Pixel Scroll 1/4/20 A Combination Of Sagrazi And Prescience

(1) NAME YOUR PRICE. John Varley realized this material should not go to waste — “And the Hugo Goes to … Introduction”.

Earlier this year I was putting together an anthology project to be called And the Hugo Goes To …. The idea was to collect all my stories that were nominated for the Hugo Award. Now, I have had a lot of nominations in my career, and have won three times. Putting them all together would make up a fairly healthy volume.

…Except that fact that one of the books to be published again was The John Varley Reader, which contained most of the stories. It made no sense to put that book and the new one in print. So the Hugo book was dead.

But not quite. I still had fun writing the intros, and I would hate to see them go into the trunk, never to be seen. So I am going to experiment.

…I am going to go the Doctorow route. You can read all the intros at the link right HERE.

Then, should you decide they are worth something, you can go to that little yellow button on the Welcome box at the home page, the one that says DONATE. You can’t miss it. That will take you to PayPal, where you can decide what you want to pay. I don’t know what to suggest. $5? $10? $2? More, less? It’s entirely up to you.

And should you want to read them for free, or if you don’t think they are worth anything, that’s cool, too. We can get along eating dog food for another year.

Here’s a small taste of what Varley put on the table –

…But I gave it a shot. I wrote a four-page story, pecking it out painstakingly on a borrowed typewriter. I can’t recall anything at all about that story. I sent it off to Mr. H.L. Gold, the editor of Galaxy, my favorite magazine at that time. He sent it back with a form rejection slip, and he had written at the bottom: “Nice try, but not quite.”

You think I was disappointed? Not a bit! Those five words, from a man who lived in New York City and edited the finest magazine in the world, just had me walking on air. I’d have framed that rejection slip and hung it on the wall if I could have afforded a frame….

(2) SPACE TRADERS. The Hugo Book Club Blog post “The Movement of Goods In Science Fiction” asks whether these science fictional economies are really wearing any clothes….

Space-based science fiction places a lot of attention on the transportation of goods.

Whether it’s a Lissepian captain hauling self-sealing stem bolts from Deep Space 9 or the crew of Firefly delivering cattle to the colony of Jiangyin, we are often presented with depictions of how goods are moved from one location to another.

This focus is probably a reflection of the modern neoliberal consensus that globalized trade is a good and necessary thing, and is a trend in science fiction that is worth questioning.

The large-scale movement of goods only makes sense if there is a strong economic incentive; if it is cheaper to build something in one location rather than another, if the skills to build something are only available in one location, or if the resources are only available in one location. When you see the depiction of merchant space ships travelling on regular runs between two locations, it implies that there are entire planets where it is cheaper to build something, and markets looking to buy those things.

Is inter-jurisdictional trade really that scalable?

(3) ABEBOOKS QUIZ. Answer appears at the end of the Scroll.

(4) FORESIGHT. The Christian Science Monitor collected input from a host of sff writers for “Future present? How science fiction sees our world in 2050”.

Machine learning speeds up 

The science fiction writer Liu Cixin, author of “The Three-Body Problem,” a richly layered Chinese novel that describes first contact with extraterrestrial life forms, foresees the transforming effect of artificial intelligence. 

“I don’t believe that in 2050 strong artificial intelligence that surpasses human beings will appear, but AI will have developed enough to compete with humans for jobs,” Mr. Liu says in a written statement to the Monitor, translated from Chinese by staff writer Ann Scott Tyson.

“This will have two possible profound implications for society,” he says. “One is that the jobless public and AI will be in a long-standing conflict, causing long-term social turmoil and instability. The second is that humans will have smoothed out the relationship with AI and established a leisurely life in which people reduce their working hours or even don’t need to work. The latter, however, will require major changes in the current political and economic distribution system of mankind.” …

(5) IT IS THE END, MY FRIEND. Here are Paste Magazine’s picks for “The 20 Best “End of the World” Movies”.

“This is the way the world ends: not with a bang but a whimper.”

Then again, what does T.S. Eliot know? As far as the movies go, the possibilities for destroying our planet or civilizations are downright infinite. Certainly, in light of several recent predictions claiming that the end of the world is ‘nigh (most of which have passed, mind you), the apocalypse has naturally been on a lot of peoples’ minds.

And so it goes: What’s prevalent in society’s consciousness is subsequently reflected in our pop culture. This means a surge of movies dealing with a world-ending event. Dramatic or funny; action-packed and exciting or slow and deliberate; real life or supernatural—there’s an apocalypse story for everyone….

6. 12 Monkeys (1995)

Inspired by the classic 1962 French short film La Jetée, 12 Monkeys went on to become the rare financial success in the notoriously disaster-prone career of former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam. Bruce Willis plays a mentally unstable convict from an apocalyptic future who is sent back in time to halt the release of a deadly virus that will kill billions. Featuring great performances from Willis and a decidedly un-glamorized Brad Pitt, 12 Monkeys bears that rare distinction of containing all the creative visuals and quirks that make Gilliam films great without the incoherent, scatter-brained plotting that often proves to be their downfall.

(6) WITCHER WATCHER. In the Washington Post, Sonia Rao previews the Netflix series The Witcher, including news about Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, on whose novels the series is based, and how the series “is like turning on a self-aware B movie.” “Will you toss a coin to ‘The Witcher’?”

Perhaps you would remain stone-faced, a reaction typical of the Witcher himself, given that Cavill plays him as a brooding hunk wandering the Continent — which, yes, is what this magical, medieval society calls its continent. Or maybe you would be inclined to give “The Witcher” a chance. It’s been advertised as Netflix’s very own “Game of Thrones” but has also proved to be an entertaining fantasy series in its own right. That’s not to say it’s good, per se, but that it’s so bizarre, it’s hard to look away.

(7) CHEKHOV’S CAT. In “Kneading Into the Comfort of Cozy Cat Mysteries”, on Jezebel, Kelly Faircloth explains the rules of cozy mysteries with cats in them, including that you can’t put a cat on the cover unless the cat is a character and you can’t kill a cat in a cozy cat mystery.

…Within the wider world of the cozy, there is the cat cozy. These specifically were pioneered by Lilian Jackson Braun, who launched the “Cat Who” series in the mid-1960s, took a couple of decades off, then returned in the 1980s after she retired and continued writing them regularly almost until she died in 2011. She was joined in the 1990s by Rita Mae Brown—whom you may know as the author of the classic lesbian novel Rubyfruit Jungle—who began “cowriting” her Mrs. Murphy series with her own cat, Sneaky Pie Brown. The cat mystery became a thing unto itself, a world within the broader universe of cozy mysteries.

(8) IF YOU GIVE THE GAME AFOOT IT’LL TAKE A MILE. In “The Year in Sherlock Holmes” on CrimeReads, Lyndsay Faye summarizes 2019’s Sherlockian developments, including  two new Sherlock Holmes conventions, the end of Elementary, and the postponement of the next Robert Downey Jr. Holmes movie until at least 2021.

…CBS’s highly regarded procedural Elementary wrapped up its seventh season this year, and it’s with a heavy heart that I take up my proverbial pen to say goodbye to Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu’s Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson. An unflinching look at sobriety and addiction—as well as unapologetically progressive casting regarding both race and gender—helped to bring the Great Detective and the Good Doctor to a new generation of enthusiasts. Kinder than BBC’s Sherlock (and in some ways more respectful of the original material—there, I said it, and I’m not taking it back either), Elementary not only stood on its own two feet as a modern crime drama, but contained scores of delightful Easter eggs for fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works.


  • January 4, 1982 Doctor Who first aired “Castrovalva, Part 1”, the first full episode of the Fifth Doctor as played by Peter Davison. He would play the Fifth Doctor for three series which were twenty stories in totality. As a Baker preceded him in the role, a Baker would follow him in playing the role.
  • January 4, 2002Impostor premiered in limited release. in California. Produced by a large group including Gary Sinise, best know for CSI: NY, with a screenplay by Caroline Case, Ehren Kruger and David Twohy off the Dick’s “Impostor” story which was first published in Astounding SF magazine in June, 1953. The 11th Worldcon held in Philadelphia didn’t do a Hugo for Best Short Story, so there’s no telling how it might’ve done that year. The film received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics and Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 41% from reviewers.
  • January 4, 2011 Monster Mutt was released on DVD. It’s making these notes because of The Baby discussion we’ve been having. Monster Mutt, the very large dog with that name, is not CGI but is yes a puppet requiring five people to control its movements. Critics actually liked the puppet and the film as well,  even though it has a rather weak 40% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 4, 1890 Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. Creator of the modern comic book in the early Thirties by publishing original material instead of reprints of newspaper comic strips. Some years later, he founded Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Allied Publications which would eventually become DC Comics. (Died 1965.)
  • Born January 4, 1927 Barbara Rush, 93. She won a Golden Globe Award as the most promising female newcomer for being Ellen Fields in It Came From Outer Space. She portrayed Nora Clavicle in Batman, and was found in other genre programs such as the revival version of Outer Limits, Night GalleryThe Bionic Woman and The Twilight Zone.
  • Born January 4, 1930 Ruth Kyle. OGH has her touching story here. Warning: it has Isaac Asimov behaving badly at a Con material. Just kidding. Maybe. (Died 2011.)
  • Born January 4, 1946 Ramsey Campbell, 74. My favorite novel by him is without doubt The Darkest Part of the Woods which has a quietly building horror to it. I know he’s better known for his sprawling (pun full intended) Cthulhu mythology writings but I never got into those preferring his other novels such as his Solomon Kane movie novelization which is quite superb.
  • Born January 4, 1958 Matt Frewer, 62. His greatest role has to be as Max Headroom on the short-lived series of the same name. Amazingly I think it still stands thirty-five years later as SF well-crafted. Just a taste of his later series SF appearances include playing Jim Taggart, scientist and dog catcher on Eureka, Pestilence in Supernatural, Dr. Kirschner in 12 Monkeys and Carnage in Altered Carbon. His film genre appearance list is just as impressive but I’ll single out SupergirlHoney, I Shrunk the KidsThe StandMonty Python’s The Meaning of Life (oh, do guess where he is in it) and lastly Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, a series of films that I really like. 
  • Born January 4, 1960 Michael Stipe, 60. Lead singer of R.E.M. which has done a few songs that I could are genre adjacent. But no, I’ve got him here for being involved in a delightful project called Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films. Lots of great songs given interesting new recordings. His contribution was “Little April Shower” from Bambi which he covered along with Natalie Merchant, Michael Stipe, Mark Bingham and The Roches. Fun stuff indeed! 
  • Born January 4, 1985 Lenora Crichlow, 35. She played Cheen on “Gridlock”, a Tenth Doctor story. She played also Annie Sawyer on the BBC version of Being Human from 2009 to 2012. And she appeared as Victoria Skillane in the “White Bear” of Black Mirror.
  • Born January 4, 2000 Addy Miller, 20. She is on the Birthday List for being Sarah in Plan 9. Really? They remade that movie? Why? And yes, she played A Walker in that other show. My fav role by her is because of the title, it was a short called Ghost Trek: Goomba Body Snatchers Mortuary Lockdown, in which she was Scary Carrie Carmichael. And yes, you can watch it here.


  • The Flying McCoys has an ad from an unexpected kind of ambulance chaser.
  • The strip doubtless works even better if you understand the language, but it’s funny anyway.

(12) UNCANCEL CULTURE. “How Amazon (and Jeff Bezos) Saved ‘The Expanse'”Space.com thinks, “In hindsight, being canceled by Syfy was probably the best thing that could have happened to ‘The Expanse.’”

However, only three seasons had been sold to Syfy and there are eight novels in the series with a ninth on the way. Not long after Season 3 started to air, Syfy announced it had not purchased the rights for future seasons because of restrictive distribution arrangements, and on May 11, 2018, it was officially canceled

However, by now the show had built up a considerable following and fans protested the cancellation. 

Such a display of displeasure from fans isn’t entirely unusual. When “Star Trek: The Original Series” was canceled in 1968 after just two seasons, a letter-writing campaign orchestrated by fans – Bjo and John Trimble in particular – kept the show on the air for an additional season. And while one more season might not seem like a substantial victory, it set a precedent for many subsequent campaigns to keep shows on the air. Some were successful, like “Star Trek” and “Quantum Leap,” but sadly, others weren’t, like “Firefly” and “Almost Human” – both were canceled by Fox after just one season, and both were high-quality sci-fi shows with massive potential that had amassed a loyal fan base in a short amount of time….

(13) WHERE THE FUTURE BEGAN. Syd Mead, whose passing was noted here December 31, has received a lengthy appreciation in the New York Times: “Syd Mead, 86, Maker of Future Worlds in ‘Blade Runner’ and More, Dies”.

…Although his work usually involved creating a fanciful future, it sometimes ended up depicting the actual future. A 2012 exhibition of his artwork in Manhattan included a painting from decades earlier that showed people using hand-held information devices; they could easily pass as modern-day smartphone users. In 1969 he envisioned a personal transportation system called a unipod that used gyroscope technology — what is now used in devices like the Segway personal transporter.

(14) LOOSE ENDS. Or as BBC says, “A Knotty Problem Solved”.

Special fibers that change color when they are under strain have helped scientists come up with some simple rules that can predict how a knot will perform in the real world.

There’s a whole field of mathematics that studies knots, to explore abstract properties of idealized curves. “But that’s not what you care about if you are, for example, a sailor or a climber and you need to tie something which holds,” says Vishal Patil, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology whose new findings appear in the journal Science.

People have used knots since ancient times, notes Patil, and thousands of knots have been invented. Yet scientists struggle to explain why knots do what they do. Most of what’s known about them comes from long experience, rather than any theoretical understanding.

For example, take the granny knot and the reef knot — two simple knots that look very similar but behave very differently.

“It’s quite easy to see this, if you just take a shoelace or a bit of string and you tie it. If you pull on the reef knot, it tends to hold. And if you pull on the granny knot, it tends to slip quite easily,” says Patil. “The fact that they behave so differently suggests that there must be some story there, something you can say mathematically and physically about them.”

(15) BESPOKE SPACESUITS A SPECIALTY. “Hey Sisters, Sew Sisters” from BBC Sounds — 26.5 minute audio.

Space travel is not always high-tech. When the Apollo astronauts landed on the Moon in 1969, seamstresses made their spacesuits at a company famous for stitching latex into Playtex bras.  

During the Space Shuttle era, a group of 18 women were in charge of all soft goods – the fabrics for machine and hand sewing the spaceplane’s thermal blankets. These women became known as the Sew Sisters. 

Presenter, artist and former Nasa astronaut Nicole Stott meets some of these ‘sew sisters’ from past and present missions and celebrates their contributions,,,. 

(16) SWEEPERS, MAN YOUR BROOMS. BBC tells a clean story: “Tackling the Earth’s orbiting space junk”.

Here’s a quiz question: what do using road navigation systems, keeping time consistent around the world and having accurate stock exchange data have in common? The answer is that they all depend on working satellites. But an increasing amount of debris polluting space is now posing a risk to all those services. So one Japanese firm, Astroscale, has been working on ways to clean up space junk. Its founder and chief executive Nobu Okada explains.

(17) CHIMP PUSHED OUT OF THE BUSINESS. The Hollywood Reporter discovers “Hollywood’s Last Actor Chimp in Need of Permanent Home”.

…Having been let go by Working Wildlife (which specializes in providing exotic species for entertainment productions), he was dropped off in March at a financially struggling nonprofit sanctuary near Angeles National Forest, just outside of Los Angeles. The facility shut down in August, and Eli and more than 40 other chimps, many of whom arrived from research labs, have since been under the on-site care of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We are currently in discussion with a high-quality facility that may provide a permanent home for Eli,” says Kirsten Macintyre, a spokeswoman for the state agency.

The 9-year-old chimpanzee’s transition out of the business, as typically occurs when the species reaches adolescence, is part of a larger trend away from using real wild creatures to “act” onscreen. (While chimps, orangutans and elephants are being phased out, it’s still mostly business as usual for species like big cats and bears.)

… Eli — who appeared in commercials (Microsoft), music videos (One Direction) and the occasional TV show (TBS’ Angie Tribeca) — saw his own output curbed by the effort, with a Geico ad pulled and scenes from a season of MasterChef Junior cut. PETA primate expert Debbie Metzler is proud of the result. “A decade ago, there were at least a dozen chimpanzees working,” she says. “Now there are zero.”

(18) NANO NANO. The Harvard Gazette calls it, “Catching lightning in a bottle”.

Researchers in an ultracold environment get a first look at exactly what happens during a chemical reaction

Call it a serendipity dividend. A big one.

Kang-Kuen Ni set out to do something that had never been done before. The Morris Kahn Associate Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and of Physics and a pioneer of ultracold chemistry had built a new apparatus that could achieve the lowest temperature chemical reactions of any currently available technology. Then she and her team successfully forced two ultracold molecules to meet and react, breaking and forming the coldest bonds in the history of molecular couplings.

While they were doing that, something totally unanticipated and important also happened.

In such intense cold — 500 nanokelvin, or just a few millionths of a degree above absolute zero — the molecules slowed to such sluggish speeds that Ni and her team saw something no one has ever seen before: the moment when two molecules meet to form two new molecules. In essence, they captured a chemical reaction in its most critical and elusive act.

“Because [the molecules] are so cold,” Ni said, “now we kind of have a bottleneck effect.”

Chemical reactions are responsible for literally everything: from making soap, pharmaceuticals, and energy to cooking, digesting, and breathing. Understanding how they work at a fundamental level could help researchers design reactions the world has never seen. Maybe, for example, novel molecular couplings could enable more-efficient energy production, new materials like mold-proof walls, or even better building blocks for quantum computers. The world offers an almost infinite number of potential combinations to test.

…Ni’s ultracold temperatures force reactions to a comparatively numbed speed. When she and her team reacted two potassium rubidium molecules — chosen for their pliability —the ultracold temperatures forced the molecules to linger in the intermediate stage for mere millionths of a second. So-called microseconds may seem short, but that’s millions of times longer than ever achieved, and enough time for Ni and her team to investigate the phase when bonds break and form — in essence, how one molecule turns into another.

(19) HOLLYWOOD INSTITUTION CLOSES. The LA Times pays its respects: “His props starred in hundreds of Hollywood movies and TV shows. Now he’s exiting the stage after 42 years”.

Standing amid his life’s work inside a cavernous warehouse in San Fernando, John Zabrucky is eager to show off what he calls his most famous “machine.”

But first, he must scuttle past a spaceship command deck, rows of computer consoles, radar scanners, shelves packed with sophisticated high-tech gadgetry — and even an alien autopsy, before arriving at the futuristic device.

“We did this for the original ‘Incredible Hulk,’ the TV series, back in the late ’70s,” said Zabrucky, the founder and president of Modern Props.

Since then, the device has been seen in more than 100 hundred feature films and TV shows, including “Austin Powers” and multiple episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Giving it a once-over, Zabrucky adds with a sparkle of pride, “You can see how well it’s made.” The apparatus has turned up in so many shows that a fan created a YouTube video devoted to its many appearances, dubbing it “the most important device in the universe.”

Zabrucky’s magnum opus, with its pair of giant elongated glass tubes that glow variously in yellow, red and orange, operated by a cutting-edge control board with dials, buttons and a joy stick, looks as if it would be right at home inside the CERN particle collider lab in Switzerland….


[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Lise Andreasen, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

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34 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/4/20 A Combination Of Sagrazi And Prescience

  1. (10) Frewer also had a role in the failed pilot of an Xmen series in the early 90s. Probably a role he’d be happy to forget.

  2. First!

    I’ve been gifting things this past month unto friends as I downsize in anticipation of moving soon to a smaller place. That means a yoga studio to be now has been a Buddha and a Ganesh, many a apartment now has a Household God in the form of a Buddha and soon there will be hedgehogs given out to select folk.

    It am keeping things but a lifetime of collecting has created a lot of stuff that I really don’t need. And I’ve got a social network that’s almost as strange as I am. So they’re getting things. Somebody’s getting two of the Green Man masks here…

    Now where are those signed Charles Vess posters…?

  3. Andrew notes that Frewer also had a role in the failed pilot of an Xmen series in the early 90s. Probably a role he’d be happy to forget.

    H’h. I didn’t catch that one. Who did he play in it? Sure not the Professor?

  4. Cat Eldridge on January 4, 2020 at 6:47 pm said:
    Andrew notes that Frewer also had a role in the failed pilot of an Xmen series in the early 90s. Probably a role he’d be happy to forget.

    H’h. I didn’t catch that one. Who did he play in it? Sure not the Professor?

    It was on Fox. And it was kind of mediocre. Watched it when it aired in 1993 or 1994, I think.

  5. Feeling like I’m living in Bladerunner 2049 right now. The Australian bushfires are making their presence felt this afternoon when the skies quickly turned golden despite sunset still hours away.

    It’s getting news coverage & many people are sharing photos on my social media feeds.

    FYI, the distance between Auckland & Sydney is 2155 km (1339 miles), roughly the distance between New York & New Orleans.

  6. @2: If it was worthwhile to ship rubber duckies across the Pacific, I’m not convinced that it wouldn’t be worthwhile to ship them across the Federation; we have no evidence how much a freighter costs (given its weak engines) either to buy or to run, and it’s unclear how expensive a plant to make self-sealing stem bolts is vs the demand, or how comparable the Federation is to the parity of development of our time rather than of (e.g.) the 18th century. Yes, I know that almost anything being shipped from Asia works due to an imbalance of prosperity — but how prosperous are some of the places seen in Firefly? ISTM we can posit almost anything, given the thin (and probably contradictory) bits of information even about the Federation (which we have more stories about than any other universe); this essay would be more useful if it were more specific, and possibly if it were trying out solutions with a less-visible bias (as in, do we really believe there are no neo-liberals in the Federation?).

    @20: I recognized the drawing in @3 (easy given the repeated motifs), but this looks more like Athena Poppina to me — did the shield or spear ever show up in a story? It’s been over half a century since I read these….

    The sun rose today, and Bizarro generated another horrible pun.

  7. 2) It seems likely that it would be cheaper to make some things in .5 gravity and others in 1.5 gravity. The natural differences between planets can provide price differentials. What’s unknown is the cost of transportation, would it really be worth shipping all that way? Since all FTL is fantasy, we can’t really give a logical answer to that question.

  8. Chip Hitchcock said:
    how prosperous are some of the places seen in Firefly?

    That’s noted in the blog. We gave kudos to Firefly for episodes like Janestown, and for depicting how powerful interests in free-trade economies profit from pools of labour in destitute conditions.

    bookworm1398 on January 4, 2020 at 8:54 pm said:
    2) It seems likely that it would be cheaper to make some things in .5 gravity and others in 1.5 gravity.

    A very good point that none of the folks who co-authored this post brought up in our discussions. Greg Hullender brought up a similar point in the comments.

    What’s unknown is the cost of transportation, would it really be worth shipping all that way?

    In Star Trek, if you use all the extended universe stuff, you can make some rough estimates based on number of people crewing a transport, the amount of time it takes to travel between systems at the speeds a cargo vessel travels at, and the cargo capacity. At the very least, it’s fair to say that it is not cheap.

  9. Soon Lee on January 4, 2020 at 7:21 pm said:

    Feeling like I’m living in Bladerunner 2049 right now. The Australian bushfires are making their presence felt this afternoon when the skies quickly turned golden despite sunset still hours away.

    A beautiful gift from your nieghbours

  10. (18) The Harvard correspondent doesn’t seem to be too clear on the relationship between 500 nanoKelvin and a few millionths of a degree.

  11. Meredith moment: the ebooks of the first 5 Rivers of London books by Ben Aaronovich are on sale on Amazon UK today.

    @Chip Hitchcock the common depiction of Britannia has the helmet, spear and shield, so that may be the reference (but I guess it could be Athena)

  12. 2) Comparative advantage is standard economic answer, as far as I know. Efficiencies of skills and scale mean you generate more surplus by concentrating on one thing and trading for stuff other people make than you do from trying to make everything yourself – even when you start with a level playing-field.

    (This also works for individuals, which is why Heinlein’s wrong and specialisation isn’t just for insects.)

  13. The feature-length Imposter was not very good. Originally Imposter was going to be part of an anthology SF film. Imposter was the first part filmed and it was so well received that the short film was padded out with action scenes to become a very mediocre feature-length film. The short film is included in the DVD release. It is very good and well worth checking out. I think that the short film is one of the very best adaptations of a PKD story or novel.

  14. Sophie Jane on January 5, 2020 at 2:32 am said:
    2) Comparative advantage is standard economic answer, as far as I know. Efficiencies of skills and scale mean you generate more surplus by concentrating on one thing and trading for stuff other people make than you do from trying to make everything yourself – even when you start with a level playing-field.

    That’s part of the story, sure. But it doesn’t explain why established specialized task groupings (like auto manufacturing) are moving out of one jurisdiction into another. That has to do with a semi-deliberate creation of zones of destitute labour.

    To boot, even if this were the real primary reason for globalized trade, it doesn’t answer whether or not such a system scales to interstellar distances.

    With Earth’s current population of seven billion, we have enough specialized groups of workers to (in 2019) manufacture among other items, 6,000 different types of cheese, 430 different models of car and 84 different models of digital light projectors. What would Earth need to trade with another (technologically comparable) economy for?

  15. @OlavRokne What would Earth need to trade with another (technologically comparable) economy for?

    Need isn’t really the point of comparative advantage, though. The principle is just that everyone benefits from the efficiencies of specialisation. You don’t even need a capitalist economy to make it work.

    (But yes, capitalism is inefficient and harmful, and global free trade puts power in the hands of capital as long as money moves more easily than labour, and so on. I’m trying to answer a narrow question here, not justify the status quo.)

    The real question for interstellar trade is: what does the shipping cost, in the widest sense of cost? Pick your values and you’ll know what’s worth trading.

  16. @bookworm1398: why? My long-removed recollection of energy exchanges is that heating something (e.g., to drive a reaction, or smelt) costs a lot more than lifting it any plausible distance; I can see some processes based on microgravity, but that’s available anywhere.

    @errolwi: is that what their street lighting does? (I’m missing background; if you’d said anywhere in Australia I’d have figured that was from the fires, but NZ seems far enough to be out of the effect.) If so, what’s the reason? The high-efficiency lights I see in the US aren’t that radical.

    @Paul King: that makes sense — at least if the portrayal is known outside the UK; MP is certainly the embodiment of a British approach.

    @Sophie Jane: that wasn’t Heinlein’s only mistake (or deliberate misrepresentation) in economics; an anarchosocialist I knew a long time ago argued that one of the Moral Philosophy instructors (IIRC at officer-training school) demolishes a straw man represented as Marx’s labor theory of value — then presents the actual theory (uncredited) in its place. Makes his mockery of the character in Beyond This Horizon who says “I’ve studied economics!” a little off.
    Yes, it can be argued that that line is character definition rather than the author’s voice — but by the time that line came out RAH had established that crusty older male characters tended to be his voices.

  17. I suspect interstellar trade would be more like 17th and 18th century trade: smallish, high-value items. There might be bulk shipping, also, but it probably wouldn’t be a big part of any interstellar economy; I could see it in-system, though.

  18. Chip Hitchcock:
    The point is that NZ is ~1,400 miles downwind, and is getting this sort of effect in patches. That particular tweet had photos that were more orange than what I experienced. Cameras (especially ones in smart phones) tend to make unpredictable adjustments in odd lighting situations, so I’m sure finding (or making) shots that match the SF shot wasn’t that difficult. Display screens also default to boosting certain colours. The news story that Soon Lee shared shows a variety of intensities, what I personally saw was at the more mild end of the displayed images. The more intense effects shown are plausible to me, I just didn’t personally see them. Street lights came on in places (overall light levels dropped), but aren’t a significant part of the effect shown.
    I got the impression that further south in NZ had more of an orange effect earlier this week, but that was mainly closer to dawn than the mid-afternoon impact in Auckland.

  19. @1 has a fascinating bit (with links): Varley’s reaction to Disch’s sneering proclamation of the “Labor Day Group”, writers Disch claims tailor their work to win awards. (How it is possible to tailor to both Hugo and Nebula, or why it is unreasonable to write stories that appeal to one’s peers as-well-as or rather-than the mob, is not explained.) What struck me is that Disch was banging from behind the same cracked gong that the cyberpunks were going at from their we’re-everything-new PoV; he refers to the 70’s as “a decade otherwise notable for disillusionment and retrenchment”. As @James Davis Nicoll pointed out in a tor.com column, this is bull — and arguably sexist bull given the balance of new authors in that decade.
    The rest of Varley’s ?essay? is interesting and fun, but that bit caught my eye; I’d known Disch could be a jerk, but not that he was that blind.

  20. @errolwi: in some parts of the world, “1400 miles downwind” is almost meaningless as there’s too much that can drive winds in random directions. (I don’t know how much effect the bits of land between AU and NZ have.) Also, 1400 miles is far enough to allow any effects to be spread out and diluted. Interesting to know that they’re that strong at such a distance; I’ve been reading bits and pieces on the BBC, but hadn’t seen anything mentioning NZ.

  21. I’ve decided I’m not satisfied with my guess about why Lady Business won the Best Fanzine Hugo last year and realized I could ask Filers to enlighten me. I’ll take help from anyone, and if you voted for them yourself, all the better.

  22. Well, I was selfish and voted for Galactic Journey, the fanzine I write for and represented at the Hugos last year. According to my records, I had Lady Business in third place.

    Why? I like the recommendation lists, reviews and discussions. I’m not particularly interested in recommendations and discussions of fanfiction, but I can easily see why that may be something that appeals to others. The Dreamwidth interface is a bit annoying compared to the slicker WordPress interfaces of other sites, but we’re not awarding the Hugo for best interface here.

    As for why they won, Lady Business is a popular and established site and probably has broader appeal than some of the other finalists (Galactic Journey only reviews 55 year old SFF, Rocket Stack Rank and Quick Sip Reviews only review short fiction, Journey Planet is primarily a print mag). I also suspect they may be popular among the same crowd that voted for AO3.

    I also don’t recall any great surprise that Lady Business won. Several of the other finalists expected it.

  23. Any discussion of Matt Frewer’s genre roles that doesn’t mention Dr. Aldous Leekie in Orphan Black is…well, it should be ashamed of itself, is what it is! Bad discussion, no donut! 😀

    I mean, I liked him in Eureka, but every time I saw him in that, I would start thinking, “hey, that’s Max Headroom!” Whereas, in OB, I was too busy freaking out and worrying just what schemes he had, and whether Cosima was going to be safe working with him to be distracted by such thoughts. Yes, he was still cheerful (I don’t think I’ve seen him in a role where he didn’t do cheerful), but man he proved that cheerful could be scary in that show!

    OB episodes with Frewer included “Variations under Domestication” (S1E6), which was a Hugo finalist in 2014.

  24. @errolwi — the flow in that satellite view is impressively (or perhaps depressingly) coherent.

  25. I know someone currently on a plane from LAX to Melbourne, we are all hoping the airport is open when she arrives. Canberra had many flights cancelled yesterday. Some precautionary evacuations have being delayed by the smoke. I’m unsurprised that the RNZAF helicopters being sent will be based in South Australia, rather than e.g. on the RAN ship currently off the Southern NSW coast.

  26. Re (2): Also relevant when the other planets in question are being colonized with no other sapient life forms about, is what the colonists had the chance to bring with them versus what they now realise they need, or what happens when a resource they had to bring with them is lost.

    It might not be that efficient to ship cows through space, but if cows turn out to be needed, then expense aside, they can’t exactly breed them locally. At the point of high technology, at best you’re comparing the relative costs of growing one from cells and DNA versus shipping a bunch, and the idea of growing them yourself assumes you have the lab and materials on hand, and that there are no issues with how cows born in a lab behave compared to cows born to, or at least raised by, cows. Even if the colony aims to produce its own resources for all its needs, it has to bring those resources along in some form, or bring means to extract them.

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