(1) ARE THESE YOUR FAVORITE SPOILERS? “Doctor Who’s Alex Kingston on hiding River Song’s biggest spoiler” at Radio Times. Beware spoilers. Further warning: the one excerpted below is not the “biggest spoiler” referred to in the headline.
And she’s completely right. River Song is unlike any other Doctor Who character, first introduced in 2008’s Silence in the Library and spanning multiple eras in one of the most complex and glorious timelines to ever grace the show.
“She’s the most incredible character to play, and certainly when the role was offered to me, I had obviously no idea of the journey that both she and I would be undertaking – because obviously in the very first Silence in the Library story, she dies,” Kingston exclusively tells RadioTimes.com….
(2) TEXAS BOOK RATING LAW REMAINS IN EFFECT PENDING HEARING. “Appeals Court Lets Texas Book Rating Law Take Effect, Orders Expedited Hearing” reports Publishers Weekly.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will let Texas’s controversial new book rating law, HB 900, take effect while an “expedited” appeals process plays out—despite a district court finding the law to be “a web of unconstitutionally vague requirements.”
In a two-line decision issued on October 5, the Fifth Circuit said it would not hear the state’s emergency motion for a stay separately and will instead carry the motion to be heard with the state’s challenge of judge Alan D. Albright’s preliminary injunction on the merits. The court also ordered the appeal to be “expedited to the next available oral argument panel.”
But the appeals court also declined to lift an administrative stay placed on Albright’s order…
…Signed by Texas governor Greg Abbott on June 12, HB 900 requires book vendors, at their own expense, to review and rate books for sexual content under a vaguely articulated standard as a condition of doing business with Texas public schools. The law includes both the thousands of books previously sold to schools and any new books. Furthermore, the law gives the state the unchecked power to change the rating on any book, which vendors would then have to accept as their own or be barred from doing business with Texas public schools….
(3) WHERE, OH WHERE IS THE CHENGDU WORLDCON BUSINESS MEETING AGENDA? No link — with less than two weeks until the Chengdu Worldcon business meeting agenda still hasn’t been released.
People want the agenda posted so they can read what business is coming before the meeting and think about the inevitable assortment of proposed rules changes. The rule requiring the agenda to be available 30 days ahead of the meeting is so that the movers don’t have the advantage of being able to organize in favor while depriving potential opposition of the same advantage.
(4) CHENGDU WORLDCON ROUNDUP. [Item by Ersatz Culture.]
Welcome to the hotel confusion-ia
Some of the guests whose accommodation has been arranged by the con have been told they are staying in the “Chengdu Tianfu Hengbang Sheraton”. However, it seems that this is a direct translation of the Chinese name of the hotel near the con venue (成都恒邦天府喜来登酒店), but it actually uses a different English name “Sheraton Chengdu Pidu”. (Compare http://www.sheraton-chengdu.com/ to http://www.sheraton-chengdu.com/en?pc )
Thus when searching Google for the first name, people are getting results for a Sheraton in the Tianfu area, which is roughly the opposite side of Chengdu from the Pidu district where the con is actually taking place, which resulted in this.
Per Kevin’s comments on Mastodon, some people have been told that they’ll be staying at the “Sheraton Lidu Pidu”, which does seem to be a different hotel from either of the two previously mentioned.
Here’s a Xiaohongsu post from a week ago showing views of the con venue from the Sheraton Chengdu Pidu: http://xhslink.com/HINobv
Video featuring the “Kormo” con mascot — https://weibo.com/5516881774/Nly3wqo4Y
This 90-second video posted by the GoChengdu Weibo account is a week old, but I only came across it today. Content-wise, it has only minimal connection to the Worldcon – it focuses more on the mid-Autumn festival that’s just gone by – but “stars” the Kormo con mascot.
(5) A HISTORY OF PEE-WEE HERMAN PRODUCTS. The Comics Journal continues a conversation: “The Artists and Cartoonists Who Designed Pee-wee Herman’s World – Part Two”.
…But by season two in 1987, by which time production of the show itself had moved from New York City to Los Angeles, any number of Pee-wee related products—toys, dolls, bed sheets, sweaters, pajamas, t-shirts, stickers, trading cards—were available for purchase. And like the Playhouse show itself, these products were chiefly designed by a group of young NYC artists under the direction of Gary Panter and Reubens himself. Cartoonists and illustrators working on Playhouse merchandise included Ric Heitzman, Mark Newgarden, Kaz, Charles Burns, J.D. King, Richard McGuire, Stephen Kroninger, Tomas Bunk, Norman Hathaway and others. When Reubens died of acute hypoxic respiratory failure on July 30th of this year, I reached out to a number of people involved in shaping the Pee-wee empire. In Part One of this series, I spoke with a number of artists who designed the visual aesthetic of the successful television program; in this second and final part, the focus will be on the many functional and ridiculous products created in its wake, including some that never made it to stores….
… The cartoonist Kaz, another frequent RAW contributor, was brought in early on.
“I can’t remember what came first for me, but I’d been visiting Gary Panter in his various studios around Brooklyn for quite a while,” Kaz said. “Seeing his paintings, sculptures and sketchbooks was always inspiring, and he was one of the sweetest guys and very generous with his time and ideas. I love the guy! So, at some point he asked me to help out with art on some of the Pee-wee licensing that was coming in hot and hard. I just aped his Pee-wee art style (which was not as easy as it looked). I did all the flat art on the inside of the Playhouse Playset. I did some art when they expanded the Pee-wee Colorforms set by adding two wings, thereby making it ‘Deluxe.’ A keen eye will see my cartoon character, Little Bastard, sitting on Pee-wee’s bed on that art.”
“In 1987, through Gary Panter and Mark Newgarden, I worked with Mark on the Topps Chewing Gum’s ‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse Fun Pak’,” Kaz continued. “I remember going into Topps’ offices every day for a few weeks. At the time, Topps was in a grimy industrial waterfront neighborhood in Brooklyn that was not a good place to be after dark. Mark did the bulk of the writing and editing on the “Fun Pak” as well as drawing. I wrote and did a bunch of drawings (in the Panter style). There was a lot to do, so some of the art was freelanced out to other cartoonists. Trivia: I got my full Lithuanian first name [Kazimieras] on the back of one card!”…
(6) PAEAN TO LOST. “Six Part Fan-Made Lost Documentary 815 Explores the Complicated Production of the J.J. Abrams-Directed Pilot Episode” – Movieweb has the story.
Released in 2004 and created by J. J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, Lost has become not only one of the most popular series of all time, but also a role model for many other shows. Its complicated and mysterious story, along with its constant reinvention and plots full of suspense, provided its viewers with a unique experience. Its unexpected twists and strange elements that appeared without any apparent explanation, turned it a legend.
The series follows the experiences of a group of survivors of a plane crash on what appears to be a deserted island. However, as they struggle to live with each other, it becomes apparent that the island is far from a safe place, and they are not the only ones inhabiting the place.
The pilot episode, directed by Abrams and filmed in Oahu, Hawaii, was at the time the most expensive in history, a title it held for a long time. For this reason, YouTuber and Lost fan kuhpunkt (who’s real name is Stefan Lensa) took the time to collect hours of video content about the making of the show’s pilot, transforming it into a six-part documentary titled 815, the number of the flight where the protagonists were traveling…
(7) NATO IN TIMES TO COME. In 2024, NATO will celebrate its 75th anniversary. The NATO Defence College asks writers, especially science fiction writers, for 1500 words on what NATO will look like in 2099. More details at the link. €500 if you are selected. “NATO 2099: A Graphic Novel”.
…Science fiction, while often discredited by dint of its creative and at times outrageous character, holds real added value for research purposes. Not only does science fiction influence the present by projecting inventions (i.e. headsets, mobile phones and tablets), science fiction can leverage the wisdom of the crowd effect: when several authors “see” a similar future, such a future becomes more likely. As such, science fiction has the power of making ideas acceptable. It can entertain a wider public, which under normal circumstances, might not entertain certain ideas, thereby broadening mindsets and fostering critical thinking. Of course, the precondition to this is that science fiction be not fantastical, but is rooted in evidence. (Hence the term FICINT, fictional intelligence.)
Harnessing these benefits, science fiction has been instrumentalized by military organizations in the United States and France to increase preparedness, train critical thinking, and even spot trends in technology and geopolitics. (For example, the idea of Russia attacking Ukraine appeared in Russian science fiction in the 1990s).
Your mission, should you accept it…
The year is 2099, NATO will be celebrating its 150th anniversary. For this reason, sci-fi and fictional intelligence authors are being asked to contribute about 1500 words on what this future might look like. Authors are asked to describe the end state, i.e. 2099, but are free to describe how we got there.
…The compilation of 32 written pieces will be transformed and published into a graphic novel or comic book that narrates a holistic story entitled, “NATO 2099”.
(8) MICHIGAN FAKE ELECTORS CASE. “Michigan judge rules defendants accused in false elector scheme will not have charges dropped” reports the Associated Press. We’re following this story because Michele Lundgren, wife of sff artist Carl Lundgren, is one of the sixteen charged, although she was not a maker of the motion covered here.
Michigan defendants accused of participating in a fake elector scheme will not have their charges dropped after the state attorney general said the group was “brainwashed” into believing former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election, a judge ruled Friday morning.
The decision comes after motions to dismiss charges were filed last week by two defendants, Clifford Frost and Mari-Ann Henry. The two defendants are part of a group of 16 Michigan Republicans who investigators say met following the 2020 election and signed a document falsely stating they were the state’s “duly elected and qualified electors.” Each of the 16 faces eight criminal charges, including multiple counts of forgery….
(9) STARLING HOUSE. At NPR: “Book review: Alix E. Harrow’s ‘Starling House’ Gothic fantasy novel”.
In Eden, Kentucky, the air is thick with dust.
The dying coal town is the fictional setting of Alix E. Harrow’s “Starling House,” and the smog of fading power and bad luck is enough to suffocate its residents, most of whom live in abject poverty.
For Harrow, writing a book about Kentucky was a long time coming.
“This is the first book that I set fully in, like committed to writing about Kentucky,” Harrow says. “One of the reasons that I had found that difficult to do before is because I find it to be a place of very mixed experiences that I love very, very, very much, and which has just an incredible violence and terror to it.”…
(10) CHRIS HADFIELD COMMENTS ON ‘FOR ALL MANKIND’. “Apple TV+ series For All Mankind Depicts Realistic Death in Space According to Renowned Astronaut” at Movieweb.
…Navigating through this cosmic portrayal, Chris Hadfield, an astronaut with feet firmly planted in both scientific and storytelling worlds, lent his expert gaze to scrutinize a particularly grim depiction of death in the aforementioned series. Hadfield, experienced in the authentic silence of the cosmos, put under the microscope a scene from For All Mankind in a special breakdown for Vanity Fair, where an American astronaut fiercely ends a Soviet astronaut’s lunar expedition—with a gun.
But is the rendering of a bullet speeding through the weightlessness and silence of the moon’s environment precise? Hadfield nods in unsettling agreement.
What permeates this acknowledgment is the recognition of the horrifying reality of how gunfire operates in the vacuum of the moon. Unlike its earthly counterpart, a bullet on the moon, devoid of air and oxygen to disrupt its trajectory, travels with haunting precision, straighter and farther into the abyss. The portrayal of such a scenario in For All Mankind doesn’t simply draw from a well of imagined horrors, but rather bathes in a chilling accuracy that aligns with the physical realities of our universe.
Moreover, the aftermath of such a bullet puncturing a spacesuit, according to Hadfield, is equally petrifying and authentic. A spacesuit, cushioning its inhabitant with a hundred percent oxygen, can turn into an infernal chamber when breached. History has witnessed this, as Hadfield recalls an incident during a test at the Johnson Space Center, where even aluminum, veiled in flames, narrated the horrors of what could transpire inside a suit, albeit thankfully unoccupied by a human during the incident. Oxygen, the life-giving force, transforms into a silent executioner in the blink of an eye when exposed to a spark in such an environment….
(11) START THE PARTY. Today is Francis Hamit’s 79th birthday and he’s celebrating at Amazing Stories by posting a 15,000-word excerpt from his novel: “Excerpt: STARMEN by Francis Hamit: Support the Kickstarter”.
Today is Francis Hamit’s Birthday. (Happy Birthday, Francis!) He also informs us that the Kickstarter for his forthcoming “genre experiment” novel – STARMEN – closes on October 10th. As his Birthday gift to all of our readers, he wants to make sure that you know that EVERYONE contributing to the project will be able to purchase the E-book edition of this 190,000-word epic for just one dollar ($1.00)….
“My mixed genre novel STARMEN is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to excerpts. It’s about 190,000 words long and incorporates alternative post Civil War history, quantum mechanics, Apache Indian myths and some rather nasty Aliens. It begins in 1875 El Paso, Texas at the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Some of the detectives are witches. So are some of the Apaches. There are also some romance elements. And politics.”
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born October 6, 1911 — Flann O’Brien. Irish novelist, playwright and satirist. He wrote three novels, At Swim-Two-Birds, The Dalkey Archive and The Third Policeman. Though The Dalkey Archive was published before The Third Policeman, it was written after that novel, so entire sections of The Third Policeman are recycled almost word for word in it, mostly the atomic theory and the character De Selby. (Died 1966.)
- Born October 6, 1950 — David Brin, 73. Author of several series including Existence (which I do not recognize), the Postman novel, and the Uplift series which began with Startide Rising, a most excellent book and a Hugo-winner at L.A. Con II. I’ll admit that the book he co-wrote with Leah Wilson, King Kong Is Back! An Unauthorized Look at One Humongous Ape, tickles me to no end if only for its title. So who’s read Castaways of New Mohave, that he wrote with Jeff Carlson?
- Born October 6, 1952 — Lorna Toolis. Librarian, editor, and fan Lorna was the long-time head of the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy at the Toronto Public Library and a significant influence on the Canadian SF community. She founded the SF collection with a donation from Judith Merril. She was a founding member of SFCanada, and won an Aurora Award for co-editing Tesseracts 4 with Michael Skeet. (Died 2021.)
- Born October 6, 1955 — Donna White, 68. Academic who has written several works worth you knowing about — Dancing with Dragons: Ursula K. LeGuin and the Critics and Diana Wynne Jones: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom. She’s also the author of the densely-written but worth reading A Century of Welsh Myth in Children’s Literature.
- Born October 6, 1955 — Ellen Kushner, 68. If you’ve not read it, do so now, as her sprawling Riverside series is stellar. And there’s cups of hot chocolate. I’ve read all of it. And during the High Holy Days, do be sure to read The Golden Dreydl as it’s quite wonderful. As it’s Autumn and this being when I read it, I’d be remiss not to recommend her Thomas the Rhymer novel which won both the World Fantasy Award and the Mythopoeic Award.
- Born October 6, 1967 — Joshua Glenn, 56. Publisher who re-issued a lot of the scientific romances from the beginning of last century like J D Beresford’s Goslings, The Edward Shanks’ People of the Runs and E V Odle’s The Clockwork Man. He’s edited two anthologies, Voices from the Radium Age and More Voices from the Radium Age.
(13) CONNECTING SFF AND SCIENCE. The U.S. State Department website is hosting “From Science Fiction to Science Fact”. It begins with a video introduction by Mark Hamill.
About 400 kilometers above the Earth, the International Space Station orbits at 28,000 kilometers an hour. It’s the single largest structure humans have ever put in space and a football-field-size symbol of diplomatic cooperation.
Built over a decade with U.S. and Russian spacecraft, the station has been continuously occupied by an international crew since November 2000. The station isn’t owned by any one nation, but rather operates as a partnership among five space agencies — the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA; the Russian State Space Corporation “Roscosmos”; the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA); the European Space Agency; and the Canadian Space Agency. There are regular crew handovers whereby some astronauts leave and new ones come aboard. Two hundred seventy-three astronauts from 21 countries have worked on the station….
In the popular 1960s television show Star Trek, the starship Enterprise crew members depend on handheld tricorders. The devices seem to magically detect everything from unknown life forms to the nature of a crew member’s illness.
While the TV version seems fantastical, a real — if nascent — tricorder has been developed on the International Space Station. What’s more, the research that built it is already supporting human health here on Earth.
The impetus was NASA’s efforts to sequence DNA. Scientists aimed to simplify the multistep DNA sequencing process so that one device on the space station could handle it, working to move the tricorder from the realm of science fiction to real life.
Today NASA is looking at hand-held devices made by a U.S. company and a U.K.-based company that can amplify and sequence DNA. The devices identify microbes — bacteria, viruses, fungi and other organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye — growing throughout the International Space Station. The crew can monitor what microbes are on board, how the space environment shapes microbial behavior, and how that might affect astronaut health during long missions to the Moon or Mars.
Crew members gather microbes to sequence by rubbing swabs around the space station’s interior. They then process the genetic material by inserting the swabs into a hand-held device called a miniPCR, which makes copies of a targeted microbial DNA sequence. The copies are fed into another hand-held device called the MinION, which sequences the DNA.
(14) DOUBLE YOUR TIANGONG, DOUBLE YOUR FUN. “China to double size of space station, touts alternative to NASA-led ISS” – Reuters has details.
China plans to expand its space station to six modules from three in coming years, offering astronauts from other nations an alternative platform for near-Earth missions as the NASA-led International Space Station (ISS) nears the end of its lifespan.
The operational lifetime of the Chinese space station will be more than 15 years, the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), a unit of China’s main space contractor, said at the 74th International Astronautical Congress in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Wednesday….
… China’s self-built space station, also known as Tiangong, or Celestial Palace in Chinese, has been fully operational since late 2022, hosting a maximum of three astronauts at an orbital altitude of up to 450 km (280 miles).
At 180 metric tons after its expansion to six modules, Tiangong is still just 40% of the mass of the ISS, which can hold a crew of seven astronauts. But the ISS, in orbit for more than two decades, is expected to be decommissioned after 2030, about the same time China has said it expects to become “a major space power”.
Chinese state media said last year as Tiangong became fully operational that China would be no “slouch” as the ISS headed toward retirement, adding that “several countries” had asked to send their astronauts to the Chinese station.
But in a blow to China’s aspirations for space diplomacy, the European Space Agency (ESA) said this year it did not have the budgetary or “political” green light to participate in Tiangong, shelving a years-long plan for a visit by European astronauts.
“Giving up cooperation with China in the manned space domain is clearly short-sighted, which reveals that the U.S.-led camp confrontation has led to a new space race,” the Global Times, a nationalist Chinese tabloid, wrote at the time.
Tiangong has become an emblem of China’s growing clout and confidence in its space endeavours, and a challenger to the United States in the domain after being isolated from the ISS. It is banned by U.S. law from any collaboration, direct or indirect, with NASA….
(15) WHAT IS IMAGINATION? The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination will host an in-person event “Imagine Otherwise: Featuring Stephen T. Asma” Tickets, Fri, Oct 20, 2023 at 6:00 PM | Eventbrite on October 20 at 6:00 p.m. at UC San Diego. Free registration and full information at the link.
Imagination is touted as a gift for artists or a vital skill for visionary thinkers and scientists. But what do we mean by the term “imagination,” and what has science revealed about the diversity of ways it shows itself in human minds?
In a conversation with Stephen T. Asma, philosopher and author of The Evolution of Imagination, Erik Viirre and Cassandra Vieten will explore the history of our understanding of imagination, how science has attempted to advance our understanding of it, and what is at stake for the future of imagination studies and the pathways it may open to advancing the imagination’s power for transformative change.
This event will take place at the Great Hall at UC San Diego and is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be provided. RSVP required.
(16) UP ALL NIGHT. “The ‘Ghost Hunting Gays of Ohio’ find queer community in the search for the supernatural” at WVXU.
A small group of people huddled around Mirror Lake on Ohio State University’s campus on a September evening. Their black attire matched the night sky that stretched over the splashing fountain.
Nick Post stood at the center of the group. He leaned in as he told a ghost story about the so-called ‘Lady of the Lake.’
“On cold wintry nights she can sometimes be seen skating across the ice, warming her hands and wearing outdated clothing,” Post said. “Some reports say she wears white, others say she wears pink. But none have gotten close enough to see her face.”
This is just one of many apparitions that supposedly stalk OSU’s dorms and classrooms at night. Its these legends that brought ten members of the Ghost Hunting Gays of Ohio, the state’s newest paranormal investigators, to campus on a Sunday night….
…“I’ve always been obsessed with ghost-hunting shows and all of that good stuff, so I was like, what if we just go check out some haunted places?” he said.
Post said looking to the supernatural was only natural for him, and he thinks that’s true for a lot of queer people. He said the paranormal holds a special appeal to many in the gay community.
“When you are misunderstood your entire life, it intrigues you to understand other things that are misunderstood,” Post said….
(17) PAUL BUCKLEY’S GREATEST HITS. Steven Heller talks about “Layoffs in the Publishing Industry Sting” at PRINT Magazine, and the loss of one design director in particular.
When the latest round of publishing industry buyouts and layoffs were announced in mid-July, I was surprised to see a few friends and acquaintances on the hit list. Buyouts are the humane way to let go of employees, and some can be generous. But while many buyouts come at the end of careers, layoffs can particularly sting while in mid-stride.
At Penguin Random House, the biggest book publisher in the United States, veteran editors who have worked with many of the biggest authors in fiction and nonfiction are leaving the company. It is a changing of the guard. The New York Times reported that Penguin Random House lost both its global and U.S. chief executives in the past seven months alone.
Until this latest upheaval, 58 year old Paul Buckley was the longest serving (34 years) design director of Penguin Books. His layoff was a shock to those, like me, who greatly admired his work. If he of all people is this vulnerable, what about others who are not yet ready to take retirement?
Buckley leaves behind an incredible legacy of iconic, smart, clever and damn beautiful work. So upon hearing the sad news, I asked him to select 10 projects out of the thousands he’s created for Penguin that give him the most pride. It’s better to see and read about them now than in a later postmortem/historical reprise….
(18) QUANTUM PAULI ENGINE. [Item by Steven French.] “No-heat quantum engine makes its debut” at Physics World.
“All particles known to science fall into one of two categories: bosons or fermions. While bosons cluster in the same quantum state, fermions obey the Pauli exclusion principle, meaning no two fermions can share the same state. This doesn’t matter much at room temperature when particles are flying about at high speeds. Cool those particles down to just shy of absolute zero, though, and the difference becomes vast: the bosons pile into the lowest available energy state, while fermions stack on top of each other in a “ladder” of states. At such low temperatures, a collection of fermions will thus have much more energy than a collection of bosons.”
Until recently that energy difference couldn’t be accessed but in the early 2000s a way was found to form bosons molecules from fermionic atoms which means you could switch from one form of statistics to another. Now researchers have used this to construct a ‘proof-of-principle’ quantum Pauli engine which offers an entirely different way of charging quantum batteries and powering quantum computers.
That may be some years off yet but this is still very cool!
[Thanks to Chris Barkley, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Nicholas Whyte, JeffWarner, Steven French, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Ersatz Culture, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]