Pixel Scroll 6/14/24 No Pixels For Old Men

(1) ON THE FRONT LINES, AND THOSE WHO WROTE THEM. Through the lens of a letter by J.R.R. Tolkien, Brenton Dickieson explores the tension between two critics in a Twentieth Century culture war. “Great and Little Men: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Letter about C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot” at A Pilgrim in Narnia.

…Professionally speaking, Lewis was usually polite and firm when challenging Eliot in most of his literary criticism and theory. Sometimes the challenge is a bit more jovial, though there are a couple of moments of more pointed or heated criticism. Lewis was far more profuse in blame in his letters, where there seems to be a personal animosity toward Eliot–at least toward Eliot as a symbol. Twice, however, Lewis had a more personal opportunity to rethink his position and make a connection with another leading Anglican public intellectual.

The first of these was through Charles Williams, who was a close friend of both Eliot and Lewis. Indeed, Eliot and Lewis each described Williams in striking terms, admitting to Williams’ charismatic appeal and value as a poet and critic. Williams tried once, just a few months before he died, to bridge the divide between Eliot and Lewis. Just months before Charles Williams died, he arranged a meeting between Eliot, Lewis, and another Inkling, Fr Gervase Mathew, at the Mitre Hotel in Oxford. It was not a success….

(2) GLASGOW 2024 ADDS SPECIAL GUEST. Dr. Meganne Christian FRAeS (she/her) will be a Special Guest of the 2024 Worldcon. Dr Christian is Reserve Astronaut / Exploration Commercialisation Lead at the UK Space Agency, developing strategy on human and robotic spaceflight in the post-ISS landscape. Her full biography can be found on the Glasgow 2024 website.

In November 2022, she became a member of the ESA astronaut reserve, one of only 17 candidates selected from a pool of more than 22,500 applicants across Europe. Dr Christian holds a Bachelor of Engineering and a PhD in Industrial Chemistry from the University of New South Wales. From 2014 to 2023, she was a materials science researcher at the National Research Council of Italy and took two parabolic flight campaigns to test graphene coatings for thermal management in satellites.

Dr Christian has also undertaken two missions, including as a winter-over scientist, to the Concordia station in Antarctica, where she was a research scientist in charge of atmospheric physics and meteorology.

Looking forward to her appearance in Glasgow, Dr Christian said “I love science fiction, so I’m looking forward to soaking up the atmosphere with fellow fans and of course finding out the winners of this year’s Hugo Awards.”

(3) LAST-MINUTE SHOPPING IDEAS. A membership in Glasgow 2024 is one of the suggestions on the “STARBURST Father’s Day Gift Guide 2024” at Starburst Magazine. So is this:

Photo Creator Instant Pocket Printer

Another quirky gift choice is the Photo Creator Instant Pocket Printer. Again, aimed at younger folk, this is actually a very useful tool; it’s just that this set is very reasonably priced and comes with some good accessories. It’s a thermal printer that connects to your phone and can be used to print out silly pictures as well as actual photos. It comes into its own when you load it with sticky label thermal printer paper, turning this piece of childish fun into a useful and versatile label maker, as well as a way to create your own stickers. It doesn’t run out of ink (but needs special paper), fits in an everyday carry bag and is surprisingly practical.

(4) WRITING MASTER CLASS WITH GAIL CARRIGER ON JUNE 23. A one-day Locus Bay Area Writing Master Class with NYT bestselling author Gail Carriger is happening on Sunday, June 23, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., at Preservation Park in Oakland, CA. The cost is $210. For more info and to sign up: Locus Bay Area Writers Workshop: Writing Master Class with Gail Carriger, June 2024. Learn more about Gail at gailcarriger.com.

Her engaging instructional style will keep you entertained AND informed. Her workshop topic will be On Career & Comedy — a two-parter covering all the things Gail wishes she had known when starting out her career, plus practical tips on how to use comedy in your writing, with a break in between to order in sandwiches and chat. Gail combines the expertise of a dedicated data-miner with a fun and personable style, and can speak to both trad and self-publishing success and craft skills.

Part I: Things I Wish I Knew FIRST

Learn all the things Gail wishes someone had told her when she first started out in publishing! She’ll explain pesky concepts and terms that established authors and book industry professionals take for granted. She’ll review industry standards and expectations of authors, both in traditional and indie publishing. She’ll help you determine which path is best for your book and career: traditional publishing, self publishing, or a hybrid of the two. She’ll cover the things she believes EVERY author should have set up BEFORE their first book launch.

Part II: Peopling Fiction with Comedy

Gail addresses how authors can analyze and source humor, the many different ways to inject funny into fiction, and why you might want to do so. Learn to bring character depth, narrative pace, and social subversion to fiction using comedy. This is also your opportunity to pick her brain!

(5) WATCHMEN REWIND. World of Reel readies viewers for “’Watchmen’ Trailer: R-Rated Animated Adaptation Produced by Warner Bros”.

Some believe Zack Snyder’s “Watchmen” was a botched adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel, while others believe it to be an absolutely essential addition to the superhero genre. It’s a film that has spawned contentious debate over the years.

DC has decided to make an R rated animated version of “Watchmen” and maybe this’ll be a worthy effort. The adaptation is broken into two parts – one arriving in 2024 and the other arriving in 2025 (though no dates were provided by Warner Bros). …

(6) FIRST BITE, WRONG BITER. “The Early Vampire Novel The Vampyre was Falsely Attributed to Lord Byron” at CrimeReads.

One night in the rainy summer of 1816, at Lord Byron’s summer estate, Villa Diodati, in Cologny, near Geneva, Switzerland, Byron, and his friends Percy and Mary Shelley passed the time by telling ghost stories. The stories they created would lay the groundwork for future, publishable works…

However, there was at least another guest there, that night—one who is left out of Shelley’s recapitulation, likely because he was unknown as a writer. This is Byron’s physician-in-residence, John William Polidori, who contributed a concept that would later become his novel Ernest’s Berchtold; or the Modern Oedipus. But this novel not his most notable literary achievement, however—Polidori wound up expanding Byron’s vampire concept (several paragraphs of which Byron had actually written), churning out his own different short work on the same topic, entitled The Vampyre, that same summer….

…Polidori left Cologny in September of that year, and left his manuscript with his friend Countess Catherine Bruce, who lived nearby. Two years later, a London publisher named Henry Colburn received a manuscript in the mail, containing “outlines” of several stories—the gothic exercises developed and written by Byron’s houseguests in Cologny, and, apparently Polidori’s whole manuscript. Bibliographer Henry R. Viets, who comprehensively researched the publication history of Polidori’s text, claims that it is unknown how this material precisely arrived in Colburn’s possession. The outline for Frankenstein was in this bundle, but it had already been published, so Coulburn discarded it, and instead published, in his periodical called New Monthly MagazineThe Vampyre, attributing authorship to Lord Byron. He arranged for publication of the story as a book, shortly after. Polidori was shocked, upon seeing The Vampyre published, and under Byron’s name. Byron denied writing it, but it was almost too late—the story (in the magazine) was a triumphant success, and at least one literary edition was on its way….


[Compiled by Paul Weimer.]

Born June 14, 1949 Harry Turtledove, 76.

By Paul Weimer. Doctor T. The Master of Alternate History. The Avtokrator.

And he earned and earns those sobriquets. 

Once upon a time, there was a series of anthologies edited by Jerry Pournelle called There Will Be War. I loved these to pieces and bought each one as they came out. In the midst of that, I came across a different anthology, edited by S M Stirling called The Fantastic Civil War. In the midst of that volume there was, to my amazement, yet another piece by Turtledove called “The Long Drum Roll”, an excerpt from his forthcoming novel The Guns of the South. It was clear at this point that I needed to read it, and read more Turtledove.

Harry Turtledove

And so I began to tuck in. After Guns of the South, I started to explore the Videssos novels, and was delighted with the “Byzantine empire with magic” setting and worldbuilding. Gerin the Fox, too, and his “edge of the Not-Roman Empire” was also a lot of fun. Agent of Byzantium, with a secret agent in an alternate Byzantine Empire? I began to devour his catalog and oeuvre with reckless abandon and then tried to keep up.

To say nothing of his giant series. Worldwar, with aliens versus the Allies and the Axis. The How Few Remain series, going from his alternate 1862 all the way to the 1940s? And several other series going to four and more volumes?

But, given his output, even to this day, he is an author hard to keep up with.

Dr T has also written a lot of single one shot novels, with a dizzying variety of alternate historical scenarios, with a wide range of divergence points. His Through Darkest Europe, reversing the fortunes of Dar Al-Islam and Western Europe in the Middle Ages, showing an inward looking, backward looking modern Italy, is chilling and all too plausible. 

And if that wasn’t enough, Dr. T has also written a bunch under a variety of pseudonyms. His Turteltaub historical fiction novels, set in various periods are wonderful. His novel Justinian is NOT about the Justinian you are thinking of, but rather Justinian II, whose history and story is even wilder than the original. The novel reads like fantasy but it’s based strongly and accurately on real life events. It is almost literally unbelievable. 

But my one favorite book of his might be a surprise. It would be a World of Difference. The divergence point is what if Mars was about twice the size of Earth, and so was able to hold an atmosphere, and some very strange life. Minerva (the renamed Mars in this verse) has intelligent life that is based on radial symmetry, and while the cold war politics might seem dated today, I wouldn’t mind if we had wound up with Minerva instead of Mars in our own solar system.

Long live the Avtokrator!


(9) THERE’S STILL ORE IN THIS ENEMY MINE. An update?The Hollywood Reporter says “’Star Trek: Picard’ Showrunner Terry Matalas Tackling ‘Enemy Mine’”.

Terry Matalas, the showrunner who steered the final season of Star Trek: Picard to new ratings and critical heights, has been tapped to write an update of the 1985 cult sci-fi movie Enemy Mine for 20th Century Studios.

Set in a future where mankind is warring with a reptilian alien species, Mine starred Dennis Quaid has a human pilot and Louis Gossett Jr. as an alien who crash land on a desolate planet. Both have deep-seated hatred for one another, but are forced to overcome their prejudices to survive…. 

(10) THE PHYSICS GOES AWAY. “Wild New Study Suggests Gravity Can Exist Without Mass” at ScienceAlert.

What is gravity without mass? Both Newton’s revolutionary laws describing its universal effect and Einstein’s proposal of a dimpled spacetime, we’ve thought of gravity as exclusively within the domain of matter.

Now a wild new study suggesting that gravity can exist without mass, conveniently eliminating the need for one of the most elusive substances in our Universe: dark matter.

Dark matter is a hypothetical, invisible mass thought to make up 85 percent of the Universe’s total bulk. Originally devised to account for galaxies holding together under high speed rotation, it has yet to be directly observed, leading physicists to propose all sorts of out-there ideas to avoid invoking this elusive material as a way to plug the holes in current theories.

The latest offering in that vein comes from astrophysicist Richard Lieu at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, who has suggested that rather than dark matter binding galaxies and other bodies together, the Universe may contain thin, shell-like layers of ‘topological defects’ that give rise to gravity without any underlying mass.

Lieu started out trying to find another solution to the Einstein field equations, which relate the curvature of space-time to the presence of matter within it….

(11) HERE’S A REASON TO BUY NEXT YEAR’S CALENDAR. Physics World says “It’s official: United Nations declares 2025 the International Year of Quantum Science and Technology”.

The United Nations (UN) has officially declared 2025 to be the International Year of Quantum Science and Technology (IYQ). Agreed by its general assembly, the year-long worldwide celebration will highlight the impact and contribution of quantum science. It also aims to ensure that all nations have equal access to quantum education and opportunities. An opening ceremony is expected to take place on 14 January in Berlin.

(12) HOLD THE DOOR! “’Absolutely gutted’ — how a jammed door is locking astronomers out of the X-ray universe”Space.com has the story.

…First, the good news: The telescope’s main instrument, a soft X-ray spectrometer known as Resolve, is working as expected. The slightly worse news: An aperture door covering Resolve has not opened. Multiple attempts to open the door — or “gate valve” — have failed. Despite reports suggesting JAXA and NASA have decided to “operate the spacecraft as is for at least 18 months,” Yamaguchi told me that “has not been officially decided.”

A NASA spokesperson confirmed “NASA and JAXA continue to hold ongoing discussions about the best path forward to operate XRISM; the current, leading option is to collect science for the next 18 months before making another attempt to open the gate valve, but the agencies will continue to assess alternatives.”

With the door closed, an intriguing “What If?” situation for mission specialists and X-ray astronomers presents itself. On one hand, the spacecraft is working superbly and showing it’s capable of delivering a heap of new, exciting data. Trying to open the door risks damaging the spacecraft. On the other hand, opening the door could fundamentally change our understanding of the universe….

(13) ANOTHER SPACE HARDWARE CHALLENGE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A bit worrying this as I was always a bit partial to the Hubble Space Telescope… “Hubble telescope down to last gyroscopes, limiting science” in Nature.

Despite failing hardware, NASA has no plans to pursue a servicing mission to the aging, iconic instrument…

Hubble’s gyroscopes, which spin at 19,200revolutions per minute, are precise but frag-ile. To make up for failures, service missions have shipped 16 replacement gyros to the telescope over its lifetime. It is now down to the last two of the six currently onboard. In standard three-gyro mode, the devices help the telescope quickly establish and maintain a view with its fine guidance sensors, which lock onto specific stars.

(14) THE MOST IMPORTANT MEN IN SF…? [Item by SFF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Moid Moidelhoff over at Media Death Cult takes a look at the first, principal gatekeepers of SF, the magazine commissioning editors of the early 20th century, in a short 11-minute, video. Time to grab a mug of builders…

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mark Roth-Whitworth, Ed Fortune, Steven French, Teddy Harvia, Kathy Sullivan, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer. (But if there aren’t any, how do I continue the roundup?)]

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18 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 6/14/24 No Pixels For Old Men

  1. (10) new physics!
    (7) I picked up A World of Difference at an airport bookstore years ago when an airline snafu left me bookless for the next leg of my flight. Thanks Harry!
    (5) I’ll be interested to see this one – the live action version gmhad some good points in my estimation, but also cut out some worthwhile material.

  2. 7) If my memory is correct, I remember when Mr HT unleashed his pseudonym. The change was advertised on the cover of an ‘80s-era Analog, I think.

  3. I read his early work in Asimov’s (“A Death in Vesunna” which I loved for example) under the Eric Iverson pseudonym

  4. (0) Oh, yeah? Well, I’m gonna take me some pixels anyway…
    (1) CS Lewis, not being happy with new innovations in criticism and poetry? I’m shocked, shocked I tell you. And I suppose he never let them really know what he thought, say, by writing That Hideous Strength, where the agent of change are all direct agent of Satan, and he literally pulls the animals out of the city zoo to kill them.
    (3) Pocket Printer? So you can use your mobile as a Polaroid?
    Birthday: I have to add the series I was literally waiting for each book of: Into Darkness. WWII, with magic, and shudder.
    (11) But will the calendar be there if we look? Or is it entangled?
    (12) After some digging, I see it’s in LEO. There could be a manned mission to fix it, as there was for the Hubble.
    (13) And how about another one for the Hubble?
    (14) Hmmmm… and yet Campbell was not exactly for New Wave. ” “I hope that when the New Wave has deposited its froth and receded, the vast and solid shore of science fiction will appear once more.” – John W. Cambell, frothing about the New Wavepbell, frothing about the New Wave

  5. (14) @mark–What Moid says in the video is not that Campbell was for the New Wave, but that it was started by people very unhappy with how Campbell did things–to keep this mild and polite.

    (7) Another great birthday write-up, Paul. I’ve really enjoyed a lot of Turtledove’s work.

  6. (9) I dont think this is a good idea. The core concept have been done a lot by now, so its difficult to avoid being another reincarnation of that trope.

    10) Getting rid of Drak Matter would be a good move, but lets see what comes out of it.

    Yay, title credits. Does that mean, Im not old yet?

  7. Unlucky13) Jared Isaacman’s offer to self-fund a ‘rescue’ mission to Hubble is a non-starter. All Hubble upgrades were done from the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle, which had an airlock for spacewalks and the Canadarm to hold the satellite in place. Isaacman was planning to use SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which has no airlock (“Everybody into the pool vacuum!”) and no way of holding the 24,000lb observatory steady in zero G.
    One might remember that once access doors to HST were opened during STS-61, the heating of the Sun warped them slightly and it took Musgrave and Hoffman some force to close the latches again. It’s easy to see that without a stabilizing platform, applying even small forces to an unrestrained object in space could result in unwanted spins or other dangerous motions.
    NASA said “No Thanks” for a reason.

    (Communicating from the year 7120 via Ubspace “the sensible Ansible”)

  8. 7) When I first Met Dr. T I mentioned how I bought “Guns of the South” because of the cover picture showing Robert E. Lee carrying an AK-47. He said the genesis of the book was someone making a crack about something as “anachronistic as Lee with an AK-47.” Hey, there’s a book idea there! A few years later my wife and I were at the Glasgow Worldcon, and wound up taking the same bus tour with him and his family. The next day we went to Edinburgh on our own, and saw him and his family on the Royal Mile. It started our running joke about “stalking the Turtledoves.” I confine that now to his books 😉

  9. @mark ” After some digging, I see it’s in LEO. There could be a manned mission to fix it, as there was for the Hubble.”

    Hubble is 300-odd miles up, and was reachable by the Shuttle. Chandra is 8000 miles up. Much different.

  10. #9 I remember “Enemy Mine” quite well. I saw it in the theaters and was wowed.
    I dunno how good a remake could be. So often they’re terrible.

    Why can’t the production company come up with a new idea? Or license a new series of books that haven’t been done to death?

  11. Bill: “On September 6th, a new X-ray telescope was launched into space, joining the Chandra X-ray Observatory, XMM-Newton, and others already exploring the high-energy Universe.” XRISM is not Chandra.

  12. @mark — my bad, and you are correct. XRISM and Hubble are almost at the same altitude.

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