(1) Randall Munroe has a piece on The New Yorker blog called “The Space Doctor’s Big Idea”. He’s explaining Einstein and relativity, but doing it with his cartoons and quirky humor.
The first idea is called the special idea, because it covers only a few special parts of space and time. The other one—the big idea—covers all the stuff that is left out by the special idea. The big idea is a lot harder to understand than the special one. People who are good at numbers can use the special idea to answer questions pretty easily, but you have to know a lot about numbers to do anything with the big idea. To understand the big idea—the hard one—it helps to understand the special idea first.
(2) Steven Barnes’ new book Star Wars Saved My Life: Be the Hero in the Adventure of Your Own Lifetime has been released. Amazon Prime members can borrow it free, all others pay cash!
It’s finally here! The book I’ve been hinting about for months, STAR WARS SAVED MY LIFE is the first self-help book ever written for science fiction fans, the LIFEWRITING system applied to healing finances, career, health, and the wounded heart. A pure work of love, available FREE to anyone with an Amazon Prime membership, it is my way of saying “thank you” to all of you who helped me find my way, gave me friendship, support, and love.
(3) Downthe tubes.net reports that Star Trek comic strips published in various UK comics and annuals back in the 1970s (and never in the US) will be republished in a collection next year.
In all, the British Star Trek ran for 257 weekly magazines spanning five years and 37 storylines and in addition to its weekly appearances, more original material drawn by Ron Turner, Jack Sutter, Jim Baikie and John Canning appeared in the 1969 Joe 90 Top Secret annual, the Valiant 1972 Summer Special, the 1971-1973 TV21 hardcover annuals and the 1978-1979 TV Comic annuals.
An original Frank Bellamy Star Trek strip also appeared in the June 27, 1970 issue of Radio Times to promote the show’s return to BBC1.
These strips have never been published in the United States and were not written with strict adherence to Star Trek‘s core concepts. The U.S.S. Enterprise frequently traveled outside our galaxy, and the crew committed many violations of the never-mentioned Prime Directive along the way. Spock shouted most of his lines and often urged Kirk (or “Kurt,” as his name was misspelled in early issues) to shoot first and ask questions later.
(4) Nancy Hightower’s picks for the “Best science fiction and fantasy books of 2015” at the Washington Post include one that hasn’t been heavily discussed here.
By Carola Dibbell (Two Dollar Radio)
This fascinating first novel details the emotional journey of Inez Fardo, a 19-year-old who has survived terrible trauma and yet still manages to find life sometimes wondrous. In a time when most of the population has been wiped out by a series of superviruses, she makes a meager living cleaning up contaminated sites. But when it’s discovered that she is resistant to the viruses that continue to threaten the world, an amateur scientist and his team offer to harvest her DNA to make healthy babies for others. Inez goes along with the plan, but soon a series of events forces her to raise the one child produced by the experiment. What follows is a heart-piercing tale of love, desire and acceptance as Inez tries to give her daughter a different life from the one she’s experienced.
(5) Larry Correia turns off the game long enough to offer “Fallout 4, Initial Thoughts”.
The atmosphere is great. Unlike many post apocalyptic things, Fallout doesn’t take itself too seriously. So everything has that retro cool, 50s but blown up vibe.
It gets really buggy at times, but better than the last one. This engine is dated, and it shows. Sometimes you kill stuff and it flies up into the air and spins around for a while. Other times a body will get stuck in the wall and vibrate forever. I’ve had a few crashes, freezes, and once I had to unplug and replug in the Xbox to get it to launch. But still better than the last one, and less buggy than Skyrim.
I had to turn on subtitles, because the music has a tendency to get annoyingly loud when people are trying to tell you important things. Then I learned that the subtitles only show up about half the time. So I turned the music way down and the voice volume way up, and even then I miss lots of things my companions are telling me. Damn it, Piper. Speak up. My character has been in like 400 gun fights without hearing protection, so maybe this is just added realism.
(6) John DeNardo has a fun discussion of “Why I Love Retro Science Fiction” at Kirkus Reviews.
Simply put, retro-futurism is what people of the past thought their future might look like. It’s our great-grandparents’ depiction of today. Or, the future that could-have-been.
Retro futures can be observed in many mediums: books, television, film, even sculpture. When you see an “old school” ray gun, you’re looking at a retro future. When you see the people wearing shiny white uniforms on Moonbase Alpha in Space: 1999, that’s the show’s creators’ view of how people in their future might dress. When you see Captain Kirk pull out his cellphone—er, personal communicator—you’re seeing someone from the past predict what cool gadgets the future might bring.
(7) Jason Sanford calls for writers to “Stop Duotrope’s attempt to own authors’ personal submission data”. The service authors use to track submissions and research markets is now trying to restrict users’ rights to their data.
According to Duotrope’s terms of service, “Any data downloaded from this website, including but not limited to submission histories, is strictly for personal use and may not be shared with any third parties or used for commercial purposes.”
What does this mean? It means that if you upload your submission information to Duotrope, you no longer have the right to use your own data as you see fit. You can’t use the data to write an article about submissions for a magazine or upload your data to another online submission system such as the site run by Writer’s Market. Basically, once you use Duotrope you can’t leave and take your data elsewhere.
Duotrope also attempts to make a blatant copyright grab, with their terms stating “The website and its database are also protected as a collective work or compilation under U.S. copyright and other laws and treaties. All individual articles, pages and other elements making up the website are also copyrighted works. Use of any of these original works without written permission of Duotrope LLC is expressly forbidden.”
(8) Annie Bellet asks people not to nominate her for awards in 2016.
I don’t wish to have my work considered for awards this year. I’d like to just have 2016 to get stuff done, worry about my readers and my career, and (hopefully!) not be involved in any award business. I’m not attending Worldcon 2016 either (I’ll be there for 2017 though, yay excuse to go to Finland!).
So please… if you read and enjoyed something of mine that was published this year (and there were a few things I think are some of my best work), thank you. But don’t vote for my stories. I’ve got cool work coming out next year, and maybe by 2017 I’ll have healed the stress of this last award season, but for now… please, I want a year of not having to even worry about it, slim as my chances might be.
(9) Fantasy Literature has launched its “Second annual Speculative Fiction Haiku Contest”. Leave your entries in the comments. Can you improve on this entry from last year? I knew you could…
a meddlesome god
sows nightmares in childhood dreams
meesa jar jar binks
(10) Sarah Avery writes the kind of immersive conreport I like. Now at Black Gate — “World Fantasy 2015: It’s the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead of Convention Reports”.
Lots of interesting stuff about trying to line up an agent is woven around accounts of WFC’s panels and conversations in the bar. I’m picking this passage for the excerpt, because Avery was actually on one of Mari Ness’ panels that made news here:
After reminding myself a couple of times that panels were not, overall, my mission, I prepared for the one panel I was on.
That panel turned out to be newsworthy not for its content, but because of accessibility issues. Author Mari Ness, who uses a wheelchair, was unable to get onto the stage because there was no ramp. This issue has been covered elsewhere, with all its ramifications for policy, conrunning logistics, and ethics. All I can add to the accessibility discussion is that the other panelists (David Hartwell, Darrell Schweitzer, Stephen R. Donaldson) and I were nearly as uncomfortable with the situation as Ness was. The hotel staff said they’d have to take the stage entirely apart to put their ramp on it, and we were late already, so Ness decided to do the fastest thing. She positioned her wheelchair close enough that we could pass her a microphone. Donaldson was an excellent moderator, and Hartwell and Schweitzer (who on occasion have been known to hold forth) kept themselves uncharacteristically concise to make space in the discussion for Mari. The physical space might not have been inclusive, but we were all determined that the discussion would be.
As it turned out, Mari was the only one whose remarks drew spontaneous applause. We were talking about the ancient epics, contemporary fantasy epics, and what kinds of lineages do or don’t connect them. What, Donaldson asked, were our personal favorites among the modern epics? And though the rest of us got more and more obscure with our picks, Mari’s was Star Wars. And that felt more personally foundational than any other epic we’d discussed.
(11) And as often as I’ve been invoking her name lately, I should also publicize Sarah Avery’s Kickstarter appeal to fund publication of her fantasy novel The Imlen Bastard, which has raised $6,695 to date, achieving its initial $4,500 goal, then a stretch goal that will pay for the audiobook, and finally aspires to raise $9,600 which will allow Avery to commission more Kate Baylay art.
(12) Movie footage was shot at the first Worldcon. We may see it someday, if it hasn’t been tossed, and if anyone can ever find it. Doug Ellis has been searching for years, as he explains in “The Elusive Film Footage of the Very First Worldcon” at Black Gate.
I have a carbon copy of a letter dated August 16, 1939 that Darrow wrote to his friend, Walt Dennis, concerning the first Worldcon. In part, it reads as follows.
The following day was the big day of the convention. [NOTE – DARROW IS REFERRING TO SUNDAY, JULY 2, 1939, THE FIRST DAY OF THE CON.] Otto [BINDER] picked up Bill, Jack [JACK WILLIAMSON], Ed Hamilton and myself and we took a bus to the convention hall. Bill and I had had no breakfast and it was almost noon, so we deserted the gang long enuf to invade an Automat. Arriving back at the hall we found a mob gathered at the door. Somebody shoved an autograph book in my face. [PERHAPS THIS IS WHAT’S CAPTURED IN THIS PHOTO] They way they worked this was to ask every stranger they saw for their autograph and then look to see who they got. I took several snaps (enclosed) and Bill took snaps and movies. There seemed to be a lot of excitement when Forrest J. Ackerman and I met for the first time. Bill took movies of the handshake. Forrie was quite a surprise to me. Tall, handsome and quiet. A very pleasant fellow. He was dressed in an outfit out of Wells’ pic Things to Come.
(13) Gregory N. Hullender has posted Rocket Stack Rank’s evaluation of “Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft”, and adds this incentive to click the link – “The fact that I not only worked at Microsoft for a long time but actually worked on some of these technologies might make this a bit more interesting.”
(14) Yes, I can imagine.
Sometimes I *don't* retweet people because I know some really shitty people will respond to them because of it, and I don't want that.
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) November 19, 2015
(15) This just in from 2009! “Moon landing tapes got erased, NASA admits”. We now join our conspiracy theories already in progress.
The original recordings of the first humans landing on the moon 40 years ago were erased and re-used, but newly restored copies of the original broadcast look even better, NASA officials said on Thursday.
NASA released the first glimpses of a complete digital make-over of the original landing footage that clarifies the blurry and grainy images of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the surface of the moon.
The full set of recordings, being cleaned up by Burbank, California-based Lowry Digital, will be released in September. The preview is available at www.nasa.gov.
NASA admitted in 2006 that no one could find the original video recordings of the July 20, 1969, landing.
Since then, Richard Nafzger, an engineer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, who oversaw television processing at the ground-tracking sites during the Apollo 11 mission, has been looking for them.
The good news is he found where they went. The bad news is they were part of a batch of 200,000 tapes that were degaussed — magnetically erased — and re-used to save money.
(16) Jeremiah Moss at Vanishing New York asks friends to help Jerry Ohlinger
A couple of years ago, I visited Jerry Ohlinger’s amazing movie material store in the Garment District. In business since 1976, it was the last store in New York City dedicated to movie photos.
Struggling with the rent, Jerry closed his shop and moved most of his “one million and one hundred thousand” photos to a warehouse in New Jersey as he downsized to a much smaller shop on West 30th, with limited hours.
Now Jerry needs help. The items in the warehouse need to be moved again, and there’s no money to do it. Visit <https://www.gofundme.com/996j7zvc> and consider giving him a hand.
Jeremiah wrote about the old store for The New Yorker a few years ago in “The Last Picture Shop”.
Jerry Ohlinger’s Movie Material Store has been in business since 1978. It started on West Third Street, moved to West Fourteenth, and eventually ended up on West Thirty-fifth, in the Garment District. With the Internet stealing customers, business isn’t what it used to be, and the nine-thousand-dollar-a-month rent is more than movie photos can pay. Jerry will be closing his shop and selling just online in the next three to six months.
This is unfortunate, because a computer screen will never provide the physical, sensory experience you get when you step into Ohlinger’s. An obsessively organized clutter of movie posters and postcards, stacks of DVDs, and boxes full of eight-by-seventeen poster reproductions, the small front of the store is walled by towering shelves packed with shopworn three-ring binders, all strapped with duct tape and hand-labelled in Magic Marker with the names of the movie stars contained within. The space smells of Jerry’s cigar and the musty vanilla aroma of old paper slowly decaying.
“We’ve got about two hundred and fifty thousand to three hundred thousand photos in all these books,” Jerry says, waving his gummy, unlit cigar in the air.
(17) NPR is impressed — “Amazon’s ‘High Castle’ Offers A Chilling Alternate History Of Nazi Triumph”.
Many of the goose-bump-inducing moments in this new drama are visual and are startling. Picture this: In Times Square, a giant neon swastika emblazons a building. Or an American flag with the familiar colors — but instead of stars and stripes, there’s a swastika where the stars used to be. Even the map of the former United States of America is disturbing to witness — much more so than those wind-up maps of opposing territories opening each episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones.
The alternate-history American map in The Man in the High Castle is made even more jarring, and creepy, by the sound, and the song, that accompanies it in the opening of each episode. It’s the sound of a film projector whirring into action — underscoring the importance of those illicit films — followed by the old familiar song “Edelweiss” being sung in a much more haunting performance than you’re used to from The Sound of Music.
(18) Rachel Swirsky collected writing advice from novelists about how to start your second book – quotes from Steven Gould, N. K. Jemisin, Ken Liu, and Helene Wecker.
Helene Wecker, author of The Golem and the Jinni:
First, celebrate. Turning in your novel is a huge hairy deal. Go out for a fancy dinner with a significant other or something. Give yourself permission to relax for a few days. You’ve probably been holed up for a while, so go talk to some humans. Send a few emails to friends, accept an invitation to coffee. Go for a walk outside.
Ok, now back to work. It’s a good idea to focus on marketing during the pre-pub months, and to that end you’ll want to prep a master Q&A about the book. My publisher sent me one with about a dozen questions (“How did the idea come to you?” “Who were your favorite characters to write?” “Describe your research process,” etc). It took forever to fill out, but it meant I didn’t have to think on the fly during interviews or readings. If your publisher doesn’t do it for you, make one yourself, with what you’d guess are the most likely questions that a reader or interviewer would ask. It might feel tedious, but you won’t regret it.
(19) Songwriter P. F. Sloan died November 13 at the age of 70. Though best known for his hit “Eve of Destruction”, Sloan also wrote the theme song for Secret Agent Man, which became a hit for Johnny Rivers. The Wikipedia entry for “Secret Agent Man” sets the song in context of genre history:
The lyric “They’ve given you a number and taken away your name” referred to the numerical code names given to secret agents, as in “007” for James Bond, although it also acts as the setup to the “continuation” of Danger Man, the cult classic The Prisoner.”
(20) Wonder if the rest of the book lives up to this line?
— Michael G. Munz (@TheWriteMunz) November 19, 2015
[Thanks to Janice Gelb, Michael J. Walsh, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Mark-kitteh, Tasha Turner, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day ULTRAGOTHA.]