Snapshots 112 Copernicium

Here are 10 developments of interest to fans.

(1) The telegraph figures prominently in American history. It made the Pony Express obsolete. And what Lincoln movie is complete without a scene of tallies from the 1860 election coming over the wires, or of the President slumped in a lamplit War Department office listening to the rapidly clacking Morse code?

But did you know that telegraph service in the United States ended seven years ago? And the very last telegraph message in history will be sent on July 14 in India, the date it plans to abandon the technology.

“We were incurring losses of over $23 million a year because SMS and smartphones have rendered this service redundant,” said Shamim Akhtar, general manager of BSNL’s telegraph services. The agency did not say what the contents of the final message would be.

The telegram industry was not always so bleak; at its peak in 1985, 60 million telegrams were exchanged across 45,000 offices. Today, only 75 offices exist, employing 998 people, down from 12,500 telegram employees in better years.

(2) It’s remarkably easy to recut Disney’s original trailer to make Mary Poppins look like a horror movie — see Scary Mary [YouTube].

(3) Animal Planet’s mockumentary “Mermaids: The New Evidence” was watched by 3.6 million people. Twitter traffic following the broadcast suggests some viewers were convinced that mermaids really exist – despite a disclaimer in closing credits. Or they decided it would be funny to claim they were. With the internet it’s hard to tell.

(4) And internet anonymity isn’t what it once was. Now the government knows if you’re a dog.

(5) Roger Corman has started a pay YouTube channel, Corman’s Drive-in, to cash in on his vast catalog of movies — Ron Howard in Grand Theft Auto, The Battle Beyond the Stars, Tommy Lee Jones, Sandra Bullock, Joe Dante’s Pirhana, Death Race 2000 with David Carradine, Little Shop of Horrors 2000, etc.

(6) The screen rights to C.J. Cherryh’s fantasy quartet “The Morgaine Stories” has been optioned by producer Aard Magnani with Peter Arneson adapting.

Set in a distant medieval world, the series tells the epic story of an outcast warrior forced to serve a mysterious time-traveling heroine. Legend says she is evil, but he eventually learns her mission is to save the universe.

Arneson has already penned the screenplay for the first novel, “The Gates of Morgaine: Ivrel,” which Magnani has also optioned. He will produce through his Water Bear-Aaron Magnani Prods., alongside Duck Kolenik.

(7) The original model of the Enterprise used to shoot effects scenes is in the National Air and Space Museum. At first it was suspended from the ceiling, which kept it out of reach of tourists but also limited the view to the starship’s underside.

A 2009 blog article traces the history of Enterprise display.

After considerable discussion, museum staff decided not to hang the starship any more. Instead, a special case was built for it, and it now rests upon two stanchions specially built to hold it. The case protects the ship from dust, grime and fingerprints, while at the same time, presents the model at eye-level, so that the serious (and the merely curious) viewer can study it closely, and from all sides.

There are also X-ray photos that reveal the model’s electronics.

(8) Iain Banks’ bucket list included a book of his collected poetry.

The Scottish author revealed in his final interview before his death from cancer last week that he had hoped to secure a publisher for an anthology of 50 poems as part of a “bucket list” of things he wanted to do before he died.

Banks, who had 29 books published in his lifetime, last had a standalone poem printed 30 years ago, in the first edition of New Writing Scotland, an annual anthology of poetry created by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies. It was his first published work.

The poem – entitled 041 in reference to the old Glasgow telephone code and detailing a phone call with his faraway “lady” – nestles in the anthology alongside poems written by other now-well known Scots authors such as Robert Crawford.

The only poetry Banks has published since 1983 begins and ends his novel Use Of Weapons.

(9) A Tacoma park may be named for Dune author Frank Herbert.

A new park taking shape on a former slag heap on the Tacoma waterfront could be named for science fiction author Frank Herbert… Herbert was a Tacoma native who explored Puget Sound.

His son and biographer, Brian Herbert, says the environment theme in “Dune” emerged from living in Tacoma in the 1950s when the city was polluted by the Asarco smelter.

Workers are now covering smelter slag with clean dirt at what Metro Parks Tacoma informally calls Peninsula Park.

(10) No matter what you thought, Queen Elizabeth is related to Richard III. ‘Tis as clear as is the summer’s sun.

 [Thanks for these stories go out to Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol, Francis Hamit, Andrew Porter, David Klaus and John King Tarpinian.]

Steampunk Land Ship

Jason Allemann custom-built this post-apocalyptic steampunk trading ship entirely out of LEGO components.

Instructions for building the walking frame are here.

Allemann was inspired by Theo Jansen’s full-sized kinetic sculpture, the Strandbeest.

Details of the trading ship’s crew and cargo.

Hertz on WOOF: Purcell Says I May Tell

By John Hertz: John Purcell, host of the Fanzine Lounge at the 2013 Worldcon, has confirmed he will also serve this year as Official Editor of WOOF.

WOOF, the World Organization of Faneditors, is an amateur publishing association whose contributions are collected, and whose distributions are issued, at and from (but not by or for) the World Science Fiction Convention.

An apa is an assemblage of fanzines. Most apas are quarterly or monthly. WOOF is yearly, and in fact I’m in one that’s weekly, both very much the produce of Bruce Pelz, who as Suford Lewis said had a fruitful imagination.

This year’s Worldcon will be LoneStarCon III (or 3 if you were writing this note), 29 Aug – 2 Sep, San Antonio. Did you attend LoneStarCon II? I did, and I remember the Alamo. What was LoneStarCon I, you ask? As Rudyard Kipling said, that’s another story.

This year’s WOOF will (I think) be No. 38. In honor of the 71st Worldcon, submit 71 copies of your contribution. We want plenty to hand round. Must you bring, or send via an agent, physical copies? That helps. Printing on-site can be a logjam. How many pages?  Be reasonable — no, we’re fans.

The English musician’s name, as Gerard Manley Hopkins said, rhymes with “reversal”. Our OE is from an Irish branch that rhymes its last name just like ringing a bell. He’ll be good. Write to him at <[email protected]>, or get his real-mail address by phoning me at (213)384-6622 (that’s Pacific Time). I hope we’ll have no occasion to call “John 54, where are you?” Maybe I don’t hope it.

Sociable Climbers

Adam West’s Batman TV series in the 1960s was known for its many quirky and campy motifs, including Batman and Robin’s habit of bantering with the guest celebrities who hailed them from windows as the Dynamic Duo were scaling buildings en route to fight crime.

This YouTube video contains all 14 window cameos, featuring these stars.

Jerry Lewis
Dick Clark
Green Hornet (Van Williams) and Kato (Bruce Lee)
Sammy Davis Jr.
Jose Jimenez (Bill Dana)
Howard Duff as Detective Sam Stone on “Felony Squad”
Colonel Klink (Werner Klemperer)
Lurch (Ted Cassidy)
Don Ho
Andy Devine as Santa Claus
Art Linkletter
Edward G. Robinson
Suzy Knickerbocker
Carpet King (real name unknown)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

A Fine Student Film

Terraform is an effects-loaded film by five ArtFx students in France.

The six-minute short begins as a tale being read to a child in a far-distant future.

“One day, the fire birds tore the sky apart,” says the voiceover, just before a wave of terraforming machines blaze through the Martian atmosphere and land on the rocky red planet. Splendid shots of spaceships and other machinery follow.

And there’s a companion “Making of Terraform” short where one of the students explains, “We wanted to tell the story as a folktale no one believes anymore.”

“Amazing and wonderful work of science as well as science fiction!” says David Brin in a congratulatory comment.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Sunjammer Will Take
Clarke DNA To Space

A digitized copy of Arthur C. Clarke’s DNA will ride into space aboard the “Sunjammer,” a spacecraft using the solar sail technology featured in his 1960s story by that title.

The NASA-funded mission will show the usefulness of solar sails for propulsion by delivering solar storm detectors to a sail-stabilized position fixed about 1.5 closer to the Sun than the L1 point. The craft is expected to be sent into orbit around the Sun in 2014. The builder is L’Garde, Inc., in Tustin, California.

On board will be the Sunjammer Cosmic Archive (SCA), a time capsule with a “BioFile” containing digital files of human DNA including Clarke’s, and other “MindFiles” with images, music, and voice recordings provided by people worldwide, to be left for future generations or perhaps other civilizations.

Here is the manufacturer’s YouTube animation of a 10,000 square meter solar sail being deployed.

The company’s website suggests many potential uses for solar sail craft:

    • Debris collection and removal from orbit.  Debris can be captured and removed from orbit over a period of years using the small solar-sail thrust.
    • De-orbit of spent satellites.  Solar sails can be integrated into satellite payloads so that the satellite can be de-orbited at the end of its mission.
    • Creating pseudo-Lagrange points by cancelling some solar gravitational pull with the sails.  As an example, the GeoStorm project considers locating solar storm warning satellites three times further from the Earth increasing warning time from 15 minutes to 45 minutes.
    • Providing synchronous satellites at non-equatorial latitudes, such as the “pole-sitter” project.  This allows the  northern and southern latitudes to gain the advantages of synchronous satellites.
    • Providing deep space propulsion.  Payloads free of  the Earth’s pull can be accelerated to the other planets, or out of the solar system, such as those proposed for Project Encounter.

[Via Gregory Benford.]

Buy SFC on eBay

Andrew Porter reports his brother Stephen is selling a complete set of Science Fiction Chronicle on eBay. The description reads:

200 plus issues of Hugo winning SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE, SF/ fantasy news magazine published from 1979 to 2000 by Andrew Porter (issues published after 2000 not included). Contains thousands of book reviews, photos. Interviews. Material by leading authors including Jack Williamson, Orson Scott Card, Terry Carr, Gene Wolfe, Frederik Pohl, Brian Aldiss, Robert Silverberg, Jack Chalker, Donald Wollheim, Marvin Kaye, Phyllis Eisenstein, original and only appearance of Ray Bradbury speech. Reports on hundreds of conventions through the decades. Letters from authors, editors, publishers, artists. Obituaries of leading authors, of example, April-May 92: Philip K. Dick death. Adverts from major and minor publishers. Listings for thousands of forthcoming books. Full color covers by leading artists Emshwiller, Freas, Gaughan, Di Fate, Hunter, Mattingly, Walotsky, Maitz, Lundgren, many many others. Hundreds of hours of reading. A complete chronicle of the decades with content never reprinted or available anywhere else!

At this writing he’s still looking for an opening bid. The auction has a week to run. Bid early, bid often!

Lucas Art Museum Proposal a Finalist

lucas cultural arts museum

George Lucas’ proposal to build the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum beside San Francisco Bay is one of three finalists under consideration by the Presidio Trust. The winner will redevelop Crissy Field, now occupied by a sports apparel store.

Lucas’ proposed museum is expected to cost $250 to $300 million to build, which he would pay out of pocket and support with two separate $400 million endowments, one funded when the museum opens and the other when Lucas dies. It would house his  extensive collection of popular art —

I want to create a gathering place where children, parents, and grandparents can experience everything from the great illustrators such as Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish, to comic art and children’s book illustrations along with exhibitions of fashion, cinematic arts, and digital art.

The prospectus for the museum [PDF file] contains many photos of items in the collection — including a Kelly Freas cover for Mad Magazine (page 9).

The other two finalists are The Bridge/Sustainability Institute [PDF file] and the Presidio Exchange [PDF file]. On June 17 more than 300 people attended a public forum and questioned representatives from the three groups. Finished proposals are due to be submitted to the Presidio Trust on September 16.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Ebert’s Favorite Pulps

A couple weeks before Rogert Ebert died he sent a box of books and magazines from his library to Andy Ihnatko, the witty computer columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. Paging through a a stack of old pulps stirred Ihnatko to philosophize about how adulthood is shaped by childhood ideals. He shares these thoughts in an article on

I flipped through the first issue in the stack, slowing down only enough to make sure I didn’t tear any of the pages away in my excitement. These were no “collectibles” — a somewhat contemptible word used to describe mint-graded comics and magazines that are never removed from their slabbed, sealed packaging. These pulps are clearly “reading copies”; they’re of negligible resale value because over the past seventy years, they’ve obviously been handled and read and re-read… and loved.

Ihnatko says Ebert’s run of pulp magazines stretches into the 1970s – the time of his life when he was already a working film critic.

Ihnatko’s imaginative and warm prose led me to search out his blog, Andy Ihnatko’s Celestial Waste of Bandwidth, which has a post about Roger Ebert’s memorial service and more insights about his friend:

A member of the community of film critics (I’m sorry that I didn’t note his name) explained something very important about Roger very well. Roger was a special person in any group he found himself in. But rather than do what politicians often do, which is to dumb down and put on phony airs,

(“aw, shucks, they maht call me ‘Senator Cole’ up thar in Warshington. But here with you’n’all, ah’m just yer pal Jesse. Incidentally, I call your attention to the scuffmarks on my Western-style boots, which you’ll readily recognize being consistent with one who ‘clears brush’ and…well, the word escapes me but my staff tells me it a kind of maintenance that the fences on a ranch periodically require.”)

…he would elevate everyone else, pointing out their aspects and achievements that made _them_ special as well. Every time Roger introduced me to a friend of his, I shook their hand thinking that this was one of the most incredible people I’d meet all year. Roger’s enthusiastic introductions were genuine. He was as excited as I was when I got to tell millions of people how awesome this new “iPhone” or “iPad” thingy was. He’d made this fantastic discovery and he wanted to share it.

[ Thanks to Bill Higgins for the story.]