Snapshots 144 Magnum Do You Feel Lucky?

Here are 25 developments of interest to fans.

(1) Galactic Journey is liveblogging daily news of the Space Age as if the internet existed in the 1950s. Its October 6 post reported the Soviet Union’s Luna 3 probe is on its way to photograph the Moon’s backside.

This time, the goal was the Moon’s far side, which had never been seen before. The reason for this is that the Moon is tidally locked in its orbit around the Earth such that it cannot rotate (much as an object floating in water will stay fixed with is heavy end pointing down). As a result, humanity has only seen one side of the Moon for the entirety of human existence. Isaac Asimov once joked, in the form of a mediocre science fiction tale, that there is no back side to the Moon–that it’s really just a false front movie prop.
But there is a far side. We know this because the Soviets have sent its third “Lunik,” formally named Luna 3, sailing around the Moon to take pictures of it. The results promise to be a darn-sight better than what we managed with Explorer 6 and a much closer target.

(2) In a clear violation of the law of supply and demand, someone has invented a typewriter that types letters in Comic Sans, the most mocked font on the Internet. Jesse England calls his invention the “Sincerity Machine“.

Why do it? It’s hard to say, exactly. But it’s the kind of project that interests England, an artist and educator who leads classes in laser-cutting and engraving at a digital media studio for a living. Through his job he had access to tools to etch letters out of acrylic and glue them onto the strikers of an old Brother Charger 11 typewriter he found on the street years ago.

He could have used any font, but he chose Comic Sans “to provoke a reaction.”

(3) Sharknados are real!!! Actress Tara Reid says so.

It’s a Sharkmas miracle! (Sharkmas is when a shark comes down Tara Reid’s chimney and tells her erroneous marine biology facts.)

“You know, it actually can happen,” she said. “I mean, the chances of it happening are very rare, but it can happen actually. Which is crazy. Not that it — the chances of it are, like, you know, it’s like probably ‘pigs could fly.’ Like, I don’t think pigs could fly, but actually sharks could be stuck in tornados. There could be a sharknado.”

(4) As Mark Leeper notes in MT Void, the first feature-length space adventure was the 1917 Danish film Himmelskibet (meaning “skyship,” aka A Trip To Mars).

Made during the height of World War I, the film is a rather saccharin account of the first spaceship to Mars finding a perfected humanity on Mars enjoying the blessings of pacifism. Just about everything is overstated, but science fiction completists will be interested to see the film. The spaceship looks like a dirigible crossed with a bi-plane.

The 80-minute film is available on YouTube, with title cards in Danish and English (and Russian closed captioning.)

(5) Tomas Cronholm’s extensive Loncon 3 report for BEM’s Blog tells what panelists had to say on a good many program items, the kind of coverage not easily found and rarely done as well as it is here.

(6) Norman Lloyd worked with Orson Welles in New York, directed episodes for Alfred Hitchcock’s TV series, played tennis with Charlie Chaplin four times a week – and at the age of 100 he has more experience with Hollywood and Broadway than anyone alive. An excellent profile in The Hollywood Reporter.

(7) Darin Bradley is bringing back Farrago’s Wainscot in January and promises the magazine will deliver “’Fresh weird.’ There you go—a new neologism for a new era.”

(8) Here’s Steven Colbert’s 1-minute take on violence toward women in video games (from Facebook) which sets up a 5-minute clip where he plays his usual buffoonish interviewer while handing straight lines to GamerGate target Anita Sarkeesian.

(9) William Shatner let the world know he wasn’t happy to be left out of 2009 reboot of the Star Trek film franchise but there’s a possibility he might be in Star Trek 3.

Shatner has said J.J. Abrams, who produced and directed the 2009 “Star Trek” film and 2013 sequel, recently called to say [director Roberto] Orci had an idea about how Shatner might be in the next film of the new franchise, which stars Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk.

Shatner says he would do the movie if it’s a meaningful part, “a role that had something to do with the turning of the plot.” Still, the 83-year-old actor says he’s not sure how they’d bring him back now – 20 years after his character was killed off in “Star Trek: Generations.”

“That was so long ago. How do they bring me back physically like this? I don’t know,” he says.

(10) Right after a Captain Kirk reference seems a good place to mention there’s been a tiny bit of progress toward creating a real tractor beam:

Tractor beams now have a better shot at crossing from science fiction trope to reality, thanks to scientists at The Australian National University (ANU). They managed to push and pull a 0.2mm sized particle nearly 20cm using a “hollow” laser beam. That’s a hundred-fold improvement over recent efforts at light propulsion, which have only moved microscopic particles short distances. The ANU team placed gold-coated glass spheres in the light-free center of the beams, creating hotspots on the surface that propelled the spheres via air reactions. The hotspot’s location was changed by adjusting the polarization, giving scientists full control over the sphere’s motion. Sure, it’s not exactly the Death Star, but the scientists think it’ll work over long distances — meaning it could one day be used to, say, control pollution or move dangerous particles in the lab

(11) And here’s a vintage news item about the Captain I missed the first time around, concerning Jeff Burke’s novel Shatnerquake published in 2009.

After a reality bomb goes off at the first ever ShatnerCon, all of the characters ever played by William Shatner are suddenly sucked into our world. Their mission: hunt down and destroy the real William Shatner. Featuring: Captain Kirk, TJ Hooker, Denny Crane, Priceline Shatner, Cartoon Kirk, Rescue 9-1-1 Shatner, singer Shatner, and many more. No costumed con-goer will be spared in their wave of destruction, no red shirt will make it out alive, and not even the Klingons will be able to stand up to a deranged Captain Kirk with a light saber. But these Shatner- clones are about to learn a hard lesson . . . that the real William Shatner doesn’t take crap from anybody. Not even himself.

That should read: Not even Shat can give Shat to Shat.

(12) William Gibson, interviewed by Motherboard about his new novel, predicts those of us alive today are unlikely to be appreciated on our own terms by societies of the future.

Most science fiction concerns our fascination with the future, but The Peripheral is so much more about the future’s fascination with us. What interests you about what the future might think of us?

If there were somehow a way for me to get one body of knowledge from the future—one volume of the great shelf of knowledge of a couple of hundred years from now—I would want to get a history. I would want to get a history book. I would want to know what they think of us. From that, I would be able to infer anything else that I might want to know about the future. The one constant, it seems to me, in looking at how we look at the past, how we have looked at the past before, is that we never see the inhabitants of the past as they saw themselves.

We have a very detailed idea of what the Victorians were like. They’re not really very far away, but they were different. Their view of themselves is nothing like our view of them. They probably didn’t think they were puritanical and kinky. They probably didn’t think that conditions of child labor were that problematic. I’m sure they didn’t think that colonialism was a problem—it was a feature, not a bug. Their whole business was based on it. We see them very differently, and I think that the future won’t see us as anything like we see ourselves to be.

(13) The following paragraphs appeared as if out of nowhere in the middle of a column of football predictions on Grantland:

You played SimCity, right? You know, the original SimCity, the one you had on a gigantic 5.25-inch floppy disk, that SimCity. Do you remember how bad your attempts at a metropolis were when you played SimCity as a little kid? They were bizarre, nihilistic works of art.

Residential buildings just slapped next to smokestacks. A decaying commercial zone, victimized by a statistically improbable number of simultaneous earthquakes and Godzilla attacks. Electrical lines building a grid totally unconnected to any power plant. For public safety, six police stations and six fire stations placed directly next to one another next to a road that never loops back on itself and just runs out in the middle of nowhere. Oh, and the totally useful sports stadium, presumably attended by the one poor, confused family who showed up to live in one of your residential zones for a couple of in-game seconds before immediately leaving in a terrified huff.

What I really remember is in the Stone Age of video games when that floppy-disk version of Sim CIty was first loaded on an early PC at the LASFS clubhouse Leigh Strother-Vien said she spent 26 straight hours playing the game.

(14) Steven Rosenberg’s Feel The Nuys, a very occasional Daily News blog, devoted its September 7 post to a photo of a well-worn bookmark given away by Dangerous Visions bookstore, once the beloved headquarters of the science fiction genre in the San Fernando Valley, when it was located in the Valley on Ventura Boulevard.

(15) Diabolical Plots interviewed Bud Webster of the SFWA Estate Project. One of the most interesting questions he tackled was —

What constitutes due diligence when determining whether a story is public domain?

BUD: A good question, but one that doesn’t have a simple answer. You can’t just Google a name, not find anything on the first screen, and assume that the estate is dead. Nor can you find one source offering the work for free and claiming it’s PD and not look further. That ain’t no way diligence, due or otherwise. For me, due diligence is looking for as long as it takes to find an answer one way or another. If that means asking a few people, fine. If it means checking the Copyright Office website for specific renewal notices, searching for the possibility that the magazine that originally published a story may not have registered copyright then looking further to see if the author did at a later time, then that’s equally fine. I will point out here, though, that to my direct knowledge the information at the CO website is not always accurate; in one specific case, an e-publisher checked the status of a novel there, found no notice of renewal, and issued the book. When the author – still alive and writing, I’ll point out – found out about it, he was able to show the publisher his paperwork proving that the rights HAD been renewed. To the publisher’s credit, they immediately issued a check in the amount the writer asked for. So, due diligence? It’s whatever it takes. Now I know that’s not terribly responsive, and it’s certainly NOT a legal definition by any means, but it’s what I do.

(16) Thomas Monteleone is one more writer with warm remembrances of his former agent, the late Kirby McCauley:

And then I get a call from Kirby who asked me point blank when I was going to have a novel ready for him. The question was that two-by-four against your head that changes everything. I paused because I didn’t really have an answer for him, finally admitting I hadn’t much thought about it yet. He chuckled and told me I’d never be a real writer just selling short stories, that I had to write books if I wanted to make a living at what I loved.

And Kirby was right.

Problem was . . . I’d never written anything longer than 40 pages, and the idea of typing out more than 300 on a typewriter was like contemplating the Hindu structure of the Universe. Although I kept a notebook full of weird ideas for stories, I had no clue if any of them would be complex enough to sustain a book-length narrative, and I told him pretty much those exact words. Right then, Kirby said something to me I’ve always remembered: “Don’t kid yourself, Tom. You’re a good writer. You’ve got good ideas and good story sense. Go for it.”

(17) When Speaking Truth To Power happens to give a writer an elevated platform, they may in turn become a Power that needs some Truth Spoken To. That seems to be how Kathryn Cramer regards the blogger “Requires Only That You Hate” whose actual name was recently disclosed.

She was playing to a crowd, a pre-existing mostly female audience with a taste for blood clothed as speaking Truth to Power. I’d go so far as to say that she rose to what has been called a “celebrity troll”* because she was willing to go farther than anyone else in her rhetoric. And somehow this translated to her getting on the Campbell ballot for Best New Writer under the name she publishes her fiction.

Now that her professional name is known, I am reading of expressions of concern that she is being harassed; reading other writers reassuring her that she is talented, that she said things that were right, that they will go out right now and read her book so that she will not be unfairly deprived of awards in the future. What kind of a world are you trying to build? While at some point it may be appropriate to tell a psychologically fragile young writer, as she apparently is, all these things, THIS IS NOT THE TIME. Let her learn from her mistakes. 

Requires Hate became what she is because the science fiction field socialized her that way. It taught her that harassment in the form of relational aggression under cover of social justice would go completely unpunished and in fact would allow her to rise in the hierarchy. It taught her that behaving that way was the way to get on award ballots and win awards. And some of you don’t seem to be willing to let go of that message.

The clear path that is being offered her is one in which she can harass other writers, now under her professional writing name, and at the same time continue to advance professionally. This is wrong.

(18) Craigslist founder Craig Newmark named Women in Tech You Need To Know in an article for The Huffington Post – and well-known conrunner Edie Stern was high on the list.

2. Edie Stern, a distinguished Engineer and Inventor at IBM Edie has more than 100 patents to her name, and has been awarded the Kate Gleason Award for lifetime achievement. She received the award for the development of novel applications of new technologies. The 100 patents to her name represent her work in the worlds of telephony and the Internet, remote health monitoring, and digital media.

(19) An archeologist nicknamed “Bulgaria’s Indiana Jones” said he has found a “vampire grave” from the 13th century featuring the bones of a man with a heavy iron stake driven through his chest. And the head of the National History Museum in Sofia says about 100 of these medieval “vampire” burials have been found altogether.

(20) Joe Mantegna attended last month’s Pomona Public Library fundraiser and, when talking about the filming of The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, said that the actors spoke Ray’s words exactly as written with one exception: Sid Caesar and Howard Morris were allowed to improvise, much to Ray’s delight. 

(21) A famous black pine in Oxford’s Botanic Garden was felled in August:

The pine, much-loved by visitors, was known to be a favourite of JRR Tolkien, whose writings memorably celebrate and champion trees. But during more than two centuries the pine had endured many extremes of weather, and on 26 July one visitor captured the moment two colossal branches broke away — graphic evidence of the dangers it now posed. Here Jill Walker, assistant to the director of the Botanic Garden, has combined Mark Bauer’s phone footage with a record of the tree in its full glory and a time-lapse video of its stately dismantlement.

(22) Despite being a lifelong Dodgers fan, I had to laugh at this creative use of TV technology by San Francisco Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow —

Krukow likes to use the telestrator to “eliminate” people, drawing an X through Dodgers fans, any appearance by Tommy Lasorda, “tools” who won’t give foul balls to their dates and so on.

We won the division but the Giants won the World Series. Bastards!

(23) When J.J. Abrams isn’t on the phone with William Shatner, he’s making deals with Stephen King. Hulu has contracted with Abram’s Bad Robot Productions for 11/22/63, a nine-hour event series based on Stephen King’s 2011 novel.

11/22/63 is described as a thriller in which high school English teacher Jake Epping travels back in time to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. But his mission is threatened by Lee Harvey Oswald, his falling in love and the past itself … which doesn’t want to be changed.

Added King: “If I ever wrote a book that cries out for longform, event TV programming, 11/22/63 is it. I’m excited that it’s going to happen, and am looking forward to working with J.J. Abrams and the whole Bad Robot team.”

Added Abrams: “I’ve been a fan of Stephen King since I was in junior high school. The chance to work with him at all, let alone on a story so compelling, emotional and imaginative, is a dream. We are thrilled to be working with Hulu on this very special project.”

(24) Here’s one outfit I bet won’t be hearing from J.J. Abrams. Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. announced that the movie, TV and merchandise rights for John Carter of Mars have reverted to the company and they will be “seeking a new studio to continue this seminal Sci-Fi adventure” —

“John Carter of Mars was the creative stimulus behind such movie classics as Superman, Star Wars and Avatar,” said James Sullos, President. “Edgar Rice Burroughs was the Master of Adventure and his literary works continue to enjoy a world-wide following. We will be seeking a new partner to help develop new adventures on film as chronicled in the eleven Mars novels Burroughs wrote. This adventure never stops. Along with a new TARZAN film in development by Warner Bros., we hope to have JOHN CARTER OF MARS become another major franchise to entertain world-wide audiences of all ages.”

Anybody else have millions of dollars they need to lose?

(25) The trailer for Fast and Furious 7 shows cars parachuting out of airplanes. How can they ever top that? Grantland’s Jason Concepcion has the answer.

My script for the Fast 8 trailer, costarring Sandra Bullock, which will link the series to the Gravity continuity:



ROMAN: “Dom, are you sure about this?”

LETTY (V.O): “Nervous, Roman?”

DR. RYAN STONE: “Don’t worry, Roman. I’ve done this in my underwear.”

[Everyone laughs.]




[Thanks for these links goes out to MT Void, David Klaus, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Bill Higgins, Chronicle of the Dawn Patrol and John King Tarpinian.]

9 thoughts on “Snapshots 144 Magnum Do You Feel Lucky?

  1. Was the description of Asimov’s story as “medicore” perpetrated by Galactic Journey or by File 770?

  2. That’s a typo in the original. Thanks to your eagle eye, I’ve now fixed it — in the quote, anyway.

  3. 9) How is that possible? Even if they reach into some parallel dimension for an alternate Kirk, he’s clearly not the dashing, heroic young blade that he was 50 years aqo! Would they use cgi to remove 80 pounds from his frame, and make his toupe look less fake? Why even bother. He’s dead, Jim … let’s leave him that way.

  4. “He’s dead, Jim” First uttered in the first aired episode, ‘The Man Trap.’ Written by George Clayton Johnson.

  5. Wait a minute.



    Wouldn’t David Koster, William Shatner’s character in FOR THE PEOPLE, his teleseries BEFORE STAR TREK, in which he played a lawyer (and imagine, if it had had a decent time slot, the shot in New York show, might STILL be running…)

    Wouldn’t Koster HELP the real life Shat? (David was a good hearted soul, married to a gal played by the still-terrific Jessica Walter)?

    And wouldn’t the gentle Alexi Karamazov help mediate?

    Just…. Asking!

  6. SHATNERQUAKE sounds mildly amusing. But does it pay tribute to his TWILIGHT ZONE and OUTER LIMITS appearances? Or THE TERROR AT 37000 FEET?
    Or his car commercials? Priceline? Not that I’ll ever know, since I’m about 1500 books behind….and at the age of 63, I seem to think I should catch up more than I should fall behind.

    …I did read NIGHT OF THE LIVING TREKKIES a few years ago. Mildly amused. Very mildly.

  7. I’ve suddenly been struck by the image of all of those Shatners being sucked into a twister: a Shatnado!

  8. I learned of Himmelskibbet from Gary Westfahl’s interesting book The Spacesuit Film: A History, 1918-1969. He defines and examines a subgenre of space movies which confront the hazards of space travel itself, as distinct from films where spaceflight is just a way to get from one interesting setting to another. Often the former films are marked by the wearing of space suits in harsh environments, hence “Spacesuit Films.”

    Himmelskibbet‘s explorers don goggles and breathing gear as they step out on Mars, hence Westfahl declares it the earliest spacesuit film he has found.

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