Snapshots 141 USS Alchemy

Here are 16 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Maybe the thing to follow steampunk will be phonepunk. People seem to get a kick out of their ancestors’ enthusiasm for ridiculously primitive versions of today’s technology. Consider this NPR article about the 1964 World’s Fair:

1. We had picture phones back then?

Vito Turso was at the fair when he used one of the first picture phones. Back then, he was a boy selling pizza at the fair. He says the picture phone was one of his favorite exhibits.

“To walk into this room and have a conversation through what was like a small television — it was incredible,” Turso said. “The lines to use the picture phone were unending.”

But the picture phone was expensive back then — and it took decades before the technology became affordable. Also, it turns out, people don’t always want to see the person they’re talking with. Even now, in the era of Skype and Facetime, people mostly just want to talk on the phone, without seeing the person on the other end.

Fifty years ago people objected because they’d feel obliged to make themselves presentable before getting in front of the camera. Today they’re unwilling for a different reason: looking at a screen interferes with simultaneous multi-tasking, like driving erratically through traffic….

(2) In “Selections From H.P. Lovecraft’s Brief Tenure as a Whitman’s Sampler Copywriter”, Luke Burns has mated Monty Python with Cthulhu. Which I doubt he learned to do in 4-H.

Peanut Butter Cup

In 1856, a fisherman from a tiny hamlet on the New England coast made a terrible pact with serpentine beasts from beneath the sea, that he might create the most delicious sweet seen upon the Earth since the days of the great Elder Race. Thus was forged the satanic pact between peanut butter and chocolate that resulted in the mutant offspring you see before you!

(3) But talk about your basic eldritch horror. The Gothamist asks “The Reappearance Of The Toynbee Tiles: What Does It Mean?” Another batch of these tiles was recently scattered in New York City intersections. I’m guessing your first question is —

So what the hell are Toynbee Tiles? Glad you asked. The Toynbee Tiles are pieces of linoleum that appear in the asphalt of random intersections in major North American cities, mostly in the northeast, although some have even been spotted as far as South America. They (for the most part) bear a variation on the following message:


So who is Toynbee? What does Stanley Kubrick have to do with this? Students of the tiles believe that Toynbee could be referring to one of two things. Either its based off of the teachings of British Historian Arnold Toynbee or Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Toynbee Convector.” Tile enthusiasts have found a specific passage of Toynbee’s that has to do with resurrection of the dead, where he elucidates the idea of actual physical resurrection being scientifically and religiously plausible. It’s pretty trippy.

As for Kubrick, Jupiter is the destination for the doomed astronauts in his 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. At the conclusion of 2001, astronaut Dave Bowman is taken through a portal just outside of Jupiter and experiences death, and then, remarkably, rebirth.

A Bradbury reference makes nearly anything a good bet for inclusion in Snapshots. You betcha.

(4) Between now and whenever the ashes of the last reader of paper books are scatted at sea news services will be publishing studies that justify preferring the old technology. Here’s the latest, from the New York Times:

In most respects, there was no significant difference between the Kindle readers and the paper readers: the emotional measures were roughly the same, and both groups of readers responded almost equally to questions dealing with the setting of the story, the characters and other plot details. But, the Kindle readers scored significantly lower on questions about when events in the story occurred. They also performed almost twice as poorly when asked to arrange 14 plot points in the correct sequence.

OMG!!! Real books win!!! And why is that? According to Forbes:

Researchers theorize that the reason for the discrepancy might be due to readers of a print book being able to feel how far they’ve gone, giving them a tactile way to mark time and events, something the digital group didn’t get with a plastic e-reader. Another theory was that readers just don’t digest digital texts the way they do print texts.

(5) Writers are just as adamant about this as anyone. Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians trilogy, is quoted in The Huffington Post

I’m very crusty on this issue. When I die I want to leave my kids a roomful of books, not a chunk of plastic that they have to guess the password to. I think Maurice Sendak said it best: “It’s like making believe there’s another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of book.

(6) Bill Watterson’s original artwork for three comic strip collaborations with Pearls Before Swine cartoonist Stephan Pastis sold at Heritage Auctions in August for $74,090. Proceeds will benefit The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

(7) If you failed to make the top bid in the Watterson auction maybe you’re still in the market for an expensive fannish trinket. How about a Godzilla made of gold?

golden godzilla

There’s a pretty predictable pattern that merchandising for anime and youth-oriented movies in Japan follows. New hits get inexpensive trinkets, at a price point where kids can purchase them with their allowance. After a decade or two, higher-quality, items start to show up, like Sailor Moon jewelry and Gundam cars, which are priced more in line with what the franchise’s nostalgic and employed fan base is willing to spend.

Since it’s now been 60 years since the first Godzilla movie, some fans who weren’t even in preschool for the legendary kaiju’s debut are now getting close to retirement. With possibly a whole career’s worth of earning, prudent financial decisions, and wise investments, some Godzilla fans can afford to lay out big money to show their respect for the King of the Monsters, which is where this solid gold Godzilla figurine comes in.

The statue sells for 150 million yen (US $1.47 million).

(8) I was intrigued to read about this 1600-year-old board game invented by the Vikings.

Viking warriors storm into the torch-lit camp of a rival clan. Outnumbered, the ambushed Norsemen are far from their boats. Their one goal: flee to a nearby castle while keeping their king alive.

At first glance, Hnefatafl (prounounced “nef-ah-tah-fel”) might just look like a knock-off version of chess with Norse helms and impressive beards, but the game is at least 600 years older — already well-known by 400 A.D. — and is perhaps a lot more relevant to the conflicts of the 21st century.

“I love the asymmetry in this game. To win in this game, you absolutely have to think like your opponent,” emails Kristan Wheaton, a former Army foreign area officer and ex-analyst at U.S. European Command’s Intelligence Directorate. “Geography, force structure, force size, and objectives are different for the two sides. If you can’t think like your opponent, you can’t win. I don’t know of a better analogy for post-Cold War conflict.”

The game is similar to chess, but with several important differences. Instead of two identical and equal opponents facing each other, Hnefatafl is a game where one side is surrounded and outnumbered — like a Viking war party caught in an ambush.

The game might seem unbalanced. The attacking black player has 24 total pieces — known as “hunns” — to white’s meager and surrounded 12 hunns. But white has several advantages.

(9) Kyle Anderson published this early scouting report about a different numbered science fiction personality — the Twelfth Doctor:

Some people have already seen “Deep Breath,” the feature-length premiere of the eighth series of Doctor Who and the first to feature Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor. I am not one of those people and will likely be watching the premiere on Saturday, August 23rd, just like everybody else. But already from the trailers and interviews given by the cast and crew, it’s pretty clear that Capaldi’s take on the millennia-old Time Lord is darker, angrier, certainly less nonsense-taking, even though he’s also been said to have a sense of fun and excitement about traveling through time. Just from these little bits, it seems to me that the Twelfth Doctor is a bit of an amalgam of the First Doctor, the Third Doctor, and what the Sixth Doctor SHOULD have been, which is what the actor who played him wanted in the first place.

(10) Peter Capaldi’s own view of things can be found on the Doctor Who website:

Then there was a glorious interview on BBC Breakfast, in which Peter discussed first the Doctor’s new, flinty demeanour: “I was keen that he be a little darker, less user-friendly, but he’s funny, y’know, he’s still a very joyful character. He’s just a little more… he doesn’t care very much what people think about him. But he’s still full of joy, he still loves the universe, he still loves his life.”

He also addressed the possibility that peope might be put off such a huge jump in age between Matt Smith and himself, with neat reasoning: “I think there’s a magic about him that is not about being in your 20s or your 30s. We don’t consider the Wizard of Oz to be too old, and we don’t consider Father Christmas to be too old. These are mythical, magical characters. And the fact that they’ve been around the block only adds to their magic, I think.”

“One of the wonderful things about Doctor Who is that I believe somebody somewhere will love me, for somebody somewhere I’ll be somebody’s favorite Doctor, even if everybody else hates me. Someone will think I’m just the bee’s knees.”

(11) William Ledbetter hit the bull’s-eye with his SFWA Blog post “The Scientist Next Door: Or How to Approach Experts with Research Questions”:

A few years ago, I was researching a scientific principle called “Invariant Transit Tubes,” or more commonly known as the “Interplanetary Superhighway.” I stumbled across a paper on the topic that was, shall we a say, a bit over my head. I noticed that the paper had been co-published by three researchers, all from different establishments: MIT, JPL and the University of Turin in Italy. The publication also included email addresses. In a sudden fit of “oh hell, why not” I emailed each of these guys a simple question, hoping that at least one of them would reply. The email was short and straightforward. I identified myself as a science fiction writer who was curious about one aspect of their paper. “Could effect X be used in situation Y?” Much to my surprise, all three of them replied. It turns out that no, effect X could not be used in situation Y, which of course saved me from what could have been an embarrassing hard SF faux pas, but one of the researchers was interested in my project, asked questions, made suggestions, and over an email string that bounced back and forth for about a week, I learned a great deal about that topic and several related ones. Evidently scientists, researchers, and experts of every ilk tend to like talking about their field of expertise. Who knew?

(12) LA Weekly seemed astonished to discover “A Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention That only Charges $10?”

There was a piece of paper taped to the front entrance of the Shrine Auditorium on Sunday afternoon, its opening paragraph reading like a manifesto. “For those attending for the first time, this is a medium size show not to be compared with Comic-Con International,” it said. “There’s no pipe and drape around the tables or carpet that adds to the expense of a show. This allows the show to only charge $10.00 and allows collectors to spend more on their hobby.”
In recent years, fan conventions have mushroomed into high-profile, weekend-long events where studios announce new releases, cosplayers are photographed like celebrities and lines are everywhere. There was no line to get inside the Shrine for Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention. By mid-afternoon, the longest wait here was to buy a caricature from Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi. If you wanted to buy something, you could easily get the attention of one of the dealers. There were no costumed con-goers, no impromptu photoshoots blocking the aisles. It was a convention without the frills that, for some, are part of the experience and, for others, are an annoyance.
Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention launched the same year that Star Wars hit theaters. The idea of summer blockbuster movies was still novel. Comic book conventions as we know them today were still decades away. In 1977 Los Angeles, there were only a few, mostly short-lived events that catered to comic book fans. Bruce Schwartz took “the skeleton” of one of those smaller gatherings as it was folding. Out of that, he built Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention. Thirty-seven years and more than 350 shows later, he still promotes the convention.

(13) In September, San Diego area playgoers will have the option to see “Red Planet Respite” at the La Jolla Playhouse.

American firm GlobalCom Venture Capitals develops the first interactive resort experience on Mars in 2044 with the Marsimerica space research institution.

“Red Planet Respite” is the story of the debut crew sent to test out the luxurious resort intended for the socially elite. An unexpected phenomenon that takes place in the universe during their voyage forces the crew to face consequences and psychological extremities they could never prepare for.

It will be on stage two nights, September 12 and 13.

(14) Does anyone need a Christmas gift for Larry Correia? May I suggest Drive-A-Tank. I saw this story in Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol

A business named Drive-a-Tank offers drivers the chance to pilot surplus military tanks and other armored vehicles around an old limestone quarry and smash junk cars like an action movie hero.

The ride is loud, grinding, hot and dirty – ideal for satisfying one’s inner Rambo.

“It was awesome. I mean, controlling that machine, it’s incredible,” said Jacob Ostling, 19, of New Canaan, Conn., among the customers who took a turn under the turret on a recent Saturday and flattened a car in an explosion of glass.

Owner Tony Borglum, a construction and heavy equipment contractor, opened the tank park three years ago after seeing similar attractions during a visit to England. He said he knew it would fit nicely into American culture – a more visceral version of what millions of guys are doing in video games anyway.

He began buying up old Cold War-era surplus and now has 11 armored vehicles available for use on a 20-acre site near this town 50 miles southwest of Minneapolis. Customers spend hours churning up and down a hilly, wooded course, getting a firsthand sense of what armored warfare might be like….

A basic package that includes driving a tank and shooting a machine gun costs $399, with more expensive options for driving several models and shooting other weapons such as assault rifles. Drivers who want to smash a car pay an additional $549; for about $3,500, a customer can drive a tank through a trailer house.

(15) Those of you seeking gifts for more sedentary friends should consider the Gauntlet Press edition of The Best of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Scripts.

In 2004, publisher Gauntlet Press embarked on an ambitious new book series, AS TIMELESS AS INFINITY: THE COMPLETE TWILIGHT ZONE SCRIPTS OF ROD SERLING. This ten-volume, limited edition run of signed hardcovers collected all 92 of the Twilight Zone scripts written by Serling, reprinted from the writer’s personal copies. Running for a full decade, the series was edited by writer and Rod Serling Memorial Foundation board member Tony Albarella with direct input from Serling’s wife, Carol. Contributors included Serling’s family, friends, contemporaries who worked with the writer, and current talents who were inspired by him.

Now, Gauntlet Press makes THE BEST OF ROD SERLING’S TWILIGHT ZONE SCRIPTS available for the first time in paperback. By contract these will be the ONLY scripts from AS TIMELESS AS INFINITY to appear in paperback. They have been selected by Carol Serling and editor Tony Albarella.

This collection presents ten of Serling’s most iconic scripts, along with analysis commentaries, rare photos, and interviews with Twilight Zone actors, writers, producers, and directors. THE BEST OF ROD SERLING’S TWILIGHT ZONE SCRIPTS includes the following scripts: “Walking Distance,” “Time Enough at Last,” “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” “A Stop at Willoughby,” “A Passage for Trumpet,” “The Eye of the Beholder,” “The Obsolete Man,” “The Shelter,” “Death’s-Head Revisited,” and “To Serve Man.”

(16) Nicholas Whyte and the staff of the excellent Loncon 3 press office handled every request for help in a timely manner — except this one:

On the very morning that we were setting up, we received an email from a TV production company who are making a new show “offering expert advice to singletons, who are unlucky in lust. [We] will help both single men with their pulling problems & send them back in the world of pulling – armed with new techniques.” They wanted to come to Loncon 3 to recruit potential participants in the show; but, do you know, I’m afraid that we may not have replied to them in time. Apologies to any singletons, unlucky in lust, who were actually at the convention and might have relished the chance to get televised advice on their pulling problems.

[Thanks for these links goes out to Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian and John Mansfield.]

Snapshots 140 CXL

Here are 8 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Isaac Asimov’s West Philadelphia years are chronicled in Bart Everts’ concise article at Hidden City Philadelphia.

The Sansom Street house would be his first and last home away from his parents as a bachelor, and he used much of his free time going to the movies (likely at the Nixon or the Commodore), visiting the Franklin Institute and Free Library, and eating at the Horn and Hardart on Broad Street. Asimov was largely a teetotaler, a fact that quickly earned him friends at the Navy Yard, as he would give away his liquor ration card.

Asimov returned to Brooklyn on a near weekly basis to visit his family and fiancé, Gertrude Blugerman. The two married in July of 1942 at his parents’ home, after which she joined him in West Philly. The couple sublet an apartment at 4715 Walnut Street, then called Verona Court.

Everts followed up on the petition calling for a commemorative marker to be placed on one of these properties and learned no formal application has been submitted.

(2) The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has an opinion about The worst black&white Twilight Zone episodes. I says, “Who asked ya? “

(3) At World Wide Words, Michael Quinion recently did a study of ”grok”. Got to teach the young’uns the essentials. There’s already too many who don’t know the difference between “one if by land” and “two if by sea” – so beware, if it can happen to Longfellow, it could happen to Heinlein!

Grok is a word borrowed from Martian (and you won’t see that written very often) in which it literally meant to drink. However, in its figurative sense, to grok is to gain an instant deep spiritual understanding of something or to establish a rapport with somebody.

(4) Brianna Wu’s article ”No skin thick enough: The daily harassment of women in the game industry” is grim but informative.

I haven’t been out to my car at night by myself since January 2nd.

My name is Brianna Wu. I lead a development studio that makes games. Sometimes, I write about issues in the games industry that relate to the equality of women. My reward is that I regularly have men threatening to rape and commit acts of violence against me.

(5) Susan Ellison has picked the contents for collection celebrating Harlan’s birthday: 8 in 80 by Ellison.

In honor of Harlan Ellison’s eightieth birthday, Susan Ellison—his wife of thirty years, the Electric Baby—has scoured raw eight (8) decades of his written output (from his 1949 serialized stories in The Cleveland News to as-yet unpublished tales fresh from his Olympia Manual typewriter) to present one artifact from each calendar decade. Where possible, the eight stories herein have been reproduced from Ellison’s original typescripts, as preserved in his meticulous archives. In some cases, they may differ from the preferred texts established over years of revisions and reprints.

(6)  Didn’t some Western legend claim, “I eat lightning and shit thunder?” Maybe his intestinal bacteria are related to the lately discovered bacteria that eat pure electrons rather than sugar.

Some intrepid biologists at the University of Southern California (USC) have discovered bacteria that survives on nothing but electricity — rather than food, they eat and excrete pure electrons.

(7) IDW Publishing will be releasing a 5-issue adaptation of Shadow Show, the prose tribute to Ray Bradbury first released in 2012 and edited by Mort Castle and Sam Weller.

Carlos Guzman: “Shadow Show” started as short story collection that paid tribute to Ray Bradbury, himself an incomparable master of short fiction. It features stories by a murderers’ row of incredible authors: Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill, Harlan Ellison, Audrey Niffenegger, just to name a few. Mort Castle and Sam Weller, the editors of the collection, wanted to bring these stories to comics as well as prose. IDW loved the idea, and now we’ve lined up a 5-issue limited series that will adapt several stories from the book!

Which stories are you most looking forward to?

Joe Hill’s “By The Silver Water of Lake Champlain” is a standout, a beautiful story of childhood, loss and memory. Jason Ciaramella and Charles Paul Wilson III are adapting it for the series, and have done a stellar job of capturing the wistful, foggy, far-away feel of the story. Another favorite is “Conjure” by Alice Hoffman, a stunning short story that just leaves the most bittersweet aftertaste. It’s probably one of my favorite things I’ve read all year, everyone should go out and read it!

(8) Videos that allow you to watch someone play a computer game are a think on YouTube – and if you’re curious what it was like to play Fahrenheit 451 on the Apple II here’s your chance.

Game description: Based on Ray Bradbury’s classic science fiction novel Fahrenheit 451. In a not so distant future, books have become illegal. As Fireman Guy Montag, your role is not to save houses, but to burn them for the books inside. But, you become passionate about books and become a rebel, pursued by the authorities. With the help of the Underground, you must survive and save books from complete extinction.

[Thanks for these links goes out to Sam Long, Andrew Porter, Michael J. Walsh and  John King Tarpinian.]

Snapshots 139 Glass With Class

Here are 14 developments of interest to fans.

Twin Planets by Bob Shaw

Twin Planets by Bob Shaw

(1) Bob Shaw, the creator of science fiction’s “slow glass”, applied his imagination to real glass as well. Several of his pieces will be up for auction at Loncon 3, Dave Langford has announced.

The late great Bob Shaw, author and fan extraordinaire and a friend of TAFF, took up stained glass as a hobby in the early 1980s. For his own home he created a large panel showing a future city, which I hope is in good hands somewhere. At Novacon in 1982 (I think it was) he exhibited several small panels in the art show, three of which are to be auctioned for TAFF and GUFF at Loncon 3 and perhaps Shamrokon. Here they are.

My modest camera skills don’t do justice to these. The sky/space in the two Twin Planets panels is a deep transparent blue, with the planets nearly opaque and showing swirls and veining that doesn’t photograph well. All the glass in Out of the Vortex is semi-opaque.

(2) Palm trees have been part of the Southern California’s appeal ever since railroad and land developers began advertising for people to move there. Victoria Dailey tells the story in her article of the LA Review of Books “Piety and Perversity: The Palms of Los Angeles”.

Another writer, Charles Nordhoff, also influenced thousands of readers to head west when he published California for Health, Pleasure and Residence in 1872. Both Truman and Nordhoff were enlisted by the railroads to write promotional copy, and more than any single writer, it was the railroad companies that were the mightiest proponents of travel and settlement; they touted Southern California incessantly, selling not only rail tickets but real estate, selling home sites along their right-of-way all the while issuing thousands of brochures that championed the region’s many attractions. What is now the southern section of Glendale was originally the little town of Tropico, laid out in 1887 and named after the local Southern Pacific Railroad depot; it is no surprise that the railroad would name a station and a town “Tropico,” following the lead set by Truman and capitalizing on the reverie induced by the words “semi-tropical.” (The tropical dream never abated: the city of Hawaiian Gardens was founded in the 1920s as was the Cocoanut Grove, the celebrated nightclub at the Ambassador Hotel. In the 1950s and ’60s, newly built apartment buildings took such names as the Catalina Tropics, Glenlani Tiki, and Royal Palms.) Desert dreams conflated with the tropical longings, and palms were the proof.

But I’m fond of pointing out the 70 varieties of eucalyptus, imported from Australia, that have taken over the town since the 19th century. Neither the friars nor the Native Americans of the mission era ever saw any of these.

(3) Although much has been made of Queen Elizabeth’s tour of the Game of Thrones set, the comics’ Queen Victoria seems to be more in tune with the books. George R.R. Martin makes a cameo appearance while Vicky’s trying to remember which of the stock characters she just killed off in The New Adventures of Queen Victoria comic strip.

(4) “In space, can anyone hear your bagpipes?” asks James H. Burns. The reason for his question is that Scotland dominates the list of possible locations for a UK spaceport.  He adds, “In what will no doubt be music to the ears of Sean Connery — and the many other Scottish nationals who have strived to help their bonny homeland — this could be a real boon to Scotland’s economy.”

(5) Terraform the Moon? Gregory Benford tells Slate how he would do it:

With the right approach and some luck, it might make a decent place to live, so long as you enjoy Florida’s weather.

Terraforming our moon will take many decades and vast abilities. Before we can begin, we’ll have to master the resources of our solar system—especially transporting raw masses over interplanetary distances. That means nuclear thermal rockets (which we already developed by the 1970s), advanced robotics and communications, biotech, and sustainable closed environments. Once those come, we can reach higher.

(6) I’m a sucker for headlines like: ”Scientists in Africa discover 548-million-year-old structures. Who built them?”

Survey says —

During the Ediacaran Period, which lasted from about 635 million to 542 million years ago, all life lived in the sea, and most creatures were immobile and soft-bodied, with mysterious wavy, frondlike shapes.

But in the 1970s, scientists discovered evidence of Cloudina, the earliest fossil animals to have skeletons. The pencil-shaped sea creature could grow to about 5.9 inches (15 centimeters) long. A cross-section of the tubular shape shows that it would’ve been about 0.3 inches (8 millimeters) in diameter, Wood said.

“It’s like a series of hollow ice-cream cones all stacked up,” Wood told Live Science, referring to the appearance of the Cloudina skeleton. “It might have been related to corals and anemones and jellyfish.”

(7) I also can’t resist reading about mysterious places inside the New York subway that the public hasn’t seen for 90 years. Such as “Behind Subway’s Phantom Hotel Entrance, Neither Arias Nor Opulence”.

Even in its day, the subway entrance was not for everyone.

For instance, after escaping from a nearby theater, an 11-year-old chimpanzee named Prince Charles strolled into the hotel lobby on Feb. 17, 1918. Despite the fact that he was fully dressed, the police were summoned.

(8) A latter-day ape is getting good reviews, too. Grantland’s hard-to-please film critic Wesley Morris says don’t miss Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:

Waiting for Caesar to restore order, I experienced an impatience that I haven’t felt since the first Superman movie: Hurry up and save the world. This is a fake monkey, but the urge to let him protect us feels intensely real.

(9) Disaster struck in 2003 on the day Bradbury biographer Sam Weller was scheduled to visit the author — the space shuttle Columbia burned up during reentry.

When I arrived at Ray Bradbury’s house 30 minutes later, I found Ray waiting for me. He was seated in his big oversized leather chair. The television was on and he was watching the news reports on the shuttle disaster.

“Kaleidoscope,” I said.

He had had tears in his eyes.

“By God, you’re right,” he said.

“Kaleidoscope” was first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories in 1949.

Plot Synopsis: A rocket crew experiences a catastrophic explosion onboard their ship, finding themselves cast out into space, going off in separate directions, yet still able to communicate to one another over helmet radios as they each come to terms with their inevitable fates.

(10) Here’s the place to see Soviet Animations of Ray Bradbury Stories: ‘Here There Be Tygers’ & ‘There Will Comes Soft Rain’.

Sergei Bondarchuk directed an 8-hour film adaptation of War and Peace (1966-67), which ended up winning an Oscar for Best Foreign Picture. When he was in Los Angeles as a guest of honor at a party, Hollywood royalty like John Wayne, John Ford, Billy Wilder lined up to meet the Russian filmmaker. But the only person that Bondarchuk was truly excited to meet was Ray Bradbury. Bondarchuk introduced the author to the crowd of bemused A-listers as “your greatest genius, your greatest writer!”

(11) The Soviet director obviously needed a higher rating than A-list for Ray but he would not have found it on Larry Correia’s new ”Official Alphabetical List of Author Success” — a taxonomy that exists largely to prove it’s a long way down to the bottom of the barrel where his antagonist, the Guardian’s Damien Walter, supposedly resides.

I’ve often been derisively referred to as a “D List Author” by my critics.  Curious, I had to look up where that list came from:

Sadly, as usual my critics suck at everything. This scale is based on how recognizable movie stars are, and since most regular people wouldn’t recognize any but the most famous (or funny looking) authors, it doesn’t really work for us at all. So I have created this super helpful guide so critics know what bucket to arbitrarily stick writers in.

A List – High upon Mount Olympus They Gaze Down Upon the Pathetic Mortals = All the $

  • Authors who are worth more than the GDP of some countries.
  • Authors who build their houses out of gold bars.
  • Characters from their books get their own theme parks.
  • The lady who wrote Twilight.

B List – The King(s) =$$$$$$$$$$

  • Authors who have TV shows about their books starring Peter Dinklage.
  • Authors who sleep on large piles of money.
  • Politicians who get illegal campaign contributions masquerading as advances.
  • Oprah’s Book Club.


Z List –  The Guardian’s Village Idiot = ($)

  • A kind of Anti-Author.

  • Motivated by delusions of relevancy, crowd sources witch hunts against writers higher on the list.

  • Collects the opposite of royalties, and actually has to be paid a strange sort of “Book Welfare” to produce a book.

(12) Artist and writer Alan White will see to it that you’ll get your money’s worth if you help subsidize his trip to Burning Man.

If thou art of generous frame, or in need of a good chuckle, perhaps you’ll visit my IndieGoGo page where I defenestrate myself to coax the unwary populace to throw their money away so I can go mad in the desert!

So get your wallets out, go here and throw your money away as if you’ve had a meltdown!

Here’s a sample excerpt from White’s diary: a passage about increasing his physical fitness for the quest.

Fortunately I found a gym catering to the average Joe and not those hulking, god-like Adonises: intimidating to a weak-willed flabatetic such as myself. Thankfully, however, there are Goddesses that inhabit this same space-time continuum, with their ponytails and perfect asses, galloping on treadmills and assaulting Stairmasters for hours on end without breaking a sweat; an impossible feat for me, much like the women themselves; the stuff of daydreams, never to be attained.

I’m convinced days of rejuvenating past “coolness” is far behind and must be content to make the best of what time is left. “Get real you old, gray, fatty, those gals wouldn’t give you the time of day”. There was a time, to be sure; but that ship has not only sailed, it’s been torpedoed, and now rests teetering over the continental shelf of my psyche.

(13) If you enjoy a good rant, don’t miss John C. Wright’s “The Logic of Illogic”.

Why is modern Science Fiction so bad? Why are modern comic books so bad?

Why is modern art so very, very, very bad? One would almost think these things are being made bad on purpose.

And one would be right!

But the answer to the simple question of why SF sucks is a complex answer, leading all the way from the zenith of the universe to the nadir, all the long road from heaven to hell.

Even a cursory inspection of modern art shows that beauty, which is the particular province and goal of the arts, is not merely avoided by modern artists, but despised. They are not producing poorly executed works of repugnant nonsense and blasphemous lumpish, retarded, asymmetrical obscenity by mistake or through indifference. The diametric opposite of beauty, namely, the revolting, the ugly, the aberrant, whatever is foul and vile, whatever causes a visceral sense of disorientation and disgust, that and precisely that is the goal of the Modern.

(14) An espresso machine for the International Space Station? James H. Burns wonders, “Is it really a good idea to have a high-pressurized device — one that’s AVOIDABLE — in space?”

Well, James, when you consider that they’re “up all night” 15 times a day, I’d say it’s indispensible!

[Thanks for these links goes out to Morris Keesan, Moshe Feder, Andrew Porter, James H. Burns, Martin Morse Wooster and John King Tarpinian.]

Snapshot 138 Unskillful in the world’s false forgeries

Here are 7 developments of interest to fans.

(1) See Naples and die? Surprisingly, that’s exactly what seems to have happened to Vlad Tepes, the 15th century prince called “Dracula.”

A team of Estonian scholars believe they have located his remains in a graveyard in Naples, rather than in the Romanian Transylvanian Alps where expected. Vlad supposedly died in battle in 1476 and his head was taken as a trophy to Constantinople. His daughter was taken to live with an allied family in Naples, and married to a nobleman there.

Scholars from the University of Tallinn say they have discovered evidence that suggests the count was taken prisoner, ransomed to his daughter in Italy and then buried in a church in Naples. Evidence comes from an ancient headstone uncovered in Naple’s Piazza Santa Maria la Nova, the same graveyard where his daughter and son-in-law were buried, which is covered in images and symbols of the House of the Transylvanian ‘Carpathians’. 

“When you look at the bas-relief sculptures, the symbolism is obvious. The dragon means Dracula and the two opposing sphinxes represent the city of Thebes, also known as Tepes. In these symbols, the very name of the count Dracula Tepes is written,” said Medieval history scholar Raffaello Glinni

(2) When Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame directed “Benvenuto Cellini” at the English National Opera, Reuters said the audience “could be forgiven for thinking it was a preview for the Python reunion show in July.”

Gilliam, who seems to hate a void, filled the stage of London’s enormous Coliseum theatre on Thursday with jugglers, trapeze artists, stiltwalkers and tumblers for one of the 19th-century French composer’s most troubled works.

Huge papier-mache-style masks of a devil and a skull were paraded down the aisles within minutes of the curtain going up and they remained suspended from boxes on either side of the stage for the duration, emphasizing the carnival tone.

(3) A correction to previously reported Star Wars medical news. Harrison Ford broke his leg, not his ankle. The London Telegraph also insists that the injury resulted when Ford was “crushed by a revolving door at Pinewood Studios” – contradicting the original report that the actor was hurt by a falling door on the Millennium Falcon. (Not even George Lucas equips spaceships with revolving doors.) Don’t you hate it when a beautiful story is assaulted by a gang of ugly facts?

(4) Scarlett Johansson’s character Black Widow will ride Harley-Davidson’s new electric motorcycle in the upcoming film Avengers: Age of Ultron. “Will Harley sell the seat afterwards?” asks a reader, which is exactly the kind of question that is giving fandom a bad name these days. What’s worse, the person who sent the link evidently didn’t take note that it’s Johansson’s stunt double who’s riding the motorcycle.

(5) The 5D Science of Fiction 2014 world-building conference will take place at the University of Southern California from October 24-26. Experts, teachers and students across multiple divisions at USC Cinematic Artswill co-create a fictional city named Rilao. “We will explore Rilao’s history, systems, cultures, tribes and stories. And through Rilao we will creatively and critically re-envision the near-future horizons of our own real-life cities and world.”

(6) John C. Wright baited the hook of his United Underworld Literary Movement Manifesto with an irresistible picture of four Batman villains captioned, “UNITED UNDERWORLD OF SFF (From Left to Right: Sarah Hoyt, John C. Wright, Larry Correia, and Vox Day).” How can you not go look?

(7) And London’s tubes seem to be filled with comedy gold. Here’s yet another album of fake London Underground signs.

Fake signs

[Thanks for these links goes out to John King Tarpinian, James H. ”The Babbler of Seville” Burns and Andrew Porter.]

Snapshots 137 Atoms in Every Chlorophyll Molecule

Here are 15 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Carrie Fisher told reporters she was being brought back to play Leia in Episode VII on the condition that she lose 35 pounds before filming began.

“They always hire not entirely me; they always want me minus anywhere between 10 pounds and 30 pounds to 40 pounds,” said Fisher. “In this case I’ve been very cooperative. If I could’ve been as cooperative as I am in this situation in relationships, I’d be happily married. But I complied.”

It’d probably be a good idea if they also made Star Wars fans lose 35 pounds before they let us into the movie. I’ll get started today.

(2) Since J.R.R. Tolkien’s death in 1973, his son Christopher has edited and published many of his father’s unfinished works. This spring saw the publication of Tollkien’s translation of Beowulf. Ethan Gilsdorf of the New York Times surveyed Tolkien scholars to see what they felt about it finally appearing.

Why the long delay for “Beowulf”? Wayne G. Hammond, an author of the “The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide,” said that Christopher Tolkien “naturally concentrated” on first publishing long-promised books, like “The Silmarillion” and that “Tolkien’s own writings, especially his fiction, presumably took priority.”

Beowulf was a story after Tolkien’s own heart.

That “Beowulf” influenced Tolkien is not news. From King Hrothgar’s mead-hall Heorot to a thief who steals a golden cup from a dragon, elements of “Beowulf” are echoed throughout Tolkien’s work. “Knowledge of his interest in and love for ‘Beowulf’ is essential to understanding ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ ” the Tolkien scholar Verlyn Flieger, a professor emeritus of English at the University of Maryland, wrote in an email. “Battles with monsters (Grendel, the dragon) are the heart of Beowulf, and reoccur in Tolkien’s work.”

But should a work Tolkien regarded as unready for publication have been issued?

Still, some say that Tolkien would have protested his translation being published at all. “If Tolkien knew that was going to happen, he would have invented the shredder,” said the “Beowulf” authority Kevin Kiernan, an emeritus professor of English at the University of Kentucky. Most scholars of Anglo-Saxon try their hand at “Beowulf” translations to better understand the poem, he said, but that does not mean theirs, or Tolkien’s, deserves a wider audience.

“Publishing the translation is a disservice to him, to his memory and his achievement as an artist,” Mr. Kiernan added.

(3) Philip Kennicott’s review of the 9/11 Memorial Museum in the Washington Post is an impressive demonstration of the richness and subtlety of the English language. It’s worth reading whether or not you like all of his opinions.

(4) “Based on earlier surveys of deep-sea fish populations, researchers estimate deep-sea fish effectively capture and store 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from Irish and U.K. surface waters each year,” says a writer in Scientific American. Then in the grand tradition of science fiction he extrapolates a scientific idea into a dubious social policy.

Next time you eat fish for dinner, consider that your meal is probably worth more money as a carbon capture and storage device…..

That’s right – get the UN on the phone, make everybody stop eating fish! You think I’m kidding? Well, not entirely. Click on the link.

(5) Speaking of bad ideas, Maureen Johnson and John Scalzi suggested quite a few on Book Expo America’s “The Worst Social Media Advice” panel. For example, they recommend —

Respond to EVERY criticism and win EVERY fight.

Maureen: “Wait, all men are—”
Scalzi: “NOT ALL MEN. As a straight white male, I know how all of you feel all the time. In conclusion, listen to me.”
Maureen: “But isn’t it possible—”
Scalzi: “NO NO NONO NO NO NO. Wait until I’m done.”
Maureen: “I thought maybe…”
Scalzi: “Why haven’t you made me a sandwich yet??” He sighed in frustration, but then allowed, “Now you may speak.”
Maureen (whispered): “I love you.”

(6) The Two-Wheeled Madwoman told her readers they have a chance to Win A Trip To Space:

I don’t know if it’s round-trip or not, but who cares?  The top-level Hackaday Prize is an all expenses paid trip to space!

(7) Z-Man sounds like a new creation from Stan Lee, but he’s from DARPA.

DARPA’s Z-Man program has demonstrated the first known human climbing of a glass wall using climbing devices inspired by geckos. The historic ascent involved a 218-pound climber ascending and descending 25 feet of glass, while also carrying an additional 50-pound load in one trial, with no climbing equipment other than a pair of hand-held, gecko-inspired paddles….

The anatomy of a gecko toe consists of a microscopic hierarchical structure composed of stalk-like setae (100 microns in length, 2 microns in radius). From individual setae, a bundle of hundreds of terminal tips called spatulae (approximately 200 nanometers in diameter at their widest) branch out and contact the climbing surface.

A gecko is able to climb on glass by using physical bond interactions-specifically van der Waals intermolecular forces-between the spatulae and a surface to adhere reversibly, resulting in easy attachment and removal of the gecko’s toes from the surface.

The van der Waals mechanism implied that it is the size and shape of the spatulae tips that affect adhesive performance, not specific surface chemistry. This suggested that there were design principles and physical models derived from nature that might enable scientists to fabricate an adhesive inspired by gecko toes.

(8) Stephan Pastis, the artist who creates the Pearls Before Swine comic,revealed that the reclusive Bill Watterson (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) ghosted artwork in three recent strips

He said he knew that in my strip, I frequently make fun of my own art skills. And that he thought it would be funny to have me get hit on the head or something and suddenly be able to draw. Then he’d step in and draw my comic strip for a few days….

The only thing Bill ever asked of me was that I not reveal he had worked on Pearls until all three of his strips had run. (And if you haven’t yet seen those three strips, they can be found HERE, HERE, and HERE.)

(9) I suppose I’m including this hockey link simply because the video is bizarre.

There is a monstrous video screen with Will Ferrell’s mug shouting “Go Kings Go,” and other ravings about losing his mind, in the shadow of the Empire State Building. The video screen is on the corner of 33rd and 7th avenue, one of the busier intersections in New York. For those unfamiliar with the city, that means Will Ferrell is basically looking directly into Madison Square Garden and screaming at the New York Rangers.

… And it’s a job well done; it is definitely a little unsettling to see Will Ferrell’s giant head yelling at you, like an even more deranged Wizard of Oz, as you try to go about your business.

Well, there’s the Oz reference too.

(10) Neil deGrasse Tyson’s list of 10 favorite sci-fi films doesn’t overlap much with mine, I can tell you that.

(11) For $115 the New York Times Store makes it possible for you to own something that looks like a Hugo, the Rocket Coin Bank:

This retro bronze bank, featuring three portholes, has a slot in the back for your coins. When it is full, you can unscrew the rocket, empty it and start again. The 8” rocket is solidly built and weighs 2.5 lb.

For example, if your dad is Larry Correia this might make a great Father’s Day Gift and take the pressure off him needing to win “the Big One” (as George R.R. Martin calls the Best Novel Hugo).

The same outfit also sells a really nifty-looking Flying Saucer With Alien Figures:

This is a fantastic cast bronze and aluminum extraterrestrial, complete with an alien family that will make itself right at home on your shelf or desk.

(12) Beware! There is now an official beer for The Walking Dead.

It’s produced by Dock Street Brewing in Philadelphia, and is called “Walker.”  The secret ingredient: GOAT BRAINS.

Yes, nothing beats the great taste of BRAINS in beer!

Lucky for you they’ve sold out the entire stock. By the time they brew another, the impulse to try it may have passed.

(13) The most certain way to get high school kids to read SF is, of course, to ban it. That’s why Cory Doctorow will soon have a huge following in Pensacola says

Cory Doctorow’s 2008 YA novel Little Brother is all about questioning authority, thinking critically, and reverse-engineering surveillance….

Needless to say, if you’re a principal at a high school, that’s the last thing you want your students to be thinking about. (Back in my day, teachers and administrators were all stressed out over Pink Floyd’s The Wall.)

Needless to say, if you’re a principal at Booker T. Washington High in Pensacola, Florida, you butt in at the last minute to scotch a school-wide reading and discussion of the book. And you do it without realizing that the author is incredibly well-connected and blogs at the hugely popular site Boing Boing.

You’d never guess from the principal’s reaction that Little Brother is recommended by the Florida Library Association for use in schools.

This kerfuffle was resolved by making Little Brother a student elective. Publisher Tor has sent 200 free copies to the school. And Doctorow will probably do a videoconference with kids in the classroom this fall.

(14) Librarians have been instrumental in connecting many a fan with fandom. A fellow named Gary who likes to write about himself in the third person tells how a librarian helped him discover the Elves, Gnomes and Little Men’s Marching and Chowder Society in the 1950s.

Their destination was the Garden Library in the 2500 block of Telegraph Ave in Berkley.   Arriving, Gary discovering h was the youngest in attendance and was somewhat ill at ease among this elderly group.  The gathering possessing a organizational name, ” Elves’,  Gnomes’ and Little Men’s Science Fiction ,  Chowder and Marching Society”.  The sobriquet displaying a knowledgable wonderment, furthering Gary’s conjectured intrigue about the group.   The youth  seated among the faction, having been introduced to those calibrated appropriators of inventive science.  A  sense of ambiguity soon faded as a speaker arose, standing  before a chalkboard, clearing his throat,  beginning a discourse on yet to be explored  world  of Hyper-Space.

Gary also tagged along to the aftermeeting where members devoted themselves to the disappointingly mundane topic of guessing whether President Eisenhower would seek a second term.

(15) Game of Thrones *Spoiler Warning*

Here’s something George R.R. Martin can’t give you in a book — an interview with the personified character after he or she has been killed out of the series. In this case, it involves the actress who played Ygritte.

What was that final day on set like, shooting that final scene? Were there more people on set to see you off? Was the weather nice for your last day?

We were up in Belfast; it wasn’t particularly nice weather. But the production was very lovely, very thoughtful, and the scene that I die in Jon Snow’s arms was my final scene, so after that was done, I was wrapped for good, as it were. So already it was quite an emotional day, and it was a night shoot, and there were loads of people there on set. David and Dan were there as well, and after we finally wrapped, they presented me with Ygritte’s bow. They had wrapped it for me and the crew and everyone kind of surrounded me and stuff, and then it was done and I cried. I mean, I cried profusely, like a little baby girl. They were wonderful; it was very, very magical. I was very touched.

[Thanks for these links goes out to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, David Klaus, John King Tarpinian, James H. Burns and Michael J. Walsh.]


Snapshots 136 Episodes of Fame

Here are 14 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Andrew Liptak mines the history of the sf field, turning its inside stories into gold for his column in Kirkus Reviews.

The genre has seen its share of slow-pay and no-pay publishers but few lasted as long as Martin Greenberg. Liptak discusses why in “The Meteoric Rise and Fall of Gnome Press”.

Not all authors had such an experience with Gnome: Robert Heinlein, according to The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Critical and Bibliographic History, was paid on time, due to his own healthy sales and reputation. Despite the problems, Greenberg maintained a charismatic and upbeat attitude, and was described by Asimov as someone you’d go to a convention to beat up, only to talk and end up buying him a drink. Robert Silverberg noted that even as he had trouble getting paid, he “remained on amiable terms with [Greenberg],” but that he also had to retrieve the rights to his books in order to sell them elsewhere. Greenberg’s attitude, despite his issues, was a deciding factor in Gnome Press’s longevity in the face of its financial issues.

(2) Smithsonian Magazine‘s interview with Sir Patrick Stewart is illustrated with a photo of the actor perched in a chair holding a hardback of Amazing Stories. Congratulations, Steve Davidson, on a nifty bit of product placement!

SMITHSONIAN: Is your lifelong passion for human rights part of what attracted you to the role of Professor Xavier in X-Men?

STEWART: Actually, yes. I turned that down when it was first offered to me, and the director, Bryan Singer, whom I had not met, said, “Please meet with me. I want to talk to you, before we move on and talk to someone else.” And he talked to me about what he hoped to achieve with the first of those films; how the subject matter would be examining the rights of those who are different from others and asking, because they were different, did they have the same rights as everybody else. And he said in the film there will be two camps. There will be a camp led by Magneto, who believes that the only way in which the mutant world can protect itself is by fighting and destroying its enemies, and Xavier, who believes that there is, as Captain Picard would have done, another route which is peaceful and involves discussion and exposure and conversation and dialogue. And I saw it, I saw the point. So I happily signed on to be an active voice for the good guys.

(3) The mundane political slugfest that threatens to overshadow the Hugo Awards includes fans who believe it’s not enough to lift up their favorite nominee – they must bury the opposition, too. That’s why you find bloggers like The Weasel King educating readers about the most tactical placement of the “No Award” option.

The point is, voting No Award is a useful tool! But anything you list after No Award is going to get your vote and your support BEFORE things that aren’t listed at all. So don’t do that. If your ballot goes: 1. No Award 2. Chlamydia 3. David Duke and you leave off the rest of the possibilities because you haven’t read them or don’t care, then when No Award is eliminated (it almost always is eliminated first, or second if one of the nominees is L Ron Hubbard), your vote goes to Chlamydia. And when Chlamydia is eliminated, you’ve now voted for the Grand Wizard. So *do not* list people you genuinely do not want to get the award below No Award. List No Award last, and do not list them at all. Things you list under No Award can and possibly *will* get your vote

(4) “[A] BBC-TV show Star Cops had a U. S. space station named after Ronald Reagan,” recalls David Klaus. “I wonder if the Tea Party people will demand such a name change after the Russians remove themselves from contributing to the station?”

A news item about astronauts returning from the International Space Station on May 13 inspired his question.

A Russian Soyuz space capsule carrying three astronauts from the International Space Station has landed in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

…Aboard the capsule are Russian Mikhail Tyurin, American Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata of Japan. They had spent 188 days on the space station.

(5) You can have the same view of Earth those astronauts had when they were aboard the ISS. Click here to see Live Earth from Space.

If the left image is black, it’s night where the ISS is and you need to try in 20 minutes.

If the image is grey, it’s in a dead spot (day or night) for video reception. Try again in 20 minutes.

(6) It seems every couple of months scientists announce a definitive victory for one of the rival theories about what wiped out the dinosaurs. This month it’s an asteroid impact that’s certainly to blame. Wait around and the volcanologists soon will be back on top. (Wasn’t there a Frank Sinatra song about  that sort of thing?)

It’s a compelling story, but one that has been difficult to prove — until now. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of scientists from the Netherlands say they have found the first hard evidence of the hypothesized impact winter, buried deep in the geological record.

To take the temperature of the Earth 66 million years ago, the researchers looked at lipids produced by an ocean-dwelling microorganism called Thaumarchaeota, preserved in sediment rocks near the Brazos River in Texas.

Thaumarchaeota adjust the composition of the lipids in their cell membranes to the temperature of the sea water. When the organism dies, it sinks to the sea floor, and the lipids in its membrane are preserved in sandy ocean sediments.

(7) The US Navy is about to start distributing  Navy eReader Devices (NeRDs) in their submarine fleet. There will be five NeRDs per boat.

An article on adds:

The NeRD library will include a fixed selection of titles from a variety of genres, including fiction, nonfiction, best-sellers, history books and classics, according to CNN. For instance, popular books such as Game of Thrones series, Ender’s Game and The Lord of the Rings trilogy will be included. The device’s 300-book selection is only a small fraction of the Navy’s digital library, which contains 108,000 titles.

(8) Through June 8 at the Getty Center in LA, see “A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography”.

In 1839, just two years after Victoria became queen of Great Britain and Ireland, the medium of photography was announced to the world. This exhibition explores the relationship between the new art form and the queen, whose passion for collecting photographs began in the 1840s. On display are rare daguerreotypes, private portraits of the Royal Family, and a selection of prints by early masters of photography.

(9) Lecturer Ray Bradbury once was interrupted by someone shouting he was wrong about the theme of Fahrenheit 451

The thing is, according to Bradbury, you know, the guy who wrote the book in the first place, it isn’t about censorship, like at all. Though Bradbury did indeed write the book during an era when actual book burning were a thing that totally could have happened at any moment, he has always insisted that the main theme of the book is the role of the mass media and its effect on the populace, in particular television and how it makes people less able to digest more complex forms of media, like books.

However, virtually nobody accepts this as the true theme of the novel, even though it’s an exact-ish quote from the guy who wrote the bloody thing. The perfect example of this was a time when Bradbury himself was giving a lecture on the novel to a class of college students and upon casually mentioning that the theme of the novel was the dangers of television, he was stopped in his tracks by someone loudly exclaiming “no, it’s about censorship!“.

(10) James H. Burns asks, “Would you snort a Wild Mojito?” You may soon get the chance due to the increasing availability of powdered alcoholic beverages.

Just add water. It works for instant coffee, tea and juice mix. Might it also work for your favorite cocktail? Powdered alcohol hasn’t gotten much of a foothold in the U.S. even though the idea has been around for decades. An Arizona company thinks that Americans are ready for the convenience of mojitos and margaritas that come from a small foil packet. The U.S. government thought so, too, at least for a couple of weeks earlier this month.   Makers of the new powdered alcohol drink mix Palcohol have to put the cork back in their champagne, for now anyway. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), part of the Department of the Treasury, earlier this week told the Associated Press that it had on April 8 issued “in error” the federal approvals….

(11) Scientific American has assembled a list of YouTube links to Sixties films that forecasting the shape of technology in times to come.

It seems unfair that the worse the prediction was, the more entertaining the video is to watch.

Asimov wasn’t the only person to look into the technological crystal ball. Fifty and 60 years ago gee-whiz films depicting life today were a staple—a sure way to wow audiences. Today these fanciful visions of the future live on, on YouTube. Let them be a warning to anyone today who’s inclined to make a prediction about life in 2064.

(12) Earlier this year NASA renamed Southern California’s Dryden Flight Research Center after Neil Armstrong. The Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center honors both his exploits as an astronaut and his incredible career as a test pilot at this very facility.

Armstrong had significant ties to the center, both before and after his days as a NASA astronaut. He served as a research test pilot at the center from 1955 to 1962, amassing more than 2,400 flight hours in 48 different models of aircraft at the center, including seven flights in the rocket-powered hypersonic X-15. Armstrong was part of a team that conceptualized the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, a flight test craft that evolved into the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle.  Armstrong and the other commanders of Apollo lunar landing missions trained in that vehicle for their descents from lunar orbit down to the surface of the moon.

…The late Hugh L. Dryden, the center’s namesake since 1976, will continue to be memorialized in the renaming of the center’s 12,000-square-mile Western Aeronautical Test Range as the Dryden Aeronautical Test Range.

(13) Episodes of Alcoa Premiere and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour written by Ray Bradbury will be among the offerings at UCLA’s Billy Wilder Theater on June 8 when it celebrates the illustrious career of Norman Lloyd. All three shows on the docket were directed by Lloyd and first aired in the 1960s.

(14) It’s not a typo. And it’s not named after anyone in my family. It’s the Flobal Glyer.

[Thanks for these links goes out to R. Laurraine Tutihasi, Andrew Porter, Michael J. Walsh, David Klaus, John King Tarpinian and James H. Burns.]

Snapshots 135 Sesquiquadrate

Here are 15 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Still 85 days left to enter your auction bid for this domain name: Or if you’re in a hurry they’ll sell it to you outright for $10,000. Zero bids so far.

(2) E.T. flew home in a spaceship but his Atari 2600 game cartridges made a much shorter trip — in a trash truck.

Documentary filmmakers digging in a New Mexico landfill on Saturday unearthed hundreds of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” cartridges, considered by some the worst video game ever made and blamed for contributing to the downfall of the video game industry in the 1980s.

Some gamers speculate that thousands or even millions of the unwanted cartridges made by Atari were buried in a landfill in Alamogordo, about 200 miles (320 km) southeast of Albuquerque.

Who dumped the videos, how many they buried and why they did it inspired the dig and a documentary of the event by Microsoft Corp’s Xbox Entertainment Studios.

The first batch of E.T. games was discovered under layers of trash after about three hours of digging, a Microsoft spokeswoman said, putting to rest questions about whether the cartridges would be found at all.

(3) Scientists have created Onehundredseventeenium! Made up of 117 protons, the element is 40 percent heavier than an atom of lead.

Scientists have been aware of the existence of element 117 for some time, since its discovery by a group of Russian researchers in 2010. However it wasn’t officially recognized by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC), an organization responsible for defining the periodic table, as they require the creation of a new element to be independently verified.

A multinational group of researchers led by scientists at Germany’s GSI lab have now managed to create four atoms of 117 and independently confirm its existence, before it disappeared in a tenth of a second.

“Making element 117 is at the absolute boundary of what is possible right now,” says Professor David Hinde, Director of the Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility, ANU Nuclear Physics Department, Australia, who collaborated on the research. “That’s why it’s a triumph to create and identify even a few of these atoms.”

(4) A radio play based on a Heinlein story. A live performance introduced by Ray Bradbury. A cast featuring Harlan Ellison? It happened! David Benedict reminisces about the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company’s production of “The Man Who Traveled in Elephants”.

In 1998, ARTC experienced an important moment in its history as we unveiled the first in our Dean’s List series of Robert A. Heinlein adaptations, The Man Who Traveled in Elephants. And, boy, did we go all out. You can see all of the below photos at full size in our Flickr gallery.

First, if you’ve read the story, you may notice that it’s not quite like anything else that Heinlein wrote for the most part. In fact, Bill Ritch and Brad Linaweaver, who were instrumental in helping us get the rights from Virginia Heinlein to do this adaptation, described it as “Bradburyesque,” referring to legendary science fiction writer Ray Bradbury. Wouldn’t it be fun, we imagined, if we could get Ray Bradbury to introduce us?

(5) Here’s how trufans play the game! Effie Seiberg makes con attendance affordable in “The Cheapskate’s Guide to SF/F cons”.

But everyone’s going to a restaurant: Yeah, sometimes this is what’s going to need to happen. If your favorite author invites you to join and you get starry-eyed at the mere mention of their name, you’re going. You can either go nuts and suck up the cost, or you can fill up on other food prior (your own, the con suite) and just order something light. You’ll still get to go, and a single appetizer won’t set you nearly as far back.

Drinks: This may be the hardest one on the list. You can of course bring your own, but then you’re that sad person drinking alone in their room. Most parties will just give you alcohol, so start with those and get your drink on. If you’re going to barcon (you know, where people have their own little con at the bar), you can always order a ginger ale instead, which is far cheaper. Especially since you still have your buzz from the parties.

(6) Pluto makes strange bedfellows, too. John C. Wright’s unexpectedly complimentary post about John Scalzi mentioned one thing they agree about is returning Pluto to its traditional status as a planet. This elicited an even more unexpected response from Vox Day. He told Wright —

While we may happen to disagree with regards to the various merits of Mr. Scalzi, I rejoice to learn that there is common ground to be found related to the position of the present status of Pluto, an outrage concerning which all men of sense and goodwill are bound to stand in harmony. I wish to inform you that I fully endorse your call for the restoration of Pluto to his rightful place as a full planet of our nine-planet system, and regardless of any other differences of opinion, I would be proud to stand with both you and Mr. Scalzi on any barricade dedicated to the defense of that noble position.

Imagine Wright, Vox Day and John Scalzi banding together for Pluto. That’s goofy!

(6) While checking Scalzi’s track record about planet Pluto, I discovered his delightfully humorous 2007 story “Pluto Tells All”.

I don’t want to sound like I was surprised, but yeah, I was surprised. Because just before, they were talking about adding planets, right? Me and Eris and possibly Ceres, and it looked like that proposal was getting good play. So it looked good, and Charon and I thought it’d be okay to take a break and get a little alone time. So there we are relaxing and then suddenly my agent Danny’s on the phone, telling me about the demotion. And I say to him, I thought you had this taken care of. That’s what you told me. And he said, well, they took another vote.

(7) The reasons Pluto was demoted include these advanced by Neil DeGrasse Tyson in his NPR interview in February:

So Pluto is not only the littlest planet, all right, that alone shouldn’t hurt it, but more than half of its volume is ice. No other planet has that. So if you moved it to where Earth is right now, heat from the sun would evaporate the ice and it would grow a tail. That’s no kind of behavior for a planet!

Pluto, its orbit is elongated so severely that it crosses the orbit of Neptune. Now, we have words for objects that cross the orbits of other planets and are made of mostly ice; they’re called comets. By the way, there are six moons in the solar system that are bigger than Pluto including Earth’s moon, which is five times the mass of Pluto. So really, Pluto was never the ninth planet; it was the first of a new class of objects that we didn’t really discover the rest of until the early 1990s.

(8) But Pluto can afford to be patient. As Amada Pelser tweeted:

From the time Pluto was discovered to the time it was “demoted” as a planet, it hadn’t even circled the sun once

(9) Before this year’s slate of Hugo nominees was buried under a kerfuffle avalanche some commentators were actually paying attention to the list’s history-making results.

Evelyn Leeper at MT Void:

Oddly, I find the editors’ names more familiar than the authors’, though it has been observed that this is the first time *ever* that Astounding, Analog, or its editor was not on the nominations ballot. In 1953-1956 and 1958, there was no short list, just a winner, and it won in 1953, 1955, and 1956, so that is really only 1954 and 1958 that it did not appear on the ballot. (Note: women are in the majority in the editor categories.)

Steven J Franklin (on

As this is a UK round-up, it’s probably worth noting that Lee Harris – who was nominated as Best Editor (long form) this year – is the first British editor to have been shortlisted in the entire history of the Hugo Awards!


Four out of five of the books nominated for Best Novel at this year’s Hugo Awards are published by Orbit in the UK.

Little, Brown’s Orbit imprint leads the Best Novel list, with nominations for Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice; Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross; Parasite by Mira Grant; and The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.

The final book in the category is Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles, by Larry Correia (Baen Books).

(10) One of the most amusing contributions inspired by this year’s Hugo kerfuffle is Cheryl Morgan’s “A Modest Proposal: The Corrective Hugos”.  Very few can keep their sense of humor when all about them are losing theirs…

It is noted that:

  1. In past years the WRONG people have often won Hugo Awards.
  2. Even more WRONG people have been nominated for Hugo Awards.
  3. That, despite repeated and vociferous demands from fandom, the Hugo Jury* has shamefully and persistently refused to rescind their decisions and correct these travesties of justice.

It is therefore resolved:

  1. To create a new category of Corrective Hugo Award

  2. Each year the nomination ballot shall include space for fans to nominate a year/category to be corrected, and a correct slate of nominations for that award…

(11) George R.R. Martin always seems fresh and unaffected, no matter how many times he’s been interviewed. Here’s part of Rolling Stone’s sit-down with the author of Game of Thrones.

Where does your imagination come from?
Ideas are cheap. I have more ideas now than I could ever write up. To my mind, it’s the execution that is all-important. I’m proud of my work, but I don’t know if I’d ever claim it’s enormously original. You look at Shakespeare, who borrowed all of his plots. In A Song of Ice and Fire, I take stuff from the Wars of the Roses and other fantasy things, and all these things work around in my head and somehow they jell into what I hope is uniquely my own. But I don’t know where it comes from, yet it comes – it’s always come. If I was a religious guy, I’d say it’s a gift from God, but I’m not, so I can’t say that.

(12)  Many conventions added an anti-harassment policy last year, or updated the one they had. Stephanie Zvan’s ”So You’ve Got Yourself a Policy. Now What?” walks conrunners through a challenging scenario and offers practical suggestions about the  way to respond.

To make this the most useful, let’s make it hard. Let’s take an edge situation with a lot at stake. Assume you’re an organizer who has just been told that one of your volunteers or your speakers has done something another volunteer found inappropriate. It isn’t a big thing, maybe a joke that relies on an obscure gender- or race-based stereotype, an overenthusiastic and overpersonal compliment, an unwelcome shoulder rub….

It’s also extra important that you get this right. Speakers/special guests and volunteers are in a position of power relative to your average attendee. If they do turn out to be predatory, their targets are less likely to feel they can comfortably resist, and they’re less likely to report problems directly to organizers because they’re less likely to think they’ll get a fair hearing. Speakers/special guests and volunteers are also the people that make your program run and put butts in your seats. You don’t want to antagonize them without reason.

(13) Production has started on the film adaptation of Goosebumps with Jack Black as author R. L. Stine.

The new movie will be based on the R.L. Stine books of the same name. The stories are horror tales written for children, and debuted in 1992. Stine wrote 62 books in the original series, and an additional 115 for the spinoff series.

(14) William F. Nolan is interviewed by Masters of Horror

How did you and George Clayton Johnson come up with the concept for Logan’s Run?

I came up with a concept when I was asked by Charles Beaumont to give a talk at his UCLA class on writing in the mid-1960’s. The topic was the difference between social fiction and science fiction. So I took the social concept of “life begins at forty” and turned it around. What if life ends at forty? In my talk I pointed out that in social fiction, a man might turn forty and then run off with a showgirl, have a mid-life crisis… but in science fiction, he has to face some real threat, technologically or in a future society that demands euthanasia at forty.

Later, I discussed the concept with George Clayton Johnson and we decided that it would have more impact if the age was lowered to 21. George wanted to immediately create a screenplay, but I felt strongly that it should be a novel first. George acquiesced, and we rented a motel room to remove distractions and for three weeks we took turns at the typewriter. The rest is history.

(15) Everybody needs a hobby – “A Florida resident drove around with a cellphone jammer for two years before being caught”.

Many states have banned talking on your cellphone while driving, but Florida is not one of them. So 60-year-old vigilante Jason R. Humphreys took matters into his own hands.

As The Tampa Tribune reports, Humphreys brought a cellphone jammer along on his commute every day for two years. You know, to ensure that his fellow commuters remained focused on the road. Until two local sheriff’s deputies caught him in the act and slapped him with $48,000 worth of fines, which he must pay or otherwise respond to within a month.

It turns out that Humphreys would have gone undetected if it hadn’t been for a local carrier noticing that something was messing with its towers. MetroPCS (which is owned by T-Mobile) notified the Federal Communications Commission that there was a peculiar outage on a certain patch of the Interstate 4 highway and downtown Tampa exactly a year ago. The FCC looked into it and discovered that wideband emissions — broadcast activity with wide frequencies or wavelengths — were emanating from a blue Toyota Highlander.

I didn’t know these had been invented. That’s the only way I’ve avoided temptation. Say, what size is the apparatus? Is there a hand-held version I can surreptitiously use when people are carrying on loud one-sided conversations with their cell phones in elevators, store lines and airport waiting areas — like they need to shout to be heard because the other person is far away! *Zap!*

[Thanks for these links goes out to John King Tarpinian, Dave Langford and Andrew Porter.]

Update 05/05/2014: Corrected Leeper quote attribution to Evelyn.

Snapshots 134 Ventura Freeway

Here are 10 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Star Wars VII starts shooting in May. Bloggers are shooting already.

Can anyone sound more jaded than the folks at Geekologie?

Star Wars Episode VII… [will] be released in theaters on December 18, 2015. The story will pick up some 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. What happened in those 30 years? Apparently nothing worth making a movie about. At least not until they finish this trilogy and backtrack again for Star Wars Episode X: The Wonder Years. Just like I did for all the disappointing prequels, I will be watching these on opening day, dressed in character. Which character remains to be seen, but I’m leaning towards Data or Worf.

(2) Here’s the brew they should order when they’re out drinking after the premiere – Klingon Warnog.

The wait is nearly over, Klingons and Klingon lovers. Klingon Warnog — the first Star Trek themed beer to hit the U.S. — can soon be yours. Brewed by Tin Man Brewing of Evansville, Indiana, Klingon Warnog will incorporate rye malt into a modern Dunkelweizen grain bill, creating a flavor profile that is both familiar and unique.

As the Federation of Beer folks put in brewing-ese, Warnog’s aroma is predominantly mild banana and clove produced by the German wheat yeast, supported by subtle sweet malt character from the use of Munich malt. The flavor draws heavily from the blending of the rye malt and traditional clove character, creating a very rich and unique flavor. The inclusion of wheat and caramel malts help to round out the mouthfeel of this beer, making this Dunkelweizen hearty enough to be called… a Klingon Warnog.

(3) Many things were done to promote the new season of Game of Thrones. HBO’s “Game of Thrones: Epic Fan Experience” drew 7,000 fans to Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn. Winter had already arrived, reports the Grantland writer known as Netw3rk

As you approach the Iron Throne of Westeros, or any reasonable facsimile thereof, you may find yourself overcome with anxiety about how you’re going to sit in it….. It’s hard not to overthink something as instinctual as your body position during the normally quotidian activity of resting your ass on something, when that something happens to be one of the most iconic symbols in the pop-culture zeitgeist and you get only one chance for a good picture….

I can now report: The Iron Throne is uncomfortable. The one I sat in was, anyway. The seat, as one would expect of 1,000 swords hammered into the shape of a chair, is hard on the ass, but also narrower than you’d expect, and high. I tried to cock my torso over at an angle toward one of the armrests, elbow on the rest, hand under chin; kind of a Joffrey-meets-Biggie thing. But the circumscribed butt support area didn’t allow for the right body angle, and the result was much more Tin Man–meets-dirtbag than chilled-out sovereign. Alas.

(4) Meantime, George R.R. Martin’s story is now inspiring parents to name their babies after his characters:

Perhaps no Game of Thrones character is as beloved as Daenerys Targaryen (played by Emilia Clarke), the daughter of a slain king who has spent most of the series to date amassing forces to reclaim the lands that were once her father’s. Also she has dragons, which people seem to like.

So it’s not too surprising that fans of the show would name their kids after her. According to data from the Social Security Administration, were 21 newborns in 2012 named “Daenerys,” which was never used enough in previous years to show up in official counts (for privacy reasons, the SSA only releases numbers for names used five or more times in a given year).

But wee baby Daeneryses were dramatically outnumbered by newborns named “Khaleesi” — the title Targaryen earned when she married Dothraki leader (or “Khal”) Drogo. 146 “Khaleesi”s were born in 2012, making it more popular as a full name than “Betsy” or “Nadine.”

(5) “Late afternoon lighting produced a dramatic shadow of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity photographed by the rover’s rear hazard-avoidance camera on March 20, 2014,” begins a Mars Daily article.

Seeing that photo of a Martian rover’s shadow made James H. Burns ask:

What is it about this type of image that gets me so thrilled? I suppose it’s the basic notion of a man made creation, a miracle really, doing something so simple, and capturing it so gloriously, in what really are such fantastic circumstances. (And only the most callow lad, I think, would term this the echo of an Aresian “selfie”!)

(6) Years ago PC owners were asked to volunteer to process packets of data for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence because SETI didn’t have enough computer power to do it all. Data processing power has zoomed ahead since then. Now a university is hosting an online tool that allows people to build entire custom universes and update these virtual models as new survey telescopes and instruments become available.

Swinburne University of Technology has launched a free online astronomy virtual laboratory that will allow scientists to build complex customised views of the Universe, all from the comfort of their own computer.

The Theoretical Astrophysical Observatory (TAO), funded by the Australian Government’s $48 million NeCTAR project, draws on the power of Swinburne’s gSTAR GPU supercomputer to allow astronomers to simulate the Universe and see how it would look through a wide range of telescopes.

(7) If – like me – you were unaware of the existence of Ultraman until you saw him posed beside the Hugo rocket on Nippon 2007’s award, then you probably also don’t know about Japan’s kaiju-themed restaurant filled with Ultraman paraphernalia.

(8) You probably haven’t forgotten that things didn’t go well for Loncon 3 when they announced Jonathan Ross as Hugo emcee. Now who will they ask? Milt Stevens knows who he would pick —

Loncon 3 has a problem. They need a Hugo Award Ceremony Host who can take a lot of heat. I have an idea for the perfect choice. Marvin the depressed android from Hitchhiker’s Guide. He can sneer at organics and get away with it. Marvin was played be English actor Warren Davis who might be available for the worldcon.

I’ve emailed my suggestion to the committee.

ReevesChristopher(9) The suspect’s name and the shirt he wore reminded people of Superman — but not his act. Christopher Reeves was busted for driving under the influence by local cops in Utah.

He wasn’t faster than a speeding bullet, so Davis County deputies were able to catch a man wearing a Superman shirt on I-15 early Tuesday morning, and arrest him on suspicion of drug trafficking.

Davis County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Susan Poulsen told the Clipper 33-year-old Christopher Jaye Reeves of Layton was spotted weaving and speeding through traffic on northbound I-15 at around 3:00 a.m. by a deputy on patrol.

Poulsen noted the similarity of the suspect’s name to the late actor Christopher Reeve (without the ‘s’) and specified that he has no relation to the man made famous by portraying the comic book superhero in movies before his death in 2004.

He’s no relation to George Reeves, either, who played Superman in the 1950s TV series Adventures of Superman.

(10) What flavor of politics do science fiction fans like best? I think we’ve learned that we can predict the answer to this rhetorical question if we know who’s asking. For example, no one will be surprised to learn that The Guardian finds Britain’s Liberal Democrats to be the party of trufans. (Trufans defined as viewers of Doctor Who, but then, I told you it was The Guardian.)

Some American fans would answer that question with “the Libertarian Party.” David Klaus writes:

I remember the first unsolicited fanzine I ever received, back in 1972, a copy of the late Irvin Koch’s Maybe, in which he noted the founding of the Libertarian Party earlier that year, and stated that he thought most sf fans would be interested in it, or words to that effect. Irv was a generalist fan, inclusive, not given to sectarian fan wars — he even was the contact for his local Church of All Worlds nest.

[Thanks for these links goes out to Andrew Porter, Mark L. Blackman, James H. Burns, David Klaus, Milt Stevens and John King Tarpinian.]

Snapshots 133 In The Morning

Here are 11 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Jurassic Park made the public receptive to bringing back extinct species. Just as well, then, that more progress is being made on passenger pigeons and wooly mammoths than T-rex:

What does it matter whether Passenger Pigeon 2.0 is a real passenger pigeon or a persuasive impostor? If the new, synthetically created bird enriches the ecology of the forests it populates, few people, including conservationists, will object. The genetically adjusted birds would hardly be the first aspect of the deciduous forest ecosystem to bear man’s influence; invasive species, disease, deforestation and a toxic atmosphere have engineered forests that would be unrecognizable to the continent’s earliest European settlers. When human beings first arrived, the continent was populated by camels, eight-foot beavers and 550-pound ground sloths. “People grow up with this idea that the nature they see is ‘natural,’ ” Novak says, “but there’s been no real ‘natural’ element to the earth the entire time humans have been around.”

The earth is about to become a lot less “natural.” Biologists have already created new forms of bacteria in the lab, modified the genetic code of countless living species and cloned dogs, cats, wolves and water buffalo, but the engineering of novel vertebrates — of breathing, flying, defecating pigeons — will represent a milestone for synthetic biology. This is the fact that will overwhelm all arguments against de-extinction. Thanks, perhaps, to “Jurassic Park,” popular sentiment already is behind it. (“That movie has done a lot for de-extinction,” Stewart Brand told me in all earnestness.) In a 2010 poll by the Pew Research Center, half of the respondents agreed that “an extinct animal will be brought back.” Among Americans, belief in de-extinction trails belief in evolution by only 10 percentage points. “Our assumption from the beginning has been that this is coming anyway,” Brand said, “so what’s the most benign form it can take?”

(2)  A friend of mine once hit a deer on the way to a convention in Minneapolis — ruined her day. Reindeer occupy that ecological niche in Finland but in the 21st century there is a technological solution to the problem – with no genetic engineering required.

Glowing reindeer can be spotted in northern Finland thanks to a reflective spray which makes them more visible in a bid to prevent car accidents, Finnish reindeer breeders said on Tuesday.

“We are hoping that it is so useful that we can use the spray in the entire region and on all reindeer, from young to old,” said Anne Ollila, head of Finland’s Reindeer Herders’ Association.

The association has started testing two reflective sprays on the animals’ antlers so they are more visible to motorists at night.

According to Ollila, there are between 3,000 and 5,000 accidents involving reindeer every year, which are “much deadlier for the reindeer than for the drivers.”

If only Rudoph had lived to see this day!

(3) The “Light saber combat academy is a real thing” reports Geekologie:

This is a video of students practicing their lightsabering at the Ludosports Lightsaber Combat Academies in Italy (there are seven so far). That is a whole lot of lightsaber fighting. You can go to their official website to read about all the different styles they teach, which is really in depth.

(4) Click the link for an impressive online collection of Rod Serling photos, scripts and resources — and some good quotes about him, like this from Vince Gilligan:

“You want your work to be remembered. You want it to outlive you. My favourite show ever was ‘The Twilight Zone’ and I think about Rod Serling, [who] started that show 54 years ago this year. It long outlived him — he passed away in 1975 — but there’s kids who haven’t been born yet who will know the phrase ‘the twilight zone,’ and hopefully will be watching those wonderful episodes.”

(5) As a byproduct of my efforts to keep abreast of the latest SFWA controversies I also got to read some excellent writing advice. For one, Kameron Hurley’s post “Surprise! I Have No Idea Your Book is Coming Out”

I was listening to a podcast about the Hugos yesterday, and then this morning I read a post from another author about how, you know, as an author – especially fifteen+ years ago – you weren’t expected to do a lot of self-promotion. In fact, one of the reasons I got into this, too, was because it was a profession that would let me sit in a little room and write by myself. As an introvert, this was about the most perfect profession I could imagine. I didn’t have to hang out with people. I could just… work. I didn’t have to worry about getting judged on the size of my ass, or my unhip shoes or poor fashion choices. All I’d be judged on is the work.



This rosy land where nobody ever had to do any self-promotion is bullshit. Orson Welles was a huge self-promoter. So was Charles Dickens. Literary folks did readings and events all the damn time. And yes, a lot of them fucking hated it.

I fucking hate it too.

(6) Mary Rosenblum couldn’t be more right. Her post The Bad Review at the SFWA Blog wisely recommends that writers respond to negative reviews by doing this —



Read that again. Repeat it to yourself. Look at all the libelous ‘news’ in those tabloids you see at the end of the supermarket checkout counter, accusing celebrities of everything from incest to consorting intimately with aliens. Do those celebrities ever sue? No, of course not. To even acknowledge that silliness is to give it weight.

If you comment on a reviewer’s post, you will hurt yourself professionally. YOU WILL HURT YOURSELF PROFESSIONALLY.

(7) Posted on the SFWA Blog is a terrific interview of Eileen Gunn conducted by Rachel Swirsky. Asked to name her most memorable experience as a SFWA member Gunn answered —

The most memorable?

I do have a story of the kind of community that SFWA could provide despite its contentiousness. In 1991, Avram Davidson, who lived outside of Seattle, mentioned to me that his typewriter needed to be replaced and, because he could no longer see very well, he wanted exactly the same model, which was no longer made. There was no eBay then, so I asked on the SFWA topics on GEnie, and a number of people rummaged through their attics, and offered me working typewriters that they’d replaced with computers. Harry Turtledove had the same typewriter as Avram and sent it at his own expense. Avram was clearly gratified. “Harry and I had sort of a falling out,” he said. “Didn’t think we were still speaking to one another. I’ll write to him.”

(8) While most writers are trying to gain fame, fortune, and recognition for their brand, a few hyper-successful authors try and escape the chains they’ve forged in life by writing under assumed names. Tess Lynch at Grantland analyzes the latest newsmaking example in “J. K. Rowling and the Not-So-Secret Pseudonym” .

King wrote of his most prolific pen name, “Sometimes it was fun to be Bachman, a curmudgeonly recluse a la J.D. Salinger, who never gave interviews and who, on the author questionnaire from New English Library in London, wrote down ‘rooster worship’ in the blank provided for religion.” It isn’t easy to create a persona who’s fun to be, who offers you the opportunity to be judged as an invisible entity who can’t give press tours and who disappears when the anxiety (I’m a fraud, a liar, a trickster) becomes too much to bear. Rowling knows the magic of fiction: inhabiting several characters instantaneously, getting the hang of each voice and then helping them complete their actions without judgment, fitting them with batteries and letting them do their thing. Acknowledging Galbraith as Rowling doesn’t discredit his existence as a different author — speaking to a different readership — altogether: He is, and Rowling’s efforts to conceal her secret proved it. He validated her words, the best thing a pseudonym can do, and earned the right to his autonomy.

(9) A recent NASA Wallops mission showcased new automated range safety technology:

A spectacular launch from Virginia’s eastern shore recently resulted in the successful deployment of a record-breaking 29 small satellites into orbit, but that wasn’t the only first for the mission or the bustling spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va.

Range safety officers also used the ORS-3 mission, run by the U.S. military’s Operationally Responsive Space Office, to carry out the first of three planned certification tests of a new technology that promises to eventually eliminate the need for expensive down-range tracking and command infrastructure to manually terminate rockets if they veer off course.

…As part of that test, range officers programmed the unit to respond to a simulated signal indicating that the rocket had gone off course and to send a self-destruct or detonate command at the appropriate time.

James H. Burns comments: “I love what our various space programs can be and, obviously (!), believe in the potential of technology (particularly when paired with compassion)…  But do we really want the human element removed from our tracking of rockets that have gone wayward while still in our atmosphere during launch, and their termination an automated affair?”

That depends. Is Dr. Daystrom involved with this project?

(10) Harlan Ellison has optioned “’Repent, Harlequin!’ Said The Ticktock Man” for the first time – to J. Michael Straczynski.

How did Straczynski do it? He had to deliver a finished screenplay to Ellison, whose credits range from The Outer Limits and Star Trek to being acknowledged in many sci-fi works including James Cameron’s The Terminator, and serving as a Babylon 5 consultant. Only then did Ellison grant the option.

…This is the first project not self-generated by Straczynski to be hatched at his shingle Studio JMS. He launched the company to take more control of passion projects, and now is branching out to optioning book and short stories like this one that can be commercially viable sci-fi. He’s still just as active on the comic book front, with his The Adventures Of Apocalypse Al just published.

(11) This piece of musical trivia is truly bizarre

Luke and I were looking at Hieronymus Bosch’s painting The Garden of Earthly Delights and discovered, much to our amusement, music written upon the posterior of one of the many tortured denizens of the rightmost panel of the painting which is intended to represent Hell. I decided to transcribe it into modern notation, assuming the second line of the staff is C, as is common for chants of this era.

…So yes this is LITERALLY the 600-years-old butt song from hell.

[Thanks for these links goes out to Andrew Porter, James H. Burns, David Klaus and John King Tarpinian.]

Snapshots 132 Bar Kokhba Revolt

Here are 13 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Those who still associate James Bond with Aston Martin automobiles will be surprised to learn that 007 was a bad year for the manufacturer:

Aston Martin expanded a recall…to cover most of its sports cars built since late 2007 after discovering a Chinese sub-supplier was using counterfeit plastic material in a part supplied to the British luxury sports carmaker.

Owned by Kuwaiti and private equity investors, Aston Martin said it would now recall 17,590 cars, including all of its left-hand drive models built since November 2007 and all right-hand drive models built since May 2012….

Aston Martin found that Shenzhen Kexiang Mould Tool Co Limited, a Chinese subcontractor that moulds the affected accelerator pedal arms, was using counterfeit DuPont plastic material, according to documents filed with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Apparently there was a tendency for drivers to be shaken, not stirred by the driving experience.

(2) The Michigan Protectors, a group of wannabe crime fighters dressed as superheroes, is wracked by a leadership struggle between Petoskey Batman and Bee Sting.

Batman, aka Mark Williams, and Bee Sting, or Adam Besso, were once close friends, the Detroit News reported. Now, they are bitter enemies, and the Protectors, who operate in and around Petoskey, a coastal resort at the upper end of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, have lined up with one or the other.

The duo are birds of a feather. “Batman” Williams was charged with disturbing the peace in 2011 when police found him in full costume on the roof of a Petoskey building, where he’d been chased by a group of drunks.

“Bee Sting” Besso served over three months in jail after his shotgun discharged as he was wrestling with a man he’d told to stop revving his noisy motorcycle in a trailer park in the middle of the night.

Neither thinks the other is too super anymore.

“He is an abusive, neglectful, thieving, boastful, cowardly crook,” Williams said of Besso. “He belongs in jail and I will see him there.”

The News said Besso responded in kind: “He has to tear others down to feel better about himself. He’s like ‘Lord of the Flies’ with a slightly better version of dirt bags.”

(3) NASA and Roskosmos are negotiating to send an Israeli cosmonaut to the International Space Station later in the decade. Voice of Russia tells the story with more than a dollop of snark —

Since other countries have no manned spacecraft, the only option is Russia’s ‘Soyuz’ carrier rocket…. The source also pointed out that ‘Soyuz’ is the most reliable carrier rocket in the world. It is of no small importance to Israel, given that the first Israeli cosmonaut, Ilan Ramon, died during the fatal mission of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003. Israel will now hardly agree to send its citizen aboard US commercial spacecraft that will begin to be flight-tested in 2017 at the earliest. Israel will hardly run the risk, the news agency interlocutor said.

(4) Whortleberry Press recently published Dandelions of Mars: Ray Bradbury Tribute.  See more on Joy V. Smith’s Pinterest board.

(5) While panning Chang-Rae Lee’s dystopian novel On Such a Full Sea, Ursula K. Le Guin implicitly complimented him by holding the author to a higher standard

A good many things in the novel were inexplicable to me, such as how and when North America came to be like this, what happened to nation and religion, how raw materials are produced and how, without trains or good highways, they manage to have coffee, petrol, electronic devices, food in plastic pouches, neoprene suits, plastic throwaway dishes and implements – unsustainably hi-tech luxuries that we in 2014 enjoy thanks to our immense global network of industrial production. In a broken, sporadic civilisation, where does all this stuff come from? Neglect of such literal, rational questions in imaginative fiction is often excused, even legitimised, as literary licence. Because the author is known as a literary writer, he will probably be granted the licence he takes. But social science fiction is granted no such irresponsibility, and a novel about a future society under intense political control is social science fiction….

Lee’s prose is suave and canny; his story flows; events are vividly described, particularly as they verge into grotesque folktale violence and exaggeration; there are pleasant contemplative moments. Readers who find anachronism and implausibility easy to swallow will enjoy the story and perhaps find in it the fresh vision, the new take on dreary old Dystopia, That I could not.

(6) In the 2013 letter to corporate shareholders, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced a Star Wars Rebels movie will be out this summer.

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since we acquired the extraordinary Star Wars franchise, but we’re well on our way to expanding that epic saga to thrill fans and introduce its iconic characters to a new generation with fantastic new storylines. After months of public speculation and anticipation, we announced the official release date for the next feature film, Star Wars: Episode VII, will be December 18, 2015. So far we’ve kept the details to ourselves, but we’re thrilled with the story and committed to making an incredible movie, and we should be releasing more information as production moves forward in the coming year.

As with Marvel, the rich universe of Star Wars has tremendous creative potential for the entire company. While the world eagerly awaits Episode VII to open in theaters, we’re introducing Star Wars Rebels to television audiences this summer with a movie and a series of shorts on Disney Channel, followed by a continuing series on Disney XD. Our success in building a robust pipeline of original Star Wars content for various platforms will be an integral part of our long-term strategy to leverage the franchise across a variety of our businesses, from theme parks to consumer products.

(7) J. K. Rowling originally planned to match Harry and Hermione. As well she should have! Rowling made the admission in an interview conducted by – who else? — actress Emma Watson.

The shocking revelation came in the new issue of Wonderland, of which Watson is a guest editor this month. The comments were obtained by The Sunday Times.

Rowling says that she should have put Hermione and Harry together in the Harry Potter series instead of Hermione and Ron, according to the publication’s headline, which reads, “JK admits Hermione should have wed Harry.”

“I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment,” she says. “That’s how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” she continued, “I can hear the rage and fury it might cause some fans, but if I’m absolutely honest, distance has given me perspective on that. It was a choice I made for very personal reasons, not for reasons of credibility. Am I breaking people’s hearts by saying this? I hope not.”

Watson didn’t seem shocked by these comments and agreed with her. “I think there are fans out there who know that too and who wonder whether Ron would have really been able to make her happy.”

(8) Steampunk authors looking for historical background information turn up the darnedest stuff. Like this woman who was a professional self-defense instructor

Although the woman known as “Miss Sanderson” was a prominent fencer and self defence instructor in Edwardian London, regrettably little is known of her life – including her first name…. By 1908 she was teaching her own unique system of women’s self defence, based on Pierre Vigny’s method but concentrating on the use of the umbrella and parasol.

Here is an excerpt from a newspaper report about one of her demonstrations:

Then Miss Sanderson came to the attack, and the demonstration showed her to be as capable with the stick as the sword. She passed it from hand to hand so quickly that the eye could scarcely follow the movements, and all the while her blows fell thick and fast. Down slashes, upper cuts, side swings, jabs and thrusts followed in quick succession, and the thought arose, how would a ruffian come off if he attacked this accomplished lady, supposing she had either walking-stick, umbrella, or parasol at the time? In tests, she has faced more than one Hooligan, who was paid to attack her, and each time he has earned his money well.

(9) And now for something completely different – “zombie bees”.

Mutant “zombie bees” that act like the ghoulish creatures of horror films have surfaced in the Northeast after first appearing on the West Coast, a bee expert told ABC News on Wednesday.

An amateur beekeeper in Burlington, Vt., last summer found honeybees infested with parasites that cause the insects to act erratically and eventually kill them. It was the first spotting of zombie bees east of South Dakota, according to John Hafernik, a professor of biology at San Francisco State University whose team in October verified the infestation.

“They fly around in a disoriented way, get attracted to light, and then fall down and wander around in a way that’s sort of reminiscent of zombies in the movies,” Hafernik said. “Sometimes we’ve taken to calling [it], when they leave their hives, ‘the flight of the living dead.'”

(10) If only Isaac Asimov was still available to explain such complexities to us… Anyway, did you know The Good Doctor once was interviewed in Muppet Magazine?

Asimov was interviewed by Dr. Julius Strangepork aboard the Swinetrek in the Summer 1983 issue of Muppet Magazine. Asimov expressed, “I don’t think we can really advance into space until we learn how to cooperate as a planet.” He and Strangepork also discussed such issues as childhood, science fiction movies, his favorite star (Antares), the ugliness of E.T., and hair grooming. Strangepork particularly admires Asimov’s sideburns, which he grew himself (“I just applied fertilizer and waited.”)

(11) The Metapicture reports a little-known feature of some expensive old books.

It’s very possible that one of your battered old books contains an amazing secret called a “fore-edge painting,” which is an illustration that is hidden on the edge of the pages of the book. The technique allegedly dates back to the 1650s.

You can see the painting by bending together the pages of the book, just so you can see a small piece of each page.

But don’t count on your local antiquarian letting you grab his costly tomes so you can torque the pages looking for this kind of art.

(12) If you left your car out in the driveway for 10 years it wouldn’t look any better: see comparative photos showing how the Opportunity rover has aged since arriving on Mars a decade ago.

The Opportunity rover recently celebrated 10 years on Mars, even though the mission was only planned for three months. Engineers thought the rover would conk out much sooner, in part because they believed its solar panels would quickly become caked with dust and cut off the robot’s power supply. Instead, they found that wind storms actually help to clean the panels.

Over the years, Opportunity has taken several self-portraits — an overhead view of the rover made by combining several images — that give us a good idea of how much dust has accumulated on the solar panels. Compared to its first year on Mars, the rover is looking really dirty today.

(13) Taken out of context (for an article about holodeck technology) this scene from ST:TNG reminds me of many bad convention panels I’ve attended:

Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking are playing poker together.

No, this isn’t a bad physics joke. It’s a scene from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” It takes place in a holodeck, a simulated-reality room in the fictional Star Trek universe. The three scientists — or at least computer-generated versions of them — have been transported to the 2300s to play cards with Lt. Cmdr. Data.

“I don’t even know why I’m here in the first place,” Newton says.

Yes, even the awesome holodeck cannot keep program participants from uttering the comment that is the bane of conrunners everywhere.

[Thanks for these links goes out to James H. Burns, Joy V. Smith, Steven H Silver, John King Tarpinian and Andrew Porter.]