Pixel Scroll 1/1/19 We’re Going To Need A Bigger Scroll

You deserve a bigger one, but let’s pretend this Scroll came out on time!

(1) FANGRRLS INTERVIEWS KOWAL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SYFY Wire’s Fangrrls column keeps dropping posts, in this case an interview with an author I had the honor of meeting at the late Con†Stellation in Huntsville AL (“Space the Nation: Mary Robinette Kowal on astronauts, social justice and needing glasses”). Being a geek, I was intrigued at the way she uses spreadsheets in her writing (though that was probably only the third or fourth most interesting thing in the interview).

Mary Robinette Kowal’s multi-award-winning “Lady Astronaut” series imagines what the 1950’s space race would have been like if women weren’t just behind-the-scenes “calculators” (like the heroines of “Hidden Figures”), but center-stage mission members. If you’ve grown up in an era where female astronauts are not that all remarkable, maybe this doesn’t seem like much of a twist. But consider what Kowal has to do to make such an alternate history plausible: She smashes an asteroid into the East Coast of the United States, an extinction-level event that both transforms the space race into an attempt to colonize Mars and radically reduces the number of men available to work on this ambitious project — meaning that female astronauts are needed for both their bodies and their brains.

[…]FANGRRLS: How explicitly are you thinking about modern-day politics when you’re putting these stories together?

KOWAL: Pretty explicitly. These two books were odd because I wrote them before Trump. So, writing a book in which I slam an asteroid into Washington, DC is very different before Trump than after Trump. I went on a book tour for the book before this, Ghost Talkers, and my first tour date was election day. And what I usually do is read a chapter out loud from the next book. So, election day. I read the first chapter…

FANGRRLS: The slamming asteroid chapter?

KOWAL: I read the slamming asteroid chapter. And it’s fine. Because at this point, the results are not in yet. The day after that, I read it again and the audience has a completely different reaction. It was just — it was so uncomfortable and different. And I just didn’t read it for the rest of the tour.

(2) WIRED’S PICKS FOR BEST COMICS OF LAST YEAR. Wired talks about what they consider “The Best Comics of 2018— From Sabrina to Crowded.”

Each year, more comics hit the shops than any one person could ever read. And while the splashy superhero titles are (somewhat) easier to keep up with, finding all of the great hidden gems each year is tough. We’re here to help. Below, just in time for you to spend the holiday break catching up, are some of the best books of 2018. We say some of the best because we’re not mentioning titles that have appeared in previous year-end wrap-ups—like, say, DC’s Mister Miracle, which would have appeared otherwise—nor are we including books that have only just launched, which explains the absence of Vertigo’s Goddess Mode. But enough about what didn’t make the cut—let’s look at the books that did. And the best part? Some are continuing titles, which means you’ve got more to look forward to in 2019.

The comics discussed in the rest of the article include:

  • Sabrina (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Immortal Hulk (Marvel)
  • Woman World (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Beneath the Dead Oak Tree(ShortBox)
  • Crowded (Image Comics)


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 1, 1954 Midori Snyder, 65. I was most impressed with The Flight of Michael McBride, the Old West meet Irish myth story and hannah’s garden, a creepy tale of the fey and folk music. She’s seems to have been inactive for a decade now. Anyone know why?
  • Born January 1, 1957  — Christopher Moore, 62. One early novel by him, Coyote Blue, is my favorite, but anything by him is always a weirdly entertaining read. I’m hearing good things about Noir, his newest work. Has anyone read it? 
  • Born January 1, 1976Sean Wallace, 43. Anthologist, editor, and publisher known for his work on Prime Books and for co-editing three magazines, Clarkesworld Magazine which I love, The Dark, and Fantasy Magazine which is another fav of mine. He won an impressive three Hugo Awards and two World Fantasy Awards. His People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy with Rachel Swirsky is highly recommended.


(5) NEW SPACEPLANE. Another spacecraft manufacturer is looking to start cargo runs to the International Space Station in the near future (ScienceAlert: “NASA Just Cleared The “Dream Chaser” Space Cargo Plane For Full-Scale Production”). The Dream Chaser had originally been conceived as a crewed vehicle, but was repurposed after it lost out on the commercial crew program to Boeing and SpaceX. The winged craft is projected to have payload capacities of 5,500 kg up to the ISS and 1,850 kg down.

Watch out space, there’s a new commercial cargo carrier entering the race.

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has been given the go ahead from NASA to begin full-scale production of its “Dream Chaser” commercial space cargo plane.

Scheduled to make its first mission in 2020, the company announced on December 18 that it had cleared the last milestone in its Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract.

Now the company is able to move ahead with the full-scale production of the carrier which will be used to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).

BRAINS CONNECTED. Science Alert: “Brains of 3 People Have Been Successfully Connected, Enabling Them to Share Thoughts”

Neuroscientists have successfully hooked up a three-way brain connection to allow three people to share their thoughts – and in this case, play a Tetris-style game.

The team thinks this wild experiment could be scaled up to connect whole networks of people, and yes, it’s as weird as it sounds.

It works through a combination of electroencephalograms (EEGs), for recording the electrical impulses that indicate brain activity, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), where neurons are stimulated using magnetic fields.

The researchers behind the system have dubbed it BrainNet, and say it could eventually be used to connect many different minds together, even across the web.

But apart from opening up strange new methods of communication, BrainNet could actually teach us more about how the human brain functions on a deeper level.

Preprint of the paper: “BrainNet: A Multi-Person Brain-to-Brain Interface for Direct Collaboration Between Brains”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

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31 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/1/19 We’re Going To Need A Bigger Scroll

  1. 6(? – there’s no number on “BRAINS”): Is there a corollary to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines that simply says that the headline to any popular science article will never be an accurate description of anything in the article?

  2. Should scrolled acquaintance be forgot
    And ne’er be thought the while
    Should scrolled acquaintance be forgot
    We’ll still have Auld Lang File.

    I checked a couple fo spellings to see if this had been used. I’m 99% sure I just managed to miss it somehow.

  3. It is so cold in my place! (And never mind that the numerical temperature is what a lot of you would be happy to have right now!)

  4. New year resolution: Write a SF novel about aliens, which name rhymes with “pixel”. Would make things easier. At least “scroll” rhymes with “troll” (but singular isnt perfect)

    This is the scroll
    Beautiful troll
    This is the scroll
    My only troll
    The scroll

    Of our elaborate plans, the scroll
    Of everything that stands, the scroll
    No safety or surprise, the scroll
    Ill never tick into your boxes again

    (Works surprisingly well so far)

  5. apropos of nothing — Anyone else spending way too much time perusing gardening websites right now?

  6. @3: I was very disappointed in Noir; I don’t expect Moore to be particularly woke, but this one seemed to dial the misogyny of its prototypes up to 11. YMMV.

  7. @Lis: The thing is, the actual study described in the article isn’t far-fetched at all, it’s just a slightly more complicated test case with current technology. The reporter keeps saying stuff about “sharing thoughts” but the researchers made no such claim. So, just typical pop-sci writing.

  8. 2) I read the first issue of The Immortal Hulk over the weekend and didn’t want to read any more. Too grim. If I want a big green thing dealing out unpleasant justice and harsh morality, I’ll read The Spectre. Possibly I’m wrong. That one early issue of Sandman put me off it for two or three years.

  9. John A Arkansawyer says I read the first issue of The Immortal Hulk over the weekend and didn’t want to read any more. Too grim. If I want a big green thing dealing out unpleasant justice and harsh morality, I’ll read The Spectre. Possibly I’m wrong. That one early issue of Sandman put me off it for two or three years.

    Which Sandman would that be? Not the Gaiman one I assume which IIRC was not that grim? Are you perhaps referring to the earlier version of The Sandman who was Wesley Dodds? Or yet another one altogether?

  10. Mike Glyer says It is so cold in my place! (And never mind that the numerical temperature is what a lot of you would be happy to have right now!)

    Wimp 🙂 it’s actually been a pleasant winter here with temperatures somewhat above normal meaning, well, no snow at here in coastal southern Maine. We may get a few inches tomorrow morning but that’s our first of the season.

    I spent this morning at my primary care getting a follow up on the elbow wound. The PA that looked it at wasn’t at all happy with the ER care so she had an x-ray taken as she suspects either a deep bone bruise or possibly a hair line fracture might have also occurred along with the severe wound. And she gave a course of antibiotics to take as well. Along with orders to keep it iced too.

  11. Well, there was that early issue of Sandman (somewhere in the single digits, I believe?) set in the diner …

  12. I gave up on Moore because he keeps trash talking my neighborhood. SF is a small town where we take our neighborhood loyalties/rivalries seriously, so he can go find himself some other location that has a Steak and Shake if he ever wants to eat there.

    As far as the telepathy experiment … they hooked up two sender-humans to a receiver-human via EEG and had them transmit impulses equivalent to “rotate the Tetris shape” and “don’t rotate the Tetris shape.” The responding receiver rotated (or failed to rotate) the Tetris shape with 0.8 percent accuracy. Seems a little elaborate when you could just text somebody “don’t rotate” with zero risk of iatrogenic complication, but I ain’t no doctor. And I still don’t believe in telepathy.

  13. @ Joe H.

    I think that was the story featuring Doctor Destiny and Sandman’s ruby. It was really grim and gory, I believe.

  14. @Rob Thornton — Yes, that was the one I was thinking of.

    [adds Sandman to the list of things in dire need of a reread]

  15. @All: Sorry to be vague. I was indeed thinking of the Doctor Destiny issue of Sandman. It left a very big negative impression on me, big enough to assume (incorrectly) that everyone would recognize it. It was “really grim and gory”, as Rob Thornton says. I’ve never liked gory. I’m disliking grim more each day. That particular issue was gratuitously, excessively both, in my opinion. One very good reason to start new readers on the second volume of Sandman is to skip that story. The kid got the first volume first and has been put off, again by that particular story. So my opinion does have two pieces of anecdata to support it.

    There are other dark stories in Sandman, but they are not so bleak.

  16. @John A: That’s completely understandable. I myself enjoy lots of very grim things but I’ve never really liked “24 Hours”. It reads to me like Gaiman trying to figure out what blend of fantasy and horror the series would be, and trying out some prose stylings, and also looking for a different take on the typical “ha ha I’ll drive everyone crazy” supervillain thing… but IMO it doesn’t work at all and what’s left is just brutality that contributes nothing to the series. I mean, you could remove that issue and there’d be no effect at all on the story except that you wouldn’t know who Foxglove’s ex-girlfriend was.

    I had the same reaction to one issue of Mike Carey’s Lucifer, a series I like a lot. He did a one-off about some poor schmuck who gets possessed by demons that put him through all kinds of unpleasantness and then he dies. Why.

  17. I do think Gaiman somewhat redeemed “24 Hours” retroactively, though, in the way he referenced Judy later on— basically, starting with the familiar “a bunch of random people met some horrible fate” setup but then reminding you that they’ll actually be missed, without having singled anyone out as an important character from the start. It’s not a big thing, but it’s something I hadn’t seen before.

    However, it could’ve been done just as well without all the grueling details of exactly which terrible things happened to everyone in what order.

  18. I maintain that the best place to start reading Sandman is with the Doll’s House TPB (which collects issues 9-16). It was the first TPB to be released & the first one I read & which got me hooked. (In the first 8 issues I get the sense that the comic creators were still finding their feet & consequently were uneven.)

  19. I think it depends. I was okay with 24H, even though I thought it was a lot like what I’d previously read in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. But that familiarity also made it an easy start. Lots of well-known figures. So for people coming from the Swamp Thing/Hellblazer side, I think it best to start from the beginning.

  20. It turns out I was wrong to react so strongly to that issue of Sandman, which considered as a complete run is as good as comics get. The first issue of The Immortal Hulk wasn’t nearly as grim or as gory, and I may someday think I was wrong to not want to read further in it, too.

  21. Hampus Eckerman on January 2, 2019 at 10:43 pm said:

    I think it depends. I was okay with 24H,

    Yes, but Hampus, consider how you decorate your flat. I mean, you’re the guy who can casually empty a few shelves to create a horror-infused, if fascinating, grotesquerie display at a Worldcon. Spiders Hampus is an outlier. 😉

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