s Image (1985) with Isaac Asimov. Available on her website.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • A Hollywood in-joke you’ll all get – Long Story Short.
  • Scene from a comic con by Nigel Auchterlounie —

(13) HIGH CONCEPT. This December in Infinity Wars: Fallen Guardian #1.

(14) CATS IN THE VICINITY OF SFF. David D. Levine made a fan —

(15) ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Data from the Chandra X-ray telescope has been combined with optical data to image a distant galaxy that seems to be encircled by black holes and/or neutron stars (International Business Times: “Ring Made Of Black Holes? Massive Cosmic Structure Found Encircling Distant Galaxy”). Galaxy AM 0644-741 was involved in a recent (astronomically speaking) collision with another galaxy that boosted star formation. The most massive of those stars had a very short life and have since gone supernova, leaving behind black holes and neutron stars.

Out of the newborn baby stars, the most massive ones probably led a short life, spanning on the scale of millions of years. They lost their nuclear fuel with time and exploded as supernovae, where the majority of the stellar material is blown away, leaving black holes 5 to 20 times heavier than the sun or dense neutron stars carrying approximately same mass as the sun.

This indicates the ring is either made from stellar-mass black holes or neutron stars that are accompanied by close companion stars. The dense objects are drawing gas from their stellar counterparts, forming a super-hot spinning disk which acts as a detectable X-ray source for Chandra.

Though the researchers behind the discovery — a team from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, Italy — couldn’t confirm the identity of individual sources making up the ring, they believe this could either be a case of all black holes or all neutron stars, or a mix of both.

The NASA website (“Cosmic Collision Forges Galactic One Ring—in X-rays”) that AM 0644-741 is only one of several galaxies with such X-ray rings and adds a link to the pre-print article on the arXiv service.

The paper describing the study of AM 0644 and its sister ring galaxies appeared in the August 10, 2018 issue of the Astrophysical Journal and is available online. The co-authors of the paper are Antonella Fruscione from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., and Michela Mapelli from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova in Padova, Italy.

(16) PULPFEST DATES IN 2019. The dates for PulpFest 2019 are the same weekend at the Dublin 2019 Worldcon but that may not represent an actual conflict for more than a few fans.

PulpFest 2019 will take place from Thursday, August 15, through Sunday, August 18. We’ll be returning to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City.” PulpFest will be joined by FarmerCon. Hopefully, they’re not too hung over from this year’s Philip José Farmer centennial.

Start making your plans for the 48th convening of PulpFest and its celebration of mystery, adventure, science fiction, and more. Join us for “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories” at “Summer’s Great Pulp Con.” Please bring your friends!

(17) ALMOST. James Davis Nicoll credits John Varley for showing us “How to Make a Near-Utopia Interesting: John Varley’s Eight World Stories” at Tor.com.

Peace and prosperity sound like they’re good things, but perhaps not for authors. What kind of plots can be imagined if the standard plot drivers are off the table? How does one tell stories in a setting that, while not a utopia, can see utopia at a distance ? The premise seems unpromising, but thirteen stories and a novel argue that one can write absorbing narratives in just such a setting. So how did Varley square this particular circle?

(18) AN OSCAR ON HOLD. About that new “popular film” Oscar? Like the Magic Eight-Ball says – “Ask again later” — “Oscars postpone plans for new popular film category”.

…The award, which could have recognised films popular with audiences but not critics, was only announced last month.

In a statement, the Academy’s CEO said she had “recognised the need for further discussion” with its members about the proposal first.

…In previous years, films which have done well at the box office with audiences – including Mamma Mia, Avatar and the Mission Impossible franchise – have been snubbed by the Academy.

The Oscars’ organisers did not elaborate in their August announcement how eligibility for the new category would have been established.

Some Hollywood critics suggested the new category’s “popular” tag was confusing and could risk creating a two-tier system among films.

It was feared films praised by critics and audiences alike, such as Dunkirk and Get Out, would risk being relegated to the new category rather than standing a chance in the prestigious Best Film award category.

(19) MORE RUBY SLIPPER NEWS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Smithsonian has a little more info, including how the recovered shoes were authenticated, as well as more info about the ownership of this pair and the others pairs still extant: “After 13-Year Chase, F.B.I. Nabs Pair of Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers”.

…The slippers, it turns out, were not actually owned by the Judy Garland Museum. Instead, they were property of a collector named Michael Shaw, who purchased them in 1970 for a mere $2,000, reports Jennifer Medina for The New York Times. Shaw, who also owns one of Dorothy’s dresses, a witch’s hat and a munchkin outfit from the 1939 movie, was in the habit of loaning out the slippers to museums around the country, donating his display fee to children’s charities. The slippers were on display as part of a 10-week traveling tour when they were stolen on the night of August 28. According to a press release from the Grand Rapids police, a thief or thieves broke into the museum’s back door and smashed open the plexiglass case. There were no cameras on the premises and the museum’s alarm failed to sound.

…After the shoes were apprehended, the F.B.I. brought them to the Smithsonian, which owns another pair of slippers used in the filming, to confirm their ruby slippers were the real deal. For the last two years, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has been analyzing and conserving a different pair of slippers donated to the museum in the late 1970s as part of a Kickstarter campaign. The F.B.I. brought the purloined pair to objects conservator Dawn Wallace for a look.

“We were able to spend two days looking at them and doing close examination as well as some analysis,” Wallace tells Smithsonian.com. “Not only did we have a physical examination, but we were able to conduct some technical analysis of the material to confirm that they were in fact consistent.”

Wallace says two other details cinched the case: First, it’s difficult to fake 80 years of aging on a pair of shoes. Second, the pair in the Smithsonian’s collection is actually a mismatched pair of ruby slippers, with the left sized “5C” and the right sized “5BC.” The pair recovered by the F.B.I. turned out to be the mates of the museum’s shoes (which are set to go back on display in a climate-controlled case on October 19)….

Since Mr. Shaw had received an $800,000 insurance settlement quite some time ago, the shoes belong to the insurance company now.

(20) FOYLES SOLD:BBC reports “Waterstones buys Foyles to defend bookshops against Amazon” – the Foyles Charing Cross Road location hosted this year’s Clarke Award announcement.

Waterstones is buying the 115 year-old family-owned chain Foyles, saying the deal will help to “champion” real bookshops in the face of online rivals.

The sale includes Foyles’ well-known Charing Cross Road store in central London, which was relocated to larger premises in 2014.

Waterstones said the deal would help booksellers fight back against Amazon’s “siren call”.

The larger chain has 283 bookshops across the UK and northern Europe.

[Thanks to Scott Edelman, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, James Davis Nicoll, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]

Harlan Ellison Remembrance Panel at Worldcon 76

By Rich Lynch: There were panels at Worldcon 76 which were so popular that the audience filled every seat, took every standing room place around the room, and even spilled out into the convention center hallway. For those you had to get there early as I found out to my dismay a couple of times. The one that possibly had the greatest audience overflow happened on the middle day of the convention – it was a remembrance of Harlan Ellison, who had died just a few weeks earlier.

As most of us know, Ellison had a very outgoing and at times provocative personality (to say the least!), and he often interacted with fans throughout his life partly because he was a science fiction fan before he became a professional writer. A show of hands indicated that most of the people in attendance had a personal Harlan story of some kind (Nicki and I included), but given how packed the room was and how limited the available time was (just 50 minutes were allotted) it was only the panelists who shared their memories about Ellison with the most entertaining ones, no surprise, coming from Robert Silverberg, who had been friends with him for more than 60 years.

Ellison was depicted as one of the great science fiction writers of all time, which he certainly was, and also someone who wasn’t averse to stirring up some controversy by his words and actions from time to time. Which he certainly did. The panelists appeared to me to show catharsis with all their Harlan stories, and in the end there was consensus that there was a pedestal somewhere out there that Mr. Ellison’s career and reputation would reside upon.

He was unique, and that was emphasized at the end of the panel by Silverberg when, after hearing the moderator say that we would not see Harlan’s like again, responded: “One was more than enough!” It brought the house down.

[This is an excerpt from Rich Lynch’s full Worldcon report, which he’s still drafting.]

Panelists Tom Whitmore, Robert Silverberg, Chris Barkley, David Gerrold, Christine Valada, Nat Segaloff.

Update: 09/06/2018: Closing quote changed to conform to version reported in Ansible.

Pixel Scroll 9/3/18 That Was The Scroll That Was

(1) CINERAMA. GeekWire’s Frank Catalano writes, “I thought you might like to know that I went behind the scenes at Seattle Cinerama, one of only three movie theaters left in the world that can show Cinerama-formatted films, and one of only two which still uses the ‘Cinerama’ name (the other one is in Hollywood)” — “Behind the scenes at Cinerama: Landmark movie house becomes an international pop culture draw”

“Seattle’s Cinerama has gone deeply into science fiction and fantasy pop culture, becoming something of a hub for new releases, including encouraging cosplay at premieres. Perhaps not a surprise, it’s owned by Paul Allen, former Microsoft co-founder and longtime science-fiction fan. The link above is to both my story, and a half-hour podcast walk-through of Seattle Cinerama with its manager.”

Walk into the theater with its wide curved screen, reclining red seats and star field-like ceiling panels and it, “just looks like a spaceship,” Caldwell said. “It truly does. You look at our screen when the curtains open and I like to think of it as the window looking out of the spaceship.” (You can take a virtual Google Maps tour here.)

But Cinerama has more than one screen. The one you see for most movies hides a second screen behind it, a deeply curved, two-thousand strip louvered Cinerama screen.

“We last brought it out in 2013,” Caldwell said. “It’s quite the undertaking actually. We have to tear down the existing screen, tear down the sound wall, and then erect the three panels of the 146-degree curved screen. And the sound wall for that curved screen.”

(2) WORLDBUILDING NEAR THE PRIMARY. Juliette Wade has an interview with Mimi Mondal at Dive into Worldbuilding. You can watch it on video, and read the synopsis:

…In 2013, Mimi wrote a self-contained story in the circus. She calls it her “most accepted story,” because it was published by Podcastle, and got her into Clarion West and into an MFA program.

I asked Mimi about the intersection between her stories and the science fiction/fantasy genre. The connection is actually quite fascinating. Mimi says she reads a lot of history and likes it. There was a big flourishing circus scene in India from the 1890’s to the 1930’s. Circus as a form was developing all over the world. In India, it took in many traditional performers. It has a Steampunk aesthetic to some degree, but is later than the Victorian period, because the values of the Victorians trickled into the colonies later. Mimi describes the circus as a very interesting social space, breaking traditional structures. There is space for mystery, and she uses it to explore Indian folklore. There are nonhumans here, pretending to be human. In the circus environment, you don’t ask questions because no one else is normal either. If you worked in an office, you would need paperwork, but the circus is not even grounded in one place because it travels. She started writing a long sequence of events, “chunk by chunk.” Her focus is on using parts of Indian mythology that are not well known. While she was writing these pieces, she was learning craft skills and working on her awareness of gaze….

 

(3) RADIO 4. Listen to the new Dangerous Visions drama on BBC Radio 4:

Resistance (3-part BBC radio play on BBC Radio 4)

Just broadcast this week and available on BBC i-Player for a month is a three-part radio play about antibiotic resistance.

Starting at a music festival with many from all over the globe, craft sausages from pigs fed with antibiotic growth promoters also contain more than anyone thought.

When a mysterious bacterial infection starts to spread, and then mutate, it becomes unstoppable.  When the deaths top a million, politicians start to worry…

 

SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie says, “This mini-series used a microbiologist endorsed by the Wellcome Trust (the world’s largest medical research funding charity) for its science. Scary.”

(4) A KIND OF GAS STATION ON MARS. A Yahoo! columnist says “NASA will pay you up to $750,000 to come up with a way to turn CO2 into other molecules on Mars”.

Missions to Mars will need to be as lean as possible, meaning that using any available resources on the Red Planet will be of utmost importance. With that in mind, NASA just announced the CO2 Conversion Challenge, which asks teams of scientists and inventors to come up with a way to turn CO2 into molecules that can be used to produce all manner of things. And there’s big prize money on the line.

To start, NASA is asking teams to focus on converting CO2 to Glucose, but the language of the challenge suggests you can approach that goal from any angle you wish:

Help us discover ways to develop novel synthesis technologies that use carbon dioxide (CO2) as the sole carbon source to generate molecules that can be used to manufacture a variety of products, including “substrates” for use in microbial bioreactors.

Because CO2 is readily abundant within the Martian atmosphere, such technologies will translate into in-situ manufacturing of products to enable humans to live and thrive on the planet, and also be implemented on Earth by using both waste and atmospheric CO2 as a resource.

(5) REMAKING IT SO. The Star Trek: TNG cast had a reunion over the weekend:

(6) NIMBY. It won’t be coming in for a landing after all — “Plans for U.F.O.-Like Home in Norway Are Rejected” reports the New York Times.

Controversial plans by the Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaardand the renowned architecture firm Snohetta to build a U.F.O-like home in the suburbs of Oslo have been rejected by the local authorities.

The project, which was generally known as “A House to Die In” and represented an ambitious attempt to turn expressive sketches by Mr. Melgaard into architecture, had aroused condemnation because of its location, near the former winter studio of Edvard Munch. Artists and preservationists had spoken out against the project, arguing that it represents a threat to the legacy of Munch, Norway’s best-known artist and the painter of “The Scream.”

The project had already been approved by local and national preservation authorities, but on Aug. 20, municipal lawmakers from several parties announced they would support a proposal to scuttle the plans, effectively dooming the project. A final vote by the Oslo City Council will be held next Wednesday….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 3, 1953Cat-Women of the Moon premiered

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 3, 1849 – Sarah Orne Jewett. Maine author whose fiction reflected her lifelong fascination with the supernatural. Ash-Tree Press in 1998 collected much of her short work together in Lady Ferry and Other Uncanny People.
  • Born September 3 – Alison Lurie, 92. Editor of the Oxford Book of Modern Fairy Tales, and has written to date a number of fantasy stories such as “Counting Sheep”, “Another Halloween” and “Something Borrowed, Something Blue”. Also wrote the excellent Don’t Tell the Grown-Ups: Subversive Children’s Literature.
  • Born September 3 – Faren Miller, 68. Writer of one novel, The Illusionist, she worked full-time for Locus from 1981 to 2000, and continues to review genre fiction to this day for Locus
  • Born September 3 – John Picacio, 49. Illustrator of many a genre work. Need I say that great cover art enhances any genre work? Among the works I’ve by him that are graced by his work arête 2003 Edition of Effinger’s Budayeen Nights, the 2004 edition of Pohl’s Gateways and Bowes’ From the Files of the Time Rangers. Much of his work is gathered in Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio.

(9) DRAGON AWARDS IN PERSPECTIVE. Doris V. Sutherland covers the third round of the award in “2018 Dragon Awards: Big-Name Winners and Little Controversy” at Women Write About Comics.

One noticeable thing about this year’s Dragon Awards is just how quiet they were. The awards made their debut in 2016, in the shadow of the right-wing Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies campaigns that had occurred at the Hugos. In their first two years, the Dragon Awards were something of a battlefield, with the Puppy campaigns inspiring multiple splinters and imitators—including the Red Panda Fraction, a left-wing group which, controversially, adopted the same tactics as the right-wing Puppies. Over time, however, the aftershocks from the Puppy campaigns quietened down, something that can be seen simply by comparing the ballots. The pro-Puppy authors John C. Wright, Brian Niemeier, and Declan Finn were finalists in both 2016 (when Wright and Niemeier won in their respective categories) and in 2017; and yet they are all missing from the ballot in 2018, despite each having at least one eligible novel.

This is not to say that pro-Puppy authors were completely absent this year. Most obviously Sarah A. Hoyt, a former leader of the Sad Puppies campaign, was amongst the winners. Also notable is that one of the Best Graphic Novel finalists, Brandon Fiadino and Djibril Morissette’s Chicago Typewriter: The Red Ribbon, was published by Rabid Puppies founder Vox Day. Day is one of the creators to have eagerly jumped aboard the current “Comicsgate” bandwagon—lending definite symbolic value to the female Thor’s victory in Best Comic Book.

In Sutherland’s view —

There is no reason for the Hugos and the Dragons to exist as rivals. They are different awards that utilise different systems. The Dragon Awards are looser and flashier, but this should not be a deal-breaker to anyone who approaches a science fiction and fantasy award as just a bit of fun.

(10) WORLDCON 76 INSIGHTS. Michael Lee’s thorough Worldcon 76 report, “In Spite of Setbacks, San Jose Comes Through for Worldcon 76”, ends with this paragraph:

Worldcon is the one convention where it’s not at all unusual to be at a stoplight with George R. R. Martin and an actual astronaut who has been in space. More than any other convention, this is one that gives you the excuse to travel to new places and meet people that you might not meet any other way, and it never really is the same convention twice. (Next year’s convention will be in Dublin, Ireland, and the year after that in New Zealand.) I enjoyed Worldcon 76, as it was a chance to connect and reconnect with friends and fans from around the world, and a chance to visit the Bay Area of California.

(11) MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE. New James Bond novels are still coming out in 1963, and Galactic Journey’s Ashley R. Pollard grabbed the latest.

With the success of last year’s film adaptation of Ian Fleming’s Dr. No., I continue to predict that the next James Bond film, From Russia With Love, which is coming this October, will further raise the public’s interest in the heady delights of techno-thrillers featuring spies. So far all I’ve seen are a couple of stills from the set, so it’s hard to make any judgment on the adaptation of the story by the filmmakers.

But until the film arrives on the big screen we have a new Bond novel to sate our appetites.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is the tenth James Bond novel, a sequel to the previous novel (once removed), Thunderball. I was lucky to get hold of a copy of OHMSS when it came out at the beginning of April, because both the first and second print runs, totaling over 60,000 copies, sold out in the first month. This should give readers some insight into how popular James Bond has become in Britain.

…As is usual in an Ian Fleming novel, real places are used to add verisimilitude to the narrative, though some of the names are changed. In this case, the description of Piz Gloria makes clear that it is based on the Nazi German eugenic research facility Schloss Mittersill….

(12) RADIO ACTIVITY. The Book Smugglers features a talk with the creators of Dead Air, Gwenda Bond, Rachel Caine and Carrie Ryan: “Dead Air: Serialised Fiction, Podcast and Murder”.

Gwenda Bond: I’ll start us off! The process of creating Dead Air has been a fun whirlwind, a lot of work, and different than any other project I’ve done — even the collaborative ones. I originally came up with the idea of Macy (better known as Mackenzie to podcast listeners) as a character coping with a recent loss by indulging her interest in true crime on the radio, but who then gets drawn into an investigation that gets more and more personal. From the start, she was going to be a character with a lot of room to grow over the course of the story, and the radio show/podcast would be the driving force of that growth. I wanted to use Kentucky as a setting and immediately thought the thoroughbred horse-racing community would be a great backdrop for the old murder she ends up looking into.

(13) QUIRK FACTOR. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky reports on crowdfunded comics that are out there: “From A Read-Along Record To A Profane Tarot: The Year’s Quirkiest Crowdfunded Comics”.

There’s something about crowdfunding and comics: They just taste great together. Maybe that’s because, as Iron Circus Comics publisher Spike Trotman points out, artists were crowdfunding before it was even called that. “It was something cartoonists had been doing for years: Taking our lives in our hands and asking people to PayPal us enough money to print the book,” she says. Kickstarter’s Senior Director of Publishing Margot Atwell calls comics “small but mighty,” noting that comics campaigns on the platform succeed at a 20 percent higher rate than average. This year has seen some spectacular crowdfunding efforts, like the Trogdor!! The Board Game Kickstarter, which racked up an eye-popping $1,421,903 in pledges.

(14) SMALL ROYALTY. Being stark doesn’t pay: “Richard Madden ‘not paid much’ for Game of Thrones role”.

Richard Madden has revealed he wasn’t paid that much for his role as Robb Stark in Game of Thrones.

Not that he feels hard done by, as he admits he had nothing on his CV that deserved big money as a 22-year-old.

Despite that, he explained fans often thought he was rich anyway.

(15) THANOS EFFECTS. Weta Digital’s VFX supervisor Matt Aitken narrates an account of making VFX for Thanos’s home world (and the disintegration effect): “Avengers: Infinity War – How we made the VFX for Titan”

In Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel superheroes fight to stop the villain Thanos from wiping out half of all life.

Visual effects company Weta Digital worked on the scenes which take place on Thanos’s home planet, Titan.

BBC Click speaks to VFX supervisor Matt Aitken to find out more.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/2/18 Elvish Has Left The Building

(1) DECOPUNK CITATION. Language Log quotes Cat Valente today in “Decopunk and other quasicompositional compounds”.

Complex lexical items generally have analogical historico-semantic accretions similar to those in the X-punk domain. This includes phrases like red tide, solar energy, or historical fiction,  as well as compounds like jumpsuitski lift, or break room. In the other direction, proper names are far from being semantically arbitrary in practice — to quote from a Decopunk work, Catherynne Valente’s Radiance

(2) THE MATTER OF ENGLAND. One people, divided by a common tongue…

https://medesha.tumblr.com/post/131750372841/altarandwitchinghour-kingfucko-gollyplot

(3) PETER CAPALDI, VENTRILOQUIST. This caught my eye –

(4) AND THEN, AT DRAGON CON. Remember what they said about “Inconceivable”?

(5) THE MEANING OF IT ALL. Bow Tie Writer asked an array of fans at Worldcon 76 to answer his question. I recognized Judy Bemis, Kevin Standlee, and Michelle Pincus among them.

Worldcon 2018 was held in San Jose August 15th – 20th. I went around and I asked people one simple question: What does Worldcon mean to you. This video is my homage to fandom, to internet friends, and to all the good people who come together to celebrate the things we love.

 

(6) RSR’S WORLDCON REPORT. At Rocket Stack Rank, Greg Hullender has an interesting set of “WorldCon 76 Takeaways” (including coverage of the Filer meetups).

…The audience for this panel had lots of people with many decades of experience with fanzines, so we had a lively but always cordial discussion. I was pleased to learn that even the folks who’d done fanzines back in the days of mimeograph machines all seemed to agree that online publications were definitely the future, particularly in terms of their ability to immediately involve fans via comments that don’t need to wait a month or more for publication. They worried that blogs in particular lack some of the feel of a fanzine, which has an arrangement of related stories. (At RSR, we’ll think about how a content-management system might capture that for an online publication.)

I was very pleased when someone in the audience told me that Rocket Stack Rank fit into a long tradition of “Review Fanzines,” of which Tangent is another surviving example. That made me feel a lot less like an impostor….

(7) TRUESDALE’S WORLDCON 76 PHOTO GALLERY. Dave Truesdale’s Worldcon 76 report for Tangent, “Photos from Worldcon 76, the 76th World Science Fiction Convention”, begins with coverage of Saturday’s alt-right demonstration, and ends by explaining what a raw deal he got when his 2016 Worldcon membership was revoked. In between there are a quite a few fine author photos. Here are the captions from one set —

Below Left: Lezli Robyn, helping out at the Galaxy’s Edge dealer’s table. Below Right: Galaxy’s Edge Publisher Shahid Mahmud. Both Lezli and Shahid are two of the most delightful people I’ve met in a long time. Shahid’s enthusiasm and love of SF is infectious. We talked for quite some time about this and that, and his intelligence and sense of humor shone through everything. I can’t imagine anyone not liking Shahid once they’ve met him.

(8) PROMETHEUS SPEECH. The Libertarian Futurist Society presented the Prometheus Awards at Worldcon 76. The author of the Prometheus Award-winning novel, Travis Corcoran, was unable to attend, so his acceptance speech for Powers of the Earth was read by Chris Hibbert. Its message is conveyed with classic libertarian subtlety.

…Since the first Worldcon in 1939 science fiction has been a libertarian territory under attack from authoritarians. Futurian Donald Wollheim was a communist, and argued that all of science fiction “should actively work for the realization of the . . . world-state as the only . . . justification for their activities”.

Wollheim failed with his takeover in 1939—he was physically removed from Worldcon—but he started a Gramscian long march through the institutions, and it worked. In the current year conventions, editors, and publishing houses are all cordy-cepted. The sociopaths have pushed the geeks out and have taken over the cultural territory.

“You made this? <pause> I made this.”

When the state tries to take your home, they come with guns, and you have to fight them with guns, if at all.

When a subculture tries to take your home, they come with snark and shame and entryism . . . and you fight them by making better art….

(9) DIRT FARMING. James Davis Nicoll has a long fannish exploration of “Science Fiction’s Trouble with Terraforming” at Tor.com.

Terraforming is, of course, the hypothesized art of converting an uninhabitable rock into a habitable world. Jack Williamson coined the term in his Seetee-related short story, “Collision Orbit”, published under the pen name Will Stewart in the July, 1942 issue of Astounding Magazine. While Williamson invokes non-existent super-science in order to make the task seem doable, he probably felt confident that terraforming would someday make sense. In the short run, we have seen humans shaping the Earth. In the long run—well, Earth was once an anoxic wasteland. Eons of life shaped it into a habitable planet. Williamson suspected that humans could imitate that process elsewhere…and make it happen in centuries rather than eons. Perhaps in even less time!

(10) AUGUSTULUS: With the help of a belated July issue, Jason has compiled a diminutive list of notable reading in Summation: August at Featured Futures:

This month has been doubly strange. Despite reading 42 stories of about 201K words from the August magazines, I’m in the unprecedented and unpleasant position of only being able to note one story (and that’s not even fully recommended). Counting a late July story and things for a couple of Tangent reviews, I read 59 stories of about 324K words this month and can at least add two recs and another honorable mention, all from the July/August Black Static, but only one of those is even speculative with the other two being straight horror.

(11) GIDDINGS OBIT. Sff writer and critic Joseph “Joe” Giddings passed away from ALS at the age of 45 on August 16. He was born April 6, 1973. His criticism appeared in Bull Spec and Tangent Online (among others). His fiction appeared in Mystic Signals and Dark Stars (more information in his entry at Internet Science Fiction Database.) Giddings blogged at “The Clockwork Pen”.

Joseph Giddings

(12) TODAY’S MEMORIAL DAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge. Who looked at the wrong ISFDB page today — but waste not, want not!]

  • Died September 2, 1973. J.R.R. Tolkien. It’d be extremely silly of me to list what he’s done given what the group knows, so instead I’ll ask instead what’s your favourite work by him. Mine’s still The Hobbit, a book I delight in re-reading in the Autumn as I think of him as being of that season.
  • Died September 2, 2000 – Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in the horror and science fiction film genres, with such films as The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain with the latter being adapted from his novel of the same name. Siodmak is credited with creating the legend that only silver can kill a werewolf. He also wrote the screenplays for include Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, I Walked With a Zombie and The Beast With Five Fingers.
  • Died September 2, 2013 – Frederik Pohl. Obviously needs no introduction here. His first published was a 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna”. Noted work include the Heechee series whose first novel, Gateway, was the winner of the Campbell Memorial, Hugo, Locus SF, and Nebula Awards, Man Plus , and The Space Merchants with Cyril M. Kornbluth. I won’t say that any of the short story collections thrill me but Platinum Pohl is a decent collection. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) HOGWARTS EXPRESS. More “Back to Hogwarts” hype: “Eddie Redmayne and Jude Law were at Kings Cross for the Hogwarts Express”.

As every good Harry Potter fan knows, the Hogwarts Express departs from Kings Cross station, London, platform nine and three-quarters at 11.30am on September 1. This year Professor Dumbledore and Newt Scamander themselves, aka Hollywood stars Jude Law and Eddie Redmayne, were there to kick off the new year.

(15) AND WHILE WE’RE HOGWARTING. Gwynne Watkins, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “A ‘Harry Potter’ neophyte watches all 8 movies for the first time: Here’s what happened”  says that “my cred as a film nerd and a nerd nerd has been threatened by a shameful omission”– she had never seen a Harry Potter movie (not literally – she’d seen the first one in its initial theatrical release.)  So she decided to watch them all over a 24-hour binge. Some notes are better than others. Is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix really about the problems of standardized testing? On the other hand, she had an interesting response to this 20-years-after rewatch of the very first movie —

What surprised me most on my second viewing of Sorcerer’s Stone was how much I loved Emma Watson’s Hermione. The first time around, I remember thinking that her show-offish, know-it-all nature was borderline unbearable. Now I love how unapologetic she is about her intelligence, how confidently she wields it in a room full of boys. (Seriously, where are the Hogwarts girls? Hermione needs some female friends!) Maybe as a girl who grew up downplaying her intelligence, Hermione made me uncomfortable in some primal, fourth-grade part of my subconscious. If that’s true, it only makes me more grateful that my daughter will grow up in a post-Hermione world.

(16) THE HORROR. From Agouti (@bitterkarella) comes news of the horror genre’s Midnight Society of writers. Dean Koontz, HP Lovecraft, Clive Barker, Edward Lee, Stephen King, and Edgar Allen Poe trade inspirations for their next novels. The thread starts here.

(17) NED KELLY AWARDS. My internet wanderings brought me the results of the Australian Crime Writers Association’s 2018 Ned Kelly Awards, and far be it from me to turn down literary award news…

2018 Ned Kelly Awards

Best Crime

  • Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill

Best First Crime

  • The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

Best True Crime

  • Unmaking A Murder: The Mysterious Death of Anna Jane Cheney by Graham Archer

(18) NGAIO MARSH. Likewise, I learned the 2018 Ngaio Marsh Awards for the “very best in Kiwi Crime” were recently presented in New Zealand.

Best Crime Novel

  • Marlborough Man by Alan Carter (Fremantle Press)

Best First Novel

  • All Our Secrets by Jennifer Lane (Rosa Mira Books)

(19) RENAME THAT TUNE. The IAU will probably decide that Hubble needs to share credit – The Conversation has the story: “Game-changing resolution: whose name on the laws of physics for an expanding universe?”

Astronomers are engaged in a lively debate over plans to rename one of the laws of physics.

It emerged overnight at the 30th Meeting of the International Astronomical Union (IAU), in Vienna, where members of the general assembly considered a resolution on amending the name of the Hubble Law to the Hubble-Lemaître Law.

The resolution aims to credit the work of the Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaître and his contribution – along with the American astronomer Edwin Hubble – to our understanding of the expansion of the universe.

While most (but not all) members at the meeting were in favour of the resolution, a decision allowed all members of the International Astronomical Union a chance to vote. Subsequently, voting was downgraded to a straw vote and the resolution will formally be voted on by an electronic vote at a later date.

(20) BEWARE BENNU. The NASA mission to visit and sample Bennu — a “potentially hazardous asteroid” — has entered a new phase (“NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Begins Asteroid Operations Campaign”). The spacecraft has begun approach operations:

After an almost two-year journey, NASA’s asteroid sampling spacecraft, OSIRIS-REx, caught its first glimpse of asteroid Bennu last week and began the final approach toward its target. Kicking off the mission’s asteroid operations campaign on Aug. 17, the spacecraft’s PolyCam camera obtained the image from a distance of 1.4 million miles (2.2 million km).

…The spacecraft has traveled approximately 1.1 billion miles (1.8 billion km) since its Sept. 8, 2016, launch and is scheduled to arrive at Bennu on Dec. 3.

…During the mission’s approach phase, OSIRIS-REx will:

  • regularly observe the area around the asteroid to search for dust plumes and natural satellites, and study Bennu’s light and spectral properties;
  • execute a series of four asteroid approach maneuvers, beginning on Oct. 1, slowing the spacecraft to match Bennu’s orbit around the Sun;
  • jettison the protective cover of the spacecraft’s sampling arm in mid-October and subsequently extend and image the arm for the first time in flight; and
  • use OCAMS to reveal the asteroid’s overall shape in late-October and begin detecting Bennu’s surface features in mid-November.

Ultimately, the craft will map the asteroid, then perform a sampling “touch-and-go” maneuver. The sample will be dropped off at Earth in a Sample Return Capsule in September 2023. OSIRIS-REx itself will end up in a solar orbit.

(21) LOX WARNING. It used to be a thing — and may still be in some fannish circles — to whip up fresh ice cream at room parties using liquid nitrogen. The US Food and Drug administration has issued a safety alert about the danger of drinks and food prepared with LN2 at the point of sale (CNN: “FDA issues warning about liquid nitrogen on food”):

“The FDA has become aware of severe — and in some cases, life-threatening — injuries, such as damage to skin and internal organs caused by liquid nitrogen still present in the food or drink,” the FDA said in issuing its safety alert. “Injuries have occurred from handling or eating products prepared by adding liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption, even after the liquid nitrogen has fully evaporated due to the extremely low temperature of the food.”

In its warning, the FDA said inhaling the vapor “released by a food or drink prepared by adding liquid nitrogen immediately before consumption may also cause breathing difficulty, especially among individuals with asthma.”

…The FDA did not say how many reports of injuries it has received or provide details on life-threatening cases.

(22) MOON WALKER. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber gives “Five Stars for First Man”

The life story of Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, is so full of astounding courage, tragedy and triumph that it is just begging for an old-school Hollywood biopic, with all the inspiring speeches, swelling orchestras and grand themes that the genre entails. First Man is not that biopic.

Directed by Damien Chazelle (La La Land) and scripted by Josh Singer (Spotlight), the film is an understated, economical drama which, like a rocket that has to escape from the Earth’s gravity, jettisons absolutely everything it doesn’t need. Dialogue is kept to a minimum. Exposition is edited out. Extraneous characters are stripped away to the point that you see almost nothing of Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll), who moonwalked with Armstrong, and even less of Mike Collins (Lukas Haas), who piloted the orbiting craft. You don’t hear about Armstrong’s Korean War heroics, for that matter, and the space-race politics that were behind Nasa’s Apollo programme remain in the background. And yet, as restrained as First Man is, this riveting, exhaustively researched and utterly believable film manages to shake you, take your breath away and even pull a few tears from your eyes.

(23) SCREEN PLAY. “Movie Madness: Why Chinese cinemas are empty but full”. Speculators think buying seats (to fake up hits, to push stock prices) is cheaper than making good movies.

For a country which will soon assume the mantle of the world’s largest cinema audience, China comes out with a surprising number of big budget B-grade flops.

Some blame this on censorship, others on a lack of creativity but there are also those who see a more sinister force at work, which has nothing to do with film-making.

It also has nothing to do with selling tickets: at least not real ones.

Some investors are apparently financially backing movies with the sole goal of boosting their stock price that can shift on the perception of a movie’s performance, irrespective of its true popularity.

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Bridge Tongues” on YouTube is a look back at our times from the 25th century, where no one argues with each other and everyone lives in their own digital bubble.

[Thanks to JJ, Mark Hepworth, John King Tarpinian, Samuel Montgomery-Blinn, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Gregory Benford, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill Burns, Dann, James Davis Nicoll, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Cats Sleep on SFF: Steven Barnes

John Hertz says:

I took this photo at Worldcon 76 and submit it for “Cats Sleep on S-F”. Brother Barnes is one of the coolest cats I know.

(Hertz adds that he explained the “Cats Sleep” series to him and has Barnes’ permission to publish the photo.)


Photos of other felines resting on genre works are welcome. Send to mikeglyer (at) cs (dot) com