Snapshots 136 Episodes of Fame

Here are 14 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Andrew Liptak mines the history of the sf field, turning its inside stories into gold for his column in Kirkus Reviews.

The genre has seen its share of slow-pay and no-pay publishers but few lasted as long as Martin Greenberg. Liptak discusses why in “The Meteoric Rise and Fall of Gnome Press”.

Not all authors had such an experience with Gnome: Robert Heinlein, according to The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Critical and Bibliographic History, was paid on time, due to his own healthy sales and reputation. Despite the problems, Greenberg maintained a charismatic and upbeat attitude, and was described by Asimov as someone you’d go to a convention to beat up, only to talk and end up buying him a drink. Robert Silverberg noted that even as he had trouble getting paid, he “remained on amiable terms with [Greenberg],” but that he also had to retrieve the rights to his books in order to sell them elsewhere. Greenberg’s attitude, despite his issues, was a deciding factor in Gnome Press’s longevity in the face of its financial issues.

(2) Smithsonian Magazine‘s interview with Sir Patrick Stewart is illustrated with a photo of the actor perched in a chair holding a hardback of Amazing Stories. Congratulations, Steve Davidson, on a nifty bit of product placement!

SMITHSONIAN: Is your lifelong passion for human rights part of what attracted you to the role of Professor Xavier in X-Men?

STEWART: Actually, yes. I turned that down when it was first offered to me, and the director, Bryan Singer, whom I had not met, said, “Please meet with me. I want to talk to you, before we move on and talk to someone else.” And he talked to me about what he hoped to achieve with the first of those films; how the subject matter would be examining the rights of those who are different from others and asking, because they were different, did they have the same rights as everybody else. And he said in the film there will be two camps. There will be a camp led by Magneto, who believes that the only way in which the mutant world can protect itself is by fighting and destroying its enemies, and Xavier, who believes that there is, as Captain Picard would have done, another route which is peaceful and involves discussion and exposure and conversation and dialogue. And I saw it, I saw the point. So I happily signed on to be an active voice for the good guys.

(3) The mundane political slugfest that threatens to overshadow the Hugo Awards includes fans who believe it’s not enough to lift up their favorite nominee – they must bury the opposition, too. That’s why you find bloggers like The Weasel King educating readers about the most tactical placement of the “No Award” option.

The point is, voting No Award is a useful tool! But anything you list after No Award is going to get your vote and your support BEFORE things that aren’t listed at all. So don’t do that. If your ballot goes: 1. No Award 2. Chlamydia 3. David Duke and you leave off the rest of the possibilities because you haven’t read them or don’t care, then when No Award is eliminated (it almost always is eliminated first, or second if one of the nominees is L Ron Hubbard), your vote goes to Chlamydia. And when Chlamydia is eliminated, you’ve now voted for the Grand Wizard. So *do not* list people you genuinely do not want to get the award below No Award. List No Award last, and do not list them at all. Things you list under No Award can and possibly *will* get your vote

(4) “[A] BBC-TV show Star Cops had a U. S. space station named after Ronald Reagan,” recalls David Klaus. “I wonder if the Tea Party people will demand such a name change after the Russians remove themselves from contributing to the station?”

A news item about astronauts returning from the International Space Station on May 13 inspired his question.

A Russian Soyuz space capsule carrying three astronauts from the International Space Station has landed in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

…Aboard the capsule are Russian Mikhail Tyurin, American Rick Mastracchio and Koichi Wakata of Japan. They had spent 188 days on the space station.

(5) You can have the same view of Earth those astronauts had when they were aboard the ISS. Click here to see Live Earth from Space.

If the left image is black, it’s night where the ISS is and you need to try in 20 minutes.

If the image is grey, it’s in a dead spot (day or night) for video reception. Try again in 20 minutes.

(6) It seems every couple of months scientists announce a definitive victory for one of the rival theories about what wiped out the dinosaurs. This month it’s an asteroid impact that’s certainly to blame. Wait around and the volcanologists soon will be back on top. (Wasn’t there a Frank Sinatra song about  that sort of thing?)

It’s a compelling story, but one that has been difficult to prove — until now. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of scientists from the Netherlands say they have found the first hard evidence of the hypothesized impact winter, buried deep in the geological record.

To take the temperature of the Earth 66 million years ago, the researchers looked at lipids produced by an ocean-dwelling microorganism called Thaumarchaeota, preserved in sediment rocks near the Brazos River in Texas.

Thaumarchaeota adjust the composition of the lipids in their cell membranes to the temperature of the sea water. When the organism dies, it sinks to the sea floor, and the lipids in its membrane are preserved in sandy ocean sediments.

(7) The US Navy is about to start distributing  Navy eReader Devices (NeRDs) in their submarine fleet. There will be five NeRDs per boat.

An article on adds:

The NeRD library will include a fixed selection of titles from a variety of genres, including fiction, nonfiction, best-sellers, history books and classics, according to CNN. For instance, popular books such as Game of Thrones series, Ender’s Game and The Lord of the Rings trilogy will be included. The device’s 300-book selection is only a small fraction of the Navy’s digital library, which contains 108,000 titles.

(8) Through June 8 at the Getty Center in LA, see “A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography”.

In 1839, just two years after Victoria became queen of Great Britain and Ireland, the medium of photography was announced to the world. This exhibition explores the relationship between the new art form and the queen, whose passion for collecting photographs began in the 1840s. On display are rare daguerreotypes, private portraits of the Royal Family, and a selection of prints by early masters of photography.

(9) Lecturer Ray Bradbury once was interrupted by someone shouting he was wrong about the theme of Fahrenheit 451

The thing is, according to Bradbury, you know, the guy who wrote the book in the first place, it isn’t about censorship, like at all. Though Bradbury did indeed write the book during an era when actual book burning were a thing that totally could have happened at any moment, he has always insisted that the main theme of the book is the role of the mass media and its effect on the populace, in particular television and how it makes people less able to digest more complex forms of media, like books.

However, virtually nobody accepts this as the true theme of the novel, even though it’s an exact-ish quote from the guy who wrote the bloody thing. The perfect example of this was a time when Bradbury himself was giving a lecture on the novel to a class of college students and upon casually mentioning that the theme of the novel was the dangers of television, he was stopped in his tracks by someone loudly exclaiming “no, it’s about censorship!“.

(10) James H. Burns asks, “Would you snort a Wild Mojito?” You may soon get the chance due to the increasing availability of powdered alcoholic beverages.

Just add water. It works for instant coffee, tea and juice mix. Might it also work for your favorite cocktail? Powdered alcohol hasn’t gotten much of a foothold in the U.S. even though the idea has been around for decades. An Arizona company thinks that Americans are ready for the convenience of mojitos and margaritas that come from a small foil packet. The U.S. government thought so, too, at least for a couple of weeks earlier this month.   Makers of the new powdered alcohol drink mix Palcohol have to put the cork back in their champagne, for now anyway. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), part of the Department of the Treasury, earlier this week told the Associated Press that it had on April 8 issued “in error” the federal approvals….

(11) Scientific American has assembled a list of YouTube links to Sixties films that forecasting the shape of technology in times to come.

It seems unfair that the worse the prediction was, the more entertaining the video is to watch.

Asimov wasn’t the only person to look into the technological crystal ball. Fifty and 60 years ago gee-whiz films depicting life today were a staple—a sure way to wow audiences. Today these fanciful visions of the future live on, on YouTube. Let them be a warning to anyone today who’s inclined to make a prediction about life in 2064.

(12) Earlier this year NASA renamed Southern California’s Dryden Flight Research Center after Neil Armstrong. The Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center honors both his exploits as an astronaut and his incredible career as a test pilot at this very facility.

Armstrong had significant ties to the center, both before and after his days as a NASA astronaut. He served as a research test pilot at the center from 1955 to 1962, amassing more than 2,400 flight hours in 48 different models of aircraft at the center, including seven flights in the rocket-powered hypersonic X-15. Armstrong was part of a team that conceptualized the Lunar Landing Research Vehicle, a flight test craft that evolved into the Lunar Landing Training Vehicle.  Armstrong and the other commanders of Apollo lunar landing missions trained in that vehicle for their descents from lunar orbit down to the surface of the moon.

…The late Hugh L. Dryden, the center’s namesake since 1976, will continue to be memorialized in the renaming of the center’s 12,000-square-mile Western Aeronautical Test Range as the Dryden Aeronautical Test Range.

(13) Episodes of Alcoa Premiere and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour written by Ray Bradbury will be among the offerings at UCLA’s Billy Wilder Theater on June 8 when it celebrates the illustrious career of Norman Lloyd. All three shows on the docket were directed by Lloyd and first aired in the 1960s.

(14) It’s not a typo. And it’s not named after anyone in my family. It’s the Flobal Glyer.

[Thanks for these links goes out to R. Laurraine Tutihasi, Andrew Porter, Michael J. Walsh, David Klaus, John King Tarpinian and James H. Burns.]

5 thoughts on “Snapshots 136 Episodes of Fame

  1. Yes, FAHRENHEIT 451 does contain the subjects of censorship and television, but the idea that it was all about television seems to have been added by Bradbury some 50 years later. I take this revisionism with a shrug, and don’t give it any more weight than Bradbury complaining that Godzilla was an idea ripped off from him.

  2. In the 10th grade my baby had 451 on her reading list. I suggested she read that book and for her book report I’d get her an interview with Ray for the book report, telling her she’d get an A, for sure. She did the report and was given a C-. Jasmine came home crying, the teacher having marked much of what Ray told her as being wrong. I told her I’d take care of this.

    I took the paper to Ray. Using a red Sharpie he X’d out all of the teacher’s corrections, giving her an A++ and then his signature. I had Ray sign a pedestrian copy of 451 for the teacher and printed out a photo of her with Ray.

    Jasmine took the paper back to the teacher. He changed the paper’s grade to an A. In her footnotes she had put Ray Bradbury interview but the teacher though she just got something down from the Internet…not knowing she meant she actually interviewed the author of the book. She told us that the teacher’s eyes got misty when she gave him the book, personalized to him.

  3. Bradbury wouldn’t be the first author told by critics that he was wrong about his own book. I used to laugh at critics … but now I wonder. Fahrenheit 451 is about the danger of television? You might as well say that 1984 is also about the danger of television. There are big screen TVs in 1984, too, and people watch them all the time in a sort of stupor while the state watches them back. But I don’t think 1984 is really about television so much as the totalitarian state that uses them in that way. Whether or not Bradbury likes it, Fahrenheit 451 is also about a repressive state, and not about watching too much “Leave it to Beaver,” even if the author is too dense to see it. More than likely, Bradbury was just becoming more and more old-fogeyish when he said that. Most of his stories seem to have a subtext of how much better life was in the 1920s or ’30s.

    Whereas, as we all know, human civilization actually peaked in 1973.

  4. Ray did believe that TV was the beginning of social media causing the decline of real social interaction. Then again, not all of us could sit at a French Bistro overlooking the Eiffle Tower having coffee with Walter Cronkite. Remember, Ray is indirectly responsible for shopping malls having food courts so people had a place to gather since town squares no longer the gathering place for people.

  5. Although it actually isn’t appropriate for Sir Patrick to be holding that copy of Amazing Stories. Last year I had occasion to ask him whether he had a science fiction background prior to TNG. He replied that he’d read a number of the classics (and listed several authors, some of which weren’t of the “everyone’s heard of those” school), but they’d not really worked for him, so he’s really not an sf fan or reader.

    My followup was that what he’d said meant that doing a Doctor Who appearance seemed unlikely then, but he replied that he and David Tennant had talked about him doing so back when David was the Doctor, but it never came about.

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