(1) SFPA OFFICER ELECTIONS. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association announced the outcome of its recent elections. Incumbent President, Bryan Thao Worra, was voted in to continue.The new Vice President is Colleen Anderson, and the new Secretary is Brian U. Garrison.
(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. “Chow down on pizza with Ignatz Award-winning Alison Wilgus” in episode 133 of Scott Edelman’s Eating The Fantastic podcast.
Alison Wilgus is a writer and cartoonist who’s been working in comics for more than a decade, and whose latest work is Chronin, a science fiction duology published by Tor. Their first professional gig was as a colorist and staff writer for Cartoon Network’s Codename: Kids Next Door, and since then has been published by Scholastic, Del Rey, DC, Nickelodeon Magazine, Dark Horse, and First Second Books. They’ve also written works of graphic non-fiction, including The Mars Challenge (illustrated by Wyeth Yates) and Flying Machines: How the Wright Brothers Soared (illustrated by Molly Brooks). Alison is also co-host of Graphic Novel TK, a podcast about graphic novel publishing.
We discussed how their life might have gone an entirely different way if not for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, why they describe themselves to people as “a feral nerd,” how an unsolicited pitch on a Post-it note led to selling their first script, what fanfic taught them about writing professionally in other people’s universes, the best way to interact with sensitivity readers, why they’ve retired from Hourly Comics, what would have happened with Odo and Kira if their Deep Space Nine spec script been accepted, the big surprise about the way they made their first sale to Analog, and much more.
(3) HOPE FOR LIBRARIES. Publishers Weekly has learned “Amazon Publishing in Talks to Offer E-books to Public Libraries”.
In what came as a surprise to many librarians and industry observers, a report in The Hill this week revealed that the nonprofit Digital Public Library of America has been in discussions with Amazon Publishing on a potential a deal to make Amazon’s e-book content available in public libraries. And in a call with PW, DPLA officials confirmed that a deal could be done soon.
“I don’t want to get too far out over my skis,” said Michele Kimpton, director of business development and senior strategist for the Digital Public Library of America, when asked to characterize how close a potential deal was to completion. Kimpton told PW that talks with Amazon have been ongoing since spring, adding that the discussions have gone well and that the parties were making “good progress.” And while she expressed hope that Amazon titles could be available to libraries on the DPLA Exchange sometime in early 2021, she also tempered expectations, stressing there were still details to be worked out….
(4) GROGU ENCOURAGES READING. “Baby Yoda stars in new READ® poster and bookmark from the American Library Association”.
Star Wars fans, book lovers, and collectors from around the universe can use their powers to help libraries this holiday season. The Child (a.k.a. Grogu or Baby Yoda), the breakout star of Disney+’s hit series The Mandalorian, is featured in several new must-have products from the American Library Association (ALA), a 501c3 non-profit. All proceeds will fund advocacy, awareness, and accreditation programs for library professionals worldwide.
ALA’s READ® campaign, supported by ALA Graphics, celebrates the joy of reading and the importance of lifelong learning. For more than 30 years, the iconic READ® posters have featured celebrities, musicians, award-winning authors and illustrators, and library advocates who’ve lent their star power to support our nation’s libraries.
Reminiscent of the original Yoda poster ALA Graphics offered in the early 1980s, The Child’s poster and bookmark continue the tradition of previous Star Wars™ READ® collaborations, including with C3PO and R2D2, as well as other timeless characters.
(5) ARECIBO ENDING. “Analyzing Video Footage Of Collapse of Massive Arecibo Telescope” a 13 minute video and analysis.
The collapse was on Tuesday morning, but yesterday the NSF made video of the catastrophic collapse available, and so many viewers asked I continue my long tradition of ‘coping by analyzing failure’ and document what I see in this footage. It’s hard to watch because this magnificent structure has always been part of the world of astronomy for me.
Ars Technica’s text article also explains how the video was obtained: “NSF releases footage from the moment Arecibo’s cables failed”.
The video of that collapse comes from a monitoring system put in place in the wake of the cable failures. Due to the danger of further cable breaks, the NSF had instituted no-go zones around each of the three towers that supported the cables. With no personnel allowed to get close enough to inspect the cables, the staff started monitoring them using daily drone flights, one of which was in progress during the collapse. In addition, a video camera was installed on top of the visitor’s center, which had a clear view of the instrument platform and one of the support towers.
(6) ANSWERS FROM DAW BOOKS. Keystroke Medium hosted a “Behind-the-Scenes Look at Traditional Publishing” with Betsy Wollheim.
What do Patrick Rothfuss, Tad Williams, Mercedes Lackey, C.J. Cherryh, and Nnedi Okorafor all have in common? Besides being A-List fantasy wordcrafters, all were published by DAW Books. Tonight we meet the woman behind one of science fiction and fantasy’s most beloved publishing houses, DAW Books’ President, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief, Betsy Wollheim. Betsy’s here to pull back the curtain on what goes into the traditional publishing process, give you tips on how to get published, and discuss where she thinks the publishing world is headed.
(7) VIDEO GAME DOCUMENTARY PREVIEW. “Chicago was a video game powerhouse in the ’90s. ‘Insert Coin’ looks at the company behind ‘Mortal Kombat’” – MSN.com.
…Midway was among the first to use digitized actors — walking, running, punching, all of it — in its games, giving them a simulacrum of reality unique to the time.
“Up until that point, in most games the artwork was hand-drawn,” said Tsui. “Japanese video game development houses back then were huge and had teams of artists drawing beautiful artwork. So what Midway brought in was this ability to digitize actors and get them into the game and make them look really great” — plus it was cheaper and faster than employing artists.
The documentary captures a moment in time when a homogenous workforce prompted nary a second glance in the world of video games, and it is a harbinger of many of the same issues that the industry is still working through today. More on that in a bit.
Tsui remains off-camera throughout the film, but his connection to Midway is personal. After attending Columbia College for film school, he worked at Midway from 1993 to 1999. “They hired me as a video artist. We couldn’t use a blue screen or green screen background to key out the actors, so for every frame of a character we would hand cut them out, pixel by pixel, to keep the image as clean as possible. That was one of my first jobs when I started working there and it was painstaking. But the teams working on a game were so small back then, usually about five people — nowadays it’s hundreds of people — so everybody had to multitask.” he said.
“The amount of hours we worked was just crazy. But it was almost like being in a secret society, where everybody had this passion for what they were working on. So even though we had these long hours, we would work all day for 10 or 12 hours, and then after work we would stay and play games with each other well into the night and then go home, sleep for a bit and rinse and repeat.”
(8) NEWSTEAD OBIT. Automata creator Keith Newstead has died reports The Guardian:
Keith Newstead, who has died aged 64 of cancer, was the UK’s pre-eminent maker of automata – artistic mechanical devices that are built to look like human or animal figures and which give the illusion of acting as if under their own power.
Newstead had a straightforward, even humble relationship with his chosen artform. Although his work drew on a rich tradition of makers of kinetic art from Leonardo da Vinci to Jean Tinguely, he considered himself an entertainer as much as an artist, and was unconcerned with raising the status of automata as sculpture. Instead he wanted, as he put it in 2015, to “bring enjoyment and entertainment to both young and old alike.”
An example of his work is the Gormenghast Castle Automata.
(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.
- 2010 — Ten years ago, Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making wins the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy with Kage Baker’s Hotel Under the Sand coming in second and Sarah Beth Durst’s Ice placing third. Valente’s novel was first published online at her website, so it was the first book to win the Norton award before traditional publication by Feiwel & Friends. It would also win a Nebula. The series would eventually reach five novels. (CE)
(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born December 4, 1886 – Lawrence Stevens. Seventy covers, two hundred eighty interiors. Here is the Mar 44 Famous Fantastic Mysteries (note “The Man Who Was Thursday”). Here is a 1948 interior. Here is the Jan 49 Super Science. Here is an interior for “The Eye of Balamok”. Here is the Jul 52 Amazing. Outside our field, newspaper cartoonist, designer & illustrator for General Motors. Knew Conan Doyle in Belgium. (Died 1960) [JH]
- Born December 4, 1937 — David Bailie, 83. He played Dask in “The Robots of Death,” a Fourth Doctor story, and also appeared in Blake’s 7 as Chevner in the “Project Avalon” story. Also he played the mute pirate Cotton in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. Intriguingly he shows up in The Creeping Flesh film which starred Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. (CE)
- Born December 4, 1945 — Karl Edward Wagner. As an editor, he created a three-volume set of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian fiction restored to its original form as it was originally written by the author. He is quite likely best known for his invention of the character Kane, the Mystic Swordsman who I think is in as many as thirty novels by Wagner. Anyone here read all of them? Rhetorical question I know as I’m someone here will have. I ask because I don’t think I’ve read more than a few. His Carcosa publishing company issued four volumes of stories by authors of the Golden Age pulp magazines. Anything I left off that folks should know about him? (Died 1994.) (CE)
- Born December 4, 1945 – Bill & Dick Glass, age 75. Of these two too little-known now fans I can tell too little now. Bill’s interior for Double:Bill 13 (thus triple Bill?) was just reprinted in Afterworlds; he had reviews in Delap’s, Shangri-L’Affaires, SF Review, Thrust. Dick had a graphic-novel treatment of “The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm” (The Fellowship of the Ring Bk. 2 ch. 5) and an essay about doing it in I Palantir, a short story in Nova 3. [JH]
- Born December 4, 1949 – Richard Lynch, age 71. In the famous misspelling of Rick Sneary (rhymes with very; most of us didn’t realize the “Snearyisms” were unintentional, bad health kept him out of school, although brilliant he never learned to spell), a publishing jiant. RL and wife Nicki Lynch did Chat for their local club in Chattanooga, then won six Best-Fanzine Hugos with their remarkable Mimosa , see here. Rebel Award for both, Fan Guests of Honor at Rivercon XI, Chattacon XV, DeepSouth Con 40, Conucopia the 7th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas). RL edited the Souvenir Book for Bucconeer the 56th Worldcon; he now and then publishes My Back Pages. [JH]
- Born December 4, 1951 — Mick Garris, 69. Best remembered for his work in the horror genre. He has worked with Stephen King several times, such as directing Sleepwalkers, written by King and starring Mädchen Amick, and on the Bag of Bones series. Garris was also the co-screenwriter and executive producer of Hocus Pocus, and he’s the creator of the Masters of Horror series. (CE)
- Born December 4, 1954 — Tony Todd, 66. Let’s see… He was a memorable Kurn in Next Gen and Deep Space Nine, he plays Ben in Night of the Living Dead, he’s of course the lead character in the Candyman horror trilogy, William Bludworth in the Final Destination film franchise, Cecrops in Xena: Warrion Princess and Gladius on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Those are just selected highlights. He reprises the lead role in the forthcoming Candyman. (CE)
- Born December 4, 1954 – Sally Kobee, F.N., age 66. Bookseller and filker. See here for her and her late husband Larry Smith. SK & LS chaired World Fantasy Con in 2010, SK chaired in 2016 and also Ohio Valley Filk Fest 4 & 10. Both were Fan Guests of Honor at Windycon XXVII; elected Fellows of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service). [JH]
- Born December 4, 1957 – Kathryn Reiss, age 63. A dozen novels for us, nine others. Fulbright Scholar. American Lib’y Ass’n Best Book for Young Adults award, three YA Lib’y Services Ass’n awards. Professor of English at my mother’s alma mater, Mills. [JH]
- Born December 4, 1957 — Lucy Sussex, 63. Fan, reviewer, author, and editor. Born in New Zealand, resident in Australia, she’s been writing SFF ever since attending a Terry Carr-led workshop. And she’s an editor as well having edited several anthologies such as She’s Fantastical, the first collection of Australian women’s speculative fiction. She’s won three Ditmar Awards, an A. Bertram Chandler Award and an Aurealis Award to name some of her awards — impressive indeed! I’ve not heard of her before now, so I’ve not read her, so who has read her? (CE)
- Born December 4, 1974 – Anne Gray, age 46, the Netmouse. Poet and physicist. Five years working with Cheryl Morgan on Emerald City. Chaired ConFusion 30-31 & 35. Fan Guest of Honor at Apollocon 2008. Reviews in Subterranean Online. Born Anne Gay, became Gray with husband Brian Gray, jointly TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegates. She was Murphy for a while, and seems to have been in Yellow Springs, Ohio, during November 2009; speaking of which, Netmouse, how’s Wellspring? [JH]
- Born December 4, 1989 — Nafessa Williams, 31. She had only two genre roles but with the first being the revival series of Twin Peaks where she was Jade. The other is what gets her Birthday Honors — She’s Anissa Pierce who is the Thunder superhero on the Black Lightning series. Superb series, great character! (CE)
(11) COMICS SECTION.
- The Far Side can tell the difference between Frankenstein and Fred Astaire.
- The New Yorker has a weekly Cartoon Caption Contest. Bruce Arthurs noticed: “This week’s has two dinosaurs (I think?) conversing; one is wearing a rainbow-striped propeller beanie, which reminded me of Ray Nelson’s beanie cartoons in old fanzines.” The cartoon is here.
- The online webcomic “Could Be Worse” offered their take on paleontology today
(12) FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport says NASA sold rights to several companies for mining concessions for the Moon, including one to Lunar Outpost for $1 because NASA believed the company had the capacity to launch mining efforts. “NASA names companies that will mine moon”.
NASA announced Thursday that several companies had won contracts to mine the moon and turn over small samples to the space agency for a small fee. In one case, a company called Lunar Outpost bid $1 for the work, a price NASA jumped at after deciding the Colorado-based robotics firm had the technical ability to deliver.“You’d be surprised at what a dollar can buy you in space,” Mike Gold, NASA’s acting associate administrator for international and interagency relations, said in a call with reporters.
But the modest financial incentives are not the driver of the program. Nor to a large extent is the actual lunar soil. NASA is asking for only small amounts — between 50 and 500 grams (or 1.8 ounces to about 18 ounces). While there would be scientific benefits to the mission, it’s really a technology development program, allowing companies to practice extracting resources from the lunar surface and then selling them.It would also establish a legal precedent that would pave the way for companies to mine celestial bodies in an effort blessed by the U.S. government to help build a sustainable presence on the moon and elsewhere.
To do that, NASA says it needs its astronauts, like the western pioneers, to “live off the land,” using the resources in space instead of hauling them from Earth. The moon, for example, has plenty of water in the form of ice. That’s not only key to sustaining human life, but the hydrogen and oxygen in water could also be used as rocket fuel, making the moon a potential gas station in space that could help explorers reach farther into the solar system….
(13) LEAKAGE. “Leaked reports from Pentagon UFO task force discuss ‘non-human technology,’ mysterious objects” – FOX News has the story.
Two classified reports from the Pentagon’s task force used to “detect, analyze and catalog” UFOs have been leaked, both of which include photos of unidentified objects….
The leaked photo, taken off the East Coast of the U.S. by a “pilot’s personal cell phone,” was a part of the 2018 position report, one source told the news outlet. This report discussed what the unidentified silver “cube-shaped” object could be, with a list of possible explanations discussed, including the fact it could be “alien” or “non-human” technology.
The 2020 photo, which has been leaked but is not widely available yet, is described as a triangle with white lights in each corner. This may be the more interesting photo, Nick Pope, a former employee and UFO investigator for Britain’s Ministry of Defense, told Fox News.
“I’m more interested in the fact that this first photo has been leaked, and in the related leaking of information about the Pentagon’s Unidentified Aerial Task Force, where serving intelligence community personnel have shared insights from two intelligence position reports,” Pope said via email. “With my own defense background in this subject, three things stand out. Firstly, the description by one insider of the reports as ‘shocking’ — a word that begs the question what about UAP do these people find shocking. Secondly, the fact that the intelligence reports seem to have been given a surprisingly wide distribution in various intelligence agencies, and thirdly, the fact that the extraterrestrial hypothesis seems genuinely not to have been taken off the table.”
Pope added he expects further leaks, noting he believes there is “a faction within government clearly wants this information to be released to the public.”
(14) NICE TRY. “Man’s Wife Makes Him Sell His PlayStation 5 After Realizing It Wasn’t an Air Purifier” reports Yahoo!
This heartbreaking story comes courtesy of Jin Wu, who turned out to be the lucky recipient of Sony’s next-gen console. Wu detailed his interaction on Facebook, claiming that one day after agreeing to buy the PlayStation 5 from a reseller in person, he called the individual he believed to be a man on the phone only to hear a woman pick up.
After his brief conversation with the mysterious woman, Wu could ascertain that she didn’t know much about the PS5, but was adamant about selling it, even at a remarkably low price…
(15) LUKE TREETALKER. Tree communication is posited in “The Social Life of Forests”, a New York Times Magazine article.
…Now a professor of forest ecology at the University of British Columbia, Simard, who is 60, has studied webs of root and fungi in the Arctic, temperate and coastal forests of North America for nearly three decades. Her initial inklings about the importance of mycorrhizal networks were prescient, inspiring whole new lines of research that ultimately overturned longstanding misconceptions about forest ecosystems. By analyzing the DNA in root tips and tracing the movement of molecules through underground conduits, Simard has discovered that fungal threads link nearly every tree in a forest — even trees of different species. Carbon, water, nutrients, alarm signals and hormones can pass from tree to tree through these subterranean circuits. Resources tend to flow from the oldest and biggest trees to the youngest and smallest. Chemical alarm signals generated by one tree prepare nearby trees for danger. Seedlings severed from the forest’s underground lifelines are much more likely to die than their networked counterparts. And if a tree is on the brink of death, it sometimes bequeaths a substantial share of its carbon to its neighbors….
(16) PUSS IN MORE THAN JUST BOOTS. Credentials suit up!“Cosplay costumes for cats earn former teacher a living” – video at MSN.com.
(17) SUPERPOSITIONED CREDENTIALS. “Schrödinger’s Cat Explained: Does Schrödinger’s Cat Really Exist?” asks Popular Mechanics.Tagline: “But don’t worry—they’re not going to harm any cats.”
For the first time, scientists believe they might be able to show that Schrödinger’s cat could exist in real life—not just in thought experiments. With larger and larger quantum objects, they say, a superpositioned cat seems inevitable. In the meantime, the scientists only have to figure out what’s preventing superpositioning at all in the largest quantum objects.
This one gets a little wavy gravy, so let’s first go over what Schrödinger’s cat even is. It’s a thought experiment, or what cognitive philosopher Daniel Dennett might call an intuition pump, that leads people to a new understanding of quantum mechanics. First, you put a hypothetical cat in a box. Then you basically flip a coin, and either the cat is killed or not killed inside the box.
The box remains closed and opaque the entire time, and there are no weasely workarounds like listening to the cat or seeing the box move. Is the cat alive or not? Since there’s no possible way to tell, the cat is effectively both alive and dead. Like a quantum particle, it’s superpositioned in two states at once.
From this description, you can see why the idea of a “real” Schrödinger’s cat is so stupefying. If a complex mammal could experience superpositioning, that would unlock far-out ideas like teleportation.
[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]