Pixel Scroll 4/22/22 All My Life’s A Pixel, Scrollrise And Scrolldown, The Roads Roll Thru The Daytime; The Moon’s Sold By Heinlein

(1) FLIEGER Q&A. Renowned Tolkien scholar Verlyn Flieger responds to questions by Cristina Casagrande and Eduardo Boheme for On Fairy-Stories: “Between darkness and the splintered lights of Tolkienian Faery: an interview with Verlyn Flieger”.

You have edited many of Tolkien’s own manuscripts, such as The Story of KullervoOn Fairy-StoriesSmith of Wootton Major, and The Lay of Aotrou & Itroun. What must an editor be ready to deal with when facing a Tolkien’s manuscript?

His handwriting first of all. Tolkien used several scripts, ranging from a beautiful, calligraphic hand (when he was making a fair copy), to an undecipherable scribble when the ideas were coming thick and fast and he was hurrying to catch up with them. There have been words and sometimes whole sentences, especially in the drafts of “On Fairy-stories” that I simply could not read.

(2) CAUGHT IN THE ROCKETS’ RED GLARE. Camestros Felapton finds one more thing needs to be said: “Rockets & Raytheon: A Debarkle Coda – 1”.

…In the last weeks of 2021 I attempted to write just one more chapter of the Debarkle series. It was poor timing and that additional chapter quickly spun out of control. So I put it aside and decided to return to it later on.

The reason for the chapter was twofold. The initiating issue was the surprise sponsorship of the 2021 Worldcon by the infamous arms manufacture/aerospace company Raytheon. There are many unanswered questions about this sponsorship including what the financial arrangement was and the timing of the decision. The program book of the convention did not list Raytheon as a sponsor and while there was (apparently) a Raytheon booth at the convention, the primary publicity given to the company (specifically the Raytheon Intelligence & Space division) was at the start of the live-streamed Hugo Award ceremony.

The subsequent controversy embroiled not just the Washington DC-based convention but the Hugo Awards and the Hugo finalists as well…

(3) A RUSSIAN WRITER YOU MIGHT READ. Yahoo! profiles Russian author Vladimir Sorokin: “He Envisioned a Nightmarish, Dystopian Russia. Now He Fears Living in One.”

Over the past 40 years, Vladimir Sorokin’s work has punctured nearly every imaginable political and social taboo in Russia.

… “A Russian writer has two options: Either you are afraid, or you write,” he said in an interview last month. “I write.”

Sorokin is widely regarded as one of Russia’s most inventive writers, an iconoclast who has chronicled the country’s slide toward authoritarianism, with subversive fables that satirize bleak chapters of Soviet history, and futuristic tales that capture the creeping repression of 21st-century Russia. But despite his reputation as both a gifted postmodern stylist and an unrepentant troublemaker, he remains relatively unknown in the West. Until recently, just a handful of his works had been published in English, in part because his writing can be so challenging to translate, and so hard to stomach. Now, four decades into his scandal-scorched career, publishers are preparing to release eight new English-language translations of his books.

… He is a master of mimicry and subverting genre tropes, veering from arch postmodern political satire (“The Queue”) to esoteric science fiction (“The Ice Trilogy”) to alternate histories and futuristic cyberpunk fantasies (“Telluria”).

(4) DON’T SAY GAY IN THE KINGDOM. “‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ Banned in Saudi Arabia”The Hollywood Reporter explains why.

Disney and the MCU have fallen foul of Gulf censors once more.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Marvel’s long-awaited follow-up to the hit 2016 superhero film starring Benedict Cumberbatch, has been banned in Saudi Arabia. Rumors began emerging online early on Friday, with The Hollywood Reporter now officially confirming the decision. THR has heard that the ban also applies to Kuwait, although this hasn’t yet been confirmed.

While the film is yet to be released and also hasn’t yet been reviewed, the decision is once again said to be related to LGBTQ issues, according to Middle East sources, with the new sequel introducing the character America Chavez (played by Xochitl Gomez) who, as per her portrayal in the comics, is gay. With homosexuality officially illegal across the Gulf, films that feature any LGBTQ references or issues often fail to get past censors….

… The film follows on the heels of Chloé Zhao’s Eternals, which was banned across much of the Gulf in November following the inclusion of a same-gender couple in the film and the MCU’s first gay superhero. At the time, THR understood that censors had requested a series of edits to be made that Disney was not willing to make. An edited version did screen in the U.A.E., however….

(5) THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING FIFTH. “Large Hadron Collider to restart and hunt for a fifth force of nature” – the Guardian has details.

…So far, everything discovered at the LHC – including the Higgs – has fallen in line with the so-called standard model. This has been the guiding theory of particle physics since the 1970s but is known to be incomplete because it fails to explain some of the deepest mysteries in physics, such as the nature of dark matter.

However, data collected in the LHCb experiment, one of four huge particle detectors at Cern in Switzerland, appeared to show particles behaving in a way that could not be explained by the standard model.

The experiment looked at the decay of particles called beauty quarks, which are predicted to decay at an equal rate into electrons and their heavier cousins, muons. However, the beauty quarks appeared to be turning into muons 15% less often, suggesting that an unknown factor – potentially a new force – was tipping the scales. Two of the top candidates include hypothetical force-carrying particles called leptoquarks or Z primes.

“The stakes are extremely high,” Patel said. “If we confirm this, it will be a revolution of the kind we’ve not seen – certainly in my lifetime. You don’t want to mess it up.”…

(6) SOME DON’T COME RUNNING. The Hollywood Reporter listens in as “Steven Spielberg Details How Harrison Ford Helped Convince Melissa Mathison to Write ‘E.T.’”

… Spielberg told [Ben] Mankiewicz that he started working on a script focused specifically on his parents’ split in 1976, around the time he was filming another alien-themed project, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. “We were shooting the scene in Mobile, Alabama, where the extraterrestrial comes down from the ship and does the hand signs with Francois Truffaut,” he detailed. “I suddenly thought, wait a second, what if that little creature never went back to the ship?”

The idea took some years to develop, eventually leading him to Mathison. Spielberg recalled that the pair worked on the script while he was editing Raiders of the Lost Ark in Marina del Rey with editor Michael Kahn. “We would spend two hours a day for five days and she would go off and write pages and come back,” Spielberg continued of their process, crediting the late scribe with coming up with memorable moments, like E.T.’s telekinesis. “There were so many details for character that Melissa brought into my world from her world.”…

(7) JUNIOR BIRDMEN. In “The High and Lowest of Infographics”, Print Magazine recalls Will Eisner’s work for the Army. The entire illustrated booklet is reproduced at the link.

Comics and cartoons often are the best teaching tools. Not just because pictures are worth a thousand complicated and confounding words, but with a combo of drawings and words you get the picture—see what I mean?! This concept is no better illustrated than in this gem of a training booklet illustrated by none other than the creator of “The Spirit” comics, Will Eisner. Produced by the U.S. Army in 1944, it’s an instruction pamphlet for young pilots to master the basics of safe flying, complete with two quizzes and two pages of “Slanguage” at the end….

(8) FANHISTORY IN NEW ENGLAND. Fanac.org has made available video of a panel from the sixth FanHistoriCon in 1997, “From MITSFS to NESFA to MCFI” with Ed Meskys, Richard Harter, Tony Lewis and Hal Clement.

FanHistoriCon 6 was held February 13-16, 1997 in conjunction with Boskone 34 in Framingham, MA. In this 35 minute excerpt of the panel “From MITSFS to NESFA to MCFI”. Ed Meskys, Richard Harter, Tony Lewis and Hal Clement tell us stories of Boston area fandom from the Stranger Club in the 1940s, through area fandom’s evolution by way of conventions, MIT and worldcon bids to NESFA and MCFI in the 90s. 

Beginning with the readers’ club of the 40s and giving way to the more active projects of MITSFS and NESFA, the panel fondly remembers the people and pastimes that were the substance of Boston area fandom. 

Anecdotes mention well known names such as L. Ron Hubbard and Hugo Gernsback, the price of an interior illo from Amazing Magazine in the 1940s, and the storybook romance of Larry Niven and Fuzzy Pink. 

You’ll learn the rules of the MITSFS game “Insanity”, the originally proposed name for NESFA, the origins of Locus and much more. You’ll even get a first hand report of why/how Hal Clement was “fired” from the Noreascon 1 committee. 

If you’re interested in 20th century Boston fandom, here’s your chance to listen to four of the folks that made it happen. 

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1992 [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

Razul: You are a student of Egypt, but you are not one of its sons. And until you have heard what I have heard and seen what I have seen, I would not expect you to believe that such a thing as a curse could be true, but it is. 

Sam: 3500-year-old dead men don’t just get up and walk around.

Thirty years ago this evening, Quantum Leap’s “The Curse of Ptah-Hotep” first aired on NBC. In 1957, Sam leaps into the body of Dale Conway, an American archaeologist at a dig in Egypt just as he and his partner Ginny Will discover the tomb of Ptah-Hotep. A sand storm traps them deep in the tomb’s inner chambers.

You think that they made up this particular Egypt royal person but no, he was quite real. Ptahhotep, sometimes known as Ptahhotep I or Ptahhotpe, was an ancient Egyptian vizier during the late 25th century BC and early 24th century BC Fifth Dynasty of Egypt.

The curse that forms the story here was evidently a real one that affected a number of archeological digs undertaken here.  And it is worth definitely worth noting that Sam, throughout the entire series, thoroughly disbelieves in the supernatural, except for the force has him leaping around and that could be science. He frequently tells Al not to be superstitious about anything. But here he certainly seems to take the resurrected mummies in this episode as a given.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 22, 1902 Philip Latham. Name used by astronomer Robert Shirley Richardson on his genre work. His novels were largely first published in Astounding starting in the Forties, with the exception of his children’s SF novels that were published in Space Science Fiction Magazine. He also wrote a few scripts for Captain Video, the predecessor of Captain Video and his Video Rangers. His Comeback novel starts this way: “When Parkhurst heard the announcement that climaxed the science fiction convention, he found that he’d been right, years ago when he had faith in science-fictionists’ dreams. But, in another way, he’d been wrong . . .: It’s available at the usual digital suspects for a buck. (Died 1981.)
  • Born April 22, 1934 Sheldon Jaffery. An editor and bibliographer of pulps whose non-fiction work and genre anthologies are both fascinating. Among the latter are such publications as Sensuous Science Fiction From the Weird and Spicy Pulps and The Weirds: A Facsimile Selection of Fiction From the Era of the Shudder Pulps, and from the former are Future and Fantastic Worlds: Bibliography of DAW BooksThe Arkham House Companion: Fifty Years of Arkham House and Collector’s Index to Weird Tales. (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 22, 1937 Jack Nicholson, 85. I think my favorite role for him in a genre film was as Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick. Other genre roles include Jack Torrance in The Shining, Wilbur Force in The Little Shop of Horrors, Rexford Bedlo in The Raven, Andre Duvalier in The Terror, (the previous three films are all Roger Corman productions), Will Randall in Wolf, President James Dale / Art Land in Mars Attacks! and Jack Napier aka The Joker in Tim  Burton’s The Batman.
  • Born April 22, 1944 Damien Broderick, 78. Australian writer of over seventy genre novels. It is said that The Judas Mandala novel by him contains the first appearance of the term “virtual reality”. He’s won five Ditmar Awards, a remarkable achievement. I know I’ve read several novels by him including Godplayers and K-Machines which are quite good. The latter won an Aurealis Award for Excellence in Speculative Fiction
  • Born April 22, 1959 Catherine Mary Stewart, 63. Her first genre role was Maggie Gordon in The Last Starfighter followed by beingMiranda Dorlac in Nightflyers and she played Sukie Ridgemont in the TV version of The Witches of Eastwick. She has one-offs in Mr. MerlinKnight Rider and The Outer Limits.
  • Born April 22, 1977 Kate Baker, 45. Non-fiction editor, podcast director /narrator for Clarkesworld. She won the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine twice, and the World Fantasy Award’s Special Award: Non Professional in 2014, all alongside the rest of the editorial staff of Clarkesworld. She’s a writer of three short genre stories, the latest of which, “No Matter Where; Of Comfort No One Speak”, you can hear it here. Warning for subject matter: abuse and suicide. 
  • Born April 22, 1978 Manu Intiraymi, 44. He played the former Borg Icheb on the television series Star Trek: Voyager. A role that he played a remarkable eleven times. And this Birthday research led me to discovering yet another video Trek fanfic, this time in guise of Star Trek: Renegades inwhich he reprised his role. Any Trekkies here watch this? 
  • Born April 22, 1984 Michelle Ryan, 38. She had the odd honor of being a Companion to the Tenth Doctor as Lady Christina de Souza for just one story, “Planet of the Dead”.  She had a somewhat longer genre run as the rebooted Bionic Woman that lasted eight episodes, and early in her career, she appeared as the sorceress Nimueh in BBC’s Merlin. Finally I’ll note she played Helena from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in BBC’s Learning project, Off By Heart Shakespeare

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Far Side makes a grotesque Peter, Paul & Mary reference.  

(12) E. E. SMITH REFERENCE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES(!) [Item by David Goldfarb.] Every two weeks the NYT puts up an acrostic puzzle put together by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon. The one for April 24th has as clue I, 7 letters:

Kind of beam in the 1947 novel “Spacehounds of IPC”

This is a novel I would have thought little-remembered! (Alas, my first guess based on Lensman, PRIMARY, turned out to be incorrect.)

(13) SIGNS OF THE FUTURE. Michael Okuda, the graphic designer known for his work on Star Trek, told Facebook readers how he found the answer to something he wanted to know about the bridge:  

I had always wondered: If the famously-unlabeled buttons on the TOS bridge had been labeled, would those labels have been visible? In 2005, I did an experiment during the filming of “In A Mirror, Darkly” (ENT). For this experiment, I had hundreds of small clear labels printed with small numeric codes. I asked Alan Kobayashi to stick them onto most of the backlit “jellybean” buttons on the re-created TOS Enterprise bridge set, thereby labeling each button….

(14) BREAKING THE PIGGY BANK. Netflix may have stopped spending cash on original animation, but that does not mean they have stopped spending on other projects. SYFY Wire reports an eye-popping figure: “Stranger Things 4: Netflix spending $30 million per episode”.

Thanks to an ensemble celebrity cast and lavish location shoots that can take over an entire mall, Stranger Things has always had the feel of a big-budget, Steven Spielberg-inspired show. But the Hawkins arcade would need to collect more than just a truckload of quarters to cover the eye-popping cost of the series’ long-awaited fourth season.

A recent report at The Wall Street Journal reveals that Netflix is turning its wallet Upside Down and inside out to bring Stranger Things 4 to life, spending an average of $30 million on each of the smash hit series’ nine new episodes. That far eclipses the princely $13 million per-episode sum commanded by Season 4 of The Crown, the previously-reported most expensive show in the streamer’s original-series lineup….

(15) ON THE OTHER HAND. For the cost conscious among us, “House of the Dragon Budget: Under 20 Million Per Episode”. By Grabthar’s hammer, what a savings!

… If you’re wondering how HBO managed to keep the cost of “House of the Dragon” Season 1 from rising too much above what it paid for the final season of “Game of Thrones,” especially with even more CGI dragons expected to be flying around, the production insider says HBO is now so adept at these world-building series through years of not just “GoT,” but also producing “Westworld” and “His Dark Materials,” that the team can make a high-quality series as efficiently and effectively as possible….

(16) EVERYTHING AND MORE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the March 20 New York Times Magazine, Alexandra Kleeman profiles Everything Everywhere All At Once star Michelle Yeoh, who explains why doing a multiverse movie (in which she plays a hibachi chef, a laundromat store owner, and a universe where everyone has fingers that look like Twinkies) was a stretch for her in a career that has taken her from Hong Kong super action movies to James Bond to Crazy Rich Asians. “Michelle Yeoh’s Quantum Leaps”.

… Approaching a role that bounds gleefully across so many modes and genres put Yeoh to the test. She showed me a photo of her script, dutifully flagged with adhesive tabs that denoted the genre of each scene she appears in (action sequences, comedic scenes, heavy-duty drama): The stack of pages bristled with color, like a wildly blooming flower. She experimented with different kinds of sticky notes. “With the fat ones, they were overlapping so much. So, I had to get the skinny ones,” she told me. “Oh, my God, it was a whole creative process. And then when I finished, I looked at it and go, Oh, my God, I’m in serious trouble.”…

(17) ACTOR OUT. Frank Langella is definitely out of his latest film – the 84-year-old is accused of sexual harassment: “Frank Langella Fired From Netflix’s ‘The Fall Of the House Of Usher’ After Probe” reports Deadline.

…Sources confirmed to Deadline TMZ‘s report from earlier this week that the investigation was launched after the 84-year-old actor had been accused of sexual harassment, including making inappropriate comments to a female co-star on set during work.

Langella led the cast of The Fall of the House of Usher, which also stars Carla Gugino, Mary McDonnell, Carl Lumbly and Mark Hamill.

The eight-episode series is described as an epic tale of greed, horror and tragedy. Poe’s short story The Fall of the House of Usher, which serves as the basis for the show, features themes of madness, family, isolation and identity.

Roderick Usher, the role previously played by Langella that now is being recast, is the towering patriarch of the Usher dynasty….

(18) SIC TRANSIT GLORIA PHOBOS. The space agency tells how “NASA’s Perseverance Rover Captures Video of Solar Eclipse on Mars”.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover has captured dramatic footage of Phobos, Mars’ potato-shaped moon, crossing the face of the Sun. These observations can help scientists better understand the moon’s orbit and how its gravity pulls on the Martian surface, ultimately shaping the Red Planet’s crust and mantle.

Captured with Perseverance’s next-generation Mastcam-Z camera on April 2, the 397th Martian day, or sol, of the mission, the eclipse lasted a little over 40 seconds – much shorter than a typical solar eclipse involving Earth’s Moon. (Phobos is about 157 times smaller than Earth’s Moon. Mars’ other moon, Deimos, is even smaller.)

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The How It Should Have Ended gang takes on The Batman, answering such questions as, “If he’s The Batman, why does he say his name is vengenance?” and “Why does Superman show up in inappropriate moments?”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, David Goldfarb, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]

Pixel Scroll 8/20/21 Curse You, Pixel Scroll, For Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal

(1) HOW DRAGON CON IS HANDLING COVID. Atlanta’s Dragon Con, being held September 2-6, devotes an entire webpage to the COVID-related attendance rules at “Updates – Dragon Con”.

Today they also sent members an informational email which says they’re considering offering onside testing (for a fee, see below) to facilitate compliance with their entry requirements.

All 2021 attendees will need to provide proof of full vaccination – OR – a negative Covid-19 test that has been administered within 72 hours of badge pickup. 

Please see our updates page at https://www.dragoncon.org/updates/ for additional details on all health and safety guidelines including the indoor mask mandate.

We are currently working with an outside vendor to potentially offer onsite testing to attendees for a fee of $25 – $40 collected directly by the provider…. 

(2) SHATNER Q&A. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has a chat with Shat, because William Shatner is going to be a guest at Awesome Con (the Washington, D.C. media con) this weekend. Shatner shares news on his latest projects, including his new album Bill and spending five days with StoryFile “for interactive conversational-video technology” so fans can ask questions of the William Shatner hologram! “William Shatner, at 90, keeps seeking that next personal frontier”.

…Shatner, a veteran performer of spoken-word tunes, has an album due out next month simply called “Bill.” Some of the songs are inspired by events in his life, and his collaborators included They Might Be Giants songwriter-musician Dan Miller.

He also enjoyed teaming with the L.A.-based company StoryFile to spend five days recording answers for interactive conversational-video technology. He was filmed with 3-D cameras so his words can be delivered via hologram.

The idea, he says, is that people will be able to push a button and ask questions of a virtual celebrity — like “asking Grandpa questions at his gravestone,” but with technologically advanced replies.

(3) JOB APPLICANT. “Babylon 5 boss has ‘contacted’ BBC over Doctor Who showrunner job” reports Radio Times.

Last month, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski threw his hat into the ring to become the new Doctor Who showrunner, tweeting his interest in replacing Chris Chibnall when the latter steps down in 2022.

And now Straczynski has issued an update on the situation, revealing that contact has been made with the BBC about the soon-to-be vacancy for Doctor Who showrunner.

Replying to a fan who asked what the situation was on Twitter, he wrote, “Contact with the BBC has been made. They’re going through their own process, which began before my tweet, and that has to run its course, but if those don’t pan out and there’s a discussion to be had, they will reach out.”…

(4) OUT OF JEOPARDY! Meanwhile, Jeopardy! jettisoned Mike Richards as the replacement host after some troubling quotes from his old podcast were publicized. The Hollywood Reporter has the story: “Mike Richards Out as ‘Jeopardy!’ Host After Podcast Comments”. Whether this reopens LeVar Burton’s candidacy remains to be seen.

…Sony released the following statement which confirmed that Richards will continue on as the show’s executive producer, if not as Alex Trebek’s successor: “We support Mike’s decision to step down as host. We were surprised this week to learn of Mike’s 2013/2014 podcast and the offensive language he used in the past. We have spoken with him about our concerns and our expectations moving forward. Mike has been with us for the last two years and has led the Jeopardy! team through the most challenging time the show has ever experienced. It is our hope that as EP he will continue to do so with professionalism and respect.”

Sony also confirmed the episodes Richards shot on Thursday will still air during the upcoming season as scheduled, followed by a rotation of guest hosts until a new permanent host is selected….

(5) MAGAZINE DEBUTS. The first issue of Witch House, a new magazine of cosmic and gothic horror, is now available.

Witch House Issue 1 is now available. You can download it here. This issue includes several great stories and poems. Thanks to Chase Folmar (Associate Editor), Luke E. Dodd (Associate Editor), and all our great contributors for helping us release this issue. We hope you enjoy it!

(6) SCHASCARYZADE. Netflix dropped a trailer for Nightbooks, with Krysten Ritter.

Scary story fan Alex must tell a spine-tingling tale every night — or stay trapped with his new friend in a wicked witch’s magical apartment forever.

(7) BUTLER BIO. “Octavia E. Butler Biography Reveal: Star Child by Ibi Zoboi”Gizmodo previews the cover at the link. The book will be released January 25; it’s available for preorder now.

An author as distinctive as Science Fiction Hall of Fame member Octavia E. Butler (KindredThe Parable of the Sowerdeserves an equally distinctive biography—which is exactly why Ibi Zoboi’s Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler is so exciting. Described as “a poignant biography in verse and prose,” the book, which is aimed at middle-grade readers but is truly universal, explores Butler’s childhood and how it informed her award-winning, influential literary career.

Zoboi—a National Book Award finalist for her YA novel American Street—actually studied with Butler at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop before Butler passed away in 2006. Star Child showcases Butler’s “own words and photos of documents from her childhood,” bolstered by Zoboi’s research on Butler’s papers at Los Angeles’ Huntington Library. 

(8) LISTEN IN. Stephen Graham Jones, who’s already won several awards this year, will do an author talk about his book My Heart is a Chainsaw on August 31 at 7:00 p.m. Mountain time. Free livestream, register here.

(9) MURPHY OBIT. Jill Murphy, author of the Worst Witch series of children’s books, died August 18. The Guardian has a profile: “Jill Murphy, children’s author and illustrator, dies aged 72”.

… Murphy started writing The Worst Witch while still at school, completing her first manuscript at the age of 18. Her mother once commented that Murphy and her two friends looked like witches in their dark school uniforms, which gave the author the idea for her first book.

Murphy initially struggled to publish her first novel, as many publishers at the time worried that children would find the book about witches too frightening. But the tale of clumsy young witch Mildred Hubble and her adventures at Miss Cackle’s Academy stole the hearts of generations of children, selling more than 3m copies and becoming one of the most successful Young Puffin titles.

Murphy’s books went on to win many major awards, including the Smarties prize for The Last Noo-Noo. Peace at Last and All in One Piece were both commended for the Kate Greenaway Medal. She was also an honorary fellow of Falmouth University….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1974 – Forty seven years ago at Discon II where andrew j. offutt was Toastmaster, Arthur C. Clarke won the Hugo for Best Novel for Rendezvous with Rama. Other nominated works that year were Robert A. Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love, Larry Niven’s Protector, Poul Anderson‘s The People of the Wind and David Gerrold‘s The Man Who Folded Himself. It was a popular choice as it would also win a BSFA, John W. Campbell Memorial Award, a Locus Best Novel Award and a Nebula Award. 

(11) 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 yet more; 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. Is there a full, unedited version? (Died 1931.)
  • 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, 78. The Seventh Doctor and the last canon Doctor until the modern era of the official BBC Doctors when they revised canon. 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, 1951 Greg Bear, 70. Blood Music which won a Nebula Award, and a Hugo Award at L.A. Con II in its original novelette form is a amazing read. His novels Moving Mars and Darwin’s Radio are also Nebula winners, and he has other short fiction award winners. 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. He’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born August 20, 1961 Greg Egan, 60. Australian writer who does exist though he does his damnedest to avoid a digital footprint. His excellent  Permutation City won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award  and “Oceanic” garnered a Best Novella Hugo at Ausiecon Three. And he’s won a lot of Ditmar Awards.
  • Born August 20, 1962 Sophie Aldred, 59. 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, and she’s recently written Doctor Who: At Childhood’s End where Ace meets the Thirteenth Doctor. 
  • Born August 20, 1963 Justina Vail Evans, 58. Olga Vukavitch in Seven Days, a series I thought was extremely well-crafted. She shows up in other genre undertakings such as Super ForceConanJourney to The Center of The EarthThe Adventures of SuperboyThe X-FilesCarnosaur 3: Primal SpeciesConan and Highlander: The Series

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Onion is dead on about the intersection between climate change and space travel! But didn’t someone already write Garbage Planet?
  • The Oatmeal did this comic to commemorate Gene Roddenberry’s 100th birthday yesterday.

(13) TURNING THE CAMERA AROUND. After reading The Oatmeal linked above, you realize there’s a lot more material to work with than just his career in TV: “Gene Roddenberry Biopic In Works With ‘You Don’t Know Jack’ Scribe Adam Mazer” – details at Deadline.

Roddenberry Entertainment has been working quietly on a feature biopic of the sci-fi TV icon, and there is a script by Adam Mazer, whose credits include the Emmy-winning script for the 2010 HBO movie You Don’t Know Jack which starred Al Pacino as Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

Producers include Star Trek caretakers Rod Roddenberry and Trevor Roth, who executive produce all current franchise series including Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard. Next up the development will be finding a director and actors.

… There’s no shortage of subject matter surrounding Roddenberry, the fighter pilot-turned-LAPD cop-turned-TV writer who survived two plane crashes and the rough waters of Hollywood to create Star Trek, one of the world’s most enduring sci-fi franchises, with the original 1966-69 TV series eventually spawning spinoffs, movies, books and a legion of hard-core fans.

(14) THE THREE BLAHS OF ROBOTICS. [Item by Michael Kennedy.] Not satisfied with developing cars that can drive themselves (HINT: not there yet), Elon Musk is now saying he intends to develop humanoid robots to do dangerous and boring tasks. So far he seems to have this mission statement, a slide deck, plus someone dressed in a skintight suit and wearing a helmet. “Tesla Bot: Elon Musk Unveils Humanoid Robot to do ‘Boring’ work” at Bloomberg.

… The Tesla Bot, a prototype of which should be available next year, is designed to eliminate “dangerous, repetitive and boring tasks,” like bending over to pick something up, or go to the store for groceries, Musk said. “Essentially, in the future, physical work will be a choice.”…

(15) THE CLOCK IS RUNNING. Filers might find today’s New Yorker “Name Drop” puzzle of interest.

(16) INSIDE A PERRIN GAME. James Davis Nicoll tells how “Steve Perrin’s Worlds of Wonder Changed the Game for RPGs” at Tor.com.

Emmet Asher-Perrin’s worthy obit for Steve Perrin mentions such Perrin-related projects as StormbringerCall of CthulhuThieves’ WorldElfquestRobot Warriors, and (of course!) Superworld. One fascinating Perrin work that often goes unmentioned, probably due to the fact that it has become a comparatively obscure work, is 1982’s groundbreaking Worlds of Wonder. You may not have encountered it, but odds are that you’ve seen and played later games that it inspired or influenced.

The 9½ x 12 x 1 inch box for this game contained four 16-page booklets: Basic Role-PlayingMagic WorldSuperworld, and Future World.  Assisting Steve Perrin were Steve Henderson, Gordon Monson, Greg Stafford, Lynn Willis and others. Roleplaying game design tends to be a team effort….

(17) IT IS THE END, MY FRIEND. This week’s PBS Space Time looks at the end of everything, including beyond File 770… The universe is going to end. But of all the possible ends of the universe vacuum decay would have to be the most thorough – because it could totally rewrite the laws of physics. How terrified should you be….? 

(18) MOONING PEOPLE. The Old Farmer’s Almanac encourages us to look: “Full Moon August Appears to Shine All Weekend”.

On all three nights, the Moon will be tangled together with the planets Jupiter and Saturn. Very close to Saturn on Friday night, right amidst both brilliant Jupiter and less-bright Saturn on Saturday, and forming a line with them when it’s full on Sunday. Read about super-bright Jupiter which is at its best right now….

And there are more reasons at the link.

(19) A PERTINENT PEW POLL. Pew on belief in space aliens. Graphs at the link. “Religious Americans less likely to believe intelligent life exists beyond Earth” at Pew Research Center.

….This is evidenced by a variety of measures of religious engagement. For example, U.S. Christians are far less likely than religiously unaffiliated Americans to say that their “best guess” is that intelligent life exists on other planets (57% vs. 80%). And U.S. adults who attend religious services on at least a weekly basis are considerably less likely than those who seldom or never attend services to say that intelligent life exists elsewhere (44% vs. 75%).

Similarly, around half of Americans who say religion is very important to them (49%) say their best guess is that intelligent life exists on other planets. By comparison, roughly three-quarters of those who say that religion is less important in their lives (76%) say that intelligent life exists elsewhere. …

(20) HOW DOGS THINK. So far, it appears that no dog has learned how to cheat at their version of the Kobayashi Maru test. ”How dogs think, learn, communicate and problem-solve” in the Washington Post.

…By way of example, he talked about dogs he has worked with for the U.S. Marine Corps, compared with dogs he has worked with for Canine Companions for Independence in California. The Marines needed dogs in places like Afghanistan to help sniff out incendiary devices, while the companions agency needed dogs that were good at helping people with disabilities.

Just looking at both types of purpose-bred dogs, most people would think they’re the same — to the naked eye, they all look like Labrador retrievers, and on paper, they would all be considered Labrador retrievers. But behaviorally and cognitively, because of their breeding for specific program purposes, Hare said, they were different in many ways.

Hare devised a test that could tell them apart in two or three minutes. It’s a test that’s intentionally impossible for the dog to solve — what Star Trek fans would recognize as the Kobayashi Maru. In Hare’s version, the dog was at first able to get a reward from inside a container whose lid was loosely secured and easy to dislodge; then, the reward was placed inside the same container with the lid locked and unable to be opened. Just as Starfleet was trying to figure out what a captain’s character would lead him to do in a no-win situation, Hare’s team was watching whether the dog kept trying to solve the test indefinitely, or looked to a human for help.

“What we found is that the dogs that ask for help are fantastic at the assistance-dog training, and the dogs that persevere and try to solve the problem no matter what are ideal for the detector training,” Hare said. “It’s not testing to see which dog is smart or dumb. What we’ve been able to show is that some of these measures tell you what jobs these dogs would be good at.”…

(21) SMASHING DISCOVERY. Nature reports “Exotic Four-Quark Particle Spotted At Large Hadron Collider”.

Rare tetraquark could help physicists to test theories about strong nuclear force.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is also a big hadron discoverer. The atom smasher near Geneva, Switzerland, is famous for demonstrating the existence of the Higgs boson in 2012, a discovery that slotted into place the final keystone of the current classification of elementary particles. But the LHC has also netted dozens of the non-elementary particles called hadrons — those that, like protons and neutrons, are made of quarks.

The latest hadron made its debut at the virtual meeting of the European Physical Society on 29 July, when particle physicist Ivan Polyakov at Syracuse University in New York unveiled a previously unknown exotic hadron made of four quarks. This brought the LHC’s hadron bounty up to 62, according to a tally kept by Patrick Koppenburg, a particle physicist. Tetraquarks are extremely unusual: most known hadrons are made up of either two or three quarks. The first tetraquark was spotted at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) in Tsukuba, Japan, in 2003, and LHCb has seen several more. But the new one is an oddity. Previous tetraquarks were likely to be pairs of ordinary quark doublets attached to each other like atoms in a molecule, but theoretical physicist Marek Karliner thinks that the latest one could be a genuine, tightly bound quadruplet. “It’s the first of its kind,” says Karliner, who is at Tel Aviv University in Israel and helped to predict the existence of a particle with the same properties as Tcc in 2017.

(22) REFERENCE DIRECTOR. Today’s Scroll title was inspired by this Firefly clip. Which doesn’t mean we’re going to start explaining the titles, it is just a good excuse to include a moment from the series.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled “Honest Trailers: The Suicide Squad” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the one thing that every character in the film has “traumatic parent issues,” that director James Gunn replaced the overlong character introductions in Suicide Squad with no introductions at all, and Viola Davis has “way too much talent and elegance to be in a film with Pete Davidson in it.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cora Buhlert, John A Arkansawyer, James Davis Nicoll, David K.M. Klaus, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 3/30/18 Round The Decay Of That Colossal Scroll, Boxless And Bare, The Lone And Level Pixels Stretch Away

(1) WSJ’S TOP SF OF 2017. Congratulations to all the authors who made the Wall Street Journal’s list of best 5 sf novels of the year 2017. Especially Gregory Benford, who sent me the news item. (The list came out in December but is behind a paywall.)

  • All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan Mastai
  • The Berlin Project, by Gregory Benford
  • Change Agent, by Daniel Suarez
  • Artemis, by Andy Weir
  • The Genius Plague by David Walton

(2) THEORIES OF EVOLUTION AND TIME TRAVEL. The Conversation’s Jordi Paps says the answer to the question “Would stepping on the first butterfly really change the history of evolution?” depends on how you believe evolution works.

Science fiction writers can’t seem to agree on the rules of time travel. Sometimes, as in Doctor Who (above), characters can travel in time and affect small events without appearing to alter the grand course of history. In other stories, such as Back To The Future, even the tiniest of the time travellers’ actions in the past produce major ripples that unpredictably change the future.

Evolutionary biologists have been holding a similar debate about how evolution works for decades. In 1989 (the year of Back To The Future Part II), the American palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould published his timeless book Wonderful Life, named after the classic movie that also involves time travel of sorts. In it, he proposed a thought experiment: what would happen if you could replay life’s tape, rewinding the history of evolution and running it again? Would you still see the same movie with all the evolutionary events playing out as before? Or would it be more like a reboot, with species evolving in different ways?

(3) RESOLVED. Rocket Stack Rank will comply with Charles Payseur’s request to drop him from the list of reviewers they track.

Charles Payseur acknowledged their response, and discussed some of comments made by Filers since the request hit the news yesterday. Jump on his thread here:

(4) WFC RATES WILL RISE. World Fantasy Convention 2018 registration rates are due to increase on April 1, from $200 to $250 for a full attending membership. If you become a member now you will still have time to nominate for this year’s World Fantasy Awards (for which the deadline is May 31.)

WFC2018 will be held at the Baltimore Renaissance Harborplace Hotel, Nov 1–4, hosted by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) and Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA).

(5) THE BRADBURY FAMILY. On April 19, the Pasadena Museum of History presents a lecture by one of his daughters about “Growing Up with Ray Bradbury”.

Ray Bradbury’s daughter Ramona invites you to pull up a chair in her virtual living room as she shares an intimate evening of memories about growing up in the eclectic Bradbury household in the Cheviot Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. The format is a conversation with historian Richard Schave (Esotouric Bus Adventures, Los Angeles), followed by a Q & A session.

Ramona will reminisce about life with her famous father, and share rare family photos and stories of weekend excursions to Hollywood Boulevard book shops and the Palos Verdes Peninsula (made more adventurous because her father didn’t drive!), eccentric family friends, special gatherings, and important public events.

(6) TWO ON ONE. Two NPR reviewers take on Ready Player One:

MONDELLO: A Willy Wonka prize worth playing for if you’re a gamer and a movie conceit worth playing with if you’re Steven Spielberg. Ernest Cline’s novel gave Halliday a consuming nostalgia for the 1980s, and who better to bring that to the screen? The filmmaker crams every corner of Wade’s cyberscapes with Deloreans, Batmobiles, aliens, King Kong, The Iron Giant. There’s Prince and Van Halen on the soundtrack and even a sequence where Spielberg lets loose his inner Kubrick. Wade, who calls himself Parzival in the OASIS, teams up with his best buddy, Aech…

Like the popular 2011 Ernest Cline science fiction novel on which it’s based, “Ready Player One” is an extended valentine to those pop culture relics, most of which came out in the ’80s and are thus beloved by people who grew up watching, well, Steven Spielberg movies. Spielberg avoids any allusions to his own films apart from a stray dinosaur who may or may not hail from “Jurassic Park.” But as one of the undisputed high priests of American popular entertainment, he is in many ways enshrining his own legacy. Frankly, I wish he’d been more careful with it.

(7) BOSON PURSUIT. Researchers say a “Higgs factory a ‘must for big physics'”.

Physicists had hoped that the [Large Hadron Collider] would turn up evidence of physics phenomena not explained by the Standard Model. So far, efforts to detect new physics have come away empty-handed, but studying the Higgs in more detail might break the impasse.

A successor to the Large Hadron Collider would be designed in a way that allows scientists to zero in on the Higgs boson.

The LHC works by smashing beams of proton particles together, but the collisions that produce the Higgs also produce many other particles. This makes it complicated to work out which collisions produce the Higgs boson.

A different type of particle smasher, called an electron-positron collider, should produce only a Higgs and another particle called a Z boson.

(8) VOYAGE TO THE MOON. A Kickstarter to fund the English translation of Georges Méliès’ autobiography hit its target in the first couple of days.

81 years ago, at the age of 77, Georges Méliès – the father of narrative and fantastical film – hand-wrote his autobiography; the story of the creation of cinema from not only a firsthand witness but also its greatest innovator. It has been completely unavailable since 1945 and has never been translated into English. This is one of the great unseen texts of cinema history.

I’ve had it translated. And it’s GREAT! Reading it blew my film-loving mind. A voice from history telling me in his own words about how cinema began and his role in it. Now I need your help to rescue this important, illuminating and fascinating testimony, to get it back into print and where it truly belongs – in our hands and on our bookshelves.

…. In 1937, a year before he died, he wrote longhand a 32 page autobiography detailing his life, his work and his observations on both. He sent it to a film historian who was writing a book about him. The first 500 copies of this book were packaged with a facsimile of the manuscript. What remains of that print run exists now only in the jealously guarded collections of film enthusiasts who have been lucky or wealthy enough to secure one.

This memoir is an enthralling story in which Méliès guides us from his childhood into his early career, explaining how all of the elements fell into place to put him in the perfect position to become a pioneer of cinema. He talks about becoming one of the first people in the world to see a projected moving image at a private demonstration by the Lumiére brothers and the international mission this inspired him to take to become a part of the new medium. He explains how and why he became the first impressario of cinema, how he built France’s first film studio and how he invented special effects techniques and helped define the very format of cinematic film. More than this, it’s a human story; at times braggadocios, joyous, humble and bitter. We learn how times and the industry changed, how he became the first victim of film piracy and how he ended up in his old age, forgotten, broke and selling toys and sweets in a tiny stall in Montparnasse train station. Most interesting to me was discovering that he was a man already aware of his legacy and surprisingly unhappy about how he could see he was going to be remembered. His memoir crackles with life and is a vivid account of the dawn of movies from its most colourful participant.

(9) HEAR FRITZ LEIBER. Fanac.org’s new YouTube video pairs a sound recording of Fritz Leiber’s “Monsters And Monster Lovers” talk from the 1964 Worldcon with selected images.

Pacificon II, the 22nd World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Oakland, CA in 1964. In this interesting audio with images, Fritz Leiber speaks eloquently about his favorite literary monsters (from Yog Sothoth to the forest in Peer Gynt), the relationship of science fiction to traditional monsters, why we are drawn to these characters, and on horror in a time of war. The first 10 minutes or so are a loving listing of characters, and the meat of the talk starts after that. This material was provided by The Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI), and Jerome Scott, Director of Projects for SCIFI in LA.

 

(10) MAYNARD OBIT. Bill Maynard (1928-2018): British actor, died March 30, aged 89. Genre appearances: You Too Can Have a Body (1960), The Boy with Two Heads (all seven episodes, 1974), Zodiac (one episode, 1974).

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 30, 1988 Beetlejuice premiered. The Hollywood Reporter has reposted its review of the film.
  • March 30, 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hit theaters.

(12) BIRTHDAY AUTHOR. Steven H Silver’s “Birthday Reviews” series at Black Gate celebrates “Chad Oliver’s ‘Transformer’”.

Oliver’s writing career began with the publication of the short story “The Land of Lost Content” in the November 1950 issue of Super Science Stories. He published short fiction through his career, with his final story published in 1991. During that time, he also published six novels and collaborated occasionally with Charles Beaumont and Garvin Berry. His 1984 story “Ghost Town” was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Short Story.

(13) WILD ANIMAL WARNING. Your Charlton Police Department knows some coyotes are more dangerous to themselves.

(14) ACE REPORTER. Jon Del Arroz says he will be on hand for the Hugo finalist announcement at the 7 Stars Bar & Grill in San Jose tomorrow. The bar’s online schedule promises there will be Bottomless Mimosas and karaoke on Saturday – no wonder he can’t stay away!

(15) FREE READ. The winner of the “Quantum Shorts” fiction contest has been posted.

Scientific American and Nature partnered with the Center for Quantum Technologies in Singapore, which organizes the annual competition….

The mind-bending possibilities of quantum physics lend themselves to philosophy—to wondering about the theory’s implications for the meaning of life, the idea of free will, the fate of us all. A talented pool of writers have capitalized on those implications to produce an impressive array of entries in this year’s Quantum Shorts contest, which invites short fiction based on the ideas of quantum mechanics. Scientific American and Nature partnered with the Center for Quantum Technologies in Singapore, which organizes the annual competition. Judges, including Scientific American and Nature editors, selected a winner and runner-up in two categories—“open” and “youth”—and online voting identified a “people’s choice” favorite; all winners will receive a cash award, a certificate and an engraved trophy.

(16) NEW FORNAX. Charles Rector’s 21st issue of his fanzine Fornax [PDF file] is available at EFanzines. Here’s what’s inside —

Among other things is an essay about how I was treated as a handicapped student by gym teachers while I was in the public schools during the 1970’s.  There is also an essay about how the Big Tech companies such as Google, Twitter and You Tube have been using their power to censor political speech by conservatives and socialists and how this all ties in with the allegations that all anti-establishment activity is tied in with Vladimir Putin and his gang in Russia.  There is also an essay about irresponsible rhetoric such as Guy H. Lillian III’s defense of Al Franken and this Daniel Greenfield character who claims that we are on the verge of “civil war” because there is a great deal of opposition to the Trump Administration. There is also a look back at the Solar Empire game of yesteryear.

There are also some essays by both Robin Bright and Gerd Maximovic as well as poetry by Denny E. Marshall.

(17) RED PELT, BLUE PELT. Huffington Post reports “Alt-Right Furries Are Raging Online, And Leftist Furries Wonder What Is To Be Done”.

…However, the vocal subgroup of Alt-Furries has been hard at work asserting their space within the movement of late, and it’s this very spirit of inclusivity they wish to expunge.

“The furry ‘community’ is a fandom that has been overrun by liberal ‘tolerance’ and ‘acceptance’ and as a result it’s become sanctuary to hardcore paedophiles and
people with serious mental problems,” the unnamed author of Nazi furry erotica “The Furred Reich” told The New Statesman, which has been doggedly covering the Alt-Furry scene for years.

The core furry community, then, finds itself in quite the bind: Can a group founded upon the idea of consummate tolerance embrace a clique that’s so staunchly intolerant?

For the opposing furries leading an outright fight against the alt-right, the answer is no. Dogpatch Press, a furry news source offering “fluff pieces every week day,” often rails against Alt-Furries and their attempts at indoctrination. In February, a Dogpatch writer with the fursona Patch O’Furr published a “deep dive into the Altfurry mission to ‘redpill’ fandom with hate,” warning readers about the #AltFurry mission to indoctrinate members of the fandom and spread its white supremacist teachings.

According to O’Furr, furry fandom is a perfect venue for alt-right recruiters. Just as Pepe the Frog (RIP) served as a seemingly harmless, comedic package through which to promulgate racist, misogynist and xenophobic beliefs, fursonas can act as effective, hirsute fronts for extreme views. As Furry fandom member Deo elaborated in a Medium post, furry communities ? often populated by “socially awkward internet nerds” ? are prime targets for alt-right trolls, who target young people, outsiders and insecure, white men.

(18) KERMODE. Here are three recent genre film reviews by YouTuber Mark Kermode.

  • Ready Player One

“Really properly good fun!”

 

  • Annihilation (audio only)

“Shame I didn’t get the chance to see it in the cinema” and “a really fine piece of work”

 

  • A Wrinkle in Time

“I’d rather a film aimed high and tripped than played it safe, and I think A Wrinkle in Time does that”

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Steve Green, Chip Hitchcock, IanP,Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John A Arkansawyer, Gregory Benford, Ann Marie Rudolph, Brian Z., Charles Rector, with Carl Slaughter as The Beaver for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 3/2/17 Doing The Trilogy Backwards

(1) RECURSIVE NEWS. The Large Hadron Collider gets a pixel tracker.

Officials said the replacement of a key component inside the CMS experiment represented the first major upgrade to the LHC – the world’s biggest machine.

Engineers have been carefully installing the new “pixel tracker” in CMS in a complex and delicate procedure on Thursday 100m underground….

More than 1,200 “dipole” magnets steer the beam around a 27km-long circular tunnel under the French-Swiss border. At certain points around the ring, the beams cross, allowing collisions to take place. Large experiments like CMS and Atlas then record the outcomes of these encounters, generating more than 10 million gigabytes of data every year.

The CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) pixel tracker is designed to disentangle and reconstruct the paths of particles emerging from the collision wreckage.

“It’s like substituting a 66 megapixel camera with a 124 megapixel camera,” Austin Ball, technical co-ordinator for the CMS experiment, told BBC News.

In simple terms, the pixel detector takes images of particles which are superimposed on top of one another, and then need to be separated.

(2) COLLECTING THE CURE. A bidder paid top dollar for a moldy piece of history.

The mold in question — which actually outpaced early expectations to be sold for a whopping $14,617, according to The Associated Press — is a capsule of the original Penicillium chrysogenum Alexander Fleming was working with when he discovered the antibiotic penicillin. Encased in a glass disc, inscribed with the words “the mould that first made Penicillin,” and signed by Fleming himself, the little sample comes from the collection of Fleming’s niece, Mary Anne Johnston.

(3) GOLD RUSS. James Davis Nicoll has the panelists reading “When It Changed” by Joanna Russ at Young People Read Old SFF.

With this story we enter the 1970s, the last decade in the Young People project . I knew which story I wanted to begin the decade with: Joanna Russ’ 1972 Nebula-winner “When It Changed”. Noted author and critic Russ’s story is a reply to such classics as Poul Anderson’s Virgin Planet, stories in which planets populated entirely by women are granted that most precious of treasures, a man and his unsolicited advice. Russ was not always entirely pleased by the status quo. Subtle hints of her displeasure can be detected in this classic first contact tale.

Of course, we live in a modern era of complete equality between the sexes. Who knows if this story can speak to younger people? Let’s find out!

Here’s one participant’s verdict –

….I’d still be willing to suggest that “When It Changed” is the most relevant of all the stories we’ve read so far in this project. I’m sure this is a very hard to believe statement, especially when you compare the story to some of the others we’ve read (i.e. dolphin-people and doomsday don’t-let-the-sun-set cultists), but I’m willing to say it and stand by it, for a few reasons….

(4) DEALING WITH IT. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Business Musings: Writing with Chronic Health Problems” deals with something I’m sure many writers are doing after seeing people’s comments here.

It wasn’t until I got a Fitbit on a lark that exercise became do-not-miss for me. Why? Because I can hit my 10,000 steps even when I’m sick. I shuffle around the house like the walking dead, determined to hit that magic number, because I’m anal, and because finishing my steps every day before midnight is something I can control.

The knee injury got in the way. I made my doctor give me a schedule and benchmarks so that I wouldn’t start up again too soon, but also so that I would start as soon as I could. He thought I was nuts, but he did it. And I followed it, even though I didn’t want to. (I wanted to hobble around the house to hit that magic 10,000 steps.) Even with an injured knee, I got 3,000-4,000 steps per day (using crutches), because I really can’t sit down for very long.

It drives me crazy.

So why am I telling you all of this? This is a writing blog, right?

Because dozens of you have asked me, both privately and in comments, how I write with a chronic health condition.

There really is a trick to the writing while chronically ill. But the trick is personal, and it’s tailored to each individual person.

So, more personal stories—and then tips.

(5) MoPOP. Nominations for next year’s inductees to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame are being taken from the public through April 16.

We’ve opened up our Hall of Fame nominations to the public so that you can choose the creations (e.g. a movie, video game, book, comic/graphic novel, superhero, etc.) and creators (e.g. director, actor, writer, animator, composer, etc.) that have most inspired you!

MoPOP also says the public will be able to vote for the selected finalists later this year, although it’s unclear what impact that vote will have. The website says —

Founded in 1996, the Hall of Fame was relocated from the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas to its permanent home at MoPOP in 2004. Nominations are accepted from the public and the final inductees are chosen by a committee of industry experts.

A public was invited to vote was taken on last year’s nominees, too, but as it says above, selected experts chose the inductees.

(6) NEBULA NOMINEE. Brooke Bolander, who calls this “sputtering,” writes a pretty good thank-you: “Nebula Finalist Frenzy, or: IT HAPPENED AGAIN WTF BBQ”.

Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies,” my thousand-word rage bark published in Uncanny Magazine, is a finalist for the Best Short Story Nebula. Again, to everyone who put it on their ballot: holy shit, thank you so goddamned much. I was helping clean up after a family funeral when I got the call, so to say that I needed that good news is a grave and frankly insulting understatement to the gift you all handed me. I didn’t expect to get on the ballot last year. I figured it was probably the last time I’d be within six city blocks of a ballot for a long, long time, if ever. Is being a finalist again so soon intimidating? You’d better fuckin’ believe it, buster. Is trying to figure out how I am going to follow this up absolutely bowel-twistingly terrifying, the fear that I’ll never write anything else worthwhile once again lurking at the edges of my internal narrative like a shadow beneath a 1 AM streetlamp? DING DING DING.

(7) SURVIVOR. Pat Cadigan is deeply reflective in this installment of “Still Making Cancer My Bitch”.

…At the same time, however, it’s a little spooky to think that, had my cancer followed its standard course––had I not gotten so extremely lucky––I wouldn’t be here now. And the two friends I lost were supposed to be living their lives as usual. John Lennon once pointed out that life is what happens while you’re making other plans. Truer words were never spoken.

A few days ago, I had started writing a post about survivor guilt. There have been a few posts I found very difficult and uncomfortable to write but this one was impossible. I have seldom written nonfiction; it’s really not my metier. I did write two nonfiction books in the late 1990s, one about the making of Lost In Space and another a year later about the making of The Mummy; they were assignments I lucked into and I think they turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. But I digress.

Survivor guilt is one of those things easier felt than explained––easier done than said, if you will. You can’t write about it without sounding like you’re fishing for comfort: Please forgive me for still being alive. You know people are going to tell you that you have nothing to feel guilty about. Except for the few whom you secretly suspect don’t forgive you.

Personally, I’ve always thought of survivor guilt as something suffered by people who have been through terrible catastrophes––natural disasters, mass transit crashes, explosions, wars. These people have been through extreme trauma and injury themselves. So claiming I have survivor guilt sounds self-aggrandising. The truth is, I’ve never been in pain and thanks to my family and my ongoing support system of friends far and wide, I’ve never felt alone or like I had no one to talk to.

What I’m feeling is more like survivor embarrassment. It’s like this: you find out you’re terminal, and you make a big deal out of it, because what the hell, it is a big deal, to you anyway. Then, holy guacamole! Things take a completely unexpected swerve and it turns out you’re not as terminal as they thought. You’re not exactly well, not in remission, but you’re stable and you’re not leaving any time soon unless someone drops a house on you. (And even then, it would probably depend on the house.)

(8) BEAR NECESSITIES. Worldcon 75 has received a 5000 € grant from Art Promotion Centre Finland. If you read Finnish, you can find out the details in the organization’s press release.

(9) ROCK SOLID EVIDENCE. “Oldest fossil ever found on Earth shows organisms thrived 4.2bn years ago”. The Telegraph has the story.

Oldest fossil ever found on Earth shows organisms thrived 4.2bn years ago

It’s life, but not as we know it. The oldest fossil ever discovered on Earth shows that organisms were thriving 4.2 billion years ago, hundreds of millions of years earlier than previously thought.

The microscopic bacteria, which were smaller than the width of a human hair, were found in rock formations in Quebec, Canada, but would have lived in hot vents in the 140F (60C) oceans which covered the early planet.

The discovery is the strongest evidence yet that similar organisms could also have evolved on Mars, which at the time still had oceans and an atmosphere, and was being bombarded by comets which probably brought the building blocks of life to Earth.

….Space expert Dr Dan Brown of Nottingham Trent University added: “The discovery is exciting since it demonstrates how quickly life can form if the conditions are right on a planet or moon.

“This makes it clear to me that as soon as we find conditions on an exoplanet that would favour life as we know it, the probability of finding some form of life on that planet is very high. However, we are not talking about little green aliens but about microorganisms.

(10) ABSTRACT THINKING. Click here for the table of contents of the March issue of Science Fiction Studies which brings us, among other headscratchers, Thomas Strychacz’ “The Political Economy of Potato Farming in Andy Weir’s The Martian” —

Abstract. This essay examines the diverse political-economic registers of Andy Weir’s The Martian (2011) in terms of its symbolic response to the material and ideological crises of the Great Recession. The 2008 financial collapse in the US led to millions losing their homes and posed a serious challenge to the legitimacy of mainstream economic principles. Published at the height of the crisis, and concerning itself with the monumental challenge of bringing just one person home, the novel writes contested economic discourses into cultural fable. On Mars, Mark Watney’s potato farming evokes the paradigmatic neoclassical economic figure of homo economicus, the self-interested, maximizing agent who constantly prioritizes competing choices in order to allocate scarce resources rationally. NASA’s Earth, conversely, is a fantastic world of “unlimited funding” where, overturning two centuries of (neo)classical economic principle, “every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out” (Weir 368-69). The novel’s confused attempts to reconcile homo economicus with a workable concept of the common good can be historicized. Other prominent documents of the recessionary era—the US government’s official Report on the Financial Crisis and Occupy Wall Street’s Declaration among them—manifest the same yearning to restore a vanishing sense of commonwealth.

(11) REVENGE OF THE SON OF THE RETURN OF THE SHADOW CLARKE. Two more shortlists from Shadow Clarke jurors.

One of the things I wanted to do with my shortlist was to explore the idea of the Arthur C. Clarke Award as an institution that challenges the near-monopoly that genre publishing has over not only the field’s annual hype cycle but also over the construction of literary excellence. Traditionally, the Clarke Award has filled this role by smuggling a few choice mainstream titles over the ghetto walls but what if those disruptive tendencies were allowed to manifest themselves more fully? What if the Clarke Award came to represent genre publishing industry’s systematic failure to drive the genre forwards?

In order to come up with a deliberately counter-cultural shortlist, I made several passes through the submissions list in order to rule things out before making more positive choices about the things I wanted to read and write about:

…Second pass: Genre publishing has slowly developed a near-monopoly on the means through which individual works acquire a word-of-mouth buzz. This monopoly is partly a result of publishers and authors developing direct relationships with reviewers and partly a result of critics and reviewers losing influence in the age of Goodreads and Amazon reviews. With most of genre culture’s systems of recommendation skewed in favour of genre imprints and established genre authors, I chose to prioritise works that were either produced outside of conventional genre culture or which have been marginalised by genre publishing and forced towards smaller publishing venues….

…The task of compiling a shortlist is slightly different for the shadow Clarke juror, because there is more scope to set a personal agenda. What do I want my shortlist to be? This question came into sharp focus when I looked at the list of submissions, and realised that I wouldn’t want to shortlist any of the books that I’d already read.

So I have had to fall back on books that I would like to read. On that basis, I decided to orient my shortlist around the idea of discovery, focusing primarily on authors I hadn’t read much before, and taking note of a few strong recommendations from trusted sources….

Mark-kitteh sent the links along with these comments: “I did a spot of tallying up:

  • The Underground Railroad — Colson Whitehead 5
  • Central Station — Lavie Tidhar 4
  • A Field Guide to Reality?— Joanna Kavenna 4
  • The Many Selves of Katherine North?—?Emma Geen 3
  • The Power — Naomi Alderman 3
  • The Gradual?— Christopher Priest 3

“Which conveniently makes a potential shortlist of 6. It’s unlikely to be the final result, but the jurors seem to have more to agree on than to disagree.

“They are followed by another 7 chosen by two jurors, plus 10 singletons with a lone champion. Nick Hubble has the honour of being the only juror with at least one other agreeing with all his choices.”

(12) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Monopoly Board Games produced after September 2008 come with $20,580 in play money. Standard editions produced before that came with $15,140.

(13) TODAY’S DAY

Today is Dr. Seuss Day, a full twenty-four hours to make a mess with the Cat in the Hat, dance around with the Fox in Sox, hear a Who with Horton, count the red and blue fish, help the Grinch see the error of his ways, and listen to Sam I Am’s friend complain about his dish of green eggs and ham, the ungrateful hairball!

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

(15) EARLY BARR. At Galactic Journey, Victoria Silverwolf has an eye for talent — “[March 1,1962] Hearts and Flowers (April 1962 Fantastic)”:

Appropriately, The April 1962 issue of Fantastic is full of romance, along with the sense of wonder demanded by readers of speculative fiction.

Before we get to the mushy stuff, however, Judith Merril offers us a mysterious look at The Shrine of Temptation.  George Barr’s beautiful cover art appears to have inspired this ambiguous tale of good, evil, and strange rituals.  Barr’s work has appeared in a handful of fanzines for a few years, but I believe this is his first professional publication.  Based on the quality of this painting, I believe the young artist has a fine career ahead of him.

(16) IT’S MERVEILLEUX. At The New York Review of Science Fiction: “Brian Stableford: Madme De Villaneuve and the Origins of the Fantasy Novel”

The first concerted attempt to define and characterize a genre of fantasy fiction was made by Charles-Joseph Mayer between 1785 and 1789 when he published the 41 exemplary volumes of Le Cabinet des fées, ou Collection choisie des contes de fées et autres contes merveilleux [The Cabinet of the Fairies, or, Selected Collection of Fairy Tales and Other Marvelous Tales] in parallel with Charles Garnier’s Voyages imaginaires, songes, visions et romans cabalistiques [Imaginary Voyages, Dreams, Visions, and Cabalistic Fiction]. The latter is now regarded as most significant for the volumes containing imaginary voyages that can be affiliated in retrospect to the nascent genre of roman scientifique [scientific fiction] but, as the full title illustrates, it contains a good deal of material that would nowadays be considered to belong to the fantasy genre, and some of the items, such as Madame Roumier-Robert’s “Les Ondins, conte moral” (1768; tr. as “The Water-Sprites”) would have been perfectly at home in Mayer’s collection. It was, however, Mayer’s assembly that identified the two principal strands of the genre of the merveilleux as the mock folktales that became fashionable in the literary salons of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in association with the court of Louis XIV and tales written in imitation of Antoine Galland’s collection of Les Mille-et-une nuits (1707–19), which claimed to be translations of Arabian folklore, although many of the inclusions are drastically rewritten from the original manuscripts or wholly invented by Galland.

(17) PULLMAN. In “Paradise regained: ‘His Dark Materials’ is even better than I remembered”, the Financial Times’ Nilanjana Roy uses the forthcoming publication of The Book of Dust to discuss how she read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy ten years ago and how much she enjoyed these books. (The article is behind a paywall; the link is to a Google cache which can be read after taking a survey.)

The first in the trilogy is the most memorably dazzling, a classic quest story where the young Lyra travels to the north, befriending armoured bears and witch-queens. She has a daemon, Pantalaimon — most people in her world do, the daemon being an animal who is the external manifestation of a person’s inner spirit — and that is what I remembered most about the trilogy. When His Dark Materials came out, most of my friends abandoned their dignity and played games of Guess His Daemon? assigning slinking jackals or brown marmorated stink bug daemons to those they didn’t like.

(18) IT PAYS NOT TO BE IGNORANT. BoingBoing tells about the Norwegian news site that makes readers pass a test proving they read the post before commenting on it.

The team at NRKbeta attributes the civil tenor of its comments to a feature it introduced last month. On some stories, potential commenters are now required to answer three basic multiple-choice questions about the article before they’re allowed to post a comment. (For instance, in the digital surveillance story: “What does DGF stand for?”)

(19) THE CULTURE WARS.  Yes, it’s Buzzfeed – perhaps someday you’ll forgive me. “This Far-Right Tweet About ‘The Future That Liberals Want’ Backfired Into A Huge Meme”. A lot of tweets have been gathered in this post – here are three examples, the tweet that started everything, one of the pushback, and a third from the bizarre spinoffs.

(Buzzfeed says the photo was originally posted on @subwaycreatures, where it was used to “showcase the beauty of New York’s diversity.”)

Finally:

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title inspiration credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lis Carey.]

Pixel Scroll 2/2/17 If You Give A Kzin A Kazoo…

(1) LOOKING FOR SHADOWS. Leah Schnelbach’s “Groundhog Day Breaks the Rules of Every Genre” is a masterpiece about one of my favorite movies. (It first appeared on Tor.com in 2014.)

Groundhog Day succeeds as a film because of the way it plays with, subverts, and outright mocks the tropes of each of the genres it flirts with. While some people would call it a time travel movie, or a movie about small town America, or the most spiritual film of all time, or a rom-com, it is by breaking the rules of each of those types of films that it ultimately transcends genre entirely.

(2) SHARKNADO 5. Not sure why Syfy and studio The Asylum picked Groundhog Day to announce there will be a fifth Sharknado movie, unless it’s to wink at the fact they’re doing the same thing over and over again:

The original 2013 “Sharknado” introduced the concept of a shark-laden twister via one bearing down on Los Angeles. In “Sharknado 2: The Second One,” New York City was the target of the disaster, and in “Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!” a mega-sharknado made its way down the East Coast from Washington, D.C. to Florida. In the most recent installment, the very-close-to-copyright-infringement-titled “Sharknado: The 4th Awakens,” the shark-infested storms went national. The film ended with the Eiffel Tower ripping away from Paris and crashing down on Niagara Falls, setting the stage for the fifth edition of America’s answer to the sprawling sagas of the ancient world.

In “Sharknado 5,” with much of North America lying in ruins, the rest of the world braces for a global sharknado. Fin Shepard (Ziering) and his family must put a stop to this disaster before Earth is obliterated.

(3) TODAY’S SCROLL TITLE. On the other hand, Daniel Dern hopes you will add iterations of your own to his faux children’s book for Filers.

If You Give A Kzin A Kazoo…

whose text perhaps goes…

… he’ll <blatt> and leap.

If a Kzin <blatt>s and leaps,
he’ll rip you from gehenna to duodenum. [1]

If a Kzin rips you from gehenna to duodenum,
well, that’s the end of the story as far as you’re concerned,
unless you’ve got either an autodoc [2] nearby, or have Wolverine-class mutant healing factor.

[1] per Don Marquis, Archie & Mehitabel — Mehitabel on Marriage, IIRC.

[2] and health care insurance that will cover you 🙁

Probably if you put all that in, Filers will contribute a few dozen more verses.

(4) BOMBS AWAY. Before telling the “Five Things I Learned Writing Exo”, Fonda Lee confesses that Exo began life as a failed NanNoWriMo novel. (A guest post at Terrible Minds.)

This is how it went: I wrote 35,000 words by November 20th or so, and stalled out. It wasn’t working. At all. I read the manuscript from the beginning and hated all of it with the nauseous loathing that writers feel when looking at their own disgusting word messes. I had a shiny story idea in my head but it was emerging as dog vomit. So I quit. I failed NaNoWriMo hard.

I trashed everything I’d written and started again. I wrote a new draft over several months, and then rewrote 50% of that one. And did it again. After the book sold, I did another major revision with my editor. I was relieved and excited by how it was getter better and better, but part of me was also surprised and disheartened. I mean, Zeroboxer was picking up accolades and awards, and whoa, I got to go to the Nebula Awards as a finalist and dance on stage, so why the hell was it so hard to write another book?! This whole writing thing ought to be easier now, right?

Wrong. In talking (griping, whining, crying) to wiser authors, I learned there was wide agreement that the second book is often a complete bitch to write. A very loud voice in your head is telling you that because you’re now a Published Author, you should be writing better and faster, plus doing author promotion stuff with an effortless grin.

(5) REMEMBERING PAN. J. M. Barrie was one of several authors who put science-related observation into fantasies. The BBC tells you about it: “What Peter Pan teaches us about memory and consciousness”.

In this way, the stories appear to follow a tradition of great cross-pollination between the arts and the sciences – particularly in children’s literature. Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies was written, in part, as a response to Darwin’s theory of evolution, while Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland were a playful exploration of mathematics and logic. Even some of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales were inspired by new scientific and technological developments – such as the invention of the home microscope.

(6) A LARGER-THAN-EXPECTED COLLISION. The Large Hadron Collider didn’t end the world, as some cranks feared, but it did end this creature: “World’s Most Destructive Stone Marten Goes On Display In The Netherlands”

On Nov. 20, 2016, the animal hopped over a fence at the $7 billion Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, touched a transformer and was electrocuted by 18,000 volts.

The marten died instantly. The collider, which accelerates particles to near the speed of light to study the fiery origins of the universe, lost power and shut down.

“There must have been a big flame,” said Kees Moeliker, the director of the Natural History Museum in Rotterdam and the man behind its Dead Animal Tales exhibit, where the preserved marten is now displayed.

“It was scorched. When you’re not really careful with candles and your hair, like that,” he explained. “Every hair of this creature was kind of burned and the whiskers, they were burned to the bare minimum and especially the feet, the legs, they were cooked. They were darker, like roasted.”

“It really had a bad, bad encounter with this electricity.”

Chip Hitchcock adds, “Marten furs were once sufficiently tradable that Croatia’s currency, the kuna, takes its name from the Croatian word for the beast.“

(7) YOUNG PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. James Davis Nicoll turns the panel loose on Roger Zelazny’s “A Rose for Ecclesiastes”.

I selected 1963’s A Rose for Ecclesiastes for a few reasons. The least important is because I only recently read it myself (the story kept coming up in the context of a grand review project of mine and I got tired of admitting over and over again that I had not read it.). Another is its historical significance: this is one of the last SF stories written before space probes showed us what Mars was really like. The final reason is this story was nominated for a Hugo and I am hopeful that the virtues the readers saw a half century ago are still there.

Let’s find out!

(8) THE FOUNDER. Selected writings by Hugo Gernsback have been compiled in The Perversity of Things: Hugo Gernsback on Media, Tinkering, and Scientifiction, edited by Grant Wythoff. The book was published in November by the University of Minnesota Press.

In 1905, a young Jewish immigrant from Luxembourg founded an electrical supply shop in New York. This inventor, writer, and publisher Hugo Gernsback would later become famous for launching the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in 1926. But while science fiction’s annual Hugo Awards were named in his honor, there has been surprisingly little understanding of how the genre began among a community of tinkerers all drawn to Gernsback’s vision of comprehending the future of media through making. In The Perversity of Things, Grant Wythoff makes available texts by Hugo Gernsback that were foundational both for science fiction and the emergence of media studies.

…The Perversity of Things aims to reverse the widespread misunderstanding of Gernsback within the history of science fiction criticism. Through painstaking research and extensive annotations and commentary, Wythoff reintroduces us to Gernsback and the origins of science fiction.

Bruce Sterling gives the book a powerful endorsement:

Grant Wythoff’s splendid work of scholarship dispels the dank, historic mists of a literary subculture with starkly factual archival research. An amazing vista of electronic media struggle is revealed here, every bit as colorful and cranky as Hugo Gernsback’s pulp magazines—even the illustrations and footnotes are fascinating. I’m truly grateful for this work and will never think of American science fiction in the same way again.

(9) SARAH PRINCE. The family obituary for Sarah Prince, who died last month, appeared in the Plattsburgh (NY) Press-Republican.

Sarah Symonds Prince (born July 11, 1954) died unexpectedly of congestive heart failure in late January in her Keene Valley home. A long time resident and well-loved community member, she was active in the Keene Valley Congregational Church choir and hand bell choir, the town community garden program; she was a former member of the Keene Valley Volunteer Fire Department.

Sarah was an avid photographer and a ceramic artist, and a freelance graphic designer. She was an influential member of the science fiction fan community and publisher (in the 1980s/90s) of her own fanzine. Sarah enjoyed going to interesting places whether around the corner or halfway around the world. She loved the many dogs and cats that were constant companions in her life.

Born in Salem, Mass., Sarah was the third child of David Chandler Prince Jr. and Augusta Alger Prince. She grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she graduated from Walnut Hills High School. Sarah’s love of Keene Valley, N.Y., follows family ties that date back four generations as regular summer visitors.

Sarah graduated from the Ohio State University with a BFA degree. She trained in print layout and typesetting and worked in typesetting, layout and graphic arts for several publications, including Adirondack Life from 1990-93, a job which brought her to live full-time in Keene Valley. A deep curiosity about technology and a sustainable world led Sarah to Clinton Community College to study computer technology and earn an Environmental Science AA degree in May 2016.

Sarah lived with disability from mental illness and substance abuse for many years. She worked to raise awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by herself and others. She positively touched many who were also struggling.

Sarah is survived by her mother, Augusta Prince of Hanover, N.H.; four siblings, Timothy Prince, Catharine Roth, Charlotte Hitchcock, and Virginia Prince; seven nieces and nephews; and six grand nieces and nephews.

Donations in her memory can be made to North Country SPCA or the Keene Valley Library. Arrangements have been entrusted to Heald Funeral Home, 7521 Court Street, Plattsburgh, N.Y. To light a memorial candle or leave an online condolence please visit http://www.healdfuneralhomeinc.com

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 2, 1882 – James Joyce is born .

And that reminds John King Tarpinian of a story:

Sylvia Beach, owner of the bookstore Shakespeare and Co. in Paris, published the novel herself in 1922, but it was banned in the United Kingdom and in the United States until 1933.  Every July Ray Bradbury and his family would vacation in France.  Ray would always visit Shakespeare and Company.  The bookshop would make sure they had a book that Ray wanted, such as first editions of Jules Verne.

(11) CREEPTASTIC. Dread Central reports “Zak Bagan’s Haunted Museum to feature ‘one of the most dangerous paranormal possessions in the world’” — Peggy the Doll.

Excited about visiting Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum when it opens? Of course you are! This latest story though… this latest addition to Zak’s house of madness? Well, it’s going to be up to you whether or not you take your chances and take a look.

Zak has just informed us exclusively that he’s now in possession of the infamous “Peggy the Doll,” which he obtained from its previous owner, Jayne Harris from England. Featured on an episode of his series “Deadly Possessions,” Peggy is not for the faint of heart. It’s said you can be affected by Peggy by just looking at her… in person or in photos. As a result “Deadly Possessions” aired the episode with a disclaimer for viewers: a first for both the show and the paranormal in general.

(12) BUNK. Jason Sanford muses about “An alternate history of alternative histories”:

Ironically, the last book my grandfather read was edited by Poul Anderson, one of our genre’s early authors of alternate histories. Anderson’s Time Patrol stories, where valiant time travelers ensure history stays on its “correct” timeline, are an integral and fun part of SF’s long tradition of time travel fiction focused on keeping history pure. He also wrote a famous series of alternate history fantasies called Operation Chaos, originally published by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the 1950s. In these stories World War II was fought between completely different countries with magical creatures such as werewolves and witches.

Of course, Anderson’s stories of time travelers keeping the timeline pure and correct seem a little simplistic today, just as historical narratives today are far more complex than they were decades ago. I think this is partly because most historians now recognize how imprecisely history is recorded. History as it is written can even be called the original version of the alternate history genre, where the story we’re told deviates from what really happened.

After all, history is written by the victors, as the cliche states. Which means much of what happened in the past is left out or altered before history is recorded. And even the victors don’t name all the victors and don’t celebrate all their victories and deeds.

Theodore Sturgeon famously said that “ninety percent of everything is crap.” This applies equally to history as we know it — including the history of the alternate history genre.

(13) WHITE FLIGHT. Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel, in “Whitey on Mars”, ask if Elon Musk’s Martian proposals are part of a dream by rich and powerful people to further isolate themselves from the masses. (The title references Gil Scott-Heron’s 1970 “Whitey on the Moon.”)

Musk insists that humans in fact ‘need’ to go to Mars. The Mars mission, he argues, is the best way for humanity to become what he calls a ‘space-faring civilisation and a multi-planetary species’. This otherworldly venture, he says, is necessary to mitigate the ‘existential threat’ from artificial intelligence (AI) that might wipe out human life on Earth. Musk’s existential concerns, and his look to other worlds for solutions, are not unique among the elite of the technology world. Others have expressed what might best be understood as a quasi-philosophical paranoia that our Universe is really just a simulation inside a giant computer.

Musk himself has fallen under the sway of the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, who put forward the simulation theory in 2003. Bostrom has also argued that addressing ‘existential risks’ such as AI should be a global priority. The idea that Google’s CEO Larry Page might create artificially intelligent robots that will destroy humanity reportedly keeps Musk up at night. ‘I’m really worried about this,’ Musk told his biographer. ‘He could produce something evil by accident.’

These subjects could provide some teachable moments in certain kinds of philosophy classes. They are, obviously, compelling plot devices for Hollywood movies. They do not, however, bear any relationship to the kinds of existential risks that humans face now, or have ever faced, at least so far in history. But Musk has no connection to ordinary people and ordinary lives. For his 30th birthday, Musk rented an English castle, where he and 20 guests played hide-and-seek until 6am the following day. Compare this situation with the stories recounted in Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted (2016), where an entire housing industry has arisen in the US to profit from the poverty of some families, who often move from home to home with little hope of ever catching up, let alone getting ahead.

(14) COMIC SECTION. Martin Morse Wooster says, “I think today’s Prickly City expresses the dreams of many Filers.”

(15) ANOTHER COUNTRY HEARD FROM. When the next Doctor Who is chosen, one party thinks someone besides a human deserves consideration: “New Doctor Who should be a Dalek, say Daleks”, at The Daily Mash.

The Skaro natives have petitioned the BBC for ‘better representation’ from a show which has historically ‘erased and demonised’ their proud race.

The Supreme Dalek said: “It’s not the 1960s anymore. These narratives about heroic Gallifreyans saving humanoids from extermination are outdated and offensive.

“My son is an eight-year-old New Paradigm Dalek and his eyestalk droops whenever he turns on his favourite show to see that yet again, the Daleks are the baddies.…

(16) WHEN ROBOTS LAY DOWN ON THE JOB. Fynbospress told Mad Genius Club readers about running into a wall while using Word:

Interesting quirk I learned recently on MS Word. Say you have a MilSF novel, and you haven’t added the last names, planets, etc. to the customized dictionary (So they all show as a spelling error). As you’re reading through, it pops up a window saying “there are too many spelling errors in this document to show.” And promptly cuts out the red spelling and blue grammar lines.

(17) INFERNO. JJ says, quite rightly, this photo of the West Kamokuna Skylight in Hawaii resembles sculpture of bodies being sucked into hell.

If lava has the right viscosity, it can travel across a landscape via channels. The lava either forms the channels itself or uses a preexisting one. Along the same vein, lava tubes are essentially channels that reside underground and also allow lava to move quickly. Tubes form one of two ways. A lava channel can form an arc above it that chills and crystallizes, or an insulated pahoehoe flow can have lava still running through it while outer layers freeze. Lava tubes, by their nature, are buried. However, skylights form when the lava tube collapses in a specific area and allow one to see the flow inside the tube. Tubes can collapse completely and become channels, drain out, or get blocked up.

(18) FROM BC TO DC. CinemaBlend thinks the critical success of the DC Extended Universe hinges on the forthcoming Wonder Woman movie.

While Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice struggled to please critics, most agreed that Gal Gadot’s performance as Wonder Woman was one of its few shining lights. It’s hoped that the opportunity to explore the character even more, as well as take a peak at her origin story, will help to propel the DC Extended Universe forward, especially considering all of its recent troubles regarding both its releases and the films it has in development.

 

View this post on Instagram

? ? ? #wonderwoman @WonderWomanFilm

A post shared by Gal Gadot (@gal_gadot) on

(19) I’M OUT. It may look like a chocolate chip thumbscrew, but it’s Dunking Buddy!

why_cookie_tray_medium

What if there was an easier, cleaner, more enjoyable way to enjoy dunking cookies in milk. Well the world is finally in luck, and based on the response so far, it couldn’t have come sooner! Two cookie dunking lovers, like so many others out there, took it upon themselves and created a cookie dunking device that does just that!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Moshe Feder, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

 

Pixel Scroll 4/9/16 Little Old Lady Got Nominated Late Last Night

(1) HERE’S THE PLOT. Ursula Vernon cultivates history in her garden. Read “Sowing History: A Gardener’s Tale” at Tor.com.

When people think of gardeners, many of them tend to picture little old ladies in straw hats with bright green gloves, pottering among the roses.

When people think of gardeners who are also children’s book authors, they go straight to Beatrix Potter and assume that not only are these little old ladies in straw hats pottering among the roses, but they are also greeting the friendly woodland creatures by name—“Hello, Mister Robin! You’re looking very feathery today!” “Why, Missus Tiggywinkle, how have you been?” “Oh dear, that naughty little cottontail has been at my lettuces again!”

Well, I am a gardener and a children’s book author. I am also under forty, tattooed, and the owner of a mostly black wardrobe, and when I greet a happy woodland creature by name, there is an excellent chance that the sentence will end with “touch that and I will end you.”

(2) THE FIRST STAR WARS FANS. The Skywalking Through Neverland podcast discusses “The Early Days of Star Wars Fandom with Craig Miller”.

Our spe­cial guest Craig Miller was the Pub­li­cist and Direc­tor of Fan Rela­tions for Lucas­film dur­ing the hey-day of the 70’s and 80’s. Ever won­der how fans knew what was going on in fan­dom before social media? Whose job was it to tell the world about this new movie called Star Wars? Craig shares some awe­some stories.

 

episod116square Craig Miller

(3) KAMERON HURLEY. Asked where his inspiration came from, lyricist Sammy Cahn said “When the check arrives.” Kameron Hurley’s check has arrived, but she explains what else she needs besides, in “Kameron Hurley: Cultivating Inspiration on Deadline” at Locus Online.

Instead of spending all that time feeling guilty about what I wasn’t doing and scrolling through Twitter, I needed to release myself from the ‘‘I should be writing’’ mentality and let my brain start connect­ing things on its own. I found that the more I actively thought about plot problems, the less my brain wanted to fix them. It kept trying to avoid the problems I’d put to it. For instance, instead of fixing a plot problem on my current book, my brain recently offered up a solution to a subplot problem in the next book I’ll be working on. At some point I have to give in and let my brain make the connections it needs to make, without getting in its way. More and more, I have to let my brain go more than I’m used to, or it just retreads the same old story paths.

I would like to tell you that giving up everything to write is the only way to write. I enjoy spouting that whole ‘‘fall on your sword’’ advice time and time again. Giving up activities that waste your time while you should be writing is beneficial, but I can only burn hard like I have for so long before the flame gutters out. I don’t want to be that writer who just writes the same story over and over again.

(4) A LECKIE FANTASY. Rachel Swirsky’s April 8 Friday Fiction Recommendation is “Marsh Gods” by Ann Leckie.

I’m a fan of Ann’s fantasy universe in which gods must be careful to speak the truth, lest they lose their power. I hope we get longer work in it someday, or at least more. (Publishers: Hint, hint.)

Read “Marsh Gods” at Strange Horizons, or listen at PodCastle.

(5) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE. There was a bit of drama during “Day 5 – Writers of the Future Volume 32 Workshop”.

First up was Liza Trombi from Locus Magazine, the foremost professional publication in science fiction and fantasy literature. She discussed Locus, and then moved on to the vagaries of self-publishing, traditional publishing, and going hybrid. Liza recommended trying traditional publishing before attempting self-publishing. She also mentioned that publishing your first novel is rare, and that the best thing you can do for your future writing career is to always be writing a new book.

Robert J. Sawyer was up after Liza. With fresh copies of Locus in the winner’s hands, Robert took the opportunity to point out that his latest book, while having been well reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly and the Washington Post, was disliked by Locus. And while the book is doing extremely well, the reality is that someone will always dislike your work. He stressed that you should never write to please everyone because you never will. Your job, he says, is to identify what it is you do. You should know what your brand is as a writer, and write to please those people.

(6) WRITERS OF THE PRESENT. The bestselling authors are walking between the raindrops at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this weekend.

Stan Lee kept dry.

Other ornaments to our genre were on hand.

No Scalzi food photo today, but it played an important part on the program.

He also found time to practice his starship hijacking skills, on a modest scale.

(7) BINDER FULL OF LETTERS. Doug Ellis shares a few more historic letters in his post “Otto Binder on H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard” at Black Gate.

In late December 1935, science fiction author Otto Binder moved from Chicago to NYC to represent Otis Adelbert Kline’s literary agency. Among the authors he represented for Kline’s agency was Robert E. Howard. Binder had been to NYC previously, in late June and early July 1935, with his friends Clifford Kornoelje (better known in SF circles as Jack Darrow) and Bill Dellenback.

As I’ve mentioned before, back in 2001 I bought a few boxes of correspondence from Darrow’s estate, including dozens of letters that Binder had written to Darrow over the course of many decades. In going through them last month, I pulled this one and thought I’d post it today.

Once in NYC, Otto quickly resumed his friendships with Mort Weisinger and Charles Hornig, and rapidly met more figures involved in the local science fiction community. Less than two weeks after he’d arrived, he was invited to a gathering at Frank Belknap Long’s place, which was held on Friday, January 3, 1936. Binder and Long were fellow Weird Tales authors, with Binder and his brother, Earl, having sold WT some stories under their Eando Binder penname.

Among the others at the party were Donald and Howard Wandrei, Kenneth Sterling and, most interestingly of all, H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft impressed Binder greatly, as he relates in this letter to Darrow dated January 12, 1936. That would have been some gathering to attend!

(8) HAMPUS, IS THAT YOU? Not a toll-free call! CNN has the story: “The Swedish Number: Random Swedes are waiting to hear from you”.

Are you there, Sweden? It’s us, the world.

To mark the 250th anniversary of Sweden’s abolition of censorship, the Swedish Tourist Association has launched a phone number connecting global callers with random Swedes.

Think Chatroulette meets the United Nations.

Sweden’s new ambassadors don’t receive any training and their time is voluntary. They simply download the Swedish Number app, register their number, and signal their availability by switching themselves on or off.

As for the cost of ringing up, it’s charged as an international call so check with your provider before chatting with your new Swedish buddies late into the night.

There have been nearly 14,000 calls since the service launched on April 6, with nearly a third coming from the U.S. and a fifth from Turkey.

(9) GAME MAKER YIELDS. Crave reports “Baldur’s Gate Developer States They Will Change Trans Character and Remove GamerGate Joke”.

After an inexplicable amount of press was placed upon their team by angry gamers, Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear‘s developer Beamdog has stated that they will be altering the dialogue of transgender character Mizhena in a future update, along with removing a reference to GamerGate.

In the game, which is an expansion to the original Baldur’s Gate, there is a line of dialogue in which minor NPC Mizhena explains the origins of her name, revealing to the player that although being born a boy, she and her parents “came to understand [she] was truly a woman” later in life. This entire exchange, which is limited to four sentences, led to the game being bombarded with negative user reviews online, despite critical reviews of the game being positive. Another point of contention for its detractors was a line at the expense of GamerGate, in which popular character Minsc says “really, it’s all about ethics in heroic adventuring.”

(10) CARPENTER ON GALAKTIKA PAYMENT OFFER. Anna Grace Carpenter, who surfaced the story (“Galaktika Magazine: Theft on a Massive Scale”) expresses her views about Galaktika’s response in “Galaktika Magazine: By Way of Explanation”.

Let me pause for a moment and say that the offer of compensation is a step in the right direction. However, neither Mr. Burger or Mr. Németh have addressed the underlying issue.

This is a chronic and widespread issue of theft. It is not just the stories published in 2015 (of which there are many), but work that was published as far back as 2008….

This pattern is more than a lack of diligence or caution or speed on the part of the publishing staff at Galaktika. It is not an occasional oversight or misunderstanding of previous contracts. This is habitual theft.

Remember that the vast majority of these authors never submitted their work for consideration, there was no implication of giving their permission for the translation and publication of their stories in Galaktika. Rather, their work was copied from other, paying publications online without any attempt to contact the original publisher, editor or author, and then printed for profit in Galaktika. That is not a mistake, that is theft.

Cat Rambo, current president of SFWA, said she is still trying to obtain a copy of István Burger’s statement in English and there are still questions to be answered. (How soon can authors expect to receive payment? Will authors be able to request their work be pulled from Galaktika? Will Galaktika contact all those involved to arrange compensation or will they put the responsibility on the individual to contact them and make a claim?)

And the question remains, what will Mr. Burger and Mr. Németh do going forward?

(11) DRAGON AWARDS DISCUSSION CONTINUES.

Deby Fredericks on “The Dragon Awards” at Wyrmflight.

One of the distinctions I believe Dragon Con is trying to make, is that the existing prestigious awards are decided by a limited number of people — a jury, members of a particular convention or group — while the Dragon Awards will be nominated and voted by all fans. This sounds fair and noble, but I’m remembering that time when DC let fans vote on whether Robin should be killed by the Joker. They were aghast that fans wanted Robin dead. Was the outcome fair? Perhaps. But was it noble?

Already, some in the community responsible for the Hugo Awards Kerfluffle have been heard to gloat that now they will win because no bunch of snobs can vote them down. As you probably can tell, I’m a little tired of hearing privileged majorities play the dismartyrdom card. We’ll all find out in time.

I don’t necessarily agree that SF/media/everything needs another set of awards. However, I do believe Dragon Con is a large enough and inclusive enough organization to credibly present such an award. It will be interesting to see the outcome, and where it aligns or doesn’t align with the other awards.

Brian K. Lowe posted about “The Dragon Awards” at Graffiti on the Walls of Time.

“Another trophy,” you say, possibly enthusiastically, perhaps dismissively, maybe with a touch of boredom. Or maybe you say it with an appraising tone, as do we authors who think, “Hey, there’s another award I can aspire to (and probably never win)…” Regardless of your personal reaction, the awards are here and presumably they’re going to stick around a while. (America’s thirst for awards ceremonies is almost as impossible to slake as its thirst for reality shows, or sleazy political drama. If it ain’t a competition, we’re not interested.)

All of these reactions are quite understandable. What I don’t understand is those who believe that this development somehow spells trouble for the Hugo Awards given out every year by the aforementioned Worldcon.

Cirsova takes the whole thing rather less than completely seriously in “Genrefication and Dragon Awards”.

This isn’t a victory, unless your aim is creating genre ghettos.

In response, I propose an alternative.  If I ever get the reach to make such an endeavor feasible, I will give you the Brackett Awards:

  • Categories will include, but are not limited to, in Long and Short Form:
  • Best Space Princess/Classiest Dame
  • Most Dashing Swordsman/Gunman
  • Creepiest Monster/Alien
  • Most Exotic/Erotic Xeno-hominid
  • Best Explosion
  • Coolest Spaceship
  • Best Empire (domineering, crumbling or otherwise)

Will these categories end up punishing certain books under the SFF umbrella?  Probably, but not the most awesome ones.

Ian Mond says live and let live at Hysterical Hamster.

And a day or so ago Dragon Con launched its own genre awards.  To reflect the size of the con there’s about fifty billion categories ranging from best Apocalyptic fiction (my personal favourite) to Best episode in a continuing science fiction or fantasy series, TV or internet (take a deep breath).  I don’t begrudge any organisation, individual or entity organising and administering their own awards.  More power to them.  Personally though, I think I’ll give this one a miss.

Martin C. Wilsey’s sentiments about “The Dragon Awards” are shorter but not as sweet.

Well it was bound to happen. The Hugo Awards process corruption scandal has finally led to the inevitable conclusion. A new award that has fairness baked in. The Dragon Awards.

–Let’s hope that this award is all about quality of the fiction.

(12) RECAP. I don’t watch Sleepy Hollow so it’s hard to explain how I got sucked into reading this spoiler-filled recap of the final episode. This paragraph will give you the gist of what SciFi4Me felt about it:

Bloody Hell. I don’t know what they are thinking. And I don’t know how a show based on such a flimsy premise could jump the shark, but they did.

(13) DEAN KAMEN. The inventor of the Segway is the son of E.C. Comics’ Jack Kamen. Read about “Inventor Dean Kamen’s Big Ideas” in the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Kamen, 65, is known for coming up with the Segway (the two-wheeled electric vehicle), the iBot (a stair-climbing wheelchair) and a portable dialysis machine. He considers the First Robotics Competition, now in its 25th season, one of his best ideas yet…

In the competition, teams of students have six weeks to build a robot from scratch. The robots must then complete various tasks, working in teams. In this year’s challenge, they have to get through their opponents’ fortifications and take over territory in a space set up to look like a medieval battlefield with castles and towers. More than 400,000 students are competing this year, up from about 100 in 1992. “More and more, kids are starting to see that technology is cool. It’s not for nerds,” he says.

Mr. Kamen grew up a self-described nerd in New York’s Long Island, the son of a comic-book illustrator and a teacher. His engineering career started early; in high school, he earned more than $50,000 a year for designing and installing light and sound systems for musicians and museums.

Mr. Kamen, who is unmarried and doesn’t have children, spends most of his time working. “I get up in the morning, and I start working, then I keep working until I can’t work anymore, then I fall asleep,” he says. His idea of a vacation is going from one project to another when he’s stuck.

(14) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 9, 1833: First tax-supported U.S. public library founded, Peterborough, New Hampshire
  • April 9, 1959: NASA introduced first seven astronauts to press.

(15) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born April 9, 1926 – Hugh Hefner.

(16) KEEPING THE HARD IN HADRON. Ladies and gentlemen, the LEGO Particle Accelerator! JK Brickworks says —

This is a working particle accelerator built using LEGO bricks. I call it the LBC (Large Brick Collider). It can accelerate a LEGO soccer ball to just over 12.5 kilometers per hour.

 

(17) A CASE OF PHYSLEXIA. As most of you already guessed, I picked the previous item’s headnote because it references a typo that made news this week.

The BBC get overexcited by the world’s largest atom smasher.

 

(18) ATARI FLASHBACK. RPF Pulse brings us “The Art of ATARI Book Preview Images”.

Co-written by Robert V. Conte and Tim Lapetino, The Art of Atari includes a comprehensive retrospective collecting game production and concept artwork, photos, marketing art, with insight from key people involved in Atari’s rich history, and behind-the-scenes details on how dozens of games featured within were conceived, illustrated, approved (or rejected), and brought to life!

Includes a special Foreword by New York Times bestseller Ernst Cline, author of Armada and Ready Player One, soon to be a motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg.

Atari is a touchstone for many people. Their games and game system exposed many to video games for the first time. Whether you’re a fan, collector, enthusiast, or new to the world of Atari, this book offers the most complete collection of Atari artwork ever produced!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ,and Soon Lee for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

Large Hadron Collider Back on Track, Mostly

Electromagnet in the Large Hadron Collider

Electromagnet in the Large Hadron Collider

“More than a year after an explosion of sparks, soot and frigid helium shut it down,” begins Dennis Overbye’s New York Times essay, “the world’s biggest and most expensive physics experiment, known as the Large Hadron Collider, is poised to start up again…”

But not without incident. Eweek reported on December 3 there have been thorns among the roses:

The problem-plagued Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which has suffered a series of setbacks and mechanical breakdowns, is reportedly back in operational mode after suffering a power failure [on December 2] due to a blown 18 kilovolt power connection….

(A spokeswoman told Eweek there was also an incident in November when power loss was triggered by something dropped by a bird.) 

While there have been setbacks, CERN scientists have had much to celebrate: Last week, the LHC set a world record by becoming the world’s highest energy particle accelerator, having accelerated its twin beams of protons to an energy of 1.18 teraelectronvolts (TeV). The speed exceeded the previous world record of 0.98 TeV, which had been held by the U.S. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory’s Tevatron collider since 2001.

The writer for the Times is looking forward to when the collider can run its full slate of experiments:

Then it will be time to test one of the most bizarre and revolutionary theories in science…  I’m talking about the notion that the troubled collider is being sabotaged by its own future. A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.

Is this idea whack? Opinion is divided. Overbye is reminded of a famous quote from an earlier scientific debate about quantum theory:

As Niels Bohr… once told a colleague: “We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct.”

More Than Secrets Leaking at CERN

Providing an anticlimactic fizzle to its controversial launch, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider has proven dangerous only to itself. Operations have twice been interrupted by mechnical problems, and the latest will take months to repair. 

The world’s largest particle collider  malfunctioned within hours of its launch, but the media was led to believe there had been a successful startup and CERN did not admit the truth until September 18, after the Associated Press called asking about rumors of trouble.

In a statement Thursday, the European Organization for Nuclear Research reported for the first time that a 30-ton transformer that cools part of the collider broke, forcing physicists to stop using the atom smasher just a day after starting it up last week.

Then the day after that revelation, September 19, the LHC administered itself the coup de grace, suffering a major failure. The CERN press release explains:

During commissioning (without beam) of the final LHC sector (sector 34) at high current for operation at 5 TeV, an incident occurred at mid-day on Friday 19 September resulting in a large helium leak into the tunnel. Preliminary investigations indicate that the most likely cause of the problem was a faulty electrical connection between two magnets, which probably melted at high current leading to mechanical failure. CERN’s strict safety regulations ensured that at no time was there any risk to people.

A full investigation is underway, but it is already clear that the sector will have to be warmed up for repairs to take place. This implies a minimum of two months down time for LHC operation. For the same fault, not uncommon in a normally conducting machine, the repair time would be a matter of days.

Follow LHC’s cooldown status at the official site.

Update 9/23/2008: CNN reports that repairs to the LHC will keep it inactive until next spring.

Let the Bosons Fly High!

“World ends, film at eleven!” Look for that promo Wednesday night if the critics’ frightening predictions come true when CERN starts the first injection of a beam through the Large Hadron Collider a few hours from now, at 9:30 Central European Time.

The Geneva-based particle physics laboratory has stressed in a peer-reviewed report the soundness and safety of the project. But the media’s morbid fascination with the possibility of – almost a longing for – a disaster has prompted one service to offer live video of the LHC startup, while CERN has promised journalists satellite uplink will be provided throughout the day by Eurovision.

But when it comes to discussing the Large Hadron Collider, quite in contrast to other scientific controversies of the day, say, global warming, the left and right wings of the sf community are surprisingly in agreement that there’s little reason to get in an uproar.

Cheryl Morgan scoffed at “A Nation of Doomsayers” while pointing out The Guardian’s silly opinion poll that poses two extreme choices: “Are you worried the atom smasher will unwittingly destroy the planet or is that scientifically illiterate, millenarian twaddle – which is it to be?”

Similarly, Jerry Pournelle showed how unworried he is by ironically commenting:

Well, according to a German chemist it won’t matter since they will create a Quasar in the center of the Earth, and in a few years we’ll see light beams coming out of the oceans, after which we are all doomed.

The most reassuring prediction I’ve found about the imminent startup of LHC was Stephen Hawking’s $100 bet with Professor Gordy Kane, of Michigan University, over the existence of the Higgs boson. Not because Hawking might win, but because he clearly expects to be around to settle the bet.