(1) WEBB WEAVINGS. NASA hosts the “First Images from the James Webb Space Telescope” at the link.
…Webb’s first observations were selected by a group of representatives from NASA, ESA, CSA, and the Space Telescope Science Institute. They reveal the capabilities of all four of Webb’s state-of-the-art scientific instruments:
- SMACS 0723: Webb has delivered the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe so far – and in only 12.5 hours. For a person standing on Earth looking up, the field of view for this new image, a color composite of multiple exposures each about two hours long, is approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length. This deep field uses a lensing galaxy cluster to find some of the most distant galaxies ever detected. This image only scratches the surface of Webb’s capabilities in studying deep fields and tracing galaxies back to the beginning of cosmic time.
- WASP-96b (spectrum): Webb’s detailed observation of this hot, puffy planet outside our solar system reveals the clear signature of water, along with evidence of haze and clouds that previous studies of this planet did not detect. With Webb’s first detection of water in the atmosphere of an exoplanet, it will now set out to study hundreds of other systems to understand what other planetary atmospheres are made of.
- Southern Ring Nebula: This planetary nebula, an expanding cloud of gas that surrounds a dying star, is approximately 2,000 light years away. Here, Webb’s powerful infrared eyes bring a second dying star into full view for the first time. From birth to death as a planetary nebula, Webb can explore the expelling shells of dust and gas of aging stars that may one day become a new star or planet.
- Stephan’s Quintet: Webb’s view of this compact group of galaxies, located in the constellation Pegasus, pierced through the shroud of dust surrounding the center of one galaxy, to reveal the velocity and composition of the gas near its supermassive black hole. Now, scientists can get a rare look, in unprecedented detail, at how interacting galaxies are triggering star formation in each other and how the gas in these galaxies is being disturbed.
- Carina Nebula: Webb’s look at the ‘Cosmic Cliffs’ in the Carina Nebula unveils the earliest, rapid phases of star formation that were previously hidden. Looking at this star-forming region in the southern constellation Carina, as well as others like it, Webb can see newly forming stars and study the gas and dust that made them.
One of these you may have seen before — Stephan’s Quintet:
Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, is best known for being prominently featured in the holiday classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Today, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals Stephan’s Quintet in a new light. This enormous mosaic is Webb’s largest image to date, covering about one-fifth of the Moon’s diameter. It contains over 150 million pixels and is constructed from almost 1,000 separate image files. The information from Webb provides new insights into how galactic interactions may have driven galaxy evolution in the early universe.
(2) LEAVING THE STARTING GATE. Marina Koren says “Webb’s First View of the Universe Is Only the Beginning” in The Atlantic.
…The image, released today, was taken by the world’s newest space observatory, the James Webb Space Telescope. It is the first real snapshot from the mission, which launched more than six months ago and currently orbits about 1 million miles from Earth.
The picture is sparkly and beautiful, a great choice for a computer background. It is also, more important, an entirely new view of the universe. The light from the galaxies in the foreground left 4.6 billion years ago, and the light from the galaxies beyond those, even longer. All this light has been captured in unprecedented detail by the most powerful space telescope in history, making this one of the deepest, most high-resolution pictures of the universe that humankind has ever taken.
Astronomers call this kind of view a “deep field”: a picture of one spot in space, made with long exposure times so that the instrument can really bask in any incoming light. Remember Hubble, and that glorious deep-field image from the 1990s, sparkling with thousands of galaxies? The Webb telescope was designed to spot celestial objects that are about 100 times fainter than the ones Hubble can detect….
(3) MORE THAN PRETTY PICTURES. TIME Magazine thinks one of the JWST’s non-visual observations might be the most provocative: “What the James Webb Telescope Images Mean for Space”.
…Still, it was in some ways, the smallest object the telescope imaged—the exoplanet WASP-96b—that will likely cause the greatest excitement. Until now, exoplanets, or planets circling other stars, were detectable in only one of two ways: The transit method, in which astronomers discern the small dimming of light in a parent star as an orbiting planet passes in front of it; and the radial velocity method—in which they look for the small wobble in the position of the star as the gravity of the orbiting planet tugs on it.
What astronomers could never do until now was see the planet itself, since spotting so small a body in the blinding glare of its parent star would be like standing a block away and trying to see a moth fluttering next to a streetlight. The image of the smaller body would simply get washed out. And indeed, for now, Webb did not even get an image of WASP-96b itself; but what it got instead is something more important. Now that astronomers can even faintly image exoplanets, they can also look for signs of life on them, as the light from their parent star streams through their atmosphere, revealing the make-up of the gasses and the possibility of the chemical fingerprints of biology.
Webb got just such a chemical spectrum of WASP-96b, revealing that the atmosphere is rich in water, the key ingredient for life as we know it.
(4) CHICON’S ART-THEMED NEWS. Chicon 8 chair Helen Montgomery messaged members today about art exhibits and events at the 2022 Worldcon.
…Additionally, we will have two very special art exhibits courtesy of some of our other Guests of Honor, Joe Siclari and Edie Stern, and Erle Korshak. The Korshak Collection will be exhibited in the San Francisco room of the Hyatt Regency Chicago, right across the hall from the main Art Show. The Siclari/Stern Collection will be displayed within the Art Show in the Regency Ballroom. You will not want to miss these exhibits!
We will of course have our Art Show, Print Shop, and Art Auction. Artists will also be doing demos, and some will be in the Dealers Room / Creatives Corner of the Exhibit Hall. We are working on scheduling docent tours of the Art Show, and we are going to have a “Meet The Artist” event in the Art Show on Friday evening, where you will have the opportunity to talk to the artists about their work.
Chicon 8 will also be hosting The Chesley Awards on Friday evening of the convention in the Crystal Ballroom. The Chesley Awards are administered and presented by ASFA: The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. https://asfa-art.com/the-chesley-awards/
(5) IN LIVING COLOR. The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit “Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color”, about rediscovering the paint jobs that originally adorned ancient sculpture, continues through March 26, 2023.
“Ancient Greek and Roman sculpture was once colorful, vibrantly painted and richly adorned with detailed ornamentation. Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color reveals the colorful backstory of polychromy—meaning “many colors,” in Greek—and presents new discoveries of surviving ancient color on artworks in The Met’s world-class collection. Exploring the practices and materials used in ancient polychromy, the exhibition highlights cutting-edge scientific methods used to identify ancient color and examines how color helped convey meaning in antiquity, and how ancient polychromy has been viewed and understood in later periods.
The exhibition features a series of reconstructions of ancient sculptures in color by Prof. Dr. V. Brinkmann, Head of the Department of Antiquity at the Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, and Dr. U. Koch-Brinkmann.”
(6) NOT A GOOD ATMOSPHERE FOR ARTISTS. Anime News Network rips “The Irresponsible Management of This Year’s Artist Alley – Anime Expo 2022” in this July 7 article. (The CO2 numbers are at the link.)
…Of course, there are many factors involved in community spread [of COVID], including vaccination (which doesn’t guarantee against infection, but drastically reduces one’s chance of hospitalization and death), mask usage (which is most effective when both parties are masked, especially the one who is infectious), mask type and fit, and environmental factors such as ventilation and airflow. Regarding the first two, Anime Expo briefly changed their COVID safety guidelines in early June, but eventually reverted their decision, requiring that all attendees either show proof of full COVID vaccination or a negative test taken within 72 hours, and asking that everyone wear a mask in all indoor spaces….
Another community spread factor, though, is ventilation. Transmission is reduced in outdoor settings where airflow tends to be high, but in indoor spaces, ventilation can vary drastically depending on different components. One attendee, who goes by the Twitter handle @nickelpin, was curious what the ventilation was like in various areas of the convention center, so she brought along a portable carbon dioxide monitor. The usage of CO2 monitors has been increasing in popularity—scientists and other data enthusiasts have been taking readings of places like airplanes and event spaces; parents have been sending their kids back to school with CO2 monitors to check the ventilation of classrooms….
…Outside of Day 1 heat-related effects, some artists reported feeling ill throughout the weekend with various non-COVID symptoms that subsided after they left the convention center each day. Since the end of the convention, a spreadsheet being shared amongst Artist Alley participants has shown increasing numbers of artists self-reporting headaches, drowsiness, and trouble concentrating, which could potentially be related to the high levels of CO2 in Kentia Hall.
One veteran artist who wanted to remain anonymous told us she had two panic attacks and a spell of nausea and vertigo, and had to rely on helpers so that she could take breaks outside the convention center. “It was worst on Saturday and Sunday, just kinda feeling like you’re breathing but not actually getting air.” She said her booth was located near a wall with three feet of space behind her, which made it more unusual to her that she felt she couldn’t breathe. She confirmed that she had not felt this way at other conventions or previous Anime Expos….
(7) HOW ABOUT THOSE HUGO-NOMINATED NOVELETTES? Cora Buhlert joined the Hugos There podcast again as part of a panel discussing the finalists for the 2022 Hugo Award for Best Novelette. Tthe audio only link is here.
(8) THE UNAVOIDABLE MESSAGE. Oliver Brackenbury has posted part II of his interview with David C. Smith at the So I’m Writing a Novel podcast: “Interview with David C. Smith (Part Two)”.
In this half we discuss the 80’s sword & sorcery publishing implosion, the importance of adapting to changing tastes and not just telling the same limited range of stories ad infinitum, how expanding something – like a genre’s possibilities – means more and doesn’t take away what’s already there that people like, the fallacy of thinking you can write a story with no theme or message or opinions or “politics” in it, David’s latest novel (Sometime Lofty Towers), avoiding the white savior pitfall and otherwise best practices when writing fictional indigenous peoples, the history of The Other in western civilization, cultural appropriation, writing outside “the usual sword & sorcery template”…
(9) PASSPORT TO NYUMBANI. Bill Ward shares his appreciation for “Charles R. Saunders’ Nyumbani Tales” at the Goodman Games blog:
…But myths aren’t of course all grim sacrifice and heroic tragedy, and many of the strongest pieces in Nyumbani Tales are humorous accounts of tricksters, frauds, and con men. Fan favorite Pomphis the Bambuti, Imaro’s diminutive companion, appears in two of the most fun tales in the collection: “The Blacksmith and the Bambuti” and “Pomphis and the Poor Man,” exhibiting both the cleverness and the kindness that is a hallmark of his character. In “Two Rogues” a pair of grifters engage one another in cross and double-cross, complete with sorcery, a poison-gas-assisted heist, and a shape-shifted hippo. And it would be difficult to find a better – and funnier – story reinforcing that old adage of ‘be careful what you wish for’ than “Okosene Alakun and the Magic Guinea Fowl.”…
(10) NOT JUST AN ILLUSION. Bobby Derie takes a look at Harry Houdini’s connection to Weird Tales in “Deeper Cut: Houdini & Weird Tales” at Deep Cuts in a Lovecraftian Vein.
Now long after I had inaugurated Weird Tales, I had a call by Houdini at my Chicago office; he expressed more than usual enthusiasm for the magazine, and the meeting resulted in a friendship lasting until his untimely death a few years later. He often regaled me with experiences of his that rivaled anything I had ever read in books. Several of these I published, but they were written in such a prosaic style that they evoked little comment.
J.C. Henneberger to Robert A. W. Lowndes, Magazine of Horror (May 1969) 117
(11) SHORT MARATHON. Cora Buhlert reports, “I’m also doing the July short story challenge again this year, where I write a story every day during the month of July, and I keep a running tally here –” “The 2022 July Short Story Challenge – Day by Day”.
…What is the July Short Story Challenge, you ask? Well, in July 2015, Dean Wesley Smith announced that he was planning to write a brand new short story every day during the month of July. The original post seems to be gone now, but the Wayback Machine has a copy here. At the time, several people announced that they would play along, so I decided to give it a try as well. And then I did it again the following year. And the next. And the next. If you want to read my post-mortems of the previous July short story challenges, here are the posts for 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Because I’ve already done the July short story challenge seven years in a row now and always found the experience very rewarding, I’m aiming for a repeat this year. This July is a very busy month for me, never mind that I caught a persistent and annoying cold (not covid, I did a test). Therefore I initially only committed to doing this for a single week, which is already finished, and now I’m going for the second week. Then, if things are going well, I’ll keep going….
(12) MEMORY LANE.
1924 – [By Cat Eldridge.] Once upon a time, well back in 1924, the noted Anglo-Irish writer Lord Dunsany saw his novel The King of Elfland’s Daughter published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons. It is considered to be one of the most influential and acclaimed works in all of fantasy literature, and a paperback edition was released in 1969 as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series.
Now many of you will recognize Steeleye Span, the famed British folk rock band founded in 1969 by Fairport Convention bass player Ashley Hutchings along with Tim Hart and Maddy Prior. (Maddy is the only musician still with it today.) Steeleye had more musicians coming through it than your typical publisher has associate publicists. One of those of was violinist Peter Knight who was with it for much its existence and left a decade back.
(Yes, it was where Richard Thompson first got his start.)
Like so many musicians, side-projects were a way of life and Knight was no exception. So, The King of Elfland’s Daughter narration was born with the assistance of Bob Johnson, another Steeleye musician, and a very special guest artist who you will all know.
Now I don’t need to tell you this tale as Kestrell Rath already has done so for us over at Green Man quite delightfully. Just go read it here.
(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born July 12, 1895 — Buckminster Fuller. Genre adjacent and I don’t believe that he actually wrote any SF though one could argue that Tetrascroll: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, A Cosmic Fairy Tale is genre. You will find his terminology used frequently in genre fiction including if memory serves right in Neal Asher’s Polity universe. (Died 1983.)
- Born July 12, 1912 — Joseph Mugnaini. An Italian born artist and illustrator. He is best known for his collaborations with writer Ray Bradbury, beginning in 1952. (Died 1992.)
- Born July 12, 1923 — James Gunn. Writer, editor, scholar, anthologist. Hugo winner at ConStellation (1983) for Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction. MidAmeriCon (1976) presented him with a Special Committee Award for Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction. The This Immortal series based on his novel by that name received a Best Dramatic Presentation nomination at Heicon ’70. Not surprisingly, he won a First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. (Died 2020.)
- Born July 12, 1933 — Donald E. Westlake. Though he specialized in crime fiction, he did dip into the genre on occasion such as with Transylvania Station with a lovely cover by Gahan Wilson. You can think of it as a Clue style novel. With monsters. He wrote with his wife Abby. On the horror end of things was Anarchaos. And he wrote a lot of genre short fiction, some fifty pieces by my count. Meteor Strike: Science Fiction Triple Feature has three of his SF stories is available from the usual suspects for ninety-nine cents. (Died 2008.)
- Born July 12, 1946 — Charles R. Saunders. African-American author and journalist who lived in Canada, much of his fiction is set in the fictional continent Nyumbani (which means “home” in Swahili). His main series is the Imaro novels which he called the first sword and sorcery series by a black writer. Griots, both of his short story collections, are available from the usual suspects and collect the material set in Nyumbani. (Died 2020.)
- Born July 12, 1947 — Carl Lundgren, 75. He co-founded ASFA (Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists of America), and won 4 Chesleys, including Artistic Achievement. At the tender age of eighteen, he was co-chairman of the first media SF convention, The Detroit Triple Fan Fair which featured comics, movies and various things of a SF nature. At Chicon IV, he was nominated for Best Professional Artist but lost out to Michael Whelan.
- Born July 12, 1948 — Ben Burtt, 74. Sound Designer for, and I’m not listing them all, more Star Wars films and series than I knew existed, plus the rebooted Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, John Carter (yes, I really like it), WALL-E, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (no, I don’t like it) to name but a few. He has some acting creds as well such as when in the Return of the Jedi, he appeared as Colonel Dyer, the Imperial officer who yells “Freeze!” just before Solo knocks him off a balcony.
- Born July 12, 1970 — Phil Jimenez, 52. Comics illustrator and writer. He was the main artist of Infinite Crisis, a sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths. He also did the awesome first issue of Planetary/Authority: Ruling the World, and was responsible for the first six issues of Fables spin-off, Fairest. I found that spin-off a lot of fun. Yes, I read all of Fables.
- Born July 12, 1976 — Gwenda Bond, 46. Writer, critic, editor. She’s written a prequel to the Stranger Things series, Suspicious Mind, and I’m very fond of the two novels (The Lost Legacy and The Sphinx’s Secret) so far in her Supernormal Sleuthing Service which she wrote with her husband Christopher Rowe. And she penned the “Dear Aunt Gwenda” section of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet that Small Beer Press published in the early part of this millennium. And yes, she’s one of the multitudes that has written for the Wild Cards anthologies.
(14) LEIBER AND DELANY. At Attack of the 50 Year Old Comic Books, Alan Stewart remembers how he was taken by surprise by “Wonder Woman #202 (Sep.-Oct. 1972)”. First there were —
…science fiction and fantasy author Fritz Lieber’s sword-and-sorcery heroes, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. What the heck were those guys doing on the cover of any DC comic book — let alone Wonder Woman?
…The first was that I was coming in in the middle of an ongoing storyline. The second was that the costumed woman Diana Prince was battling on the book’s cover was evidently Catwoman, wearing an outfit which, while not actually new, was unfamiliar to my fifteen-year-old self. The third was that the script was by Samuel R. Delany — an author who, like Fritz Lieber, I hadn’t actually read anything by yet, but whom I nevertheless knew to be an award-winning young science fiction writer, associated with the same “New Wave” of more experimental, “literary” authors that also included Harlan Ellison and Michael Moorcock. As much if not more so than Fafhrd and the Mouser, “Chip” Delany’s showing up in the present context seemed highly incongruous; really, what was the writer of the Hugo and Nebula-winning story “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones” doing scripting an issue of Wonder Woman?
(15) HORROR TROPES 101. Eva V. Gibson supplies “A Beginner’s Guide to Using (and Exploding) Horror Tropes” at CrimeReads.
…You see that knife on the book cover, you know you’ll find it, or its metaphorical equivalent, somewhere in the pages—and if it doesn’t show up, don’t you feel cheated? Well-executed tropes are used in horror stories for that specific reason: to deliver on those promises and evoke the feelings triggered by the introduction.
Effective trope use does, however, often require going beyond the basics. The techniques of trope usage in horror writing, as opposed to visual media, rely primarily on setting, mood building, plot twists, and tension to produce those promised chills. Some of my favorite tropes to use when writing horror are also my favorite to read, because they nearly always deliver the same impact across all forms of media….
(16) WILL THE STANDARD MODEL CAVE? “Physicists May Have Stumbled Upon an Entirely New Elementary Particle” – Popular Mechanics explains.
Physicists are spelunking the complex findings from an experimental particle reactor found a mile below the surface in the mountains of Russia. What they found has the potential to send an earthquake through the bedrock of the standard model of physics itself: the results could confirm a new elementary particle, called a “sterile neutrino,” or demonstrate a need to revise a portion of the standard model….
(17) DANNY DUNN AND THE HOMEWORK MACHINE? “Artificial Intelligence Bot Wrote Scientific Paper in 2 Hours” and Insider asks about the issues that raised.
…After the successful experiment, Thunström, a Swedish researcher at Gothenburg University, sought to get a whole research paper out of GPT-3 and publish it in a peer-reviewed academic journal. The question was: Can someone publish a paper from a nonhuman source?
Thunström wrote about the experiment in Scientific American, noting that the process of getting GPT-3 published brought up a series of legal and ethical questions.
“All we know is, we opened a gate,” Thunström wrote. “We just hope we didn’t open a Pandora’s box.”
After GPT-3 completed its scientific paper in just two hours, Thunström began the process of submitting the work and had to ask the algorithm if it consented to being published.
“It answered: Yes,” Thunström wrote. “Slightly sweaty and relieved (if it had said no, my conscience could not have allowed me to go on further), I checked the box for ‘Yes.'”
She also asked if it had any conflicts of interest, to which the algorithm replied “no,” and Thunström wrote that the authors began to treat GPT-3 as a sentient being, even though it wasn’t….
(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Honest Game Trailers: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge,” Fandom Games says that this game is really close to the arcade game Turtles In Time. How close? I’d say what they think IP lawyers will react to in the game but this is a family blog. But the story is only one line — “Destroy the turtles!”– and the game is a reminder of how, 30 years ago, “You were still capable of experiencing joy.”
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, N., Cora Buhlert, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]