Snapshots 122 Hadrian’s Wall Started

Here are 10 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Baltimore bookstores are adding booze and food says Publishers Weekly. Mencken would have approved.

For Benn Ray, co-owner with Rachel Whang of 21 year-old Atomic Books, adding beer just made sense. When the space next door occupied by doubledutch boutique opened up in May, they nabbed it and more than doubled in size from 700 to 1,500 sq. ft. “Sales are very good. In the past year or two, things have been gradually improving,” says Ray… The biggest difference is that it no longer offers beer at events that was purchased and “sold” by donation. “That was a money-losing proposition,” says Ray, who has been surprised by what he describes as the “unbelievable margins” on alcohol bought wholesale. “Staffing is the trickiest part,” says Ray, who had to get an alcohol-awareness license. “All of our booksellers are bartenders.”

Gone are the days when people got bombed on books – now they have to get bombed to buy books.

(2) It’s remarkable how much trouble the IRS got into for spending $60,000 on a fake Star Trek video. Now we learn the Army spent who knows how much to create a real intelligence center modeled after the bridge of the Enterprise

According to a recent profile, the current head of the NSA ran the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command from a room designed to look [like] the bridge from Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Keith Alexander has come under photon torpedo fire for operating out of room resembling a movie set built by taxpayer dollars.

(3) Joy V. Smith is collecting cool images about exploring outer space on her new Pinterest board.

(4) Keith Stokes has posted over 400 superb photographs from WorldCon at the Midamericon photo archive.

(5) MIT researchers Dan Novy and Sophia Brueckner argue that the works of authors such as Philip K. Dick and Arthur C. Clarke can not only can help us come up with ideas for new gadgets, but anticipate their consquences, a notion that will not be in the least surprising to fans:

Science fiction, in the written form, is an even earlier and easier form of prototyping these ideas and a more forgiving sandbox or petri dish than even the hot glue and duct tape prototypes created in excited all-nighters here at the Lab.

Novy mentions a work by Neal Stephenson while surprisingly giving no indication of knowing about Stephenson’s work with Hieroglyph, where they use sf as the source of compelling innovations, presented in a way that a scientist or engineer can organize their work around.

(6) Want your good Martian news or your bad Martian news first?

The good news is that there is plenty of water:

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has found that surface soil on the Red Planet contains 2 percent water by weight. That means astronaut pioneers could extract roughly 2 pints (1 liter) of water out of every cubic foot (0.03 cubic meters) of Martian dirt they dig up, scientists said.

The bad news is that the soil also contains perchlorate, which is bad for people.

Perchlorate is known to exist in Martian dirt; NASA’s Phoenix lander spotted it near the planet’s north pole in 2008. Curiosity has now found evidence of it near the equator, suggesting that the chemical is common across the planet. (Indeed, observations by a variety of robotic Mars explorers indicate that Red Planet dirt is likely similar from place to place, distributed in a global layer across the surface, Leshin said.)

The presence of perchlorate is a challenge that architects of future manned Mars missions will have to overcome, Leshin said.

(7) Meanwhile, back on Earth, a 7.7 earthquake thrust up a new island off the coast of Pakistan.

Several of these islands have appeared off the 700-kilometer-long Makran coast in the past century noted Eric Fielding, a tectonics scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He explained that the Makran coast is where the Arabian tectonic plate is pushed northward and downward to go underneath the Eurasian continental plate. The thick layer of mud and rock on the Arabian Plate is scraped off and has formed the land in southwestern Pakistan, southeastern Iran, and the shallow underwater area offshore.

“Atlantis in reverse,” suggests David Klaus.

(8) When the San Francisco Opera performed Tobias Picker’s new opera based on Stephen King’s “Dolores Claiborne” it  was a disappointing draw

Picker’s “Dolores Claiborne” is, however, not very King-like. The 1992 novel is one of the novelist’s rare forays into realistic fiction, but King himself has had nothing to do with the opera and has demonstrated little interest in it. He approved Picker’s theatrical approach and signed over the rights for $1, but he did not attend the premiere last week.

Nor has King been magic at the box office. The performance Wednesday was the third of six, and the War Memorial Opera House was not full, despite the ready approachability of the work.

Poet J.D. McClatchy’s libretto gives workable theatrical shape to a novel written as a single 300-page monologue. Picker’s score, the best of his five operas, is imaginatively moody. James Robinson’s production, with effective projections as backdrops, never confuses the issue. The singers are outstanding.

(9) E. E. King survived meeting Harlan Ellison at the Bradbury library dedication (“How do you know my alley Bitch?” he answered her greeting) which means she remains on schedule to do a reading at the launch party for her new collection of short fiction Another Happy Ending, at Mystery and Imagination Bookstore — Bradbury’s favorite – on October 20 at 2:00 p.m. She’ll also perform bits of her first novel Dirk Quigby’s Guide to the Afterlife, all you need to know to choose the right heaven. The address is — 238 N. Brand Blvd. Glendale, CA 91203.

(10) From Grantland’s profile about the game Myst on its 20th anniversary on its 20th anniversary:

“I don’t think Robyn and I were trying to make some kind of statement. We certainly didn’t have an agenda, but we were trying to say, ‘Well, man, it’s just frivolous if there’s not a little something here.'” The theme of power and power corrupting did come in part from growing up with a community leader for a father, Rand said, but mostly because of the good example he set in that position. “We loved the idea of being subcreators” — the phrase J.R.R. Tolkien coined to describe an act of creation by a being that is itself a creation — “and the idea that we are subcreators, and that it’s a really powerful thing,” Rand said. “And it’s good to stay a little bit humble with a powerful thing.”

[Thanks for these stories goes out to John King Tarpinian, David Klaus, Chronicles of the Dawn Patrol and Joy V. Smith.]

2 thoughts on “Snapshots 122 Hadrian’s Wall Started

  1. 6) If you follow NASA’s Mars pages religiously — which I do — the news that Mars is swimming in water isn’t news. Nor is the perchlorate that seems to be everywhere exactly a recent headline. However, evidence gathered by Curiosity at Gale Crater seems to show that there had been regular, pure water running there at one time. I don’t think the analysis is complete, but the remaining mineral evidence suggest a neutral Ph level, nor are there pesky perchlorates, sulphates or other residues you’d expect in a highly caustic marine environment. My own feeling is that had we viewed Mars 2 or 3 billion years ago, we might well have called it the Ocean Planet, second only to our own for the extent of its open seas. Most of the entire Northern Hemisphere appears to have been an abyssal plain. If we hadn’t been so slow evolving up from little snails, we might look forward to someday sailing the seas of Mars under two moons. As it is, it will have to do if we can go out and dig some ice for dinner.

  2. If Taral’s conjecture about Mars two-to-three billion years ago is correct, that means that Percival Lowell, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Robert Heinlein were all correct in depicting a Mars losing it’s water, and existing life, such as it was, endangered by the Great Drying. They just had the time scales wrong.

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