Pixel Scroll 6/25/22 File The Pixels, Lest They Squeak Or Scroll

(1) OKORAFOR’S LOVE FOR COMICS. It started when she was seven: “From Garfield to Black Panther: Nnedi Okorafor on the Power of Comics” at Literary Hub.

My path to writing the big black cat started with a fat orange cat.

I’ve always been attracted to comics. Even before the word, it was the black line that drew me (pun intended). It began when I was about seven years old in the early ’80s with . . . Garfield. My father was an avid Chicago Sun-Times newspaper reader, and every day he would sit at the dinner table and read it. It was while hanging around him that I noticed that there was a comics page every day. The Family CircusHi and LoisBloomsburyCalvin and HobbesMommaZiggy—there were so many I enjoyed. And, oh man, on Sunday, there were pages of comics, and they were in color! I loved these little stories told in pictures. But I became most obsessed with Garfield….

(2) FUTURE TENSE. “This, But Again” by David Iserson, about life as a recurring simulation, is this month’s story from Future Tense Fiction, a monthly series from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives.

There’s an accompanying response essay by Eric Schwitzgebel, “If We’re Living in a Simulation, the Gods Might Be Crazy”.

That we’re living in a computer simulation—it sounds like a paranoid fantasy. But it’s a possibility that futurists, philosophers, and scientific cosmologists treat increasingly seriously. Oxford philosopher and noted futurist Nick Bostrom estimates there’s about a 1 in 3 chance that we’re living in a computer simulation. Prominent New York University philosopher David J. Chalmers, in his recent book, estimates at least a 25 percent chance. Billionaire Elon Musk says it’s a near-certainty. And it’s the premise of this month’s Future Tense Fiction story by David Iserson, “This, but Again.”

Let’s consider the unnerving cosmological and theological implications of this idea. If it’s true that we’re living in a computer simulation, the world might be weirder, smaller, and more unstable than we ordinarily suppose…

(3) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. “See rare alignment of 5 planets and moon in stunning photo” at Space.com.

The rare sight of five bright planets lining up with the moon wowed skywatchers around the world Friday, with some gearing up for more this weekend to see a planetary sight that won’t happen again until 2040.

Throughout June, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn have lined up from left to right, in their orbital order from the sun, before dawn in the southeastern sky. Early Friday (June 24), the moon joined the planet parade in an awesome sight captured by astrophotographer Wright Dobbs, a meteorologist for the U.S. National Weather Service in Tallahassee, Florida….

(4) “US IN FLUX” RETURNS. In 2020 ASU’s Center for Science and Imagination published Us in Flux, a series of 11 flash-fiction stories and virtual events about community, collaboration, and resilience in the face of transformative events. They’re back!

This summer, we’re presenting a second cycle of Us in Flux stories and events, providing glimpses of better futures shaped by new social arrangements, communities, and forms of governance, with a focus on bottom-up creativity and problem-solving at the local level. Our stories will present civic experiments, envisioning the collectives, systems, and activities that could power the functional, equitable, and thriving communities of the future.  

 We’ll publish one story and host one event each month from June to September 2022.

 Our first story is “Becoming Birch” by Carter Meland, about rock music, unexpected connections, and northern Minnesota forests. The story is available to read now, And you can view a conversation about the story’s themes and implications with Carter and Grace Dillon, professor of Indigenous Nations Studies at Portland State University and editor of Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction.

(5) YOU’RE OUT OF THERE. The #KickedFromTheJediOrderFor meme has inspired some funny tweets (and some obnoxious duds, what else is new?) Here are two I liked.

(6) SLOWER THAN LIGHT. James Davis Nicoll ransacks the genre for “Scientifically Plausible SF Settings That Provide an Alternative to FTL Travel” at Tor.com.

Suppose for the moment that one was a science fiction author and was trying to imagine a plausible setting in which a multitude of inhabited worlds were within easy, quick reach. Further suppose that one did not care to discard relativity, but likewise was not keen on a setting where time dilation plays a significant role. What is one to do?

How many authors have tried to come up with settings that meet all these demands? More than you’d expect….

(7) PAGES OUT OF HISTORY.  Publisher Penguin has established an online gallery, The Art of Penguin Science Fiction. Click on individual covers to see them larger. The Table of contents link takes you to a chronological discussion of the designs and artists.

(8) GORN WITH THE WIND. MeTV drops the challenge: “How well do you know the memorable Gorn episode of Star Trek?” I got 9 out of 12 – I expect you to do better!

The original Star Trek series was philosophical, strange, deadly serious and wonderfully wacky – sometimes all in the same episode! One of those episodes is the first season outing “Arena.” It has since become a legendary entry in the franchise for its reptilian villain – the Gorn. Though immensely strong, the green, glitter-eyed monster doesn’t exactly move at warp speed.

How well do you remember this iconic space adventure? Test your might, at least when it comes to Star Trek details, in this “Arena” episode quiz!

(9) KEN KNOWLTON (1931-2022). “Ken Knowlton, a Father of Computer Art and Animation, Dies at 91” reports the New York Times.

…In 1962, after finishing a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, Dr. Knowlton joined Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J., a future-focused division of the Bell telephone conglomerate that was among the world’s leading research labs. After learning that the lab had installed a new machine that could print images onto film, he resolved to make movies using computer-generated graphics.

“You could make pictures with letters on the screen or spots on the screen or lines on the screen,” he said in a 2016 interview, recalling his arrival at Bell Labs. “How about a movie?”

Over the next several months, he developed what he believed to be the first computer programming language for computer animation, called BEFLIX (short for “Bell Labs Flicks”). The following year, he used this language to make an animated movie. Called “A Computer Technique for the Production of Animated Movies,” this 10-minute film described the technology used to make it.

Though Dr. Knowlton was the only person to ever use the BEFLIX language —he and his colleagues quickly replaced it with other tools and techniques — the ideas behind this technology would eventually overhaul the movie business….

…At Bell Labs, Dr. Knowlton realized that he could create detailed images by stringing together dots, letters, numbers and other symbols generated by a computer. Each symbol was chosen solely for its brightness — how bright or how dark it appeared at a distance. His computer programs, by carefully changing brightness as they placed each symbol, could then build familiar images, like flowers or faces….

(10) MEMORY LANE

1972 [By Cat Eldridge.] Philip José Farmer’s To Your Scattered Bodies Go wins Hugo.

At the round earth’s imagin’d corners, blow Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise From death, you numberless infinities Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go — English poet John Donne’s “Holy Sonnets”, number seven

Fifty years ago at the very first L.A. Con which was indeed attended by OGH, one of the finest novels ever written won the Hugo for Best Novel. That was the first of three Riverworld novels, To Your Scattered Bodies Go, and its author was Philip José Farmer who was there as Mike remembers hearing his acceptance speech.

It had been published by the Putnam Publishing Group in June of the previous year. The cover art was done by Ira Cohen.

To Your Scattered Bodies Go, and all of the Riverworld series, is based off of his unpublished novel Owe for the FleshTo Your Scattered Bodies Go was originally serialized as two separate novellas: “The Day of the Great Shout” which appeared in the January 1965 issue of Worlds of Tomorrow and “The Suicide Express” which appeared in the March 1966 issue of that magazine.

It has been made into two films, neither of which I’ve seen nor have any intention of seeing. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 25, 1903 — George Orwell. George Orwell, born Eric Blair in 1903. I’m not sure if Animal Farm counts as fantasy, but 1984 is clearly Science Fiction, and it may hold the record for the most neologisms added to English by a single SF book. Orwell was mostly known as a journalist and essayist, including his spats with H.G. Wells, most notably in “Wells, Hitler and the World State”. (Died 1950.) (Alan Baumler)
  • Born June 25, 1925 — June Lockhart, 97. Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space which amazingly only ran for three seasons despite my feeling that it ran a lot longer. It’s on Amazon Prime and Netflix currently. She has a number of genre one-offs including Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Greatest American Hero and Babylon 5Babylon 5? Huh. She appeared in the Lost in Space film as Principal Cartwright. 
  • Born June 25, 1935 — Charles Sheffield. He was the President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and of the American Astronautical Society. He won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his novelette “Georgia on My Mind” and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel for Brother to Dragons which is an amazing read. Much of his fiction is in his Heritage Universe series; the linked short stories of space traveler Arthur Morton McAndrew are a sheer comic delight. Besides his Hugo Award at ConAdian (1994) for “Georgia on My Mind”, he had several nominations as well. Chicon V (1991) picked two, “A Braver Thing” novellette and the “Godspeed” short story.  Oh, and he was toastmaster at BucConeer.  (Died 2002.)
  • Born June 25, 1947 — John Maddox Roberts, 75. Here for being prolific with his Conan pastiches, seven to date so far. I’ll also single out his The SPQR series beginning with SPQR which are police-procedural mystery novels set in Ancient Rome. Someone at the Libertarian Futurist Society really, really likes the Island Worlds as it has been nominated three times for the Prometheus Hall of Fame.
  • Born June 25, 1951 — Priscilla Olson, 71. She and her husband have been involved with NESFA Press’s efforts to put neglected SF writers back into print and have edited myriad writers such as Chad Oliver and Charles Harness, plus better-known ones like Jane Yolen.  She’s chaired a number of Boskones, and created the term “prosucker” which I must admit is both elegant and really ugly at the same time.
  • Born June 25, 1956 — Anthony Bourdain. That’s a death that hit me hard. Partly because he’s round my age, partly because, damn, he seemed so interested in everything that I couldn’t conceive him committing suicide. And yes, he was one of us with three works to his credit: Get Jiro!,  (with Joe Rose and Langdon Foss), Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi (with Joe Rose and Ale Garza) and Hungry Ghosts (with Joel Rose, Alberto Ponticelli, Irene Koh, Paul Pope). The first two are on DC, the latter‘s on Berger Books. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 25, 1981 — Sheridan Smith, 41. She makes the Birthday list for being Lucie Miller, a companion to the Eighth Doctor in his Big Finish audio adventures starting in 2006 and running through at least this year. Her only video genre work was being in The Huntsman: Winter’s War as Mrs Bromwyn.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater takes you back to the Marvel writers’ room of long ago.
  • Baby Blues shows a family on the way home from a comic con, and which parent got the better deal with their divided responsibilities.
  • The Flying McCoys has a superhero with no feeling for certain things.

(13) WILLIAMS BIRTHDAY CONCERT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Andor Brodeur reviews John WIlliams’s 90th birthday concert at the Kennedy center, which had appearances by Steven Spielberg and Daisy Ridley and Yo-Yo Ma on stage. “Composer John Williams feted with birthday gala fit for the big screen”.

…To drive home the evening’s big-screen energy there was … a big screen, suspended over the orchestra and showing various montages, call-ins and clips. (This included a full screening of Kobe Bryant and Glen Keane’s Oscar-winning 2017 short film, “Dear Basketball,” accompanied by the orchestra and movingly introduced via video by the late NBA star’s wife, Vanessa Bryant.)

(Perhaps best of all, there was quiet on the set! I heard nary a beep nor bloop from the sold-out crowd. Good job, y’all. Oscars for everyone!)

Yet despite all the big names and Hollywood-level production values of the celebration, what stood out the most (and lingered the longest in my mind on the walk home) was the unexpected intimacy of Williams’s music, which feels hard-wired in my DNA, enmeshed in multiple dimensions of my memory and experience (and quite likely yours)….

(14) LIGHTYEAR MIGHT MAKE MONEY YET. [Item by Cat Eldridge.] The Sox Vinyl Collectible by Super 7 is life sized. The ultimate SJW robotic companion, I’d say. And it’s only $400 but that includes the carrier.  And a robotic mouse too. 

Attention Space Ranger Recruits! Sideshow and Super 7 present the new Sox Vinyl Collectible! Sox the cat is Buzz Lightyear’s PCR (Personal Companion Robot) and now he can be your pal too!

From Disney and Pixar’s Lightyear, this premium vinyl figure is engineered to be truly “life-sized” and measures about 20” long from nose to tail, and almost 15” tall to the tip of his ears. Fully poseable and wearing a faux leather collar with real metal name tag, Sox is accompanied by his small mouse protocol robot with a glow-in-the-dark tail.

This limited edition premium collectible comes packaged in a “Property of Star Command” cat carrier to display with the rest of your Disney collection!

(15) ISS.CON. “Astronaut cosplays as ‘Gravity’ spacefarer in space station shot” at Space.com.

The only flaw in this cosplay is the hair, joked European astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.

The Italian astronaut posed on the International Space Station in just about the same way as Sandra Bullock, who visited the orbiting complex fictionally in the 2013 movie “Gravity.” Cristoforetti wore a similar outfit to Bullock, who played fictional NASA astronaut Ryan Stone in a rousing adventure sparked by a cloud of space debris that struck Stone’s space shuttle on-screen.

(16) NEVER TELL SOMEONE TO SMILE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Screen Rant says “Happiness Turns To Horror In Smile Trailer Starring Sosie Bacon”. (It’s a grim trailer.)

The trailer for Paramount Picture’s new horror film Smile might make viewers instead want to scream. Sosie Bacon (Mare of Easttown) stars in the film by writer/director Parker Finn. Smile is Finn’s first feature, and is adapted from his own horror short Laura Hasn’t Slept, which won the SXSW Film Festival’s special jury Midnight Short award. While Bacon began her acting career in 2005 in her father Kevin Bacon’s film Loverboy, this is her first leading role in a feature film.

The unsettling trailer released by Paramount Pictures shows Bacon as a psychiatrist named Dr. Rose Cotter who witnesses a patient gruesomely kill herself after the patient sees the form of a terrifying entity. After the incident, Rose seems to be followed by that same supernatural force, which spreads via a literally infectious smile and kills all those around her. It turns out her troubling past may hold the secret to unlocking her frightening present….

(17) OINKATASTROPHE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Xenotransplantation appears in genre fiction from time to time. In a recent real-world incidence, a heart from a genetically-engineered pig was transplanted into a human with heart failure. Initially the transplant was a great success, but a puzzling and unexpected mechanism of failure presented itself. The patient died after 60 days. So what happened? “Pig heart transplant failure: Doctors detail everything that went wrong” at Ars Technica.

Earlier this year, news broke of the first experimental xenotransplantation: A human patient with heart disease received a heart from a pig that had been genetically engineered to avoid rejection. While initially successful, the experiment ended two months later when the transplant failed, leading to the death of the patient. At the time, the team didn’t disclose any details regarding what went wrong. But this week saw the publication of a research paper that goes through everything that happened to prepare for the transplant and the weeks following.

Critically, this includes the eventual failure of the transplant, which was triggered by the death of many of the muscle cells in the transplanted heart. But the reason for that death isn’t clear, and the typical signs of rejection by the immune system weren’t present. So, we’re going to have to wait a while to understand what went wrong….

(18) HEY ABBOTT. Aurora offers a resin model kit based on Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein “McDougals Frankenstein Crate Scene” – for a mere $319.99.

You Get All Accurate Likeness Unpainted Models of Wilbur Gray with Mcdougals Dummy head, Chick Young with wagging finger and Spook Candle, Strange Frankenstein laying in Wooden textured Crate Model Plus special sculpture study Dracula and Wolfman. Model comes with realistic Frankensteins Wood Crate with House of Horrors address on it Plus 2 easels with Mcdougals Sign and Dracula lengend. wood floor base comes with raised logo name plate also hammer and crow bar.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Joey Eschrich, Will R., John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Andrew Porter, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Stuart Hall.]

Strangely Familiar

The Crotchety Old Fan’s site is well on its way to recovering from the depredations of several hijackers. What he’s learned is worth reading.

Crotchety’s sense of humor is back, too, as he shows in a post about two characters’ conversation about science fiction in a Riverworld novel by Philip Jose Farmer.

And at the moment, Crotchety’s blog is looking strangely familiar because he’s using WordPress’ default “Kubrick” theme, the same one I’ve relied on since the beginning.

SF May Play in Peoria
But Not Port Huron

With the eyes of the sf community already on Port Huron, Michigan as the site of Peter Watts’ arrest and trial, it’s an interesting coincidence to discover a local blogger there warning his fellow citizens against sf writers generally.

A post to Way of Life Literature features a black-and-white photo of Isaac Asimov thoughtfully grasping his chin with one hand as he looks the reader in the eye. But this is not a fan site. Asimov is exhibited as one of many reasons to “Beware Science Fiction” on a blog hosted by the Fundamental Baptist Information Service of Port Huron. The reason for the warning?

Science fiction takes the reader into a strange world without God. Oh, there might be “a god,” a “force,” but it is definitely not the God of the Bible, and the prominent names in this field are atheists.

Seems to me there’s no denying that, although some will be offended to see it treated as a bug rather than a feature.

And yet, science fiction isn’t monolithic (no Kubrick reference intended).  If some apologists are concerned sf will erode people’s faith, that is by no means the inevitable outcome. Consider C.S. Lewis, former atheist, whose fame as a writer of sf and fantasy followed his conversion to Christianity. Lewis also issued a famous warning of his own:

“Really, a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side.”

P.S. While Peoria is mentioned in the headline because the old cliche resonates with this story, in fact SF really does play in Peoria, once home to writer P.J. Farmer and fan Ed Connor (Moebius Trip).

[Via the two Davids — Klaus and Langford.]