Pixel Scroll 9/23/19 But That Was Very Long Ago, And Oh, So Far Away

(1) A MATTER OF RESPECT. Edmund Schluessel has returned from Fantasticon 2019, in Copenhagen, Denmark with a burden: “I attended as a Special Guest this weekend in Copenhagen. There has been discussion within the Nordic countries’ fan community about the event’s poster and some other issues of insensitivity and I discuss those here.” — “Saints and people who do not think like us (Fantasticon 2019)”.

…Nisi [Shawl] was talking about altruism. They talked about being a saint. They talked about sacrifice, even putting yourself in harm’s way to protect someone who would do harm to you. 

The Chair gave an impromptu speech just afterward. The poster was excellent, he told us all, and complaints about it all came from “people who do not think like us.”

Then started the filk sing-a-long. Only quick action by an observant program participant kept the projector screen from telling the whole banquet room that we’d be singing along to the tune of “The Darkies’ Sunday School.” That quick action did not prevent the flippant reference to rape in the lyrics. “It was like something from the ’70s,” that quick intervenor said later.

Why am I amped up to 11 about all this? At a fundamental level, fandom is about storytelling. And something I’ve seen in every single fan community I’ve interacted with, going back something like 25 years now, is that the story fandom always tells best is when it’s telling itself “we are tolerant, we are open, we accept everyone.” Too often that story is a myth.

The Afrofuturist authors whose work and ideas this convention we’re supposed to be celebrating — if we won’t listen to their message, are they “people who do not think like us”? The convention members who saw something wrong with the poster, whether or not they could clearly articulate it — are they not part of “us”? Am I not part of “us”? You put my name on the damned poster!

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Where do you go for a Javanese dinner? For Lisa Tuttle and interviewer Scott Edelman the answer was: Dublin. Join them in Episode 105 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Lisa Tuttle

My guest this time around is the award-winning writer Lisa Tuttle, who I caught up with one night after she was done with a 7:30 p.m. reading, which meant that by the time we began our meal it was a later than usual dinner (for me, at least). We hopped in a cab and took off for at Chameleon, an Indonesian restaurant I’d found via Eater’s list of 38 essential Dublin restaurants. The restaurant offers set menus from various regions, including Sumatra and Bali. We decided to go with Java, but added to that some pork bell bao, and the 10-hour Javanese anise short rib of beef, a signature dish of theirs which turned out to be my favorite thing eaten all weekend.

Lisa and I both had wonderful experiences 45 years ago at the 1974 Worldcon in Washington, D.C., me because it was my first Worldcon, she because of winning the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. She’s accomplished a lot in the 4-1/2 decades since, including being awarded the 1982 Nebula for Best Short Story for “The Bone Flute.” She’s published seven short story collections, starting with A Nest of Nightmares in 1986 and most recently Objects in Dream in 2012, plus more than a dozen novels, the first of which was Windhaven (1981), written in collaboration with George R. R. Martin, who was my guest back in Episode 43. She was nominated for an Arthur C. Clarke award for her novel Lost Futures. She edited the pivotal anthology Skin of the Soul: New Horror Stories by Women (1990) as well as Crossing the Border: Tales of Erotic Ambiguity (1998).

We discussed the amusing series of mishaps which prevented her from learning she’d won the 1974 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best New Writer as early as she should have, the first thing Harlan Ellison ever said to her, how the all-male table of contents for a major horror anthology inspired her to edit her classic female horror anthology Skin of the Soul, the way emigrating from the U.S. to the UK affected her writing, why an editor said of one of her submitted novels, “I love this book, but I could no more publish it than I could jump out the window and fly,” how she and George R. R. Martin were able to collaborate early in their careers without killing each other, what she’d do if she were just starting out now as a writer, the reasons contemporary acknowledgements sections of novels should be shortened — and so much more.

(3) SPEED IS OF THE ESSENCE. He likes to get paid, too — “Chuck Yeager sues Airbus for writing ‘Yeager broke the sound barrier’” at Ars Technica.

In 2017, Airbus published a promotional article promoting an Airbus helicopter.

“Seventy years ago, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier,” said Guillaume Faury, CEO of Airbus Helicopters. “We’re trying to break the cost barrier. It cannot be ‘speed at any cost.'”

The 96-year-old Yeager wasn’t happy. Last week, he filed a lawsuit in federal court, arguing that Airbus had infringed his rights by using his name without permission.

“By using Yeager’s name, identity, and likeness and federal registered trademarks in the infringing material, Airbus impaired the ability of General Yeager to receive his established earning potential,” Yeager’s lawyers wrote.

Yeager says that he visited Airbus in 2008 and told Airbus it would cost at least $1 million to use his name and likeness in promotional materials. Airbus refused his offer.

(4) VISUAL CONREPORT. Roberto Quaglia shares some great views in his video “Glimpses of an Irish Worldcon – Dublin 2019.”

(5) HARD SF. Here’s Rocket Stack Rank’s annual “Outstanding Hard Science Fiction of 2018” with 27 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

(6) NOT ALL TROLLS. “Neil Gaiman On The Good Kind of Trolls”  at Literary Hub is his introduction to The Complete and Original Norwegian Folk Tales of Asbjørnsen and Moe in which Gaiman discusses his love of Norway and Norwegian folklore.

You will meet youngest sons and foolish farmers, clever women and lost princesses, adventurers and fools, just as in any collection of folk stories from anywhere in Northern Europe. But the Norwegian Folktales come with trolls, and if Asbjørnsen and Moe did not see them, as Kittelsen did, then they got their stories from people who had, people who had seen the trolls walking in the mist at dawn.

(7) EMMY REMEMBRANCES. The 2019 Primetime Emmys included an Memoriam segment. Some of the names of genre interest: Jan-Michael Vincent, James Frawley, Ron Miller, Cameron Boyce, Rutger Hauer, Stan Lee, and Rip Torn.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 23, 1846 — Planet Neptune was discovered.
  • September 23, 1962 The Jetsons debuted its very first episode, “Rosey the Robot”. The series which was produced by Hanna-Barbera would run for three seasons.
  • September 23, 1968 Charly was released, starring Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom. Based on “Flowers for Algernon” which is a sf short story and a novel by Daniel Keyes. The short story, written in 1958 and first published in the April 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1960. The novel was published in 1966 and was joint winner of that year’s Nebula Award for Best Novel with Samuel R. Delany’s Babel-17

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 23, 1897 Walter Pidgeon. He’s mostly remembered for his role in the classic Forbidden Planet as Dr. Morbius, but he’s done some other genre work being in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Adm. Harriman Nelson, and in The Neptune Factor as Dr. Samuel Andrews. (Died 1984.)
  • Born September 23, 1908 Wilmar House Shiras. Her story “In Hiding” was submitted in 1948 to Astounding Science Fiction, where it was published. She published two sequels in the magazine: “Opening Doors”, and “New Foundations”. The three stories would become the first three chapters in the novel, Children of the Atom. Other than a handful of short fiction, I think it’s her only work. Neither iBooks or Kindle carry anything by her. (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 23, 1920 Richard Wilson. Not a writer of much genre fiction at all. His really major contribution to fandom and to Syracuse University where he worked as the director of the Syracuse University News Bureau was in successfully recruiting the donation of papers from many prominent science fiction writers to the Syracuse University’s George Arents Research Library.  The list of those writers includes Piers Anthony, Hal Clement, Keith Laumer, Larry Niven and Frederik Pohl. And, of course, himself. It has been called the “most important collection of science fiction manuscripts and papers in the world.” (Died 1987.)
  • Born September 23, 1944 Anne Randall, 75. She was Daphne, a servant girl in the original Westworld which if memory serves me correctly also had Yul Brynner in it. She’ll show also in Night Gallery  in the “Tell David” episode as Julie. 
  • Born September 23, 1956 Peter David, 63. Did you know that his first assignment for the Philadelphia Bulletin was covering Discon II? I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Legions of Fire, Book 1—The Long Night of Centauri Prime but he’s also done a number of comics I’ve read including runs of Captain Marvel , Wolverine and Young Justice.
  • Born September 23, 1959 Frank Cottrell-Boyce, 60. Definitely not here for his sequels to Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. (Horrors!) He is here for such writing endeavors as Goodbye Christopher Robin, his Doctor Who stories, “In the Forest of the Night” and “Smile”, both Twelfth Doctor affairs, and the animated Captain Star series in which he voiced Captain Jim Star. The series sounds like the absolute antithesis of classic Trek
  • Born September 23, 1963 Alexander Proyas, 56. Australian director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known for directing The Crow (which is superb), Dark City, I, Robot  (nor so superb) and Gods of Egypt. His first, shot in Australia of course, was Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds. It’s genre. Has anyone seen it? 
  • Born September 23, 1957 Rosalind Chao, 61. She was the recurring character of Keiko O’Brien with a total of twenty-seven appearances on Next Generation and  Deep Space Nine. In 2010, a preliminary casting memo for Next Gen from 1987 was published, revealing that Chao was originally considered for the part of Enterprise security chief Tasha Yar.

(10) BURNING COLD. The second official trailer for Frozen 2 dropped today.

(11) FLASH GORDON. Film School Rejects thinks this movie has lessons to teach today’s creators despite its reputation: “What Today’s Sci-Fi Should Learn from ‘Flash Gordon'”.

Take, for example, the 2017 flop Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Luc Besson’s film, which is itself based on comics originating in the 1960s, spends way too much time explaining stuff that never becomes relevant. The eponymous City of a Thousand Planets is a space station broken down into multiple districts, as the exposition explains, but the action of the film barely takes place in any of them.

Flash Gordon, meanwhile, understands that drama is built between characters and then focuses on them. Everyone in the movie, from Flash to Ming to Flash’s larger-than-life ally Prince Vultan, has their own distinct wants, and the story emerges from these characters interacting and trying to reconcile these wants. This movie gets at the humanity behind these characters, even if they happen to be aliens

(12) ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. Pursuing a thought experiment inspired by a list of 21st Century books, Peace Is My Middle Name started a hypothetical list of “100 best books of the Twentieth Century” as if it had been compiled in 1919. Their titles are in a comment and ought to have been mentioned yesterday, except the comment landed in the spam and wasn’t spotted for hours. Well worth your time.

(13) FOR YOUR EARS. Several episodes of a reading of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments are available for listening at the BBC.

In this brilliant and long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalised readers for decades. In The Testaments, set fifteen years after the events of her dystopian masterpiece, the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. Now the testimonies of three different women bring the story to a dramatic conclusion. Today we hear from the infamous Aunt Lydia, and Agnes, a young girl who has only known life in Gilead.

(14) NOT ARISTOTLE. “Euclid space telescope to study ‘dark Universe’ makes progress” – BBC has the story.

Europe’s space mission to uncover the secrets of the “dark Universe” has reached a key milestone.

The test model of the Euclid telescope has just emerged from a chamber where it was subjected to the kind of conditions experienced in orbit.

It was a critical moment for engineers because the successful trial confirms the observatory’s design is on track.

Euclid, due for launch in 2022, will map the cosmos for clues to the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

These phenomena appear to control the shape and expansion of the Universe but virtually nothing is known about them.

The €800m venture, led by the European Space Agency (Esa), will be one of a group of new experiments to come online in the next few years.

Scientists are hopeful these next-generation technologies will provide the insights that have so far eluded them.

(15) ATARI 2600. BBC fathoms “The mysterious origins of an uncrackable video game”.

With the digital equivalent of trowels and shovels, archaeologists are digging into the code of early video games to uncover long forgotten secrets that could have relevance today.

“You and your team of archaeologists have fallen into the ‘catacombs of the zombies’.” A miserable situation, to be sure. But this was the chilling trial that faced players of Entombed, an Atari 2600 game, according to the instruction manual.

The catacombs were an unforgiving place. A downward-scrolling, two-dimensional maze that players had to navigate expertly in order to evade the “clammy, deadly grip” of their zombie foes. An archaeologist’s nightmare.

Released in 1982, Entombed was far from a best-seller and today it’s largely forgotten. But recently, a computer scientist and a digital archaeologist decided to pull apart the game’s source code to investigate how it was made.

…Like intrepid explorers of catacombs, Aycock and Copplestone sought curious relics inside Entombed. But they got more than they bargained for: they found a mystery bit of code they couldn’t explain. It seems the logic behind it has been lost forever.

Into the labyrinth

Maze-navigating games were very common back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but the method used to generate a maze varied, depending on the programmer. In the age of Atari, games had to be designed with incredible skill because the computer systems that ran them were so limited. (Read more about the mind of a maze-builder.)

Although the blocky, two dimensional mazes from entombed might look simple by the standards of today’s computer graphics, in 1982 you couldn’t just design a set of mazes, store them in the game and later display them on-screen – there wasn’t enough memory on the game cartridges for something like that. In many cases, mazes were generated “procedurally” – in other words, the game created them randomly on the fly, so players never actually traversed the same maze twice.

But how do you do get a computer program to avoid churning out a useless maze with too many walls, or an otherwise impenetrable floorplan?

(16) SNOWPIERCER BACKSTORY. On September 24, Titan Comics will release Snowpiercer The Prequel: Part 1: Extinction, a brand-new prequel graphic novel set before the extinction incident that led to the events of the original Snowpiercer graphic novel trilogy. It’s written by Matz (Triggerman, The Assignment), with art by the original Snowpiercer graphic novel artist Jean-Marc Rochette, shown in this promotional video creating an iconic scene from the book.

[Thanks to bill, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Edmund Schluessel , Eric Wong, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

77 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/23/19 But That Was Very Long Ago, And Oh, So Far Away

  1. Hmm, could not edit my previous comment as I normally do to add more.

    16) I do wonder how this forthcoming TV series is going to link up to all of this, if at all.

    11) They do have a point. Flash is just plain more FUN to watch, too. Everyone has their goals, plans, agendas, strengths, weaknesses and character growth. (even Ming, who does try to recruit Flash, which was an interesting bit)

  2. Sacrificial fourth.
    And then there was Flesh Gordon. Also fun, for slightly different reasons.
    Editing problem seems to be resolved.

  3. (15) Code they can’t figure out? That sounds interesting. (One way to figure out whats going on is to step through the game, one instruction at a time. It’s tedious, though. And it’s possible that the code is self-modifying: what it looks like when it starts isn’t what it looks like when it’s running.)

    ETA: Actual Fifth!

  4. (1) A MATTER OF RESPECT.

    That poster makes me want to cry.

    I don’t think the poster image should be included in this Pixel Scroll, giving it yet more bandwidth. But I defer to POC and would prefer to hear from them whether they feel it’s better not to publish the image yet again, or whether they feel it’s better to show people that things like this are still happening in fandom, so that everyone understands just how bad it is. 😥

  5. PJ: have you read the article?
    It’s really fascinating – and rather funny:

    The fundamental logic that determines the next square is locked in a table of possible values written into the game’s code. Depending on the values of the five-square tile, the table tells the game to deposit either wall, no wall or a random choice between the two.
    It seems straightforward, but the thing is, no-one can work out how the table was made.

    The best guess the pair have is that the programmer behind the maze algorithm must have manually fine-tuned the table values until the game worked as desired, but that still doesn’t really explain the logic behind it.
    During their research, Aycock and Copplestone were able to interview one of the people involved in the game’s production, Steve Sidley.
    He too remembered being confused by the table at the time. “I couldn’t unscramble it,” he told the researchers. And he claimed it had been the work of a programmer who developed it while not entirely sober: “He told me it came upon him when he was drunk and whacked out of his brain.” Aycock tried to contact the programmer in question but got no response.

    BTW, iff you’re interested in early videogames, I strongly recommend the book Racing the Beam. The technical limitations those coders had to deal with seem mind-boggling in today’s environment.

  6. @Lis Riba
    Sounds like something a programmer would do. “Tweak it till it works” isn’t strange, but getting the answer while drunk/high is a bit odd.

  7. JJ: Here were my considerations. (1) Edmund Schluessel wrote a blog post criticizing the poster — but included the image twice in his post. I infer he wanted people to know what was under discussion. So did I. (2) The guests of honor did not consider the poster a deal-breaker. They attended. (They may have found it offensive, just the same.) (3) Schluessel says he raised the issue beforehand. I haven’t found any comments about it by the other guests (if I had, I would have factored them in). (4) There was also a racist filksong sung after Nisi Shawl’s GOH talk, he says. That was over the line for anything I wanted to quote directly.

  8. @P J Evans: Getting the right answer when one is just a bit too tired to remember clearly later how one got the right answer sounds much more familiar.

  9. @Andrew
    I remember trying to figure out how a PL/1 function (I think it was “Lower(array)”) worked based on the description and examples in the manual. I got it to work for that program, but I don’t think I could do it again. (It’s been a long, long time.)

  10. (9) And also a non-genre shout-out to The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, who turned 70 today. I remember like it was yesterday when his first album, “Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey” was released at the beginning of 1973.

  11. 9) Birthdays:
    I’ve been told (I haven’t verified it for myself) that the author of Children of the Atom was actually named “Wilma”, and that “Wilmar” was a pen name intended to make it less obvious that the author was female.

  12. 3) huh.

    5) I found that “bubble and squeak” read extremely dated, felt like it could have been written 40 years ago, but clearly others mileage varied.

  13. I’ve been told (I haven’t verified it for myself) that the author of Children of the Atom was actually named “Wilma”, and that “Wilmar” was a pen name intended to make it less obvious that the author was female.

    Her legal name, as it appeared in the US Census, was Wilmar, even before she sold her first story under that name.

  14. (1) I know the chair of the con, and consider him a friend and one of the more sensible people in the old guard of Danish fandom. But even I (with not so good cultural sensitivity in practice) found something off with the poster, and I think it might have contributed to my decision to not go there this year.

    I’m fairly sure there were other factors contributing to the drop in memberships than the poster. But it sure didn’t help.

    @JJ: As far as I can tell from Edmund’s writeup, it was the tune that was associated with a racist song, not the lyrics that were presented at-con.

  15. 11) I have seen the “modern” Flash Gordon film (and by that I mean the 1980 one, I didn’t even know there was a 2007 one). And my memory is that it is essentially made of delicious cheese. I’ve also seen a few of the old serials, and they are… entertaining, but not very filling (but, does have scenes like Flash shoveling radium into the atomic furnace, which is clearly hilarious to modern sensibilities).

    I have not seen (fully) Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. I started watching it on telly and, well, it’s pretty. It is very pretty. It’s a Luc Besson film, so “very pretty” is expected. It has, however, no substance. And I could not find myself caring about anything that was happening on the screen in front of me. So after ~30 minutes, I decided I had better things to do.

  16. Ingvar: And my memory is that [the 1980 Flash Gordon film] is essentially made of delicious cheese.

    Such delicious, delicious cheese. 😀

    FLASH! Aaaaa-ahhhhh!

  17. The impression I have of Besson is that when he makes a good film, it’s pretty much completely by accident. I mean, I love The Fifth Element, but my gods that movie is a total mess! 🙂

  18. I was about to say that of Besson’s films taht I liked, the ones that really stood out were…

    Turns out, Amelié and The City of Lost Children were actually NOT by Besson, but by Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

    I gues sthat leaves La Femme Nikita, Léon, and The Fifth Element as quite good. I know I’ve seen Subway, but it’s sufficiently long ago that I honestly don’t remember much more than that.

  19. I liked Besson’s The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec and The Big Blue too.

  20. 15) Very cool. I remember reading about functional maze descriptions back in the early 80s in some computer mag or other. I implemented a fairly trivial one based on random numbers (if rnd() > threshold cell = blocked else cell = open) for my own amusement. But there was certainly no guarantee of generating a solvable maze.

    The description says the maze was downward scrolling. I wonder if that means the five cells used to generate the status of the sixth are those to the left, right, forward-left, forward and forward-right of the cell under consideration? If the player isn’t allowed to move backwards, then it seems like it would be possible to come up with an algorithm where there’s always a valid move forwards by examining the neighbours (sort of reminds me of Conway’s Game Of Life). Otherwise, I can’t imagine that ‘tweak it till it works’ would be sufficient: how could you every be sure that it will always work? Once you put a game into the hands of players, it gets very many hours of testing and even the most obscure corner cases will occur.

  21. Meredith Moment: The latest novel in Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s time travel series, Hope for the Best, is on sale at Amazon US for $.99 (not sure about other vendors).

  22. Cliff on September 24, 2019 at 2:57 am said:

    15) Very cool. I remember reading about functional maze descriptions back in the early 80s in some computer mag or other. I implemented a fairly trivial one based on random numbers (if rnd() > threshold cell = blocked else cell = open) for my own amusement. But there was certainly no guarantee of generating a solvable maze.

    The description says the maze was downward scrolling. I wonder if that means the five cells used to generate the status of the sixth are those to the left, right, forward-left, forward and forward-right of the cell under consideration?

    That was bugging me also but if they meant a cross-shape + why not just say that? Why compare it to a Tetris shape? The phrasing implied to me that the algorithm was looking at different pentominoes.

    tl;dr I just really want to see this weird maze algorithm now.

  23. Camestros Felapton: I just really want to see this weird maze algorithm now.

    I know! The developer in me is going, “What do you mean, you can’t reverse-engineer that table? Let me at it!!!” even though I know that the people who’ve looked at it are far more qualified to figure it out than I am.

    It would be cool if they published the table, and had a contest to see if anyone could figure out the solution as to how it was developed.

  24. @Karl-Johan “@JJ: As far as I can tell from Edmund’s writeup, it was the tune that was associated with a racist song, not the lyrics that were presented at-con.”

    That’s correct. But the name of the tune was included in print, quite casually. At a con intended to honour authors of colour.

  25. Also, what Cliff’s described there is an inverted U-shape, not a cross-shape.

    dammit, can’t get the ASCII to code properly.

  26. 15) Telengard was another early algorithmically-generated-maze game. It used a pseudo-random number generator to make and populate a 50x50x50 maze, though the algorithm could work for any arbitrary size of game. I played the heck out of Telengard, back in the day. Amazing what you can get out of 4k of code when you really need to.

  27. Ingvar:

    Do try The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec. It has a weird Matinee feel to it, like Mary Poppins with dinosaurs and mummies. Quite different from the comic book that is kind of grim (but still very good).

  28. The developer in me is going, “What do you mean, you can’t reverse-engineer that table? Let me at it!!!”

    You’re in luck.
    There’s a copy of the table, along with further details in their academic paper
    Enjoy!

  29. @JJ – thanks, yes, that’s what I was trying to describe. Although I clearly wasn’t thinking straight, because I was imagining cells would be generated as the maze scrolled down towards the player, which mean generating a cell behind an already chosen cell wouldn’t make sense. So perhaps an ordinarily oriented U would work better? Not that I’ve figured out the rules or anything.

    @John – Telengard looks awesome! I remember typing in a listing from another computer mag that was a little like that. And the algorithm you linked is very much like the one I mentioned earlier. I’d forgotten the detail of the seed being generated from coordinates, meaning the maze was deterministic.

  30. Oh now, Lis, that’s just cruel, I have to go in to work. 😉

    But thanks for pointing that out, maybe I will take a look at it this weekend.

  31. Here’s a rough attempt at the shape (hoping the comment will monospace properly):
       [c][d][e]
    [a][b] X

    If that didn’t come through, this is the description in the paper:

    The way each bit is chosen is shown in Figure 6. For each bit X that represents a piece of maze wall, from left to right, five bits of wall context are extracted, the two immediately to the left of X (a and b), and the three above X (c, d, and e). Initially, a…c would be located in the omnipresent left-hand wall, and the algorithm initializes them to a = 1, b = 0, and c to a bit drawn from the pseudo-random number generator we examine in the next section. For the eighth bit generated, e would be across the line of vertical symmetry and provide the same information as d, and e is instead set to another pseudo-random bit for this final step.

  32. Another Meredith Moment: Suzanne Palmer’s Finder is available for $1.99 at Amazon and iBooks (and perhaps more). BookBub included a nice blurb from Elizabeth Bear, which is why I am interested.

  33. @1: the chair was quite right that complaints were from people who “do not think like us”; unfortunately, I don’t think he meant that said people were thinking even as well as he thought he was. There’s also the fact that going to SF conventions (let alone putting them on) is for most people a way of running into people who don’t think as one does; otherwise why not just stay at home, wanking in an Internet echo chamber?

    @3: I can see Yeager getting away with copyrighting his image, but I wonder what the law would say about him trying to copyright a historical fact.

    @P J Evans: stepping through shows what, but not why. (My reaction to some of the code I worked with varied between “What were they thinking?” and “What — were they thinking?”) It’s especially hard to fathom when the results vary, as here; for that matter, I wouldn’t assume that stepping through would get the same results, even if only one process was involved. (I once had to debug an issue that involved two processes getting at cross-purposes; of course the bug disappeared when I slowed them down enough to step through.)

    @P J Evans (later): getting the answer while drunk/high is a bit odd. For a complete program, yes. For a flash of insight, no; I can see altering the mental state being a way of ignoring the frames one has put around a problem. (@Andrew has another side of this — I was thinking of (e.g.) Kekule coming up with the structure of benzene.)

    @OGH: nit — I’m not sure the cited title can be called a filksong, any more than (e.g.) the original version of “That Old-Time Religion”. (Yes, there’s an original version; my chorus was paid to sing it, as IIRC you indirectly noted in an early issue. The director/scriptwriter/… had the sense not to ask us to sing it in dialect.) I do not understand why someone thought that poster was a good idea, considering (e.g.) how light it is on the “futurism” part of the theme; I also wonder whether the guests first saw it when they showed up.

    @Karl-Johan Norén: I wonder how many of the “old guard” you know were part of the troupe that made such fools of themselves at the Worldcon 40 years ago. To be fair: what I heard, and saw at the Masquerade, was general foolishness rather than racial blindness, and was suggested by some people to be caused as much by cheap beer (by Danish standards — locals were fuming about hotel prices) as by permanent wedgedness. But I wonder.

  34. (1) Given the theme of Afrofuturism, the art and design of the poster seems reasonable to me. I didn’t get African-as-savage at all. They’re wearing cool sunglasses and standing in front of a futuristic city. Kind of a Black Panther vibe.

  35. @Johan Anglemark: Yeah, it was clearly bad enough in what they did, but at least the lyrics they put up weren’t racist, I hope?

    I did a quick research, and it seems that there is one filk song to that tune, named “Contata Contabile” and starting “Filk fen, fake fen, neo fen and all”. Was it that one? (I note that my songbook with it includes two names for the tune: “Darkies Sunday School” and “The Hartlepool Monkey”)

    @Chip: See above regarding the filk song.

    If it is Seacon ’79 you’re thinking of, then it wasn’t Danish fans who made fools of themselves as far as I know—it was some of the “up-and-coming” Swedish ones! I’m not sure the chair of this con was there, but I know and have chatted with at least one of the Danish fans who were there, and how unhappy they were. But it’s water long under the brigde now…

  36. @Chip
    The summary of the paper Lis Riba referenced, at arkiv, has a mention of “intoxicant-fueled” sessions. (Mine would have been lack of sleep.)

  37. Chip Hitchcock: “I’m not sure the cited title can be called a filksong,”

    Edmund Schluessel described the performance as a “filk sing-a-long” — perhaps you were not more precise in picking your nit for the same reason I left it at “filksong”, because greater precision would have led to quoting the original, objectionable title of the song.

  38. All right, Johan/Karl-Johan have sorted what I should have said.

    @Karl-Johan “@JJ: As far as I can tell from Edmund’s writeup, it was the tune that was associated with a racist song, not the lyrics that were presented at-con.”
    That’s correct. But the name of the tune was included in print, quite casually. At a con intended to honour authors of colour.

  39. One of my favorite youth reads was the Mad Scientists Club, a four-book series that I loved dearly. It featured a group of young proto-engineers pulling all sorts of stunts on their community with technology (radios & such):

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mad_Scientists%27_Club

    I didn’t really read YA science fiction, I was a very precocious reader and I just started in on the adult stuff.

  40. @8: Today in History:

    “The Jetsons” was a very cool show for six-year-old me when it had its first and only prime-time season in 1962-63. By the time new episodes were produced for syndication in the 1980’s, I’ll admit my enthusiasm had cooled a bit, but I still regarded it with affection. I think the flying cars, moving sidewalks and big-screen picture phones became the shared cartoon vision of a future America for a lot of us. I remember a Jetsons children’s record in which the cast sings that they’re “a typical family of the 21st century” (you can hear it on YouTube!). Now that we’re firmly in the 21st century, I guess the Jetsons prediction may be open to a critique, but it was a nice prediction at the time.

  41. On the Jetsons: the Violent Femmes did an awesome version of Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah on a 1995 cartoon music compilation called Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits.

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