Pixel Scroll 10/3/18 I’ve Got Pixels To Scroll, And Pixels To LOL, And Pixels To Stir Up Yet More Strife

(1) CORDWAINER GENESIS. Ashley Stimpson and Jeffrey Irtenkauf trace the career of the man behind Cordwainer Smith in “Throngs of himself” for Johns Hopkins Magazine. “Paul Linebarger wrote science fiction as Cordwainer Smith. His multiple selves did not stop there.”

The notebook belonged to Paul Linebarger, who under his own name played many roles: U.S. Army colonel, CIA operative, psychological warfare expert, scholar of Asia, teacher, adviser to an American president. He was a husband twice and a father twice. His godfather was the first president of modern China, Sun Yat-sen. He may have been the central unhinged character in a famous psychiatric case study. But it was his science fiction—published as Cordwainer Smith—that gilds his legacy today.

Smith published about 30 short stories, all of which take place over a 14,000-year future history that Linebarger labored over in a lifetime of notebooks. Smith’s work is startling and violent, remembered for its originality and its weighty subject matter. In a letter to his agent, Linebarger explained that his stories “intended to lay bare the human mind, to throw torches over the underground lakes of the human soul, to show the chambers wherein the ageless dramas of self-respect, God, courage, sex, love, hope, envy, decency, and power go on forever.” Pulpy tales of little green men these were not.

(2) DISNEY’S STREAMING STAR WARS SERIES. When Disney’s new streaming service launches, here’s what one of its offerings will be: “Jon Favreau’s streaming ‘Star Wars’ series is ‘The Mandalorian'” at Engadget.

We still don’t know the name of Disney’s subscription streaming service, but we do have some details for a live-action Star Wars show that will appear on it. Jon Favreau announced on Instagram that The Mandalorian is set “after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order,” with a “lone gunfighter” emerging in the tradition of Jango and Boba Fett on the outer reaches of the galaxy.


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(3) SAVING GRACES. James Davis Nicoll admires “Women Who Save Themselves (and Everyone Else)” for reasons explained in his post for Tor.com.

… Having accepted the burden of her late father’s Letter of Marque, Bodacious Space Pirates’ Marika Kato balances the demands of school work with the challenges of commanding a privateer starship. Although years of peacetime has reduced privateering to a tourist attraction, from time to time Kato’s Bentenmaru finds itself in action, including the time Kato and friends set out to rescue Jenny Doolittle from an arranged marriage.

The single flaw in their plan was assuming that Jenny would wait to be rescued, rather than taking matters into her own hands….

(4) ARTIFICIAL CHICKEN INTELLIGENCE. In what the ad writers must think is a hilarious (non-) deception, Burger King’s latest commercials are written by Artificial Intelligence. Well, actually not (The Verge: “Burger King’s ‘AI-written’ ads show we’re still very confused about artificial intelligence”).

Each of Burger King’s new ads starts with an anachronistic burst of noise from a dial-up modem and a solemn warning: “This ad was created by artificial intelligence.” Then, over shots of glistening burgers and balletic fries, a robotic-sounding narrator deploys exactly the sort of clunky grammar and conceptual malapropisms we expect from a dumb AI.

…They’re good ads! And, of course, they’re lies. In a press release, Burger King claims the videos are the work of a “new deep learning algorithm,” but an article from AdAge makes it clear that humans — not machines — are responsible for the funnies. “Artificial intelligence is not a substitute for a great creative idea coming from a real person,” Burger King’s global head of brand marketing, Marcelo Pascoa, told the publication.

Here’s an example –

(5) PARTY CRASHERS. Olga Polomoshnova studies the consequences of “Feasts Interrupted” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

…Tolkien used socially important intrusions into realms, and thus their societies, in The Silmarillion, but his approach was different from Beowulf’s poet’s with an important detail: the most meaningful intrusions were one-time rather than continuous actions, and they took place during prominent feasts, thus increasing their social impact and significance manifold….

(6) CLARION 2019 FACULTY. The Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop faculty for 2019 will be — Carmen Maria Machado, Maurice Broaddus, Karen Lord, Andy Duncan, Ann VanderMeer, Jeff VanderMeer, and Shelley Streeby (Faculty Director).

Applications for the 2019 Workshop reopens December 1.

The Workshop runs June 23, 2019 – August 3, 2019.

(7) OVER THE MOON. Astronomers at Columbia University think they have evidence of the first moon orbiting an exoplanet (The Verge: “Astronomers may have discovered the first moon ever found outside our Solar System”).

A pair of astronomers believes they’ve found a moon orbiting a planet outside our Solar System — something that has never before been confirmed to exist. Though they aren’t totally certain of their discovery yet, the find opens up the possibility that more distant moons are out there. And that could change our understanding of how the Universe is structured.

The astronomy team from Columbia University found this distant satellite, known as an exomoon, using two of NASA’s space telescopes. They first spotted a signal from the object in data collected by the planet-hunting telescope Kepler, and then they followed up with the Hubble Space Telescope, which is in orbit around Earth. Thanks to the observations from these two spacecraft, the team suspect this moon orbits around a Jupiter-sized planet located about 4,000 light-years from Earth. And this planet, dubbed Kepler-1625b, orbits around a star similar to our Sun.

(8) SLOWING DOWN. Mary Robinette Kowal discusses her health and a reduction in her schedule: “On why I’m cancelling some events…”

…I’ve been on the road more than I’ve been home. I was in the middle of twenty days of travel and hand been home for a single day before that, with only three days at home at the end. I was leading a workshop of 150 students.

He stopped me and said, “You have to slow down.”

So, I am. We’re canceling some events and nothing else goes on my calendar for next year. Because the show doesn’t actually have to go on.

And to reassure you, we caught the shingles early so it stayed pretty mild. I got the anti-virals. Yes, I’ll do the vaccine when this is cleared up to stave off a recurrence. If you see me, please don’t hug me. I’m in the super-sensitive skin phase right now, which means contact with my back feels somewhere between a sunburn and a cheesegrater….


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 3, 1889 – William Elliott Dold, Jr., Artist. In the early years of SF right through the 70s, he did cover art for such magazines as Miracle Science and Fantasy Stories and Cosmic Stories. Between 1923 and 1975, he also contributed hundreds of interior art pieces to magazines and books, ranging from Harold Hersey’s poetry collection Night to work for the weekly British comic magazine 2000 A.D. I don’t see that his art has been collected yet.
  • Born October 3, 1927 – Donald R. Bensen, Writer and Editor. He is credited with a genre novel, And Having Writ…, which received an Honorable Mention for the Campbell Award, and created a couple of The Unknown anthologies for Pyramid Books, but his work as a consulting editor for Dell Books and The Dial Press from 1976 until 1981, where works by Spider and Jeanne Robinson, Gregory Benford, Joan Vinge and John Varley were published, is I think his true contribution to the genre. He also contributed editorially to Dell’s paperback science fiction and fantasy publications during those years.
  • Born October 3, 1931 – Ray Nelson, 87, Writer, Cartoonist, and Member of First Fandom who did many cartoons and articles for fanzines but is perhaps most known for his 1963 short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” which was used by John Carpenter as the basis for the 1988 film They Live. He also co-authored The Ganymede Takeover with Philip K. Dick. Blake’s Progress, in which the poet William Blake is a time traveler, is claimed by Clute to be his best work. His novel The Prometheus Man received a Philip K. Dick Special Citation, and he was a finalist for the 1951 Retro Hugo for Best Fan Artist in 2001, and the winner of the Rotsler Award in 2003. He is credited with the invention of the infamous SF fan propeller beanie.
  • Born October 3, 1944 – Katharine Kerr, 74, Writer best known for the 15 novels in her Deverry Cycle, and recipient of World Fantasy and BSFA Award nominations. Author of many series including Westlands, Dragon Mage and the Silver Wyrm. I’d be remiss not to note her Urban Fantasy series entitled Nola O’Grady which is a great deal of fun and which leads off with, I kid you not, License to Ensorcell. She’s done a number of essays, including one with the intriguing title of “The Hedgehog’s Lair”.
  • Born October 3, 1950 – Pamela Hensley, 68, Actor who played Princess Ardala in the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century movie and TV series, starred in the original Rollerball movie, and had guest roles in several episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man.
  • Born October 3, 1964 – Clive Owen, Actor from England who starred in the Oscar- and Hugo-nominated Children of Men, the not-so-acclaimed Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Sin City, and the upcoming time travel movie Gemini Man.
  • Born October 3, 1967 – Denis Villeneuve, 51, French-Canadian Writer and Director who turned Ted Chiang’s short “The Story of Your Life” into the Oscar- and Hugo-winning film Arrival, garnered more Oscar wins and a Hugo nomination with the sequel Blade Runner 2049, and is currently working on a remake of Frank Herbert’s Dune.
  • Born October 3, 1973 – Lena Headey, 45, British Actor and Producer who is well-known to genre fans as Cersei Lannister in the Hugo-winning series Game of Thrones. She also played the titular character in the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series, and had roles in The Brothers Grimm, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the 300 movies, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box, and one of JJ’s favorite so-bad-it’s-good horror films about subterranean scuba diving, The Cave.
  • Born October 3, 1975 – Jason Erik Lundberg, 43, Writer and Editor. He’s published several collections of his own short stories, edited several anthologies, and has edited Lontar: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction for the last 5 years. Writer of such critical essays as “The Old Switcheroo: A Study in Neil Gaiman’s Use of Character Reversal” and “Embedded Narrative in the Fiction of Kelly Link”; he also wrote the nonfiction work Embracing the Strange: The Transformative Impact of Speculative Fiction.
  • Born October 3, 1978 – Shannyn Sossamon, 40, Actor in the TV series Sleepy Hollow, Wayward Pines, Moonlight, and genre films One Missed Call, Catacombs, and Ghost Light.
  • Born October 3, 1983 – Tessa Thompson, 35, Actor, Singer, and Producer. She had an early guest role in 3 episodes of Heroes, and has played main roles in Thor: Ragnarok, Annihilation, and the TV series Westworld. She co-starred in Janelle Monáe’s 49-minute genre musical film Dirty Computer.
  • Born October 3, 1986 – Joonas Suotamo, 32, Actor from Finland who has played Chewbacca in the newest Star Wars trilogy and associated videogames.
  • Born October 3, 1988 – Alicia Vikander, 30, Swedish Actor and Producer who starred in Ex Machina, Seventh Son, and the newly-rebooted The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Tomb Raider films, as well as providing a character voice for Moomins and the Winter Wonderland.


  • Yoda’s SJW credential makes a confession: Half Full.

(11) EXOMOON. Yahoo! News reports “In a surprise, first alien moon discovered is big and gaseous”. (Wait a minute, didn’t I already report this item?)

Astronomers have pinpointed what appears to be the first moon detected outside our solar system, a large gaseous world the size of Neptune that is unlike any other known moon and orbits a gas planet much more massive than Jupiter.

The discovery, detailed by researchers on Wednesday, was a surprise, and not because it showed that moons exist elsewhere – they felt it was only a matter of time for one to be found in another star system. They were amazed instead by how different this moon was from the roughly 180 known in our solar system.

“It’s big and weird by solar system standards,” Columbia University astronomy professor David Kipping said of the moon, known as an exomoon because it is outside our solar system.

(12) ARPANET. Slate dubs it “The Very First Social Network”. And I think it’s entirely likely someone reading this blog is acquainted with whoever started this….

That is, until 1979.
That fall, [Vint] Cerf logged on to his workstation to find an unopened message from the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. It had been sent over the network using the recently developed “electronic mail” system. Because more than one person was using each computer on the network, the scientists had conceived of “e-mail” (now commonly styled email) so they could share information directly from one person to another, rather than just between computers. As with regular mail, they realized they needed a system of addresses to send and receive the messages. Thus the @ symbol was born: It served to separate the mailbox identifier from the serving host, and the single character saved typing time and scarce computer memory, an early version of what one might think of as a “hack.”
But the message sent to Cerf’s email wasn’t a technical request. And it hadn’t been sent just to him. Instead, an email with the subject line “SF-LOVERS” had been sent to Cerf and his colleagues scattered across the United States. The message asked all of them to respond with a list of their favorite science fiction authors. Because the message had gone out to the entire network, everybody’s answers could then be seen and responded to by everybody else. Users could also choose to send their replies to just one person or a subgroup, generating scores of smaller discussions that eventually fed back into the whole.
About 40 years later, Cerf still recalls this as the moment he realized that the internet would be something more than every other communications technology before it. “It was clear we had a social medium on our hands,” he said.

(13) IN ACTION. “Nobel Prize In Chemistry Honors Work That Demonstrates ‘The Power Of Evolution'” – “If I read the tables in Wikipedia correctly,” says Chip Hitchcock, “this is the first year that women have gotten even a piece of two of the three tech Nobels.”

American Frances H. Arnold has won half of the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry for her work in changing how chemists produce new enzymes, sharing the prize with another American, George Smith, and Sir Gregory Winter of the U.K. for research that has led to new pharmaceuticals and cancer treatments.

“This year’s prize is about harnessing the power of evolution,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in announcing the winners. This year’s laureates have “re-created the process in their test tubes … and make evolution many times faster.”

Arnold is only the fifth woman to win the prize in its 117-year history. She conducted the first directed evolution of enzymes, which are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. Enzymes produced through “directed evolution” in laboratory settings are used to manufacture everything from renewable fuels to pharmaceuticals.

(14) ACROBOTIC. “Hayabusa 2: German-led lander drops to asteroid’s surface” — this one flips instead of bouncing like the Japanese-built rovers.

Japan’s space agency (Jaxa) has put another lander on the surface of asteroid 162173, or Ryugu.

The Hayabusa-2 probe ejected the German-French Mascot “rover” on Wednesday for its 20-minute journey down to the space rock.

Contact was confirmed in the early hours, Central European Summer Time.

Mascot is designed to move across the surface of Ryugu and analyse its surface properties, including its mineral composition and magnetic field.

… Mascot has a swing arm inside to generate a torque that will throw the lander to a new location.

(15) TAGGERS REJOICE. Another thing sff failed to predict — “Disney ‘graffiti drone’ tags walls”.

Disney is known for its clean and tidy theme parks so it may come as a surprise to see it has developed a graffiti-spraying drone.

Its research and development division has been working on a drone equipped with a spray-paint gun that can tag walls and even paint 3D objects.

The researchers hope the idea will result in drones that can paint walls quickly and accurately.

(16) CHOOSE-YOUR-OWN BLACK MIRROR. “Netflix Is Planning a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure ‘Black Mirror’”. Bloomberg has the story.

Netflix Inc. is about to let you decide how your favorite show will end.

The streaming service is developing a slate of specials that will let viewers choose the next storyline in a TV episode or movie, according to people familiar with the matter. The company expects to release the first of these projects before the end of this year, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are still private.

Viewers will get to choose their own storylines in one episode of the upcoming season of “Black Mirror,” the Emmy-winning science-fiction anthology series. The show is famous for exploring the social implications of technology, including an episode where humans jockey to receive higher ratings from their peers. The fifth season of the show is expected to be released in December.

(17) PLANET NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A newly discovered minor planet—nicknamed the Goblin—is one of only three known minor planets in certain extremely distant, highly elliptical orbits… and in some ways it’s the most extreme of the bunch (Smithsonian: “New Discovery Stirs Up Signs of the Elusive Planet 9”).

The new object, officially called 2015 TG387, orbits with a special class of celestial bodies known as Inner Oort Cloud objects, or extreme trans-Neptunian objects (ETNOs). The body of rock and ice, nicknamed “the Goblin” by the discovery team, is currently about 80 astronomical units (AU) from the sun, or about twice as far as Pluto’s average distance. However, the Goblin travels on a highly elongated orbit that takes it to the extreme outermost reaches of our solar system, looping out as far as 2,300 AU during its 40,000-year journey around the sun.

Like the other two objects in the class (Sedna and 2012 VP113), it does not come close enough to the outer planets to really be influenced by Jupiter and its lesser kin. But, if the mooted Planet 9 (aka Planet X) exists and is as massive as some astronomers believe, it could be an influence.

When considered together, these three objects start to produce a tantalizing picture of their distant realm. They are decoupled from the rest of the solar system, immune to its influence, and yet they all appear in the same part of the sky.

Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, who was on the team that discovered the Goblin, believes in Planet 9. Mostly. Others are more convinced.

How likely the existence of an undiscovered massive planet is, slowly circling the sun every tens of thousands of years at extreme distances, depends on who you ask. For his part, Sheppard, who has discovered dozens of minor planets, comets and moons, would place the odds of Planet 9 existing at about 80 or 85 percent—and he’s not even the most optimistic.

“My confidence is about 99.84 percent,” says Konstantin Batygin, a planetary astrophysicist and assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology. Batygin creates theoretical models of the outer solar system to search for hints of Planet 9, crunching the numbers on numerous minor planets that cluster into various groups and the influences of dozens of orbital factors. His 2016 paper with Caltech colleague Michael Brown laid out perhaps the strongest case for Planet 9 yet, concluding that there was only a fraction of one percent probability that the groupings of these objects occurred randomly.

Not everyone is convinced, of course, even those on the Goblin team/

“[…] There are conflicting lines of evidence,” says David Tholen, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii who was part of the team that discovered the Goblin. He points to the Cassini spacecraft, which orbited Saturn for more than 13 years, measuring the dynamics and forces of the outer solar system. “That serves as a very sensitive detector of other things out there, and the analysis of that data suggests that we don’t see any evidence for [Planet 9].”

Are there more objects like Goblin (and Sedna and 2012 VP113) out there? Well, if they aren’t near their closest approach to the Sun we probably couldn’t find them.

The only reason we have been able to find smaller distant objects like the Goblin is because they are near their closest approach, visible for just an instant of stellar time before they sling back out into the shadows.

“Ninety-nine percent of their orbit, we would not find them,” Sheppard says. “So, we just find the tip of the iceberg.”

And, if Planet 9 exists it may well be too far out and too dim for us to see.

If the minor planets are in a gravitational dance with Planet 9, however, it could mean that the big planet is far, far away—near the aphelion of its orbit roughly 1,000 AU from the sun. We have only a rough idea of Planet 9’s size—between two and four times that of Earth, if it exists—and no way to determine its how much light it reflects, which makes it incredibly difficult to search for.

(18) GIRL IN A LAKE DISTRIBUTING SWORDS. Courtesy of Hampus Eckerman, translated from the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan, October 2. Headline: “Eight-year-old took a bath – found iron age sword.”

An eight-year-old girl made an unexpected find when she bathed this summer. A bit out into the water, she trampled on what proved to be an unusually well-preserved iron age sword.

“I thought, ok, so a sword, it could be anything, but then I got the pictures and then I got goose bumps,” says Archeologist Annie Rosén to TT [Newspapers Telegram Service].

The girl’s family contacted Annie Rosén at Jönköping County Museum. She found that the sword was surprisingly well-preserved with, among other things, a sheath in wood and leather. That so much organic material is preserved is very rare.

– It’s 1,000 years, maybe up to 1,500 years old. At the same place we found a dress ornament dating back to the 300’s or 400’s, says Annie Rosén.

The girl, aptly named Saga, found the sword at a half-meter depth at the bathing area in Lake Vidöstern, south of Värnamo, which SVT News Jönköping was the first to report.

…The sword is still at the conservator and they have as yet not been able to make a proper age determination. How it got into the lake is unknown to the archaeologists. It could be graves that eroded into the lake, sacrifices in water or that someone simply lost it. There are no known settlements nearby, but archaeologists are now looking for more objects in the lake.

“It would be cool to find something more that’s from the 4th century,” says Annie Rosén.”

(19) USE THE DELOREAN LUKE. Movieweb spots an “Amazing Empire Strikes Back to the Future Mashup Shared by Mark Hamill”.

The worlds of Star Wars and Back to the Future collide in a new mashup photo that Mark Hamill posted on social media, which he calls The Empire Strikes Back to the Future. Hamill uses social media often to engage with fans, and he’s pretty good at it. The Luke Skywalker actor often takes time out of his day to share things that he deems important or humorous, and even answers the burning questions of hardcore Star Wars fans pretty often.

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[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Susan de Guardiola, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

38 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/3/18 I’ve Got Pixels To Scroll, And Pixels To LOL, And Pixels To Stir Up Yet More Strife

  1. Is this scroll title from “I’ve got tuppence”? I learned that marching song when I was a child…

  2. @1: typo: the top of the page says it’s Johns Hopkins Magazine, just like the university. (Wikipedia says it’s the result of a name pass more typically done to girl children; a great-grandmother’s maiden name was Johns.) Still digesting the article….

    @8: aiiieee! Shingles is … not fun. (Not personal, but I know people who’ve gone through it.) Here’s hoping rest etc. deal with it.

    @12: I wasn’t quite that early; I came in after Star Trek: The Still Life produced so many messages that it had to be turned into a digest.

    @16: it will be interesting to see whether other viewers have a less negative reaction than the Boston Globe critic who grumbled about this being an effect of video games and reality-contest shows: The storytelling is the job of the writers and the showrunners, not the inexperienced schlepps on the receiving end.

    @Andrew: I’d probably pay to see that….

    edit: sacrificial whatever.

  3. That was a really good piece about Cordwainer Smith, so thank you whoever provided the link.

  4. @1: I was struck by the cold consensus of the scanners to use violence for a greater good echoes the communist ideology that so disturbed him; I wonder whether his CIA friends didn’t tell him about (e.g.) replacing a democracy with a king in Iran, or whether he felt that opposing the possibility of Communism justified the means. He chose an interesting way to recogniz[e] the meaning that suffering can lend to our humanity — I think Bull’s approach, or maybe even Spider Robinson’s, has less of a lab-experiment edge to it — but there are plenty of vivid ideas in his stories that still stick in my mind (and leave me wondering what JDN’s young readers would have thought if they’d been given “Scanners Live in Vain” instead of the blatantly sexist “The Ballad of Lost C’Mell”).

  5. @8, sympathies; I got shingles about six months ago. Got a funny rash around my eye; didn’t know what it was. For no particular reason, the thought suddenly occurred to me that it might be shingles. (I’ve never actually seen a shingles rash, and at the time I thought it only appeared on the torso, not the face; that’s where the people that I know got it.) I checked WebMD, fully aware that WebMD will convince you that you have bubonic plague… but I figured at least I could rule out shingles if the symptoms didn’t match. WebMD mentioned that shingles can occur on the face. So long story short, I went right to the doctor, got antivirals, and it cleared up (amazingly) within a week. I’ve since heard from friends that their shingles rashes lasted for months, so I sincerely hope that the antivirals work as well for Mary Robinette Kowal as they did for me. (I got very lucky; the emergency visit to the ophthalmologist confirmed that the optic nerve was not involved; apparently when shingles are next to your eye, you have a 50:50 chance of severe vision complications.)

    An amusing side note: I kept the side of my face bandaged for weeks after the shingles had cleared up; my most annoying boss is germ-phobic, and the merest whisper of shingles had him avoiding me like, ahem, the plague. Despite the fact (I checked) that everyone in the office, including him, had either had chickenpox already or had received the chickenpox vaccine. So I’m one of the few people for whom shingles had a beneficial side effect — it acted as an annoying-boss repellent for as long as I was willing to milk it. <grin>

  6. Here in Baltimore, most people (not all, but most) will routinely say Johns Hopkins, even if they have to take an “ambalance” there. Baltimore has a very distinctive small-region accent. Even though I don’t have a strong version of it (its stronghold is the eastern side of the city, and I’m north central), I do pronounce the street connecting to mine, Buena Vista, as “byoona,” and I can’t get rid of warter, warsh and Warshington.

    On Northern Exposure, Rob Morrow played a Hopkins grad, and he couldn’t say Johns Hopkins to save his life. They’d do take after take, and then often just let it go as John Hopkins.

    We pretty much all call our city Bawlamer.

  7. Let us never forget that young fannish cartoonist Ray Nelson iwas the creator of the propellor beanie as fandom icon. He has suggested that it will be his claim to fame, at least in fannish circles.

  8. (1) The article has a link to Psychological Warfare (by Paul M A Linebarger) on Project Gutenberg. When I first read it I had to request a copy through inter-library loan. I’m glad it’s more accessible now, in a good e-book edition that includes the illustrations.

    Psychological Warfare obviously came from the mind of a brilliant polymath. It includes a history of psychological warfare from ancient times. It is a philosophical treatise. It is a technical manual, covering everything from planning and organizational structures to podcasting and fanzine radio and leaflet production.

    Linebarger comes across as a decent guy. He saw his job as saving enemy lives.

    Apart from PsyWar, what military weapon destroys the enemy soldier’s capacity to fight by saving his life? PsyWar tries to bring him over alive and tries to send him home as our friend. No rival weapon can do this.

    Maybe that’s just propaganda. But if it is, it’s some of the finest.

  9. (5) Party crashing is a long and valued storytelling tradition, going back to Eris with her gift “to the fairest” in Homer.

    (8) Best wishes for a quick recovery!

    (12) On a computer that is. One can make a very good case that the fanzines of sf fandom was an even earlier social media network.

    (18) Hey, I’ve bathed in that lake!

  10. The inventor of the propeller beanie also wrote the precursor to They Live!? My mind is boggling.

  11. @Chip Hitchcock I wonder whether his CIA friends didn’t tell him about (e.g.) replacing a democracy with a king in Iran, or whether he felt that opposing the possibility of Communism justified the means.

    It’s not hard to read the Instrumentality as the CIA, or as Smith’s justification of the CIA:

    “It is the pride of the Instrumentality that the Instrumentality allows its officers to commit crimes or mistakes or suicide. The Instrumentality does the things for mankind a computer cannot do… The Instrumentality passes dark knowledge to its staff, things not not usually understood in the inhabited world, things prohibited to ordinary men and women.”

    “If I do commit murder, I will arrest myself, hold a trial, and acquit myself. I have strange powers, people. Don’t make me use them.”

    (The other thing to consider in this reading is Smith’s religion and the Instrumentality of Mankind as a reference to the priesthood as the instrumentality of Christ, but that’s a much bigger topic.)

  12. And thanks to @Tom Becker for the link to Psychological Warfare – I didn’t know it was on Gutenberg. It’s a fascinating historical document, if nothing else:

    “It is difficult for foreign competition to hold attention amid an almost limitless number of professionally competent commercial appeals… Before the political propagandist can get the public attention, he must edge his media past the soap operas, the soft drink advertisements, the bathing beauties advertising Pennsylvania crude or bright-leaf tobacco. The consequence is that outside propaganda either fails to get much public attention, or else camouflages itself to resemble and to exploit existing media. Clamorous salesmanship deadens the American citizen to his own government’s propaganda, and may to a certain extent lower his civic alertness; but at the same time, salesmanship has built up a psychological Great Wall which excludes foreign or queer appeals and which renders the United States almost impervious to sudden ideological penetration from overseas.”

    “Since the United States has no serious inward psychological cleavages…”

  13. @Karl-Johan Norén about 12:

    Actually, the first “social network” that fandom was involved with was fandom itself: Gernsback had previously created an analog social network with his Wireless Association of America and Radio League of America, which he then began to replicate for scientifiction fans in the pages of Amazing Stories, later launching the SFL which eventually failed when “communist/socialist” fans determined that their organizations should not serve commercial interests – which is of course the rub with today’s electronic social networks.

  14. Jeff Smith … the Bawlmur accent is … interesting. When I moved to the city in the late 70s I eventually had a job at the WaldenBooks out in Rosedale. Customer comes in asking for books on Merlin, I show her her Mary Steward & T. H.White and she says “No … the state …”

    & maybe see you at the Post Office.

    re Shingles ….when David Letterman recovered so he could return to the Late Show he commented:

    “There’s nothing good about the BEEP shingles. The BEEP are so BEEP painful, every minute you pray some giant son-of-a-BEEP will shove a red-hot poker up your ass.”

    Oddly enough I recently received the first of the two shingles vaccine.

  15. Seasonally-appropriate Meredith Moment: A veritable plethora of Robert McCammon eBooks are (is?) currently in the $1.99-$2.99 range.

  16. Cassy B., I was never more grateful for a diagnosis turning out to be wrong than the one from the ophthalmologist who said my stabbing eye-pain was “shingles of the eye-socket”. (The pain went away after a few days; never found out the true cause.)

  17. @Sophie Jane: that is an interesting reading of the Instrumentality — especially given more recent history, when the CIA may have acted inside the US as well as outside. The original parallel seems weaker because IIRC we see very little that is not overtly governed by the Instrumentality; seeing them as the CIA also either contradicts the definition from “Drunkboat” (quoted in Wikipedia) “stop war, but do not wage it” or shows a flexible definition of “stop” — but that … breadth of personality … may have been content with contradictions.
    OTOH, I choked on “Since the United States has no serious inward psychological cleavages…”. Even then, it shows his own blindness (or at least refusal to acknowledge that a minority could constitute a cleavage); these days it has an interesting ring, given reports that Russia fake-tweeted on the extreme ends of both sides of issues, allegedly on the theory that causing internal division was almost as good as actively swaying the US away from opposing Russia. I imagine him spinning in his grave at the realization that the fall of communism in Russia may not have made a difference in relations — possibly accompanied by E. Phillips Oppenheim, with Kipling snickering at both of them.

  18. Im sure this has been covered before, but I just saw on screenjunkies, that Netflix has biught the rights for all Narnia movies (first studio to do so) and is planning a „shared universe“ with mobies and series, probably to rival Netflix‘ Lotd of the rings.
    Im not sure if this is a US thing, but I dont think the Narnia books ever took off in Germany and i dont know aout other countries. Wonder if the international audience will embrace that.

    (16) Will be tricky to find the right balance of giving the audience enough to decide about, without breaking the flow and still mke the twist feel surprising.

    The pixel of firescroll mountain

  19. There was a story like (18) last year when a 7-year-old girl found a sword in Dozmay Pool in Cornwall. I hope they don’t turn out to be two warring queens who must fight for Europe.

  20. Third attempt: Paul McAuley’s Austral is 99¢ at Amazon US.
    This time without a link

  21. @Chip Hitchcock: I have to agree. Linebarger had an elite upbringing and while he wasn’t completely blind to America’s faults, he had a rosy view. Also, why wouldn’t the citizens of other countries be just as cynical and resistant to propaganda as Americans? I wish Linebarger had not died so young and I could just ask him that.

  22. The birthday listing for Don Bensen gets his contributions to SF very wrong. To quote from the Wikipedia page for Jove Books (which is what Pyramid Books eventually became),

    “While not the most prolific publisher of science fiction and fantasy during its years as Pyramid, it did offer some notable original titles in book form, such as Algis Budrys’s novel Who? (1958), Theodore Sturgeon’s novel Venus Plus X (1960) and several collections of Sturgeon’s short fiction, as well as collections, novels and anthologies by Harlan Ellison and Judith Merril. Pyramid speculative fiction editor (1957–67) Donald R. Bensen edited two notable and popular anthologies drawn from the fantasy-fiction magazine Unknown, The Unknown (1963) and The Unknown 5 (1964), the latter including an introduction by and a previously unpublished story by Isaac Asimov, the story having been slated for publication by the magazine, which folded before it could appear.

    “Pyramid in the 1960s also published several notable anthologies edited by L. Sprague de Camp, which helped create a sense of a tradition of sword & sorcery fantasy, and a series of four anthologies drawn from the magazine Weird Tales

    “Among the notable paperback reprint editions Pyramid published in the 1950s and ’60s were several collections by Robert Heinlein, Hal Clement’s novel Mission of Gravity, and de Camp and Fletcher Pratt’s The Incompleat Enchanter

    “In the 1960s Pyramid published two of the first three books attributed to Cordwainer Smith, one of the fiction-writing pseudonyms of Paul Linebarger, and began reprinting Fu Manchu novels by Sax Rohmer and pulp sf adventure novels by E. E. Smith, as well as several novelizations of Irwin Allen television shows and films… and Sturgeon’s movie novelization for Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Other original book publications in the 1960s included the first of Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat novels (1961), Avram Davidson’s Masters of the Maze (1965) and Chester Anderson’s cult novel The Butterfly Kid (1967)…”

    I visited Don several times at Pyramid Books—at the top of the “Newsweek” skyscraper at 444 Madison Avenue here in NYC—in the mid-1960s. He was responsible for their entire SF line, including the design of the books—that’s a slug of hot type, with imperfections, running vertically through many of the covers, for which he acquired all the art as well—including doing a bunch of stereotypically entitled SF books including The Zap Gun, Space Opera, etc.

    And, Don was a really nice, guy, too.


    I was going to make the obvious Monty Python joke, but I think the subtitle means Mike already did it.

  24. @Chip Hitchcock My first though wad also of the current cold/cyber war. What would he have made of it, especially things like the harnessing/magnifying of pop culture rifts… would this even be possible to explain to someone unacquainted with the last 30 years of pop culture and internet developments?

  25. Andrew Porter: The birthday listing for Don Bensen gets his contributions to SF very wrong.

    The birthday listings done by Cat Eldridge and me are capsule bios colored by our personal perspectives, not exhaustive biographies. I am sure that you understand the difference between “non-exhaustive” and “very wrong”. Thank you for the information added in your comment.

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