Essay: A Fresh Look at “Cold Equations”

By Danny Sichel: [Reprinted from the Winter 2021/2022 issue of WARP.] The latest Clarkesworld is out, and it includes “The Cold Calculations” by Aimee Ogden, most recent in a string of answer stories to Tom Godwin’s 1954 “The Cold Equations” – from “The Cold Solution” (Don Sakers, 1991), to “The Cold Crowdfunding Campaign” (Cora Buhlert, 2020), and many others with less obvious titles.

“The Cold Equations” — also known as the “throw the girl out the airlock” story — has long been criticized for multiple shortcomings, in both its themes and its content. The situation is contrived! The society is broken! The EDS is bad engineering! There are other things Barton could have thrown out! Many people have complained about this last one, incidentally. There are indeed items on board that could very well have been sacrificed (including, as in Sakers’ story, the legs of both the pilot and the stowaway, which Sakers’ pilot assumed could be re-grown); apparently Damon Knight came up with a whole list.

Lately, though, a far more common criticism has been that “The Cold Equations” isn’t the story that Tom Godwin wanted to write. When Godwin sold the story to John W. Campbell for publication in Astounding Science Fiction, Campbell sent the story back for rewrites three times, because — in the words of Joseph L. Green, who spent five days with Campbell in 1970 — “Godwin kept coming up with ingenious ways to save the girl!” The moral of the story is often seen as being “space is dangerous”. This may be the case, but as Campbell biographer Alec Nevala-Lee found in a letter Campbell wrote to a friend, the story was also written as a “gimmick on the proposition ‘Human sacrifice is absolutely unacceptable.’” The situation in “The Cold Equations” is intended to force the reader to agree that human sacrifice can be not just acceptable, but necessary. As a result, you can definitely see a lot of places where Campbell’s thumb is on the scale, and remnants of earlier versions.

There are a lot of things wrong with “The Cold Equations”, and therefore I choose my words very carefully when I say: Campbell’s interference made the story better, but not for the reasons he thought.

What makes “The Cold Equations” special, what makes it an enduring classic, is that it’s about failure. Given the grossly negligent environment in which Marilyn was able to stow away in the first place (per Richard Harter, “there is a word for pilots who short cut their preflight checklist. They are called dead.”), without which the story couldn’t have happened in the first place, and the complete lack of margin for error, and, really, all the other factors that Godwin-under-Campbell’s-guidance used to make the story possible… given all that, if Barton had been able to jettison the pilot’s chair, or whatever “ingenious” thing Godwin had originally intended as the basis for a happy ending, then today… no one would remember it. It would have been Just Another Puzzle Story.

It’s more than that, though. I first read “The Cold Equations” in the early ’90s, in the same general span of time that I read “The Old Man and the Sea”, which is also about failure in some very important ways, and which may have nudged my thinking in certain directions. As is typical, I was aghast by the story’s conclusion, especially because there were so many possibilities as to how it could have been resolved without a death. But, I thought, that was the whole point.

I saw “The Cold Equations” as a classic not because the tragedy was unavoidable, but because it wasn’t.

This is what makes literature, isn’t it? Characters who aren’t perfect. They have flaws. That’s why the whole concept of the “tragic flaw” exists.

Barton was in a puzzle story. A life was on the line. All the pieces of the solution were there. And… he didn’t put them together. He wasn’t  insightful  or  creative  or educated enough to see the solution. He wasn’t bold or confident or stubborn enough to go against regulations. The pressure was on… and he didn’t make the right decision at the right moment. He wasn’t good enough.

He wasn’t the hero. He was only the protagonist.

“I didn’t do anything,” Marilyn says at the end, as she goes out the airlock to die. “I didn’t do anything.”

And neither did Barton.

And that’s why, despite everything, the story works.


Illustration posted by @23katiejoy.

Pixel Scroll 9/30/22 To Every Thing, TRON, TRON, TRON

(1) AUTHORS SIGN LETTER SUPPORTING INTERNET ARCHIVE LIBRARY IN LAWSUIT. Several genre authors, including Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, Annalee Newitz, and Aimee Ogden signed an open letter opposing publishers’ lawsuit against the Internet Archive. “Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow And Other Authors Publish Open Letter Protesting Publishers’ Lawsuit Against Internet Archive Library”Deadline has the story.

A group of authors and other creative professionals are lending their names to an open letter protesting publishers’ lawsuit against the Internet Archive Library, characterizing it as one of a number of efforts to curb libraries’ lending of ebooks.

Authors including Neil Gaiman, Naomi Klein, and Cory Doctorow lent their names to the letter, which was organized by the public interest group Fight for the Future.

“Libraries are a fundamental collective good. We, the undersigned authors, are disheartened by the recent attacks against libraries being made in our name by trade associations such as the American Association of Publishers and the Publishers Association: undermining the traditional rights of libraries to own and preserve books, intimidating libraries with lawsuits, and smearing librarians,” the letter states.

…The letter also calls for enshrining “the right of libraries to permanently own and preserve books, and to purchase these permanent copies on reasonable terms, regardless of format,” and condemns the characterization of library advocates as “mouthpieces” for big tech.

“We fear a future where libraries are reduced to a sort of Netflix or Spotify for books, from which publishers demand exorbitant licensing fees in perpetuity while unaccountable vendors force the spread of disinformation and hate for profit,” the letter states.

…Author Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, was originally on the list of signatories to the letter but withdrew his name on Wednesday evening. No explanation was given, but some of his works are among those cited by the publishers in their lawsuit against Internet Archive….

(2) REMEMBER THE HYDRA CLUB. Here’s the famous (within fandom anyway) drawing of a meeting of the Hydra Club in New York City from the November 1951 issue of Marvel Science Fiction [Internet Archive] (via Roy Kettle).

The Hydra Club was a group of New York writers — Frederik Pohl was one of the nine heads who founded it. Dave Kyle says in “The Legendary Hydra Club” (Mimosa 25) that a banquet photo Life published was taken at the Hydras’ New York Science Fiction Conference of July 1-3, 1950. Hydras organized it and invited ESFA members to participate, too.

(3) DAYTON LITERARY PEACE PRIZE. The 2022 winners of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize have been announced. (The lone genre finalist wasn’t one of them.) Given for both fiction and nonfiction, the prize honors writers whose work uses the power of literature to foster peace, social justice, and global understanding. Each winner receives a $10,000 cash prize.

Fiction Winner

The Love Songs of W.E.B Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (HarperCollins): This intimate yet sweeping novel, with all the luminescence and force of HomegoingSing, Unburied, and The Water Dancer, chronicles the journey of one American family from the centuries of the colonial slave trade through the Civil War to our own tumultuous era.

Nonfiction Winner

How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith (Little, Brown):   This compelling #1 New York Times bestseller examines the legacy of slavery in America—and how both history and memory continue to shape our everyday lives.

(4) SPSFC2 WINNING COVER. The administrator of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competiton posted a Q&A with the winners of the cover contest, author Dito Abbott and cover designer Kirk DouPonce from dogeareddesign.com and fictionartist.com

Kirk: I read and enjoyed Dito’s manuscipt, there was no lack of imagery to work from! The story is a bit on the complex side, what I had originally contemplated for the cover changed many times. Often I’m able to read a manuscript and have the concept solidified in my head before starting. But not this time. So many possible directions! At some point I remember looking at his map and thinking “well duh, there’s the cover”. The map art had the perfect whimsical flavor the story was begging for. Almost as if the artist knew the story intimately.

(5) A DIFFERENT CHEKHOV IN SPACE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Financial Times behind a paywall, Sarah Hemming reviews a sf adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard which is playing at the Yard Theatre through October 22.

Vinay Patel’s inventive version pitches the story into the future.  Here the action unfolds o a spaceship spinning towards an elusive destination.  We are hundreds of years into the mission:  the ship is crewed by cloned humans (all of south Asian heritage) who never saw the E and various, now antiquated, bits of AI:  Firs, the ancient retainer of the original, has become Feroze, a glitchy android servant, brilliantly played by Hari Mackinnon.

The cherry orchard still exists, but in an arboretum.  It constitutes a link back to Earth, as does the ship’s rigid social hierarchy, which keeps the lower deck workers toiling in the dark.  But the mission has become sclerotic:  tensions are brewing between the decks, and the discovery of a nearly habitable planet brings everything to a head.  As in the original, pragmatic engineer Abinash Lenka (Lopakhin in Chekhov) urges Captain Ramesh to change course but ends by taking charge himself.

(6) GODSTALK! P. C. Hodgell will be signing at Uncle Hugo’s on Saturday, October 15, from 1-2 p.m. for Deathless Gods ($16.00), the 10th novel in the Chronicles of Kencyrath series.  

(7) HOIST BY THE PETARD THEY OWN. “NASA May Let Billionaire Astronaut and SpaceX Lift Hubble Telescope” reports the New York Times.

If you’ve got a telescope in danger of falling out of orbit, who are you going to call?

The United States Space Force? Nope.

NASA? Maybe not.

Billionaires? Apparently, that is indeed a possibility.

The billionaires in question are Elon Musk, the founder and chief executive of SpaceX, and Jared Isaacman, a technology entrepreneur who led an all-civilian trip to orbit in a SpaceX spacecraft last year.

NASA announced on Thursday that it and SpaceX had signed an agreement to conduct a six-month study to see if one of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsules could be used to raise the altitude of the Hubble Space Telescope, potentially further extending the lifetime of the 32-year-old instrument….

(8) ROUGH LANDING. Cora Buhlert writes, “Turns out that my Hugo rocket was also damaged [not just the base], because the tip is chipped, which I only noticed yesterday, when I took it from the shelf to show it off. I honestly wonder what you have to do to chip a piece of a Hugo rocket, considering they’re stainless steel.

I still had some fun with the damaged Hugo trophy and had my brand-new Flash Gordon, Phantom and Ming the Merciless (in the look of the Defenders of the Earth cartoon) action figures fight over the trophy, because it looks like something from a vintage Flash Gordon comic:

(9) MEMORY LANE.  

1966 [By Cat Eldridge.] Star Trek’s “Naked Time” aired 56 years ago yesterday in the USA on NBC. (Yeah I forgot. My bad.) it was the fourth episode of the first season and it was written by John D F Black who was given story credit idea when D C Fontana who the sequel, the Next Generation’s ‘The Naked Now”.

Surely everyone here knows the story of a strange, intoxicating infection, which lowers the crew’s inhibitions, spreads throughout the Enterprise. As the madness spreads, the entire ship is endangered. Really you have not watched it? You know it’s on Paramount +? 

Did you know this was the first appearance of the Vulcan nerve pinch? Though of course this being TV, it was actually filmed first in “The Enemy Within”, but “The Enemy Within” would be broadcast a week after “Naked Time” was. 

My favorite scene? Sulu’s half naked sword fight of course? However Takei had never use a sword at all so hurriedly learned to. He frequently mentions in interviews his much he likes his episode, saying it’s his favorite one, and devotes a entitle chapter on it in his autobiography.

It was meant to be a two-parter, with this episode ending with the Enterprise going back in time. The ending was revised so it would become a standalone episode. What would have been part two eventually became the episode, “Tomorrow is Yesterday”.

It is the only time Lt. Uhura, Yeoman Janice Rand and Nurse Christine Chapel all appear in the same episode.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 30, 1924 Elinor Busby, 98. In 1960, she became the first woman to win a Hugo Award for Best Fanzine editing at Pittcon for Cry of the Nameless along with F. M. Busby, Burnett Toskey and Wally Weber. She was awarded a Fan Activity Achievement Award for fan achievements, presented at Corflu in 2013. She was on the committee of Seacon (1961). Busby is noted in Heinlein’s Friday, and her husband is likewise in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls
  • Born September 30, 1931 — Angie Dickinson, 91. She was Dr. Layla Johnson in The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler, the Dragon Queen in the genre adjacent Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen and Abbie McGee inThe Sun, the Moon and the Stars. 
  • Born September 30, 1932 — Antoinette Bower, 90. I’ll start off with her being Sylvia in the classic Trek episode of “Catspaw” written by Robert Bloch. She had a previous genre appearance in a Twilight Zone story, “Probe 7, Over and Out” in which she was Eva Nord. It’s a shaggy God story as so termed by Brian Aldiss. She also had one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleGet Smart and The Six Million Dollar Man.
  • Born September 30, 1947 — Michael I. Wagner. Though best remembered for his work on Hill Street Blues and deservedly so, he’s co-created with Isaac Asimov, produced and wrote several episodes for the one-season ABC series Probe. He provided the story for two episodes of Next Generation, “Bobby Trap” and “Evolution” and wrote another, “Survivor”. (Died 1992.)
  • Born September 30, 1950 — Laura Esquivel, 72. Mexican author of Como agua para chocolateLike Water for Chocolate in English. Magical realism and cooking with more than a small soupçon of eroticism. Seriously the film is amazing as is the book. ISFDB says she’s also written La ley del amor (The Law of Love) which I’ve not read.
  • Born September 30, 1951 — Simon Hawke, 71. Author of the quite superb Wizard of 4th Street series as Well as the TimeWars series.He has written Battlestar GalacticaTrekFriday the 13th, Predator and Dungeons & Dragons novels as well as the genre adjacent Shakespeare & Smythe mysteries which bear titles such as Much Ado About Murder
  • Born September 30, 1959 — Debrah Farentino, 63. She has a lead role in Earth 2 as Devon Adair, and she was the deliciously duplicitous Beverly Barlowe on Eureka.
  • Born September 30, 1960 — Nicola Griffith, 62. Writer, Essayist and Teacher. Her first novel was Ammonite which won the Tiptree and Lambda Awards and was a finalist for the Clarke and BSFA Awards, followed by The Blue PlaceStay, and Always, which are linked novels in the Ammonite universe featuring the character Aud Torvingen. In total, SFE has won the Washington State Book Award, Nebula Award, James Tiptree, Jr. Award, World Fantasy Award and six Lambda Literary Awards. Her novel Slow River won Nebula and Lambda Awards. With Stephen Pagel, she has edited three Bending the Landscape anthologies in each of the three genres FantasyScience Fiction, and Horror, the first of which won a World Fantasy Award. She latest novel is Spear which just came out. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in March 1993. She lives with her wife, author Kelley Eskridge, in Seattle.
  • Born September 30, 1972 — Sheree Renée Thomas, 50. Writer, Shotgun Lullabies: Stories & Poems and Sleeping Under the Tree of Life; Editor, Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora which won a World Fantasy Award, and Dark Matter: Reading the Bones which also won a World Fantasy Award. She’s also written a variety of poems and essays including “Dear Octavia, Octavia E. Butler, Ms. Butler, Mother of Changes”. In 2020, Thomas was named editor of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) THEY GO HARD. Ursula Vernon stands up for Waffle House. Thread starts here. A few of the tweets —

(13.5) HOCUS POCUS? BOGUS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This Disney+ sequel seems to completely misunderstand the material of the 29-year old original. “Hocus Pocus 2 review – belated Halloween sequel is far from bewitching” in the Guardian. As the reviewer says:

At times it feels more like an extended, if joke-free, SNL skit than a real movie, giving us the iconography we want but without any of the soul, propulsion or bare necessity we need to go with it, something that exists because it could rather than should….

This coming Halloween, it’s likely that many families will be watching Hocus Pocus 2 together, excited by the prospect of a tradition shift. Next Halloween, I doubt they’ll be watching it again.

(14) MAKES YOU WANT TOSS. If the very thought of pumpkin spice makes you want to throw autumn-themed products away, here’s the bag to throw them in: “Limited Edition Hefty® Cinnamon Pumpkin Spice Ultra Strong™ Trash Bags”.

On September 30th, pumpkin spice enthusiasts can visit HeftyPumpkinSpice.com to purchase their own limited edition trash bags. Now, fall lovers can keep their pumpkin spice obsession going strong on this National Pumpkin Spice Day and beyond by giving their garbage the cozy fall upgrade they never knew they needed.

(15) EARTH R.F.D. [Item by Steven French.] From Physics World: photometric microlensing uses the magnification of light from background stars caused by gravitational lensing to detect exo-planets. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) we live too far out in the galactic ‘burbs where there are few background stars, for technologically adept aliens to spot the Earth. “Earth is ‘well-hidden’ from extraterrestrial civilizations hunting for habitable planets”.

… To have a good shot at spotting us, Kerins explained, an alien civilization would need to be positioned such that there were a lot of background stars behind us, as to give the Earth a good chance of deflecting the light from one. “The best position for an observer to be is right at the edge of our galaxy with us on a line of sight towards the galactic centre,” he noted, adding: “But there are very few stars at the edge of our galaxy and so presumably few observers.”…

(16) MARS ROCKS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Today’s issue of Science has a Mars cover story.

Two samples of rock (top and bottom holes) were collected by the Perseverance rover from this outcrop of the Séítah geologic formation in Jezero crater (see cover), Mars. Also visible are a discarded sample attempt (middle hole), a rock abrasion patch (lower left depression), and the rover’s tracks and shadow. Analysis of the Séítah formation shows that it consists of igneous rocks modified by liquid water

Primary research papers here.

The overall, bottom line conclusion of Perseverance’s explorations of the floor of Jezero crater explored by Perseverance consists of two distinct igneous units that have both experience reactions with liquid water. 

Second primary research paper here.

[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Nina Shepardson, Todd Mason, Steven French, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/24/16 Bark Side Of the Moon

(1) RELEASE THE MONSTER BALLOT. Jo Lindsay Walton is pleased with the flood of Sputnik Award ballots, and is at least not horrified by one of the suggestions.

Btw: I’ve received some really touching enthusiasm, warmth and wise counsels and offers of support, as well as a pretty significant amount of “eh?” “baroo?” “mph?” “wha-?”, which tbh is also kinda gratifying. One thing I’d love to hear more of is unwise counsel. The best I’ve heard so far is the suggestion that we do the Dungeons of Democracy for real.

Just imagine, ripping it from the Excel and into the streets, playing out the entire vote as a vast LARP, cosplaying Daleky Phoenixes and Hedgehoggy Thing Itselves . . .

(2) WINDLING. Remember, Terri Windling lectures on fantasy at Oxford on Thursday, May 26.

I will be delivering the 4th Annual Tolkien Lecture at Pembroke College, Oxford University this Thursday at 6:30 pm. The Pembroke Fantasy lecture series “explores the history and current state of fantasy literature, in honour of JRR Tolkien, who wrote The Hobbit and much of The Lord of the Rings during his twenty years at the college.”

The lecture I’ll be giving is Tolkien’s Long Shadow: Reflections on Fantasy Literature in the Post-Tolkien Era. Admission is free, but you need to register for a ticket and space is limited. Go here for further details.

(3) LUCAS MUSEUM. Mark Guarino’s Washington Post article “George Lucas’s dream of a Chicago lakefront museum faces choppy waters” even-handedly covers the battle to bring the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to Chicago, showing the strengths – the vast art collection, and the architecture — and the minuses, chiefly that it will be partially paid with hotel taxes, which raises a question about whether George Lucas really needs to be subsidized by Illinois and Chicago taxpayers.

The Lucases had two real requirements: One, it would be in a prominent location and, two, that it would be near other museums,” he says. “The Lucases are not going to go to another site.”

A new plan approved by Lucas involves reconfiguring an aging extension of the McCormick Place convention center that sits on the lake and partially replacing it with the museum, 12 new acres of parkland, in addition to new convention space. That multipurpose site is more complicated because it involves borrowing nearly $1.2 billion and extending five taxes on hotels and more. Because it is co-owned by the state, approval from Springfield is required. With Illinois in a budget deadlock that is nearing a full year, and the state ranked at the bottom of those with underfunded pensions, the timing could not be worse. Koch says the selling point is long-term revenue in taxes and tourism dollars, as well as that it would add to Chicago’s “meaningful group of museums and cultural assets” that make it globally competitive.

This is both an enormous opportunity to update and modernize McCormick Place,” he says. “It has this element of Lucas, but they are two separate things that would happen to be tied together financially.”

Talks are on hold until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit rules on a city petition that asks for the lawsuit to be thrown out. Meanwhile, Hobson released a statement calling Friends of the Park “a small special interest group” that has “co-opted and hijacked” the process. “It saddens me that young black and brown children will be denied the chance to benefit from what this museum will offer,” she says.

She added that she and her husband “are now seriously pursuing locations outside of Chicago.” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has already said he would welcome the museum in his city.

If the Lucases leave Chicago, it will ultimately discredit the couple’s statements about wanting to help the children there, park advocates say.

“They keep saying how committed they are to the city, but they’re not committed enough to build anywhere but the lakefront,” [Friends of the Park executive director Juanita] Irizarry says.

(4) THIS HAPPENED. N.K. Jemisin started a Patreon campaign less than a week ago and it’s been so successful she can give up her day job.

So, internets. Big changes in Noraland. For the few of you who don’t follow me on Twitter and FB, I Did A Thing. Specifically, last Friday I started a Patreon campaign with the specific goal of breaking free of the 9 to 5 life. I launched it officially at 5:35 pm on Friday afternoon, thinking nobody would much care since Friday News Dump, and thinking that would give me time to fix bugs and work out any kinks in the campaign over the weekend. Instead, to my absolute shock, I hit my baseline goal within 24 hours, and my stretch goal within 48. And it’s still going. People really, really want me to have a retirement plan, apparently.

(5) BEVERLEY OBIT. Jo Beverley passed away on May 23 at the age of 68. Though best known as a romance writer, she also wrote romances with fantasy and magic in them, was a Writers of the Future contest finalist (1988), and published in Songs of Love and Death (2010) edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.

(6) HEARTWARMING WOOKIEE. In “Star Wars’ Favourite Wookiee Goes Back to School”, Lee Costello of the BBC’s Northern Ireland service reports on Chewbacca’s visit to a school in County Kerry.

Chewbacca, Star Wars’ world-famous wookiee, has left pupils at a Republic of Ireland primary school star struck after landing for a visit.

The star is filming the newest instalment of the blockbuster series in County Kerry.

He took a break from the set to visit Scoil Fheirtearaigh National School in Ballyferriter on Monday.

The visit was arranged after some pupils sent impressive artwork to director Rian Johnson.

(7) AND HIS MOM. Meanwhile, Hollywood summoned a viral video maker for 15 more minutes of fame — “J.J. Abrams Surprises Chewbacca Mom”.

Candace Payne, also known as the Chewbacca Mom, took over the Internet this weekend with her Chewbacca mask and infectious laugh. In the video, Candace is sitting in her car, super excited about a purchase she just made: a Star Wars Chewbacca mask with sound. The next few minutes are her trying to contain her infectious laughter. The video broke the all-time total for most views on Facebook Live, and everyone has been talking about the joyful mom from Texas.

James Corden brought Candace out to Los Angeles to appear on The Late Late Show and surprised her with a visit from J.J. Abrams. The trio took a ride in a car, where Abrams gives Candace some notes on how to play Chewbacca, but the best part was her reaction outside of the car when J.J. first surprised her.

Video at the link.

(8) START SPREADING THE NEWS. Looks like this will be no problem in Ireland, but for everyone else IFL Science contemplates “How Do We Tell The World That We’ve Found Alien Life?”

…That’s a topic discussed in a paper from astronomers Duncan Forgan and Alexander Scholz from the University of St Andrews in Scotland (hat tip to Cosmos Magazine for picking it up). They have examined the protocols that are already in place, and have suggested ways that those involved in the discovery should prepare for the media onslaught that would accompany a tentative detection.

“A critical concern for scientists pursuing the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is the reaction of the world to the knowledge that humans are not the only technological civilization in the universe,” they write. They suggest that the “culture shock” of such a discovery will put SETI scientists under intense scrutiny, which they must be prepared for…..

“SETI scientists must be prepared to not simply announce a detection via press release, but to be a trusted voice in the global conversation that will begin after the initial announcement,” the authors write. “This will require both pre-search and post-detection protocols to be implemented.”

(9) AWARD JUDGES. In Australia, the 2016 Aurealis Awards judging panels have been selected.

There’s a panel for every category – which means a lot of judges. Scroll down to see the judges’ bios.

(10) TRUER GRIT. Damien Walter believes Dune Deserves A New Film Adaptation”.

Dune’s cinematic qualities have made it a natural target for Hollywood adaptations. But the Lynchian weirdness, followed by a lacklustre mini-series, have left the franchise in a televisual limbo for most of the last two decades. Herbert’s own sequels, while conceptually interesting and widely loved by established fans, lack the storytelling muscle displayed in the first book. A risible series of cash-in prequels have dragged the Dune universe down to the bargain basement of pulp fiction. It’s a sad legacy for such a significant work of fiction.

(11) TROLL HOIST. Death and Taxes did an overview of Chuck Tingle’s Hugo nomination that ends with this paragraph:

Luckily these goons didn’t know who they were dealing with. This is Chuck Tingle, leading author of gay dinosaur erotica, licensed massage therapist, and outspoken enthusiast of hardness and love. Nobody nominates him for a prestigious award and gets away with it.

(12) ANOTHER FINE MESS. There’s reason to be interested in Charlie Jane Anders’ impressions about the field, despite the post ignoring the copious documentation available to answer its strawman question: “One way of looking at the Hugo Awards mess”.

So we’re once again having Hugo Awards drama. It’s confusing, because the people who packed the ballot with their choices have a bunch of vague explanations about why they’re upset. (Ranging from “OMG SJWs” and “affirmative action” to “we just want fun stories.”) They generally keep their grievances vague and nebulous (no pun intended), and it’s hard to pin down what they’re upset about. And this year, they changed tactics slightly, putting more “mainstream” choices on the ballot except for some of the short fiction categories.

So I figure one useful way to look at this issue is to ask: What’s changed? If there’s a group of people who are upset, what recent changes could possibly account for their being upset? Here are a few things that occur to me….

(13) AT WISCON. I see a lot of tweets promoting people’s panel appearances, but rarely one so artistic.

(14) THE SIGN OF THE Z. John Z. Upjohn joined Twitter today. The cause was soon revealed.

Alexandra Erin explained in a GoFundMe appeal update:

And because you all pitched in enough to cover airfare for WorldCon before I head off to my current con, Mr. John Z. Upjohn will be providing live twitter commentary of the event [WisCon]…

Erin also delivered another Sad Puppies Review Books installment once the fundraiser hit $300 (it’s now at $775) – Upjohn’s take on The Cat in the Hat.

The Cat in the HatThe protagonist of the book is a cat who develops games, games that are fun (like all games should be), and who wants nothing but to share them with children who are bored. Not so fast, cat! There is a game critic in the house, a fish who is clearly used to thinking of himself as a big fish in a small pond.

I almost threw this book across the room at one point, because the cat is playing a game and he is clearly having a lot of fun, but the fish says, “NO! THIS ISN’T FUN!” Imagine hating fun so much that you lie about what’s fun in order to ruin a game for everyone else….

(15) PRONOUN STICKERS. WisCon 40 registration will have pronoun stickers available.

Hihi!  I want to take a minute to talk to you about an exciting option we’re offering at Registration this year: pronoun stickers!

We offered them last year and got a lot of reaction, so here’s the explanation:

Pronoun stickers are totally optional to wear. You don’t have to declare anything to anyone. You don’t have to wear the same sticker all weekend. These exist to make it easier for all of us to treat each other respectfully.

If someone IS wearing a pronoun sticker, we expect you will use that pronoun for them. Part of our social contract is kind and respectful treatment of each other, and there are few things that feel as terrible as being misgendered ON PURPOSE. If you make a mistake, just correct yourself and move on…..

 

Options. God bless WisCon. #WisCon

A photo posted by Monica Byrne (@monicabyrne13) on

(16) TOMORROW IS TOWEL DAY. The annual tribute to Douglas Adams, Towel Day, takes place on May 25.

Naturally there are dedicated social media sites– a Facebook page or a Flickr group, and a way to tag videos on YouTube.

There are also hybrid events with in-person and internet components like Lofty Pursuits’ Vogon Poetry Slam. You have only a few hours left to enter online.

If you are in Tallahassee, please come and enter the International Vogon Poetry Slam. It is a contest for the worst possible poem. It happens at 8pm on May 25th as part of our Towel Day celebrations. If you are coming in person DO NOT ENTER ON-LINE. You will get to read your own poem live in front of your victims. The rules are the same….

The Vogon Poetry contest. Rules: The worst original poem will win as judged by us. No appeal is possible.

Sent to [email protected] to be considered for this contest. We must get the poems by midnight on the 24th, Eastern Daylight Time (GMT-5). Late entries will go to the spam folder.

(17) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 25, 1686 — Polish inventor Gabriel Fahrenheit

(18) NAMING CALLS. Rachel Swirsky considers short story titles in “What should I have titled this essay? (Thoughts on John Joseph Adams’ ‘Zen in the Art of Short Fiction Titling’”).

Titles That Come From the Text

John starts the article by noting several titles that he suggested to authors that he’s published in his magazines and anthologies. He discovered these titles “right there in the text of the stories themselves. When I’m reading or editing a story, I frequently highlight evocative phrases I come across that I can later suggest to the author as a possible alternate title. Sometimes the phrasing isn’t quite right for the title, but it’s something that can be massaged, or combined together with another phrase from elsewhere in the story, that somehow captures the essence of what the story is about.”

I used to do the large majority of my titling this way until I started my MFA program at Mills, where the teacher told me what John Joseph Adams brings up next: “I should note that some writing professors—including notable literary giants—advise against this practice, largely because, they say, doing this puts too much emphasis and meaning on the eponymous phrase when the reader comes across it in the story.”

(19) DON’T CALL ME ISHMAEL. “Moby goes where Brian Eno, and his ancestor Herman Melville, went before” at the LA Times.

As a famously brainy electronic musician — and a descendant of literary royalty — Moby had plenty of lodestars he might have looked to while writing his first book.

There was, for instance, Brian Eno, the pop experimentalist who reflected on his work with U2 and David Bowie in his 1996 volume “A Year With Swollen Appendices.” And the distant ancestor from whom Moby got his nickname: “Moby-Dick” author Herman Melville.

In reality, the DJ and producer best known for 1999’s multi-platinum “Play” album took inspiration from a more unlikely source: Duff McKagan, the tattooed bassist in Guns N’ Roses.

“Honestly, I’d never given much thought to the guy before I read his memoir,” Moby said on a recent morning at home in Los Feliz, referring to “It’s So Easy (and Other Lies),” in which McKagan writes frankly about the excess and the illusions of show business. “But he wrote a book that’s good enough that it transcends the fact that I wasn’t interested in him.”

(20) BLAME OF THRONES. Juliet McKenna has her own tangle of pop culture references to work through — “Sansa Stark’s joined the X-Men? Thoughts on popcultural cross contamination”

I’ve yet to see the X-Men Apocalypse movie, so I can’t comment on Sophie Turner’s performance. Her work on Game of Thrones – especially at the moment (NO spoilers in comments please!) – gives me every reason to expect she’ll do a thoroughly good job.

The thing is, though, this is becoming A Thing for me. An amusement at the moment, rather than a distraction, but definitely A Thing.

I caught a trailer for A Knight’s Tale on the TV last week, which is one of my favourite movies. Now though? That’s the one where Robert Baratheon makes The Joker’s armour while The Vision bigs him up to the crowd…

(21) DISCO SCI-FI. Thomas A. Foster looks back at the Seventies in “Sci-Fi TV of the Disco Era: The Grounded Astronaut” on Pop Matters.

…Another key to understanding the sci-fi of the era: the shrunken profile of space exploration. In the ‘60s, NASA was perhaps the most popular Federal project, partly because fallen leader John F. Kennedy was associated with the “space race”. Television covered every moment leading up to the first moon walk in 1969, and Hollywood pitched in with movies and TV shows (I Dream of Jeannie, Star Trek, the made-in-England 2001: A Space Odyssey). The Jetsons had a dog named Astro, and Houston chose the same name for its new baseball team, which played, of course, in the Astrodome.

As our radio-alarm-clocks flipped to the ‘70s soundtrack, however, the Apollo Program was curtailed by budget cuts and sharply declining interest. The scientific idealism of the ‘60s was victim to chronic civil unrest, distrust of authority, and general exhaustion, as Americans turned to self-improvement (meditation, back-to-the-land/find-your-roots trends); hedonism (swinging, cocaine, disco); and all things para- (the paranormal, paranoia), including persistent rumors that the moon landings had been faked. In keeping with the zeitgeist, most of our TV astronauts of the decade would be lost, passive, or grounded….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

2016 Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award

Aimee Ogden of Madison, Wisconsin has won the grand prize in the 2016 Jim Baen Memorial Award competition for her short story “Dear Ammi.” Jennifer Brozek took second place, and Ronald D. Ferguson third.

GRAND PRIZE
“Dear Ammi” by Aimee Ogden

SECOND PLACE
“To Lose the Stars” by Jennifer Brozek

THIRD PLACE
“Cylinders” by Ronald D. Ferguson

The contest looks for stories that demonstrate the positive aspects of space exploration and discovery.

Ogden wrote about her trip to accept the award:

I am about as tired and about as happy as I can remember after an amazing weekend in San Juan, PR, where I got to attend the International Space Development Conference, where the folks at Baen were kind enough to send me. They were also nice enough to bestow me with a shiny chunk of crystal that I was only too pleased to be pulled aside over for a little extra chat with the TSA. “¡Usted es el ganador del gran premio!” Si, TSA dude, I totally am and I’m over the moon.

 

Aimee Ogden

Aimee Ogden

Judges for the award were the editors of Baen Books and special guest judge author David Drake. Stories were judged anonymously.

The winner receives a trophy and her story will be published June 2016 at the Baen.com web site, where new fiction is featured each month.

“The National Space Society and Baen Books applaud the role that science fiction plays in advancing real science and have teamed up to sponsor this short fiction contest in memory of Jim Baen, Baen Books’ founder,” said William Ledbetter, contest administrator. “We believe–and strive to show with these imaginative stories–that humanity has a bright and exciting future beyond the bounds of Earth. We want to see Moon bases, Mars colonies, orbital habitats, space elevators, asteroid mining, realistic spacecraft, heroics, sacrifice, and adventure. This year’s winning stories deliver just that.”

What the Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award looks like.

What the Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award looks like.