Pixel Scroll 10/19 Asterix and the Missing Scroll

(1) The stars came out for White House Astronomy Night.


(2) New interview with Liu Cixin conducted by Yang Yang for China Daily.

When, in a telephone interview, China Daily reminds him of that comment, he replies: “It’s not a joke. Aliens may arrive at any time. When it happens, everything, social and economic reform, educational problems, international conflicts or poverty, will become much less important, compared with the alien crisis.”

Big countries such as China and international organizations such as the United Nations need to be ready for such an eventuality, he says.

“It does not necessarily involve a lot of money and human resources. But we should prepare, in the fields of politics, military, society and so on. The government should organize some people to do related research and preparations for the long term.”

Unfortunately, he says, “no country seems to have done this kind of thing”.

In the postscript for the English version of The Three-Body Problem, translated by Ken Liu, Liu Cixin says: “I’ve always felt that extraterrestrial intelligence will be the greatest source of uncertainty for humanity’s future. Other great shifts, such as and ecological disasters, have a certain progression and built-in adjustment periods, but contact between mankind and aliens can occur at any time. Perhaps in 10,000 years the starry sky that mankind gazes upon will remain empty and silent, but perhaps tomorrow we’ll wake up and find an alien spaceship the size of the Moon parked in orbit. … The appearance of this Other, or mere knowledge of its existence, will impact our civilization in unpredictable ways.”

(3) Bob Byrne’s “The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Tying in the BBC Sherlock Special” at Black Gate has a lot of good information.

Back in July, what seems to be the most popular ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ post appeared here at Black Gate. I looked at what I think went wrong with season three of the BBC’s Sherlock. I included the just-released ninety-second, ‘first look’ video for the upcoming Special, to be aired around Christmas. And I pointed out it seemed to be full of the “Look how clever we are” bits that I lamented in my post.

Now, just about everyone, including myself, loves that the Special is set in Victorian times; unlike the episodes in the first three seasons. Cumberbatch and Freeman would be given their first (and quite likely, only) opportunities to play Holmes and Watson in the Doyle mold. I view it as a chance for the show to get back on track and reclaim the multitude of fans it lost during season three.

(4) Brad Torgersen, in a comment on Kevin Trainor’s blog, now says:

I had multiple conduits for suggestions, and the comments section was just one conduit.

But he doesn’t identify what those sources for the majority of slated Sad Puppy 3 fiction were.

(5) Francis W. Porreto does not approve – “Really Quickies: From The Garbage Heap” at Bastion of Liberty.

If you’d like a gander at “how the other side emotes,” take a look at this post at this hard-to-describe site, particularly the comments that follow commenter “alauda’s” citation of this bit of dark foreboding. These past two days a fair amount of traffic has come here from there.

Note the complete lack of rational analysis. Note the immediate and unconditional willingness to condemn me, as if the scenario I wrote about were something I actually want to happen.

(6) Alyssa Rosenberg, while commenting on “The downside of cultural fragmentation” in the Washington Post, touches on a familiar topic —

Debates over what kinds of books, movies, television shows, comics and video games get awards are often a proxy way of debating what our cultural values ought to be. The alternative slates that attempted to wrest control of Hugo nominations were based on the idea that awards voters had over-prioritized identity politics over the quality of writing and plotting; GamerGate erroneously asserts that there’s a movement afoot to ban or stop the production of video games with certain themes or images. While I don’t agree with the premises of either of those two cultural movements, I do think left cultural criticism has sometimes asserted political litmus tests for art in recent years, and that elements of the right, spurred by the sometime success of this approach, have fallen into the same patterns (for a good example, see the suggestions that the action movie “Mad Max: Fury Road” was anti-male).

(7) After Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories picked apart the Trek-related fanhistory in Kevin Trainor’s post on Wombat Rampant, Dystopic followed with his own critique of what Davidson had to say about Trainor on Declination.

As my readers probably know already, I consider myself somewhere on the Puppy spectrum of the Science Fiction community. There’s quite a bit of difference between the Sad Puppies, who one might call the reformists, and the Rabid Puppies who are mostly of the opinion that Worldcon and the Hugos should be burnt to the ground and set on fire by their own Left-wing, Social Justice proponents.

Either way, though, both camps agree that the existing community is hopelessly corrupt, cliquish, and prone to a particular animus against Conservatives and Libertarians. This prejudice is such that their works are repeatedly voted down from awards, publishers like Tor Books are run by individuals openly hostile to alternate political affiliations, and backroom deals are made to secure nominations for authors based on political backgrounds and special interests.

Steve Davidson of Amazing Stories confirms this for us in a ridiculous post, so loaded up with Strawmen that he might as well be the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. Let’s allow him to hang himself with his own rope, shall we?

(8) Workaholics actor Blake Anderson appears in the Halloween episode of The Simpsons:

“Well, you know, we kind of feel a little disrespected by Homer and we show up at his doorstep basically looking for revenge,” Anderson explains. “So it turns into a full onPanic Room situation, where he’s kind of stuck in the attic and looking for him. We’re out for blood for sure.”

In the vein of the Treehouse episodes, Anderson says this one is not necessarily “piss your pants” scary, but, he assures, “me and Nick Kroll definitely brought our creepy to the table for sure.”


(9) Is this a clue to the future of Game of Thrones?

(10) Today’s Birthday Boys

  • October 19, 1903 — Tor Johnson is born Karl Oscar Tore Johansson in Sweden. Especially known for his appearance in Plan 9 From Outer Space, although he had credits in all kinds of things, from the movie musical Carousel to Walter Cronkite’s You Are There nonfiction TV show.
  • October 19, 1945 — John Lithgow is born. Acted in Twilight Zone, Third Rock from the Sun, Buckaroo Banzai

(11) Today’s Birthday Book

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is 62 years old today. Phil Nichols explains:

Fahrenheit 451

FAHRENHEIT 451 was deposited for copyright at the Library of Congress on October 19, 1953. Both the first edition hardbound and mass market paperback carry this publication date, although the paperbacks actually reached the market a month earlier.

The McCarthy era’s climate of fear lingered beyond 1953, however; in spite of the book’s initial critical success, the first paperback printing took seven years to sell out.

(12) Diana Pavlac Glyer was very pleasantly surprised to find her forthcoming book Bandersnatch mentioned in a recent Publishers Weekly post, “Exploring C.S. Lewis’s Lasting Popularity – 52 Years After His Death”.

Coming in November, Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings (Kent State University Press) by Diana Pavlac Glyer and James A. Owen shows readers how encouragement and criticism made all the difference in books written by the Inklings. A companion coloring book by Owen is expected next spring.

(13) Learn how to make your pumpkin look like a galaxy nebula.


(14) Io9 says “The Glorious Poster For Star Wars The Force Awakens Has A Giant Planet Killer On It”. Almost needless to say, you can also see the full, high resolution poster there.

(15) This collection of “13 Creepy Bits of Bookish Trivia” at BookRiot lives up to its headline. Here’s one of the tamer entries.

  1. J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, is rumored to have been quite the odd character. However, after his brother died in a skating accident, Barrie would routinely dress up in his dead brother’s clothing in order to ease his mother’s grief. The tragedy of his brother’s death would come to inspire the character of Peter Pan.

(16) Tonight was the Terry Gilliam talk at the Alex Theatre. Crusading photojournalist John King Tarpinian snapped a picture of the marquee.

Terry Gilliam on Alex marquee COMP ph by JKT

(17) Chuck Wendig in “About That Dumb Star Wars Boycott” begins…

Let’s imagine that you are, as you are now, a straight white dude. Except, your world features one significant twist — the SFF pop culture you consume is almost never about you. The faces of the characters do not look like yours. The creators of this media look nothing like you, either. Your experiences are not represented. Your voice? Not there. There exist in these universes no straight white dudes. Okay, maybe one or two. Some thrown in to appease. Sidekicks and bad guys and walk-on parts. Token chips flipped to the center of the table just to make you feel like you get to play, too. Oh, all around you in the real world, you are well-represented. Your family, your friends, the city you live in, the job you work — it’s straight white dude faces up and down the block. But on screen? In books? Inside comic panels and as video game characters? Almost none. Too few. Never the main characters.

It feels isolating, and you say so.

And as a response you’re told, “Hey, take what you get.” They say, can’t you have empathy for someone who doesn’t look like you? Something something humanist, something something equalist. And of course you can have that empathy because you have to, because this is all you know, because the only faces and words and experiences on-screen are someone else’s so, really, what else are you going to do?

Then one day, things start to change. A little, not a lot, but shit, it’s a start — you start to see yourself up there on the screen. Sometimes as a main character. Sometimes behind the words on the page, sometimes behind the camera. A video game avatar here, a protagonist there. And it’s like, WOO HOO, hot hurtling hell, someone is actually thinking about you once in a while. And the moment that happens, wham. A backlash. People online start saying, ugh, this is social justice, ugh, this is diversity forced down our throats, yuck, this is just bullshit pandering quota garbage SJW — and you’re like, whoa, what? Sweet crap, everyone else has been represented on screen since the advent of film. They’ve been on the page since some jerk invented the printing press. But the moment you show up — the moment you get more than a postage stamp-sized bit of acreage in this world that has always been yours but never really been yours, people start throwing a shit-fit. They act like you’re unbalancing everything. Like you just moved into the neighborhood and took a dump in everybody’s marigolds just because you exist visibly.

(18) Amy Sterling Casil recommends The Looking Planet.

During the construction of the universe, a young member of the Cosmos Corps of Engineers decides to break some fundamental laws in the name of self expression.


[Thanks to Will R., JJ, John King Tarpinian and Amy Sterling Casil for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

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272 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/19 Asterix and the Missing Scroll

  1. OMG, they did an epic Prince’s Trust performance in 2004 — I think I like it better than the original.

  2. @Microtherion
    “My impression is that this was a bipartisan phenomenon, with strong support from liberals, based on the conviction that the victim’s testimony should be taken at face value in most cases. Given the perennial bias in society toward taking the perpetrator’s word over the victim’s, I believe there were very sound reasons to start believing the victims, but in the process, people did not reflect on the limits of what testimony should be believed, on the way the testimony was obtained, and on what evidence should be demanded for some of the testimony.”

    This is my memory of the way it happened, too. It became a tragedy for a lot of people on all sides.

  3. @rcade

    Wasn’t Oakes one of those people who made a fuss about specifications – in particular formal specification and proof of correctness? Maybe those are available? Or maybe that point was just more FUD.

  4. @Tenar Darell

    re: The Looking Planet

    That was me commenting about rentals. Unfortunately, screenings are beyond my spoon capacity any more, but thank you for remembering and trying.

  5. @rcade,
    “The voting code is sent from one Worldcon committee to the next.”

    I think the lynchpin of this question may resolve on how WSFS Constitution, Section 1.6 – Authority, falls on the matter.

    Being and having been a volunteer on several committees, I was prepared to reasonably accept that WSFS has set up Worldcon Committee as a subdivision of the organization. I do believe that may still be generally true, except for the very specific language of Section 1.6. (http://www.wsfs.org/bm/const-2014.html) Of course, my next logical reaction was to check whether the “herein” had anything to say at all about software used for tallying Hugo Award votes. Of course it doesn’t. That then had me change my mind that for the purpose of ownership, methods of Hugo Award vote tallying, and transference of software used in Hugo Award vote tallying, each Worldcon “acts in its own name and not the WSFS.” And so distributing internally to WSFS between two different Worldcons acting in their own names would still then be “distribution” in license terms.

    Now you’ve caused me to be mildly curious about…
    1. Have the distributions since Lonestar3 Included the license?
    2. Does it clearly state which software is covered by the License? Does it say anything misleading, perhaps giving the impression that something is covered by the License when in fact it is not?
    3. Is source code included in the distribution?
    4. Is a written offer for source code included with a distribution of just binaries?
    5. Is the available source code complete, or is it designed for linking in other non-free modules?

    Since no one can inspect it, those are questions which I won’t easily ever know the answer to. Further, it all still wouldn’t necessarily matter if the original owner is good with this being done, which could still be true. That is, in my mind there is still quite a chasm between Worldcon’s “distribution,” (passed from the vote talley caretaker of one Worldcon to another, perhaps even belonging to the same person) even if it is technically distribution, versus what the original concern was (“general distribution within the wild”).

    I think the former would only be an employment problem for the guy if his boss just happened to be enough of a sf fan to be on a Worldcon Committee, and then managed to be one tallying votes, got to see the software, and then realize it had an open source component written by his employee.

    Silly but True

  6. @JJ: OMG, they did an epic Prince’s Trust performance in 2004 — I think I like it better than the original.

    Wow, their voices have aged well. Not everyone can pull off that kind of vocal sound thirty years later.

  7. Silly but True on October 21, 2015 at 6:25 am said:

    Being and having been a volunteer on several committees, I was prepared to reasonably accept that WSFS has set up Worldcon Committee as a subdivision of the organization….

    IMO there is no single right answer to this. The membership of WSFS is the membership of the current Worldcon, run by an organization that is legally separate from the previous and following year’s Worldcons; however, their conventions’ members are all WSFS for their given year.

    An analogy: US state governments are separate entities, but they’re collectively the United States of America. The WSFS governance model is (not deliberately) very similar to the governance model of the USA under the Articles of Confederation prior to the ratification of the Constitution of 1787.

  8. Meredith: Wow, I never expected that track to be that good live! Quality performance.

    What I especially love is that, at the time, The Buggles kind of seemed to be a one-hit wonder — but both Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes went on to very illustrious careers in music, including being part of Art of Noise, Yes, and Asia, as well as music producers. The woman on the keyboard in the video, Anne Dudley, is an Oscar-winning composer and music producer who started out in Art of Noise.

    There is some serious awesomeness up on that stage.

  9. Re: Sherlock:

    I’m a fan, and I’m not that big a fan of Moffatt’s other showrunning (specifically, certain choices made in Dr. Who in s6 and s7). 7 of the 9 episodes to date are very, very enjoyable (the only exceptions being “The Blind Banker” and “Hounds of Baskerville”). The wedding episode, with Sherlock’s epic toast, is a high-water mark, particularly the way he talks about, and solves, the three cases. Cumberbatch, Freeman, “The Woman” and whoever plays Greg LeStrade, all pitch-perfect.

    Some day I hope to do as good a job updating a public-domain property.

  10. @KS,

    Thank you.

    I think one could reasonably and successfully argue that WSFS remains a continuous entity even if its membership completely changes up from year to year (not a surprising thing actually, many committees continue existing even if its President or officers gets replaced, the U.S. continues on even as its Executive, Legislative, and Judicial change membership up). Sans any other language to the contrary, I could accept for ownership of Worldcon software then that WSFS is the owner… (In which case there is no ‘distribution’ of an opensource software from year to year, as it is handed from itself to itself,and so is not distribution by definition)

    …Except for the specific language holding that for all things Worldcon, and unless specifically codified in the Bylaws, each Worldcon Cmte acts for itself.

    If that is true for ownership of the tallying software, then tallying software not covered under the bylaws is (has been) ‘distributed’ from prior years Worldcon Cmte to the current/next year’s Worldcon Cmte.

    Such distribution would then appear to violate the open source license for the part of the software that was open sourced with the intent it would not ever be distributed, lacking an awareness that distributions may occur because each Worldcon Cmte. is an independent entity.

    It appears some housekeeping of the license status relative to distribution from one year to next May be in order.

    For example, say that there is an embedded ticking time bomb buried in the tallying software; everyone thought the code was checked and something got by — just a bust in the calculations used to determine winners since LonStar Con 3 — and it actually overestimates nominations or votes by an incorrect amount significant to change ballot, or award winners.

    That would sink the credibility, and perhaps open door to judicial solutions.

    I understand why the committee wouldn’t want anyone to see it — at this point any revisiting of “settled” awards would become a huge issue. However that decision on lack of transparency hardly endears the committee to most people.

    Silly But True

  11. Silly But True: open door to civil restitution

    In order to sue for civil restitution, a litigant would have to prove material damages. Such proof would be pretty much impossible to produce.

  12. JJ,
    Generally agree, but I’m sure that wouldn’t stop someone from trying. If Amazon can valuate false reviews or Sean Penn can value a statement by Lee Daniels that “[Terrence] ain’t done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he’s some f—in’ demon” at $10m dollars, then I’m quite sure aggrieved or creative parties could come up with _some_ basis, especially since there is history of award wins being used in product sales, on covers, marketing, etc.

    Silly But True

  13. A side issue, as I think about all of the great vote post-processing people do, and the ability to determine alternate scenarios, which nominee kept the other nominee off, etc., it’s apparent to me that Worldcon will need to release the raw vote EPH “input” numbers in addition to the “final” ballot numbers to retain the same functionality.

    By that, if the final choices of a category are A, G, M, S, and V, it won’t be sufficient to know how many votes those choices garnered, we will need to know the numbers for ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ; and of course due to fractional voting, is it right that the sum of initial fractional votes for say A before it’s plugged into EPH might not equal the sum of final fractional votes for the post-EPH winning A? (And of course the final sums of eliminated choices all being zero won’t match the sums of the initial fractional votes).

    That way, an individual voter could see how his votes for say choices ABEST got transformed by the EPH black box into A and S. And another who voted for AGMSV can see how his fractional votes remained exactly the same as EPH worked its magic.

    Those running scenarios could then step through that B was eliminated, votes recalculated for AEST. Then T got eliminated, and votes recalculated for AES. Then E got eliminated and votes recalculated for A and S.

    I wonder come 2017, it EPH passes again, what we’ll be privy to in terms of the tallied numbers.

    Silly But True

  14. Silly But True: it’s apparent to me that Worldcon will need to release the raw vote EPH “input” numbers in addition to the “final” ballot numbers to retain the same functionality… That way, an individual voter could see how his votes for say choices ABEST got transformed by the EPH black box into A and S. And another who voted for AGMSV can see how his fractional votes remained exactly the same as EPH worked its magic.

    You may want Worldcon to do that — but they are not likely to do so. And why should / would they?

    The purpose for revealing nomination totals isn’t so people can double-check the nomination tally math. It’s so people can see the “longlist” — the rest of the works which were very popular, but didn’t make it on to the ballot. A lot of people, including me, use the Hugo longlist as a recommended reading list.

  15. @JJ,
    I don’t think they’re likely to do so either, and we’ll all lose out. In the old way, there was just one single long list, it was both the input and could also be the output; the short list was just an excerpt from the long. Anyone could replicate the short list from the long by manually applying a very simple rule. Further, a number of scenarios were able to be run depending on one’s interest that we’ll also be losing.

    Under EPH, the long list actually gets transformed into the short list (and if vote tally is included, then a situation which could not be anything like actual votes cast) and the EPH selling points stated that you all but need a black box to do it easily. And further, the Worldcon reps actually expressed concern about that point.

    So I think EPH brings a different set of issues for which I hope Worldcon takes into consideration when it releases its tally.

    And yes, I think unfortunately it’s liable to be the post-processed final tally. Meaning we’ll be getting a lot less information than we were able to get under the old/current way.

    Silly But True

  16. SBT: They could keep the EPH calculations secret up to the last 15 rounds, and release only those. It would certainly be interesting to see what had more votes than some of the finalists in those rounds yet lost anyway.

  17. Silly But True: we’ll be getting a lot less information than we were able to get under the old/current way

    No, we’ll be getting as much information as we did in the past. We just won’t be getting more, even though the tallying method will have changed slightly.

    “Anyone could replicate the short list from the long by manually applying a very simple rule.”

    In fact, no one could replicate anything simply by looking at the longlist or shortlist. The actual ballots weren’t being released, the results of the cleanup (standardization / normalization of the nominees) weren’t being released, the tallying software source code wasn’t being released. Hugo nominators and voters had to trust that the Hugo Admins had done their job correctly.

    Under EPH, none of this will change. Under EPH, Hugo nominators and voters will still have to trust that the Hugo Admins have done their job correctly.

    I don’t think “we’ll all lose out” on anything. The point of releasing the longlist is not so people can second-guess the vote tallying. The point of the longlist is to see what was widely-acclaimed, just not widely enough to make the ballot. And we’ll still get to see that.

  18. JJ,
    The stats include a lot more than that.

    The equivalent for EPH would be to walk through the EPH fractional transforms as each loser gets knocked out.

    I don’t see Worldcon doing that.

    I mean insofar they count the votes properly or not, that’s the only commonality between current and EPH.

    And there’s no need to understate the difficulty; “changed slightly?” There’s nothing slightly about it. That diminishes the very real concern by the administrators at the complexity being introduced as well as the point that they must by everyone’s account use software now whereas currently it’s just optional. Each step introduces a risk point of error, and EPH introduces a lot of steps to everyone’s cast ballot.

    Silly But True

  19. Silly But True: The stats include a lot more than that. The equivalent for EPH would be to walk through the EPH fractional transforms as each loser gets knocked out.

    You’re looking at the voting tallies, where the IRV results are detailed.

    The nomination tallies just include the items on the longlist, with a count of nominations. That’s all. The equivalent for EPH would be to include the items on the longlist, with a count of nominations.

    They’ve been using nomination- and vote-counting software to tally Hugo nominations and votes for about 3 decades now. So far, the EPH-counting-algorithm has been replicated and tested in at least 3 different programming languages.

    You’ve got to understand that the Hugo Admins are part of a geek culture. They’ve got this.

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