Pixel Scroll 1/24/2016 I Saw The Best Scrolls Of My Generation Destroyed By Pixels, Filing Hysterical Numbered

(1) THE FINNISH. Finland hosts the World Science Fiction Convention in 2017 — but if you can’t make it to Helsinki, hit the library: more and more Finnish speculative fiction authors are getting English translations, as NPR reports in “Finnish Authors Heat Up The Speculative Fiction World”.

In the middle of Johanna Sinisalo’s novel The Core of the Sun, the reader is interrupted by an ad. It’s for Fresh Scent, a personal fragrance available from the State Cosmetics Corporation of Finland. It’s marketed to woman, although “marketed” is an understatement. In Sinisalo’s nightmarish, alternate-reality vision of her homeland, a tyrannical patriarchy splits women into two classes — docile “eloi” and undesirable “morlocks,” terms cheekily drawn from H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine — as part of an oppressive national health scheme that crosses insidiously over into eugenics.

The ad for Fresh Scent is just one of the novel’s many fragmentary asides. In additional to its more conventional narrative, which centers on Vanna, a woman with an addiction to chili peppers (it makes sense a skewed sort of sense, really), The Core of the Sun is made up of epistolary passages, dictionary entries, article excerpts, transcripts of hearings, scripts for instructional films, homework assignments, folk songs, and even fairytales that exist only in Sinisalo’s twisted version of the world. Chillingly, one passage concerning the social benefits of human sterilization is taken from a real-world source, a Finnish magazine article from 1935.

There’s a streak of scathing satire to the book’s fragmentary science fiction, and in that sense it sits somewhere between Margaret Atwood and Kurt Vonnegut — but Sinisalo crafts a funny, unsettling, emotionally charged apparition of the present that’s all her own.

(2) SPEAKING OF COLD PLACES. The New York Times captioned this tweet “A Wookie Chills in Washington (Not Hoth)”


(4) DEATH OF A GOLDEN AGE. Saladin Ahmed’s Buzzfeed article argues “Censors Killed The Weird, Experimental, Progressive Golden Age Of Comics”.

In the 1940s, comic books were often feminist, diverse, and bold. Then the reactionary Comics Code Authority changed the trajectory of comic book culture for good.

The comics themselves exhibited wild stylistic variety. A single issue of Keen Detective Funnies could contain one story with gorgeous Art Nouveau-ish illustration, and another with glorified stick figures. The comic books of the Golden Age were also significantly more diverse in terms of genre than today’s comics. On newsstands across America — in an era when the newsstand was an urban hub and an economic juggernaut — comic books told tales of True Crime, Weird Fantasy and Cowboy Love, Negro Romance, and Mystery Men. And Americans bought them.

Even as Amazing-Man and Blue Beetle were rescuing helpless, infantilized women, badass superheroines like the Lady in Red, the Spider Queen, and Lady Satan were stabbing Nazis and punching out meddlesome, sexist cops.

(5) NOW THAT SHE HAS OUR ATTENTION. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s post “Business Musings: Poor Poor Pitiful Me Is Not A Business Model” actually is not a rant telling writers to buck up, it’s a discussion of the true levers of culture change. But it begins with a rant….

Granted, in the recent past, the major publishing companies were the only game in town. But they are no longer the only game in town. A major bestselling writer can—and should—walk from any deal that does not meet her contractual and business needs.

Hell, every writer should do that.

But of course most writers won’t. Instead, an entire group of them beg for scraps from the Big All-Powerful Evil Publishers, proving to the publishers that writers are idiots and publishers hold all the cards.

I already bludgeoned the Authors Guild letter last week, so why am I going back to the same trough? Because this poor-poor-pitiful-me attitude has become the norm in the publishing industry right now, and I’m really tired of it.

The big battles of 2014 and 2015, from all of the fighting over the meaning of Amazon in the past few years to the in-genre squabbling over the Hugo awards that science fiction indulged in last year to the hue and cry indie writers have treated us to over the various changes in Kindle Unlimited since its inauguration have all had the same basic complaint.

Someone—be it a publisher (that Amazon is Evil argument) or a writer (the rest of it)—believes they’re entitled to something, and when they don’t get that something, they complain loudly, on social media or in traditional media or via group letter or through (in sf’s case) hateful spiteful posts about the opposing parties.

Only a handful of people take responsibility for the situation they’re in—if, indeed, they are responsible. Only a few actually analyze why the situation exists.

(6) HIGH PRAISE. The first line in David Barnett’s review of Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds is —

Imagine that Diana Wynne Jones, Douglas Coupland and Neil Gaiman walk into a bar and through some weird fusion of magic and science have a baby. That offspring is Charlie Jane Anders’ lyrical debut novel All The Birds In The Sky.

Do you think that’s a lot to live up to?


  • January 24, 1888 — Typewriter “copy” ribbon patented by Jacob L. Wortman. Harlan Ellison still uses one.
  • January 25, 1984 – Apple’s Macintosh computer went on sale. Price tag: $2,495.

(8) TRI ROBOT. Mickey Zucker Reichert, the author of To Preserve, is a working physician and the author of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot Trilogy (To Protect, To Obey, To Preserve). The third book will be published in hardcover by Roc in February.

Nate, has been Manhattan Hasbro Hospital’s resident robot for more than twenty years. Nate’s very existence terrified most people, leaving the robot utilized for menial tasks and generally ignored. Until one of the hospital’s physicians is found murdered with Nate standing over the corpse.

As programmer of Nate’s brain, Lawrence Robertson is responsible for his creation and arrested for the crime. Susan Calvin knows the Three Laws of Robotics make it impossible for Nate to harm a human. But maybe someone manipulated the laws to commit murder.

(9) DOUGH-REY. Kip W. pays tribute to characters from that billion-dollar movie The Force Awakens.

Poe, a flier; a fast male flier
Rey, who scavenges a bit,
Maz, a host who knows the most,
Finn, a white shirt drone who quit,
Snoke, a hologram quite tall,
Ren, a very angry joe,
Beeb, a droid head on a ball,
Which will bring us back to Poe. Poe, Rey, Maz, Finn, Snoke, Ren, Beeb, Poe!

(10) FLEXIBILITY. Nick Osment analyzes the benefits of reading science fiction in “What We Can Learn From a Time Lord: Doctor Who and a New Enlightened Perspective” at Black Gate.

If tomorrow you stepped inside a time machine and found yourself standing in the yard of this man who is separated from being your neighbor only by the passage of a century, then suddenly his opinions would become somewhat more relevant because now you would actually have to interact with him. But they would not become any more credible to you just because you were now hearing them face-to-face. You would still hear them from the vantage of having come from the future.

Now imagine your life today not as if you were living in your own time but as if you were visiting from a hundred years in the future. The weight given by proximity, i.e., these people are my neighbors, is leveled off, much the way that visiting that long-dead neighbor would be. Detach yourself from all the noise of the television and the Internet and your workplace, your college, your local pub. See it from a more objective position — of not being of this time, with the knowledge that this time, too, will pass, and all these people who are speaking right now; they all, too, will be dead and most of them forgotten.

(11) BIGGER ON THE OUTSIDE. 11.22.63, the eight-part event series based on Stephen King’s 2011 novel, premieres Presidents Day, February 15 on Hulu.

11.22.63 is a thriller in which high school English teacher Jake Epping (James Franco) travels back in time to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy — but his mission is threatened by Lee Harvey Oswald, falling in love and the past itself, which doesn’t want to be changed


(12) LONG TAIL OF SALES. Fynbospress summarizes the impact of streaming on the music business, and explains the parallels in book publishing to Mad Genius Club readers in “The Importance of Being Backlist”.

In summary, if publishing continues to mirror music, then streaming will continue to increase, but frontlist sales may continue to fall, and it become harder and harder to get discovered in the initial release period. However, backlist volume is growing, and people are discovering their way through the things that have been out there a while. So, while you can and should do some promotion of your latest release – if it fails to take off, don’t despair. Instead, write the next book, the greatest book you’ve written yet. Sometimes you make your money on the initial release surge, and sometimes, it’ll come in having a lot of things out there all bringing in an unsteady trickle.

(13) TWO COMIC CONS MAY SETTLE. A settlement may be at hand in the San Diego Comic-Con’s suit against the Salt Lake Comic Con for for trademark-infringement. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that on Thursday, attorneys for both conventions asked the judge to extend a procedural deadline so that they could work “diligently” on a settlement. The conventions have scheduled a meeting with Adler on Wednesday in San Diego.

Drafts of the agreement have been exchanged,” according to the Thursday court filing requesting the extension, “and the parties hope to soon reach agreement as to all terms.”

San Diego Comic-Con is a trademarked name, and lawyers have argued that the similarity of “Comic Con” in the name of the Salt Lake City event has confused people into thinking the event is somehow associated with San Diego’s convention.

As Salt Lake’s organizers have seen it, the legal battle isn’t just between them and the flagship convention; it’s a threat to the dozens of other comic book conventions around the world that also use “comic con” in their names. Salt Lake Comic Con co-founder and chief marketing officer Bryan Brandenburg previously asserted that if San Diego wins the case, the precedent will allow it to do this to other organizations.

(14) RING OF POWER. Jim C. Hines snapped this photo at Confusion:

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Henley.]

228 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 1/24/2016 I Saw The Best Scrolls Of My Generation Destroyed By Pixels, Filing Hysterical Numbered

  1. I want a Tor ring of power. But they probably only give them to multi million advance authors.

  2. I would like to be true Fifth, but I can settle for first Fifth. I have to say the MGC postings about publishing have been very interesting lately.

  3. I am not a habitual reader of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog but she seems to be making a lot of sense every time I do.

    edit: Third fifth!

  4. Seriously that MGC post is interesting. I spend most of my music listening time delving into back catalogs. Same goes for reading. This always-in-print thing is so great for discovering new series. I’ve slid off many new possibly interesting series because I couldn’t find the first installment.

  5. (2) SPEAKING OF COLD PLACES. – Erm. That Wookie looks more dead too me.

    (6) HIGH PRAISE. – Oooh. I remember reading the sample chapters like several months ago, and then getting pissed that it was only coming out in frickin’ January. Is anyone selling a DRM free version?

    (9) DOUGH-REY. – I’ll say it again – well done Kip W!

    (14) RING OF POWER. – ::snicker:: Nice. I also think that the Puppy version of the oath can be the original Orange Lantern oath without any changes.

  6. Tintinaus: I am not a habitual reader of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog but she seems to be making a lot of sense every time I do.

    I subscribe to her blog, so I read all of her posts — though the ones relating to being a writer are not terribly applicable to me (who as of this time, still has not managed to drum up any authorial aspirations), I still find them interesting. She is incredibly intelligent, thoughtful, and (a rare quality) rational.

    KKR won the Campbell Award as a new writer. She also posts a free piece of short fiction every Monday, which is available for only a week. Past selections have included stories which were nominated for or won Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Asimov’s and Analog awards. (Many of them include cats. =^-.-^= ) I try to make a point of reading these every week.

  7. @snowcrash:

    (6) HIGH PRAISE. – Oooh. I remember reading the sample chapters like several months ago, and then getting pissed that it was only coming out in frickin’ January. Is anyone selling a DRM free version?

    Well, it’s from Tor, so everyone should be selling it DRM-free, even Amazon.

  8. Come for the kerfuffle, stay for the:
    Pixel Scrolls
    God Stalk!
    Filk: subcategory song
    Book recommendations
    Filk: subcategory poetry


    It’s certainly true for me as a reader – recently I’ve been working through the Walter Jon Williams backlist which is only available due to the advent of ebooks and the ease of self-publishing. I guess that this is similar for other Filers as well – look at the popularity here of God Stalk and the Steerswoman books.

    In fact, if it hadn’t been for the Hugo kerfuffle I probably wouldn’t have read all that many current books in 2015.

  10. (14) RING OF POWER. LOL!

    @Soon Lee: Hehehe.

    @snowcrash: As @Ray Radlein says. If you’re in the U.K. (I forget), it’s from Titan, who I believe uses DRM. But if you have an iTunes, Amazon, or Kobo* account linked to a U.S. address, you can buy it DRM-free via their U.S. stores.

    * At least, I presume Kobo enforces their region stuff. But here’s a link in case I’m wrong.

  11. @Kendall, @snowcrash

    That link from the UK:

    Titan Books, January 2016
    Download options:
    EPUB 2 (Adobe DRM)

  12. Re #3: I saw a bunch of the slides from Confusion, Tweeted. Robert is funny, painfully so, and on point.

  13. Re: Comic censorship– I’m surprised that Seduction of the Innocent by Fredric Wertham was barely mentioned, given that it (as I had always thought) was a huge influence in the adaptation of the Comic Code. (There used to be an HTML-format copy of Seduction on-line, complete with original illustrations, but it doesn’t seem to be around now. I have an epub that I made from it, years ago.)

    It makes me think of other moral scolds and their wars on media (“I don’t like this, therefore you shouldn’t have it”) like Will H. Hays managing to censor movie production, and Tipper Gore attempting to censor music and television. And does anyone else remember when the extra-wacky Jack Thompson was a constant topic over at slashdot thanks to his Quixodian war on video games?

  14. So The Expanse series by James S.A. Coey has long been in my deep “to read” pile, but with the (well received, but I’ve yet to see it) Expanse TV series, I decided to bump the books up on the list, and I’m currently around half-way through the first book, Leviathan Wakes, and even though I don’t commonly read detective mystery/police procedural type books, so far I’m more or less enjoying it. It has the problem, though, of attempting to use plausible real-world physics instead of hand-wavium, but getting the real-world physics obnoxiously wrong—wrong enough to pull me out of the narrative and make me pick up reference books and spend a couple of hours creating formulas in Excel, so I might as well inflict the math on others, too.

    (Warning: the following material is in full-blown geek mode. Any mistakes in my math are entirely the fault of Barack Obama, somehow.)

    In Leviathan Wakes, it asserted that the dwarf planet (formerly asteroid) Ceres has been “spun up” to provide artificial gravity for the colonists. Now, providing artificial gravity through spin is perfectly valid science—many of you have probably experienced it personally in one of those flying-saucer-shaped amusement park rides. The problem is, centrifugal gravity always pushes outward (never mind for the moment the argument that centrifugal force isn’t really a real thing) so people living on a “spun up” Ceres would have to live underground, upside down, with the bulk of the dwarf planet above their heads.

    Let’s jump to Earth for a moment—Earth has an equatorial circumference of around 39,600 kilometers and completes one rotation in 24 hours. This means that the ground at the equator is moving at a rate of around 1,650 kilometers per hour. (The speed is lower as you move north or south of the equator.) The Earth isn’t exempt from outward centrifugal acceleration, but even at the equator the acceleration is around only three tenths of 1 percent of Earth’s gravity, so you don’t exactly have to worry about flying off into space.

    Back to Ceres. Ceres’s natural gravity is around 2.9 percent of Earth’s. In Levithan Wakes, Ceres is said to be spun up to 30 percent of Earth gravity. But, the actual centrifugal acceleration has to be 32.9 percent—the 30 percent of outward artificial gravity you feel, plus an extra 2.9 percent to “cancel out” the natural gravity trying to yank you off the ceiling of your cave. (This is my assertion, not something from the book.) With a diameter of 946 km, to provide a centrifugal gravity of 0.329 g, Ceres’s rate of rotation would have to be accelerated from a day length of 9 hours, 4 minutes to a day length of 40 minutes, 13.6 times its current speed. (A spin-up said to have taken “half a generation.” I haven’t done the math as to how much energy this would have taken, but surely it would need to be something on the order of a Kardashev Type 2 civilization.) At this rate of rotation, a point on the surface Of Ceres’s equator is traveling at around 4,450 kilometers per hour, or more than 1 kilometer per second. This seems like it would provide a bit of a challenge to any ships attempting to land there. The surface speed would decrease as you moved north or south from the equator, but so would the apparent gravity—so the least improbable locations for landing are the most unsuitable places for living.

    But it gets worse—this outward centrifugal force would be—at the equator—more than 11 times the surface gravity of Ceres. Literally everything not literally bolted, welded, or otherwise firmly attached to the surface will fly off into space at more than twice Ceres’s escape velocity. So during spin-up, either a large percentage of surface of Ceres centering on the equator would need to have been fused into solid rock, paved, or superglued down, else billions of megatons of rock and dust be hurled into space, producing an overwhelming number of high-speed projectiles for holing spacecraft and impacting planets and other occupied asteroids.

    And, yes, it gets even worse than that. FSM only knows what sort of tectonic activities would be stirred up by these stresses, and I have little doubt that all of the frozen ices locked up in the crust of Ceres would quickly become gasses, along with—probably—a considerable percentage of the rocks and metals becoming liquid. Which would then also be flung off into space at higher than escape velocity. For a period likely lasting millions of years, Ceres would be just about the biggest comet of pinwheeling volcanic death that you can imagine, tossing out enough impactors to wipe out complex life on Earth and every colonized body in the solar system. So—you know—great job, engineers.

    (In Leviathan Wakes–for reasons probably no more profound than poor scholarship–it is claimed that Ceres is 250 kilometers in diameter instead of the correct 946, placing fake Ceres at around 2 percent the mass of real Ceres. Not that I think the authors bothered crunching any plausibility numbers with those figures, either.)

    At first, I also had issues with the use of Eros as a spun up, colonized body. While as a Near Earth Object, Eros is a convenient early target for manned missions beyond the moon, I had misremembered it as being a rubble pile (a heap of shattered rocks loosely bound together by gravity, often filled with voids.) So I pulled out my copy of Asteroid Rendezvous: Near Shoemaker’s Adventures at Eros (2002), a book collecting 9 articles written by 11 of the project scientists involved with the spacecraft that orbited Eros from 2000-2001, along with a foreword from Carolyn Shoemaker. This is an excellent book, heavily illustrated with color photographs, charts, and diagrams. Some of the articles are more technical than others but all aim more or less at an enthusiastic amateur rather than professional astronomers already well familiar with all the math and jargon. Definitely something worth picking up, if you can get your hands on a copy, and my Book Recommendation of the Day.

    Anyway, refreshing my memory of the book and the asteroid, Eros seems to be solid (and thus would likely survive a spin-up) but is significantly irregularly shaped, and rotates “the wrong way”, twirling like a baton instead of rolling like a log. So first Eros would have to be stopped from spinning lengthwise before it could be spun along its long axis, and it would probably be necessary to shave down the peaks and fill in the significant craters, and something would definitely need to be done about the 100 or so meters of regolith, but it seems well within the plausible range of something that could really be done using real world science in the less than profoundly distant future (although the spin-up would probably take considerably longer than the 10 years allocated for the 140,000 times more massive Ceres.)

    Eros has a width of around 11 km and a length of around 34 km, but as I mentioned, the shape is pretty irregular along the length, which would lead to problems making it rotate stably and with having consistent centrifugal gravity along the spin axis. So let’s imagine that the engineers reshape it into a smooth cylinder 8 km wide, cleaning away all loose rock and sealing all the cracks in the process (which seems a plausible enough size for the purpose of plugging in numbers.) This Eros, spun up to the 0.3 g mentioned for Ceres, would have a day length of slightly under 4 minutes and a surface speed of around 390 kilometers per hour. Nearly an order of magnitude less than the surface speed of the spun-up (molten spewing deathtrap) Ceres, but still around 100 meters per second—so ships would probably still need to dock at one of the end caps. If you wanted to spin the modified Eros to a full Earth gravity, you would end up with a day just over 2 minutes and a surface speed of around 724 kilometers per hour. Makes landing even more tricky, but without doing the mass, I’m guessing the 0.3 g and the 1.0 g options are safely within realistic structural strengths for a solid stony asteroid. In the case of cylindrical Eros, centrifugal gravity would remain the same from pole to pole, dropping only with greater depth. Each outermost layer of this hypothetical would have a surface area roughly the size of New York City. Lower levels would be theoretically possible as far down as structural integrity and tolerance of low gravity hold out—you might even be able to burrow deep enough to avoid all but the worst debris from Ceres.

  15. [ticky]

    Also, I received an email from MidAmeriCon this morning, confiming the Hugo nominations are opening and the PINS would be mailed out this week.

    Anybody watch the first episode of the new X-Files last night? I thought it was well done, even if Mulder is far more of an asshat than I remembered.

  16. Darren

    My objection to Leviathan Wakes is rather shorter than yours; it’s because the protagonist is an idiot.

    But thank you for demonstrating that the authors have problems which go considerably further than not noticing that their protagonist is an idiot…

  17. There’s a newly translated Sinisalo book?! Excellent. I’ve read Troll and Birdbrain, and both can be described as short and sharp.

    In other news, I was very pleased with my bookstore’s selection this weekend. I only got a couple of titles for myself, but I got a stack of 9 titles to donate to #1000BlackGirlBooks.

  18. Oh, are we doing annoying scientific errors now:
    There’s a panel in the first issue of the latest Captain Marvel comic book that describes a space station as being in geo-stationary orbit 250 miles above the earth.
    Gods damnit, which?

  19. Oh, are we doing annoying scientific errors now:
    There’s a panel in the first issue of the latest Captain Marvel comic book that describes a space station as being in geo-stationary orbit 250 miles above the earth.
    Gods damnit, which?

    Heck, I often see (in comment threads on serious science and technology sites, no less) comments/questions from people about wanting to put geostationary satellites at the north or south pole.

    Of course, in the Marvel Universe, filled with super-science and magic, you could probably have a geosynchronous satellite at any height you wanted–just put it on a constantly powered hover. It is no less implausible than this thing.

  20. @ Stevie

    I like the protagonist in Leviathian Wakes. I don’t blame him for the various decisions that don’t turn out well because they are largely the same actions I would have taken in his place – so I prefer to think he is unlucky rather than an idiot:-)

  21. Expanse nonsense physics

    There are a lot of things about The Expanse I have to avoid thinking about, starting with the idea that it is supposed to be about 200 years away. My main problem is with the economics. I don’t see how it makes any sort of sense to have all these ships flying around out there. Or how a manned ship mining water can be cost-effective. What are those rockets burning? And I’m not coming back for the novel and interesting characters.

    But, I do like it. It looks right, the story moves, exciting things happen in exciting ways. It isn’t saying anything new, but what it says it says effectively.

    I’ve a feeling I’m going to be horribly let down by the resolution of some questions central to the plot

  22. It is no less implausible than this thing.

    Neither is as bad as the day Mon-El brought a white dwarf star into the Legion headquarters in downtown Metropolis.

  23. @Darren Garrison

    Mrs. Gore and the PMRC got more traction some places than others. I still remember the mild shock, when I was stationed there in the early 90’s, of having to show ID in Florida for audio CD’s rated 18+. Warrant’s Cherry Pie and Megadeth’s Rust in Peace that first time getting carded.

  24. I just stick my fingers in my ears and go “LaLaLa can’t hear you” when a book goes on about spinning up stony asteroids.

    I grew up on the edge of Dartmoor, and across many of the rivers on the Moor are what are known as “Clapper Bridges“, these are made up of piers of stone slabs, with larger slabs bridging the gaps. An important feature of these bridges is that none of the spans are more than 20 feet, and most of the surviving ones are not much more than half that, because if you try to make anything longer it collapses under its own weight. It doesn’t matter if you fuse it or not, on Dartmoor the stone is granite which is a fused rock, your surface is an unsupported span with a length equivalent to the circumference of the asteroid and it’s going to disintegrate as soon as the outward force from the spin overcomes the tensile strength of the rock.

    I’ve seen the description of the outside of a spinning environment as being equivalent to a suspension bridge with no end-points.

  25. @Darren Garrison

    In Leviathan Wakes, it asserted that the dwarf planet (formerly asteroid) Ceres has been “spun up” to provide artificial gravity for the colonists.

    That’s sufficient grounds to recommend against the book, I’d say. (Or to throw it across the room, if you bought the paper version.) It’s not even a fixable mistake, since the plot depends on it.

    I’m not as picky about relativity errors, although God knows there are enough relativity calculators on the web (including my own) that there’s not much excuse for getting it wrong. Again, though, if the relativistic effects are important to the story, then the author has to get it right.

    One story I read this year had a slower-than-light ship en route to another star, and although the author was aware that the further away the ship got, the longer it would take for messages from Earth to reach it, he/she seemed to believe that messages from the ship back to Earth would arrive immediately.

    On the other hand, sometimes something that seems impossible turns out to work via physics you didn’t know about. For example, a “sun-synchronous orbit” is one that is always above the terminator (the line that divides day from night). That seems to violate the law of conservation of angular momentum. The trick is, you tilt the orbit slightly (a few degrees) and then the fact that the Earth isn’t exactly round causes it to precess. Given the right tilt and the right altitude, you can get it to where it really is sun-synchronous. NASA has launched a few of these (the WISE mission, for example).

    Big extra points to the author who manages to both use one of those hard-to-believe things in a story and teaches us something in the process!

  26. You know, this brings to mind a book called Metaplanetary, by Tony Daniel. The book takes place in a setting where pressurized, populated tubes of unobtanium have been constructed physically connecting the planets of the solar system. Never mind the amount of materials that would be needed to build this. Never mind the tensile strength that would be needed. For this to work at all, the planets would all have to rotate at fixed positions relative to each other, like pennies placed on a spinning record. I actually read the whole book, but to this day I remain stunned by the utter scale of the failure of science in that book. (It got a sequel, which I didn’t read. Apparently that didn’t sell well enough for the last book in the trilogy to be written.)

  27. Decided to post this here instead of in the poetry thread:
    Ebooks are surprisingly easy to make, lately. I’ve learned the arcane secret (sorry, this only applies to Mac, because it’s what I’m on) of opening up a pile of JPGs or PDFs in Preview, checking that they’re in the right order, selecting all, and then Print > Save as PDF. (Optional: Open in Acrobat Pro and reduce the filesize!)
    Perhaps more current users of other platforms know of equally effortless ways to accomplish this with Linux or Windows resources.

    I’ve used it recently to put all of Kliph Nesteroff’s WFMU showbiz columns into a book that I’m reading on the Futile Cycle and the TrudgeMaster at the YMCA, and i used it yesterday to aggregate screen shots (not searchable, sadly) of the contents pages for the first 81 issues of National Lampoon (which I got at archive.org — some incomplete, but free withal) so I can find stuff up to the end of ’76.

    It’s also been handy for turning individual scans of comic book pages (like the mostly complete scans of a nearly spherical lollipop-loving superhuman that I found online a few years back) into handier volumes.

    And of course, like any and every new technology, it can immediately be found useful in the service of one of the oldest of all human endeavors: recipes.

  28. Ebooks are surprisingly easy to make, lately.
    Perhaps more current users of other platforms know of equally effortless ways to accomplish this with Linux or Windows resources.

    I use a program called Sigil to make/edit ePubs
    It’s a nice clean system, which is mainly there as a WYSIWYG text editor, but allows direct editing of HTML for the times when that’s appropriate.
    I’ve only used it on Windows, but the web page implies it works everywhere.

  29. Ebooks are surprisingly easy to make, lately.
    Perhaps more current users of other platforms know of equally effortless ways to accomplish this with Linux or Windows resources.

    In scrivener I just choose an output format and let it work.

  30. NickPheas on January 25, 2016 at 6:58 am said:

    It is no less implausible than this thing.

    Neither is as bad as the day Mon-El brought a white dwarf star into the Legion headquarters in downtown Metropolis.

    Well, it was a small white dwarf star. And he was wearing gloves.

    (He was not actually wearing gloves.)

  31. @nickpheas

    Hah! I noticed that too – pulled me right out of the story for a moment. Then again when they misnamed asteroid 16 Psyche.

    Eh. The Marvel universe counts as only the softest of science fantasy.

  32. Does anyone remember who it was (some sf figure, but my search-fu is failing me) described supernovae as industrial accidents? Today’s APOD got me thinking about that quote by using $ as an abbreviation for them.

  33. @NickPheas

    Neither is as bad as the day Mon-El brought a white dwarf star into the Legion headquarters in downtown Metropolis.

    I hope he crushed it in his hands to make star diamonds.

  34. “It makes it all the more funny that they decided to set the scene in a place even I, as a Pakistani, had to look up on Google. But they couldn’t perform a simple Google search for the language,” Siddiqi complained.

    According to Wikipedia, the people of Shimshal speak Wakhi, an Iranian (Pamir subgroup) language spoken by some 58,000 people in a region that overlaps Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikstan, and China. Geekery of the day. Getting that sort of thing right is just as important as physics. “Pakistanian” is unforgivable, but I bet some people would have come up with the equally wrong guess of Urdu which, although it is the national language of Pakistan, is spoken by only 8% of the population.

  35. re: The Expanse

    I’m pretty sure that in the future history of the Expanse, Ceres ends up being a lot smaller because it was used as primary source of water and volatiles for the MCR’s terraforming efforts. Thus, we’re talking about a smaller rock than at present. And as far as moving shipments, flinging them off a rotating center has some things to recommend it. I am quite aware that the energy requirements involved in doing that are high. Still though, I’m not going to go full, KSR, we-can’t-conceive-of-how-we’d-do-it-now-so-let’s-go-surfing on it. The books tell an interesting story, and I’ve forgiven far softer sci-fi for that.

  36. @NickPheas

    Neither is as bad as the day Mon-El brought a white dwarf star into the Legion headquarters in downtown Metropolis.

    My favorite (for a different kind of crazy) was a Superman story when he got an urgent request to travel to the future to fix a problem.

  37. *scuffs foot* I don’t know if anybody will want to read this, but there’s a new short story by me at Apex called “Razorback” and if you’re not a subscriber, it’s now free to read for all.

  38. @Petrea Mitchell

    Hits on duckduckgo are attributing the industrial accident quote to Arthur C. Clarke in 3001. Then again a skim of a link to 3001 has a character ascribing it to a quote in a science fiction book. So was it a made up quote in 3001 or was Clarke really quoting someone else in turn???

Comments are closed.