By Bill Higgins: Robert Osband, Florida fan, really loves space. All his life he has been learning about spaceflight. And reading stories about spaceflight, in science fiction.
So after NASA’s Apollo program was over, the company that made Apollo space suits held a garage sale, and Ozzie showed up. He bought a “training liner” from ILC Dover, a coverall-like portion of a pressure suit, with rings at the wrists and neck to attach gloves and helmet.
And another time, in 1976, when one of his favorite authors, Robert A. Heinlein, was going to be Guest of Honor at a World Science Fiction Convention, Mr. Osband journeyed to Kansas City.
In his suitcase was his copy of Heinlein’s Have Space Suit, Will Travel—a novel about a teenager who wins a secondhand space suit in a contest—and his ILC Dover suit.
Because if you wanted to get your copy of Have Space Suit, Will Travel autographed, and you happened to own a secondhand space suit, it would be a shame NOT to wear it, right?
As Ozzie stood in the autograph line, David Dyer-Bennet, a fannish photographer, was watching. Heinlein was casually dressed in a Hawaiian shirt. (You may have seen some of DD-B’s photos of this autograph session, because they are frequently reproduced in books about Heinlein, and he has made one available on Wikimedia Commons.) He snapped a series of pictures of the fans.
Consequently, there exists a picture of Mr. Osband meeting Mr. Heinlein at that moment in September 1976.
This month I found, to my surprise, that the two had something unexpected in common. To put it into a single word, they were both vain.
Vain, but in interesting ways. I will explain.
Mike Glyer, our gracious host here at File 770, has, as you may know, a keen interest in science fiction history. On Friday, April 1, the U. S. National Archives made public the data from the 1950 Census. Mike was curious what the Census might say about individuals in the SF world, and he asked me for a bit of research help. Here’s his article: “What the Heinleins Told the 1950 Census”.
That’s how I came to be examining a list of Heinlein’s residences in those days. Robert and Virginia Heinlein, recently married, at first rented a place in Colorado Springs, Colorado. But in the spring of 1949 they put their furniture in storage and went to Los Angeles, where Robert worked on the film Destination Moon. They returned to Colorado Springs in February of 1950 and rented a house. But their dream was to build a house of their own. Robert had a lot of novel ideas about modern house design.
By springtime, they were negotiating to purchase land. The developer made them an unusual offer. Their lot was between two other homes on Mesa Avenue with house numbers 1700 and 1800. They were invited to choose an address of their own, a number between 1700 and 1800.
This is the reason why, in August 1950, Robert and Virginia Heinlein came to be living at 1776 Mesa Avenue.
To digress briefly, here in the U.S., states allow motorists to specify custom text on their license plates. Usually the state charges an extra fee for this. For example, I once saw an orange Cadillac owned by Forrest J. Ackerman, the prominent fan who coined the phrase “Sci-Fi.” And sure enough, Forry’s California license plate read “SCI FI.” Such custom license plates are known as “Vanity Plates.”
The Heinleins of 1776 Mesa Avenue, both patriotic veterans, had given themselves a Vanity Address.
A vanity address is much rarer than a vanity license plate. But Robert Osband has something even more rare.
Ozzie was—how shall I say it?—um, an amateur telephony enthusiast. He understood well how telephones work, and how the switching network functions, and how phone systems evolved the way they did.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, as populations grew, and as the purchase of fax machines, modems, and mobile phones grew even faster, a lot of phone numbers were gobbled up. In large metropolitan areas particularly, the available supply of not-yet-assigned phone numbers became smaller and smaller.
The solution to this congestion was to assign fresh new Area Codes.
Each area code is a three-digit number, and (at the time) all the phone numbers assigned within a large geographic area would share this three-digit prefix. Chicago phone numbers started with 312. Miami phone numbers started with 305.
Ozzie knew about the North American Numbering Plan Administration, which governed the area code system. In Titusville, Ozzie lived in the 305 area code, whose boundaries encompassed much of southern Florida.
In 1988, the Orlando region was split off. A new area code, 407, was assigned to many phones previously within 305’s domain. Titusville remained in 305.
But more people, and more fax machines, and more mobile phones kept eating up available 305 numbers.
So very soon, it was time once again for the congested 305 to calve, creating a new area along the east coast of Florida, with a fresh area code.
Ozzie saw an opportunity. He understood the Numbering Plan. He consulted the pool of three-digit numbers not yet in use. He knew that the Florida Public Service Commission regulated aspects of the telephony business.
Ozzie did some research and carefully prepared his case. There was a particular three-digit string he wanted to advocate, one not yet in use for any other area.
On 24 September 1998, he testified to a meeting of the Public Service Commission. They loved his idea. And they ran with it.
This is the reason why, on 1 November 1999, Titusville, and Cocoa Beach, and Melbourne, and, most importantly, Cape Canaveral, Florida, became part of Area Code 321. As Ozzie had told the PSC, “With the Space Coast of Florida as the Count-Down capital of the world, this in my humble opinion, is the Area Code for us!”
As a result, Ozzie’s own phone number became 321-LIFTOFF.
Yes, Robert Osband had arranged a Vanity Area Code.
So when I learned of Robert and Virginia Heinlein and their vanity address, I recalled Robert Osband’s vanity area code. And suddenly realized that, long after the address was established, and long before the area code was created, they had once met. And that DD-B had photos of the meeting.
(1) ROBOT IS 100. The Czech Consulate of Los Angeles invites fans to the Robot is 100! Webinar on Thursday, February 4 at 12:00 PM Pacific exploring the influence of Karel Capek’s play “R.U.R.” on other forms of art, and the future of robotics. Register here.
[Note: WordPress does not support the proper character for the author’s last name, so the Latin C has been used. And a screenshot of the program description is used to work around the same problem.]
Enjoy an audio created by the BBC Sounds: “The Robots are Us.” This BBC Radio Documentary features Jesse Brown O’Dell, PhD. graduate from the UCLA Department of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Languages and Cultures.
(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites everyone to settle in for bagels and a schmear with comics retailer Joel Pollack in Episode 137 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.
Joel Pollack has been a part of comics fandom even longer than I have — he attended one of Phil Seuling’s 4th of July Comic Art Conventions two years before I did — in 1968 — and founded Big Planet Comics in Bethesda, Maryland in 1986. That flagship store has expanded to other locations in Washington, D.C., College Park, MD, and Vienna VA, and I thought it would be fun to chat about the world of comics and comics fandom of the past half century, and how comics retailing has changed over the past three and a half decades.
We discussed what the pandemic has done to the comics shop business, the comic his mother bought him which changed his life, the card game which led to him getting his first piece of original art, how his run-in with a young Howard Chaykin convinced him he wasn’t cut out to be a professional comics artist, what opening day was like at the first of his Big Planet comic book stores, the biggest sales event he’s seen during his 35-year retailing career, what inspired Bernie Wrightson to draw a freaky issue of Swamp Thing, how he fights back against the Comic Book Guy cliche to makes his shops welcoming places, our joint distaste of slabbing, why he doesn’t like doing appraisals, and much more.
(3) INTERZONE UPDATE. [Item by PhilRM.] This week’s PS Publishing newsletter provides some more information on their take-over of Interzone (first mentioned in the 1/8/2021 Pixel Scroll) from Andy Cox and TTA Press (and note that Strahan’s post referenced there didn’t make the latter clear: not only is Ian Whates taking over as editor, but Interzone will be published by PS Publishing). Interzone will now appear on a quarterly schedule, and only in digital format. The first issue will appear in August, and will be free to current subscribers.
And heh, we’re kind of jazzed up a little right now where electronic reading matter is concerned . . . and it’s all thanks to our taking on board INTERZONE, which we’ll be running in digital format only, kicking off in August. Ian has already earmarked some 60/70 thousand words for the debut, and the special festive issue in December (always assuming we have a festive season, that is). So watch out as further details emerge and IZ takes its justified place in the pantheon of Science Fiction and Fantasy in digital format only.
All queries/comments regarding the TTA Press Interzone should be directed to either Andy Cox or Roy Gray direct at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. In the meantime, by way of a goodwill gesture, the first electronic PS IZ (August 2021) will be sent free of charge to all previous subscribers. Subsequent issues will be sent quarterly on receipt of an email to be found in the magazine. Watch out for more information
(4) UP PERISCOPE ON SUBSTACK. Yudhanjaya Wijeratne tweeted a list of recommended newsletters. Thread starts here. I’m only familiar with the ones by sff writers and they’re good, so I expect you’ll find more gold in the rest of his list. Here are a few examples:
(5) STOCK MARKET NEWS. Cory Doctorow makes the information comprehensible with his own comments. Read it complete at Threadreader.
(6) DIANA PHO ON DVCON. DVCon 2021 is a free convention for marginalized writers happening online January 30-31.
DVcon, a product of #DVpit, is a free, two-day virtual writers conference for self-identifying marginalized book creators. The mission of DVcon is to educate and connect authors & illustrators who have been historically underrepresented and marginalized in the book publishing industry. Featuring a diverse faculty as well as #DVpit alum, DVcon will offer informative workshops, fun micro-content, and our additional focus will be on community-building and forging connections.
Editor Diana Pho is part of the Money Talks panel from 2:00-3:00 PM Eastern on January 30.
Money Talks. 2:00pm-3:00pm
Let’s face it: publishing doesn’t always pay. Between low advances, payment installments stretched out for years, and the uncertainty of royalties, authors and illustrators might need to get creative about making ends meet. Our panel will discuss different and unexpected ways that authors and illustrators can make money and still stay on the publishing track. It will also help explain some basics about how payments occur in publishing and how to hustle with your writing. Sponsored by the Authors Guild
Featuring: Rebecca Kuss, Thao Le, Diana Pho, Holly Root, Jennifer Ung, Rebekah Weatherspoon
(7) AMBITIOUS ANIME. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the January 25 Financial Times, Leo Lewis and Kana Inagaki look at whether Japanese anime producers can compete globally against Disney and Netflix.
For many industry executives, the stage is now set for Japanese animation to truly go global. A newly invigorated Sony is competing with Netflix and global giants to uncover the untapped trove of lucrative anime content. ‘We were forced to accelerate efforts on all three fronts of digitalization, global expansion and streaming services. It became now or never,’ said George Wada, senior vice-president at Production IG, the company behind the anime hits Ghost In The Shell and Attack On Titan, ‘We are on the brink of whether Japanese animation becomes big or goes minor.’…
…The list of the world’s 25 most valuable franchises are topped by two Japanese giants–Pokemon and Hello Kitty with respective all-time sales of $92bn and $80bn–and include nine other Japanese names.But behind that success, say analysts, has been a tendency to under-exploit the anime gold mine and heavily criticized labour practices that are hidden behind the most popular titles.
Frank Frazetta (1928–2010) may someday hang his paintings in the Guggenheim Museum (hey, whoever thought that Norman Rockwell would have a major exhibition in Frank Lloyd Wright’s temple of Modern?). False equivalency aside, anything is possible in the current what-is-art world (what’s more, Frazetta already has his own museum). Frazetta is to fantasy what Max Ernst is to surrealism (which is fantasy on another psychic and perceptual plane)….
Frazetta transformed the fantasy genre. What can you point to as his most emblematic work?
There was a gradual building, including comic book covers in the early ’50s, which influenced George Lucas and Star Wars. Then Frank’s early 1960s illustrations for Edgar Rice Burroughs books, including Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. And Frank had a good run, painting big studio, humorous caricature-based movie posters in the mid-’60s. Most illustrators would consider movie poster work as a dream come true. But Frank walked away from them for what he felt was more uniquely his own, with his Sword & Sorcery heroic fantasy art. A shortlist of pieces that I cite as rocking the public’s collective consciousness would include “The Barbarian,” which first ran as the cover to the Conan the Adventurer paperback in 1966. Also “Death Dealer,” which first appeared on an early-’70s paperback but inspired American Artist magazine to break their own traditions to produce a special issue devoted to illustration, including coverage of Frazetta and covered with the Death Dealer. “Dark Kingdom” is another, which most people recall as running on a multi-million–selling Molly Hatchet album cover….
Check out this item in the forthcoming Focus Magazine. It gives hugely well deserved recognition to well known local SF/Fantasy authors Piper Mejia, Lee Murray, Jean Gilbert and the many other genre authors around NZ who have helped with their efforts in teaching and mentoring and publishing young students.
…Two years ago, Nick Smith, a Pasadena library technician, curated a “Dreaming the Universe: The Intersection of Science, Fiction & Southern California” exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of History. His observation: While the creators of science fiction are rightly lauded, the history of the sci-fi fandom here is also worth acknowledgment.
“I think that’s part of why this has been home to a lot of science fiction,” says Smith, who is the former president of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. Founded in 1934, it’s the oldest such fan group in the world, with a teenage Ray Bradbury one of its early members.
California appealed to science-fiction writers in the same way it appealed to anyone, Smith says. There were jobs to be had here, the promise of a better life and more opportunity or acceptance for people who might be discriminated against in other parts of the nation.
“Hollywood and television also contributed,” he says. “They provided a steady extra income for some of the writers.”
(11) DARROLL PARDOE OBIT. UK fanzine fan Darroll Pardoe (1943-2021) died January 28 at the age of 77 from COVID-19. Pardoe joined the Birmingham (UK) Science Fiction Group in 1965. He took over Les Spinge from Ken Cheslin and Dave Hale in 1966 and published it until 1979. He also was noted for editing the newzine Checkpoint for a year in the Seventies, and an issue of the British Science Fiction Association’s Vector.
He is survived by his wife, Rosemary Pardoe, co-founder of the British Fantasy Society.
(12) CHRISTOPHER LITTLE OBIT. The agent who handled Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Christopher Little, died January 7. The New York Times obituary is here.
Christopher Little, who as a struggling literary agent took a chance on a scrappy submission about tween-age wizards — even though he once disdained children’s fiction as a money-loser — and built it into the most successful literary empire in history on the strength of its lead character, Harry Potter, died on Jan. 7 at his home in London. He was 79.
J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, was an unpublished, unemployed single mother in Edinburgh in 1995 when she sent Mr. Little the first three chapters of her first book after finding his name in a directory of literary agents. Knowing nothing about the business, she picked him because his name made him sound like a character from a children’s book.
Mr. Little submitted the manuscript for “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” to 12 publishers. He received 12 rejections in response, before selling it for £2,500, or about $3,400 (the equivalent of about $5,800 today). It was a meager amount, but his genius was in the details: He sold only the rights to publish it in Britain and the Commonwealth, and he asked for high royalties….
Mr. Little did more than launch Ms. Rowling’s career. He was the architect of the entertainment powerhouse that grew up around Harry Potter, helping line up everything from Legos to amusement parks.
Ms. Rowling was the first author to earn more than $1 billion off her work, and it’s no surprise that her agent did well too: By some estimates Mr. Little made over $60 million from the Harry Potter franchise. He never claimed credit for her success, but he was ever-present in the background, appearing alongside his client at book launches and movie premieres, enjoying those brief moments in the limelight….
(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
January 29, 1964 — Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb premiered. Starring a stellar cast of Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, James Earl Jones and Slim Pickens, it was directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick.
It was not the original title as Kubrick considered Dr. Strangelove’s Secret Uses of Uranusas well as Dr. Doomsday or: How to Start World War III Without Even Trying, and the much shorter Wonderful Bomb.
The film is somewhat based on Peter George’s political thriller Red Alert novel. (Originally called Two Hours To Doom.) Curiously Dr. Strangelove did not appear in the book. This novel’s available on at usual digital suspects. And George’s novelization of the film is on all digital sources. If you purchase it, it has an expanded section on Strangelove’s early career.
It would not surprisingly win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Loncon II in London in 1965 with The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao being the only other film on the final ballot.
The film was a box office success. Critics were universal in their belief that it was one of the best films ever done with Ebert saying it was “arguably the best political satire of the century”. At Rotten Tomatoes, it currently holds a ninety four percent rating with over two hundred thousand audience reviewers casting a vote.
A sequel was planned by Kurbrick with Gilliam directing though he was never told this by Kurbrick and only discovered this after Kurbrick died and he later said “I never knew about that until after he died but I would have loved to.”
Born January 29, 1835 – Susan Coolidge. Known for What Katy Did and two sequels. Edited Diary and Letters of Frances Burney. Louisa May Alcott edited Coolidge’s collection New-Year’s Bargain, which is ours; three dozen books all told; short stories, poems. Alice Dalgliesh edited a posthumous Coolidge coll’n Toinette and the Elves. (Died 1905) [JH]
Born January 29, 1860 – Anton Chekhov. (Note that kh in the usual Roman-alphabet spelling of his name represents a single consonant in Russian: the pronunciation is near to “che-hoff”). A dozen stories have fantastic elements making them particularly for us; stories, plays, generally, for everyone. You can see Nabokov’s discussion of “The Lady with the Little Dog” here. (Died 1904) [JH]
Born January 29, 1907 – John Clymer. Illustrator of the American West (worked in U.S. and Canada); Prix de West, Rungius Medal, Royal Canadian Acad. of Arts. Also Argosy, Marine Corps Gazette, Saturday Evening Post (eighty covers), Woman’s Day, Chrysler, White Horse whisky; some for us. Clymer Museum in Ellensburg, Washington. Here is the Aug-Sep 37 Romance; it and more about him here. (Died 1989) [JH]
Born January 29, 1918 — Robert Pastene. He played the title role in the first televised Buck Rogers series on ABC that also had Kem Dibbs and Eric Hammond in that role. 35 episodes were made, none survive. As near as I can tell, his only other SFF performance was on the Out There and Lights Out series. (Died 1991.) (CE)
Born January 29, 1932 — Paddy Chayefsky. In our circles known as the writer of the Altered States novel that he also wrote the screenplay for. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay. The other winners of three Awards shared theirs. He did not win for Altered States though he did win for Network which I adore. (Died 1981.) (CE)
Born January 29, 1938 — Ralph Bakshi, 83. Started as low-level worker at Terrytoons, studio of characters such as Heckle and Jeckle and Mighty Mouse. His first major break would be on CBS as creative director of Mighty Mouse and the Mighty Heroes. Fast forwarding to Fritz the Cat, which may or may not be genre but it’s got a foul-mouthed talking cat. Genre wise, I’d say War Wizards which features voice work by Mark Hamill and given a title with the last word Wizards so it wouldn’t be confused with you-know-what film. Next up was The Lord of the Rings, a very odd affair. That was followed by Fire and Ice, a collaboration with Frank Frazetta. Then came what I considered his finest work, the Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures series! Then there’s Cool World… (CE)
Born January 29, 1942 – Rosemary Wells, age 79. Five novels for us, counting Voyage to the Bunny Planet and two sequels; ten dozen all told. Illustrator too. Daughter of a ballerina and a playwright, who “praised what I did well and didn’t care much about what I didn’t do well…. I drew uncannily for a youngster…. hunted rats with a bow and arrows…. fierce and devoted Brooklyn Dodger fan.” [JH]
Born January 29, 1945 — Tom Selleck, 76. Setting aside the matter of if Magnum P.I. is genre which some of you hold to be true, he was Sgt. Jack R. Ramsay in Runaway which is most definitely SF. He recently did some voice acting by being Cornelius, Lewis’ older self, in the animated Meet the Robinsons film, and he showed up as himself in the “What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?” of the Muppet Babies nearly forty years ago. (CE)
Born January 29, 1958 – Nic Farey, age 63. Irreverent and valuable (sorry, Nic, but it’s true) fanziner. Two first-rate fanzines, Beam with Ulrika O’Brien, This Here solo (I omit the TH ellipsis mark lest you think I’m eliding, but it’s there); both have won FAAn (Fannish Activity Achievement) Awards. Chaired fanziners’ convention Corflu (named for mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable) 19, co-chaired Corflu 31. Likes association football. [JH]
Born January 29, 1970 — Heather Graham, 51. Best known SF role was no doubt Dr. Judy Robinson on the Lost on Space film. She played also Felicity Shagwell that same year in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. And she was Annie Blackburn on Twin Peaks. (CE)
Born January 29, 1985 – Giovanna Fletcher, age 36. Among writing, singing, acting, blogging and vlogging (I am not making this up), two novels for us with husband Tom Fletcher. Sang “Moon River” with him. Won Series 20 of I’m a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here. Nine other books, some nonfiction. Website. [JH]
Born January 29, 1988 — Catrin Stewart, 33. Jenny Flint in five episodes of Doctor Who. She was the wife of Madame Vastra and the friend of Strax with the three known as the Paternoster Gang who appeared first during the Eleventh Doctor and last during the Twelfth Doctor. Big Finish has continued them in their audiobooks. She also played Stella in two episodes of the Misfits series, and was Julia in a performance of 1984 done at London Playhouse a few years back. (CE)
There are lots of professors of Film Studies or equivalent, and plenty of them have turned their attention to SF. But a hasty google does not reveal the exact title “Professor of Science Fiction Film Studies” at any other institutions. Could this be the world’s first? And science fiction’s first? Further research may be needed.
Though I myself am capable of droning on for hours and hours about SF films, the job requires “Ph.D in film studies or a related field,” which lets me out. Also, they probably don’t want to hire someone with the “ink-and-paper SF is better” prejudice.
Thanks to Fred Scharmen and Bill Leininger for bringing this to my attention.
(16) SOUTHERN FANDOM STORIES. Fanac.org has announced another FanHistory Zoom session (in addition to the second Ted White segment already reported in the Scroll). RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org for the Zoom link.
February 20, 2021, 7PM EST (4PM PST, 12:00 AM London, 11AM Sunday in Sydney) – An Anecdotal History of Southern US Fandom, with Toni Weisskopf, Janice Gelb and Guy Lillian III. Get a perspective on Southern Fandom from the inside. Topics expected to include history and impact of conventions and Worldcons, clubs and fanzines, and bigger than life individuals.
Michaela Goade, illustrator of We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, reflected on the experience of winning the 2021 Caldecott Medal; she is the first BIPOC woman and the first Indigenous artist to receive the award. “I felt a bit like a deer in the headlights and did not know what to say!,” Goade told PW.
Joe Biden was three weeks from taking office as a freshman U.S. senator when the moon rock that is now newly on display in the White House was collected by astronauts on the lunar surface.
Six terms in Congress, two terms as the Vice President of the United States and one presidential inauguration later, Biden and the lunar sample 76015,143 will now share the Oval Office.
The Biden Administration requested an Apollo-recovered moon rock for display as “a symbolic recognition of earlier generations’ ambitions and accomplishments, and support for America’s current moon to Mars exploration approach,” according to NASA. The 0.7-pound (333-gram) rock, held by a metal clamp and encased in glass, sits on the bottom shelf of a recessed bookcase beside a painted portrait of Ben Franklin and adjacent to the Resolute desk.
(19) THEY LOST ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter’s ears perked up when they had a Star Trek-related item on tonight’s Jeopardy! A contestant missed it.
Answer: George Herbert’s poetic query “Is there there in truth no” this? became the title of the “Star Trek” episode with the Medusans.
Explanation: Why does Saturn appear so big? It doesn’t — what is pictured are foreground clouds on Earth crossing in front of the Moon. The Moon shows a slight crescent phase with most of its surface visible by reflected Earthlight known as ashen glow. The Sun directly illuminates the brightly lit lunar crescent from the bottom, which means that the Sun must be below the horizon and so the image was taken before sunrise. This double take-inducing picture was captured on 2019 December 24, two days before the Moon slid in front of the Sun to create a solar eclipse. In the foreground, lights from small Guatemalan towns are visible behind the huge volcano Pacaya.
Debris will premiere on Monday, March 1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, NBC announced during its first TCA panel on Tuesday. In addition to teasing the upcoming series and unveiling the premiere date, the Debris team also talked parallels to Fringe.
“There’s always going to be my DNA in the show,” [J.H.] Wyman, who serves as executive producer and showrunner said. “But it’s definitely its own thing.”
Like Fringe, Debris follows government officials as they investigate when wreckage from a destroyed alien spacecraft has mysterious effects on humankind. Riann Steele will star as MI6’s Finola Jones and Jonathan Tucker as the CIA’s Bryan Beneventi.
While the series will feature different stories driven by the odd effects of the alien leftovers, Debris will see the relationship between the two leads develop and gain complexity as the show continues.
(22) BREAK TIME. “30 Minutes of Relaxing Visuals From Studio Ghibli” on YouTube is a compilation of short clips about nature from Studio Ghibli films prepared by HBO Max.
[Thanks to John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Bill Higgins, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, PhilRM, David K.M. Klaus, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]
By Bill Higgins: In August 1986, Jamie and Gail Hanrahan published PyroTechnics #38, a fanzine founded by Jeff Duntemann. It served as a club newsletter for General Technics, a loose organization of SF fans interested in do-it-yourself technology. That was 34 years ago.
In 2003, Andrew Plotkin found a copy of Pyro 38 stored in his dad’s basement. He decided to write a lengthy and thoughtful Letter of Comment. On September 10, 2003, uncertain whether 1987 postal addresses would still be valid, Andrew posted his letter to the rec.arts.sf.fandom newsgroup for all on Usenet to read.
Today I noticed that it has been just about as long between Andrew’s charming LoC and now as it has between the publication of Pyro 38 and the day Andrew posted his letter. I think this is a moment to celebrate.
The most recent issue of PyroTechnics, number 57, was published in 1997, six years pre-Plotkin. Nevertheless, we of the Pyro editorial staff are always glad to receive comments from readers. (I was one of two editors for #57.)
John Ridley, a GT member, has archived most of the issues of Pyro. One may read Issue 38 at this link.
General Technics still exists, and more or less thrives, though we haven’t published a zine in quite a while. We throw room parties a couple of times a year at Chicago and sometimes Detroit cons. We hold a weekend club outing annually. We correspond on a busy mailing list. Some of us have gafiated, but a goodly number are still active fans and/or pros. We still chatter about SF, science, and do-it-yourself technologies. In the Seventies we called ourselves “techies;” the closest modern word, I suppose, would be “makers.”
Anyway, I salute Andrew Plotkin’s noble gesture. He reminds us that fandom is, among other things, a long conversation. Here’s to friendships that stretch across decades. And long may the conversation continue.
HBO is celebrating Comic-Con@Home with a first look at Season 2 of His Dark Materials. During today’s virtual panel for the show, HBO unveiled the trailer for the upcoming season of the drama, which introduces some fresh faces.
The YouTube description adds –
His Dark Materials stars Dafne Keen, James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Adapting Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy of the same name, which is considered a modern masterpiece of imaginative fiction, the first season follows Lyra, a seemingly ordinary but brave young woman from another world. Her search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children, and becomes a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. As she journeys through the worlds, including our own, Lyra meets Will, a determined and courageous boy. Together, they encounter extraordinary beings and dangerous secrets, with the fate of both the living?—?and the dead?—?in their hands.
(3) COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE? A second trailer for Bill & Ted Face the Music. Available On Demand and in theaters September 1.
(4) SCARES THAT CARE. Brian Keene and friends have done a few 24-hour telethons to raise funds for Scares That Care. The most recent event was canceled due to Covid.
They are opting to do a virtual fundraiser on August 1st. It’s only 13 hours, but it looks like it will be packed with lots of interesting panels. See the FAQ and schedule at the Scares That Care Virtual Charity Event link. Say, they get the same kind of questions as the Worldcon!
Q: I’m a celebrity who works in the horror genre. Why wasn’t I included in programming? A: We tried to accommodate as many horror professionals as we could, but unlike our physical Scares That Care Weekend charity events, we are limited by the technological restrictions and time constraints of this virtual event. However, you can still help the cause by sharing the event with your fans and encouraging them to donate.
If you want to sell books during a pandemic, it turns out that one of the best places to do it is within easy reach of eggs, milk and diapers.
When the coronavirus forced the United States into lockdown this spring, stores like Walmart and Target, which were labeled essential, remained open. So when anxious consumers were stocking up on beans and pasta, they were also grabbing workbooks, paperbacks and novels — and the book sales at those stores shot up.
“They sell groceries, they sell toilet paper, they sell everything people need during this time, and they’re open,” said Suzanne Herz, the publisher of Vintage/Anchor. “If you’re in there and you’re doing your big shop and you walk down the aisle and go, ‘Oh, we’re bored, and we need a book or a puzzle,’ there it is.”
Big-box stores do not generally break out how much they sell of particular products, but people across the publishing industry say that sales increased at these stores significantly, with perhaps the greatest bump at Target. In some cases there, according to publishing executives, book sales tripled or quadrupled.
Dennis Abboud is the chief executive of ReaderLink, a book distributor that serves more than 80,000 retail stores, including big-box and pharmacy chains. He said that in the first week of April, his company’s sales were 34 percent higher than the same period the year before.
“With the shelter in place, people were looking for things to do,” he said. “Workbooks, activity books and just general reading material saw a big increase.”
…And then the other reason we’re never sure how much we should talk about it is because rolling this information out in numbers can sort of feel like it’s…IDK. Attempting to lay on a guilt trip, or something, which is honestly not the goal! Because, like…there are always reasons people aren’t gonna buy a book! It’s not their genre! They don’t have any spare money right now! They already have a copy! There’s a million reasons! So talking about this is never meant to make people feel badly for not buying a book right now! Okay? Okay! 🙂
So let’s talk about numbers. Newsletter numbers, specifically, because the people who have chosen to be on my newsletter are my captive audience, and presumably are the most likely to buy any given book. (Join my newsletter! :))
Right now I have about 1630 newsletter subscribers, and in any given month, about 100 people—7% of the subscribers—buy the book I’m promoting that month. That’s pretty reliable.
(7) US IN FLUX. The latest story for the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “Even God Has a Place Called Home” by Ray Mwihaki, a story about environmental health, witchcraft, technophilia, and transcendence.
On Monday, July 27 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, they wll host another virtual event on Zoom, with Ray and science fiction author Christopher Rowe.
(8) CLARKE AWARD LOWDOWN. On Five Books, Cal Flyn interviews Arthur C. Clarke Award director Tom Hunter about this year’s nominees for the prize: “The Best Science Fiction of 2020”.
…In terms of who the audiences are for these books, on the one hand, if you like science fiction, you’ll find much to enjoy here but if you haven’t really tried the genre before, or if you might have been put off, I’d stress that these are all books published in 2019, for a 2020 prize, so they’re very contemporary-feeling in terms of their characterisation, quality of prose, plotting and so forth. You can definitely trace their lineage through the different eras of science fiction as it has evolved as a genre, and all of these books interrogate and tease and play with that tradition in different ways, but are also respectful of it. That’s the difference between, say—insert name of mainstream author—who has discovered a science fiction concept and written a book about it, then does a press tour where they try and convince you they’ve somehow invented robots, or space travel or parallel universes, or whatever. You know: ‘Before me science fiction was just cowboys in space, but my book is about real futures…’
… In his rendering of the 2001 story, Clarke may be marginally more emollient than Kubrick when it comes to assessing humanity’s chances of genuine uplift at the hands of a transcendent superbeing, but compared with contemporary in-house American SF visions of the future, both novel and film are baths of cold water.
Both were tortuously understood by many genre viewers as optimistic paeans to technological progress, with a bit of hoo-ha at the end; and Clarke himself never directly contradicted Kubrick’s dramatic rendering of his own exceedingly measured presentation of his clear message—also articulated in Childhood’s End, and hinted at strongly in Rendezvous with Rama—that as a species we may simply not quite measure up.
But this calm magisterial verdict, couched smilingly, mattered little to his own career, even when understood correctly. The huge success of 2001 had both made him rich and transformed him into a world gure; an addressable, venerated guru whose declarations on the shape-of-things-to-come were now given to the world at large. The best of this nonfiction work was collected years later as Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds! (1999), a huge volume whose title perfectly sums up the coign of vantage from which he wrote: which is to say, as though from the future itself, from somewhere on the far side of the slingshot ending….
(10) MORE UK FANHISTORY ONLINE. Rob Hansen has expanded THEN’s 1961 coverage of the SF Club of London. And “I’ve also added a link to a report by George Locke on the 1960 Minicon in Kettering. I didn’t think any report beyond a couple of sentences in Skyrack existed for that con so I was quite surprised to stumble across it.” Scroll down to 1960s section for links on the THEN index.
At the dawn of “The Muppet Show” in the late 1970s, a visit to the Muppet Labs consisted of watching its nebbishy proprietor, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, demonstrate misbegotten inventions like an exploding hat or a self-destructing necktie with a brief burst of pyrotechnics, a canned explosion sound and a puff of smoke.
Today, a return visit to those labs on the Disney+ series “Muppets Now” features Honeydew and his agitated assistant, Beaker, using a homemade device called the Infern-O-Matic to reduce everyday items — a carton of eggs, a wall clock, a guitar — to smoldering piles of ashes.
If this scene from “Muppets Now” feels manic and combustible — and even a bit familiar — that is by design: as Leigh Slaughter, vice president of the Muppets Studio, explained recently, she and her colleagues are hopeful that this series will conjure up “that true Muppet anarchy — that complete chaos.”
She added: “If they’re going to take on real-world science, we thought, we have to burn things. We have to drop things. We have to blow things up.”
“Muppets Now,” a six-episode series that debuts on July 31, is both Disney’s attempt to bring those familiar, fuzzy faces to its streaming service and a parody of internet content. Its segments feature characters like Miss Piggy and the Swedish Chef in rapid-fire comedy sketches that lampoon popular online formats.
The new series also strives to reconnect the Muppets with the disorderly sensibility they embodied in the era of “The Muppet Show” and get back to basics after other recent efforts to reboot the characters fizzled out.
“The thinking is to stop trying so hard to be like everybody else and just be the Muppets,” said Bill Barretta, a veteran Muppet performer and an executive producer of “Muppets Now.” “Let’s celebrate the fact that they all have to deal with each other and just be silly and play and entertain again.”
(12) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
July 23, 1995 — The Outer Limits aired “I, Robot”. This is a remake of the November 14th, 1964 episode that aired during the second season of the original Twilight Zone. This is not based on Asimov’s “ I, Robot” but rather on a short story by Eando Binder that ran in the January 1939 issue of Amazing Stories. The script was by Alison Lea Bingeman who also wrote episodes of Robocop, Flash Gordon, Forever Knight, Beyond Reality and The Lost World at that time. Adam Nimoy was the director and Leonard Nimoy, his father, was in it as he been the earlier production playing a different character. (CE)
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
Born July 23, 1889 – Yuri Annenkov. Illustrator, portraitist, theater and cinema designer. Zamyatin said he “has a keen awareness of the extraordinary rush and dynamism of our epoch.” Here is a Synthetic landscape. Here is the photographer M.A. Sherling. Here is Zamyatin. Here is a frog costume. Here is Miydodir, an animated washstand that eventually makes the boy at left wash. (Died 1974) [JH]
Born July 23, 1910 — Ruthie Tompson, 110. An animator and artist. Her first job was the ink and paints, uncredited, on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She was involved in every animated from film Disney for three decades, stating with Pinocchio (Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form). Some she was an animator on, some she was admin on. She worked on Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings, too. (CE)
Born July 23, 1914 – Virgil Finlay. Pioneering illustrator. Hugo for that in the first year we gave them; five Retrospective Hugos. First sale, the Dec 1935 Weird Tales; probably 2,600 works of graphic art; fifty poems, mostly published after his death. Here is a cover for The Stars Are Ours. Here is the Dec 56 Galaxy. Some of his marvelous monochrome: The Crystal Man; “Flight to Forever”; I haven’t identified this, can you? SF Hall of Fame. First Fandom Hall of Fame. See the Donald Grant and the Gerry de la Ree collections. (Died 1971) [JH]
Born July 23, 1926 — Eunice Sudak, 94. Novelizer of three early Sixties Roger Corman films: Tales of Terror, The Raven and X, the latter based of The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. She wrote a lot of other novelizations but they weren’t even genre adjacent.(CE)
Found Fandom July 23, 1937 – Cyril M. Kornbluth. Wikipedia says July 2 is his birthday — 1940 Who’s Who in Fandomsays July 23 is the date he discovered fandom. I certainly read and liked The Space Merchants and The Syndic which are the two I remember reading these years on. Given his very early death, he wrote an impressive amount of fiction, particularly short fiction which Wildside Press has all of n a single publication, available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1958.) (CE)
Born July 23, 1947 – Gardner Dozois. Three novels, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors, translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Serbian. Two Nebulas. Editor of Asimov’s 1984-2004; two dozen Asimov’s anthologies, many with Sheila Williams. Four years editing Best SF Stories of the Year, thirty-five of The Year’s Best SF (no, I shan’t explain, and I shan’t tell the jelly-bean story, either). Four dozen more anthologies; one Nebula Showcase. Fifteen Hugos as Best Pro Editor; one as Best Pro Editor, Short Form. Skylark Award. SF Hall of Fame. (Died 2018) [JH]
Born July 23, 1948 – Lew Wolkoff, 72. Long-time laborer in fanhistory and the workings of our conventions. Some highlights: co-chaired ArtKane IV, an art-focussed con in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1979; assembled Phoxphyre, a fanzine anthology of the 1936 Philadelphia convention, with reminiscences by Baltadonis, Goudket, Kyle, Madle, Newton, Pohl, Train, 1983; Program Book appreciation of Barbi Johnson, a Guest of Honor at Lunacon 26, 1983; helped design the base for the 1951 Retro-Hugo trophy, 2001; chaired PSFS (Philadelphia SF Soc.) Young Writers’ Contest, 2018; got 120 audiotapes of Philcon proceedings to the SF Oral History Ass’n; founded, or purported to found, the SF Union of Unpublished Authors (“ess-eff-double-U-ay”, i.e. taking off SFWA the SF Writers of America). [JH]
Born July 23, 1949 – Eric Ladd, 71. Twenty covers for us. Here is The Falling Torch. Here is Convergent Series. First suggested to Bob Eggleton that BE should exhibit in our Art Shows. [JH]
Born July 23, 1954 – Astrid Bear, 66. One of the great entries in our Masquerade costume competitions was The Bat and the Bitten, Karen Anderson and her daughter Astrid at the 27th Worldcon. In 1983 Astrid married Greg Bear; they have two children. Here is AB at the 76th Worldcon on a panel discussing the 26th (L to R, Astrid, Tom Whitmore, Mary Morman, Ginjer Buchanan, Suzanne Tompkins, Gay Haldeman). For the 71st, since Jay Lake whom she and all of us loved had contrived to obtain whole-genome sequencing, and AB had become a fiber artist, she made Jay Lake Genome Scarves in time to give him one, as you can see here. Fanzine, Gallimaufry. It’s not true that this book is about her. [JH]
Born July 23, 1970 — Charisma Carpenter, 50. She’s best remembered as Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. She was also Kyra on Charmed and Kendall Casablancason Veronica Mars. She was Sydney Hart in Mail Order Monster and Beth Sullivan in the direct to video Josh Kirby… Time Warrior! Franchise. (CE)
Born July 23, 1982 — Tom Mison, 38. He is best-known as Ichabod Crane on Sleepy Hollow which crosses-over into Bones. Currently he’s Mr. Phillips in The Watchmen. It’s barely (if at all) genre adjacent but I’m going to that he Young Blood in A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets. (CE)
(14) COMICS SECTION.
Fresh from his Hugo voter reading, Dann writes, “In light of Charlie Jane Anders’ The City in the Middle of the Night, I thought this xkcd might be useful. Check out the mouse-over/alt text.”
(15) WORLDCON TIME OUT OF JOINT. Bill Higgins started out teasing David Levine about CoNZealand’s July 16 “Wild Cards” panel, then his imagination ran away with him:
For years, Luigi’s kindhearted nature and well-meaning oafishness have endeared him to millions of fans who were willing to look past his lengthy history of incompetence. But it seems like the iconic Nintendo character might have just passed the point of no return: The big guy in green apparently left his space heater plugged in for three days straight, and now the entire Paper Mario kingdom has burned to the ground….
(17) STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS. CBS All-Access dropped a clip today.
Get an exclusive look at a hilarious scene from the upcoming series premiere of Star Trek: Lower Decks, an all-new animated comedy featuring the voices of stars Jack Quaid (Ensign Brad Boimler) and Tawny Newsome (Ensign Beckett Mariner).
A heavy-lift Long March-5 roared off a launch pad on Hainan Island Thursday, carrying China’s hopes for its first successful Mars mission – an ambitious project to send an orbiter, lander and rover to the red planet in one shot.
If everything goes according to plan, Tianwen-1 will be China’s first successful mission to Mars, after a previous attempt failed in 2011 — gaining it membership in an elite club including only the U.S. and Russia, of nations who have successfully landed on the planet. (Even so, the Soviet Union’s Mars 3 lander, which touched down in 1971, transmitted for mere seconds before contact was lost.)
…The goals of the mission are to map surface geology, examine soil characteristics and water distribution, measure the Martian ionosphere and climate and study the planet’s magnetic and gravitational fields.
China has launched its first rover mission to Mars.
The six-wheeled robot, encapsulated in a protective probe, was lifted off Earth by a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang spaceport on Hainan Island at 12:40 local time (04:40 GMT).
It should arrive in orbit around the Red Planet in February.
Called Tianwen-1, or “Questions to Heaven”, the rover won’t actually try to land on the surface for a further two to three months.
This wait-and-see strategy was used successfully by the American Viking landers in the 1970s. It will allow engineers to assess the atmospheric conditions on Mars before attempting what will be a hazardous descent.
…The targeted touchdown location for the Chinese mission will be a flat plain within the Utopia impact basin just north of Mars’ equator. The rover will study the region’s geology – at, and just below, the surface.
Tianwen-1 looks a lot like Nasa’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers from the 2000s. It weighs some 240kg and is powered by fold-out solar panels.
A tall mast carries cameras to take pictures and aid navigation; five additional instruments will help assess the mineralogy of local rocks and look for any water-ice.
This surface investigation is really only half the mission, however, because the cruise ship that is shepherding the rover to Mars will also study the planet from orbit, using a suite of seven remote-sensing instruments.
The UK and US have accused Russia of launching a weapon-like projectile from a satellite in space.
In a statement, the head of the UK’s space directorate said: “We are concerned by the manner in which Russia tested one of its satellites by launching a projectile with the characteristics of a weapon.”
The statement said actions like this “threaten the peaceful use of space”.
The US has previously raised concerns about this Russian satellite.
In his statement, Air Vice Marshal Harvey Smyth, head of the UK’s space directorate, said: “Actions like this threaten the peaceful use of space and risk causing debris that could pose a threat to satellites and the space systems on which the world depends.
“We call on Russia to avoid any further such testing. We also urge Russia to continue to work constructively with the UK and other partners to encourage responsible behaviour in space.”
A popular mobile game has been taken offline in mainland China for “rectification work”, after netizens discovered its musical director had written a song containing Morse code with a hidden Hong Kong pro-democracy message.
According to China’s Global Times newspaper, the Cytus II musical rhythm game, produced by Taiwan’s Rayark Games, has been removed from China’s mainland app stores.
This was done after netizens discovered a controversial song by Hong Kong musical director ICE, real name Wilson Lam, on his Soundcloud account.
The piece, Telegraph 1344 7609 2575, was actually posted on his page in March, but after netizens discovered it contained in Morse code the phrase “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times”, many in the mainland called for him to be sacked.
(22) RIGHT OUT FROM UNDER YOU. Floors that can scare you – a gallery of wild images at Imgur.
(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Fandom Games’ Honest Game Trailers: SpongeBob Square Pants–Rehydrated on YouTube says that “children and extremely inebriated adults” will enjoy this new version of a classic SpongeBob SquarePants game featuring “Rube Goldberg machines that require a Ph.D. in SpongeBob to complete.”
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Dann, Joey Eschrich, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]
All but two of the winners had the most first preferences in their categories. The exceptions
Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: The Good Place: “Janet(s)” came from third place to overtake Dirty Computer and The Expanse: “Abaddon’s Gate”.
Best Graphic Story: Monstress, Volume 3: Haven started in second place but got enough transfers to overtake Black Panther: Long Live the King.
The only category where fewer than six rounds of counting were required to determine the winner was Best Fancast, where Our Opinions Are Correct won on the fifth count.
The closest results were:
Best Graphic Story: Monstress, Volume 3: Haven beat Black Panther: Long Live the King by 8 votes.
Best Novella: “If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again” beat “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by 9 votes.
John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Jeannette Ng beat Rivers Solomon by 43 votes.
At lower rankings, there were three closer results:
Best Related Work: The Mexicanx Initiative beat Astounding by 4 votes for fourth place.
Best Fancast: The Skiffy and Fanty Show beat The Coode Street Podcast also by 4 votes for fifth place.
Best Fan Writer: Bogi Takács beat Elsa Sjunneson-Henry again by 4 votes for second place.
(2) AFTER ACTION REPORT. Cheryl Morgan tries to figure out
what went wrong at the Hugo Losers Party in “Worldcon #77—Day 5”.
…Quite why so many finalists were turned away isn’t clear. It isn’t the fault of the Dublin committee, because they have nothing to do with the party other than pass on invitations to the finalists. It probably isn’t the fault of the NZ people because these days I understand that organisation of the event is passed on to people who work for George. People on Twitter inevitably blamed George personally (and doubtless complained that he should be writing books rather than running parties). The fault may lie with the staff at the venue. It is all a bit murky.
What is clear is that a whole lot of people who were not Hugo finalists had got into the party long before the Hugo Ceremony finished. This is the publishing industry in action. If there is a swank party going, publishing people will find a way to get into it. And the fact that they did led to the venue being (allegedly) overcrowded and people being turned away.
I wanted to explain what any money above Chris’s funeral expenses will be used for. The week after next, I’ll take Chris’s ashes to the UK by car and ferry, appx £400. I’ll return to work in France by 1 October. Mindjammer Press has been mothballed since February. It’ll take me the rest of the year to start delivery, meaning I need to cover the period financially. With your blessing, it would be useful to use your gifts to reduce any loan I’ll eventually need. My outgoings are low – appx 1000 euros a month. Please let me know your thoughts.
So, last week didn’t turn out as I’d expected it to. I was let go from The Verge: my last day was Wednesday. The reasons are both simple and complicated, and I’m not going to go into a whole lot of detail, other than to say that I’m bummed to be out, will miss a bunch of my former co-workers, and being able to talk about some of the things that I really love to a big audience. I began work there three years ago, after applying on a complete whim. My time there has made me a much better writer from where I started, so that’s a plus.
At last – at long, long, long last – the next James Bond film has its title. Bond 25 can officially nestle in the bin with Shatterhand, Eclipse, A Reason To Die and however many other mooted titles which came and went….
It’s officially titled No Time To Die. It’s got a very punchy logo, and it’s out in the UK on 3 April 2020 and 8 April 2020 in the US.
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
August 20, 1973 — George Lucas signed the contract to shoot a movie called Star Wars.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born August 20, 1883 — Austin Tappan Wright. Did you know that Islandia wasn’t published when he was alive? His widow edited his fifteen hundred page manuscript for publication, and following her own death in 1937 their daughter Sylvia further edited and cut the text; the resulting novel, shorn of Wright’s appendices, was published in 1942, along with a pamphlet by Basil Davenport, An introduction to Islandia; its history, customs, laws, language, and geography, based on the original supplementary material. (Died 1931.)
Born August 20, 1890 — Howard P. Lovecraft. Virtually unknown during his lifetime, he was published only in pulp magazines before he died in poverty. He’s regarded now as one of our most important authors of horror and weird fiction. He is not the originator of the term Cthulhu mythos, that honor goes to August Derleth. (Died 1937.)
Born August 20, 1932 — Anthony Ainley. He was the fourth actor to play the role of the Master, and the first actor to portray the Master as a recurring role since the death of Roger Delgado in 1973. He appeared in eleven stories with the Fourth through Seventh Doctors. It is noted that enjoyed the role so much that sources note he even stayed in character when not portraying The Master by using both the voice and laugh in social situations. (Died 2004.)
Born August 20, 1943 — Sylvester McCoy, 76. The Seventh Doctor and the last until the modern era of the official BBC Doctors. He also played Radagast in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, he’s The Old Man of Hoy in Sense8 and he voices Aezethril the Wizard in the “Endgame” episode of Thunderbirds Are Go.
Born August 20, 1947 — Alan Lee, 72. Book illustration and film conceptual designer. I think one of his most impressive works is the Tolkien centenary edition of The Lord of the Rings which he did all the art for. Though his first edition cover of Holdstock’s Lavondyss: Journey to an Unknown Region s damn impressive too. Though I don’t like the storytelling of The Hobbit films, his and John Howe ‘s conceptual design is fantastic.
Born August 20, 1948 — John Noble, 71. He’s best known as Dr. Walter Bishop on Fringe, and Henry Parrish on Sleepy Hollow. He’s also played Denethor in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And he voiced Brainiac in Superman: Unbound, a superb film.
Born August 20, 1951 — Greg Bear, 68. Blood Music which won both a Nebula Award for Best Novelette and a Hugo Award for Best Novelette is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery.
Born August 20, 1957 — Mary Stävin, 62. It’s not often we get someone in two Bond films, both of them Roger Moore affairs. In Octopussy, she played an Octopussy girl, and in A View to a Kill, she played agent Kimberley Jones. In the low budget Italian SF film Alien Terminator, she’s Maureen De Havilland, and in Howling V: The Rebirth, she’s Anna.
Born August 20, 1962 — Sophie Aldred, 57. She’s Ace, the Seventh Doctor’s Companion. (By the way Doctor Who Magazine: Costume Design: Dressing the Doctor from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker is a brilliant read and has a nice look at her costuming.) She’s reprised the role in the Big Finish audio adventures.
Born August 20, 1962 — James Marsters, 57. Spike in Buffyverse. He’s also played Brainiac on Smallville, Captain John Hart on Torchwood, Barnabas Greeley on Caprica, and Victor Stein on the Runaways. Oh and he voiced Lex Luthor in Superman: Doomsday.
Born August 20, 1963 — Justina Vail Evans, 56. Olga Vukavitch in Seven Days, a series I thought was extremely well crafted. She shows up in other genre series such as Super Force, The Adventures of Superboy, The X-Files, Conan and Highlander: The Series.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
Today’s Speed Bump is about a disappointing turnout for an author’s event.
(11) UNDER THE LID. This week Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid dives into the heady,
deadly romance of This is How You Lose The Time War and explores what happens
to aging when we live…Longer. Rounded out by an early review of the wonderful
Moonbase Theta, and Out’s second season, click here to read it: “The
Full Lid 16th August 2019”. Excerpt from the Time War review —
A duel is a romance with different syncopation. A game is a conversation with rules. A dance is a fight you both get to win. A waltz between the seconds, a volta across parallel timelines. All of it driven by tempo and need, the percussion of war, the brass of ideologies clashing. The Hans Zimmer siren of massive concepts crashing against each other, of miniature disasters and minor catastrophes stitching themselves into the quilt of the world.
In the midst of all of this, Red and Blue. Soldiers. Assassins, Gardeners (Although only one would think of themselves as such), rivals and slowly, surely, something much, much more.
…The last blog post at Castalia’s blog leading with “Castalia New Release” was in November 2018 and was Day’s non-fiction riposte to Jordan Peterson. ISFDB has only one entry for Castalia in 2018 (Nick Cole’s republished Soda Pop Soldier) and while I know they are missing some titles (e.g. Cole’s sequel to that book from 2018), it is a sharp contrast from 2014-2017.
John C Wright’s “Nowither: The Drowned World” was published in 2019 but the series has shifted from Castalia to Superversive Press. Newer writer Kai Weah Cheah published a sequel with Castalia early in 2018 but his more recent books have been with Russell Newquist’s Silver Empire….
The Kcymaerxthaere is our global link to a ‘parallel universe’. So why don’t more people know it exists?
There’s a well-known saying from Ralph Waldo Emerson that goes: ‘It’s not the destination, it’s the journey’.
That’s kind of how I was feeling, standing in the middle of the Malzfabrik – an enormous art and design centre that began as a malting plant more than a century ago – in Berlin’s Tempelhof neighbourhood. I’d walked 20 minutes from the closest U-Bahn station, along wide, tree-lined streets almost vacant of other pedestrians to reach these towering red-brick buildings and their main square.
I was well off the city’s typical tourist routes, and since my phone’s wi-fi kept cutting out (and the lovely woman at the Malzfabrik’s front desk had never heard of the ‘Kcymaerxthaere’), I’d been wandering around this massive industrial property for over half an hour, searching for signs to a parallel universe. Finding the first one – a pillar-mounted plaque describing Sentrists, a people so self-absorbed that the centre of the universe shifts a bit when more than a few of them get together – was fairly easy, but the others (including a marker tucked within the Malzfabrik’s entry garden) took a bit more sleuthing.
“You’re looking for what?” asked my friend Maria, with whom I was staying in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighbourhood, when I told her about the Kcymaerxthaere, or ‘Kcy’ – an ongoing, global, three-dimensional storytelling experience that has 140 installations, including a series of mostly square bronze plaques (or ‘markers’) and more complex ‘historic sites’, spread over six continents and 29 countries. Each installation pays tribute to a conceived ‘parallel universe’ called the Kcymaerxthaere, and shares bits of larger stories that are said to have taken place at or around corresponding locations in our own ‘linear’ world, but within an alternate dimension. It can be a heady thing to wrap your mind around.
A Californian-based start-up has unveiled what it says is the world’s largest computer chip.
The Wafer Scale Engine, designed by Cerebras Systems, is slightly bigger than a standard iPad.
The firm says a single chip can drive complex artificial intelligence (AI) systems in everything from driverless cars to surveillance software.
…Cerebras’ new chip has 400,000 cores, all linked to each other by high-bandwidth connections.
The firm suggests this gives it an advantage at handling complex machine learning challenges with less lag and lower power requirements than combinations of the other options.
Cerebras claims the Wafer Scale Engine will reduce the time it takes to process some complex data from months to minutes.
(*) from “Home on Lagrange” (with respect to
the advertised possibility of growing huge crystals in orbit): “It had 392
pins, drew fifty-seven amps of current, had a heat sink the size of a Cadillac.
They called it … Macroprocessor”. (Per The NESFA Hymnal — the
addition does not appear on the permitted onlining at http://www.jamesoberg.com/humor.html,
so I’m not sure whether it’s original or part of the filk process.)
The world’s oldest continuously working webcam is being switched off after 25 years.
The Fogcam was set up in 1994 to watch how the weather changed on the San Francisco State University campus.
It has broadcast almost continuously since then barring regular maintenance and the occasional need for it to be re-sited to maintain its view.
Its creators said it was being shut down because there were now no good places to put the webcam.
[Thanks to Nicholas Whyte, Trey Palmer, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Martin
Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew
Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing
editor of the day Ingvar.]
By Chris M. Barkley: When I was attending Worldcon 76 at San Jose, Chicago area fan writer and editor Steven H Silver approached me with an unusual proposition: would I be interested in participating in a fantasy and sf version of an old radio show Information Please.
I had been a radio talk show host myself, which was called Bad Moon Rising and was broadcast on a
public access radio station from the summer of 1976 through the spring of 1983.
As an aficionado of old-time radio shows, I knew about Information Please but I had never heard an episode. But I knew
about the basic premise and format and was sufficiently intrigued to agree.
According to its Wikipedia entry:
Information Please was an American radio quiz show, created by Dan Golenpaul, which aired on NBC from May 17, 1938 to April 22, 1951. The title was the contemporary phrase used to request from telephone operators what was then called “information” but is now called “directory assistance”.
The series was moderated by Clifton Fadiman. A panel of experts would attempt to answer questions submitted by listeners. For the first few shows, a listener was paid $2 for a question that was used, and $5 more if the experts could not answer it correctly. When the show got its first sponsor (Canada Dry), the total amounts were increased to $5 and $10 respectively. A complete Encyclopædia Britannica was later added to the prize for questions that stumped the panel. The amounts went up to $10 and $25 when Lucky Strike took over sponsorship of the program.”
Mr. Silver’s idea was to present this show in a panel format at sf
conventions on a regular basis. Steve Davidson, the current publisher of Amazing Stories, agreed to be the
sponsor these contests and eventually offer prizes of subscriptions to winners
who submitted questions that stumped the panel.
Since it was not widely publicized, there was a lack of audience
material to work with and as a result, Mr. Silver wrote all of the questions
Besides myself, Steven also invited Rich Horton and Bill Higgins
of General Technics to participate as future hosts or participants.
There was no room on the 2018 Windycon programming schedule so it
was mutually agreed that the pilot episode of “F&SF Information Please”
would be held this weekend at Capricon 39.
Mr. Silver was our host and seated to his right were myself, Mr.
Higgins, Chicago fan David Hirsch and Capricon 39 Author Guest of Honor Seanan
Unlike Jeopardy! or
other quiz shows, you can’t really study for it; the questions are so arcanely
phrased that you have to rely on all of the inherent knowledge you possess plus
and improvisational comedy skills you can muster. And believe me, had there
been an audio recording of the panel, you would have gotten an earful of both.
Mr. Silver began with a series of common knowledge questions
regarding Hugo Award winners, Harry Potter characters and fan related items of
interest. (I am being deliberately vague here because the questions that were
used may turn up at future conventions.)
The questions became harder and more perplexing as the panel
progressed, much to the delight of the 40 plus members of the audience
attending. In fact, several members of the audience knew some of the tougher
entries involving Disney movies, fantasy characters from novels, spaceship
names and sf convention history.
At one remarkable point in the proceedings, we were all treated to
the splendid singing voices of Ms. McGuire and Mr. Higgins, who both sang filk
songs from memory.
I must say that I modestly held my own during the proceedings with
a few swift answers and some snappy repartee. And I also also admit I laughed
so hard that afterwards I thought that I had stressed my
Alas, all of this has been mostly lost to history because I did
not think of setting up my smartphone to record the panel.
I think that this particular game show would be a welcome addition
to local and regional conventions and I am urging everyone reading this to
participate if and when this may show up on a programming schedule.
I can say with some certainty that Information Please will be performed at Windycon 47 this coming
November (where, coincidentally, I am the Fan Guest of Honor.) I am hopeful
that other venues around the country will be announced as well.
If you would like to participate and have a chance to win a subscription to Amazing Stories, please send your questions to Steven H. Silver at: email@example.com
[Bill Higgins forwarded
this press release with a note, “I myself will be at the center, and hope to
help Chris Ready with the program — I’ve already agreed to an interview.”]
Ready is an astronomer whose presentations on the work of the Hubble Space
Telescope, and other topics in spaceflight and astronomy, have been very
popular at science fiction conventions for years. Chris is currently making
astronomy videos on YouTube; on New Year’s Eve and the following day, he’ll be
live-steaming coverage of the New Horizons mission, as the spacecraft that
visited Pluto performs a flyby of an even more remote, even colder body at the
edge of the Solar System.
New Horizons spacecraft, having cruised beyond Pluto for two and a half years,
is approaching a small object technically designated “2014 MU69,” but
nicknamed Ultima Thule. It’s an icy body about 30 kilometers in size; very
little is known about it. But on New Year’s Eve, New Horizons will be close
enough to begin gathering detailed data: pictures, spectra, and particle
Ready writes: “We’re going to be live at mission control at the Johns Hopkins
Applied Physics Laboratory. We’re going to talk with people from the New Horizons
mission at APL and online during my first-ever remote livestream.
partnering with Tony Darnell from Deep Astronomy and TMRO to bring this to you
live for 24 hours.”
link to this YouTube livestream, visit https://youtu.be/0zzqOvJiSzE.
(YouTube allows users to set a reminder to be notified when the stream begins
or significant events occur.)
livestream is expected to begin at noon, Eastern Standard Time, on Monday, 31
December. It’ll feature experts on planetary science, popularizers of science,
and such SF writers as David Brin and Geoffrey Landis. The moment of
closest approach will be 33 minutes after midnight on Tuesday, New Year’s. A
signal — indicating success, one hopes — is expected to be received on
Tuesday morning at 10:30 EST. Coverage will end at noon on Tuesday.
communication over 6.5 billion kilometers is limited to a slow rate, it will
take days for the first detailed images of Ultima Thule to be downlinked to
Earth. Nevertheless, a host of scientists and other guests will be gathered in
Maryland to celebrate the moment of flyby, review our knowledge of the outer
Solar System, and await the crucial signal indicating the spacecraft’s status.
Ready explains more about the event in a 6-minute video clip here:
The recent hoo-ha about the Man Booker prize’s longlisting of a graphic novel for the first time, the chilling, understated Sabrina by Nick Drnaso, may have piqued your interest in exploring this ever-expanding medium further, or perhaps for the first time. Not everyone has grown up reading comics and the demands of their various verbal and visual literacies can take some adjusting to, particularly if you’re used to the orderly typesetting of prose novels. It’s never too late, though, to try stretching your brain – both sides of it when it comes to graphic novels, where looking is as important as reading.
The roundup begins with —
This experience comes through in the wordless migration parable The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2006), which follows a man who has gone on ahead of his wife and children to seek work abroad and struggles to navigate his alien surroundings and their indecipherable language. Unable to make himself understood, he resorts to making simple drawings to communicate his need for a room. The reader shares his bafflement and gradually grasps with him how his strange new homeland works. Tan’s genius in children’s picture books blossoms in this extended tale for all ages, illustrated in almost photographic sepia images.
As first reported by Slash Film, Olmos won’t be appearing in The Predator as previously planned. When asked about his role in the film Olmos commented, “I’m not in the show though. It was too long so my character, they had to take me out. They were like half an hour, 3/4 of an hour too long. So I understand why“. Olmos himself doesn’t seem to be terribly disappointed by the news, but fans of his previous work such as Battlestar Galacticaand Blade Runnercertainly will be.
(3) CARTOON VERDICT. Camestros Felapton’s “Review: Final Space (Netflix)” is an interesting tour whether you’re likely to watch the series or not – and more likely not, based on his conclusions….
It’s basically a fun kids cartoon but with more violence and (generally mild) sexual references. With a small amount of effort, it could have been a really good kid’s cartoon instead of whatever it ended up being…
I wouldn’t want to recommend you watch it as for some readers it might result in them using their mobile device as a projectile aimed at the wall but it is sort of a better show than it deserves to be.
(4) PAPER CANCELLED. John Teehan notes that the SFWA Bulletin is abandoning its print edition.
End of an era. As production manager and occasional editor, I worked on 56 issues over 15 some odd years. The SFWA Bulletin is now going digital, and the current issue is the last print one I’ll be involved with. It was a great run—one of the best gigs ever. Had some ups and downs, certainly, but the experience overall was a great one in which I found myself growing each year. Many thanks to everyone who supported our work over the years.
(5) TODAY IN HISTORY
August 5, 1861 — The United States government issued its first income tax, encouraging more people to write fantasy.
August 5, 2011 — Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a reboot that worked.
(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS
Born August 5, 1930 – Neil Armstrong
(7) CURIOSITY’S QUIET ANNIVERSARY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] You may have seen headlines about Curiosity singing (well, humming) Happy Birthday to itself in honor of it’s fifth birthday (as measured in Earth years since landing) last week. Well, nope. Florence Tan at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate explained to The Atlantic why this was a one-time occurrence (in 2013) rather than an annual event — “Why the Curiosity Rover Stopped Singing ‘Happy Birthday’”.
“The answer to your question will sound rather cold and unfeeling,” her email began.
“In a nutshell, there is no scientific gain from the rover playing music or singing ‘Happy Birthday’ on Mars,” Tan said. In the battle between song and science, science always wins.
Vibrating the sample-analysis unit (which is a normal part of Curiosity’s scientific endeavors) uses energy that could be put to use elsewhere and adds wear and tear to the SAM unit. Plus, of course, it takes someone to work the humming into an incredibly tight schedule:
“It’s not just, ‘Oh, I’m ready to send a command, just send an email to somebody,’” Tan said in a phone interview. The rover’s activities are scheduled down to the minute, and SAM requires power to operate. Curiosity runs on a nuclear battery that turns heat into electricity, and it will eventually die.
She has twice been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award and once for the James Tiptree, Jr. Memorial Award. Her greatest recognition came from the Canadian Casper/Aurora Awards, which she has won ten times. Vonarburg won the French language award in 1987 for her story “La Carte du Tendre” (“Readers of the Lost Art”). That same year, she received a second Aurora for her fannish contributions to Solaris. She won three additional short story Auroras for “Cogito” (1990), “Ici, des tigres” (1991), and “La Course de Kathryn” (2004) and five Auroras for Best book for Histoire de la Princesse et du Dragon (1991), Ailleurs et au Japon (1992), Chroniques de Pays des Mères (1993), Les Voyageurs malgré eux (1996), and Reine de Mémoire 4. La Princesse de Vengeance (2007). She won the Prix Rosny-Ainé and the Prix Boreal in 1982 for her novel Le Silence de la Cité. She also won the Boreal for Chroniques de Pays des Mères (1993), Les Rêves de la mer (1997), Reine de Mémoire 1. La Maisson d’oubli (2006) and Reine de Mémoire 4. La Princesse de Vengeance (2007). Prior to 1990, the Aurora Award was known as the Casper Award and in 2011, the Prix Aurora and Prix Boreal combined.
(9) EERIE. Bill “Beamjockey” Higgins has a birthday today, too – and is wondering how File 770’s commenting bug knew!
I can easily accept that some crazy glitch in your blogware puts a far-future date on my draft comment.
What’s spooky is that WHEN I WAS COMMENTING ABOUT CENTENNIALS AND BICENTENNIALS the date on my comment turned out to be 5 August 2854, 900 years after my own birth.
Pics, or it didn’t happen? I attach a screenshot.
(10) OUTREACH. The reading evangelists from Dublin 2019 will be out again next weekend at a local event: “Dublin Comic Con and Outreach”. Chair James Bacon outlines the history:
…No matter where we go, we try and focus on ensuring we have something for all ages of reader. We isolate books for children and younger readers, and keep them to one side; we know adults also love them, but we conserve them so every child can walk away with a book or comic.
This year in Dublin we have 4 large boxes of Childrens Comics, The Beano, Whizzer and Chips and Buster, and cartoon based Superhero comics as well as children’s books, and we will ensure kids get them.
It positively encourages the gentle transition of fascination with all that is super heroes or fun on the screen, to reading on the pages.
These projects have benefited hugely from established conventions who support their logistical activities and also from individuals and organisations who make generous donations of books, magazines and comics as well as their time and effort. Publishers and book stores also support the activities, and Half Price Books in the states have consistently been very good to SF Outreach.
This year, Dave Finn from Incognito Comics has again given two car loads of magazines, books, and comics to Outreach, knowing from seeing it in action at London Film and Comic Con, that the energy and enthusiasm to encourage reading is genuine and if as a by-product, people go to more cons, well isn’t that just fabulous.
Dublin Comic Con next weekend, and if you are in Dublin and want to check out anything to do with the Worldcon, please do call by and speak to us if you are going to Dublin Comic Con. (Check tickets availability, they do sell so well!)
(11) CHOCOLATE HUGO. Jerry Pournelle famously said, “Money will get you through times of no Hugos better than Hugos will get you through times of no money,” however, at the 1984 Worldcon Larry Niven played off his collaborator’s pet phrase when he presented him with a solid chocolate rocket during the ceremony: “Jerry, this is the Hugo that will get you through times of no money better than….”
Yes, these were awarded at the legendary Hugo Loser’s Party in Helsinki Finland at Worldcon 75. The frame is milk chocolate, the center is white chocolate. Together, they taste like victory.
We can’t guarantee they’re gluten free. They may have been made in a facility that works with nuts. If you have any kind of dietary restrictions, you can still buy and enjoy this, but don’t eat it. Just relax and bathe in the glamor of owning a Worldcon Hugo Award.
In the heart of blueberry season, Billy-bodega, a user on Physics Stack Exchange, posed the question: “Supposing that the entire Earth was instantaneously replaced with an equal volume of closely packed, but uncompressed blueberries, what would happen from the perspective of a person on the surface?” the question got promptly deleted. But it didn’t stop Anders Sandberg, a researcher at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, to seriously tackle the idea, explaining the development of this blueberry planet (and even publishing the comprehensive answer in a paper).
What you’d end up with, according to Sandberg, “is a world that has a steam atmosphere covering an ocean of jam on top of warm blueberry granita.” Here’s how the planet would form: you start with fat, thick-skinned blueberries (blueberry Earth would be much less dense than actual Earth, and gravity would be weaker). Since blueberries can’t withstand strong forces, gravity would turn them into mash, releasing air that previously separated them from their neighbors, shrinking the radius of the planet.
(13) NOVIK. Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver, her take on Rumplestiltskin, is reviewed by Choire Sicha in the New York Times Book Review. “Rumpelstiltskin Redux”.
Here [the author] has gathered countless old tales and turned them into something new. The theft of summer, a burning demon who lives inside a prince, a witch’s hut in the woods, the secret power of names, the frozen winter road that winds its way through the depths of the forest—they’re all here.
If anyone is glancing at this review for advice on which films to see this weekend, my recommendation would be to avoid The Darkest Minds. For while it is competently executed and offers some superficial novelties, it is a film that most people have already seen several times, and since two similar franchises to be discussed have failed to generate expected sequels, it may be that many filmgoers are growing as tired of this film as I am.
The film is a generally faithful adaptation of Alexandra Bracken’s novel The Darkest Minds (2012), yet another version of a common formula for success in the modern marketplace of young adult fiction: a future dystopia spawned by an improbable disaster that prods evil adults to torment and oppress its teenagers, despite the fact that – or even because – these amazingly talented and virtuous youth are the only ones who can save humanity from impending extinction. In this case, the improbable disaster is the sudden appearance of a disease called IAAN (Idiopathic Adolescent Acute Neurodegeneration), which kills most young people and imbues the surviving youth with a variety of psychic powers: “greens,” superintelligence; “blues,” telekinesis; “yellows” (in the film, “golds”), control of electricity; “oranges,” the ability to control others’ minds; and “reds,” pyrokinesis. Naturally, the government responds by declaring martial law, rounding up all teenagers, and placing them in concentration camps to either be slaughtered or exploited as slave labor. Our heroine, Ruby Daly (Amandla Stenberg), conceals her feared orange powers, keeping her alive until she escapes from her camp with the help of Cate Connor (Mandy Moore), a member of an underground organization called the Children’s League which turns out to be similarly sinister. But Ruby runs away to join three other teenage fugitives, the blue Liam (Harris Dickinson), the gold Suzume, or Zu (Miya Cech), and the green Chubs (Skylan Brooks), and they proceed to have several adventures in the vicinity of Virginia (though the movie was filmed in Georgia).
…Robinson’s New York 2140, published last year, lays out a vision of what climate catastrophe and a leftist uprising against the capitalist forces that caused it would look like. So HuffPost asked him to elaborate on what he sees as the future of geoengineering. The following was edited for length and clarity.
How do you define geoengineering and what are the forms it will most likely take?
I guess the definition would be something like “a deliberate planned attempt by human beings to mitigate the damages of climate change, of carbon dioxide and methane buildup in the atmosphere, and of ecological damage generally, by way of some action that is large-scale” — if not global in reach, then regional in ways that might have global repercussions.
I’ve been saying that “geoengineering” is a bad name because engineering implies we know what we’re doing more than we really do. Also, that we have more powers than we actually have. I’ve suggested we think of it as “geo-finessing” or “geo-tweaking” or even “geo-begging,” to better indicate our relative ignorance and weakness in the face of global geochemical processes. Lots of those processes we can’t do anything about, even if we really want to. So the name needs some unpacking.
The most likely forms it might take, I think, are the following: casting dust-like particles into the atmosphere to mimic a volcanic eruption, so that for a number of years after that, the global average temperatures would go down a bit. Drawing carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by way of biological and/or mechanical means. Pumping seawater onto the ice cap of Eastern Antarctica. Stimulating growth of small life forms in the ocean that would then die and take their carbon to the seafloor ? this has been mentioned as a possibility, but it’s widely regarded as potentially dangerous for ocean ecologies. Still, it might be tested on small scales, even used on small scales, which would reduce its power to help but also its power to harm.
Government workers in a borough of Alaska have turned to typewriters to do their jobs, after ransomware infected their computer systems.
A spokeswoman for Matanuska-Susitna said the malware had encrypted its email server, internal systems and disaster recovery servers.
She said staff had “resourcefully” dusted off typewriters and were writing receipts by hand.
The borough is in the process of rebuilding its systems.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, StephenfromOttawa, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Rob Thornton, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Bill “Beamjockey” Higgins, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lisa Goldstein.]
Mark and Evelyn Leeper in 2002. Photo by Mark Olson.
By Bill Higgins: 1978 was a good year for me and, apparently, a good year for starting fanzines. Congratulations on celebrating File 770‘s fortieth anniversary! And last Friday I noticed that Issue Number 1998 of MT Void had slipped into my mailbox. Which means that Evelyn and Mark Leeper are scheduled to publish the two-thousandth issue on February 2, 2018.
TOPIC: A Brief History of the MT VOID and the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
We have had some questions about the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society and the MT Void. Let me try to answer all the questions in one very short history.
Since we first met Evelyn and I have always mixed out interest science fiction with our socializing. We were in the science fiction club at the University of Massachusetts from before school started freshman year until we graduated. The last six months I was the president of the club. Evelyn preferred to be the club librarian and did about six times the work anyone else in the club did.
When we graduated we married, and while I was getting my Masters from Stanford we filled the need for a science fiction club by joining PenSFA, the Peninsula Science Fiction Association, which included such members as artists George Barr and Jim Thomas.
When I graduated Stanford I went to work for Burroughs Computer Corporation in Detroit. Wednesday evenings we would go over to Wayne State University and attend the science fiction meetings of the Wayne Third Foundation. We liked the people of that area, but Detroit was depressing and cold. Also, Burroughs was a rather unpleasant place to work. After three and a half years, at the end of 1977, we left and went to work for Bell Laboratories, the research arm of the telephone company.
Bell Laboratories was one of the primary scientific research environments in the world, and they treated their employees well. They even funded social clubs for their staff. But nobody had started a science fiction club. This seemed peculiar for a cutting edge research facility. There was a little science fiction activity, but it consisted of one group what shared the cost of a subscription to the Science Fiction Book Club and then they passed the books around by inter-office mail. This was not entirely satisfying. We did go to the Empiricon science fiction convention in November, 1978. On the way home I told Evelyn that we really ought to found a science fiction discussion group at Bell Laboratories. Things were never the same again. By the end of 1978 we had a working science fiction club.
Bell would give some minimal funding to the club and we could use company facilities if we could get ten people to say they would join it. At first we thought finding ten people interested would be difficult. That fear was quickly disposed of. We should have been able to call ourselves the “Bell Labs Science Fiction Club”, but that was not allowed by the company so we were just the “Science Fiction Club”.
We met every other week and discussed one book and picked another for the following meeting. So two notices had to go out through inter-office mail for each meeting, one to remind people of the coming meeting and one to tell people what book had been chosen for the next meeting. That was a notice a week, and they started hand-written and photocopied, then typed, and eventually e-mailed. A year or so later the meetings were changed for once every three weeks so we would send out two notices every three weeks, but we soon returned to weekly publication. It seemed pointless to just have one item per notice so I started commenting on films and making jokes. Evelyn would write book reviews and other comments and announcements.
We at first were based at Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey, but members would come to meetings from other nearby Bell Laboratories locations, particularly Lincroft and Middletown. Each of these locations had a two-letter code to make addressing in interoffice mail quick. Holmdel was HO; Middletown was MT; Lincroft was LZ. Why Lincroft was not LC we never found out. The meetings were at whichever facility Evelyn and I were at the time. We were moved around. At a time when we were in Middletown we decided that the club and the notice needed a better name. We could have called ourselves the Middletown-Holmdel-Lincroft Science Fiction Club, but we shortened that using the mail codes to the MT HOLZ. That is not an abbreviation for a mountain’s name, and there appears to be no Mount Holz. Instead it is pronounced as if it were “empty holes.” The weekly notice has was similarly named the MT VOID or pronounced “empty void.” These names were proposed by member Paul S. R. Chisholm.
There are still something like 215 real members of the MT HOLZ Science Fiction Society. Activities have become increasingly rare. For a long time there was a video film festival that went along with the club showing pairings of related films like THE POWER and SCANNERS, WHO? and THE RETURN OF MARTIN GUERRE, or Z and ELENI. As participation dropped off the festival died and was reborn once or twice. These days we do not even announce showings to the whole club, but this activity goes on. The one activity that still goes strong is a weekly publication of surprising length, the MT VOID. It may well be the science fiction fanzine that has had the greatest number of issues. The notice/fanzine has had 1574 issues going back to 1978. The members get the MT VOID emailed to them, but it is reprinted on numerous web locations and my reviews appear separately on sites like the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes. [-mrl]
Asked for a comment on reaching issue 2000, Mark Leeper replied, “If you are going to start a fanzine one thing you should have that we did not have is an exit strategy.”
I can’t recall when I myself began subscribing to MT Void. Sometime in the Nineties? Maybe the late Eighties? Anyway, it has given me many years of pleasurable reading, as movie reviews, book reviews, wit, whimsy, and the occasional mathematical puzzle paraded past my eyeballs.
I salute Evelyn, Mark, and their correspondents for the remarkable longevity of their creation, and for their efforts in maintaining a high level of entertainment. Long may MT Void wave!
By Bill Higgins: As the world celebrates the 100th anniversary of Arthur C. Clarke’s birth, allow me to share a photocopy I recently rediscovered.
In 1977 my college SF club, the Michigan State University Science Fiction Society, noted that Clarke’s 60th birthday was approaching. Jim Ransom volunteered to write a letter of greeting and mail it to Colombo, Sri Lanka.
To our delight, Clarke sent a postcard in reply, dated on his birthday, December 16, 1977. He wrote:
Thanks for nice greeting!
Herewith earth end of my next (&last) novel THE FOUNTAINS OF PARADISE.
All good wishes
Arthur C Clarke
The postcard pictured Sigiriya Rock, a historic fortress where King Kasyapa built his palace in the 5th Century AD.
I kept a photocopy; I wonder if Jim Ransom kept the postcard, which turns 40 this year.
As for the plug for his upcoming book, Clarke did in 1979 publish The Fountains of Paradise and it does indeed feature a fictionalized version of King Kasyapa and Sigiriya Rock, as well as a space elevator.
Science fiction writers are notoriously inaccurate at prophecy, however; Clarke may have foreseen the Space Age and the Information Age, but he was wrong about The Fountains of Paradise being his final novel. He went on to publish eighteen more novels before passing away in 2008.