Pixel Scroll 6/15/20 Where The File Things Are

(1) FLORIDA FAN. How’s the reopening going in Florida? Take a wild guess. “Florida attempted a small pop culture event last weekend and it went exactly as you would expect. Because Florida”. Tom Croom went there —

… On Sunday, June 15th, a group called Florida Toy Shows Expos decided to go ahead with their planned event called the “Orlando Area Toy Collectors Summer Pop-Up Show” in Apopka, Florida located just northwest of Orlando. This marked Florida’s first “geek event” since mid-March

The event started at 9:00 AM, but I didn’t pull up until around 11:00 AM to see it firsthand. I came armed with a face mask, hand sanitizer, and a healthy dose of common sense. The photo I took outside at the entrance showed about 40% people were wearing masks.

… There was no apparent capacity limit. No one was managing the number of people inside. Just crowds of attendees on top of each other and, as you can see in the photos, only about 20% of them are wearing masks. I did a rough count while walking around and saw that there were over three hundred people in the event’s one and only room…

And to make things perfect, someone was handing out flyers for a forthcoming event featuring the fabulous Vic Mignogna!

(2) ILK GET THEIR DAY IN COURT. Whether they want it or not. “Vox Day’s ‘Replatforming’ Backfires” – Camestros Felapton analyzes the court documents.

Vox Day has managed to have a large number of his supporters legally doxxed in court documents with the help of his even less competent side-kick former comedian Owen Benjamin. A case filed in the Superior Court of California by crowdfunding tech company Patreon, cites seventy-two people whom they are suing due to a ‘lawfare’ campaign instigated by Day and Benjamin. I’m not linking directly to the court documents but the case “PATREON, INC. VS. PAUL MICHAEL AYURE ET AL” (Case Number: CGC20584586) can be found online via the Superior Court of California’s page https://www.sfsuperiorcourt.org/

The case connects with Day’s struggles with crowdfunding (see past coverage from me here and here) but specifically connects to Owen Benjamin (see past coverage from me here and here) who was kicked off Patreon last year according to the court documents…

… Instead, it seems the individuals may end up liable for Patreon’s court costs. According to Day this is Patreon “playing dirty” (warning: link to his blog [Internet Archive link here Instead.])…

(3) UP ABOVE THE WORLD. The New York Times suggests: “Stick a Starry Night Sky on Your Ceiling”. Once upon a time I lived where there were stars on the ceiling. How many lifetimes ago was that?

First, think about what you hope to see.

Some people get overwhelmed by the astronomically gargantuan number of stars they’ve been told are visible from earth. With 170 billion galaxies, spanning 45.7 billion light years, there are roughly a septillion stars in the observable universe (that’s the number one followed by 24 zeros). The Milky Way alone has more than 400 billion stars.

These are numbers none of us can even begin to conceptualize. But don’t be daunted: There are ways to narrow down what you’d like to look at from home to make this experience more accessible.

If you’ve ever been to a planetarium, perhaps you remember seeing a vibrant representation of a night sky from the perspective of where you were sitting in that moment. If the presenter then spun the sky to take you into the past or into the future, you know how exciting it can be to see the sky from the point of view of someone who lived on a different continent in a different time in history.

To that end, NASA has a website where you can plug in your birthday and immediately receive a picture of what the Hubble telescope captured on that day, along with an in-depth description (search “Hubble Birthday”). Another free site, In-The-Sky.org, has a Planetarium section that can give you an image of the constellations as they appeared from any location on any day and time in history. These resources will help you imagine what kind of sky you’d like to recreate indoors.

(4) ODYSSEY Q&A. “Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer E.C. Ambrose”.

Author and Odyssey graduate E.C. Ambrose will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. She writes knowledge-inspired adventure fiction including The Dark Apostle series about medieval surgery, The Singer’s Legacy fantasy series (as Elaine Isaak), and the Bone Guard international thrillers (as E. Chris Ambrose). 

You’re known for being tough on your characters. What advice do you have for writers to make things harder on their characters and raise the stakes?

I often custom-make conflicts to push the buttons of a particular character. What will make this person really uncomfortable? What, based on their own fears/hopes/background/goal, would be the worst thing to happen to them? Part of it comes down to, “Why is this the right protagonist to confront this conflict?” Specificity is key. I’m also looking for collisions between internal and external conflicts—getting the character into a position where they must choose between two priorities or values, both of which they believe they can’t compromise. To that end, I brainstorm large and small conflicts on several levels: internal, personal, interpersonal, local, regional, societal, national, epic, existential. Then I interweave them through my outlining process.

(5) IT TAKES A VILLAGE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the June 12 Financial Times, Kristina Foster reviews Dark, a German sf series with its first three seasons on Netflix and set in the fictional town of Winden.

Dark’s art direction, which takes a German autumn and cranks up the dreariness in full caliginous despair, reflects the moral decay that has fallen over Winden.  Like Twin Peaks and Stranger Things, Dark leans heavily on the potential for horror and unease in the small town. Rumour and intrigue bubble over into violence, and there’s a marked disconnect between private and public appearance,  But this self-contained ‘nowhere’ place, where inhabitants dream of leaving but rarely never do and where nothing ever seems to change, is also the perfect setting to which to explore the circularity of time.  In this way Dark balances its outlandish transtemporal plot with more realistic portrayals of human flaws…

…Netflix’s first German-language series has an enormous entertainment value.  With its underground passages, secret horological societies, suspicious priests and menacing forests, it exudes an unmistakeable Gothic gloom, perfect for nights at home with the lights off.

(6) IN THE SPIRIT. Josh Gad’s Reunited Apart summoned the 1984 Ghostbusters crew. SYFY Wire sets the frame: “Ghostbusters Cast And Crew Remember Harold Ramis, Stay Puft Marshallow Man During Virtual Reunion”.

…”I sure miss him [Harold Ramis],” said director Ivan Reitman, also a part of the virtual reunion. “I keep thinking of him as sort of a brother figure. I ended up working with him about five times, and he’s really missed.”

“He was an incredible writing collaborator,” added Aykroyd, who penned the screenplay with Ramis. “He was not a believer in ghosts … He was very well educated in myth and mystique and [he was] such a great writing partner because the references were there in an intelligent way and harnessed for laughter. A brilliant man, a brilliant collaborator. I miss him, too, obviously.”


  • June 1991 — Ian McDonald’s King of Morning, Queen of Day was first published. It would win the Philip K. Dick Award for best original science fiction paperback published in the U.S. in 1992, and it would win the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire Award for its French translation in the same year. It had but one physical printing in English in paperback but was printed in French and German hardcopy editions. It’s currently available at all the usual digital suspects. (CE)


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 15, 1397 – Paolo Uccello.  Painter and mathematician, pioneer in visual perspective; see Vasari’s Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.  Look at Ucello’s work used centuries later on our covers here and here and here and here and here.  (Died 1475; birthdate an educated guess) [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1910 – Hugh Walters.  Two dozen SF novels 1957-1981 written for juveniles i.e. ages about 11-16, most about a UNEXA (United Nations Exploration Agency) under which Earthlings went around planets of the Solar System.  The author troubled to get the science right.  Outside this pen name he was a member of the British Interplanetary Society and the British Astronomical HAssociation, a businessman, a local magistrate.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1910 Harold Lawlor. April 1942 saw “The Eternal Priestess” published in Fantastic Adventures, his first sale. His first story for Weird Tales was “Specter in the Steel,” May 1943. Over the next decade, twenty-nine stories by him would appear in Weird Tales. “Mayaya’s Little Green Men” in Weird Tales, November 1946 is of interest as it’s considered the earliest genre appearance of that phrase. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born June 15, 1930 Victor Lundin. He’s best remembered as appearing in Robinson Crusoe on Mars as Friday, and for having been the first Klingon seen on Star Trek, specifically a Klingon Lt. in “Errand of Mercy”. Remarkably his entire tv career save two appearances was in genre series, to wit Time TunnelGet SmartBatman (three times, twice each  as Octopus and Chief Standing Pat), Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Babylon 5. (Died 2013.) (CE)
  • Born June 15, 1935 – Ellie Frazetta.  Wife, business manager, and in every sense partner of graphic artist Frank Frazetta.  An appreciation of her is here.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1940 – Michael Barrier.  Founder of Funnyworld magazine.  Historian of cartoons and animation.  Carl Barks and the Art of the Comic Book.  With Martin Williams, A Smithsonian Book of Comic-Book Comics.  Hollywood Cartoons (rev. 2003).  Audio commentaries on the Looney Tunes Golden Collection, with interviews and like that.  The Animated Man (Walt Disney).  Funnybooks.  [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1941 Neal Adams, 79. Comic book artist who worked for both DC and Marvel. Among his achievements was the creation with writer Dennis O’Neil of Ra’s al Ghul. I’m a DC fan so I can’t speak for his work on Marvel but he did amazing work on DeadmanBatmanGreen Lantern and Green Arrow. All of this work is now available on the DC Universe app.  It should be noted he was instrumental in the lobbying efforts that resulted in Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster receiving long overdue credit and  financial remuneration from DC. (CE) 
  • Born June 15, 1960 Sabrina Vourvoulias, 60. Thai-born author, an American citizen from birth brought up in Guatemala, but here since her teens. Her novel, Ink, deals with immigrants who are tattooed with biometric implants that are used to keep track of them no matter where they are. I’m assuming that the “Skin in the Game” story which appeared first on Tor.com is set in the future. Fair guess that “The Ways of Walls and Words” which also appeared on Tor.com is also set there. The Readercon 25 panel she was on, “East, West and Everything Between: A Roundtable on Latin@ Speculative Fiction” is available for free on iBooks. (CE)
  • Born June 15, 1962 – Jane Routley.  Six novels, nine shorter stories.  Lived in Denmark, in Germany, now back in Australia. Two Aurealis Awards for fantasy.  Nice review in 21 May 20 Publishers Weekly of Shadow in the Empire of Light, scheduled for release during CoNZealand.  I’d provoke a storm of comment if I said she appears to have misused the word melded in a title, so I’d better not.  [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1963 Mark Morris, 57. English author known for his horror novels, although he has also written several novels based on Doctor Who and Torchwood. Given his horror background, these tend to be darker than many similar novels are, I recommend Forever Autumn and Bay of the Dead if you like a good chill. (CE) 
  • Born June 15, 1966 – Rob Alexander.  Twenty covers, as many interiors.  Here is a cover drawn for Pohl’s Stopping at Slowyear.  Here is a cover for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.  Here is a frontispiece drawn for Resnick’s Pink Elephants and Hairy Toads.  Here is a cover for Deep Magic (RA interviewed in this issue).  Art book, Welcome to My Worlds.  His Website shows playmats for Magic, the Gathering, and other recent work.  [JH]
  • Born June 15, 1973 Neil Patrick Harris, 47. His first genre role was not Carl Jenkins in Starships Troopers, but rather Billy Johnson in Purple People Eater, an SF comedy best forgotten I suspect. Post-Starship Troopers, I’ve got him voicing Barry Allen / The Flash in Justice League: The New Frontier and Dick Grayson / Nightwing in Batman: Under the Red Hood. He also voiced Peter Parker and her superhero alias in Spider-Man: The New Animated Series. Finally, he’s currently Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events which he also produces. (CE)


  • Nothing to do with Bradbury. It’s just Bizarro remembering an old toy.

(10) LOVE LETTERS. “I Long to Read More in the Book of You: Moomins Creator Tove Jansson’s Tender and Passionate Letters to the Love of Her Life” by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings.

… The tender delirium of their early love and the magmatic core of their lifelong devotion emanate from the pages of Letters from Tove (public library) — the altogether wonderful collection of Jansson’s correspondence with friends, family, and other artists, spanning her meditations on the creative process, her exuberant cherishment of the natural world and of what is best in human beings, her unfaltering love for Tooti. What emerges, above all, is the radiant warmth of her personhood — this person of such uncommon imagination, warmhearted humor, and stubborn buoyancy of spirit, always so thoroughly herself, who as a young woman had declared to her mother: “I’ve got to become free myself if I’m to be free in my painting.”

(11) PAGING STAN ROBINSON. “Mars: Green glow detected on the Red Planet”.

Scientists have identified a green light in the atmosphere of Mars.

A similar glow is sometimes seen by astronauts on the space station when they look to the Earth’s limb.

The glow comes from oxygen atoms when they’re excited by sunlight.

The phenomenon has long been predicted to occur on other planets, but the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) – a joint European-Russian satellite at Mars – is the first to make the observation beyond Earth.

“It’s a nice result,” said Dr Manish Patel from the UK’s Open University.

“You’d never plan a mission to go look for this kind of thing. Today, we have to be very clear about the science we’re going to do before we get to Mars. But having got there, we thought, ‘well, let’s have a look’. And it worked.”

(12) STEEP ORBIT? “‘Space race’ hots up with first Shetland rocket launch”. (A story like this, there must be a pony in there somewhere.)

Scotland’s “space race” has seen the first test rocket being fired from Shetland.

The Shetland islands are one of three proposed locations bidding to launch commercial satellites into space.

Edinburgh-based Skyrora launched its Skylark Nano rocket from the Fethaland peninsula at North Roe over the weekend.

The 6.5ft (2m) rocket successfully reached an altitude of about 20,000ft (6,100m).

(13) GETTING WARM. “Solar Orbiter: Europe’s Sun mission makes first close pass”.

Europe’s Solar Orbiter (SolO) probe makes its first close pass of the Sun on Monday, tracking by at a distance of just over 77 million km.

SolO was launched in February and is on a mission to understand what drives our star’s dynamic behaviour.

The close pass, known as a perihelion, puts the probe between the orbits of Venus and Mercury.

In the coming years, SolO will go nearer still, closing to within 43 million km of the Sun on occasions.

As it stands today, only five other missions have dived deeper into the inner Solar System: Mariner 10, Helios 1 & 2, Messenger, and Parker Solar Probe.

(14) GIVING IT A HEARING. Mogsy gets into a popular entry in the 2019 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off competition in “Audiobook Review: Under Ordshaw by Phil Williams” at BiblioSanctum.

…The story wastes no time plunging readers into the action. In fact, it makes Pax all the more sympathetic because in many ways we can understand the confusion and overload of information she must feel. The details and explanations come at us hard and fast, and the pacing hardly slows which is something I can appreciate when it comes to UF, though it does make for slippery transitions. At the beginning, it’s especially imperative to pay attention to everything and stay on top of things, lest you get left behind and become lost. Despite my best efforts, even I found myself floundering in some places, wondering if the narration had skipped over an important detail or if I might have blanked out momentarily and missed something….

(15) MUG IMPROVEMENT. Maybe CSI was onto something. “New Algorithm Is A Lot Like The “Enhance!” Feature In “CSI”” at Futurism.

Researchers at Duke University have developed an algorithm that can upsample a detailed computer-generated portrait of a human face from a heavily pixelated version. It’s strikingly similar to the much-memed “Enhance!” tool from TV crime dramas like “CSI,” which can seemingly pull information out of thin air.

The researchers’ AI, dubbed PULSE (Self-Supervised Photo Upsampling via Latent Space Exploration of Generative Models), can generate photorealistic images of faces that are 64 times the resolution of the source image. For instance, a heavily pixelated 16×16-pixel image of a face can be converted into a 1024 x 1024 pixel image….

To be clear, the researchers didn’t just turn made-up technology from “CSI” into reality. The tool is only capable of generating new realistic faces, using the pixelated source as a guide — not definitively piece together what the original face actually looked like. Still, the results can be eerily similar to the input image — even if it probably wouldn’t be admissible in a court of law….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

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30 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 6/15/20 Where The File Things Are

  1. (15) That sounds really dangerous… It would be easy to convince a naive jury that they’ve seen real evidence and not something almost entirely computer generated out of nothing. Also (as I think of it) I’m reminded of Robert Charles Wilson’s Blind Lake.

  2. (15) I mean this really is “can make a photorealistic face that if pixelated would look just like this pixelated face”. I mean, I can turn any of the basic smiley emojis into a photorealistic face using my amazing algorithm of pulling a happy or sad (or raised eyebrow quizzical face) and taking a photo myself but that’s not very remarkable.

  3. Cora Buhlert: I’m told that in the mid-1980s Germany had a sf show called Solaris. What do you remember about that show?

  4. OGH@8: “I’m a DC fan so I can’t speak for his work on Marvel”

    The X-Men issues and that little Avengers run he did were just killer–if I could draw, I could redraw parts of Avengers #93–but I think he did his best work for DC.

  5. @8: Walters may have used the UN (and stereotyped national characters) in his later novels, but his earliest ones were nationalistic, assuming that the UK would be Russia’s rival in the space race. He was AFAICT the first writer to propose a space-trash collector to remove loose parts from LEO.

    @Andrew: in an ideal world, the combination of judge and opposing attorney would substantially cut the danger. (I sat a trial a few years ago and remember “gun” vs “firearm” — defense objected to one of these terms until the county had introduced enough evidence that the device in question was working.) But a weak attorney might not know to question the validity of the image.

  6. @Martin Wooster

    Cora Buhlert: I’m told that in the mid-1980s Germany had a sf show called Solaris. What do you remember about that show?

    There was indeed a West German TV show called Solaris TV – Der freundliche Sender im All (Solaris TV – The friendly TV station in space) in 1986. The show was about a bunch of people who opened a TV station in space to avoid earthly regulations. It was a comedic show and apparently full of jibes against the public TV stations with all their regulations that still dominated German TV in the 1980s, even though it aired on one of those stations. That’s probably also the reason why the show only lasted six episodes and was rerun only once in 34 years and has otherwise fallen off the face of the Earth.

    There is a clip of the intro/title sequence on YouTube. It’s very 1980s. Two of the actors are pretty well known: Günther Kaufmann, one of the few actors of colour working in Germany in the 1970s and 1980s and Irene Fischer, known to everybody who watched TV in Germany in the last 35 years as Anna Beimer from the longrunning soap Lindenstraße. Ulrich Tukur (international audiences will probably know him best as Goebbels in Downfall) also appeared, but he’s not in the intro.

    However, I don’t remember this show at all. I certainly never watched it. Investigations reveal that it aired in December 1986 on Sunday mornings, which is not a time when I would or could have watched TV. Watching TV before lunch was not done and besides, I had confirmation classes at the time, which meant that I had to go to church on Sundays.

  7. 5) Point of pedantry: currently the first two seasons of Dark are on Netflix; the third and final season drops next weekend.

    15) I’m reminded of the scene from crime show Cold Case where Those Two Old Cops (think Crate and Barrel from Bosch, or Pogue and Mahone from The Wire) are watching a videotape of middling quality. One says “let’s enhance this”, and without skipping a beat they both drag their chairs closer to the screen.

  8. (12) Since I’m reading Ann Cleeves’ Shetland mysteries, I had to look up and see if one was ever set where this rocket launched from — but, no.

    Shetland consists of something in the vicinity of 100 islands, only 16 of which are inhabited. The largest is called Mainland, and Fethaland is up at the northern point of Mainland. The last of the eight novels, Wild Fire, is set not too far from there, but I’m not at that point yet.

    8 of the inhabited islands have less than 100 people living on them. Some are close enough to Mainland to be considered almost part of it, but there are others pretty isolated. Living in a remote location with just 50 people seems decidedly cringeworthy for this city boy.

  9. Living in a remote location with just 50 people seems decidedly cringeworthy for this city boy.

    I grew up in Orkney, the island group south of Shetland, including about five years on Shapinsay, with a population of about 300 and a short ferry ride away from anywhere else. I’m used to bigger places now, but the idea doesn’t horrify me.

    (Not sure about Shetland usage, but Orkney’s main island is generally referred to as ‘the Mainland’ rather than ‘Mainland’. Also ‘Hrossey’ or ‘Pomona’ if you want to call it something nobody actually calls it.)

  10. Cora Buhlert: Thanks for the explanation about Solaris.

    Patrick Morris Miller: You’re right and I should have made clear that the FINANCIAL TIMES review (in a section called “Binge Watch” was prompted by season 3 of DARK premiering.

  11. Jeff / James: a matter of what one is used to, I guess. I grew up a mile beyond the furthest reach of the DC bus network — which didn’t reach very far (~5 miles outside the Beltway, not as far as the subway goes now), so it wasn’t a long drive to get to the free museums (e.g. Smithsonian) even if there were large animals kept on all 4 of the properties adjacent to my parents’. The 4 years I spent in areas that were not really remote but far enough out not to have more than tiny libraries (e.g., Millbrook and Pine Plains NY) were not fun. Conversely, I mentioned to someone in a modest town in the Scottish Highlands that I’d come up from Glasgow and got back that they’d be scared to visit such a big city. Orkney has become something of a special case; by the standards of 15 years ago (visit after Scottish Worldcon #2) it was well connected (data-thick cable to the mainland), so (said the B&B owner) a number of people were moving there to telecommute. I suspect I’d have trouble with the winter weather (wet cold) and short days (I’ve never spent a winter north of latitude 46).

  12. (11) Green glow on Mars is definitely a neat result. I wouldn’t have been sure the atmosphere was thick enough and/or had the proper elements. (Not that I’d particularly thought about it or been sure what the requirements were.)

    They say it has been predicted on other planets, but there aren’t that many others in the Solar system that have even a trace atmosphere, unless you count gas giants. I wonder if you’d get one on Titan? (Technically not a planet by the IAU’s definition, but my definition is a little broader.)

  13. I can’t really imagine what living in a town of 50 or 300 would be like. Even when we have gone camping in the ‘wilderness’ there have been about 300 other people in the campground.

  14. James Moar: I have no idea what the real usage is. The map says Mainland, with areas marked North Mainland and South Mainland. I looked through the Cleeves books and the characters call it “Shetland mainland.”

  15. (1) After 2 – 2-1/2 months of staying home, and after a week or so of crowds of thousands, unmasked, on the news, I’m not surprised an event like this would draw a crowd.
    (8) Paolo Uccello [a] — more about his St. George and the Dragon (one of two versions he did)
    (8) Paolo Uccello [b] — This mosaic on the floor of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice is attributed to him. It contains a stellated duodecahedron, 200 years before Kepler worked out the math for it.
    (8) Ellie Frazetta — she was also the model for some of his paintings, and was the archetype “Frazetta woman”
    (8) Neal Adams [a] — did production and graphic art for the SF play “Warp!” on Broadway.
    (8) Neal Adams [b] — I was a fairly serious comics collector in my teens, and Adams was my favorite artist. I got to meet him (and his best inker, Dick Giordano) at a convention in Atlanta in about 1978. He wasn’t doing sketches, but was super nice and signed a few books for me. Hanging downstairs in my basement is the original art to the splash page for his Batman-Flash Brave & the Bold story, “But Bork can Hurt You!”.

  16. 12) I went to Orkney after that Scottish Worldcon myself. It’s very convenient that there was a bus from Inverness to Kirkwall, with the ferry ride included. Shetland looks like it would take more work. Orkney was absolutely lovely in the summer — I don’t know about the winter, though, and the outer islands, like North Ronaldsay, where I spent a night, would feel kind of isolated.

    Now who was the author who had a spaceport on the west coast of Scotland?

  17. bookworm1398: I can’t really imagine what living in a town of 50 or 300 would be like. Even when we have gone camping in the ‘wilderness’ there have been about 300 other people in the campground.

    I grew up in a town of 2,000, and that was horrifying enough. I can’t imagine having to grow up in a place with even fewer people.

  18. When my parents settled in one town more or less permanently, it was the one where my mother had grown up.

    Where she had grown up with a bunch of the police, members of the Common Council and the Board of Aldermen (yes, for a long time, the city of Everett MA was the only city in the US that had a bicameral legislature), assorted city officials, teachers, the headmaster of the city high school, which I attended…

    And some of the library staff. Knowing the library staff knew my mom was far less unsettling, because my parents were open-minded about books, and if the libraries (we had two separate, competing public libraries, each with their own Board of Trustees) had the books on their open shelves, any questions got the answer, “Yes, of course she’s allowed to read that.”

  19. Xtifr: I suspect Titan gets too little solar wind to generate much of an aurora; something might be visible to a very sensitive camera, but I’m not sure the chemistry/physics works. The Wikipedia article mentions ionization of nitrogen and oxygen above Earth (which I’d known of), but also that the hydrogen atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn produce auroras; I’m not sure methane would excite the same way, and I doubt that Titan’s gravity holds enough decomposed-methane hydrogen (if that happens at all) to produce auroras as the gas giants do.

    @David Shallcross: Now who was the author who had a spaceport on the west coast of Scotland? Ken MacLeod? I vaguely recall he had a UFO land in Scotland in one story, but don’t remember for sure where he put any spaceports.

  20. JJ on June 16, 2020 at 3:59 pm said:

    I grew up in a town of 2,000, and that was horrifying enough. I can’t imagine having to grow up in a place with even fewer people.

    I don’t have to imagine it: I lived in such a place: Challenge, California, my home town. Actually, I was one of the lucky ones, as I was within walking distance of the elementary school, which did have a small school library. (I remember reading Heinlein juveniles checked out from it.) Most of the 200 or so students at the school had to be bused in from around the various mountain communities of the area. There was a monument in front of Yuba Feather Elementary School with the school bells from the six one-room school houses that were merged to form the K-8 YFES from which I graduated in 1979.

    Challenge was a metropolis compared to Laufman Ranger Station (US Forest Service, Milford, California), or Tudor, California (my grandparents’ farm in the Sacramento Valley). Indeed, when my father was transferred to Bishop, California (all 3,000 people), it was the Big City. And going to college in Chico, California (30,000 when CSU Chico was in session; half that in the summer) was a metropolis. As I’m fond of telling people from where I live now, Fernley, Nevada (20,000), especially when they speak derisively of “city folk,” my home town makes Fernley look like Las Vegas by comparison.

    In short, I’m pretty comfortable with smaller places. That’s why organizing a Westercon in a town with fewer people living in it that attend most recent Worldcons isn’t disorienting.

  21. Kevin Standlee: I don’t have to imagine it: I lived in such a place… I’m pretty comfortable with smaller places.

    I’m glad that your experience growing up seems to have been a good one. My hometown included a great many racist, sexist, ignorant, and just plain nasty people who made my childhood a living hell. If it weren’t for the (extremely limited selection of) library books into which I could escape whenever I felt like putting an end to the incessant pain, I would not be alive today.

    * If you are feeling despondent and having thoughts that life is not worth living, please, please Google “suicide hotline” and make a phone call to one of the people who will be able to reassure you that life is always worth living.

  22. @Chip Hitchcock: You were looking at the wrong article. The green flash is not an aurora; it’s caused by refraction, not ionization.

    I suspect Titan’s atmosphere might be too opaque for a green flash, though. I honestly don’t know.

    But as far as auroras go, if you haven’t seen pictures of Jupiter’s auroras, you should definitely go hunting for them. They’re spectacular!

  23. It’s not on the Scottish mainland, but the Deep Sea Range is an actual thing that uses a launch site on South Uist with a tracking statiion on St Kilda.

  24. @Xtifr: the Pixel quotes

    The glow comes from oxygen atoms when they’re excited by sunlight.

    The article later expands

    The green glow seen by astronauts at the edge of the Earth – and now by the TGO at Mars – has a separate origin [from the magnetosphere-derived aurora]. It’s sunlight that’s doing the work. Oxygen atoms are raised to a higher energy level and when they fall back to their resting state, they produce the tell-tale green emission.

    That does not sound like refraction to me. My SWAG would be that Saturn gets an aurora due to a honking big magnetosphere (pulling in enough of the very-dilute solar wind to excite the atmosphere) while Titan wouldn’t glow like Mars because it doesn’t have its own magnetosphere and gets so much less sunlight, but I don’t have enough numbers to firm that up. I note that I misrecollected Titan’s atmosphere; it’s mostly nitrogen and only a little methane. However, the article says the Martian green comes from oxygen broken out of CO2; molecular nitrogen is a lot harder to break apart, and would give a different color if it did.

  25. @Chip Hitchcock: Oh gosh, I did have the wrong phenomenon in mind, sorry! In retrospect, I have to say that I’m less surprised by a green glow on Mars than I would have been (was) about a green flash. (Not to say it’s not still v. cool.) 🙂

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