(1) TEXAS STYLE. The Austin Chronicle pays tribute to the local sf community then and now — “Writing Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror in Austin”. (Very nice group picture there, too.)
“When I moved to Austin in 1998,” says Christopher Brown, who presents his dystopian debut novel, Tropic of Kansas, at BookPeople this Friday, “it was partly because I could tell that there was a rich fantastic-literature community here, a community of both readers and writers.”
Indeed there was, and had been for years. Brown’s arrival coincided with the 20th anniversary of ArmadilloCon, the homegrown annual sci-fi convention that was not just a celebration of the more fantastic genres of literature and one hell of a fannish good time, but somewhere aspiring writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror could meet and polish their craft via workshops led by their fellow writers from the local scene. In the days of ArmadilloCon’s founding, such writers included Bruce Sterling, Howard Waldrop, Steven Utley, Lisa Tuttle, Tom Reamy, and their beloved mentor, University of Texas anthropology professor Chad Oliver – all members of the Turkey City Writer’s Workshop, a Lone Star coterie that became one of the epicenters of speculative fiction. Of what eventually led, after East Coaster William Gibson had galvanized the field, after enough tons of dream-stained paper had transmediated filmward, to the gritty/glossy mise en scène of the Wachowskis’ Matrix. You know, citizen: cyberpunk. What so much of the future looked like, fictionally, in the Eighties and Nineties.
Brown also landed here while Austin’s fantastic-lit readers and writers still had their own bookstore, one run by ArmadilloCon’s founder. “I remember Willie Siros’ place on West Sixth,” says Brown, “in the building currently occupied by Sandra Bullock’s flower-arrangement-and-money-laundering operation. It was called Adventures in Crime and Space, a specialty science-fiction and mystery bookstore that the community had sustained for a long time.”
Alas, citizen, in the 17th year of the 21st century, Adventures in Crime and Space has gone the way of the space shuttle program, but the rich community it served continues.
(2) POINT OF NO RETURN. Ruth Graham tells why public libraries are finally eliminating the late-return fine at Slate.
In some districts, up to 35 percent of patrons have had their borrowing privileges revoked because of unpaid fines. Only these days, it’s librarians themselves who often lament what the Detroit reporter called “a tragedy enacted in this little court of equity.” Now some libraries are deciding that the money isn’t worth the hassle—not only that, but that fining patrons works against everything that public libraries ought to stand for.
Library fines in most places remain quaintly low, sometimes just 10 cents per day. But one user’s nominal is another’s exorbitant. If a child checks out 10 picture books, the kind of haul librarians love to encourage, and then his mother’s work schedule prevents her from returning them for a week past the due date, that’s $7. For middle-class patrons, that may feel like a slap on the wrist, or even a feel-good donation. For low-income users, however, it can be a prohibitively expensive penalty. With unpredictable costs hovering over each checkout, too many families decide it’s safer not to use the library at all. As one California mother told the New York Times last spring, “I try to explain to [my daughter], ‘Don’t take books out. It’s so expensive.’ ”
(3) THEOLOGICAL PROBLEMS OF THE 21ST CENTURY.
Sometimes when I use a sink in a public restroom and the motion sensor doesn't work, I worry that I died and am now a ghost.
— MichaelDamianThomas (@michaeldthomas) July 15, 2017
(4) TRUNK MUSIC. Gamera Boy posted these scans of an old Starlog article: “Details from the proposed 1977 “Star Trek II” television series from Starlog #136 (1988)”.
Wil Wheaton reblogged the scans and commented:
Some of the unused Phase II scripts were rewritten and used on TNG. They were … not good, if my memory is correct.
(5) SPACE SCHOOL. Fast Company says “Forget Starfleet Academy—Future Astronauts Will Be Trained By These Companies”:
Private space travel could be just a year away.
Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin recently released images of the spaceships it says could be ferrying paying guests to suborbital space in 2018. At the same time, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has hundreds of $250,000 deposits from people who want seats on his spacecraft, and SpaceX’s Elon Musk aims to take a pair of tourists around the moon.
As commercial spaceflights for tourists, scientists, and workers in the burgeoning space economy become more common, experts say those would-be astronauts will need training that goes well beyond earthbound airline safety briefings. Anyone venturing into space will need to know how to deal with space sickness, the effects of acceleration and weightlessness, and even the potential for hallucinations. And those going to do scientific or other work will have to be ready to use their limited time optimally—time outside the earth’s gravitational pull will cost something like $688 per second, according to Gregory Kennedy, education director at the NASTAR Center.
“The research organizations that are sponsoring their flights are going to want to make sure they’re getting their $688,” he says.
The NASTAR Center, located outside Philadelphia, is one of several commercial institutions offering spaceflight training for would-be private astronauts. Founded in 2007 by the Environmental Tectonics Corporation, which makes air and space training equipment, the center has trained more than 500 people for the rigors of spaceflight, Kennedy says. For aspiring space tourists, that includes learning how to tolerate the acceleration forces they’ll experience: “We take somebody with no prior experience and build them up to be able to withstand up to 6 Gs.”
(6) WONDER TRIBUTE. John King Tarpinian says, “I can already hear the audience applaud when she appears on screen.” ScreenRant reports: “Wonder Woman: Lynda Carter Confirms Sequel Cameo Discussions”.
Lynda Carter has confirmed she’s in talks to appear in the Wonder Woman sequel. Director Patty Jenkins has been pressing for a cameo from the actor, who suited up for the film’s starring role via her own TV series in the ’70s, since she started work on the first movie, but the timing didn’t work out. When asked by a fan on Twitter whether she’d keep trying to land Carter for the franchise’s second go-round, Jenkins replied emphatically that she would.
Both women have been vocal about their appreciation for each other’s stake in Wonder Woman: Jenkins, for Carter’s legacy, and Carter for Jenkins’ treatment of it. When Carter congratulated Jenkins et all for the movie’s staggering box office success, Jenkins responded: “Bravo you Lynda. Come on. Let’s admit what was major in starting all of this.”
Now, as focus turns to the sequel, it seems the stars may align for Wonder Woman‘s second outing. In an interview with People, Carter revealed she’d already been approached to appear in the all-but-confirmed movie
(7) SPINNING. Shirley Li, in Entertainment Weekly’s article “Marvel’s The Defenders: Sigourney Weaver says her character is an ‘adversary,’ not a ‘villain'”, tells readers that in describing her work the actress says, “I try to avoid using terms like ‘ice queen’ that are often thrown at women who aren’t completely sympathetic.”
An adversary who, as the head of an ancient organization, has faced worthy opponents before, though none quite like this super-team, says showrunner Marco Ramirez. “In her career, she’s come up against a lot of different people — armies, mercenaries, devoted religious fanatics and all kinds of different groups — who have tried to take her down, but she’s never met four people who are seemingly just interested in taking care of this one little part of New York,” Ramirez says. “I think she’s actually really charmed by it, and weirdly, because they’re unlike anybody she’s ever faced off against before, it’s intimidating to her.”
(8) ALIAS CORDWAINER SMITH & JONES? I didn’t know they knew each other.
Brilliant! How about a nod for Cordwainer Smith too? Say, 'The Game of Rat and Dragon' in the October 1955 edition? https://t.co/i2mkQDL0Tl
— CordwainerJones (@CordwainerJones) July 13, 2017
(9) CALENDRICAL JOT. Aaron Pound covers another Hugo nominee at Dreaming About Other Worlds. A long review follows the executive summary – “Review – Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee”.
Short review: Tasked with putting down a heretical rebellion within the Hexarchate that has caused calendrical rot, Kel Cheris convinces her superiors to revive the insane dead General Jedao. If that sounds kind of incomprehensible to you, be warned that reading the book only makes it a little bit clearer.
(10) BY A WHISKER. Spacefaring Kitten’s tweets about this year’s nominees are collected in “Hugos 2017, part 1” at Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens
Bolander – Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies. This is how you write engaging, energetic message fiction. Voted 1st. #HugoAward #ShortStory
— Spacefaring Kitten (@SpacefaringK) July 14, 2017
(11) WE, ROBOT. Advanced technology in real life: “When your body becomes eligible for an upgrade”.
Prof Herr is a double amputee. In 2012, I saw him move a room in London to tears when he revealed his incredibly sophisticated bionic legs that allowed him to move with natural poise and grace.
In 2014, Prof Herr’s technology meant Adrianne Haslet-Davis returned to the dancefloor, less than a year since losing a limb in the Boston marathon bombings. Her first performance after the incident brought a TED talk audience instantly to its feet.
I visited Prof Herr’s lab last week to learn more about the work is team is doing, and where it may lead. Right now, much of the research is focused on doing things the human body can do instinctively, but are extremely complex to engineer.
(12) THEY CAME RUNNING. A siren based on science: “The brain-hacking sound that’s impossible to ignore”.
In a remote and rural part of Malawi in Africa, a siren has been alerting people – and it sounds like nothing you’d recognise from a street elsewhere in the world. Strangely unlike a conventional emergency services siren, instead it is a discordant mashup of musical fragments and intermittent white noise.
“It’s like hearing music on an old transistor radio that seems to be a little bit broken,” explains American artist Jake Harper, who designed it. You can hear it at the beginning and end of the clip below, coupled with a spoken announcement.
The signal was inspired by neuroscience research on sounds that affect the emotion-processing centres of the brain.
The aim? To alert Malawi locals to HIV tests and health checks from a mobile clinic funded by the Elizabeth Taylor Aids Foundation’s (ETAF) and operated by the Global Aids Interfaith Alliance. As the medical van travels through an area, speakers on the roof broadcast these eerie tones.
(13) BEAM MY DATA UP, SCOTTY. “Sounds more like Stross’s version of an ansible,” opines Chip Hitchcock: “Teleportation: Photon particles today, humans tomorrow?”. (Or Clifford D. Simak’s system in Way Station?)
Chinese scientists say they have “teleported” a photon particle from the ground to a satellite orbiting 1,400km (870 miles) away.
For many, however, teleportation evokes something much more exotic. Is a world previously confined to science fiction now becoming reality?
Well, sort of. But we are not likely to be beaming ourselves to the office or a beach in the Bahamas anytime soon. Sorry.
How does it work?
Simply put, teleportation is transmitting the state of a thing rather than sending the thing itself.
Some physicists give the example of a fax machine – it sends information about the marks on a piece of paper rather than the paper itself. The receiving fax machine gets the information and applies it to raw material in the form of paper that is already there.
(14) FIRST NOVEL PRIZE. The longlist for 2017 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize includes several books of genre interest. (Just don’t ask me which ones.) This annual award was created in 2006 to honor the best first novel of the year. The titles below were chosen by a panel of five distinguished writers: Sonya Chung, Anne Landsman, Fiona Maazel, Rick Moody, and Kia Corthron.
- All That’s Left to Tell by Daniel Lowe (Flatiron Books)
- As Lie Is to Grin by Simeon Marsalis (Catapult)
- Empire of Glass by Kaitlin Solimine (Ig Publishing)
- Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz (Random House)
- Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Crystal King (Touchstone)
- Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Random House)
- The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachico (Spiegel & Grau)
- Marlena by Julie Buntin (Henry Holt & Co.)
- Mikhail and Margarita by Julie Lekstrom Himes (Europa Editions)
- Motherest by Kristen Iskandrian (Twelve)
- Murder on the Red River by Marcie R. Rendon (Cinco Puntos Press)
- My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (Riverhead Books)
- Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett (Tin House Books)
- The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers (Algonquin Books)
- Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar (Little, Brown)
- Spoils by Brian Van Reet (Lee Boudreaux Books)
- Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan (Restless Books)
- Tiger Pelt by Annabelle Kim (Leaf~Land LLC)
- Time’s a Thief by B. G. Firmani (Doubleday)
- What to Do About the Solomons by Bethany Ball (Atlantic Monthly Press)
- Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam (Random House)
- The World of Tomorrow by Brendan Mathews (Little, Brown)
(15) WRINKLE IN TIME. Here’s the teaser trailer for Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time, which opens in US theatres March 9, 2018.
(16) LAST JEDI FEATURETTE. The end of Star Wars: The Last Jedi Behind The Scenes may bring on a tear or two.
[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bonnie McDaniel.]
(2) POINT OF NO RETURN
The logic sounds reasonable.
(4) TRUNK MUSIC
To be fair, if they were used in series one they’d hardly have been out shined by the ones that weren’t repurposed.
(6) WONDER TRIBUTE
(11) WE, ROBOT
I found Prof Herr’s work while I was trying to track down neat disability stuff for my neat disability stuff pinterest board. Very cool tech. Much less clunky than standard prosthetics. I like that they’re looking at amputation techniques, too.
I’m not so confident about the costs plummeting, though. Most of this stuff is still absurdly expensive.
1) I bought quite a few books from Willie Siros by mail and at cons a long time ago. Made it to an Armadillocon once as well.
11) Prosthetics are improving dramatically. I always hoped I’d live to see that level of functionality developed (not that it would make a difference for me, but I know quite a few amputees).
It may take a while, but the costs will go down significantly. It’s not really a question of if but when.
I suspect we’re still talking at least a decade or two though.
After those 5 annoying movies* it is a relief even to read a John C. Wright story.
(I told my husband that Hidden Figures warmed my heart because the mathematician was portrayed as sane with a sane family life. In a Hollywood movie! However the mission control scenes were the same as any space movie ever made. If Gravity is a movie about an iPhone 5 this is a movie about an iPhone 1.)
(More gravely what I ended up thinking about was some research that was printed in the NYT that the heyday of liberalism was a time of immigration quotas. If people are not fearful that the nation will lose its character you can have enough optimism about the future to include everyone who is here already. This idea is Not Science Fiction.)
(Voting on Novella is just a lost cause, the same as last year. I am the only person to blame on that.)
3) This explains so much about my problems with automatic sinks.
Also I learned what Keble’s Christian Year was from the aforementioned story.
4jkb4ia: After those 5 annoying movies* it is a relief even to read a John C. Wright story.
What 5 annoying movies?
I find it hard to believe that any movie is worse than a JCW story. But I generally tend to avoid crap movies with blatant fanatical religious messages, sadistic “heroes”, and fetishization of sex with underaged girls.
Folks can you help me find a book? I remember it being pitched by some as a better written alternative to The Windup Girl.
I’ve hit Google and been poking through Amazon to little effect.
An hour till Hugo deadline!
Thanks for mentioning my modest contribution to the Hugo discussion, Mike!
Just posted part 2 with rest of the categories. 30 minutes to go!
2, 6, 10 – yay!
15 – I can’t wait to see this.
Yesterday, we had a soap bubble picnic making 5 feet tall soap bubbles. Some people really got into it. Me, I did loud readings from Jerome K. Jerome’s “Three Men In A Boat” for those who needed a break.
Yesterday, I managed at last to compile a list of my favourite 100 comics. Now I to think of that to do with it. I will have to try to find the english names of some of the comics – if they even have english names. It wasn’t really what I expected when finished, but I think I’m kind of happy with it.
1) I was just reading some Armadillocon reminiscences. We just watched the excellent second season of the Hap and Leonard tv show, and I bought Hap and Leonard Ride Again. In it, mystery writer Bill Crider talks about meeting Joe Lansdale at an Armadillocon when they were both starting out, and hanging out together at the con every year thereafter.
I will remember Willie Siros fondly forever, because one night at a Bouchercon room party he said one of the funniest lines I have ever heard. The topic of discussion was a fan who had decided to try and earn a little extra money by making and selling art, a talent we didn’t know he had. “But,” someone said, “if he’s doing it for the money, why is it all fish? Wouldn’t he sell more if it was naked ladies?” To which Willie drawled, “He’s seen a fish.”
(6) WONDER TRIBUTE
The “respectful tribute cameo” seems to be its own little sub-genre nowadays. The clever Stan Lee cameos in Marvel movies, for example, or the original Ghostbusters getting nice little moments in the remakes.
(12) THEY CAME RUNNING
A while ago in the UK they added a sort of discordant honking noise to sirens to aid in direction finding – it sounds rather odd but it is easier to tell where the sound is coming from. The start of that sounds seems to be designed with the same thing in mind, while the end just puts me in mind of ice cream vans.
After the Iron Fist debacle I’m feeling less confident about The Defenders, but Sigourney Weaver is pretty much worth the price of admission on her own, so there’s that.
We are the ones being haunted by the ghosts of automatic sinks.
Worldcon’s twitter just announced that there were 3,319 Hugo ballots cast this year, which is apparently he third highest total ever.
But remember, the Hugos are dying without the Pups.
Aaron: Worldcon’s twitter just announced that there were 3,319 Hugo ballots cast this year, which is apparently he third highest total ever.
Yep, the two highest are:
Sasquan: 5,950 voting – 11,742 total members
Loncon 3: 3,587 voting – 10,718 total members
Today is my last day at my first Readercon, and I’ve been enjoying it very much! We shall see if attending this small local con makes me feel like I could possibly go to Worldcon in San Jose. I don’t know, it might be overwhelming. But this has been very good, with interesting panels, and the Kaffeeklatches are wonderful!
Also, the dealers room is v. tempting. I have lists.
Well, EPH so far has been a rousing success. Everything from the non-Puppy side of the aisle had a very strong story. I have taken the Stix Hiscock thing and put it in the trash. I entirely screwed up in not voting for CIG who showed “Arrival” how it should be done and has never won.
JJ: The 5 Hugo nominees. They were not worse exactly. I think my point is that, even with all these bad qualities, a JCW story is hyperliterate and you don’t perceive the effort of getting SF onto a big screen. Even the Star Trek people took a couple of tries to get it right. Also I posted that comment on about page 3 before I saw him use “micro-aggression” in a totally gratuitous sneering manner.
For a JCW story the blatant Catholic propaganda is a given. This is why I dread reading them. If there is an actual SF idea in there I will be generous and put him above No Award.
I confess that, although I had previously decided not to, I tried to read the JCW Hugo nominated story. It felt like hyper-Gene Wolfe in its word choices, but magnitudes of quality below Wolfe.
(although, sidebar, that reminds me of a quote that went around from the second New Sun series involving Severian and a lover that was a big NOPE this time around)
I was glad there was relatively little Puppy Poo, it made voting an actual set of decisions rather than a exercise of shoving much of the ballot below No Award.
4) “Practice in Waking” sounds like it might have been a ur-inspiration for one of my favorite TNG episodes, “The Inner Light”.
“Devil’s Due” kinda reminds me of another TNG episode whose name is not immediately coming to me, but the “thousand years and a demonic being to whom a planet sold their souls is coming back” motif sounds familiar. She was a fake in the TNG episode though.
No offense meant, but I’m having difficulty following your point(s).
I take it you’re not impressed with the SF qualities of the movies? In some ways that’s a fair point – it’s rare that a movie can out-SF a written work, simply because two hours of screen time conveys less than your average book can. I thought that in BDP-short “San Junipero” was excellent for TV but would have been quite average as a short story.
However, I don’t usually try to compare movies to books – movies have to deliver their visuals first and foremost, and even a low-budget affair is risking far more money than a book would be, and is accordingly risk-averse.
@Paul Weimer: It was called “The Devil’s Due” in TNG – the fake demon was called “Ardra” though (http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Devil%27s_Due_(episode) )
@Paul Weimer – The TNG episode was called, well, “Devil’s Due.” “The Child” (where Deanna gets space pregnant) was the other repurposed P2-to-TNG script.
There’s an excellent book called Phase II: The Lost Series that includes full synopses and even some scripts for most of the planned episodes, along with concept art, set pictures, and the whole behind-the-scenes story of how it didn’t happen. Several of the episodes seem like rehashes of more successful TOS episodes, like “Tomorrow and the Stars” vs “City on the Edge of Forever.”
The 5 Hugo nominees.
There were six nominees in the category.
Important sporting news: Federer is a set up in the Wimbledon men’s final. The sooner he wins the sooner we get the nuWho announcement 🙂
(Personally I think Wimbledon and Dr Who are a great combination – they both have a track-record of switching the nation’s affections from plucky English characters to ruthless Scots)
@Mark and watching my twitter feed analyze the final and trying to figure out when it might be over is hilarious.
I do hope that the next Doctor is NOT a white dude again, but I am not sanguine about the chances of that.
Yeah, there are a few Who fans getting rapidly educated in how tennis scoring works!
A bit earlier one of the players needed medical attention – cue lots of “Dr on the court” jokes.
@3 with automatic faucets, I always feel like an incompetent magician. “Maybe if I move my hands THIS way…? No? How about holding my fingers like THIS….?”
And now a local movie theater has installed combination water/soap/air dry things over each sink, and working out the spell for one frequently (for me) results in (say) getting soap when I’m trying to dry my hands….
Meredith Moment: Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s fantasy anthology (and World Fantasy Award winner) Silver Birch, Blood Moon is available for $1.99 at the usual outlets.
Jodie Whittaker is the 13’th doctor.
Jodie Whittaker, very interesting indeed.
ETA: The TV spot is linked from this tweet
Still not ginger.
Shouldn’t we wait to see the longlist before we decide how much of a success EPH has been? (I realise it has a deterrent effect, quite apart from its mathematical effect: but we still need to know the mathematical effect – including whether it helped some slate nominees, which it can do – to assess its overall value.)
Aaron: But one of them was not a movie.
New Doctor. Whoa. I didn’t think they’d go for a woman. So happy they have.
I’ll definitely watch Dr. Jodie. And I still have to watch Capaldi’s current season — I’m holding out in hopes they’ll release a single Blu-ray set of the entire season & specials, etc.
Has anyone been watching Class?
Not entirely book-related, but sparked by Saladin Ahmed’s tweet about Aladdin actually being set in China in the original version, I went poking around online and finally was able to track down the identity of a set of gorgeously-illustrated fairy tale books that my grandmother owned when I was young — the McCall’s Storytime Treasury series. Here’s a link to the cover of the volume with Aladdin in it (which Aladdin was definitely Chinese-flavored, which is what brought the books to mind).
I watched the first two episodes of Class and I’m afraid it pretty much entirely failed to capture my interest.
Class never really came together for me, although it was almost worth it just for the character of Quill.
Mind you, as a spin-off set in a school with a bunch of teens it may not have been aimed at me anyway.
Jack: I saw the same thing in Paul’s post.
(14) Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders is definitely “of genre interest”. It was reviewed in various high profile places. I read it and liked it. I don’t recognize any of the other titles.
Yes, it was good in places and had some solid characters but it didn’t know how to square its ambitions with its budget, setting or running time.
I thought Class was kind of an odd mix of Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood – a young, diverse teen cast, with a dose of sexual attraction between them which recognizes that teens aren’t eunuchs. I do like that we’re seeing some pretty big wheels in motion, and the kids are mostly unaware of it… really captures that “entering a bigger, more complex world” feeling that nicely parallels adolescence.
Nice to see a female Doctor. Still wish it’d been Tatiana Maslany, though. 😉
One unrelated-to-anything Hugo observation: I’m a bit worried that three finalists (Paper Girls, Stranger Things and ‘San Junipero’) present a period within my own adult life as the Olden Days for which one should feel nostalgia.
I’m fed up with (a large part of) con-going fandom. I’d join the puppies if I weren’t a Marxist.
@Andrew M – I too noticed that 1980s nostalgia very much ruled the Hugos: In addition to what you mentioned, we also had two further installments of 1980s franchises (Ghostbusters and Star Wars). I feel like there’s something else I’m forgetting.
I liked a lot about Class – the fact that the very different characters thrust together by an adventure 1) didn’t bond as a group for a good long time and, 2) had substantial trauma from their first adventure which persisted through the later episodes, but I may be too much past the high school demographic to really click with the show.
Just back from Spider-Man Homecoming, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Genuinely funny and warm hearted, with a great villain turn by Michael Keaton.
Was biting my hand to stop laughter in a quite quiet theatre more than once. The second stinger is genius.